Masters racer Charlie Hauser prepares for his first season in the 80-84 age class
EAGLE COUNTY — Masters racing joins together people of all ages for two reasons: camaraderie and competition.
It’s an infectious atmosphere that can bring about a rebirth of sorts for the skier who once enjoyed skiing the resort’s many runs but now craves more. Its participants seek “to reach their best beyond the public perception of prime years,” in the words of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, and the sport caters to “late bloomers looking for a challenge to take their skiing to a new level.”
You could call Charlie Hauser a late bloomer. Bored with regular skiing, the Eagle resident decided to try Masters racing at age 72.
Now he’s working out in his home gym, getting ready for his first season in the Men 12 age class. That’s 80 to 84 year olds.
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“I’m a much better skier now than I was before,” he said. “And I’m still improving.”
YOUNG END OF THE CLASS
Local skier Franz “Fuxi” Fuchsberger races with Hauser in the Rocky Mountain Masters series. Fuchsberger says Hauser is in shape like someone in their 50s.
“It’s incredible,” Fuchsberger said.
Off the slopes he looks the part, as well. But make no mistake, Charlie Hauser was born in 1935 and must be reminded of it every time he checks his race times.
Despite all the sport of Masters racing gives to athletes like Hauser, it constantly points out one thing they may not want to be reminded of — their birth year. It’s on the results sheets, after all, right next to their names. The classes are broken up into age categories of five-year increments. Just about the time you get settled in one, you’re bumping up into another.
Hauser doesn’t worry about age. Longevity is in his veins; his mother made it to within a month of age 100. But he does recognize that this season will put him at the young side of an age class where competitors don’t often make it to the other end. His competition at many races will be slim to none.
But that’s here. At this year’s FIS International Masters championship in the Czech Republic, he’s going to find an entirely new set of competitors.
Hauser has been at an International Masters championships before, in Austria.
“In my group there were 26 or 27 racers, and that’s 75 to 79 (age class),” he said. “Probably 10 of them, at least, were Austrians. … We had more fun than you could imagine.”
Like everyone, Hauser is in it for the camaraderie and competition. But he loves the travel, as well. The sport has also brought him to Mammoth Mountain in California, Big Sky in Montana, Sun Valley in Idaho, Mount Hood in Oregon and Park City, Utah. These aren’t places he probably would not have visited if he wasn’t a ski racer.
But one more aspect of the sport is the odds. Hauser looks at it this way: If he’s on his skis, then he wants to be going fast.
But going fast around the resort just isn’t smart these days.
“In (ski racing) I’m the only person on that run at the time, so I can ski fast much safer,” he said. “I don’t have to have my head on a swivel looking around for that person who’s going to hit you.”
‘AGE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE’
Before you meet him, you may be inclined to ask, what’s the secret? Those who will meet him, however, won’t have to ask, as the answer will be obvious.
And that’s because he’s always accompanied by his lovely wife, Teresa.
“They’re in love like someone on their first date,” Fuchsberger said.
She goes to all the races, she cheers on everyone at the finish with her cowbell, she volunteers with timing and announcing, and she makes sandwiches for the competitors.
“I wouldn’t be doing ski racing like I am if she didn’t go with me,” Hauser said.
She also helps manage and carry his gear.
“I call her Mrs. Sherpa,” he said with a laugh.
Teresa says it’s like being part of a big, extended family.
“I never knew what a soccer mom was like until I started going with him to the races,” she said.
Slaloms are easier for Teresa to watch. She says she holds her breath through his entire downhill run.
“People will say to me, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’” she said. “I say he’s much more likely to get hit by a recreational skier. Here all he has are the gates to worry about.”
Teresa has had trouble with her knees over the years and has no desire to ski race. She’s younger than Charlie, and in fantastic shape herself. In the gym, she doubles as his trainer, pushing him to reach his goals. Along the way, she’s learned a few things about herself and the area she chooses to live.
“That’s what we love about this community,” she said. “You can do anything you want, and age makes no difference whatsoever.”
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.