robert neubecker, 62
illustrator, park city
Though he only started skiing at 34, Robert Neubecker has made up for lost time. More than made up, in fact. So when he turned 62, the “sloppy expert skier” (and children’s book illustrator) thought maybe he’d just lie down.
“Instead, what I did was I bought a pair of alpine touring bindings,” he says. “We’ve got this ridge called Pine Cone Ridge in Park City. It’s hard to get to, but now I can put on those alpine bindings and skin up there and access most of that ridge.”
I have to interject here with the disclaimer that I ski with Robert and it’s one of the more adrenalizing experiences in my life. Fearless doesn’t begin to describe his assault on the mountain. But I digress.
Neubecker’s love for the outdoors hit him later in life than some. He was a New York City guy, who got a job as an illustrator for The New York Times when he was 21 and has fashioned that into a career working for multiple publications and spanning several decades. His areas of focus range from editorial illustrations to children’s books (he’s written and illustrated over 30). He’s adapted admirably to the transition in his industry, jumping on the Internet train early by doing illustrations for Slate.com.
He loved the city, hitting up the nightclubs after working a full day. But by the time he was 40, the toll the AIDS and crack cocaine epidemics had taken on the communities of New York had him looking to make a move. With his new family, he built a home near his favourite place in the world: Alta, Utah. Perched on Iron Mountain overlooking Park City, he lives four minutes from the nearest chairlift, and skis fifty days a year.
“I wanted to find a lifetime sport,” he says. “Something I could do to stay effortlessly in shape without going to the gym every day.”
He claims he’s only gotten injured three times in 25 years of skiing, though friends of his would raise their eyebrows at the low number. Along the way he’s missed a couple of days of work due to massive powder days, and tackled some tricky downhill terrain — with a couple of kids easily half his age — that started off with a 12-foot cornice (“Mandatory air” as he remembers it).
“It's fun — everybody on these hikes up there,” he says. “And you could be a grandfather to some of these kids but they don't know if you’ve got your helmet on, your stuff on. So who cares?”
For “3.0” Neubecker sees himself and his wife building another house. “There’s nothing quite like it,” he says. “And of course I am going to keep working because it is just too much fun not to.”