Richards: No finer friend than Ed Pfab
In the early ’70s, I owned Rick’s Racks, $5 a night, four people to a room, bunk beds, bathroom down the hall. In the summertime I ran ski racing camps for kids at Montezuma Basin, 13,000 feet, best office I ever had.
Ed Pfab’s first job in Aspen was working with me. He became my left and right hand man and my good friend.
Being a farm boy from Iowa, he knew how to work, but he didn’t know how to ski. But with borrowed second- or third-hand equipment, good balance, an exceptional eye for imitation and great perseverance, he taught himself how to ski. He learned at Aspen Highlands. Highlands was way less expensive and more laid back and fun than Ajax, “Aspen Mountain,” and that fit Ed’s persona perfectly.
In those days I was teaching skiing at Highlands for Fred Iselin. So every now and then I could give Ed a pointer or two and help him get ticket deals. We had some fun. He came over to our apartment one evening for dinner we had artichokes. Ed had never eaten one.
Sometime in the early 1970s, Aspen Highlands started having the first of what would become regular freestyle completions. They built a pretty big jump on the last pitch of Floridora, which had a great view for spectators from the Marry Go Round Restaurant. Every Friday at noon they’d have these jumping contests that paid pretty damn good prize money.
Back then there were not many good freestylers. There were a few patrolmen and instructors and a few locals who could do some pretty good jumps and tricks, but for the most part it was ski bums and young hippies trying to make a little extra money.
Ed started entering those competitions, and of course I had to watch. It was wildly crazy, lots of carnage. Hell, Ed was still learning to ski, but he insisted on giving it a try. He definitely had the want, and he was just nuts enough to give it a go. He took some big hits. I can still see him falling like a wounded duck, then trying to get himself up, trying to shake off the hurts and the dizzies.
I told him I had to stop going. I couldn’t watch. But with good fortune, Ed wised up before he got too banged up, and he learned to ski, and then became a truly skilled, dedicated ski patrolman and all-around mountain man. It truly was amazing what he had become. What a wonderful smile and half laugh he had.
Ed was only receiving room and board and a small amount of money working for me, and he wanted and needed to do better. I had a friend named Ralph “Woody” Wodward, who I had known from Taos Ski Valley. Woody was also teaching skiing at Highlands and in the off-season he was building first-class homes on Red Mountain. Woody always needed workers, but he wasn’t an easy man to work for — he was a good man, a great builder, but very opinionated and a real perfectionist.
I told him Ed was the best worker, the best learner, and the best person I knew. Ed went to work for Woody, and worked for him for years. Woody and I still communicate, and he agrees: There was never a finer person than Ed Pfab.
I had a lucky day some years ago. I had a day of skiing with Ed and Woody. We enjoyed each other and all the ups and downs we had on the mountain that day. It was one of those days, and I silently marveled at what Ed was and what he had become. Those thoughts brought a fullness to me then, as they do now.
When we were done skiing, Ed gave me a Highlands Ski Pro Patrol Hat. It just became my favorite hat. In the 1970s I was young. Sure, I had met lots of people and already lived a lot of life, but I was still young when I told Woody there wasn’t a finer person than Ed.
Now I’m old and have known lots more people and been lucky and lived lots more of life and still I’ve not met a better or finer person than Ed Pfab. It was a great honor to be his friend. Always remember the spirit of the mountain and make some turns for Ed.
Rick Richards (formerly Rick Rosen) lives in Taos, New Mexico.
Have a Happy day,