In the specialized international world of eye retina surgeons, Dr. Jerry Bovino collected awards and honors and wrote the book — literally, the first textbook — on macular surgery.
But around here, the 65-year-old is best known as a gregarious daily fixture on the slopes of Aspen Mountain and an inquisitive public access television host.
Bovino — a Queens, N.Y. native who lived and practiced in Toledo, Ohio for decades — retired to Aspen 12 years ago. Like a lot of Baby Boomers, though, he opted for an uber-active post-career life rather than one in a rocking chair.
Bovino describes himself as a “fair weather skier” these days. He shies away from the mountain during storms and such, but still racks up about 80 ski days a season.
“I’ll go out every day I can and I’ll go out for a few hours,” Bovino said this week, riding up the Silver Queen Gondola.
His days of getting to the mountain for first chair and skiing until close are behind him. Instead, he takes his turns down the hill on Ajax with friends and family — blending the active Aspen lifestyle he loves with the local people he finds so interesting.
He made his first trip here 40 years ago, during the Vietnam era, when the young doctor was working for the U.S. Public Health Service in the unenviable position of treating gonorrhea in merchant seamen. A fellow doctor returned from an Aspen trip to their clinic and relayed stories of the ski town Shangri-La.
“He told me about this magical place, Aspen, and how I needed to go there,” recalled Bovino.
He soon took a ski vacation here, fell in love with the place, and immediately began planning his retirement — though his career had just begun. Over the ensuing years in Toledo, he and his wife, then the pair and their children, began making annual visits here.
“The plan was always to move here as soon as we could,” he said.
Since settling here, he’s also enjoyed teaching his grandchildren to ski on the local mountains.
They built a home on Red Mountain and made the move here for the winter of 1999-2000. Bovino quickly fell into a routine of skiing all winter, and road-biking and hiking through the snowless months. For good measure, he trained in flying small planes and got a pilot’s license. As he got to know the community, and found himself fascinated with its people, he picked up a gig writing a column for this newspaper, then launched “The Jerry Bovino Show” on GrassRoots TV.
“I found I have this whole new identity as ‘Jerry the guy from the TV show,’” he said.
The show’s been running for 10 years now, and gives Bovino the chance to interview the diverse lot of people who make up the fabric of Aspen life.
He cuts a modest and casual figure on the mountain and around town, happily shedding the prestige of a medical professional for the life of a ski bum and local media personality.
“I believe every person in Aspen has a story to tell,” he said of his passion for his interview-style TV program. “We have such incredible people here.”
Bovino mentors doctors who are still in the field, and counsels them to make the most of their retirement and keep themselves stimulated. He tells them “to retire to something, not from something,” he explained.
On that front, he certainly leads by example. He often points to advice from his father, who told him that the measure of a man’s success is his ability to live in his own way.
He waves off the notion that Aspen has lost some of its ski town charm over the years, with the growing presence of glamour and glitz. For Bovino, it remains the magical place he ventured to four decades ago.
“After you’ve been here awhile it’s easy to take it for granted, but I don’t,” he said. “Aspen is about 2 square miles of paradise surrounded by reality. And who needs reality? It sucks. Go work in Toledo for 20 years and then talk to me about it.”
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