Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, January 18, 1999

Why walk when there are skis?

By Vic Gruenhagen

There is lots of snow now and it brings back memories of the few wild things I did on skis.

The fun started when I was about 11 or 12 years old at about the time the first snow would come in December. After our hired man, Ray Mendal, hauled out manure with the horses, we unhooked our horse, Dolly. I had a hay sling rope tied to the harness strap under the tail. Ray would pull me across the alfalfa field at a wide-open gallup. Man, was that fun.

Dad stopped that because the horse caught cold and started coughing. We got Doc Lee out to give it a shot of medicine. That's when Dad found out why it got over-heated and got the bad cough. He swatted me on my seat with a milker strap for that one.

Elton, my brother, would pull us down gravel roads. We were behind a Model T and a '41 Dodge pickup. In and out the telephone poles he would pull us.

Once Butch Westphal ran his ski into a field culvert and snapped it in half. That was the end for Butch's skiing. He had had enough, I remember.

Barb, my sister, would drop me off at Buck Hill while she went to business school on Saturdays. I paid $5 to ski and go off the old ski-jump tower. I used old skis with no clamps. So, I used three or four 600-16 inch inner tube rubbers to hold my old skis on at that time. That was big fun, I tell you.

Dad stopped that also.

He said, "If you break a leg, who is going to feed the pigs for you at home."

Then I started using Powder Ridge shortly after that. I have skied at a bunch of ski resorts in my life ­ namely Wild Mountain, Lutsen, Spirit Mountain, Telemark in Minnesota, and Aspen, Lake Tahoe, Mammoth, Breckenridge, White Fish, Park City and Sundance in Utah.

At Sundance when I was 60 years old, I had a close call. I was coming around one quick bend in the run, when I saw three skiers stopped and visiting with each other. I slid into them with my skis. It was all my fault, by the way.

They went down into the next ravine. I ended up in a steep ravine, but I grabbed a small pine tree and that stopped me. I looked up and the three skiers asked me, "Are you OK down there?"

That's when I skied 13 days and made 225 runs. I slept in my 364-cubic inch, 2-door, '58 pink-and-white Buick for six nights, also.

The day I left the parking lot, people said, "I bet you can't light 'em up."

I showed them. I burned a little rubber with both tires. I made them boys laugh.

My 190 runs at Kimball and 145 runs at Wild Mountain in one day are records that still stand, they tell me.

Robert Redford owns Big Sundance ski resort. I went out there the year following my 225 runs and met Redford. He asked me if I was that old wild skier from Minnesota who did that many runs last year.

I said yup.

"Are you going to break that record this year?" he asked.

I said once is enough.

He laughed.

Once Duane Howe pulled me behind a four-wheeler right down Highway 12 on the shoulder to Twin Lakes. Made a few rounds on the Lake and then we came back on the south shoulder dodging a few mail boxes. Back in to town for lunch, then back home again. That may have been a little bit illegal, but we made it anyway.

Now for the most unheard of trick anybody has ever pulled, I think.

One Saturday morning, Bill Banke and myself were out at my place. We noticed the train was parked on the passing track heading east towards town.

I said, "Bill, let's go to town and shoot a little pool. Heck, let's sneak behind the caboose and tie two hay sling ropes on the hand rails and get to town that way.

So, we did.

The caboose man was half asleep reading a magazine. We just had both ropes tied on the railing when he noticed us getting ready to go.

He came out and said, "What do you think you guys are going to do?"

We said, "Shoot some pool in town."

He said, "I don't think so."

We begged him please and told him we are darn good skiers.

"All you have to do," we told him, " is when we get by the depot in town just untie the ropes real fast before the train speeds up by the corn plant."

He finally let us. He retied the ropes with a half-hitch loop. Nothing to it.

It worked because the train only goes 20-22 miles per hour on the passing track. When we got to the Depot, Curly Marshall and Frank Horton were loading freight in his pickup truck and saw us behind the caboose. They couldn't believe what they saw.

We took our two ropes and skies and set them behind Al Narvued's Hardware Store and walked to the pool hall and had our fun.

Do you think anybody can beat that?


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