WENATCHEE, Wash. — Otto Ross has found the fountain of youth. It's frozen, and you can ski on it.
It's at Mission Ridge, where this 97 year old is still teaching people how to ski. Otto started skiing young.
"My dad bought me wooden skis when I was about 8, probably from the Montgomery Ward Catalog,” Ross said.
He taught at Mission Ridge when it opened in 1966 and after that taught all over the world. His travels eventually brought him back to Mission Ridge, where he still teaches today!
“He's just so special, you see him, you smile, he smiles back and it's gonna be a good day," said Jodi Taggert, Mission Ridge’s director of skier services. "He's incredible.”
He's such a legend, the magic carpet at Mission that takes beginners up the hill is named after him — The Ottobahn.
Pat West Turner was one of his students back in the 60s after she lost her leg in a car accident.
"When I was 17 and lost my leg, he asked me if I wanted to ski again."
Otto found adaptive equipment for skiing, something relatively new back then, and began figuring out how to use it alongside his student. Pat still has the instruction manual that came with the adaptive ski equipment.
With Otto's help, Pat went on to become a medal-winning amputee ski racer. She wrote a book about it all, called "Skiing Uphill: A Story of Strength and Perseverance." And there's something else Pat remembers about her ski instructor.
"He's still kinda cute, but back then he was really good looking,” she laughed. “And to be 97 years old and still instructing is a testament to who he is. He loves the sport and skiing.”
Otto’s secret to staying so young? His daughters say it's this place, and teaching others how to love it.
“He lives for the mountain, he's the one of the kindest, most humble men you've ever met,” said daughter Julie O’Leary.
"He loves to meet people, it's really the secret of staying young and active — it's being engaged, active, and interested in other people," Julie's sister, Wendy Wilson, added
"I just always have loved the outdoors and appreciate what mother nature has done for us,” said Otto after teaching a couple of adults some beginner lessons and sending them off on their own. “Look here at the conditions, look at the people, how they're smiling, that's what’s so great about teaching skiing.”