[An excerpt from “Aspen Skiing from 1870–1970” for The Aspen Historical Society, circa 1995, by Anne Gilbert]

Steve Knowlton in the 1946 Roch Cup on Aspen Mountain. 

Steve Knowlton in the 1946 Roch Cup on Aspen Mountain. 

In May of 1937 before he left town, Andre Roch walked up Aspen Mountain and marked out what he thought would be a good ski run. Frank Willoughby recalled that, "he [Roehl] impressed on the club a need for a difficult but excellent downhill race course to attract publicity for Aspen skiing, which would make all-over development of the mountain easier and faster." Their mutual goal of reviving Aspen's economy remained central to their plans.

 

The Roch Cup

The Ski Club hosted its own annual race in Aspen at the behest of Friedl Pfeifer. Like Roch and the Aspen Ski Club of the 1930s, Pfeifer knew that competitions would attract racers who would advertise the area to others. This downhill/slalom-combined race named in honor of Andre Roch initially attracted only racers from Colorado. The Aspen Ski Club hosted the first Roch Cup in March of 1946, before the chair lift opened; twenty men and three women competed.

Local people like Elizabeth Oblock who had only competed once before in her life shared the roster with seasoned college and even international competitors including Dick Durrance, Steve Knowlton, Jerry Hiatt, and Barney McLean.

It stormed on race day for the downhill, and competitors hiked up the Roch Run and skied down on a foot of unpacked powder. The slalom course on the corkscrew was steep, narrow, and fast, despite the new snow. Crossing the road three times and avoiding the trees made the course challenging as well. After that first year more and more competitors took part in the Roch Cup, and many of them appeared on the 1948 Olympic Team, the 1950 FIS Team, or the 1952 Olympic Team.

As before the war, the reputation of the Roch Run and the quality of skiing at Aspen attracted athletes to town. Steve Knowlton and Pete Seibert came to Aspen in order to train for the 1948 Olympic tryouts. They both made the team, and helped Aspen's reputation as a ski center in the process.