Tom Ross: The lore of the checker demon spread
January 4, 2013
Steamboat Springs — It has been pure pleasure for the past few weeks collecting memories from the first 50 years of Steamboat Ski Area from some legendary skiers and some average skiers like you and me. You'll find a modest collection of them, along with a timeline of ski area history, in a special new edition of our Sunday newspaper Jan. 6.
Just this week, old acquaintance Bill Sawer dropped off a handwritten note to share the story of how Steamboat lured him away from Aspen in 1968.
"I remember visiting Steamboat to compete in the 1967 Winter Carnival Rocky Mountain Division Point races," Sawer wrote. He skied a giant slalom race on Vagabond and a slalom race at Howelsen Hill.
To give you some context on how long ago 1968 was, I still was a freshman in high school and skiing the Wisconsin River bluffs at a little ski area called Wintergreen.
Sawer reports that he was smitten with Steamboat that week 46 years ago, and the fact that Steamboat was the home of American skiing legend Buddy Werner compelled him to move here in 1968.
"My first winter riding the old Christie lift on Thanksgiving Day with the mountain covered top to bottom with natural snow … next to me was John Beauregard (on his way to Aspen) saying, ‘I wonder if I’m going to like this place?’
“The rest is history as we worked together at Bear Pole Ranch Ski Camp and Howelsen Hill,” Sawer said.
Closer to my generation is Andy Hogrefe, known to some as Snowy Bear and to others as Dr. Dawg.
Andy, who works at One Stop Ski Shop — a classic independent ski shop if there ever was one — reminded me that for a brief moment in time in autumn 1973, there was a bar in the old A-frame at the base of the Christie lift. It was called T-Bar. Funny thing: 40 years later, there's a new bar called T-Bar at the Christie base.
Hogrefe and his pals Ken Johnsson, Tim Mullins and brother Peter Hogrefe worked at the old T-Bar for all of six weeks before it closed. But first, over shots one night, they realized that if they were going to become professional mogul skiers, they needed to form a team and name it. Team Tequila seemed to fit just fine at the moment.
Hogrefe was a heck of a bump skier and earned a reputation for throwing helicopters at random in the midst of bump runs like Four Points lift line (now Nelson's run).
"We always had a rat pack that skied Four Points to Whiteout," Hogrefe said.
As well as he was known for his helicopters, Hogrefe's big trick was a checker demon spread with a sideways scissor.
I have to admit, I never attempted a checker demon spread in the bumps, and every time I threw a helicopter, the chopper crashed.
The best this Mad City Mogul Monster ever managed was a wicked backscratcher.
Rock on, Bill. More hair, more air, Dr. Dawg.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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