This article was originally published by Mark Godomsky, AVSC Executive Director, in AVSC's Aspen Times Column, Clubhouse Chronicles.
Last week, 350 kids from all over the Roaring Fork Valley (and beyond) flocked to Gorsuch and D&E/Four Mountain Sports to pick up their equipment for the season.
They waited patiently until their name was called, drinking hot cocoa and eating cookies until it was their turn to work one-on-one with a technician to have their boots fit. They stood tall and proud as shop employees and volunteers held skis and snowboards next to them, choosing the perfect fit for the season.
They pulled new beanies over their heads, grinned widely and high-fived on their way out the door, ready to enjoy what's turned out to be a great season so far. Some of them are old pros, returning for their third, fourth, fifth season. Some of them held what was to be their very first pair of skis.
While both shops were brimming with enthusiasm and anticipation, those who have attended Aspen Supports Kids equipment night in the past felt and discussed an acute absence: that of Bob Beattie. This was our first equipment night without the legendary Beattie, who often told us this was his favorite night of the year. He loved witnessing kids come alive with excitement as they picked up their new equipment: an invitation to the mountains and a fun season ahead. He asked kids about themselves, their families, their experience skiing so far. He reminded them to try hard and to have fun. He laughed and chatted but often — somewhat surprisingly for those who knew Bob — sat quietly and observed, taking it all in.
Bob was incredibly proud of Aspen Supports Kids, a program that's been an integral part of AVSC for nearly 30 years. This past weekend, as we gathered at Highlands Alehouse and Hotel Jerome to remember and celebrate Bob, we recalled his time announcing on the World Cup, his time creating a new format of ski racing with the World Pro Skiing Tour, and of course, his efforts to give local kids — regardless of their background, financial circumstances or family situation — the chance to experience the freedom of skiing and snowboarding.
Bob Beattie was a sterling example of why I am grateful to be involved with AVSC: regardless of what he had accomplished at the top levels of the sport, he recognized that the future of skiing and snowboarding lies in the opportunities we give to our children — at all levels of the sport.
The Roaring Fork Valley is a remarkable place to be a kid. With more than $1.8 million in scholarships and subsidies given to our athletes last year alone, Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club is immensely grateful to our community of donors, sponsors and business partners that are as committed as Bob was to making skiing accessible to all kids.
Success for an athlete might be as simple as developing the technical proficiency and comfort to go ski and snowboard alone or with friends; maybe even teach others how to do the same. It might be anything from having the guts to enter their first competition to becoming a high school state champion to earning a nomination to the U.S. Ski Team. It might just be having a lot of fun, making friends and enjoying time spent outside together. It might be all of those things.
Regardless of the end result, this access to the mountains leads kids to excel not only as athletes, but as people. Their coaches, experts in their craft, inspire excellence and serve as formative mentors. The kids have fun, learning how to be independent and take care of themselves and developing lasting friendships through shared activity. They experience challenge and defeat and develop grit as a result. They grow deeper roots in this community and a greater appreciation for the natural resources that we have at our fingertips, from the amazing trail system at Spring Gulch to the awe-inspiring Highlands Bowl. They see, experience, and grow more as a direct result of the community support. We are grateful for each and every one of you who believes in our mission; you are making a seismic impact on this community's youth and future.