Charlie Magill – Reader Athlete

Age: 77

Residence: Williston

Family: Wife, Ruth; three adult children; Elizabeth, Marion, and Stephen

Occupation: Clergy, retired from IBM

Primary sport: Skiing

Maybe Charlie Magill is a late bloomer, but at 77, he believes he’s skiing better than at any time in his life. The chief of ski patrol at Cochran’s, Magill has a son on the Mad River Valley patrol squad and hopes to ski long enough that at least one of his grandchildren will don the uniform for three generations of volunteers.

VS: How long have you been skiing?

CM: I didn’t start until I was 30 years old. I was working the second shift at IBM in Poughkeepsie and some co-workers invited me to ski with them during the day. I really enjoyed it and started going more and more often. After a short time, my wife Ruth looked at our finances and told me that my new hobby was getting expensive. I told her to give it a try, and if she didn’t like it, I’d quit. When I saw her at the mountain, she had fallen off the T-bar so I thought that was the end of it, but when I came home from work at 2 a.m., she was waiting up for me, which was unusual. She told me that I should invest in my own ski equipment, which would make things less expensive. She hadn’t looked like she was enjoying herself, but she did, and we both stuck with it.

VS: When did you first sign up for ski patrol?

CM: In 1972, I saw someone get hurt and was troubled because I didn’t know what to do, so I signed up for a first-aid class. There were two teenagers in the class who told me they were taking the course so they could become junior ski patrollers. It turned out the local ski area needed someone to patrol on Friday nights so I volunteered.

VS: And you continued patrolling after you moved to Vermont?

CM: IBM wanted to transfer me out of Poughkeepsie, and I said I would only accept a transfer to a place that had mountains. I was born in Idaho and grew up in California so I would have liked to go west, but I accepted Vermont. We got here in 1976, and I spent three years patrolling at Bolton before moving to Smugglers’ Notch, where I patrolled until about eight years ago.

I really enjoy doing it. I like running the toboggans and knowing that I can help people. I enjoy the camaraderie, but the biggest thing is being able to help people when they need it. After I retired from Smuggs, I started volunteering at Cochran’s, and this year, I became the chief patroller. It’s different from my days at Smuggs because often on the day that I’m there, I’m the only patroller, which means when I come across an accident, I sometimes need to direct bystanders to help out.

VS: How has your skiing changed as you’ve gotten older?

CM: I’ve gotten much better, in part because I want to keep up with my grandchildren and in part because of the new equipment. I’m a much better skier now than I was even 10 years ago. There are some excellent role models for people in my age group. At Smuggs, we had Jim Thompson, who only quit skiing at 93 because he had trouble driving to the mountain.

VS: How do you keep in shape for the winter?

CM: I guess I keep my lungs in shape from playing French horn in the Williston Town Band. I also walk all the time, and I’m active with Habitat for Humanity hammering nails. Somebody told me that when you get to the age I am, you don’t get in shape, you have to stay in shape; it’s too hard to get back after you lose it.

VS: You missed an entire season after heart surgery, but your first run back was down a black diamond trail. I guess you don’t believe in warm-ups?

CM: I never could see the point of a warm-up run. Why go down Chilcoot [a blue square trail at Smuggs] when you really want to go down FIS [a black diamond trail]? My cardiac rehab work was wonderful for getting back to skiing. I wanted to get back as quickly as possible.

VS: Tell us about your work with Habitat for Humanity?

CM: I actually do two different kinds of construction volunteer work. I’ve led several construction projects for Habitat for Humanity, including three-and-a-half years in Guatemala and 18 months in Guyana with Ruth. About eight or nine years ago, we looked at our lives and saw that that was the only thing we were doing so we searched for other alternatives and began doing disaster relief work with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. We helped out after Hurricane Katrina and Ike and up here after Tropical Storm Irene. We still do some Habitat for Humanity work, but it’s not our whole life anymore. [Editor’s note: Magill is still on the board of directors of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity].

VS: You’ve spoken about the camaraderie of ski patrol. Do you have a group of skiers to ski with these days?

CM: I’m part of the 55-plus club at Smugglers’ Notch, and I really enjoy skiing with company. Last week the group didn’t want to ski as long as I did, but I left when they did because I don’t enjoy skiing alone nearly as much as skiing with a group. It wasn’t exactly a powder day, but I always say that conditions are either great or they’re interesting. I don’t want to be bogged down in finding ways not to enjoy myself. If you say something is awful, you’ll stop skiing, but if you say it’s interesting, you can look at it in a different light. I really do enjoy all conditions.

VS: And patrolling has been handed down from father to son?

CM: My son patrols at Mad River. I like to join him there, but part of what I enjoy is that his children—his son just turned 12 and his daughter will be 14 in March—are on the Mad River Freestyle Team, so I can ski with all of them. Sometimes his wife joins us too, and that camaraderie is even better than the 55-plus club. One of my goals is to keep patrolling long enough so that when my grandkids are old enough, we can have three generations of patrollers.

Phyl Newbeck

Phyl Newbeck lives in Jericho with her partner Bryan and two cats. She is a skier, skater, cyclist, kayaker, and lover of virtually any sport which does not involve motors. She is the author of “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving.”