Over the hill with Copper Mountain’s Over The Hill Gang | SummitDaily.com

Over the hill with Copper Mountain’s Over The Hill Gang

Copper Mountain Resort's Over The Hill Gang gave me a serious workout.

No joke. When I met up with Club Incline and its leader, 30-year Copper Mountain veteran Paul Kresge, at 10:30 a.m. on a powder Wednesday, the group of seven skiers over the age of 50 had already been charging fresh snow and deep moguls since first chair at 9 a.m. The wind was whipping, the blue-white clouds were streaking across the sky, but Club Incline was all smiles and laughs and good humor.

"It is the only and real reason my wife and I come to ski," said Charles Stanich, who goes by Chuck and has skied with OHG groups for six or seven years. "We have different skiing abilities. It was tough for us to ski together, so this way I go with my group, she goes with hers, and then we meet up at lunch time and just have a blast."

By mid-morning, the group was ready for something different on the gnarly east side of the resort — all those big bump runs and steep bowls beneath Resolution Chair — and I was ready to follow.

Or at least I thought I was. Copper's OHG program is split into seven or eight groups of seven or eight people each. These groups pair up with an instructor (more like a guide) at the start of the day based on ability level and what they want to ski, from rolling groomers to moguls and steeps and even chutes. Club Incline, as the name implies, is all about the heart-pounding stuff, and when Kresge told me we were taking a run down Highline to get away from the wind-scoured front side, I sucked it up and joined. A 40-year-old program named for turning 50 years old wasn't going to get the best of me — and folks like Tom Brennom agree.

"I believe that if you act your age, you miss living," said Brennom, an Iowa native who boast 12 or maybe 13 years with OHG. "You don't act your calendar age — you act the way you feel and live."

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Lift one

Launched at Copper in 1976, OHG is exactly what Brennom was looking for: a combo ski and social club made for aging skiers, by aging skiers, all in the name of never feeling like aging skiers. The membership perks for OHG skiers and snowboarders are almost too good to be true: $399 ($200 if you're over 80) for a season membership that comes with a season pass, $5 lunch card and guide-led skiing any day OHG meets. There's also a four-pack option, a sort of taste-test for $199 that comes with everything included in the full membership. There's even a single-day trial for $39 — one of the cheapest ways to ski.

But the best perk of all?

"We like the lift line privileges," said Lorrie Aslakson of Silverthorne as we rode the chairlift. She was talking about the empty ski school lift lines that OHG members get to use on crowded days. Crowds weren't an issue that blustery Wednesday in February, but it's a godsend on powder days when Club Incline just wants to ski, ski, ski instead of wait, wait, wait.

"Oh yeah, those aren't bad," replied Linda Boone of Denver. I asked how she heard about the group. It seemed like a special secret, the kind of thing only longtime locals knew.

"Mine was a golf buddy who's also one of the guides," Boone said. Now, nine years later, she's an OHG convert and skis dozens of times per year with the group.

"I was riding on the chairlift with somebody and just heard about it word of mouth," Aslakson said. She first heard about it two years back, and like Boone she now loves the social side nearly as much as the skiing.

"I keep coming back because I keep learning more," Boone said. "You learn how to work the mountain. I've found so many tree runs I just never knew about … I also love the camaraderie. I love the group and I love the mountain, and this brought my skiing to a new level."

Lift two

After a quick and powdery lap down Highline, my calves were finally waking up and my boots were dialed in. I was ready to rip some trees with OHG and Kresge read my mind. Next up: Cabin Chute.

"I think the common thread with this group is the love of the outdoors," Kresge said as I rode up Resolution with he and Brennom. Kresge is a sailor come summertime, when he's commodore for the Dillon Yacht Club. Brennom is a self-described mountain climber and spends summer months scaling 14ers, or more often, the nearly empty 13ers and other high-alpine peaks no one knows about.

"And we tend to do the quiet sports, not your motor sports," Brennom added, paused and continued. "I still haven't been out sailing with you."

Kresge hardly paused.

"We've got to do that (in) the summer."

Lift three

Cabin Chute was a blast, with more than the reported 7 inches filling in the mogul ruts, and before I knew it we were back at the bottom of Resolution and ready for another lap. By then it was about 11 a.m. and Kresge led everyone on a long, windy traverse to Union Creek Village for lunch at The Edge. Every OHG day comes with the option to buy a $5 lunch punch card for The Edge, Copper's employee hub, and just about everyone takes advantage of the deal. Not only is it a cheap meal — it's the best socializing of the day.

"We save marriages too," Kresge said as we rode back up Resolution one final time en route to the west edge of the mountain. "We've even created some romances."

"And I'm sure it's even ruined a few," Stanich said. The two laughed, still in good spirits despite the driving gusts, and I couldn't help but laugh with them. I wouldn't — probably couldn't — join Club Incline for another three hours of skiing after lunch, but that was fine. I got one hell of a workout.

OHG at Copper

At Copper Mountain, Over The Hill Gang is one of the largest and oldest programs — and it’s still growing. This season, the program set an all-time record with more than 100 participants on a single day. Groups meet on Tuesday, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season, with options for a season pass ($399), four-pack ($199) or single-day ($39) membership.

To find out more or sign up, see the “Ski and Ride School” tab at coppercolorado.com or call the pass office at (888) 464-4432.

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