Novices Bring Southern Charm to the Slopes

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – Ann Crawford is 70 years old and rarely sees a speck of snow back home in Kentucky. So, naturally, she decided to take up skiing.

But such an endeavor requires a sidekick, and Crawford knew exactly who to call: her best friend Marjorie Hogbeen, who’s a spry 67. Crawford knows from their 40-some years of friendship that Hogbeen can always be counted on for an adventure.

“She found a friend who was stupid enough to do it,” Hogbeen said, laughing.

Crawford and Hogbeen decided last year to compile a “bucket list,” which is a list of things they want to do before they kick the proverbial bucket. To put it more delicately, the two women know they still have a lot of life to live.

Marjorie Hogben, 67, practices maintaining control while skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

First up on the bucket list was to ski. Neither had ever skied before they took to the slopes last week at Whitefish Mountain Resort. The ladies took two days of lessons from an instructor who is recognized as one of the top 100 in the West. Everything was wildly new to them, from the snow hitting their faces to the basics of walking in awkward ski boots and putting on all of the correct gear.

But nothing could have prepared them, they said, for the sensation of gliding down the slopes.

“It was absolutely breathless,” Crawford said. “It was the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever experienced. It was like flying.”

Hogbeen and Crawford met when they were both schoolteachers in Mississippi in the 1960s. While Crawford is retired, Hogbeen is now working as a medical records clerk. Previously, their skiing experience had been limited to a few waterskiing excursions more than 40 years ago. But “snow skiing,” as they call it, is an entirely different ballgame, and one they intend to pursue for years to come. Crawford bought boots.

They plan on returning to Whitefish Mountain Resort every winter for a week or so to ski. They want to continue coming early in the season so the slopes aren’t crowded and they can ski at both their own pace and trajectory – they said they haven’t quite mastered turning yet.

Ann Crawford, 70, rides the magic carpet up Big Mountain while practicing sking between her days of lessons.

“We want some space because Lord knows it’s not for us – it’s for everybody else,” Crawford said.

The women chose Whitefish Mountain Resort out of all the possible destinations in the West because Hogbeen’s son lives in the Seeley Lake region and they felt comfortable coming to his neck of the woods. They said they’re glad they chose Whitefish, as “everybody has been so incredibly wonderful.”

Northwest Montana’s hospitality was immediately on display when Crawford and Hogbeen arrived on Dec. 7. The resort was empty, as snow had yet to arrive. The two friends were starving and exhausted, having woken up before dawn to make the trip from their respective homes – Kentucky for Crawford and Mississippi for Hogbeen. They said the questionable tuna served on their flights too closely resembled cat food and thus they hadn’t eaten that day.

“We were the only people on the mountain,” Hogbeen said. “It was weird.”

At the resort, they followed their noses to pleasant smells coming out of the Kandahar Lodge. Unfortunately, Kandahar was closed, but the ladies knocked and kindly begged with a touch of Southern charm in what they called an “Oliver Twist” moment. The head chef opened up the doors and served them a delicious squash soup. That set the tone for the outward kindness they were shown for the rest of their week-long stay, they said.
The other adventures on their list right now are a trip to Italy and a guided excursion into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, which Crawford is a little skeptical about. They said it will be hard for the other items to live up to the skiing experience.

“If we never get past number one on the bucket list, we’ll die happy,” Crawford said. “It’s been wonderful.”