Fred Noble & Ski to Defeat ALS
Story Published: Apr 9, 2013 at 10:06 AM PDT
It’s been two years since his diagnosis with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), but Fred Noble isn’t letting the fatal diagnosis slow him down. He’s a been ziplining, heli-skiing, and rock climbing—all in the past year! But his biggest challenge is just ahead: Fred is challenging people to help him raise money for “Ski to Defeat ALS.” He’s trying to raise $50,000 before this weekend’s event and you can help by making a donation.
- Ski to Defeat ALS
- Saturday, April 13, 10am to 5pm
- Mt. Hood Meadows
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Article on Fred in AM Northwest — Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012. Read original article »
Longtime Portland resident and famed adventurer Fred Noble has cheated death many times in more than 50 years of dangerous and extreme backcountry skiing, paragliding, mountain climbing and wind surfing. At age 74, Noble now finds himself in a fight for his life after being diagnosed in December with ALS, the fatal neurodegenerative muscular disease best known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Fred joined us today along with Lance Christian, the Executive Director of the ALS Association’s Oregon and SW Washington Chapter to tell us about their upcoming event Ski to Defeat ALS.
Ski to Defeat ALS is a team and individual skiing and snowboarding event to be hosted at Mt. Hood Meadows on Saturday, April 14, 2012. Participants engage in competitions for most dollars raised and for most vertical feet skied or ridden. For more information about the event, visit SkitoDefeatALS.org.
About ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that slowly robs a person of the ability to walk, speak, swallow and, eventually, breathe. With no known cause or cure, a person can expect to live typically 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis. ALS has no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries –– and in only 10 percent of cases there is a family history of ALS. Today, there are approximately 30,000 people in the US living with ALS and 5,600 people in the US are diagnosed every year. At any given time, there are an estimated 500 families living with ALS in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Fred Noble, legendary Oregon skier diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, wants to raise $100,000 in Ski to Defeat ALSSaturday, February 11th, 2012
Article on Fred in The Oregonian — Published: Friday, February 10, 2012, 5:20 PM Updated: Saturday, February 11, 2012, 10:09 AM — By Terry Richard, The Oregonian. Read original article »
Fred Noble remembers how he would end his ski days in the 1960s and ’70s.
After skiing all day, when lifts were closing, he shouldered his skis and hiked the snowfields high above Timberline Lodge or Mt. Hood Meadows (when this was legal).
As the sun began to set, he clamped into his bindings, gave a hoot and holler and headed for his car, 3,000 to 5,000 feet below, arriving just before dark.
It was the perfect last run.
Noble will soon be making his very last run.
Diagnosed with an incurable disease, the Portland man who epitomized adventure sports in Oregon for more than four decades knows the end is coming. Noble is gradually losing control of his muscles due to ALS, the disease named for New York Yankees star Lou Gehrig in the 1930s.
During his prime, Noble skied more than 7 million vertical feet using helicopters as the lift. But even more amazing is the enthusiasm he showed for deep powder skiing, windsurfing and paragliding, three cutting-edge sports he pushed to the limits in venues around the world.
His travels took him to 85 countries, not to gawk as a tourist, but to ski, sail, dive, climb or fly.
And he brought along friends just about every time — hundreds of friends over the years.
Noble is using his myriad connections to plan one last bash, Ski to Defeat ALS, a fundraiser for the Oregon and southwest Washington chapter of the ALS Association. He plans to raise $100,000. “No sweat,” he says.
ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive degenerative nerve disease. It is rare (about 500 people in the Oregon chapter have it), and has no known cause or cure. The drug Riluzole lengthens life expectancy but only marginally. Most diagnosed with ALS die within two to three years.
At 74 years of age, Noble doesn’t expect to be an exception.
“Life for me has been one big adventure,” Noble said. “Now I find myself bedridden or in a wheelchair. In reality, ALS is pretty grim, but I don’t want people to feel sadness or pity for me.
“Most people diagnosed usually feel depression, denial, anger and then acceptance. I skipped the first three and went right to acceptance. I’ve done everything in this life I wanted to do. I just want to help the ALS association make a pile of money before I go.”
