Vail resident Stan Friedberg, 91, has set a new heli-skiing world record
VAIL — An invitation at a friend’s birthday party has turned into a world record for Stan Friedberg: It’s not officially official yet, but Friedberg, 91, is probably the world’s oldest heli-skier.
The last weekend in March, Friedberg took his son, Steve, and three of his granddaughters on a heli-skiing trip in the Canadian Rockies. There were no thoughts of setting a record when planning the trip, but when Friedberg happened to be visiting his office at Research Underwriters, an insurance brokerage in Pittsburgh, the office manager mentioned that the Guinness Book of World Records’ current record-holder for oldest heli-skier was 88. Friedberg is retired, but still visits from time to time.
“He told us we should submit” a record request, Friedberg said.
The expedition started by chance, when heli-ski tour operator Mike Wiegele was at a birthday party for a mutual friend, Wolfgang Keller.
Stan Friedberg said Wiegele invited him and Keller for a trip in the Canadian Rockies. When the time came, Keller couldn’t make the trip. Instead, Friedberg brought his son, Steve, and three of his granddaughters, Emma and Lily Ouimett and Marielle Knauss.
Family, and not the prospect of a record, is Stan Friedberg’s favorite memory of the trip.
“It was terrific,” he said.
While this wasn’t Stan Friedberg’s first heli-skiing trip, it had been some time — perhaps 20 years.
Steve Friedberg acknowledged that his father seemed pretty nervous before going out this year.
“He wasn’t sure he was going to do it,” Steve said, adding that the light was flat on the first day. “But the sun popped out and we got lucky.”
On the helicopter trip, Stan Friedberg made perhaps six runs, Steve Friedberg said. And skied like he always has, with power and confidence — and, on this day, on new, borrowed skis.
“He’s a good skier,” Wiegele said. “But then, he skis regularly.”
As required by Guinness, those runs were captured on film — with photographers sent by the brewing giant — and Stan Friedberg wore a GPS device to document exactly where he started and finished.
Steve Friedberg runs Research Underwriters these days and said company clients will often visit Vail. Those clients, who are often in their 30s and 40s, all seem surprised when they learn Stan Friedberg’s going up on the hill, too.
“Then he skis them into the ground,” Steve Friedberg said.
Stan Friedberg isn’t your normal man in his 90s. Son Steve Friedberg said his father works out every day and can often be found running the stairs at high school football stadiums in the Pittsburgh area.
Stan Friedberg said he didn’t get on the mountain a couple of years ago, since he’d broken his neck trail running.
Still, he said, he probably isn’t as fast or powerful as he once was. That’s why he said this heli-ski trip is probably his last.
Still, he added, he was impressed with Wiegele’s operation.
“They have great facilities. … Everybody there was great,” he said.
Even with that, Stan Friedberg said this is probably his last time heli-skiing.
“Everybody tells me I should do it again,” he said. “But I think this is my last record.”
“My kids got a big kick out of it,” he added. “They say, ‘grandpa’s a world champion heli-skier.'”
Whether or not Guinness accepts the record submission, Stan Friedberg said his family knows what happened that day in the Canadian Rockies.
“One of my granddaughters said, ‘Nobody can ever say it’s fake news — I saw it.'”
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