Semple: We should all know the story of Spider | Opinion


“Spider Lives” is a must-watch film paying homage to the life and legacy of Spider Sabich. The hour-long documentary premieres at Snowmass on Friday, April 8 to coincide with Sabich’s long-awaited and well-deserved induction into the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.

The film is a compelling intersection of memories and emotions that truly captures a moment in Aspen that we often return to longingly, whether for answers, closure, or reassurance. For me, Spider still lives, figuratively speaking, right here in Aspen-Snowmass.

“Spider Lives” took incredible courage and honesty. The story of Spider Sabich is one of the most intriguing and compelling sagas ever played in our city. If you are unfamiliar with the backstory, now is your big chance. The legend continues to unfold. After watching the movie, you will understand why.

If you lived in Aspen in the 1970s, 80s, and beyond, it’s important that you see this movie. If you moved here after that, or even if you arrived recently, I’d say it’s just as essential to see this film to help understand Aspen’s skiing history and better understand the present and where we are heading. we lead.

I saw a preview of the show in January, and in a way, I’m still mentally processing what I saw. The tangles of emotional threads still need to be sorted out. There are multiple deep personal connections that my contemporaries – who grew up here doing “Aspenauts” and ski racing – have with this complex and multi-layered history.

I was never really a ski racer. But growing up, I have fond memories of going to watch the pro slalom races in the base areas of Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands. The double slalom format is exciting to watch. We used to ride up the sides of the course and watch the riders fly off the jumps, banging down the bamboo gates.

At the base, upon arrival, we were looking for autographs and collecting gifts from sponsors such as Salomon, K2, Budweiser and Benson & Hedges. My friend Jim Salter had a shoebox full of stickers and patches he collected from these runs over the years. The childhood memories of Aspen they invoke wash over me like a stormy snow flurry in late spring.

Later in the day, while skiing, we tried to emulate their style and power, pretending to be our favorite racer. There were a lot of local Aspen kids skiing around pretending they were Spider Sabich. Just the other day on 1A, I was still fantasizing about skiing like him – counter-rotation, legs close together, inside ski light on snow.

It’s no mistake Buttermilk had one of our favorite rides when we were kids: the “Killy Jump”, named after Sabich’s rival, Jean Claude Killy. The film “Spider Lives” sheds light on the grueling clashes and crashes between the two world-renowned racers, and how it has played out over the years. There is no “Spider Jump” yet as far as I know, but he does have a lively racing arena named after him in Snowmass that will be featured this week for the NASTAR National Championships.

One of my favorite movies is “Downhill Racer” with Robert Redford. There’s a fascinating story that screenwriter, James Salter, told a small group of us gathered for an Aspen Historical Society “Time Travel Tuesday.” It happened a few years ago, but it has always marked me.

After writing the screenplay (here in Aspen), Salter went with a contingency to the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France to do location scouting for the film. Walking through the base pavilion, the director explained that the main character would be modeled after Billy Kidd, star of the American Ski Team.

Robert Redford scanned the room and saw Alpha dog Billy holding court with his teammates. Then he noticed another man sitting alone in the corner, looking stoic.

“Who is it?” Redford asked. It turns out the man was none other than Spider Sabich. Robert Redford was immediately captivated by him and immediately decided that he was the one he was going to model his character on.

Another interesting note regarding the film “Downhill Racer”: Roman Polanski was the original director, but left the project when he was arrested for sexual assault of a minor. His idea was to have the main character die in a horrific downhill crash at the end of the film.

The old ski images of Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk alone are worth the generous price of free admission. Skis, sweaters, stretch pants and sunglasses, hats and goggles, the shape of the riders, the courses – all of these fascinate me.

Buy your tickets now online if you haven’t already. Visit to register. Prepare to have your mind completely blown away, as mine was.

Contact Lorenzo at [email protected] or


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