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The Wild Old Bunch
Jim Stevenson was in town on business and decided to use one of his free afternoons to check out Utah’s "Greatest Snow on Earth." So, off he went to Alta where he got suited up and headed for the lift. While he was checking the trail map, an older gentleman approached him and asked if he needed help.

"He came over and asked me if I had anybody to ski with and if I wanted to ski with his group," said Stephenson. "He just came over and offered service, I was amazed."

Alta's Wild Old BunchThe gentleman was 70-year old Dick Arner, a member of a group of die-hard Alta skiers who call themselves the "Wild Old Bunch."

While the youngest member is about 50 years old, the group is not about age, it is about skiing. "We just like to ski," said 89-year old Rush Spedden, one of the group’s founders, "and we like to ski together." The tradition of friends skiing together in pursuit of powder extends back to the early days of Alta. Some of the members of the Wild old Bunch were even hiking up and skiing Alta's terrain before the lifts were built in 1938.

Spedden is credited for coming up with the group’s name. In the late 60s and early 70s, he wanted to show just how awesome the powder opportunities were at Alta. So he put together a home movie of skiers enjoying Alta’s powder. He gathered a few buddies and they went about skiing, filming and just having fun on Alta’s slopes. The film was edited and a musical score was added and it was given the name of "The Wild Old Bunch". The group adopted the name for themselves and the circle of skiing friends grew.

Dick Rech, 77, a fairly new member only joined late last year. "I was curious," he said, "and asked Ray Donnelly [one of the other members] about the group. He said ‘You can join, but you’ve got to obey the rules’. I asked, ‘What are the rules?’ and he said ‘There aren’t any." But it is nice if you "get the decal and put it on your jacket."

"Anybody can join in as long as they are wild enough," said Spedden with a twinkle in his eye.

There are no membership fees, either. "Of course not," said Rech.

About 40 of the 200 members are active and ski as much as possible. Most are men, but there are a few token women. "We have about ten women," said Bob Marshall who has been skiing at Alta since 1944.

Bob Murdoch, 81, said "If you want to stay young, then you ski every day, every year."

The oldest member is Al Kessler. At 93, he has been skiing free at Alta for 13 years (skiers 80 years and older get a free season pass).

A writer from the Associated Press recently interviewed a couple of the members for a story that was in hundreds of papers across the world. "We even made it into the Shanghai Daily," Spedden said proudly.

Wild Old BUnch Patch Whoever wants to can join others in the group every day at Alf’s (one of Alta’s mid-mountain restaurants) at 11 a.m. or at Golden Coral (at 735 E. 7200 South) on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m.

With their own movie, "official" patches and regular meetings, the organization is a happily disorganized collection of senior Alta regulars readily dispensing hospitality, youthful enthusiasm and sage advice.

"Having these guys here just makes the place a lot nicer," said Stephenson.

Backroads of Utah
by Theresa A. Husarik

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