Noble learned of his disease in late 2010, months after he noticed himself stumbling occasionally around the house. He chalked it up to old age but eventually went in for tests.
“It was the kind of thing where I hoped they would find a curable brain tumor or diagnose Lyme disease,” he said. “That sometimes mimics ALS.
“I always thought I would die a violent death. I’ve come close many a time. But no, they found this. At least it gives me time to say goodbye to all my friends.”
And his friends go beyond the world of adventure sports.
“When Fred comes in the door, everybody in the place lights up. We love to see him,” said John Underhill, general manager of Noble’s favorite Portland restaurant, Jake’s Famous Crawfish. “He’s been coming here for more than 25 years. He’s a personal friend to most of our staff. At some time during the evening, everyone comes by to continue the relationship.”
Noble’s most enduring legacy, besides introducing so many to adventure sports, is his work with the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association.
“Back when Fred started windsurfing, he and his buddies started poaching a place we now call Rowena,” said Patrick Quigley of Hood River, a longtime association member.
In the early ’80s, the undeveloped state park had a dangerous railroad crossing. So rather than cutting through barbed wire, Noble asked around to see whether he could improve the situation.
It became the first of many windsurfing projects he spearheaded, tapping into the sailing community’s many private resources and willing volunteers.
Beyond the tow lift
Skiing has always been Noble’s biggest love. He was hooked as a teenager at Franklin High School in the 1950s, when he started on one of two rope tows at Summit Ski Area in Government Camp. He remembers toiling on the beginner tow, envious of those riding the other tow and considering them “pros.” That just made him want to become a pro.
A stint in the U.S. Army followed high school, then he began a working career servicing transmission lines and other high towers. Work was mostly seasonal, which left him time to ski.
Within a few years, he was launching off cliffs in three of Warren Miller’s annual ski movies. He became and remains the North American sales agent for Canadian Mountain Holidays, the world’s leading helicopter ski operation with backcountry ski terrain in British Columbia larger than Switzerland.
Eric Sanford, a Hood River photographer, remembers how he met Noble.
“I won some silly award for ski photography that was presented at the 1980 Warren Miller movie,” Sanford said. “Fred was the movie’s MC for many of those years, and we became friends.
“Fred was always on the lookout for doing something new or different. He should be dead a half-dozen times, just from the things we did together in Aruba, Chile and Brazil.”
Fred vs. the ski patrol
Noble has been married three times, but his constant drive wore out relationships. His daughter, Julie, and her husband, Gary Bakkala, of Salem, are helping him to the end.
Recently, they joined him for a day of skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows, where Noble used a device called a sit ski. It allows those who can’t control their legs to glide down a run in a chair mounted to twin skis, using outriggers attached to the arms to maintain balance.
It was a far cry from the way Noble used to ski at Mt. Hood Meadows, a resort Noble skied on opening day in 1968.
“Our ski patrol is much better because of Fred,” said Dave Tragethon, Meadows spokesman. “We’ve had to adapt our training and techniques specifically to keep up with his antics.”
Noble used to poach closed parts of the ski area, before the Shooting Star and Heather Canyon lifts were built.
He remembers skiing out in the woods once and hearing a voice from the chairlift: “Noble, I’m coming after you.”
To avoid losing his season’s pass, Noble outskied the head of the patrol, dashed into the lodge, ordered a pitcher of beer and took off his boots. That gave him plausible deniability of being in the woods, once the patrol chief caught up.
That was just another day on the slopes with the Fredinator, his nickname that will be used in a book on Noble’s life being written by Phil Favorite and a documentary under production by Andrea Johnson.
Read original article by Terry Richard »
Fred featured in the SandyPost — on Jan 25, 2012, updated Jan 25, 2012 by Lisa K. Anderson — Read original article »
He traces his fingers over a map with 85 pushpins that mark the countries he’s visited –– where his old passport photos are posted, showing his evolution from curly dark hair to short silver strands.
