As Tom Wells nears the final run of his season as a ski bum, he expresses delight with the experience. For 3-½ months, the Bellevue...

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As Tom Wells nears the final run of his season as a ski bum, he expresses delight with the experience. For 3-½ months, the Bellevue man has visited former Winter Olympics sites, skiing the downhill runs used by world-class competitors.

The adventure started in December when Wells and his wife, Donna, went to Japan. Then they spent six weeks in Europe and in February focused on Olympic Games venues in North America. They’ll wind up the trip this month with ski trips to California and Utah.

“The whole thing started years ago. I was trying to figure out something fun to do when I turned 60,” Wells said. “Since it was also my 40th ski season, I decided to become a ski bum for a season.”

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Part of his game plan was catching up on things he’d missed. Wells said he always was busy working and never able to get away to watch Olympic skiing. Now semi-retired, he’s taking a break between real-estate development and construction projects for his dream trip.

In his research and planning, Wells learned that of the 20 Winter Olympics venues, three early ones did not have Alpine (downhill) ski events. The skiing competition was held at the same place — Innsbruck, Austria — for two different Olympics Games. He grouped the remaining 16 locations geographically and planned the trip. Weather has been a mixed bag.

“We’ve had a complete spectrum, everything from spring skiing conditions and very mild to blizzard conditions in Austria, where skiing was canceled because of the weather,” Wells said.

One site — Sapporo, Japan — had no snow.

Some locations, he said, have done a great job of marking the runs used in the Olympics, and a few places have Olympics museums.

“Not all these locations have done a good job creating a memorial to the event, which took a huge effort on the part of the community as well as time and money to secure and then host,” he said. “The more recent venues have done a better job. At the older ones, it has almost been forgotten from one generation to the next. I think that’s sad.”

Wells wouldn’t say how much the trip has cost. He did comment that lift tickets have averaged $40 to $50 a day.

“It hasn’t been cheap, but it has been well worth the money, time and effort,” he said.

Troop aid

Members of Redmond’s Lake Washington Post of Veterans of Foreign Wars keep the money circulating in their Support the Troops program. Thursday night the committee, chaired by John Kenny of Bothell, hosted a sold-out chicken dinner.

Proceeds helped underwrite a breakfast and postage for Sunday’s event, when 42 adults and youth from the Snohomish Big Brothers and Big Sisters and employees from the Lynnwood Wal-Mart met at the post.

David Tolbert of Redmond, who recently finished a one-year tour of duty in Iraq, was the guest speaker for the event.

Afterward the group packaged disposable cameras, socks, phone cards, candy and snacks, partly donated by Wal-Mart, Frito-Lay and Keebler, into more than 100 boxes for shipment to troops abroad.

“It was a win-win situation for all the groups involved, but the most important thing was it showed our troops how much we care and appreciate their sacrifices,” Kenny said.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or