Skiing is Forever, Here's Proof

Talking with two Aspen-based septuagenarians about skiing while waiting for the lifts to start spinning

We were in the grips of an unrelenting high-pressure system during the third week of February 2021. It hadn’t snowed in Aspen for far too long. But, I woke up early on Saturday, February 20, pressed a Thermos-worth of espresso, waxed my Blizzard Quattros in the garage and headed up valley to ski early morning corduroy on Ajax.

This wasn’t a Saturday morning that compels most to roll out of bed before dawn. But, work had been gnarly, days on the mountain had recently proved hard to come by and we had afternoon plans as a family.

90 minutes of edge angles on groomers were on tap. I was stoked.

I parked facing uphill at the corner of East Durant Avenue and Aspen Street. I finished my third cup of coffee sitting on the tailgate, wrapped in an arctic goose-down parka. Then, I booted up while listening to Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers.

An older guy wearing an orange Spyder jacket nodded from the cab of his beige F-150 across the street, his headlights were facing downhill. “Are you headed up to coach?” he asked.

“Nope,” I said. “Trying to get a few laps in before either skiing West Buttermilk or going on a hike with our two young boys.”

He nodded. “See you up there,” he said.

I nodded.

Then, he rolled his window up to stay warm. The cloudless skies meant cold mornings. I could hear his heater blasting over the songs coming from my truck.

I spent that morning 15 feet away from Jeff and Joe, 78 and 75 years old, respectively. Joe was the guy from the idling truck in the orange Spyder jacket. Jeff is his friend. These two guys have been in Aspen “since '68,” they told me.

We talked from an overly cautious social distance at the base of 1A. The three of us were there early, waiting for the mountain to open. Ski Patrol slid past doing their morning’s work. A few young patrollers said hi to me. The old patrollers said hi to Jeff and Joe.

These two septuagenarians are still more geeked on skiing than most. Jeff keeps his COVID mask pinned to his helmet’s ear flaps with two old 100-day pins. “I have a drawer full of them at home,” he told me. “I thought this was a good way to keep the mask on all day without it wrapped around my ears.”

They asked me about my skis. “Does Sewell still ski on Blizzards?” Joe asked aloud.

I jumped in and said, “Yea, Pat’s been on Blizzards for years.”

“We’re talking about Pat’s dad, Steve,” Jeff said, correcting me. Steve retired from Aspen Snowmass in 2018 after 40 years of managing the mountains. He’s a legend, like his son.

“Yeah, Steve still skis on Blizzards,” Jeff said to his buddy. He said “Blizzard” the way people used to say it, ending with a long “ahhh” and “ard” sound. The way longtime skiers say Blizzard rhymes with “bard.”

We talked about skiing in Aspen—past, present and future. I asked about the Saint Bernard named Bingo who used to ride up with Susie Wirth after she finished elementary school.

“We haven’t been here that long,” said Joe.

“We’re not that old,” said Jeff. “That was in the 50s.”

I learned about Susie and Bingo when writing this story for Aspen Peak years ago. Here’s the Bingo backstory (they’re right, it was from the 1950s):1

“In a town as pet-centric as Aspen, it’s no wonder that one of the steepest and most challenging runs on Ajax has a dog as its namesake. Bingo Glades, far looker’s left on the trail map, pays tribute to the massive Saint Bernard named Bingo that lived at the Sundeck in the 1950s. Bingo’s owner, Susie Wirth, also lived atop Aspen Mountain with her family, and every day Bingo would lope behind Susie as she skied down to her first-grade class. Once Susie made it safely to the Aspen School, Bingo would slowly ascend back up to the Sundeck—where the Wirth family ran the restaurant—via chairlift.”

I asked about skiing Slalom Hill in the 70s, and I asked about their favorite skis of all time.

“Skis are way better now than they used to be,” Jeff said. Like a lot of the older guys on Ajax, Jeff and Joe love the 2019 K2 Pinnacle 95 Ti skis.

“I’ve heard a lot about the old Rossi Roc 550s and Kneissl White Stars,” I said.

Both laughed.

“Those are old-school,” Joe said.

They were interested in Duke and Boone, future Ajax skiers.

“Are your boys skiing?” they asked a few times.

“They are,” I replied.

I thought: They also ride bikes, play with Legos, love Tom Brady, throw rocks in the river, debate about dinosaurs and watch “The Octonauts” whenever given the green light.

The liftie pulled the cover off the turn style. The mountain was open. Jeff and Joe slid on the first chair of the day.

Like longboard surfing, off-shore sailing, fly fishing, Johnny Cash and Wu Tang, skiing is forever.

Aspen’s Jeff and Joe (and so many others) are proof.