By Anne Gilbert

Dick Durrance's iconic style and speed are still talked about in Aspen. Photo: Aspen Historical Society

Dick Durrance's iconic style and speed are still talked about in Aspen. Photo: Aspen Historical Society

Dick Durrance thought one of the best ways to advertise Aspen to the world was to have an international race there. The Aspen Skiing Corporation got the 1950 FIS Championships—the biggest international race of the year and a race that had never before been held in the United States. Durrance and a number of other Aspen skiing supporters convinced the FIS (Federacion Internationale de Ski, the international skiing federation) to let Aspen host them by showing them the size and terrain of Aspen Mountain and promising to cut trails and make it suitable for the championships.

The Skiing Corporation gave Durrance a budget of $72,000 to cut trails, install telephone lines and timing equipment, and take care of the racers while they were in town. Durrance and local volunteers cut Spar Gulch and the Silver Queen trails, where the men's downhill and the giant slalom would be held. The women's downhill took place on Ruthie's Run. In addition to advertising, the FIS races were a good excuse to expand Aspen Mountain's available runs.

Racers began arriving in Aspen as early as December (the race wasn't until February). Stein Erikson from Norway and Friedl Pfeifer struck up a friendship during this time.

George Schneider competing in the 1950 FIS Championships in Aspen, Colorado. Photo: Aspen Historical Society

George Schneider competing in the 1950 FIS Championships in Aspen, Colorado. Photo: Aspen Historical Society

By February 1,500 competitors, coaches, officials, and spectators had booked rooms in Aspen. Local residents welcomed the competitors and housed many of them in their own homes. Denver newspapers anticipated the event with enthusiasm, predicting that, "this skiing on a level never witnessed in the Colorado Rockies before will place Aspen and Colorado among the great and hallowed ski spots of the world." The author went on to say that "from at least fifteen different cold weather countries all over the world the skiers are arriving ... and the lofty old Colorado town of Aspen is about to pop the bullons off its brocaded vest while going about its chore as hospitable host."

The whole town seemed to get caught up in the excitement of the event, and many residents re-established ties with their old homes by visiting with the competitors.

Aspen locals from the mining years hailed from Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Italy and a number of other European countries. Yugoslavian racers spent every night having supper with a different Aspen family originally from that area.