‘It’s really special’: Years after teaching at Arapahoe Basin, an 86-year-old great-grandmother returns with 4 generations her family
The love of skiing Adele DeLine passed down to her children had a ripple effect. Her children passed it along to her 16 grandchildren, who are now passing the joy along to her great-grandchildren.
After teaching at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in the 1960s, 86-year-old Adele DeLine returned earlier this week to ski the “legendary” mountain one last time with four generations of her family.
Under bluebird skies Monday, March 6, Adele skied with her 3-year-old great-granddaughter, Mina DeLine; her grandson, Chase DeLine; and her son, Keith DeLine. Several other family members joined as well, including a great-granddaughter, a granddaughter and a daughter.
“Here I am at 86 and thinking this is so fun to come up here and ski with this little 3-and-a-half year old,” Adele said. “It’s really special. A beautiful day.”
On skis for only the third time in her life, Mina slid down the beginner slopes below the Molly Hogan Chairlift, pizza-slicing as she went from her father’s grasp into her grandfather’s arms as her great-grandmother made practiced turns just feet away.
While living in Denver, Adele began working at Arapahoe Basin around 1965, when Keith was just 8. On the weekends, the family would come up to a renovated barn — with bedrooms in the hayloft, the kitchen in the former tack room, and the living room where the tractor once parked — that they had relocated from the old Dillon townsite years earlier.
One summer day, while staying in the barn — which is still in the family — Adele mentioned to her neighbor that she had always dreamt of teaching skiing. She said her neighbor, who worked at Arapahoe Basin, responded, “Well, do you want to teach skiing next winter?”
Adele had never taught skiing before, so her neighbor told her to show up at the mountain as soon as it opened in the fall for training. Soon, she and her husband, Bill, were driving up to Arapahoe Basin every weekend to teach skiing to children.
“Oh, we loved A-Basin,” Adele said. “We loved A-Basin much more than any other place.”
Still learning the ropes of ski instruction, the DeLines did not start teaching Keith to ski that first year. But, by the second year, Keith — at age 8 — started coming with them most weekends. All the ski instructors who were parents would swap children for the day.
After Keith, the DeLines started teaching their children to ski at younger ages. Aimee, the second oldest, began skiing at age 7, Matt around age 6, Murray also around age 6, Kristin the youngest by 14 years, at age 6. Everybody learned at Arapahoe Basin except Kristen, who learned in the backyard.
The love of skiing that Adele and her husband, Bill, inspired in their children had something of a butterfly effect on the family, leading to generations of avid skiers — many of whom also became ski instructors.
“After seeing my parents teach, when I went to college down in Fort Lewis, I thought, ‘I’d like to be a ski instructor,'” Keith said.
Keith went on to teach for seven years at Purgatory Resort in Durango and for three years at Breckenridge Ski Resort in the late 1980s. Then, while living in Denver, he taught his two sons to ski at Arapahoe Basin.
“Growing up with ski bum parents is kind of nice,” Chase, Keith’s son, said.
Chase recalled skiing at resorts throughout Summit County growing up, including as part of the Copper Choppers, a youth ski program at Copper Mountain Resorts. When he attended college in Bozeman, Montana, Chase also became a ski instructor, working with paraplegics and children with autism at Bridger Bowl Ski Area and Moonlight Basin.
In all, Adele’s five children passed on the love of skiing to 16 of her grandchildren. And, with nine great-grandchildren so far, that tradition is expected to continue, starting with Mina — who at age 3 is the oldest of the great-grandchildren.
“All the kids are skiing, all the grandchildren,” Keith said. “And the great-grandchildren are going to start doing it.”
Adele herself fell in love with skiing while in high school, but her parents couldn’t afford to send her to the slopes, so she would babysit for 25 cents an hour to save $5 in order to save enough money to take the train from Denver to Winter Park Resort. She couldn’t afford lessons but her friends could, so she would tag alongside the group, eavesdropping on the instructors — and getting kicked out more than once.
Other times, Adele’s older sisters would drive to the old Berthoud Pass Ski Area, which has since closed, in an old Lincoln with no tread on the tires. In order to make it up the mountain pass in the snow, she and her brother, Paul, had to stand on the back of the vehicle to help it gain traction.
“It’s been a wonderful part of our lives,” she said of skiing.
The last time Adele had been to Arapahoe Basin, it was to celebrate her 80th birthday. She , Murray, Keith and his other son, Chad, had taken the lift to the top of the mountain. Adele had told them, “one run — that’s it — then let’s go over to Dillon and sail.”
But on the way down the mountain, Adele leaned on her weak leg the wrong way and went down, breaking her leg. In all her decades of skiing, that was the only time she had to take a rescue sled down the mountain.
“So we didn’t go to sail,” Adele said. “We went down to Porter Hospital.”
While she did not make it to the top of the mountain Monday, the multigenerational ski trip was still a triumph. At the top of the Molly Hogan, Adele attached her CADS — a special support system that hooks into a pulley system behind her legs — and grinned a wide grin.
Then, alongside her great-granddaughter, her grandson, and her son, she made her way down the hill.
At the bottom, Adele asked Mina, “Did you have fun today?”
A little hungry and tired from skiing, the 3-year-old could only manage slight smile and a nod, so Adele found the words for her.
“This was a fun, fun day.”
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