STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) In her home office in Morrisville, Gretchen Besser is working on her latest project. "I've given thousand and thousands of hours to the ski patrol," Besser said.
She writing an article for the National Ski Patrol Magazine. She has a passion for the patrol, but it doesn't end there. "These are the books that I've written," she said.
To put it succinctly, Besser is as sharp as her ski edges. She's fluent in five languages and a Rhodes Scholar. Oh yeah, she also has a PhD. "My father brought me up to combine brain and brawn," she said.
There's also a picture of her husband Al. They've been married for 65 years. The photos of course are her past. A few miles away is the present. Most mornings Gretchen skis at Stowe -- she's a member of the Dawn Patrol, a group of mostly seniors who come for the first run. "I belong to the Women of Winter," she said.
It's a picture perfect blue-bird day as the amazing 89 year-old hits the slopes. Gretchen started skiing at 20 while in college.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Is it a challenge?
Gretchen Besser: Life is a challenge.
On this day Marc Sussman is her skiing partner.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Did you know she was 89?
Marc Sussman: Not until today.
"I put my feet on the ground when I wake up and I thank God for being alive," Besser said.
Not only has she written about the Ski Patrol, but she's lived it, helping the injured down the trails. Last year she was inducted into the Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, honored for years of research on the history of the Ski Patrol.
Reporter Joe Carroll: What is it about skiing that you love so much?
Gretchen Besser: It's exhilarating. It defies gravity in a way. It's like dancing.
"I've always lived on the edge, and when you live on the edge, you can't always balance, sometimes you fall off," said Besser, over a cup of coffee.
She's broken many bones, mostly from riding her horse.
Reporter Joe Carroll: So you don't mind getting old?
Gretchen Besser: No, not at all.
Reporter Joe Carroll: You're a more caution skier I would hope.
After a short break it's once again time to challenge the mountain. This time I come along, and for a while she humors me. And then I was smoked on the slopes by this Super Senior.
"I feel so lucky, so fortunate every single day," Besser said.
A vibrant life far from going downhill.