Al’s Pals | You’ll never ski alone

Al’s Pals, clockwise standing from right, Frank Richards (holding the sign), Kayla Anderson, Al Mundt, Bill Reid and Ray McCann. | Kayla Anderson

#45 on the Ultimate Tahoe Winter Bucket List

Whether you know him through Al’s Pals, Al’s Gals or Al’s Acquaintances, there’s no doubt that if you have spent any significant amount of time skiing at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe then you belong to one of those groups. Sitting down with 95-year-old Allen Mundt in the Mt. Rose Timbers Bar on a winter afternoon felt like being with a celebrity. Mundt is surrounded by friends, and people continuously come up to say hi to him. Word spread quickly that Al was in the building and they skied down to find him.

Sitting down with 95-year-old Allen Mundt in the Mt. Rose Timbers Bar on a winter afternoon felt like being with a celebrity. … Word spread quickly that Al was in the building and they skied down to find him.

He doesn’t get up to Mt. Rose as much as he used to. However, his consistent presence over the last six decades has made quite an impact on the local ski community. A few years ago, it spurred a group of local skiers to formulate Al’s Pals.

Al standing next to Al’s sign above the  Lower Lakeview run taken in the 2016-17 season. | Lynn Mundt

“We just started meeting a bunch of people from skiing at Mt. Rose all the time, so we decided to set this thing up where if people needed someone to ski with, they could meet us at the roundtable [in Timbers Bar] at certain times of the day,” says Al Pal Marc Van Hees. Their special meeting spot also assured that Mundt always had someone to ski with when he came up and his friends could help form a protective shield around him as they ventured down his favorite run.

“Lower Lakeview is my favorite run. It has the best snow away from all of the people,” Mundt says.

“I kind of knew who Al was. He would come up and ski and then sit around and chat in Timbers. He’s a character and always has stories,” says Van Hees. “He would come with a big rucksack filled with his boots and equipment. It was bigger than he was.”

WATCH: a video of Craig Watkins going down Lower Lakeview, Al’s favorite run.

Even though Al’s Pals originated without him, he was always the main participant. “[When Al’s Pals formed], Al was just wondering what all the fuss was about,” his wife, Lynn, says. “But he is the real ambassador. He would meet people in the cafeteria and sit down and chat with them and they’d instantly become his best friend. He can talk about anything to anyone across multi-generations, from little kids to people older than him. That’s where the term Al’s Gals came from because there are a lot of women very fond of him.”

From left, JT Thompson, Ray McCann, Al Mundt and Christy Allbee. | Kayla Anderson

“Everybody loves Al and everyone knows who he is,” says Van Hees. “He’s been going up there since Slide Mountain was open.”

Mundt has a decorated past: he served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II as a fighter pilot flying P-47s. He also was a ski patroller at Slide Mountain from the 1950s to early 1960s. He taught cross-country skiing and survival classes at University of Nevada, Reno, which is where a Carson City, Nev., motorcycle shop owner known only as Jaybird met him.

Jaybird was enrolled in Mundt’s UNR cross-country ski class when he was 42 years old. Jaybird skied with Mundt for many years in back-country terrain before Mundt taught him how to downhill ski at Mt. Rose.

“He’s got a lot of pals. He’s a great man. I wouldn’t be here today without him. He inspired me heavily. He taught me how to stay upright,” says Jaybird.

“Really?” Mundt asks. “I want to see it.”

After an hour and a half hanging out with Mundt, taking pictures and meeting his many fans, Al and his wife call it a day. Yet, Al’s Pals continue to stay and float in and out of Timbers.

Allen Kanavel, Al Mundt and Ray McCann. | Bill Reid

“My dad was on the Slide ski patrol with Al,” says longtime Mt. Rose skier Christy Allbee. “I’ve known Al since I was a little girl,” she says. “These are the guys [in Al’s Pals] who have been skiing with him for the last 20 years, but then there’s all of those people who skied with him 40 to 50 years ago. It’s amazing that a guy can be skiing for that long. He gives me hope that I will be skiing at that age.”

It is believed that Mundt has probably skied with thousands of people over the past 80 years or so and the imprint he has left on Mt. Rose’s is apparent. While it’s rare to catch Mundt much anymore, you can always find his Pals at Timbers.

“Al is a great guy. He’s an icon at Mt. Rose. He’s one of those people you see and jostle your way in line to sit next to. That’s how I met him. That’s how it all started all those years ago,” Van Hees says.

Al’s Pals meets at the round table in Timbers (the one closest to the cafeteria door) at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday except on powder days.