Alice Goldfarb hopes to reach her 62nd day in Highland Bowl today, and would have on Friday if fierce winds hadn’t shut down the chairlift that serves it.
“I’d like to get to my age in the bowl,” the 62-year-old said of her pursuit.
Growing up in New York City and skiing as a kid on the East Coast where harsh conditions are the norm, Goldfarb isn’t turned off by weird weather, sketchy snow cover or high winds.
“A day like today excites me,” she said Friday at Highlands, where only two chairlifts were running due to wind. “The wind is exciting.”
Goldfarb took some time out of her ski day to talk about life as a ski bum inside the Merry-Go-Round, where she has worked as a busser for the past five years.
She took the part-time job because it provides a lot of social interaction and allows her to ski nearly everyday, except weekends.
“I would rather not ski weekends,” Goldfarb said, noting she tries to avoid the crowds on Saturdays and Sundays.
She said she skis Highlands almost exclusively, not only because she likes the vibe of the mountain and its people but that’s where the bowl is.
“I’m a bowl rat,” she laughed, surmising that she’s the oldest woman who regularly makes the trek up Highland Bowl.
“I’m addicted to the hike,” Goldfarb said. “It keeps me away from the moguls,” which are hard on her aging knees.
She said she typically makes two bowl laps a day, sometimes three.
Goldfarb hasn’t always been a Highlands frequenter — Aspen Mountain was her mountain of choice in the 1970s when she worked in town.
She arrived in Aspen on Oct. 5, 1971, from New York City after attending college.
“I was tired of working and being a student,” she said. “I wanted to ski.”
Goldfarb asked around about where in the West she should land.
“Aspen seemed to have the most job opportunities and the most entertainment,” she said.
Goldfarb’s first job was at a ski shop owned by some Austrians.
“I skied Aspen Mountain every day in between shifts,” she said.
Over the past 40 years, Goldfarb has been able to maintain her ski-bum lifestyle by working odd and part-time jobs with the kind of hours that allow her to be on the slopes. In the ’80s those hours were at Highlands, during her first stint at the Merry-Go-Round.
Besides her current job at the mid-mountain restaurant, Goldfarb also works as a bartender at the Wheeler Opera House.
“I’m laterally mobile,” she joked.
She’s also “terminally single” by choice, Goldfarb said.
She lives in a studio at Truscott, where she is paying the most rent she’s ever paid in Aspen — $600 a month. Goldfarb said for 12 years she lived rent-free in exchange for doing work around the properties, and she’s also had her share of roommates over the years.
During her first year here, Goldfarb traveled back to New York City in the summer but that was the only time she did it.
“Then I said, ‘Let’s see what summer is like,’” she said. “At that point I knew I would be here for a while. ... All of a sudden, all these decades have passed.”
Goldfarb’s father, who skied in the Alps as a teenager, moved to the states from Germany as World War II was beginning. After settling in New York City, he came to Colorado for a stint to train 10th Mountain Division recruits at Camp Hale.
“I grew up in a ski family,” she said, noting that when it would rain at the ski resorts in the East, she’d wear plastic bags (weather-proof ski jackets weren’t available then).
Except for the ones in the San Juans Mountains, she said she’s hiked all of the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, and spent a great deal of time in the backcountry in the ’90s.
“But the bowl fulfills my needs” now, she said. “I like open and steep.”