Making it 'over the hill'

Ski group provides great way for adults to build friendships

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— Every Tuesday, Frank Dolman greets eager skiers over the age of 50 in front of the ski school offices at the Steamboat Ski Area.

But he isn't a ski instructor.

Dolman is one of 16 guides for the Over the Hill Gang a skiing and social group for skiers over the age of 50.

"I moved to Steamboat in 1995 and I didn't know a soul," Dolman said.

Dolman owns and operates several businesses in Steamboat, including First Tracks Day Care Center. He is also the National Ski Patrol representative for the Howelsen Hill Ski Area and a self-proclaimed Steamboat historian.

"I went from 0 to 100 in terms of meeting people," Dolman said.

Dolman said his experience with the Over the Hill Gang not only helped him to meet people, but they were people in his own age group and with similar interests.

He made friends, learned the best places to ski on the mountain and opened up a lot of different social opportunities for himself and his wife.

"It was great," Dolman said. "The Over the Hill Gang is about a lot more than just skiing."

The Over the Hill Gang, as the name indicates, is a ski club for older skiers. Its membership is comprised of more than 400 skiers all over the age of 50 here in Steamboat Springs. The Over the Hill Gang also has several chapters in other Colorado ski towns and across the country. The club gives older skiers a chance to head out onto the hill together and challenge themselves on blue and black runs. The club is not for beginners but for the advanced skiers looking for some company on the slopes.

"I heard about it from a friend of a friend of a friend," said Alan Shaft of Florida.

Shaft skied with the gang all last week and was heading out for another day with his newfound friends Friday morning.

"I would absolutely recommend this to other skiers," Shaft said. "I would have had no idea where to go on this mountain, and these guys did a great job of introducing me to Steamboat."

The club has 16 guides, chosen by an informal process when slots open, who offer skiing outings six days a week for both members and guests. The ski outings are open to anyone over the age of 50 who are willing to venture out on the slopes with an experienced guide.

"Most of our members are in their mid-50s, but we have a few in their 60s and 70s also," Over the Hill Gang President Isty Meyers said.

Meyers said the club has had members in their 80s ski with the group.

Meyers said the one thing all of the members share in common is a love for skiing and the outdoors.

"I think we are all very active people," Dolman said. "Not only in our recreational activities, but in the community."

Meyers said the Over the Hill Gang's focus has changed a great deal since it was first started back in the early 1980s. That's when a group of six skiers started getting together and skiing as a group. Meyers said about six years ago the club started offering guided tours for older skiers and broadening its scope. The members of the club come from all walks of life from CEOs of major companies to retired businesspeople and teachers.

Today the club's members meet on the slopes in the winter and on the hiking and biking trails in the summer. The Over the Hill Gang also hosts a dinner once a month and other social events designed to get its members together on a regular basis.

The club has also stepped out into the community in recent years raising money for scholarships and other things members feel are vital to the community.

Meyers said the club has scaled back its fund-raising efforts but remains very active in the community in other ways.

The members still donate their unused membership dues every year to scholarships and other community projects.

Club members pay $40 a year to be a part of the Over the Hill Gang. The money is used to produce a monthly newsletter and to support club activities. A part of the money, however, is earmarked for community projects. Steamboat's membership is currently at 400 members, but that number is growing.

Last year the club guided 1,736 guests on the slopes of Mount Werner. Meyers expects that number to grow this year thanks to some great early season snow.

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