I can’t believe I’ll never ski with Rob Freeman again. Or hear him chuckle. And I know his many skiing chums will feel the same. You just knew that if Rob was around – both on the slopes and off – life would be fun and laughter would be unavoidable.
I first skied with Rob in Snowbird/Alta, in Utah, back in the 80s, in truly amazing conditions. Back then Rob had a wonderful mop of blonde hair and an impressive blonde moustache to match.
The Snowbird area is famous for its powder, but this was ridiculous. The deepest I’ve ever seen it there, and it was getting deeper. We were skiing in near blizzard conditions, and the snow was so deep we felt we couldn’t do anything wrong – leaping off cliffs, shrieking with laughter, and landing as if we were sinking into deep, cold cotton wool.
We got so carried away that we even skied a really scary couloir together called – I’ll never forget the name – Angina Chute. I forget who egged who on to do it. It started insanely steep and then – OMG – it got even steeper. It was wildly exciting. It’s a good job that Rob’s delightful wife Sue or their then very tiny boys Mark and Ross couldn’t see our crazy antics!
And so began our skiing and non-skiing friendship. Over many winters (and summers too, waiting for the next opportunity to ski with him again), all Rob’s skiing companions, among whom I was privileged to be just one, relished spending time with him.
He always called me Wilson. In emails, it was Wilson old boy. That was Rob. I liked that. And one of his favourite quips used to emerge after one or other of us had made an innocent remark such as: “I’m feeling a bit off colour today“, or maybe “I can’t be bothered to shave today.” And out would come the famous Rob catchphrase: “That’s not what you said last night!” That sentence became one of his trademarks.
I invented a catchphrase too – to describe Rob’s friendship with our chum Peter Hardy and myself. Freeman, Hardy and Wilson. Not a bad try, I thought.
It still hasn’t sunk in that he’s gone. I was on the phone to him only a very short while before, unknown to me, he was rushed to hospital. And I’d phoned him the previous day too after he’d emailed me to say he’d been ill for almost three weeks. Little did I know it would be the last conversation we’d ever have.
We’ll never forget him. And we’ll all be thinking of Sue, Mark (who teaches skiing in Canada), Ross and Gemma.
And if ever I return to Utah to ski, I will venture to the edge of Angina Chute look over the edge, but not ski it. How could I without Rob?
Rob was an incredibly generous contributor to MadDogSki.com. His witty and engaging articles are all still available to enjoy and will serve as a great memorial to a legend of both Fleet Street and the snowsports world.