Ski Your Age
12/01/2009 01:00 ● Published by Corey Kopischke
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Ski Your Age
by Dagny McKinley Photography by Corey Kopischke
Seven locals whose days on the slopes outnumber the candles on their cakes
Steamboaters love to brag about homany days they get on the slopes. While the younger out-of-work and night-job set often top the magic 100 mark, they aren’t the only ones. Plenty of baby boomers here in Ski Town USA regularly chalk up more ski days than years they’ve lived. While Colorado’s sunshine might speed the wrinkling process, it does something far more important by keeping people young at heart – so young that they can still kick the derrieres of those younger stalwarts shredding alongside them. As a tribute to these statespeople of skiing, behold the following locals who prove that you’re only as old as you feel.
Joe CaddellAge 63Days skied in 2007/08 - 85Ponce de Leon Lesson: "With modern technology you don't need to work nearly as hard as you used to. Stay balanced and don't push it." Right noJoe Caddell's just enjoying life. He moved to Steamboat Springs 25 years ago from Michigan and has been a full-time resident for eight years. Joe started skiing in college and then got busy with work, joining the Navy for four years and then working for Ford and Chrysler. It was only through vacations with his wife, Lynne, and three kids, Jonathan, David and Heather, that he reconnected with skiing. Since he discovered Mount Werner, he has found plenty of reasons to keep him up there as many days as possible, from the exercise it provides to the scenery and people he meets. "Every day has its own unique viewpoint," he says. "It's invigorating and exciting, and I've never met another skier who doesn't have an interesting background." As for which day last year was best, he says it'd have to be one of the five super powder days, which he often skied with members of Steamboat's Over the Hill Gang. He also finds comrades in arms at the club for his many other activities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and water skiing. When not skiing his age, in the summer you'll likely catch Joe in the Zirkels or the Flat Tops, his favorite places to hike. "Relax and go with the flow," he says about both skiing and life
Rich GibsonAge 60Days Skied in 2007/08 - 110Ponce de Leon Lesson: "Never pass the oppertunity t oget up on the mountain. It will clear your head." Rich Gibson didn't let up at all last spring. After logging 110 ski days � nearly double his age � he was kayaking by April 15. Retired from his job at Qwest Cellular and Data Communications, he nodoes odd jobs and construction part time, which leaves plenty of time to play in the snow. He credits his wife, Sherry, who works for the mountain, for the free pass that is key to maximizing his days on the slopes. As a kid, Rich's love of nature developed from time spent with his grandfather on Big River in the Ozarks. His parents were worried about his grandfather's age, so they sent Rich to watch out for him. Eventually, Rich got into skiing through mountaineering once he realized he could get from one place to the next faster on skis than on snowshoes. He has climbed in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and a trip to the latter is what led to Steamboat. When driving through the Yampa Valley en route to Alaska, he stopped and never left. "The solitude of the backcountry with a small group of friends is what kept me here," he says. "It's religious to be able to do that." Twilight, one of his favorite runs, helped make the season for him last year. If every day began with a good cup of coffee and eight inches on Twilight, he'd be perfectly happy. Nothat his kids are grown and he no longer accompanies them to races, he sees no reason to leave his back yard mountain and plans to up his ski count even more.
Moose Barrows Age 64Days Skied in 2007/08 - 92Ponce de Leon Lesson: "Never ski a day without learning something neabout the sport." While 1969 U.S. Downhill Champion Moose Barrows' "Agony of Defeat" crash prevented him from winning a medal in the Olympics, it never stopped his passion for skiing. "It doesn't get any better than waking up to a foot of snoand heading up to Mount Werner," he says. Moose has just as much fun skiing noas he ever did racing. "When you're having a bad day, put on your skis and make yourself go down," advises Moose, who has been a Steamboat resident for 60 of his 64 years and started jumping on Howelsen Hill in 1966. "The focus it requires makes everything else seem less overwhelming." He also enjoys helping others, just as he was helped along the way. After hearing his story about not being able to travel to an event, an Aspen local gave him $250 to cover the expense. It was in that spirit that Moose started a Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club scholarship fund. He wanted to make sure no kid was left behind because of money. He also started the Moose's Loose Golf Tournament in 1983 to further support the organization, and helped initiate the ski area's opening day benefit, where tickets only cost $15 and all proceeds � which, in the old days, were collected in a five-gallon bucket � go to the club. "Skiing is still a huge part of my life," he says, adding that this past year found him at Yellowstone, Vail, Winter Park, Park City, Jackson Hole, Breckenridge, Keystone and Aspen. Like his love for flying airplanes, he finds that skiing offers a freedom of expression and movement that's hard to get from anything else. "Part of the process of skiing is doing things without being aware all the time," he says.
Nancy GrayAge 56Days skied in 2007/08 - 125Ponce de Leon Lesson: "Believe in your equipment. It makes the rest of the process easier. It helps alleviate downhill fears." Being Moose Barrows' sister had one great advantage. When Nancy Gray was nearly 3 and her brothers had to babysit her, it was easier to take her to the ski hill than to hang out at home. Those days inspired a lifetime of love for the snow. Nancy was in the original Little Toots group started by a local dad who wanted kids to learn hoto ski, and went on to be a competitive skier on the U.S. Development Team. Nancy spreads her love of skiing by teaching. Aside from giving private lessons, she has also coached at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, where some of her students have gone on to become Olympians. "Snowboarding is the biggest difference from when we started skiing," she says. "That and the attitude of being so invincible. When I first started teaching a 360 was a big deal. Nothe sky is the limit." Growing up in Steamboat, Nancy was here during the sport's golden era. She and her friends skied the hill behind Soda Creek at lunch and moved on to Howelsen after school. They made turns down Mount Werner when Christy was the only lift on the mountain. When she's not on the mountain now, Nancy is the swim lesson coordinator at the Old Town Hot Springs pool, counting the days until the mountain re-opens. As for her favorite runs, she loves Hot Cakes, Vertigo and Swinger with powder, 0 degree temperatures and the sun shining. "My friends are amazed that I always think the snois good," she says. "If I;m sliding on it, it's good."
