Still pressing glass after all these years, powder or not
Steamboat Springs — Just as there are employees of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. who have been pursuing their careers with “mother mountain” through the course of four decades, there are skiers and snowboarders who have been faithful to Mount Werner since the early 1970s. And they too, are “old school.”
Consider the pack of guys who meet informally at the gondola most mornings to “press glass” and grab one of the first gondola cars to head up the mountain.
Guys such as Jim Mader, Steve Rapp, Stu Gonio, Ben Tiffany, Scott Berry, Darrell Levin, Tom “T” Barr, Howie Sugarman, Bruce Guettich and Ron Goodrich. Women are welcome too; Brandi Beauvais often skis with the group.
Goodrich said the ritual of arriving early at the gondola building to ski intensely for a few hours most mornings and then get on with the day has become a significant part of his life the past 17 years.
“It’s more than important,” Goodrich said.
He grew up skiing at Hogodon Ski Area, 11 miles outside Casper, Wyoming, where skiers enjoyed a neighborly atmosphere.
“It was a way of life,” he said. “All the families on the mountain knew each other.”
Sugarman, who works in construction, said ski season is when he has time to really connect with a pack of old friends whose roots in Steamboat can be traced to the mid ’70s. He signed on with the pressing glass posse when Rapp retired from the railroad, and they hooked up with a group of skiers who had either limited employment during the winter or night jobs.
They may be a family of sorts, but the guys who press glass every morning aren’t a ski club. They don’t even have a name. You could call them “Old and in the Way.” But it might be safer to call them “Old and Get Out of the Way.”
This pack of aging powder dogs wastes no time at the top of the lift discussing where to ski next, and they swoop down the hill similar to a flock of startled birds.
It’s generally understood that on a day that calls for groomers, they will follow a circuit of runs from the north to the south side of the mountain. On powder days, it’s every man for himself and “see ya” at the lift. Everyone skis top-to-bottom on each run without stopping to admire the scenery.
“In order to get your half a dozen runs (of untracked powder), it’s good to have the strength to be able to do it top to bottom and hop right back on the lift,” Sugarman said.
Chairlift rides are the time for socializing, and Levin is one of the best storytellers in the “Old and Get Out of the Way” club.
He recalled growing up skiing at Snow Valley in California’s San Bernardino Mountains. When he was in high school, he used to skip gym class first thing in the morning and head for a wide spot in the winding road that led to Snow Valley. There, he earned more than enough money for a lift ticket by holding up a jack and offering to put motorists’ tire chains on for $5. That profitable enterprise came to an end when the gym teacher caught on and had a talk with Levin’s father. That’s pretty old school!
Sugarman, who will turn 63 on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day — that figures), has his own way of carving up the mountain that sets him apart and makes him as old school as they come.
Sugarman skis in classic leather lace-up Italian ski boots made by Alico. But don’t refer to them as tele boots, as in, the telemark technique of skiing. Because nothing about the way Sugarman makes his turns has anything to do with the dropped knee signature of tele skiers.
Instead, he clips his boots into three-pin bindings with loose heels and makes big, fast, Alpine-style turns.
“I parallel. I’ve never really bothered to learn to tele ski,” he said. “I didn’t know any better.”
Now, that’s old school.
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