When he puts on his leg braces each morning, Fred Noble, 74, likens the process to the many times he put on ski boots –– right up through last spring. For most tasks these days, he draws an analogy to his adventures.
“It never hit me like the end of the world because I’d done everything,” Noble says of his December 2010 diagnosis with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), a progressive neurodegenerative disease. “As I say, I always thought I’d die a violent death –– this way I get to say goodbye to everybody.”
Noble, famous local adventurer, is the honorary chairman of the inaugural Ski to Defeat ALS event, sponsored by the ALS Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington. The April event at Mt. Hood Meadows will raise money for services and education the association provides.
Led by Noble, “Team Fredinator” plans to raise $10,000 and is more than halfway to its goal.
Though he’s now using a wheelchair, Noble took up “sit skiing” in early January, and plans to return to Mt. Hood Meadows next week for another round.
“I carry on and do what I’ve always done,” Noble says. “I don’t let it stop me.”
THE EARLY YEARS
His skis splayed out, his football jersey and pants froze, and he had to use wool socks as mittens, but Fred Noble was hooked after his first ski trips to Government Camp in 1954.
At the time, Noble was 17 years old and earned 65 cents an hour sweeping rooms to pay for a school house room in Southeast Portland, where he attended Franklin High School.
Spending part of his childhood in a California orphanage, Noble eventually ran away to carve his own life in Oregon. An adventurous spirit was always a part of him, leading him to pristine backcountry where no one else skied, and introducing him to a plethora of adventure sports.
“I’m just a normal person trying to survive,” Noble says. “Mine has been a life of sharing my passion with everybody.”
ON THE EDGE
Before meeting Fred Noble in the early 1980s, Eric Sanford, a longtime friend, pictured a 6-foot-2 blond ski god.
“He’s not a legend like Michael Jordan, who people see on TV,” Sanford says. “He’s more down home and low-key.”
Sanford remembers how surprised he was to meet a 5-foot-2 man with black curly hair and “the spirit of an energizer bunny.”
A longtime Portland resident, Noble has spent more than 50 years extreme backcountry skiing, paragliding, wind surfing, scuba diving, rock climbing and doing adventure photography.
He began appearing in Warren Miller ski movies in the 1980s, and with friends helped to popularize wind surfing in the Columbia River Gorge, making it more accessible to the public.
His proudest accomplishments, though, are his four children, seven grandchildren and numerous friends spread throughout the world.
His grandsons, who call him Turbo Grandpa, got tattoos in tribute to Noble.
“Boy, that’s dedication,” Noble says with a chuckle. “That’s pretty cool.”
As a way to inspire himself after his diagnosis, Noble gave himself the nickname of “Fredinator.”
The past six months have started to slow him down. His lungs give him trouble, and he can no longer use his legs. Next month, he expects to get a feeding tube, and he will have to “bank” his voice on a computer.
“With ALS, you have to look at it as having a dollar’s worth of energy,” Noble says. “How much do you want to spend? Going to the mailbox is 5 cents. A meal is 10 cents. You have to portion out your day. Some days you’re going to spend two dollars.”
Today, Noble continues his work as the North American representative for a Canadian-based ski and travel company that takes people on heli-ski and heli-hike tours to remote mountains only reached by helicopter in Canada.
He and his family have been remodeling his home, which fittingly includes a rope course-like system that makes Noble feel like he’s on the mountain.
Noble and author Phil Favorite are working on a book about his life, and photographer friends of his who’ve worked for National Geographic are working on a documentary about Noble.
Noble also blogs, offering candid reflections about his battle with ALS.
“He’s been told he’s dying, but he’s happy and positive every day,” says Noble’s daughter, Julie Bakkala. “He’s just a positive, infectious guy.”
Noble grabs a rock climbing hold on his wall and meanders through his house, telling the stories behind the large, framed adventure photos he’s taken on his many trips.
As the ALS Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington says, his spirit has inspired and brought joy to countless friends around the globe.
The Fredinator keeps himself inspired, too.
