Bob Beattie, 85, pioneer of Alpine World Cup circuit

With Mr. Beattie as coach, US men in 1964 won Alpine medals at a Winter Olympics for the first time.
REUTERS/file 1997
Mr. Beattie (left), journalist Serge Lang (right), and French coach Honore Bonnet created the World Cup.

DENVER — The plaque that rested for years on ski icon Bob Beattie’s desk was inscribed with a matter-of-fact motto: It can be done.

That was a fitting mantra for the ski racing pioneer who helped launch the World Cup circuit more than 50 years ago and was part of the commentary crew that called one of the most thrilling Alpine races at the 1976 Winter Games.

Mr. Beattie died Sunday in Fruita, Colo., after dealing with various health issues. He was 85.


“Once he made up his mind something needed to happen, he would keep pounding away until he got it done,’’ his son, Zeno, said in a phone interview. ‘‘He had a lot of friends and they always came up to him and said, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I never would’ve accomplished whatever.’

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‘‘He never really thought about that too much. His whole world was about working really hard. And if you worked really hard at something and you did it as a team and not as an individual you can pretty much do anything you ever wanted to do.’’

Known as ‘‘Beats’’ or ‘‘Coach’’ to his friends, Mr. Beattie’s career included stints as coach of the US ski team and at the University of Colorado, where he led the Buffaloes to a pair of national titles.

In addition, Mr. Beattie, paired with Frank Gifford, called one of the Winter Olympics’ most famous ski races for ABC — Austrian great Franz Klammer’s electric downhill run to capture gold in ‘76.

‘‘They realized Bob Beattie and I had a peculiar way of calling it,’’ the late Gifford once said in an interview with ‘‘Bob loved ski racing. . . . He would get so excited at the race. My job was almost like ‘Monday Night Football,’ identify the players and let him go. He brought an unbelievable excitement to it.’’


Mr. Beattie was born in Manchester, N.H., and attended Middlebury College in Vermont, where he lettered in tennis, skiing, football, and cross-country running. He became the ski coach following his graduation. The team finished third at the NCAA championships in 1956.

Soon after, he went to Boulder, Colo., to be an assistant football coach before taking over the ski program and turning it into a national power. The Buffaloes won the title in 1959 and again in 1960.

He oversaw the US ski team at the 1964 Olympic Games, where Billy Kidd and Jimmie Heuga finished 2-3 in the slalom. It marked the first two Alpine medals captured by American men at the Winter Olympics.

‘‘The pressure was severe. We had promised everything — rightfully or wrongfully — we had promised everyone the world,’’ Mr. Beattie told US ski team historian Tom Kelly last summer. ‘‘We loved each other. We were a team.’’

In the mid-1960s, Mr. Beattie partnered with journalist Serge Lang and French coach Honore Bonnet to create the World Cup, with racers traveling the globe to compete. It’s still going strong, with stars such as Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Marcel Hirscher leading the way.


Over his career, Mr. Beattie worked four Winter Games, and called volleyball at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He also was involved with ABC’s Wide World of Sports and hosted a ski show for ESPN. In 1984, he was inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Mr. Beattie also found time to author several books on skiing and started a kids program in the Aspen Valley that flourishes today. The family is planning a celebration with the ski club this fall. ‘‘He influenced a lot of people,’’ his son said.