Ski 'gang' defies its name

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Skiers 50 and older looking for companionship on the slopes might stop scanning runs for likely ski partners and instead turn their sights to the Over the Hill Gang, a local group offering group skiing and other social opportunities.

For more than 20 years the nonprofit group has provided a free, guided ski program at the Steamboat Ski Area for local members as well as out of town visitors.

Though local members regularly participate in the ski groups, Over the Hill Gang's focus is giving out-of-town skiers with intermediate or advanced skills not only the opportunity to ski with others but the chance to learn about life in Steamboat Springs, said Elaine Gilbertson, president-elect of the organization.

"We show them the best places to ski on the mountain and tell them about life in Steamboat," she said.

The Over the Hill gang offers group skiing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays through Fridays. Two guides typically ski with the groups, though more are available if a big group calls ahead to let the organization know they are coming, Gilbertson said.

The group skis groomed blue and black runs and take hot chocolate and snack breaks throughout the day.

The Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. supports the group by training its guides and providing guides' ski tickets, she said.

"They are very happy to support us because obviously it's a good marketing tool," Gilbertson said, explaining that out-of-town skiers often return to the area with their families or end up purchasing second homes in Steamboat.

When Louise Poppen first moved to Steamboat in 1994, she spent several weeks looking for people near her age and ability to ski with, she said.

Poppen was thankful to discover the Over the Hill Gang, which all but guaranteed daily ski companions, she said.

"The biggest things is camaraderie and the fact that someone always shows up to go with the group," Poppen said.

The group skiing turned out to be particularly special for Poppen, who met husband Sherman Poppen during one of the outings, she said.

Though meeting a spouse in the group may be somewhat rare, meeting friends is not. In addition to group skiing, the Over the Hill Gang meets for monthly dinners at different restaurants as well as hiking and biking excursions in the summer, Gilbertson said.

"It's a very fun social club," she said.

Skiers don't have to be members to participate in the activities, but if they want to contribute financially they may want to consider being members, which costs $50 per year for families or $30 per year for singles, Gilbertson said. n

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