Rogers: Lessons learned from experience |

Rogers: Lessons learned from experience

Aspen Times editor Don Rogers
Courtesy photo

To my shame, I missed word of Klaus Obermeyer’s 103rd birthday until too late.

I’m still some number of handshakes and conversations away from the tip that would have led to the party Friday at Obermeyer HQ. One or a hundred of those, who knows, does it matter? At least one short, bottom line, bane of an editor’s life. Even or especially a new editor’s.

Reading Scott Condon’s Q&A in the other paper Saturday only reinforced how far we have yet to go. Fresh energy won’t overcome experience with the legacies.

I got to Vail in time to shake hands and have conversations with founder Pete Seibert, who learned the ski resort biz in Aspen; finder Earl Eaton; first citizens Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer, also with Aspen ties; others who mean nothing here and everything in that ski town. Had one long, unforgettable phone conversation with Warren Miller, who by then had decamped from Vail with prejudice but still wrote weekly columns. We ranged from history, growing up in suburban Los Angeles, the early days skiing, and then on to sailing, another passion we held in common. He could connect with anyone.

But my favorite of the originals there was Dick Hauserman, unofficial first mayor and chief ambassador for Vail. He later wrote a book about the early days, “Inventors of Vail,” we serialized twice in the paper, which he credited for spurring sales.

I remember sitting at a farmers’ market with him and Scott Carpenter, also hawking his new book at their table, while the octogenarians ogled women of all ages, who in turn flirted amiably with them. “Don, you never get too old for some things,” Dick joked and Scott nodded.

To think they were mere kids compared to Klaus Obermeyer, who still skis at 103, a full century and counting on the slopes now. Doesn’t get more legendary than that in a ski town deeper in legendary figures than any.

Only thing worse than missing Obermeyer’s landmark birthday would be forgetting my wife’s. Yep, done that, too. I know from experience.


Besides blessed good luck, there are clues in stories over the years written about him. The Wall Street Journal in 2015, my favorite of these pieces, focused on his daily workouts while in passing mentioning he came to Aspen in 1947 to teach skiing and that same year founded his company, Sport Obermeyer Ltd., which they credited for its role developing the modern ski parka and plastic ski boots, both ubiquitous today.

There’s the skiing, of course: “If there’s snow on the ground, I’m on the slopes,” he told The Journal, I’m sure with a laugh.

And swimming in one pool or another, a mile a day, which equates to running four. This at 95, his age then. He also let slip that he had practiced the Japanese martial art Aikido for 35 years, which meant he didn’t begin until he was 60.

Exercise is crucial, sure, and part of why he still leads his business, if I understand the stories correctly. The choice of Aikido and when, though, that’s a window: “The idea is to become one with the attacker,” he said. And: “Every attack that comes at you can be seen as an opportunity. You can make it work in your favor.” And: “The idea is not to hurt, but to control your opponent.”

There’s more than a whiff of Stoicism here, which caught my attention having just finished a pop philosophy book by Ryan Holiday, “The Obstacle is the Way.” Obermeyer isn’t in this book, but he belongs.

He told Condon at the end of the Q&A: “The great thing in our lives, I think, is the freedom of perception. We have the freedom of how we wish to perceive things around us. We can perceive them negatively or we can perceive them positively.”

I missed the birthday, but I’m sure going to try to remember the message even as I beat myself up here. More practically, I’ve put his birthday on my 2023 calendar.

Aspen Times Editor Don Rogers can be reached at