Bill Kahrau’s 1968 divorce left him with sole custody of his six children, ranging in age from 15 months to 13 years. As the lone parent in the household, Kahrau relied on his passion for skiing to bond with the kids and provide a recreational outlet for the family.
For years, every other weekend Kahrau would load the kids in the camper of his pickup and head for the mountains.
“You relate as skier to skier, not parent to child,” the San Francisco native said. “It’s a pretty neat situation for your children.”
Now 79, with his children grown, Kahrau hits the slopes every weekend during ski season. Home base is Sugar Bowl, where Kahrau has worked as a ski instructor for 38 years. He stays on Donner Summit in a six-bedroom cabin, owned jointly by his fellow members of the San Francisco Viking Ski Club.
The only evidence of slowing down is in his selection of classes.
“I teach beginner to intermediate level, the reason being that the high end, advance level is very physically demanding,” said Kahrau, who runs his general contracting business during the week.
With the economy having affected his business, Kahrau keeps busy by remodeling his homes in Russian River and San Francisco.
In the spring of 1995, he moved from Daly City back to his childhood home in the Excelsior district after he suffered a broken leg during a club race.
“It required surgery to fix it,” Kahrau said. “I needed somebody to take care of me.”
Kahrau had hired Helga as caretaker for his aging mom. He became Helga’s second patient in the house. Helga nursed Kahrau back to health; they began dating and the couple married in 2000.
Helga, a native of Nicaragua, prefers warmer climates and stays behind most weekends as her husband makes the Sierra trek.
Linda, the youngest daughter of the Kahrau clan, serves with her dad as an officer on the Viking Ski Club Board of Directors. He is the longstanding secretary, while she is the treasurer.
Linda was the downhill racer in the family, competing for several years with the Sugar Bowl Race Team with dad as one of her coaches.
“She won tons of medals. I was very proud of her,” Kahrau said. “When she was 25 and eligible for the masters circuit, she raced masters until she had children.”
And thus sprung the next generation of Kahrau skiers.
WHAT: A small local ski club founded in 1938
THE VIKING CABIN: Built by members in 1948 at Donner Summit; includes dormitories and restrooms for men and women