Age doesn’t stop Julian Vogt from hitting the slopes
Julian Vogt caught the heel-edge of his snowboard at the top of the Primo chairlift at Sunlight Mountain Resort on a recent Monday morning.The mistake sent him into the air, feet horizontal to his head, above the icy unloading ramp.He landed with an audible “thud” and groaned. Ordinarily, this would have been comical – a snowboarder with more than 15 years experience falling hard getting off the lift. But not with a 93-year-old – it’s nerve-wracking. “Oh, I felt that,” said Vogt as he brushed himself off. “But I’m wearing hockey padding.”And that was it – no more comment than “feeling” the fall on the ice. Vogt bent over, strapped into his board and headed off for another run down the mountain on a bright blue morning. The fall was actually a peculiarity for Vogt. Earlier that day, he warmed up on the lower half of Sunlight, cutting round arcs in the corduroy snow and spinning 180s and 360s down the hill.At the lift Vogt seemed to be a bit of a celebrity. The lifties all greeted him by name. When a Brazilian liftie greeted him, Vogt exchanged pleasantries with her in Portuguese, a language he picked up during his career in foreign policy. Vogt speaks a little bit of six different languages, including French, Spanish, German, Russian and Portuguese. His Portuguese, decades later, is “very good,” according to the liftie. His Spanish is even better. More than 60 years ago Vogt made his first trip oversees, to Argentina. He chose Argentina because it was the farthest Spanish-speaking country away from San Diego, where he grew up, and he figured that would be the best way to learn Spanish. After Argentina, Vogt worked in Paraguay, Spain, Russia and Germany with the United States State Department, Army, Park Service, and United Nations. When Vogt went to Switzerland looking for work with the United Nations, he almost came up empty-handed. “Instead (of a job), I found my wife,” he said. He and his wife, Anne, are still married, but she doesn’t ski with him anymore because of age and a stroke. So while Vogt snowboards or skis in the morning, Anne snowshoes in Babbish Gulch with their son, Michael. Vogt doesn’t talk much about his jet-setting career, though; he likes to talk about snowboarding and skiing. “I did a bit of skiing in the teens and ’20s,” he said, but didn’t get to do much during his foreign policy career.Once, in Switzerland, his brother-in-law, apparently unimpressed by Vogt’s skiing, asked: “Where’d you learn to ski?””Out of a book,” answered Vogt, “published by the San Diego paper.” Vogt didn’t start skiing regularly until he and Anne retired to Glenwood in 1971, but still wasn’t as good as he wanted to be. “I wasn’t a real good skier, so I thought the best way to learn was to teach,” he said, which he did from 1978 to 1995 at Sunlight. Vogt started snowboarding in 1989 at age 78, when he took a snowboard class for ski instructors. “I almost quit because I fell down so much,” he said of his early years. “But then one day I had about 5 inches of powder and it was so easy.”Sixteen years later, Vogt’s seen most of snowboarding’s history. Proving that he’s been around since the beginning, Vogt talked about his first board, an ’80s-era Barfoot, and a sprained ankle he suffered in pair of loose-fitting Sorrels before proper snowboard boots were popular. He rode a Burton Air in the early and mid-1990s and now rides the popular Burton Custom. Vogt still skis on icy days or crowded weekends, but prefers to snowboard. “I like to go on my board, because it’s more of a challenge. I don’t have nearly as much control,” he said, then chuckled. As for how he manages to make beautiful turns on a snowboard, at age 93, Vogt has a few secrets. He did ballet for a while when he was younger, which helped his balance. He took lessons which helped his skill. And he also eats right and crosstrains with laps at the Hot Springs Pool and in-line skates. That exercise might keep Vogt going for a long while longer, along with one other characteristic. “I like to learn,” he said, “like right now I’d like to take another (snowboard) lesson.”For now, though, Vogt will keep snowboarding, hopefully keeping his heel edge high.
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