Over the mountain

Steamboat's Over the Hill Gang does more than ski

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— Gordon Jones, president of Steamboat Springs' Over The Hill Gang, said the group lowered its lone eligibility requirement in order to add a new member.

"I had to drop the age limit to 45 for one woman -- even though she's over 50," Jones said. "You should be over 50 and willing to admit it, but we don't check IDs."

The Gang claims 428 members and has been a Steamboat staple for more than 20 years. Although the group maintains a busy schedule of physical activities every day of the work week, you don't have to be able to mountain bike 26 miles -- like some Over the Hill Gang members did Thursday -- to be a part of the organization.

"It's a social organization to meet people who are in the same age group in town," said Frank Dolman, public relations coordinator for the Gang. "It's an extremely balanced group of people that have all kinds of interests and hobbies, and we are open to anyone."

The Gang's summer schedule includes mountain biking, road biking, hiking, gardening, traveling, picnics, cocktail parties and dinner socials. But its most notable work is what its members contribute to the community.

"Our financial assistance program is our big claim to fame," Dolman said. "Participation goes beyond just showing up and getting involved. We take charge and give back to the community. A lot of members are volunteers, and there are 62 different organizations to volunteer for in Steamboat."

A portion of the annual dues for Over the Hill Gang members goes to the financial assistance program. This year, the Gang provided $9,750 in financial assistance to 13 local youths, teens and college-age residents.

Members of the organization also claim to boost the local economy.

"We help the economy of Steamboat and the ski area by bringing family and friends here," Dolman said. "The average (resident) brings 17 people. Over the Hill Gang members bring 34. We are retired and have many children and grandchildren."

One of the Gang's largest programs is its free guide service on the ski mountain. There are 16 volunteer guides that show people around Mount Werner and explain the different ski runs, lift systems and historical aspects of the ski area. Last winter, the Gang guided

1,840 guests -- an average of 18 a day.

"The participants should be advanced or intermediate skiers to use the guides. You don't want someone who is a turkey," Dolman said. "They have to have the ability to keep up or it's not fair to the others."

Dolman, who is 63, is proud of his age and physical abilities.

"I get compliments on my fitness, but here you have to be fit as a self-defense mechanism," he said. "I'm trying to lose weight now to keep up with the bike crew."

Dolman came to Steamboat in 1995 for the skiing but has taken up many other sports.

"When the mountain closed, we snowshoed until the snow melted. Then I ran downtown and bought a mountain bike and hiking boots," he said. "After hiking, we take a nap."

"Then we wait for the snow to fall so we can go skiing again," Jones added.

Each day is a day off for Gang members -- 90 percent of them are retired. The organization has members from around the world, including South Africa, Australia, England and Italy.

"They came to Steamboat, heard about Over the Hill Gang, and we as guides have the audacity to invite them to our cocktail parties or to our homes," Dolman said. "It makes the whole world different when you instantly know a lot of people."

The Gang essentially is a social circuit.

"We are always searching for fun experiences, and with this network, we get good ideas of places to go and things to do," Dolman said. "Your phone's not going to ring unless you make it ring."

To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204 or e-mail aplean@steamboatpilot.com.

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