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Celebrity ski race at Deer Valley benefits clean waterways

Published December 17, 2012 8:51 am

Deer Valley • Actors, producers and Olympic skiers go head-to-head to benefit Riverkeeper.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Deer Valley • When it comes to Alpine ski racing, size matters.

In a head-to-head race against fellow three-time Olympian Tommy Moe on Saturday, Heidi Voelker was dominating the heavier skier for the first half of the dual-slalom course. But the course flattened midway down and Voelker helplessly watched the pull of gravity carry Moe to the finish a half second ahead of her.

"That 80 pounds helps," said Voelker after her performance in the Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest.

The annual event falls on the ski resort's opening day to benefit Riverkeeper Alliance, a global network of groups devoted to safeguarding local waterways, and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team.

"We're about protecting our waterways and promoting them so they will be swim­mable, fishable and drinkable — the central tenets of the Clean Water Act," said Pete Nichols, the alliance's national director.

The umbrella organization, founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., provides legal support to 203 groups, including Moab-based Living Rivers, which serves as the Colorado's riverkeeper, and a new Iraqi group devoted to the Tigris.

"They are gracious hosts," Nichols said of Deer Valley Resort. "We use events like this to promote our cause and raise funds. It's a good opportunity to get the word out on the importance of clean water."

Saturday's race drew 20 actors and producers from film and television, such as Larry David from "Curb Your Enthusiasm," director Bobby Farrelly and Eric Close of "Nashville."

The racers were divided into four teams, each led by an Olympic skier. Joining Voelker and Moe were twins Steve and Phil Mahre, who both medaled at the 1984 Winter Games. Actor Dylan Bruno, who raced growing up in Vermont, provided the backbone of Steve Mahre's team in his eighth appearance in the celebrity event.

"We have some history here. Rivalries have developed," said Bruno, who portrays FBI sleuth Colby Granger in the crime drama "Numb3rs." His rival is Close and organizers made sure those two squared off in the preliminary round. In the final round, Steve Mahre's team D defeated Moe's team B after Farrelly edged "Entourage" actress Perrey Reeves by one one-hundredth of a second.

Bruno has been skiing in Utah since 1994 when he spent a winter here after graduating from MIT with a degree in environmental engineering. He broke into screen acting after Steven Spielberg saw him in a television ad and cast him for a small role in "Saving Private Ryan."

Moe, who went on to lose to Steve Mahre in the final, attributed his win over Voel­ker, known for her technical skills, to luck of the draw. His red course skied faster than Voelker's blue, he said. But then Moe was never much of a slalom racer during his World Cup days in the 1990s. His forte was the downhill, which he won at the Lillehammer Games.

He conceded his first run was hampered by a weak start, giving Voelker a huge lead.

"I hit the [starting] gate and it didn't open," said Moe, now a river and ski guide in Jackson Hole and in Alaska. "I think it was the jitters."

bmaffly@sltrib.com