PARK CITY — They moved in next door two years ago. Just drove up one day with no warning, pulling a U-Haul with New Jersey plates.
Looking back, the signs were there from the beginning. There were no kids with them. He didn’t drive off to work every morning. Neither did she. They had no visible means of support. Like Jimmy Stewart in “Rear Window” we watched them. What were they? Mafia? Drug-dealers? Loan sharks? Deadbeats?
Nope. Ski bums.
All they did was ski. The garage door would open, the SUV would back out, the skis would go on the rack, and they were off. Him especially. Day after day after day.
Couldn’t they get a job? Do something responsible? What must their parents be thinking?
There was this one small mitigating factor.
He was 68, she was 67.
Meet the neighbors: Chuck and Paddy Mollard. They went rogue on us, careened right off the grid, all in the name of giving retirement a good name. Their problem these days isn’t having enough to do, it’s having too much to do. So many runs, so little time.
It was Chuck who masterminded their great Utah getaway. Here’s his story, considerably condensed:
He was born in 1942 in upstate New York and went to college on Long Island where he got a degree in marine engineering. His first job was as an on-board ship engineer with one of those month-on, month-off schedules. Looking for something to do during the month off he seized on the idea of learning how to ski. He was 22. He’d drive the hour or hour and a half to New York’s western ski areas, Peak’n Peak and Holiday Valley, and later to the bigger slopes in Vermont.
He discovered that he didn’t like skiing, he loved skiing. He’d found his sport. Then he found Paddy. Not only did she say yes when he asked her to marry him, she told him she loved skiing too.
They had two children, Rob in 1970 and Michele in 1973, and Chuck took a job as a commercial ship broker for Quincannon Associates with offices at Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. The family lived across the river in Westfield, N.J. Every day Chuck commuted 45 minutes by train into Manhattan and every night he’d travel home on the same route. He’d leave the house at 6:30 and get back at 8.
His therapy was skiing. He skied on business outings, and on his vacation time he’d take the family skiing. These trips introduced him to the Rockies.
When he’d get back to the office and his 12-hour days he’d find himself gazing out the window daydreaming about what it would be like to go to the Rockies and never leave. The closer he came to retirement, the more he mused.
When he retired at 66 in 2008, he and Paddy spent that winter traveling from ski resort to ski resort in the Western U.S. “Old people ski bumming,” is how Chuck describes them. They stayed a week here, a weekend there. The next winter they divided their time between Crested Butte, Colo., and Park City — the finalists, as it were, in their retirement sweepstakes. Colorado or Utah?
Utah won. “The decision was really pretty simple,” says Chuck. “Better snow, easier access to the airport, and a variety of nine different ski areas to choose from.”
They bought the house next to us in Park City and bid adieu to New Jersey and New York.
So how is it? I asked Chuck one day. Has the transition been tough? Just how much does he miss the office at Rock Center?
“Like zero,” he answered. But he stopped short of adding, “Dude.”
This year, Chuck decided to celebrate turning 70 by skiing 100 days or so. He was at 95 when I talked to him last Wednesday, so he’ll probably make it. Not that he appeared worried about it.
He might have come for the skiing, but it’s the people he’s met that have him most enthused. He and Paddy have discovered they are not alone.
“Now that we’re here, we’ve run into so many other people just like us who are retired or semi-retired who want to be active and hike and bike and ski and do all that stuff,” says Chuck. “We have five times the friends. The skiing and the people we ski with have definitely exceeded our expectations and enhanced our lives.”
Another plus: Chuck’s lost 15 pounds from his working weight and reports that “all the numbers have gone down, cholesterol, blood pressure, everything else.”
Instead of 70, he looks 55, and Paddy looks less than that. They aren’t getting older, they’re getting younger. Keep up this lifestyle, and Chuck’s going to have to go back to work.
Whether it’s the fresh air, all the exercise, the lack of stress, the friends, whatever it is, retirement seems to be suiting Chuck and Paddy just fine. They’re good neighbors and really, really nice people. For ski bums.
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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