Photo by John F. Russell
Joe Fogliano, right, visits with Bert Halberstadt and Susan Handloff at a happy hour for the Over The Hill Gang last week at Sweetwater Grill.
Steamboat Springs Editor's note: This story has been updated from its original version to correct the number of local Over The Hill Gang members.
Frank Dolman doesn’t mind waiting for the slower skiers when he’s guiding guests for the Over The Hill Gang.
He uses those extra moments with Steamboat Ski Area’s 50-and-older visitors to share stories about the Yampa Valley, its history and its local characters.
And this year, he got to tell more stories than ever.
The Over The Hill Gang guided 2,538 guests this past ski season, a jump up from the 1,857 guests the year before.
“It’s a good sign,” said Dolman, public relations coordinator for the Gang. “It says that the services and program we offer are extremely popular and very beneficial. It’s lots of fun and a great way to enjoy a ski vacation.”
The program began nearly 30 years ago with just one guide providing a free tour of Steamboat Ski Area to willing skiers 50 and older.
Now, there are 19 volunteer guides who meet with their groups every day of the week at 9 a.m. at the base area statue of Billy Kidd. The guides show their group all of the lifts and trails, skiing until their legs won’t let them go any longer.
Throughout the season, the Over The Hill Gang played host to 15 ski clubs from across the country, hosting as many as 120 skiers in one day.
Dolman said word-of-mouth advertising has helped with the spike in guests, as many former guests will return home and tell their local ski club about the day of guided skiing, good company and local knowledge.
The next year, he said, they sometimes return with their entire club.
“The experience of having someone teach them the trail maps, teach them the ski runs, having someone to talk and have lunch with — it’s out of this world,” Dolman said. “We meet people from all walks of life and from all locations all over the world. It’s always fun to find out where people are from, and if you have any common ground.”
Throughout the year, the guides ask that in lieu of tips, their guests donate to the Over The Hill Gang’s community fund. This season they earned $2,750 from guest contributions.
From their total community fund, the group doled out $5,000 in scholarships for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and $3,000 to the Visiting Nurse Association’s hospice program.
The fund also is supported by dues from 430 local members of the club that meet regularly for recreational activities, happy hours and dinners.
Dolman said he has been involved with the group since he first moved to the area 16 years ago.
“It was instant stardom as far as meeting people and attending the monthly social dinners and happy hours,” he said. “And in the summertime, you go down to Safeway at 8:30 (a.m.) and you can hang out with people going road biking and hiking. It’s very active people.”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com