Alan Engen Recounts How Alta’s Wild Old Bunch has been meeting on the mountain since 1969.

With the baby boomers now reaching retirement age, there is a growing population of senior age skiers on the slopes, some of whom are even active in competitive skiing activities.

As a result, senior ski programs are becoming a significant part of many ski area activities in the Intermountain Region.  For example, at Snowbird, Junior Bounous has his “Silver Wings” program.  I used to have an Alta seniors program called “Silver Meisters.”  In addition, various “seniors” ski clubs abound such as The Over the Hill Gang, The One Ski in the Grave Ski Club, The 70 plus Ski Club, and a special group here in Utah called the Wild Old Bunch.

WOB clowning around at Alta circa 1970. Credit: WildOldBunch.com
WOB clowning around at Alta circa 1970.
Credit: WildOldBunch.com

In 1969, several senior ski buddies started the Wild Old Bunch by getting together on a weekly basis to enjoy Alta’s famous deep snow conditions.  The founders were Art Wilder, Foley Richards, Johnny Bell, and Rush Spedden.

Shortly after, Rush Spedden made a home movie of the group skiing powder.  Spedden named the film “The Wild Old Bunch.”  This title gained immediate favor with Wilder, Richards, and Bell.  It was decided by unanimous decree to

adopt the name on a permanent basis. Foley Richards created a patch for identification purposes which, in turn, became the groups logo.  The smile face is well-known around local ski circles and quickly sends a message as to what the group is all about—namely enjoying the pleasure of winter skiing and the companionship that goes with it.

By 1973, the group had grown to about a dozen or so regulars and, by the end of the 1970s, it had about 130 active skiers from ages 50 on up.  Because most of the membership consists of men and women retirees from the hectic pace of the corporate world, they have time to ski whenever they wish throughout the week.  Rush Spedden solemnly told me the club’s rules when I was given my special membership WOB patch.  He said, “The only rule is…there are no rules.”

Throughout the winter ski season at Alta, the Wild Old Bunch can be found congregating at Alta’s ALF’S mid-

WOB is one of the many ongoing senior ski clubs that endure across the country.
WOB is one of the many ongoing senior ski clubs that endure across the country.

mountain restaurant at 11:00 a.m. several times a week.  One of the articles written about the WOB said, “There, they swap jokes, agree to disagree, boost a few toddies and welcome other skiers.”

The driving inspiration binding this group was Rush Spedden who passed away at age 97 in late 2013.  He served as the WOB primary spokesperson for many years.  He was not only an outstanding skier; he was a noted engineer/scientist, teacher and historian in Utah.  Rush Spedden’s generous donation to the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation made it possible to add a special pair of handmade skis from the Alaska gold rush days of the mid- 1800s to the permanent exhibit in the Alf Engen Ski Museum near Park City.

Intermountain ski history certainly includes the wonderful contributions of senior groups such as the Wild Old Bunch, and they deserve special mention as ambassadors for the joys of skiing at any age.

Alan Engen is a SeniorsSkiing Advisory Council member and recognized ski historian and author.

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