Remembering Bob Murdoch: The 98-Year-Old Alta Ski Area, UT, Legend

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Bob Murdoch skis powder at Alta on his 94th birthday. | Photo courtesy of Alta Ski Area

Months after celebrating his 98th birthday, longtime Alta community member Bob Murdoch passes away, leaving behind a legacy of skiing at the world-class Utah ski area. 

Alta Ski Area shared Murdoch’s passing in a blog post this morning and detailed his remarkable life. Alta shared

Bob was born in Salt Lake City and learned to ski at an early age, even skiing the slopes of Alta before there were chairlifts. In fact, Bob rode the Collins lift the day it opened—January 15th, 1939. In an interview for the Deseret News in 2006, Bob claimed,

He rode the lift at least 30 times that first day. “It wasn’t crowded,” he recalled. “You could just ski down and get back on and keep going. We never stopped.” That philosophy more or less sums up Bob’s lifetime approach to skiing. He hasn’t skied all his life — World War II got in the way for a time and there were several years when his five children were young that he and Alta weren’t on a first-name basis — but he’s skied most of it. – Deseret News | January 18th, 2009.

After graduating from East High School, Bob served in the Navy during WWII. While serving, he married Delores Reeve Murdoch and returned to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah. He enjoyed a long career, raised a family and started skiing again. Bob was a longtime member of Alta’s famed Wild Old Bunch.

Bob was Happily skiing until the age of ninety-seven. Alta loved him just as much, naming two runs after him. He was part of the ski group called the Wild Old Bunch. – Salt Lake Tribune | May 10th, 2022.

Bob was close friends with Harriet Wallis, a local ski journalist and the communications director for the Wild Old Bunch. She referred to Bob as a “senior’s senior skier”. After Bob celebrated his 96th birthday on the slopes of Alta, Harriet shared a little piece of Bob Murdoch’s Alta story for SeniorsSkiing.com.

Bob has a long history of skiing Alta. He tells of his early years when he had to hike up the mountain so that he could ski down. Those were the days before 1938 when Alta was founded as a ski area with just a single chair lift that hung so low it often had to be dug out of the snow. Alta reveres its history. Alta also reveres its older skiers because they add depth to Alta’s ski family. – SeniorsSkiing.com | March 26th, 2018

Jim Tipton first met Bob Murdoch at Alta. Despite being a couple of decades younger than Bob, he could barely keep up on the slopes.

An older gentleman {…} asked if I would like to ski with him that morning. I looked at Bob and I really did not want to ski with a man that old but I did not want to hurt his feelings, so I said yes. He then told me he had a buddy skiing with us and he looked older.

The 3 of us got on the lift for Crooked Mile. I am thinking I will take a couple of runs with them and then excuse myself. We got off the lift {…} I was quickly in shock as I almost had to point my ski’s straight down the hill to keep up with them.

I asked again and Bob gave me some advice. He told me that the older you get the faster you should ski. I couldn’t believe my ears and told him that was the craziest thing I had heard. Bob said listen to my advice, if you follow it, it will cut the amount of time you have to spend in the nursing home. I said sign me up. I am glad Bob escaped the long stay in a nursing home. – Jim Tipton

Bob’s older ski buddy that day was none other than Geroge Jedenoff, the centenarian powder hound that skied powder at Alta until the age of 102.5 years young. George’s days on skis may be behind him (at age 103.5, he skied at Sugar Bowl in California), but he and Bob enjoyed some great times together on and off the slopes.

Bob was one of my greatest skiing friends and we were both active members of the Wild Old Bunch of Alta Utah. For at least 25 years we skied together, whenever I had the opportunity of visiting Alta from my home in the San Francisco bay area. Until his passing, we skied together with Bob Marshall for many years and always had a great time together.

Although age has now crept up on me and I can no longer ski at Alta I am so grateful for the many wonderful memories I have of the two of us skiing together. Thanks for these wonderful memories and for the pleasure of knowing Robert and having him as such a great friend.

We were fortunate to host Bob Murdoch’s 95th and 96th birthdays in the Albion Grill. In 2021, we helped Bob celebrate his 97th birthday in a socially-distanced BBQ in the Albion lot. Unfortunately, that would be the last time we were able to celebrate with Bob at Alta.

Bob Murdoch was an Alta skier who loved the ski area and the Alta community. He also loved powder skiing. He discussed his love of skiing and Alta for a Seattle Times story about the Wild Old Bunch in 2006:

“It helps keep you young. Without sounding corny about it, when you’re skiing through fresh powder and the trees, there’s almost a spiritual quality to it. It’s something special that keeps us coming back year after year. And you never want to lose that.”

– Bob Murdoch

Thank you Bob for sharing so many winter days at our beloved Alta. His history runs deep—not only did Bob grace Alta’s slopes on our opening day in January of 1939, he also earned his turns and hiked uphill before the first chairlift ever turned on. Thank you for your contributions to our community and the many cups of hot chocolate and stories shared amongst the Wild Old Bunch. Your love for our sport will live on with the future generations of Alta skiers.

The Wild Old Bunch celebrates Bob Murdoch’s 95th birthday party at the Albion Grill | Photo: Iz La Motte

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