Oh, to be old again | VailDaily.com

Oh, to be old again

Ryan Slabaugh

Or maybe, the local Masters skiers, who range from 21- to 80-year olds, are cooler than that.

Maybe they reprioritize their life like Avon bus driver Dave Schaefer, a 50-years-young ski racer who used to be an accountant, but those pesky 9-5 jobs were spent dreaming of speed instead of crunching numbers. Now, he wakes up, trains in the morning and has the afternoon to chauffer the valley – after the questions has been answered. Have I improved? Am I faster today?

“Once I got here and got a taste of Colorado, I couldn’t really stop,” said Schaefer, a native midwesterner who finished seventh in the downhill among his age class last year at the USSA Masters Nationals in Winter Park. “I really do consider myself a ski bum.”

Or maybe they are more like 40-year-old Eileen Shiffrin, who’s been skiing since she was three, raced in college and won the national Masters combined championship in 1999. She has a husband, Jeff, two kids, Taylor and Mikaela, and when time allows and her shoulder’s not aching, she hits the gates like a boxer hits the bags.

“It’s so exhilarating to legitimately go fast – without getting your ski pass taken away,” she said. “In 1991, we came out here for the nationals and got to looking around a lot. We moved out here the following year and I joined the Masters program.”

The program she speaks of is run out of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, which boasts 10 full-time members, 50 part-timers and dozens more drop-ins. For $900, Schaefer bought training with coaches three days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., an early season camp starting today, a speed camp in January and full use of the club athletic facilities and private video library.

It may sound pricey. For many, it is. But if you’re looking for a one-day gate-skiing extravaganza, pay 35 bucks and get your three-hour tutorial.

Rika Moore will be there. She runs the program. To those like Schaefer, who has seen his skiing improve to the point of ultimate addiction, she’s a savior. Moore grew up in Germany, moved to the States and has been coaching with the club for the last 10 years. If you hang around enough, she says, she’ll instill into you the competitive nature that drives all the members of the club.

“I’m a positive feedback person,” Moore said. “What I’m most amazed about is their dedication. A lot of Masters racers are more dedicated than the youngsters, who complain and don’t always know what kind of opportunity they have. The Masters are here early and on the mountain training.”

Take Jean Marcellot, who will, when he introduces himself, tell you he’s 75-and-a-half years old. He’s a full-timer from France who raced with Pete Seibert, the founder of Vail, at the University of Grenoble in the 1950s. After taking time off to build his medical practice –all the while mending the U.S. Ski Team – he retired, moved to Vail and won his age group in 2000 for the Rocky Mountain Region.

“People always asked me what I’d do when I retired. They said, “you’ll be bored,” he said. “I told them I’d ski race.”

He continued, dismissing age as a factor in speed: “You want to win, always. If anything, it’s a little easier because you’re used to the mechanics of starting and racing. Physically, I don’t think it makes any difference.”

Vail hosts two major races on the USSA Masters Series. First, in January, the Ben Duke Cup will feature the region’s greatest age-group racers. Ben Duke was a legendary Masters Skier, before he died in an automobile accident.

The other big race brings in the Europeans for an early-March International Masters Cup.

“We’ll have about 120 to 150 Europeans here for that,” Moore said. “The rest are most of the American racers, which will end up being close to 300.”

Rika will be there. So will Schaefer and Marcellot. Shiffrin wants to race, if she can free up the time.

In the spirit of competition, they race. There’s really no other reason.

“Once a racer, always a racer,” Marcellot said. “You just can’t quit the habit.”

Call (970) 476-5119, ext. 137 for more information.

Fund-raiser kicks off season

Ski and Snowboard Club Vail kicks off the 2002-2003 season with the fifth annual Glitter-Gates Dinner and Auction Nov. 16 at the Larkspur Restaurant. To help the club reach its financial goal, you can purchase a corporate table for $3,000. Call Alison Hoversten at 479-0518 for more information.

Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at rslabaugh@vaildaily.com.

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