As we pulled into Huntsville, and exited the vehicle after a great day of skiing at Snowbasin, we ran into the town drunk who cheerfully slurred and pointed,” in there- the best cheeseburgers in town.” I knew he was right because I had been there before but some of our posse had not and we all were treated to the simple fare of cheeseburgers, chips, and beer at the Shooting Star Saloon. Check out their sign. Aside from the ceiling filled with dollar bills and the “jackalopes” mounted on the wall( mythical jackrabbits with antlers), the St. Bernard head mounted on the wall that was accidentally shot after rescuing 11 skiers trapped in an avalanche, and the lone pool table, the oldest tavern in Utah survives on simple fare and simple customers. A great place for us to relive the days exploits at Snowbasin- the site or the 2002 Winter Olympic speed events for skiing.
The five of us who get together every year are avid skiers. From left to right we have Mark Hutchinson(our historian and former race coach at Stowe), Eric Durfee( our ring leader and organizer from Lake Tahoe via Vermont), Proctor Reid( ex ski racer from Dartmouth who grew up with Hutch and Eric in Vermont), yours truly, and Bart Smith( our host this year from Park City and ex Cornell racer along with Eric) Our missing member this year was John Ingwersen, another ex Cornell racer. Traditionally we have gone to Tahoe but seeing that the conditions were bleak for the second year in a row, Bart generously offered to host the group at his place in Park City. This group is a passionate one. Much like guys who go on golf trips, fishing trips, or hunting trips. Comradery is the key component to any outing like this but our group also values time on the hill. These guys are bell to bell, first chairs and last chairs up the mountain for the day. It is hard to chronicle the enthusiasm. It really is something to experience. Skiing is not just something this group does, it is a lifestyle. Sitting around the apres’ places having a beer and eating a buffalo burger, you hear some great stories about ski racing in New England, and relationships with some of the big names in the ski world. Hutch and Eric’s old friend George Tormey was the K-2 ski rep for years as well as a race coach at Stowe. The K-2 Four ski was made available to Bode Miller originally to race at Sugarloaf in the Junior Nationals. Bode won by a large margin in most of the events including the speed events using the conventional K-2 Four shaped ski. It was innovative at the time and Bode wanted to use them. The only other pair available went to Travis Durfee- Eric’s son who was a top ranked junior racer in New England and eventually made the Far West Team when the family moved to Tahoe.
Sitting around Bart’s table, one can continue to hear great ski racing and ski instruction stories from the past and the single focus of our week long adventure is skiing, skiing, and more skiing. We wake up and decide which area we will ski for the day, eat breakfast provided by Bart and his wife Joe in absentia( she went to visit her mom), ski all day hard usually in a fast pace line weaving through unsuspecting skiers on the mountain, having a beer and something to eat, showering, watching March madness and retiring usually at 9:00 at night. No night life on these trips, skiing is too important and our fearless leader makes sure we are first ones in the parking lot and first on the chairs. Pretty good for a group of in shape guys that just turned 60. Bart is a year older but he is the strongest one of us all. First time I met Bart was years ago when I saw him launch himself straight into Corbett’s Couloir in Jackson Hole while we were trying to inch our way into the couloir from the side. I said to Eric,” Who is this guy?” Eric said, ” you will find out a lot about Bart. Try to keep him in sight.” A true strongman and powerful skier. Age means nothing in this group. All good skiers. All strong skiers. Jokingly Bart said one morning, ” this is like summer camp for old guys.” The great thing about this annual gathering is that none of us think about anything else but skiing hard, laughing, and reliving old times. Eat breakfast, ski, have a beer and something to eat afterwards, relax and do it all over again the next day- just like camp!! Lots of sleep and up with the birds. Might not be interesting to many people who include other things on ski trips, but for this group, this plan works just fine.
Friendships like this are rare and should be cherished. When you start to lose friends like I have this past year, these get togethers are even more important. You never know what will happen in life, but if this group has anything to say about it, the conditioning and the all out enthusiasm will keep us going for a long time. We don’t think about age. We think about challenge and keeping it all going. Hopefully you are fortunate enough to have a group like this. Work at the friendships and keep outings like this alive. Thanks for reading.