John F. Russell: Nothing stereotypical about this boarder
Steamboat Springs — Hal Fischel isn’t your stereotypical snowboarder.
He doesn’t wear oversized snow pants, chances are you will never catch him ripping down the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area in a hoodie, and he doesn’t spend his days launching out of the halfpipe in the terrain park.
Hal loves to spend his winters riding down the slopes of the ski area despite the fact that he will never be the poster child for the sport. He had been a life-long skier, but after watching the snowboarding sport grow over his lifetime, he decided to give the sport a chance. It didn’t matter to him that he was 60 at the time.
“In 20 years (of snowboarding) I never really injured myself,” Fischel says. “I’ve been in the trees, deep snow and in situations where you ask yourself, ‘How is this going to end?’ Lucky for me it’s never ended badly.”
Last January, Fischel celebrated his 80th birthday by spending the day riding on the slopes with his girlfriend, Denise Lovett. They ended the day at E3 Chophouse. It was a nearly perfect way to spend his 80th, Hal says.
“We are on the mountain most days,” Fischel said. “I just love Steamboat Springs and the lifestyle.”
He estimates that he has ridden about 40 days this winter. When he is not on the slopes, he enjoys cross country skiing at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center or the Catamount Ranch & Club. Sometimes, he will head into the backcountry on Rabbit Ears Pass. He is still amazed how much fun it can be to slide down the hill balanced on a piece of woo, and to be able to carve turns.
Hal loves the sport so much that a few years back he introduced Denise to the sport. She also had skied for years, but with Hal’s instruction was able to discover a love of snowboarding. These days, the couple is on the mountain at least three or four times a week, and they both love to snowboard.
Hal says there are times when he gets a few looks as he makes his way down the hill at ski area. He even had one gentleman, a few years younger than him, ask if he could take his picture this year.
“He wanted to show it to his kids to prove he wasn’t too old to start snowboarding,” Hal said. “Maybe I should have been offended, but I let him take my picture, and I’m hoping I will see him on the slopes someday riding a snowboard.”
Hal admits he doesn’t have a lot of peers his own age to hang out with in the terrain park. Most of his counterparts are younger, and braver.
“I get a kick out of watching the tots. I call them mushrooms because they all have big helmets that make them look like mushrooms,” Hal said. “They are maybe 6 years old, but they pick the sport up so quickly, and they have no fears. They are fantastic.”
But just because the sport is geared toward younger, more radical representatives, Hal hasn’t let that stop him from pursuing the sport he loves. It’s something he doesn’t plan on giving up anytime soon.
“If I see another snowboarder with gray hair and wrinkles, I’m watching him to see if I have any competition,” Hal jokes.
Hal says his season is coming to an end, and he will be returning home to Connecticut where he still spends his days working for the real estate development company he owns, Fischel Properties.
But Fischel plans to be back in Steamboat Springs this summer, and there is no question that he will be back on the slopes of Mount Werner next winter.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Things are normally pretty quiet around the base area of Steamboat Resort this time of year, but a lot has happened since the ski area closed following the 2020-21 season.