Clyde Brasher, center, still hits the ski slopes with the Toledo Ski Club at the age of 90.
TOLEDO SKI CLUB Enlarge
With an indestructible smile, a man who found his professional calling in South Korea and heeded the call of the five interlocking rings is ready for his moment.
The Olympic dream?
But just as well, 90-year-old alpine skier Clyde Brasher will feel on top of the world.
Halfway across the planet from the Pyeongchang Games, the retired dentist from Morenci, Mich., is one of the best winter sports stories we know.
Brasher is the senior member of the Toledo Ski Club. Like many winter mornings, he will rise Tuesday in a dorm-style lodge by Boyne Mountain in northern Michigan, enjoy a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and Advil, then hurtle down the slopes.
Word on the hill is he still leaves some of the club’s 400 less mature skiers in the (powdered) dust, but Brasher will not confirm. That’s not his style.
Brasher — a 1945 Fayette High grad raised on a dairy farm across the Michigan border — is as modest now as the day he returned from a tour in South Korea, where the fresh-faced draftee spent 10 months as a dental technician making dentures and crowns. Back then, he had but three pairs of military-issue khaki wool pants to his name, so poor he took the garments to a laundry establishment to dye them for more formal use.
He then quietly lived the American dream, graduating from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and practicing in his hometown for 38 years.
Where does skiing come in? Well, not for a while. It was only during the 1976 Games when he caught the Olympic bug watching the world’s best daredevils on sticks fly 90 mph down the Austrian mountains, and decided to try it at home. Brasher, then 49, and his wife, Martha, took lessons at Boyne Mountain, and, next thing you knew, he liked it so much he tried it another 41 years.
“I fell in love,” Brasher said. “It was like you were floating.”
He has defied gravity and time ever since. Same as past years, Brasher this season has headed north every other week for four nights at a time, including this one, where, like old times, he will imitate the Olympians he sees on TV. “Of course, I'm green with envy,” he said, “because those young kids do unbelievable things.”
He mostly stays on the intermediate hills but, for kicks, still mixes in an occasional black-diamond run. “He’s my hero,” Toledo Ski Club trips director Mark Dushane said.
Brasher said he has no cheat code to life, attributing his longevity on the slopes to good genes, good joints, and good spirits — and spirits. A cocktail a day has so far kept the doctor away. “So much of it is just luck,” he said.
With each passing season, he wonders if it will run out. His most anxious day of the year? His first run down the mountain in January, when he puts his balance to the test on the bunny hill.
“You go through the sequence, plant the pole, and you find out you can still turn and do it,” said Brasher, “and by the second and third time, my grin is from ear to ear because I know I’m going to be able to ski another season.”
Here’s to many more.
I asked him if he has a goal in mind.
“Oh, yeah!” Brasher said. “I want to go to 100.”
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