So there was Charlotte Ford Niarchos going up on Baldy Mountain in a helicopter to watch Jean-Claude and Nancy and Gerhard keep on winning ski races, and there was Ann Sothern hanging around that funny old relic called the Duchin Room with her hero and house guest, Karl Schranz, and there were all of those faithful hundreds, strewn down the bright, warm hill, zapped on wine by day, and dancing to It Happened—one, two, slide, whirl—in Sun Valley by night. In fact, it could only have happened in Sun Valley, the Late, Late Show of ski resorts—but wonderfully so.
This year's edition of the sport of Alpine racing began to sink slowly in the American West last week when it reached nostalgic Sun Valley for the American international team races, only meet on the circuit that proves whether France is better than Austria, while the U.S., Switzerland and Canada go along for the ride. This time France did it for the fourth straight year. Austria almost beat the French because Killy was practically alone in outpointing the combined efforts of oldtimers like Gerhard Nenning, Schranz and Heini Messner and youngsters like Alfred Matt, Reinhard Tritscher, Olga Pall and Gertrud Gabl.
For the first two days it certainly looked as if Sun Valley would be the scene of an overthrow. Austria has been climbing back on top as a ski nation all season and, with Jean-Claude retiring along with Marielle Goitschel, Guy Périllat and even Coach Honoré Bonnet in a couple of weeks, it now seems improbable that France can keep the revitalized Austrians from getting up there next year, anyhow.
In a lot of ways last week Sun Valley belonged to that ancient (29) Alpine campaigner, Karl Schranz, despite Killy's presence. One of the reasons was because the Austrians were winning, with Schranz helping (he was third in the downhill, won by Nenning, and fourth to Killy in slalom), and the other was because Karl has always been big in Sun Valley society. Once again, for example, Schranz did not stay in the Lodge with his teammates but with Ann Sothern in her blue, Tyrolean house about half a mile away. She gave teas for him, had parties for him and swung around town with him, as she has in the past.
"I think Karly is just great." she said. "He is such a lovely boy. I love to watch him wax his skis."
Also, it was Schranz, not Killy, who was invited to ski down the mountain one afternoon with Charlotte Ford Niarchos, Sun Valley's leading Jet Setter right now, and did, and who was invited to go bowling in the Lodge with Charlotte Ford Niarchos and did. Well, loyalists of Sun Valley like nostalgic things like the old dining room where Norma Shearer danced, like the Hemingway Suite and the Duchin Room. And like Karl Schranz, who has been around skiing longer than the reindeer sweater.
Of course, this has been Karl's year as much as Killy's in a certain sense, mainly because of the slalom controversy at Grenoble. Almost everybody, including members of Karl's own team, believes that Schranz should have been disqualified and that Killy won the race fairly, but Schranz still thinks he won the race, and he even has seven gold medals to prove it. Uh huh, seven. A rock-built, blue-eyed, loud-voiced fellow who has always seemed, in an amusing way, to be the guy Central Casting would send over if you asked for a storm trooper, Schranz relaxed one afternoon at Ann Sothern's and spoke of it.
"I received medals from Austrian newspapers and from strangers," he said. "I even got one from the Austrian Olympic Committee. Everybody is on my side. I may get more medals."
It is almost unthinkable that Karl will keep racing. He has been one of the very best since 1957. "I believe that I have won exactly 110 world races," he said. "That is, of course, more than anyone." But he wants more.
As he said, "I still finish in the top five regularly, and I am capable of winning any race. My sister runs my pension in St. Anton. There is no money in professional racing, so what am I to do? I am always in good physical shape, so my age does not matter. Anyway, it is not a bad life, as you can see."
While Schranz's presence dominated the social scene, the individual skiing star of the week was Nancy Greene again. For the second week in a row, she won the downhill, slalom and giant slalom, as she had done in Aspen. That is six straight victories for her. The Sun Valley races did not count toward the World Cup, which she leads, but it kept Canada's team challenging for third place and even earned her a private dinner with Killy one evening, which an awful lot of young girls might consider a bigger prize than anything.
After a party, Killy and Nancy strolled off together with the Canadian girl in tears and Jean-Claude trying to console her. The reason for Nancy's emotion was that Killy had just told her he would not race this week in Rossland, B.C., Nancy's home town. Killy had planned to visit Los Angeles, taking the week off to drive some of Carroll Shelby's cars and then wind up his career at Heavenly Valley to receive his second straight World Cup award.
But, during their dinner, Killy gave in. He agreed to spend a few days with Shelby but also to show up at Rossland for at least the slalom. "Nancy was so broken up, what could I do?" Killy said. "She is a great girl, and I just can't hurt her." Shortly after winning Sunday's giant slalom and helping France overtake Austria, Killy rushed off to nearby Hailey where Shelby and his jet were waiting. Killy didn't even wait to hear the final point total.
Through the first four races on Friday and Saturday, Austria took a shocking 11-point lead over France and frankly looked unbeatable, while the U.S., Canada and Switzerland were locked in a roaring battle for third. But Sunday's giant slalom for both the men and women was set on a long, icy and dangerous course that featured one 90° airborne turn between two lift towers up near the Round House restaurant, and it was a real separator.
Killy practically won the meet for France by doing two almost full turns in midair, first to the left to head down into the gate below and then twisting back to the right to carry speed into the bottom part of the course. It was simply something that only Killy could have done. This was the eighth victory out of 12 races that Killy had won in this American international team event since it began in 1965.
America's Rick Chaffee, who had been third in the slalom, was only [1/5] second behind Killy, scoring a huge second place for America, and Billy Kidd was a smooth fifth. Still, as the day wore on, it was up to 18-year-old Karen Budge, the last racer on the hill, to save her team, because the points were so close. Had she fallen like so many others or scored no points at all by not placing among the top 15, Canada would have been third, but Karen didn't, even though the course was by now almost completely torn up. She quietly and smartly finished third.
As it turned out, Austria lost the meet because of none other than Karl Schranz. Way up before he missed the difficult turn, Schranz did something he seldom does. He slipped past a gate and was disqualified. When the news reached the bottom that Schranz had blown a gate, Gerhard Nenning, realizing the team trophy had been lost in the final inning, slammed his poles into the snow and began hollering, "sacra," which is a mild sort of Austrian swear word.
Presently, Karl arrived at the finish area, and he was, unbelievably, smiling.
"You idiot," said Nenning.
"Ya, I did a stupid thing," Karl said, but still grinning. "Well, I don't think the team race is so important, after all." And Karl left. After all, Ann Sothern was having another party.