Claudine Longet and Spider Sabich
Skin and Bones
Sabich came from Croatian stock.
His father, Vladimir, grew up in Sacramento. A bomber pilot in World War II, he was shot down over Japan and spent a year in a Siberian prison. Sabich was released in 1944 and returned home to his wife, Frances.
A son was born to the couple the following year. The child was so spindly at birth that his father took one look and gave him his famous nickname.
"He was a long baby, but he had no flesh on him," Vladimir told the Sacramento Bee. "He was all skin and bones. I said, 'Geez, he looks like a spider."'
The alliterative nickname stuck. Few even knew his real name: Vladimir Jr.
In 1950, the growing Sabich family moved 50 miles east of Sacramento to the small mountain town of Kyburz, where Vladimir Sr. worked as a police officer.
They arrived in the mountains at an opportune time.
A brand-new ski hill, Edelweiss, opened down the road from their house, and the Sabich kids became slope rats.
Spider strapped on his first pair of leather boots and wooden skis at age five. Soon, he and his brother, Steve, were invited to join the Edelweiss youth ski team.