Thursday, November 10, 2005
Participants still are 50 and older, but most now are visitors looking for a convenient way to explore the slopes while skiing with other skiers of like minds and ages.
"That's a big draw for tourists who come here," Meyers said.
For more than 20 years the nonprofit group has provided a free, guided ski program at the Steamboat Ski Area.
Though local members still participate in the ski groups, the Over the Hill Gang's focus is giving out-of-town skiers not only the opportunity to ski with others but also the chance to learn about life in Steamboat Springs, said Elaine Gilbertson, president 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. The group meets in the morning at the Over the Hill Gang sign at the base of the ski area.
Late risers also can join groups for lunch at 11:45 a.m. at Thunderhead. The groups typically have an Over the Hill Gang sign at their table, Meyers said.
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.
If there is a large group with diverse skier levels, one guide may take a more advanced group of skiers to black runs and bumps while the rest of the group sticks to groomed blues, Meyers said.
"We kind of do a little ski off to see where everybody is at," she said.
Sixteen to 18 guides typically volunteer to lead groups, and guide openings fill up fast, Meyers said.
The Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation supports the group by training its guides and providing guides' ski tickets.
"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.
Many Over the Hill Gang participants and members make lifelong friends through the group, and several have even met their spouses on ski excursions.
Social opportunities go beyond skiing. The Over the Hill Gang also meets for monthly dinners at different restaurants and also leads 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 $35 per year for singles, Gilbertson said.
The group's membership fluctuates between 350 and 400 members.
A large portion of membership dues go toward a scholarship program that helps young athletes -- mostly winter sports athletes -- compete, Gilbertson said.
Last year the group gave about $8,000 to winter athletes, she said.