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Western outlaws

Steve Benson

Skiing’s full of characters. That’s no secret, it’s just who we are. If you’re willing to dedicate your life to sliding on snow, it’s almost a given that some of the wires in your brain are crossed. One of those characters is Robert Outlaw Lieberman. “Outlaw” is not a nickname, but rather his legal middle name. I first met Outlaw in Boulder in the mid-1990s. He looked like most anyone in that town at that time – long hair to the middle of his back, old skunky clothes, and a perpetual goofy smile. He’d decided to get a college education after spending the previous two winters in Telluride – most of the first was spent living, or rather trying to survive, in a lean-to. Anyway, Outlaw ripped. But that’s not what made him such a genuine character. First off, he was tall, gangly, and he talked with a slurred-yet-fast tongue. When he got going about skiing, especially powder, it was almost impossible to understand him. Luckily, most of his stories started with, “The freshy pow-pow was soooo fnuken gerterstad nodabloooo …” which was enough to get his listeners on the right track. One day, I found Outlaw jumping stairs on the CU campus with a recently purchased old moped. The next day, we found ourselves on Loveland Pass. It had snowed a wind-whipped 3 inches overnight – perfect for carving. When we got out of the car, Outlaw began hopping around the road in his ski boots and circa 1985 one-piece powder suit, all the while mumbling something about cream cheese – his obvious take on the conditions. Then he started to dry heave. “No worries,” he said moments later between puffs from his pipe and sips from his coffee. “That’s just a reaction I have when conditions are this good.”Then the beloved freak whose motor is always in high gear became suddenly quiet. He dropped into a creamy chute, arced a series of the most powerful but smooth turns I’ve ever seen, then disappeared in a cloud of frozen mist. When he shouted excitedly from the bottom, I couldn’t understand a word, but I knew exactly what he was saying.


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