Park City has seen its share of world class skiers and snowboarders over the years – we did co-host a Winter Olympics after all. But more than just visiting athletes and amateurs, Park City has been a home to many local, national, and international heroes in the winter sports world. People like Emmett Wright, the Engen brothers, Otto Carpenter and Bob Burns, Edgar Stern, Phil Jones, Stein Eriksen, Mel Fletcher, Jim Gaddis, Tori Pillinger, Ted Ligety; current stars like Alex Hall, Colby Stevenson, and Rosie Brennan; and so many others. A couple of those heroes really helped put Park City on the map: Nick and Craig Badami.
Father Nick and son Craig came to Park City in 1974 and were impressed by its charm. They were anxious to help it grow and by 1975 had purchased Park City Ski Area (now Park City Mountain Resort), then a small resort with its potential untapped, looking to make it into something. Not only had they bought the resort, Nick had also convinced the U.S. Ski Team to stay in Park City (after Edgar Stern had brought them here), using the ski area as their training grounds. With some cash, and plenty of hard work from resort employees, it didn’t take long to improve and expand Park City Ski Area.
As the resort grew, Craig, the VP of marketing, wanted the world to take notice. Using Nick’s influence on the board of directors for U.S. Ski Team, Craig was able to convince the board to approach the International Ski Federation about hosting a World Cup event in Park City. Park City Ski Area was granted a World Cup event for March 1985. The event was a success and the World Cup returned in March 1986.
One of the things that marked the event as a success, aside from the athletes complimenting the resort on the good snow conditions despite temperatures reaching over 50 degrees, was Craig’s commitment to making the World Cup an event, rather than just races. Some reportedly said that the World Cup in Park City was a rock concert posing as a ski race – or even the other way around.
Craig wanted the event to be even bigger, and with the success of the first two events, he was able to schedule the Park City World Cup race in late November, during Thanksgiving week, for the 1986-87 season: the first races of the year in the U.S. This began a 15-year run of hosting “America’s Opening.”
Ultimately, the success and popularity of the World Cup racing in Park City solidified Salt Lake City’s bid for the Winter Olympics – all thanks to the entrepreneurship of Nick and Craig Badami.
Unfortunately, Craig would not be around to see his vision grow from hosting a World Cup to hosting the Olympics. Immediately after the 1989 America’s Opening – during deconstruction of the event, in fact – Craig was tragically killed in a helicopter accident, when a cable attached to the helicopter for transporting large objects accidentally hooked onto an equipment trailer on the ground, yanked taught, snapped and broke, then flung into the blades of the helicopter, causing it to crash. Of the six people on board, only Craig lost his life.
Despite leaving for his next life earlier than expected, Craig’s impact on the resort and the community of Park City cannot be understated. The 2002 Olympics might not have happened in Utah without his help. He also touched many Parkites on a personal level with his uplifting and full-of-life personality. In a thank you to the town for their condolences and support, Nick and Avis Badami wrote about their son: “We have always known Craig had many friends from many walks of life, and this week we have heard so many stories about his character that remind us, he was, himself, quite a character.” A beautiful tribute by Jack Turner discussing Craig as a person can be read here.
The Park City Museum is hosting a lecture titled “Ski and Snowboard Heroes of Park City” given by historian, and himself a local ski legend, Tom Kelly. It will take place at the Museum’s Education and Collections Center at 2079 Sidewinder Drive on Wednesday, March 1 from 5 to 6 p.m.
Adler, Dave. “Park City Ski Area gets ready for first Utah World Cup races.” Park Record. March 14, 1985.
Photo in collection with built-in caption: 2004.84.1.7.8.
Warren, Larry. Park City: Mountain of Treasure. (Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2004), pages 133-137; and 144-145.
Hampshire, David. “Park City Mountain Resort enters the world stage.” Park Record. December 24, 2013.
Badami, Nick and Avis. “Craig Badami Remembered.” Park Record. December 7, 1989.
Turner, Jack. “Craig Badami Let Me Be On His Team.” Park Record. December 7, 1989.
Taylor, Senna. “Feds say cable caused Nov. 28 helicopter crash.” Park Record. December 7, 1989.