Retired FHSU physics professor's skiing goal makes news in Colorado

HAYS, KS -- After turning 70, Dr. Maurice Witten, retired Fort Hays State University physics professor, turned his sights on a goal of 40 years: skiing free at resorts throughout Colorado.

The Denver Post featured Dr. Witten in an article "Skiing over the hill," after a reporter became interested in his dream of being able to ski free at Colorado ski resorts.

Although seniors over 70 receive substantial discounts from Colorado resorts, only six remain free for skiers over 70.

"He'd written an article on skiing, preseason, indicating there were 27 resorts. A couple weeks later, the Ski Association magazine came out and said there were 24. I wrote to him to see what was official and after talking to him, he became interested and decided to do an article," said Witten.

"Before, my family and I had gone once a year, but this year I'm skiing at every Colorado resort listed in the Colorado Winter Ski Association magazine," Witten said.

Witten began skiing as a hobby 36 years ago after colleague Wilmont "Bill" Toalson, retired professor of mathematics, invited him to join him and his wife.

"Bill liked to ski and after I went with them, I decided I wanted to do more of it," Witten said.

This physically demanding sport has become a popular activity among active people, 45 years or older. This group comprises 26.6 percent of the skiing population, according to the National Ski Areas Association's most recent demographic study.

"I keep myself pretty busy visiting family, doing amateur photography, outdoor sports, business interests and civil air patrol performing search and rescue missions," Witten said.

At a time when senior citizens make up a large majority of the population, aging citizens have become a key public to ski resorts.

"I ski because it's a good form of exercise. It keeps me active and in good shape," Witten said, who had just returned from skiing at Copper Mountain.

Witten, professor emeritus of physics, has been an airplane and engine mechanic instructor in the U.S. Air Force, an electronic engineer for IBM Corporation and a physicist for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the Boeing Company.

He earned his B.A. degree with a double major in math and physics from Emporia State University in 1956. He then earned his M.A. degree in physics from the University of Nebraska in 1960. That same year he began teaching for FHSU. Witten earned his Ph.D. in physics education with a minor in geology from the University of Iowa in 1967.

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