Billy Kidd is my hero. Day in and day out, Billy is the skiing ambassador for Steamboat Ski Resort, appearing most every day at 1:00 p.m. with a smile on his face, ready to shake hands, sign autographs and pose for pictures. Not only that, but if you hang around long enough he’ll give you some skiing tips and take a run with you.
Quite frankly, I don’t know how he does it. I couldn’t do it. Day after day, season after season, year after year, he is pleasant, welcoming and enthusiastic, meeting and greeting the same endless loop of parka-clad tourists and making them love Steamboat.
Nope, I couldn’t do it.
First, I have neither the patience nor the general bonhomie of Mr. Kidd. Secondly, I’m not a former Olympian, a silver medalist at the 1964 Innsbruck, Austria games. And, thirdly, I don’t look good in a cowboy hat. Billy is all three of these and more: he is a great hit ‘n’ split, 10 minute max. ski instructor.
Twice, we have met Billy and skied with him and twice we have skied away from the experience in awe of his patience and skill. The first time we skied with Billy was a ski trip with a friend from the East. Our kids were quite young and so they stayed home with the grandparents. Our friend had flown out for a long weekend and was determined to “ski with Billy.” Sure enough, on the first day when we stepped off the gondola at Thunderhead, a red LED sign proclaimed “Billy Is Skiing Today”. My husband and I glanced sideways at one another and sighed (I hope not audibly). We were doomed to be “tourists” today. For a couple of jaded Coloradoans, we figured this would be painful.
One o’clock arrived and we skied over to the Billy meeting place. There was a crowd of upwards of 30 people surrounding Kidd, each seeking something from him: a word, a smile, a handshake, a photo. Our friend had his camera out. Hanging back a bit, we noticed the crowd quickly thinning as everyone took from Billy what they wanted. Soon only six of us remained: our party of three, a single guy and an Australian journalist and her skiing buddy. She asked us to pose with Billy and we did. Somewhere in an Australian newspaper we had our 15 minutes (seconds?) of fame.
Now it was time for the Ski with Billy Kidd portion of the day. And this is when things got good, really good. Kidd grouped us around him and in the most friendly way possible began dispensing skiing tips covering stance, turning and moguls. Quickly moving through his spoken tips, he asked, “Who wants to ski?” and started down Heavenly Daze, a solid intermediate run, each of us trailing behind him in a line. I was directly behind him and mimicking his form, never have I turned so well. He made a couple of stops to get us regrouped, handed out a few more easy tips and off we went again. Halfway down the mountain he accepted our thank yous, bid us adieu and disappeared.
The second time we skied with Billy was Spring Break 2006. This time, it was just my boys and me. The drill was basically the same as our previous experience: same Billy, same crowd, same small number of folks hanging around to ski with Billy. My kids were the only kids in the group and when it came time to ski, Billy put them on top of the world, commenting on their ski-racing stance (and yes, they were heavy into USSA ski racing at that point), talking to them about their racing club and truly inspiring them. His tips were the same tips I remembered from the previous encounter, but that was okay because they are still good tips and good tips bare repetition. We skied behind him, copying his turns down the mountain and once again, I felt I had never turned so well.
Two Memorable Ski Tips from Billy Kidd
1. Practice your stance – all the time. Rest in your ready stance, chat in your ready stance, wait in the lift line in the ready stance. Whenever you are on your skis, be in your ready stance: hands loosely on your pole grips, arms bent at the elbows but forward as if you are ready to plant a pole, knees bent. You want your muscles to love this position.
2. If you are new to skiing moguls, turn on top of them. Plant your pole on top and turn around it. Repeat. As you gain confidence, move down into the troughs. That is where the Olympic freestyle skiers ski.
One Last Word
Billy is at Steamboat again this year on most days. His meeting place is near the Thunderhead Lodge at 1:00 p.m. The Billy Kidd Performance Center also offers one and three-day racing camps for ages 1st grade through adult, intermediate through advanced skiers. For more information on the camps and the Billy Kidd Performance Center, click here.
Not going to Steamboat this winter? Four Seasons Whistler Resort in British Columbia is offering a “Ski with an Olympian” package for two people: two nights lodging, a two-day lift ticket at Whistler Blackcomb and a lesson with a former Canadian Olympian or World Cup Champion. Athletes participating in the program include Skier X gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor, Rob Boyd and the sister/brother duo of Britt and Michael Janyk. Lessons are customized to meet the guests’ goals. For more information contact the Four Seasons Whistler Resort.
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