Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe
FRIENDS RALPH Norton, 89, of Escanaba; Betty Szwedo, 83, of Winthrop Harbor, Ill.; Mary Goodwin, 81, of Russell, Ill.; Donna Holmes, 70, of Bessemer; Jane Maves, 83, of Ellison Bay, Wis., and Robert Maves, 87, of Ellison Bay, and dog, Max, travel to Indianhead Mountain near Wakefield each year to ski. The group has carried on the tradition since 1971.
WAKEFIELD - As the old saying goes, "Age is just a number."
That's the case for a group of skiers from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Each year since 1971, the group of six has met to ski and reconnect.
The title of oldest friend goes to Ralph Norton, 89, of Escanaba. The youngest is Donna Holmes, 70, of Bessemer.
"I'm the baby of the group," Holmes said.
According to Mary Goodwin, 81, of Russell, Ill ., the group first heard of the area through ski expositions in bigger cities. From there, the group got the idea to come up north.
The friends have known each other since grade school, with Holmes joining the group after meeting them at Indianhead Ski Resort in Wakefield.
"We've taken lessons from her," Goodwin said. "Probably thousands of lessons over time."
Since the group has retired, the trips up north have become more frequent. Each year they take five consecutive days in December, January, February and March to ski in Wakefield.
"We've traveled out West, to Europe, but the best skiing is here," Betty Szwedo, 83, of Winthrop Harbor, Ill ., said. "The grooming is just fantastic."
Goodwin said it's also the people that keep them coming back for more.
"Everyone is just so nice," Goodwin said.
For husband and wife, Robert, 87, and Jane Maves, 83, of Ellison Bay, Wis ., the skiing came a little later. Jane skied with the group, but Robert didn't start until he was 65.
"I was a little wobbly at first," Robert said. "I thought I just had to point myself straight down the hill. Little did I know. I had to deliberately fall to keep myself from hitting a tree."
When asked why they keep skiing, the response was simple.
"It keeps you young," Jane Maves said.
"It hadn't occurred for us to quit," Szwedo said. "When you're truly enthusiastic about something, it helps you get through the hard times. This is what keeps us going."