Super Senior: Howard Kelton

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 3:31 PM EST
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HANCOCK, Vt. (WCAX) - The Middlebury Snowbowl is like no other ski area in Vermont. Opening in the 1930s, it’s owned and operated by Middlebury College.

From the ski lift, it’s forest as far as the eye can see. “It’s a great view here because there are no condo roofs,” said Howard Kelton, who doesn’t just know the history of the ski area, he’s lived it.

“I have seen so many changes here over the years, all for the good,” Kelton said. “I started skiing here when I was about 10 years old.”

Fresh out of high school, he became an employee. “They hired me as a full-time ski patrolman,” Kelton said.

Fast forward six decades later and Kelton is still hitting the slopes. On this day, he’s skiing with Sarah Foward, who works at the Snow Bowl. “You know, as I age, the favorite thing is just being outdoors,” Kelton said. Now 83, he skis 30 to 40 days a season. Yeah, I really love to ski. It’s in my blood.”

From the early days of patrolling the trails, he was promoted to running the ski area. In the warmer months, Kelton ran the college’s golf course.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Do you have a title?

Howard Kelton: The old man.

Long retired, Kelton still volunteers on the trails. “We are the oldest race crew,” said Neil Mackey, a longtime friend. On this morning, there’s a high school ski race. Kelton and Mackey -- along with others -- were up at the crack of dawn setting up the course.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You’re getting your exercise, huh?

Howard Kelton: Oh yeah. And just being outdoors all day, it’s fun, but it’s tiring at the end of the day.

During a break, Kelton stops by the lodge for a hot dog. “This is our pay for being on the race crew,” he said.

In the back of the lodge is where the “old guys” hang out. “He’s been a big influence on my life,” said 71-year-old Peter Mackey, Neil’s older brother, and a fellow volunteer. “It says something about him, about the place, that all of us in our 60s and 70s are still here doing it.

Reporter Joe Carroll: 80′s.

Peter Mackey: Oh yeah, 80. That’s right, Howard’s in his 80s! ...Well, he kept me in line when I was a little kid, skiing around this place.

Howard Kelton: Yeah, I’ve mellowed a lot. Yeah, I don’t holler anymore.

When Kelton retired, they named a trail after him. “The Kelton” starts off tough and then smooths out for much of the run -- perhaps an analogy of Kelton’s life on the lifts. “Well, you know, I feel very lucky,” Kelton said.