Ruthie’s Run, Aspen

John Fry

Skied for 55 or more years, Ruthie’s Run on Aspen Mountain has been the venue for classic, hotly contested World Cup and Roch Cup races. On the mild upper section, the whims of wind and waxing have often decided the downhill winners over the years. If you’re an intermediate, you can easily cruise the upper part, and avoid the steep section by taking Ruthie’s Lift back up to the top. Or you can head down.

For racers, the real technical test on Ruthie’s starts as racers plunge into Aztec and Spring Pitch, setting up one of the most demanding sequence of high-speed turns of any downhill in the world. “It is still one of the classic runs in North America,” says ex-Olympian Tom Corcoran.

One of the most spectacular recoveries on Ruthie’s, recalled by Aspen photographer Bob Chamberlain, occurred when Buddy Werner was thrown backwards at high speed, and flew for a long time through the air. He landed on his back, then incredibly Werner recovered without missing a click and went on to win the race.

Franz Klammer won on Ruthie’s Run in the winter of 1976 after his televised spectacular Olympic gold medal downhill win at Innsbruck, Austria. Crazy Canuck Todd Brooker, who would becme prominent as a TV expert commentator, won in 1983. Wild Bill Johnson won the 1984 World Cup downhill after a sensational recovery. Johnson told ex-Olympic racer Christin Cooper that he saw one leg above his head, retrieved it, lost footing on the other ski, almost veered off the course through the bough markers, then finding both skis once again under him Johnson went on to victory. Four-time World Cup champion Pirmin Zurbriggen won in 1987. The lower sections of Ruthie’s offer one of the most severe tests of slalom and giant slalom on the World Cup today.

Ruthie’s is named for Ruth Humphries, who became the wife of Darcy Brown, long-time boss of the Aspen Skiing Company. Before the young resort hosted the 1950 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships, it was desperately short of money to promote its candidacy. Ruthie Humphries made the initial donation of $5,000 that enabled Aspen to host the first major international alpine ski championship held in North America. Grateful Aspenites, led by Dick Durrance, named the trail in her honor.