Bob Beattie (right) and Olympic champion Franz Klammer share an embrace as friends gathered at Aspen's historic Hotel Jerome to honor Beattie. PHOTO: Tom Kelly/USSA
Bob Beattie (right) and Olympic champion Franz Klammer share an embrace as friends gathered at Aspen's historic Hotel Jerome to honor Beattie. PHOTO: Tom Kelly/USSA

American Skiing Legend Bob Beattie Dies at 85

Beattie was an Olympic coach and founder of the U.S. Ski Team and Alpine World Cup

Bob Beattie, an influential member of the international ski racing community, passed away last Sunday at his son's home in Fruita, Colorado, after dealing with various health issues. He was 85.

Credited with the creation of the U.S. Ski Team, co-founding the World Cup tour, and spending years as a successful commentator for ABC and ESPN, Beattie, known by many as "Beats" or simply "Coach," has played an instrumental role in American ski racing since the early 1960s.

Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, Beattie attended Middlebury College in Vermont where he lettered in skiing, football, and tennis. After a short stint as Middlebury's ski coach, Beattie left Vermont for Boulder, Colorado, in 1957 where he took over the University of Colorado’s skiing program as well as becoming an assistant coach for the football team. Focusing heavily on recruiting American skiers, Beattie took the Buffaloes to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1959 and 1960.

In 1961, the National Ski Association named Beattie as its first national team coach, creating the first official U.S. Ski Team. While still simultaneously coaching at CU, Beattie took the U.S. Ski Team to the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. There, the American team took home four medals, including the USA's first men's alpine medals in Olympic history, thanks to Billy Kidd and Jimmie Heuga. Beattie also went on to coach the U.S. Olympic Team in the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France.

Two years after he made history in Innsbruck, Beattie worked alongside journalist Serge Lang and French alpine coach Honoré Bonnet in the creation of the first Alpine Ski World Cup, aligning the world's top ski races into one tour. Now more than 50 years later, the work of Beattie, Lang, and Bonnet still remains the pinnacle of international alpine ski racing, being broadcast to hundreds of millions of fans across the globe every year.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Beattie made his debut as a sports television commentator for ABC in 1969. His commentary alongside ex-NFL football star Frank Gifford on Franz Klammer's gold medal downhill run at the 1976 Winter Olympics was electric, and Beattie went on to announce alpine events at three more Winter Games, in 1970, 1984, and 1988.

Even after retiring from his career in the booth, Beattie remained a vocal member of the ski racing community for many years. In 1986, in his adopted hometown of Aspen, he worked alongside Aspen Skiing Co. to start a program that provided affordable skiing to kids in the Roaring Fork Valley. In 2012, the U.S. Ski Team created the Bob Beattie Athlete Travel fund, which helps support the travel costs of national team athletes.

Beattie is survived by his wife of 25 years, Marci, his son Zeno, daughter Susan, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. While there is no word yet of a public memorial service to celebrate Beattie's life, one is likely in the works for the fall, to be held in Aspen.