A farewell to ‘Fro’ | Long-time Tahoe icon Robert Frohlich dies Tuesday; he was 55
October 28, 2010
OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. – The morning of Monday, Oct. 25, 2010, found the upper elevations of Squaw Valley covered in an early season mantle of white. It seems the snow gods may have deemed this gesture as a fitting tribute to local author, writer and long-time resident Robert “Fro” Frohlich, who would pass away the next afternoon, on Tuesday, Oct. 26, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
He was 55.
I’m not sure if Fro was aware of this symbolic salute, but I do know he would have appreciated it. For Fro was truly a man of the mountains as well as a mountain of a man. A former collegiate football and rugby player at the University of North Carolina, his brawny frame harbored an equally large lust for life: Whether it was skiing the slopes of Squaw or sailing Lake Tahoe or his heart-on-his-sleeve affection for his girlfriends and his canine companions (in that order?) or his own personal pursuit of happiness.
His professional life also reflected that enormity. Fro wrote countless articles about his overriding passion – skiing and life in the mountains while his own life embodied it. “Fro’s prose” was published in a multitude of major skiing and outdoor magazines, he was the author of two books, the ski editor for this publication’s “Ski Times” and a frequent contributor to almost every local paper and magazine.
But while Fro’s words touched many, it was his struggle against an unbeatable disease that inspired all. He was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2008 and given a prognosis of six months to live – if lucky. He outlasted that projection by more than two years.
“Fro put up a super valiant effort,” said his long-time friend and college roommate Mark Baldwin. “He was a fighter almost to a fault. In his last days he was still working on writing projects and the ‘In the Mood’ slide show he helped start. This will be its 15th anniversary.”
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Last fall, Fro accompanied renowned outdoor photographer Keoki Flagg and several of Tahoe’s most stalwart alpine adventurers to Antarctica. Not as a sightseer as some would have thought given his condition, but as a hands-on working journalist.
“Fro was hiking glaciers carrying a 30-pound pack and then skiing down them,” says Keoki. “Even though he would be coughing up blood.”
In August, Fro and a slew of friends participated in the annual Squaw Valley Mountain Run, a running race up the resort’s 3.5-mile long top-to-bottom run. Despite the fact he had just undergone chemotherapy the day before, he and his posse all walked across the finish line together. No one will ever remember Fro for asking, “Why me?”
In what might be another nod to the snow gods’ intervention, Powder Magazine’s current issue names Fro as one of the Tahoe-Truckee area’s prominent “Ski Bums.” When he read the article just a little over a week ago, he expressed concern that it might be a somewhat dubious honor.
“I told Fro he was being acknowledged as someone who lived his life true to his calling,” says Keoki. “That’s a pretty huge tribute.”
Robert Frohlich was a man of a million words, a boundless zest for life and countless friends. If, as they say, friends are considered part of the true measure of a man, Fro was as big as the mountains he loved.
And those mountains now resound with an endless echo: “Farewell Fro.”
A memorial service for Fro will be held Nov. 11, 4 p.m., at the Olympic Valley Lodge in Squaw Valley. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the newly created Robert Frohlich Scholarship Fund, care of the Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation, P.O. Box 366, Truckee, CA 96161.
– Bill Jensen is a long-time Carnelian Bay resident and owner of Granite Chief Communications.