“I’m close to the airport, close to the mountain, close to the ocean and close to my friends,” Noble says. “I could live anywhere in the world, but this is my home, this is where my roots are, and this is where I’m going to die. I’m comfortable here –– what more could you ask for?”
FUNDRAISER TO HELP ALS FAMILIES
The ALS Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington is holding a fundraising event in April that will help families dealing with the struggles of ALS. Fred Noble is the honorary event chairman.
Ski to Defeat ALS, a team and individual skiing and snowboarding event, is scheduled for all-day Saturday, April 14, at Mt. Hood Meadows. The event begins with registration at 7:30 a.m. and continues 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with an after-party to follow.
Participants are competing on the slopes for vertical feet traveled and for the most dollars raised. The event also features entertainment, a silent auction and raffle opportunities.
Because the Oregon and Southwest Washington chapter of the ALS Association receives no government or insurance funding, it is funded solely by events such as Ski to Defeat ALS, as well as individual and corporate donations.
This year, the ALS Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington hopes to raise $100,000 and recruit more than 500 volunteers for its first-ever Ski to Defeat ALS event.
The organization encourages participants of all ages and abilities to come out April 14, whether they go down the slope once or 50 times.
Fred on Mt. Hood Meadows Blog — 1/5/2012 1:08:00 AM by Meadows Team in Connection, Overcoming Inertia, Media Center
Fred Noble skied Mt. Hood Wednesday – for what was probably his 2000th time. He’s been skiing for more than five decades. He was a featured skier in some early Warren Miller films. He’s traveled around the world and escaped death a number of times. Now he’s taking on his next big adventure – ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The disease is advancing, and is affecting his legs. Last year Fred skied as a “four tracker” using two “outriggers” – poles with skis on the bottom of them as crutches, along with his skis. This season, Fred will use a bi-ski – a seat mounted on skis that can be maneuvered by leaning.
Fred donated his outriggers to the Meadows adaptive sports program, for other four trackers to use. And Fred took several runs Wednesday.
Ski to Defeat ALS LogoFred is the honorary chairman of the “Ski to Defeat ALS” coming up April 14. It’s a vertical challenge event at Meadows – you can register online, get some pledges, take some runs and meet Fred. And raise money for the Oregon and SW Washington Chapter of ALS. For more information on the event, to make a pledge or to organize a team, visit the Ski to Defeat ALS website.
Make A Hero logoFred was also featured at the Make A Hero movie premier of “The Movement” which appeared in Portland in November. Meadows is supporting the Make A Hero foundation with a special lift ticket offer. You can purchase the discount lift ticket from Make a Hero – and they receive the proceeds, which are designated to be donated back to Oregon adaptive sports organizations, and the local ALS chapter. You can purchase the lift ticket from MakeAHero.org.
Check out the coverage on KATU of Fred’s day on the slopes.
Fred on KATU News — By Joe English, KATU News Published: Jan 4, 2012 at 5:21 PM PST Last Updated: Jan 4, 2012 at 9:24 PM PST
MOUNT HOOD, Ore. – He’s traveled around the world, had several near-death experiences, appeared in some famous ski movies and wears a button that says “I’ve survived darned near everything.”
Now, one of Mount Hood Meadows’ most famous skiers isn’t giving up his passion for the slopes, despite being slowed down by ALS.
Fred Noble, 74, can no longer use his legs, but he’s out to prove he can survive another adventure. Noble’s diagnosis was just another mogul on the ski slope of life.
“You know the first thing when somebody tells you it’s terminal is depression,” said Noble. “Then anger, then denial, then acceptance. I went straight to acceptance.”
Now Noble is getting fitted for a sit-ski to help him navigate the slopes in a seated position.
“This is kind of a better way to go,” said Noble. “Because I thought I’d die a violent death, and that would have made a lot of people sad. This way I get to say goodbye to everybody and I get to come out here and keep on trying, you know.”
Mount Hood Meadows gave Noble a lifetime pass to the slopes for his dedication to skiing and his perseverance.
“Never give up,” said Noble. “There’s always a little bit of life left, no matter what.”