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91-year-old WWII veteran spends his days skiing

LOGAN — There’s no place World War II veteran Wayne Rich would rather be than the slopes of Beaver Mountain on a sunny, powdery winter day.

"It's just plain fun," he said while on a chairlift.

Rich said he likes to cut loose and feel the freedom of speed as he heads down the mountain trails.

"It's kind of fun to get right to that speed where you're not sure you can still handle it," he said. "There's kind of a tickle, a thrill that way."

Many skiers seek that same tickle and head to the mountain whenever they can. But few of them are on the verge of their 92nd birthday and still skiing five days a week.

Rich has been skiing at Beaver Mountain for 50 years, and nearly everyone knows his name.

"I've just been lucky," he said. "I don't have any aches or pains. I'm just plain fortunate."

For many years, Rich skied with a group of friends, dubbed the "Corduroy Posse," so-called for the grooved pattern left by snow groomers. But Rich, who turns 92 in March, has outlived them all. His beloved posse is memorialized on a brass plaque on a bench in the lodge.

Rich still likes to ski with better skiers for his own improvement and has another gang of ski friends who gave him this ultimatum: "If you don't shape up skiing, you're not skiing with us," he said with a laugh.

So he still skis five days a week, all winter long, and expects to keep doing it.

"I bought new skis and boots and bindings last year," Rich said.

As a young man, before he had ever skied, he was called to duty in World War II.

"I never had a doubt in my mind that I wasn't coming back," he said.

During World War II, Rich served in the Army Air Corps in England, France and Germany with the 16th Air Depot Group Supply Squadron.

"We had bombing attacks all the time and air raids,” he said.

Rich said coming home to his Cache Valley farm was the best part of his service.

"I survived it,” he said. "I have a lot of respect for the guys who were in the infantry and the medics. You had to have a lot of respect for them."

Rich still gets emotional when he remembers those days.

"The useless slaughter of good people. So many guys were killed right in the prime of life. That was kind of tough," he said.

Today, Rich says, it's easier to talk about the wages of war and shed tears.

"It was such a common thing during the war that you couldn't spend a lot of time thinking about it," he said.

Rich said he's proud of his service, and it was important to him to do his job well.

When he came home, he taught mathematics at Utah State University for 35 years and started heading to Beaver Mountain.

"Half of the fun up here is of course the skiing, but the other half is the association with these guys. We just have a lot of fun together,” he said.

Rich said the reason for his longevity comes from choosing the right parents, choosing the right roommate, and most of all, being happy and laughing a lot.