On a perfect ski day, more than 150 Gray Wolf Ski Club members from both sides of Wolf Creek Pass gathered at the ski area on Tuesday, November 19 to help Monte Vista resident Charles Elliott celebrate his 100th birthday.
Charles has been a pioneer in the Colorado and local ski industry since 1934 when he and a friend took homemade wooden skis and no poles up to Wolf Creek to try downhill skiing, the first winter the pass was kept open. Over the following decades, he coordinated with the Forest Service to provide rustic shelters for skiers at Wolf Creek, established a local National Ski Patrol first aid patrol, constructed the first rope tow atop the pass using the back wheel of a car, served as hands-on coordinator in the early operations of the Wolf Creek Ski Area, and was a charter member and president of the Gray Wolf Ski Club -- all on a volunteer basis.
In 2011, Charles was elected to the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and he is a lifetime member of the National Ski Patrol.
Charles has skied every year since 1934, except for four years during World War II when he was serving in the military. In his early 90s, he still was skiing more than 50 days each ski season, and even today is among the most enthusiastic skiers at Wolf Creek.
Not surprisingly, on Tuesday morning Charles (in turquoise ski jacket) skied as part of his 100th birthday celebration while Gray Wolf Ski Club members formed an honor guard on the slope under classic Southwest Colorado sunshine and clear blue skies.
Later at a champagne reception at Base Camp, Simon Fuger, president of the Gray Wolf Ski Club, praised Charles for his passion for skiing and said, “The biggest gift you have given us is that never again will we say: “I am too old to do that.’ ”
At the ceremony, Wolf Creek Ski Area owner and president Davey Pitcher praised Charles for being “a pioneer and visionary,” and thanked him for his many contributions to Colorado and Wolf Creek skiers over the decades. At this point Charles was wearing the official team jacket of the U.S. Ski Team, presented to him moments earlier by the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, currently practicing at Wolf Creek, as they made Charles an honorary member of the national ski team.
Then Charles told stories of the early days of skiing at Wolf Creek, claiming that for many years he never made it down the hill without falling. “Of course,” he said with a smile, “that was before I learned to turn.”
In honor of the birthday celebration, the Wolf Creek Ski Area’s daily lift ticket Tuesday carried the ID code 100 CE.
Photos courtesy Carole Howard.