Vladimir “Spider” Sabich was the grandson of Croatian immigrants who learned to ski in his native Sierra Nevada mountains. Called Spider as an infant because of his gangly arms and legs, the nickname stuck. After accepting a ski scholarship to the University of Colorado, he joined the US National Team and competed at the 1968 Winter Olympics. He then skied the World Cup circuit in 1969-70, before turning professional. Sabich was the leading money winner on the pro circuit in 1971-72 and continued to compete thru the 1975-76 season, but a recurring back injury limited his success. The injury was the result of a fall in the last weekend of the 1973 season, from which he sustained compressed vertebra in his back.
From 1972 thru March 1976, Sabich was romantically involved with Claudine Longet, the former wife of singer Andy Williams. They had met at a pro-celebrity event in 1972 and quickly became a couple. After skiing at Aspen in March 1976, Sabich returned to his home there and prepared to take a shower. The events at this point are highly disputed, but Spider Sabich was shot by Longet in the bathroom of their home in Aspen, and died en route to the hospital. Longet was charged with reckless manslaughter but the charge was reduced to criminally negligent homicide, a misdemeanor, of which she was convicted in 1977. She served 30 days in jail.