With her incredible charm, wit, and boundless energy, you’d never guess Franziska Schoenfeld is 90 years old. Franziska first skied Alta and stayed at Alta Lodge in 1965 with her husband, Bob. Franziska recalls that they would catch a cab from the Salt Lake airport upon flying in from Michigan. They’d keep their fingers crossed that the driver kept chains on hand to get them safely up the hill. Before the advent of modern four-wheel drive and snow tires, it was always a little harrowing driving up the canyon in a storm (even narrower then than it is now). Thankfully, they always did, and Alta has been their “home base” for skiing ever since, and Franziska has been venturing back to Alta Lodge annually for the past 55 years.
She remembers a time when, during an interlodge morning, an avalanche came across the road and knocked out a window in the dining room! She, as well as all other guests of the Lodge, were then lodge-bound for 3 days while crews worked to remove the debris.
Reflecting back on her early days of skiing, Franziska has memories of what she referred to as the “Snowbird Area”, before there were any lifts on that side of the ridge. She and Bob would go ski adventuring with a guide from the ski school, Mary Claire. According to Franziska, they were “stupidly adventurous”, also skiing down into what we now know as Sugarloaf (there wasn’t a lift there at the time either). Always along for the ride, Franziska recalled that half of the time she “didn’t even know what we were skiing on!” Whatever it was, she loved it, and skiing remained one of her favorite activities.
After growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Franziska didn’t learn to ski until she met Bob. He took her to Boyne Mountain, in northern Michigan, and that is where she first learned to love the sport. Once they felt ready to ski out west and made that first trip to Alta in 1965, she was sold. They continued to come ski Alta and stay at Alta Lodge for years, just the two of them; choosing to leave their 3 children at home. Even though their children all started out on skis as young as 5 years old, it wasn’t until their early teens that their kids, Lisa, Eric, and Peter, were invited out to join them in Alta.
A family tradition was started, and the kids (and grand kids) still come out to join Franziska on her ski vacations as often as they can. Her son, Eric, likes to ski behind her. Franziska likes it too because if she falls, he will be there to pick her up. She doesn’t fall often. The greatest thing about skiing, according to Franziska, is that there is constant room for improvement. Even at 90 years old, she still finds ways to better her technique and form while making her way down the slopes. On her most recent visit to Alta, her son took a video of her skiing, and she said it was the best she has ever looked on skis!
While Franziska has skied many other resorts across the west, and abroad, Alta has always felt like home. From her first stay at Alta Lodge in 1965, Franziska and Bob felt immediately welcome. While much has changed in Alta and at the Lodge in the last 55 years, there is even more that has remained the same. In reflecting back on what made Alta Lodge feel like home, it was the people here that Franziska remembers the most. Whether it be fellow guests or Lodge staff, she recalls that everyone was always so interesting, educated, and friendly. Consistently impressed with the hospitality of the Lodge owners, Bill and Mimi Levitt, and how their evening ritual of waltzing through the dining room and stopping to chat with each and every guest, really made her feel at home. This is just one of the reasons she always stays at Alta Lodge, and wouldn’t consider staying anywhere else. Franziska also remembers the food at the Lodge always being delicious and comforting. What better way to recover after a full day of skiing than with a wonderfully prepared meal?
When Franziska and Bob were adventuring on a cross-country road trip one summer, Alta was a must-stop along the way. They stayed at the Lodge, enjoyed a sunset from the hot tub, and went hiking around some of their favorite Alta ski runs. It was while exploring in the Albion Basin that day that Franziska realized the Cecret lift was named after Cecret Lake! All those years and she never knew she was skiing over a frozen lake when returning to the bottom of the lift after skiing down the Cecret Saddle.
It is no surprise to us that Franziska is still in such good ski shape. When she isn’t in Alta, she goes to exercise classes 4-5 days a week at her local YMCA. The classes are an hour-long, followed by an equally engaging hour of drinking coffee and catching up with friends. In the evenings, she plays classical piano. Never one for puzzles, she uses her piano playing to help keep her mind as sharp as her skis. In the summers, Franziska travels to her family home on Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan to relax and spend time with her children and grandchildren when they are able to visit. When she finds herself with some quiet time amidst her busy social calendar, Franziska is working on writing a memoir. We hope to read it when it is finished so we can hear about Franziska’s memories of her time spent in Alta in her own words. Until then, we will enjoy seeing and skiing with Franziska on her annual Alta visits!