Chris Weingartz, my dear old friend and ski buddy passed away last Wednesday, the 25th of January. He was 67 years old. He had a fairly long bout with cancer, one that we thought he had largely won six months back, but that was not to be.
For the crowd on this web site, I really don't need to call out Chris' unending enthusiasm for all things skiing. Skied the Birkie 40 times (39 times officially, and once with Scott Salik's bib, he'll tell ya), skied more than 50 other marathons, and countless shorter races, co-founder of the ULLR team, co-founder of the MI Cup, and so on. For a few years he wrote a little piece in the old Michigan Skier paper, and he wrote it just like he normally speaks. Sheesh, you would think sometimes he was from the backwoods of Tennessee. He always knew a "flea infested varmint" when he saw it.
Fall 1979 Ski camp at Ranch Rudolf. Mike McManus reining in Chris.
But here, I reminisce on my early times with Chris.
By chance, or by some sort of weird plan, Chris, Darwin Heme and I were at our first 10 km ski race, the Silver Creek Challenge, in 1978. All still on wooden skis. That was not to be the time I met Chris. But Darwin, who noticed Chris skiing out of the woods to the start, packing full snow gear, befriended him that day. Yes, indeed, Chris was snow camping the night before the race. The next year, at the Kool 15k, the two of them asked me to make up their third for the Kool Relays later in March. We became the Flying Zambeanies, took second, and the rest is history.
Spring 1979 Waterville, NH, Chris and Darwin Heme.
Over the next five years, Chris and I drove well over a hundred thousand miles in my '78 green van, to races in Wisconsin, the UP, Vermont/New Hampshire, Canada, and every corner of the LP. Each winter weekend, he would drive up to Midland in his clunky old Toyota, and we were off. So what did a conservative and a liberal talk about for hours on end in a van rolling down the road? Well, and this may come as surprise to those who traveled with Chris in recent years, we _never_ talked religion or politics. Ever. I didn't ask if he voted for Reagan (he did) and he didn't ask if I voted for Carter (I did).
Spring 1979 Waterville, NH, Chris demonstrating his down hill tech.
Truth is that Chris was a great story teller. We had some 50 or 60 stories that we re-cycled thru so many times that we could alternate paragraphs, if only to give the other a chance to breathe. They all started the same way, "Do you remember the time..." ...when I marked your skis midway though the relay at Telemark, ...when we false started the Silver Creek race, ...when Vojin (Baic) said, "And if you want to ski faster, you have to ski faster!", ...when we froze our rear ends off sleeping in the van at the Charlevoix race (It was -40Â°C!), ...when we nearly died on our roller skis coming down the steep hill (the one with the sharp turns) to Burdickville on Glen Lake, ...the time Tosha (my husky) discovered and dismantled Chris' huge special vitamin pill container and ate its contents. (That dog lived an unnaturally long life.) And on and on and on.
Wilderness Loppet at Stokley Creek, in the Soo. That is Tim Weingartz, second from the left
Competitively speaking, we were pretty close skiers though the years, and so naturally we had a friendly rivalry. It was usually marked by me whomping him in the early season--you see Chris had a tendency to not train as much as he should in the off season, and when he should be training the most, he was sitting in a hunting blind all November. Indeed, Chris' other passion, hunting, is actually the reason he started skiing in the first place, with his brother Tim. They thought that they could get to better hunting spots in the snowy woods on skis. But, where was I, in the later season Chris would ski himself into shape, get more wins, and we would just call it even.
Well, a week back, Darwin and I visited Chris and were lucky to get him in one of those special windows of time when he was alert and feeling okay. And the stories started rolling again, he had not forgot anything, even the fact he had to do isometrics to stay warm in his sleeping bag at Charlevoix, or that the magic marker used to mark the skis was itself marked by chew marks from a particular flea infested varmint. Well, that was last week. This week, Chris is in a new green van, going to see Ullr, the Norse god of skiing -- and Chris is sure to give him an ear full of the state of skiing in Michigan. Must be working, look at all the snow we just got.
Ski on, Chris.
82 day before Birkie, out skiing on the Birkie trail, Chris and Arne Borgnes.
1982 DALMAC Chris with Bill Hayes
1982, more roller skiing
1983, a bike conversation
1983, DALMAC, at Mackinaw City
1984, the ULLR team
1985, Chris and his magical waxing apron