It was a ski race, but no one beat up the course. It wasn't expected. In some way everyone won. It was a victory just to be able to slide into the start gate.
Each had had their moments of fame and glory in skiing. For some the moments were louder and longer, and for some they were longer ago than they cared to recall.This race brought them all to the same starting line, some who are legends now and others who will likely be in the future.
It was a fun race, but still had its breath-grabbing moments.
There were times when spectators at the finish could have heard a snowflake fall. Like when Alf Engen, coming upon his 80th birthday, weaved his way through the red and blue gates with a master's touch. Not many in the course of their lives will ski better nor longer, nor do more for skiing than Alf Engen.
Or when gold-medal winner Stein Eriksen, 60, and still the picture of perfection on skis, made yet another perfect run . . . with Spence Eccles, noted skier and banker, in close pursuit.
Or when Junior Bounous, director of the Snowbird Ski School and national gelande champion, given a two-gate lead, looked back as he crossed the finish to see his son, Steve, a former All-America and member of the U.S. Ski Team, still coming.
"I quit racing Steve when he was 12," said the senior Bounous between breaths. "In fact, this is the first time we've raced since he was a junior racer. I needed a little help to win, though."
Or, when Margo Walters-McDonald and Susan Harris-Rytting, two of the best women skiers Utah has ever claimed, matched turns on the side-by-side course.
The race, called the "Legends of Utah," actually had two purposes: 1. an event in the Utah Winter Games, and 2. part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Alta.
There were 28 racers entered and ran the scale from Engen to younger racers, such as Jill Robins and Katrina Terzian, recent graduates and All-America skiers from University of Utah national championship teams.
For some, running the gate was simply a refresher course, while for others it involved some deep digging back in memories.
Engen, for example, couldn't remember the last time he ran gates . . . "Oh, 20 years. No. No. It was 30," he said and still seemed uncertain.
Dick Movitz, who raced against his former coach, also had a tough time remembering. His wife, Eileen, knows it was over 30 years.
"We've been married for 30 years and this is the first time I've seen him run gates. He's smooth. I'm impressed," she said.
Engen coached the 1948 U.S. Olympic team on which Movitz was his No. 1 slalom skier . . . "That's why I wanted to race him, to see if he learned anything. He's been practicing," Engen joked.
Three more recent notables who skied, and won, were Jim Gaddis, Alan Engen and Ray Miller. In each case there appeared to be little lost over the years. Gaddis, among other things, was national giant slalom champion in 1962, national collegiate alpine combined champion in 1960 and 1962, and won the Snow Cup in 1962, 1963 and 1964. Between 1959 and 1962, Engen, the older son of Alf, was a member of the University of Utah ski team, was Western Regional downhill champion, Intermountian combined and Intermountain jumping champ. Miller was Intermountian junior and senior Racer of the Year between 1964-67 and was a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1966-68.
NCAA champion in 1959, member of the U.S. Ski Team and assistant coach of the U.S. women's team; Janet Lawson, a former Olympic team member and winner of many ski races; Jim Murphy, member of the Utah team from 1949-51 and after that a member of the U.S. Olympic team; Dick Mitchell, NCAA downhill champ for Utah in 1953 and member of the U.S. Olympic team in 1956; and Jack Turner, nordic-combined champion from 1976 to 1977 and now director of the Utah Winter Games.
And there were more. And then there were those that sent their regrets.
All of which proves that Utah has its share of skiing legends, and that on race day they showed they still have what it takes to run gates.