Bear Bryant – Official Start Referee
Bear Bryant is the official FIS start referee for the Birds of Prey. I caught up with him on Thursday morning at the top of the race course before the start of the third downhill training run here at Beaver Creek. He spoke with me about his passionate love of the sport of skiing and his joy at seeing athletes grow and thrive.
I’m here in an official capacity to ensure that the race adheres to the rules and regulations of FIS here at the start. This is my tenth year as start referee, although I trained under the previous start referee for a number of years. It’s in my calendar every year – I can’t be any other place as long as an event of this magnitude is happening.
I have been deeply involved in skiing for numerous years. I started as an alpine official in 1984, and I remain absolutely passionate about the sport and continue to be involved in one capacity or another. I first came to Vail in 1962 as a member of the PSIA demonstration team, which did a lot of training here. I absolutely love this place!
In the 1970′s I was involved with pro ski racing, going back to the days of Vail legend “Sarge” Brown, Jimmy Roberts [recently retired VP of Mountain Operations at Beaver Creek], and John Garnsey [now President - Global Mountain Development of Vail Resorts]. I used to have a big motorhome, and I’d park it out the base of Golden Peak for the pro races.
My favorite part of this work is to see some of the younger people that I’ve been involved with one way or another blossom over the years. Probably the best example of that is Bode Miller [winner of the Birds of Prey Downhill in 2011, 2006 and 2004 and GS in 2005]. I remember when Bode first arrived at Sugarloaf, Maine. I was riding up the lift one day and I saw this young man coming down the hill in probably any and every manner and motion that I’d ever seen on a pair of skis! It’s just been a pleasure to know people like that. That’s the fun of this whole thing. And oh, last year! It was so exciting to do the ladies start and to watch as Ms. Vonn accomplished her goals. I have so much respect for the athletes, and I take such enormous pleasure in their success! That’s why I do this.
As for the Talon Crew, this group of volunteers is the most impressive group of volunteers I have seen. I’ve done events around the world as an alpine official. I love to see the dedication and to see the respect that the Talon Crew volunteers have for the athletes. They have a passion for putting together a great event, and I’m so proud to be involved. That’s all part of the passion that I’m talking about!
You know, he says gesturing at the racers making their start preparations, I do it all for them.
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