Tom SheltonAge 69Days SKied in 2007/08 69Ponce de Leon Lesson: "Stay active and keep yourself in good shape. When get older, your eyse might be as quick, but your reflexes aren't. You have to think young." A lot of locals might recognize Tom Shelton as the ticket scanner in the gondola's single line with a black cowboy hat and mustache. But they might recognize him from the slopes as well � at least the intermediate ones � as the four-year Ski Corp. employee regularly clocks his age and then some atop his neschool K2 Apaches on Mount Werner. A sales executive who moved to Steamboat Springs from Lakewood in 2004, Tom, a grandfather of two, routinely heads up at 9:30 a.m. and is off by 2:30 p.m., with another day under his belt. "I'm just an intermediate," he says, "but I love it. I just get out there and dothe best I can. I don't like working out, so this is my workout." He admits, however, that reaching the milestone might be harder this year, as rotator cuff surgery will keep him off the slopes until January. On the bright side, he's only working threedays a week this year, which should make it easier to notch his age. "If the snocooperates, I don't see hoI wouldn't be able to hit that," he says. Plus, he has one other thing going for him as far as skiing his age this go-around: "Luckily," he says, "I don't turn 70 until after the ski season."
Loris WernerAge 67Days Skied in 2007/08 - 80Ponce de Leon Lesson: "Stay active in the off season, whether biking, horseback riding, walking or running." Hazie Werner didn't learn to ski until she was 65, but she raised three Olympic skiers beforehand: Wallace ("Buddy"), Gladys ("Skeeter") and the youngest, Loris ("Bugs"). Learning toski on Howelsen Hill at age 2, Loris began racing at age 4 and quickly found it his calling. In college he competed in jumping, cross country, downhill and slalom, and was a twotime winner of the NCAA Skimeister Championships. Later, he competed in the Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria, and Grenoble, France. His legacy with Storm Peak begins with him scouting runs with his brother Buddy. When Buddy was killed in an avalanche in Switzerland in 1964, the mountain was re-named Mount Werner in his honor. After Loris' career as a racer came to a close, he went to work at the Steamboat Ski Area, where he held posts as ski school director, mountain manager and vicepresident of operations before retiring in 2005. "The best years are any where I walk away without an injury," he says, adding that last year he mixed it up by skiing a variety of resorts. Some years are worse than others ailmentwise,as evidenced by a shoulder injury he suffered recently that sidelined him from the slopes. Still, he's savvy enough to admit that his favorite run "depends on the conditions," throwing a nod toward Rolex and Cyclone as his favorites. As for the deep stuff, while he might not press glass as often as heused to, he'll still seek out the untracked whenever he can. And even at 67, don't think he won't poach your line.
Mike NartkerAge 57Days Skied in 2007/08 - 92Ponce de Leon Lesson: "When you get to a certain age, you kind of make a decision to either stay active or be a couch potato. The older you get the harder you have to work at it, but the key is just to stay active." After retiring and moving out from Michigan to do "the middle-aged ski bum thing," Mike Nartker has worked in the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.'s shipping and receiving department for the past 8 1/2 years. He's doing pretty well at it, shipping himself up onto the mountain up to 100times each year. "As a flatlander from Michigan, I did pretty good, getting out maybe 25-30 times a year," he says. "But it's a heck of a lot easier having it right outside your door." While he has had both knees replaced in the past four years, it hasn't slowed him down a bit. In fact, combined with his neK2 Apache Outlaws, it's made it easier than ever to ski his age. "I can ski pretty much everything I used to 35 years ago," he says. With his office in the lower corner of the gondola building, a typical day sees him punching in at 6:30 a.m., and then clocking out at 8 for a feruns. "I can hit the single's line pretty easily," he says, adding that one of his favorite haunts is the bumps in Triangle. "And with today's lifts, you can cover a lot of ground in a short time." While he usually ends up on the mountain solo, he has a close group of friends he routinely charges hard with, all of whom ski and act like they're 30 years younger than their birth certificates indicate. "The fun thing about it all is that here we are at a world-class resort, but it's like you're on your own back yard hill," he says.
Over the Hill Gang If you're over 50 and looking for extra motivation to get out on the slopes, joining the Over the Hill Gang might be the perfect option. When the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. approached the organization and asked if it would offer free guided ski days, the group gladly accepted. Every day with the exception of Saturdays, two guides meet their groups at the base of the mountain at 9 a.m. and ski to 11:30. If that's too early, you can join them between 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in the cafeteria at the top of the mountain and ski until 3 p.m. You don't have to be a member to ski, although membership is only $30 a year for singles and $50 for couples, with 60 percent of dues supporting Steamboat Winter Sports Club scholarships. Skiers should have intermediate skills to participate. The group also holds an annual fundraiser to benefit competitive youth sports and community projects. Right nomembership in Steamboat Springs is approximately 300, with year-round activities including organized bike rides and hikes in the summer. Info: www.ssoverthehillgang.org