Freda Nieters leaving after four decades in Summit County |

Freda Nieters leaving after four decades in Summit County

Geoff Mintz
summit daily news
Summit Daily file photo/Brad Odekirk

After 40 years living in Summit County, Freda Nieters is starting a new chapter of life, moving to Vermont along with her husband, Joe, to be closer to family.

“There’s a time in life that right for us to move. It’s the next chapter in my book, and I want it to count. I want to be next to family,” Nieters said. “We have a daughter in Vermont who has two little angels. They want a little support, and I need a little family.”

Vermont is not too far from where Nieters, originally from Oslo, Norway, got her stateside start as a college student on a ski racing scholarship with the University of New Hampshire, where she won an NCAA championship skiing at the Middlebury Snow Bowl in 1951.

“If God gives you strong legs, you have to use them. So I know New England. We raced and skied everywhere, including Vermont, which is a beautiful state. It’s different. It’s green. It’s hilly, very much like Norway where I’m from.”

After college, she new she didn’t want to go back to Norway and, instead, gave birth to “five little Americans” – one of whom, Ingrid, went on to compete at the Olympics three times as a nordic ski racer.

Today, affectionately known as the “Flying Fossil,” Nieters has worked as a ski instructor in the county for four decades, first at Keystone prior to making the switch up to A-basin about ten years ago.

“In the old days, I used to tell my students I came on the wagon train, and they thought that was really funny,” she said.

She originally moved to Colorado because she was tired of raising her children in the suburbs of places such as Cincinnati and Pittsburg. Handing out $10 a piece and sending them off into the mall was not Nieters idea of a productive weekend for the kids.

In 1970 while living in Denver, Nieters met Max and Edna Dercum, the Summit County ski pioneers who founded Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. They asked her to be a ski instructor at the upstart mountain, and the rest is history.

She has skied along side the likes of Stein Erickson, made the Norwegian Olympic team, won a Norwegian national championship and stood out on the master’s ski racing circuit, winning gold in the downhill and giant slalom at the National Masters Championships in 1984. Nevertheless, she says her top skiing accomplishment came in 2008 when she skied 78,000 vertical feet (67 miles) in a single day at the ripe age of 74 during a fundraiser for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) at Keystone Mountain.

Nieters lost her grandson, Zachary Thomas Meade, to SIDS in January 2005. The heartbreak and grief were channeled into her marathon skiing event, where donors pledged as little as a penny per foot to support SIDS research. Ultimately, those pennies can add up when you fly down the mountain like Nieters. She has raised over $250,000 for various charities over the years.

Because of her fundraising efforts, as well as her involvement in the history of the Summit County ski industry, Nieters was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2009.

“I think they got tired of looking at my resume,” Nieters joked. “That had a bit to do with skiing for benefits. It was very special.”

Among her ski students are Nobel Prize winners and celebrities, but her favorite students over the years have been the ones who had to overcome some sort of physical obstacle, whether blindness, injury or birth defect.

“I had one student who was paralyzed and I brought her to the top of Keystone and she started to cry. She said, ‘I didn’t ever think I could ski again,'” Nieters said. “If I can help these people and give them confidence, then maybe they can go back and do other things that they didn’t think they could do.”

Along with helping people, she’s helped advance the sport of skiing and witnessed a lot of changes in the resorts and the equipment, none bigger than the introduction of shape skis, she said.

“Those shape skis they hook on and they take you for a ride,” she said. “Shape skis can be shorter because the edge is equal to a longer straight ski. But it happened so fast. Boots are better. Bindings are safer.”

Nieters plans to continue teaching skiing in Vermont, perhaps at Stowe, and while she acknowledges, “There’s no place better than here,” she’s looking forward to skiing the “hills” of Vermont. Of course, she’ll have to sharpen up her edges first.

Finally, she asked that we pass along a message to the people in the community who have known and worked with Nieters: “Thank you to all my friends for your loving, supporting friendship through all these years.”

She’s not planning to come back and visit, so you’ll have to catch her at the going-away party August 3 at Island Grill from 4-7 p.m. on the upper deck for Happy Hour.

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