‘Easier to ski than to walk’
FRISCO – On a recent afternoon, the members of the Cedar Valley Ski Club from Charles City, Iowa, were riding a bus with a group of female snowboarders.”What are all these old people doing?” the girls asked.Hmpf. Snowboarders. If these girls knew they were talking to men who think “it is not safe for skiers and snowboarders to ski the same runs,” perhaps they would think twice before making age-related comments.But the irony of the situation wasn’t in the tired rider vs. skier argument: “We’re skiing because we’re the ones with the money,” Dick Means said. “But we don’t have to pay because skiing is free if you’re over 70!”
That is, if you can shake off your flatlander legs and hurl yourself down the hill on two boards at an advanced age. The ski club belies its generation and Midwestern roots by living out the spirit of the West. IIn Charles City, a town of 9,000, the ski club’s members had the vision to pack fresh Iowa meat in duffel bags, say goodbye to wives for a week and create a yearly tradition of downhill skiing that has followed members into over-the-hill ages.The men tout themselves as “the oldest ski club in Iowa, and possibly the oldest in the nation.” Are they referring to their tenure, or their 57 to 78 age range? Probably both.Skiing with a second opinion
In his 70s, Larry Brewer is one of the club’s charter members. He hasn’t missed a trip in 40 years. His rowdy activities discredit the sleepy tales of “nightly euchre tournaments” found in the club’s commemorative issue.Then again, Brewer, like all the other members, defies convention. When the doctor told him he couldn’t ski again after a stroke, he found a new doctor. Means, another club old-timer, overcame his health struggles as well. He finds it “easier to ski than to walk to the lifts,” and has promised his wife he will only use his handicapped pass at ski resorts because of the extra long walks.Over the years, the club has transferred their unspoken “ski or die” mantra to Charles City, elevation 1,122 feet. The club wanted its hometown residents to experience some vertical, so Brewer and Means, along with deceased member Joe Spence, gave them access to 450 feet of the local country club’s best ski terrain by constructing a rope tow on a small hill.Even the lift was opposite of the norm: “We’d start at the top of the hill, and then the rope would catch us at the bottom,” Brewer explained.
Collision with greatnessGeorge North, a former 10th Mountain Division soldier and another charter club member, has done his part to keep the group together.Twenty-five years ago, Charles City’s banker was arrested for not paying a restaurant bill in Vail. North decided the group’s dining out days were over after his buddy got out of jail. He took over the role of chef on the trips, cooking three gourmet meals per day for up to 15 men.”George’s cooking is incredible,” said Monte Waldorf, a club member. “I learned after a few trips that I shouldn’t talk about the food with my wife, and we just leave it at that.”
And what else have the wives been left out of over the years? Double hotel bookings with the Oklahoma State pompom girls (Means said they were very understanding about the mix-up), member John Newton’s near-death experience with moose in Utah and crashing skiing legend Stein Eriksen’s private lesson, (literally).”We were at Vail watching Stein Eriksen give a lesson at the Ledges,” Brewer said. “One of our guys said, ‘I’m going to show Stein’s student how to ski.’ He didn’t really know how to turn, and eventually slid under Eriksen’s skis.”The stories are different now that the members are older, but the fun persists. During the most recent trip, the sewer in the club’s condo backed up one morning. For club member Tom Freeze, that could only mean one thing: “Somebody must have flushed their Depends.”