Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Billy Kidd is a great storyteller. In a Thursday interview for this week’s Outdoors Q-and-A and during a Friday tagalong with his 1 p.m. daily free clinic, I heard several of what I’m sure are thousands of stories. Kidd, the most legendary of locals, was able to whisk his audience away to locations as close as Mount Werner and as far as Bora Bora.
He’s even better at showing, however, and that’s what makes his daily free show at the top of the gondola more Bellagio fountains than Treasure Island pirate ship.
Basically, it’s not to be missed.
Somehow I survived skiing through parts of five seasons in Steamboat Springs without skiing with or even meeting Kidd, which is odd because the fact that Steamboat was home to Billy Kidd was the very first thing I knew about this town.
Kidd has been a fixture in skiing so long that my mom took part in one of the daily clinics when she visited Steamboat in the 1970s. But that’s not why I was a bit nervous before my initial run with him.
Talking the day before my clinic, he explained how he starts with his students.
“I tell them I can tell the difference between a beginner and an expert just from how they stand in the lift line,” Kidd said.
So, there I was, minutes from meeting the man himself, entirely positive he’d identify me as a “beginner” from a mile away despite logging nearly 200 days on Mount Werner in my time here.
Turns out, I was right. Maybe I don’t stand in the lift line wrong — hey, I don’t fall over — but I apparently haven’t been doing it right, either. Watching and listening to Kidd explain why something so fundamental is so important made every second of his free half-hour clinic worth it.
Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, Billy Kidd: They’re all Olympic heroes and, according to Kidd, they all stand in lift lines with their legs apart but skis parallel, knees bent and their arms outstretched, away from their bodies, poles planted. It’s a muscle memory thing, Kidd explained. That’s how you get down the mountain without crashing, and it’s how you win a gold medal.
Everything else Kidd delves into during the run down Heavenly Daze, he relates back to that stance.
On Thursday, he told me about the time while commentating for an Olympic television broadcast that he donned ice skates on a slalom course to demonstrate how the runs are wet down and frozen over in the weeks leading up to the event.
He used skis Friday, but he didn’t have any problem finding ways to show his students what he loves about this mountain and this town.
Skiing with Kidd is skiing with the essence of Steamboat, not because of any medal he’s ever won but because he’s always happy to introduce a new person into his sport and into his town. There’s nothing more Steamboat than that. Give him the chance to show you.