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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — March 5, 2004

Weekend Living

Military R&R pros gather

30th reunion here this weekend

Express Staff Writer

This weekend Sun Valley is hosting the 30th Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) reunion. Some 150 past members of the AFRC are spending four days skiing, partying, reminiscing and enjoying the camaraderie of old friends who hold in common what is arguably one of the best tours of all military service. Much of this service involved lots of skiing in Germany, particularly Garmisch. Some of those at the reunion were non-military employees working for civilian contractors.

Participants in the 1998 AFRC reunion in Taos, New Mexico include spouses, children and friends of military and civilian personnel who served in Europe. At lest 130 are attending this year’s Sun Valley AFRC reunion. Courtesy photos

AFRC in Europe started at the end of World War II as R&R facilities for battle fatigued military personnel. It grew with the formation of NATO, and by the mid-1950s it became a recreational resort for American personnel in the European theater and their families.

By the 1960s AFRC ran ski areas, bowling alleys, skeet and rifle ranges, rafting and kayaking programs, golf courses, water skiing and sailing programs and other recreational programs. This meant that available jobs included ski instructor, lift operator, life guard, boat operator, sailing instructor, boat and ski rental shop worker, medic, mechanic, ski patrol, golf instructor, greens keeper and other jobs not usually associated with military service. There was also a ski team that competed against other NATO nations.

One of the early AFRC reunions was held in Salt Lake City in 1978. Here a few members, including Paul Lambres, center, remember old times as R&R professionals. Courtesy photos

According to Paul Lambres, organizer of this year’s reunion, "Occasionally, one of the ski patrolmen would be chosen to accompany a high ranking officer or diplomat while skiing in Austria or at one of the AFRC ski areas. This was a prime job and was usually a reward for not screwing up in your regular job. We skied with Four Star Generals and Admirals; U.S. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller was another of our assignments. We would also be chosen to help with World Cup ski races in Berchtesgaden and Garmisch."

Needless to say, AFRC assignments were sought after by military personnel who knew how to ski. As Lambres says, "Some luck had to come into play" in order to wind up in AFRC. Past and present local skiers who had the right kind of luck and were involved with AFRC include Mike Lloyd and Stu Brown of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol, Marc Mast of the Sun Valley Ski School and Director of Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, Bob Allen of Ketchum, 1970s Sun Valley Suns player Brian Saksa, well-known Sun Valley ski racer of the 1950s and ’60s Ron Funk, Idaho Mountain Express’ Jim "Dizzy" Desnoyers, Tom Neely of the Sun Valley Ski School, local realtor Gary Vinagre, Olympic luger and disappearing artist Bud Feltman and several others. The AFRC has varied alumni.

Other alumni have stayed in the ski business, including Vern Greco, President and CEO of Park City Mountain Resort, Matt Janey and Garry Cox who manage California ski resorts, Gail Good and Don Oakland who are supervisors of the Steamboat Springs, Colo., ski school, and Dave Oswald who is on the Purgatory, Colo., ski patrol.

Members of the AFRC relax after a hard day’s work in Berchesgaden, Germany in 1974. Nine of the eleven personnel pictured here have made at least one of the AFRC reunion in the past five years. Paul Lambres, fourth from the right, has made them all. Courtesy photos

Most of the AFRC reunions have been held at ski resorts, though three were held in the summer, and most of those attending were involved in the AFRC in the 1970s. Lambres, of Truckee, Calif., said, "We have skied the fabled powder of Utah, the glades of Steamboat, the steeps of Jackson and Taos, the wonderful spring skiing of Lake Tahoe, the craziness of Aspen, and the cold of Big Sky and Georgetown Lake."

There is a Web site—Afrcski.com—where people can get reunion information and look for friends on the e-mail roster.

All reports are that the AFRC reunions are a rousing good time for the participants. According to Lambres, "There are countless stories to be told of our times in Europe and of the times at the reunions the past 30 years. On at least three occasions, people have gone to the reunion on the wrong week. At least once, somebody went to the wrong place (missed it by two states!)."

Today, March 5, a nonalcoholic bier (German spelling) slalom is scheduled at the base of River Run. Tonight there is a group dinner in the Sun Valley Inn. Every night of their stay AFRC veterans plan on group hot tub therapy in the heated pool at the Sun Valley Inn.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.