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By Carole Howard
Special to The SUN
More than 150 Gray Wolf Ski Club members from both sides of Wolf Creek Pass gathered at Wolf Creek Ski Area Tuesday, Nov. 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 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. 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.”
As part of the birthday celebration, the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, which is currently practicing at Wolf Creek, made Charles an honorary member of the U.S. Ski Team and presented him with an official team jacket. Also, the ski’s area’s daily lift ticket Tuesday carried the ID code 100CE.