Vail skier soars into his 80s |

Vail skier soars into his 80s

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Daffy Jump DT 1-21-09

VAIL, Colorado ” Vail’s Fred Distelhorst turned 80 yesterday, but the only hill he’s going over is the ski hill ” and he’s catching some air while doing it.

Friends and family gathered at the bottom of Chair 10 to watch Distelhorst hit a jump known as a daffy on his 80th birthday. He hit the jump like he was a teenager, and a crowd of spectators cheered him on.

How long has Distelhorst been skiing?

“Forever,” he said.

Skiing has never been just a hobby for him. He practiced his skiing while in the Army ” he was stationed in Germany for 12 and a half years. It was there where he made ski turns in the Alps, and where he met his wife, Ines.

Ines walked into Larkspur restaurant at Golden Peak Wednesday and her eyes lit up when she saw her blown-up wedding photograph. The photo almost brought tears to her eyes ” and in those eyes you could still see her love for Fred has never faded.

The couple met while working as dentists in the Army in Germany. Ines remembers skiing in Austria together, and a time when she realized how much Fred loved her.

An avalanche had come barreling down a mountain where she was skiing. People in her ski group were some of the ones that got buried. She saw the look of relief on his face when he realized she was unhurt, and she’ll never forget it, she said.

Ines jokes that his big love, though, is skiing. Fred still logs at least 100 days on the mountain each winter, and his friends and family aren’t surprised.

“It’s his release to get out and get his exercise,” said Jim Sanders, a friend of Fred’s since 1977.

Sanders remembered many times when they’d be out skiing and Fred would squeeze in that one ” or three ” extra run. He’d end up late for the office and would wind up working on teeth in his ski gear.

Joe Langereis, a fellow dentist, remembers Fred as one of the first people he met in Vail, about five years ago. Langereis and his wife were skiing Blue Sky Basin and rode the chairlift with Fred, whom Langeris discovered was also a dentist. Langereis wanted to ski a couple of runs with him so he could find out a little more about the industry here in town.

“It hit me that he didn’t think I’d be able to keep up with him,” Langereis said.

After Fred skied with him for a bit, he told Langereis he was a good skier, “for a tourist.”

“He’s a character,” Langereis said.

At 80, not much has changed about Fred’s skiing. He still skis bump runs and goes up as often as possible. He skis alone sometimes, but now his wife asks him to carry a cell phone.

He usually leaves it at home.

“I’ve been around long enough that I know he’ll be OK,” she said. “If he has an accident, he asked for it!”

Fred’s not worried about that, and his friends don’t seem to be, either. Guests at his birthday apres party signed a cardboard poster praising him for his skiing abilities. One friend called him “the oldest and best oldest bumper.”

For Fred, age these days is just a number.

“I still feel good,” he said. “The only time I feel old is when I get up in the morning and look in the mirror.”

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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