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The Aging Skier

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

As a young man I was a fairly decent skier and I had the pleasure of knowing a few of the old guard of mountaineers and ski teachers. Many are gone but what survives them is the passion and love these men instilled in so many of us. So while writing a post elsewhere I though it might be worthwhile to share a few ideas these folks graciously shared with so many of us.


The first and probably most important idea was to appreciate the opportunity to live, work, and play in mountains. It's not for everyone and it would seem there is a five year migration pattern that most of the youngsters follow. But those of us who have been around for eight to ten times that long must be a bit different. Are we wired differently, or did we discover something the rest of the five year crowd didn't? Love and passion for your actions are term often overused but I don't know any other way to explain the fact that we stayed behind when so many left, or will leave when their five years are up. Others end up between two worlds and they commute to ski country but reside in an urban setting. I've been that guy because my spouse was a city girl who never thought much of rural living. At least until we moved to an isolated valley near Crested Butte. To be fair that town and the surrounding valley are very isolated. With very few of the accoutrements of the city, she rediscovered her passion for horses but like the five year crowd she grew bored until we moved to Aspen. There she found the culture (art and such) more to her liking and I doubt she will ever move from that valley. In my case I moved on and I now split my time between Summit County and Estes Park. So my time in ski country is when I am in the city. or as close to it as I care to be. Anyways I'm digressing and the intent here wasn't to go on and on about me. What those sages shared was take the time to smell the roses and be thankful for the chance to work, live and play in a place where most folks can only visit, or live for a brief segment of their life.


The second idea was skiing isn't rocket science. We can complicate it with science and theory but in the end standing on two skis and sliding down a hill is something kids do pretty easily without much, if any thoughts about the science behind their actions. I am probably the poster boy for technical over analysis and it may seem odd for me to be who suggests it has limited value but it does. Those guys knew that and told me that many times but I guess experiencing that was what it took for me to finally understand their wisdom. It's fine to know the minute details but if you can't translate that into performance it might be time to focus more on application and less on theory.


The third has to do with aging and how often we allow ourselves to fall into a sedentary routine that slowly erodes our physical capacities. The wisdom in the old sayings about use it or lose it and stay active and stay healthy are well know but how many of us actually subscribe to those ideas? Most of those guys I mentioned lived a very active life and could do things most regular folks thought was impossible at their age. I loved Warren Miller Films piece where Klaus was playing fox and hound while wearing a race bib with the number 86 on it. I watches the premier of that film sitting next to him and my then fifteen year old daughter. The joy and passion in that guy permeated the Wheeler that night and it was like sitting next to a six year old on Christmas morning. It's an attitude he exuded whenever he spoke about his next ski day as well.  


Another friend was an Olympic swimmer back in 60 and a very fine skier. We patrolled together and we would seek each other out when not busy scraping the snow. His dogged determination to square out the life curve meant ripping at speed and dominating the run we were skiing. Many of our peers thought he was too intense but skiing well was his passion and he did so well into his seventies. He performed like a thirty year old until cancer took him away so very quickly. My point is up to that last six months he owned and regularly used his God given abilities and refused to let age and infirmity be an excuse.  


A third fella was famous as a racer but he is perhaps the most gracious and wonderful skiers you could ever meet. Yes he was a national caliber racers way back in his youth but what makes Bud special is his grace and understanding of the beauty of our sport. Same goes for his wife who many blame for his retiring from racing but if you have a chance to meet and ski with the two of them over at Loveland, do it. Jeanine (SP) was and probably still is a supervisor in the ski school and that is how I met them but it's outside the confines of ski school that their natural grace really shines. They have instilled that appreciation and genuine love of the sport on a very spiritual level in so many of us. At least in those who find the time to stop and listen to the song of the wind through the trees, the velvety feel of snow underfoot, and the magic of our cobalt blue skies overhead, and the company of someone to share those moments. I ran into them the other day and a feeling of warmth and genuine love came rushing back to me as we talked.

Another gal from Loveland showed me the importance of passing on the sport in all it's beauty to the youth of the world. Rosie is a special person who taught me that passing forward the joy of the sport means working with kids. It's through them that the sport will exist in the future and becoming good means very little if we don't share what we learned with all those youngsters. Pay it forward and never stop inspiring kids to enjoy the sport.

One last guy I know helped me escape the mental trap of using age as an excuse. He was a SSD at Keystone before "retiring" in Aspen. Rod overheard me whining one day about being too old to train and pass another level in PSIA. It was then he share how much of his body was replacement parts and how much older than me he is. That didn't stop him from being part of the early birds who went out every morning to work on our skiing. He was also my pro council rep and helped many of us develop the personal skills to be better pros.

And last but certainly not least in all of these stories is a gal who was also part of that early morning training group. She is a cancer survivor who struggles with strength and the ability to stay warm. The fact that she is in pain when the temperature drops below freezing is excuse enough for most who would likely stay inside at seven in the morning. But she was always there and always working on improving her skiing and teaching skills. She doesn't let her pain stop her and her students are completely unaware of just how much pain she is in most of the time. She's an examiner BTW and skiing at that level should be nearly impossible for her but it shows me just how little the average skier is limited by their physical body.


So there you have it my stories about a few of the folks who as seniors shaped and are shaping the sport. Without them I would say the industry would be much poorer. I really didn't start out to do a tribute to them and we can certainly discuss the effects of aging but IMO skiing is a lifelong sport and my friends have shown me age and even illness are only limitations if we allow them to be such.

post #2 of 13

Well said. As an aging skier that began in 1962 and has been in the industry in one way shape or form since 1975 I could not relate better. As someone that grew up on the old skis and equipment I can truly say that when utilized properly the new equipment will help allow the aging skier to continue their skiing lifestyle. What I have learned and continue to learn about life and skiing makes this sport so much more then so many others. Its a true lifestyle. We can talk to a 88 year old skier or a 15 year old skier and there is a commonality like no other. Those of us that for whatever reason have been able to make skiing our lifestyle and our passion are truly blessed. I for one could not be more thankful!

post #3 of 13

I salute the real ol'timers who built cattleman's bark huts, hide caravans/trailers in the woods, bulldozed runs, built ski clubs and the first tows, and represented their country in international ski comps. They started up ski rescue, con-vinced British Petroleum to build and fund ski losges and the ambulance etc etc. Ah, if only the old history books could get around the Statute of Limitations and the laws of defamation - the real history could be very interesting.


And the author of 2 Valley  might have found a old old university paper on the history of Squaw.

post #4 of 13

Is this the Old Guys Rule thread?biggrin.gif


Stuff I've learned from old guys/gals on the way to becoming one myself:

-appreciate every ski day, you never know if it will be your last

-positive attitude counts more than anything

-do things at your own pace and know when to quit

-take advantage of modern gear/technology

-it's not just about you, bring friends/family with you to the mtn

-spread the love of the sport with all you can and do what you can to ensure it's there for future generations

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
So many of us are approaching the point where it is our turn to become those guys and to pass on all we learned while we can still can.
post #6 of 13

.. and Squaw valley's charter school will have classes on Fridays run - from afar via the net - by mentors from industries like film, records, etc etc.  If anyone's interested in volunteering ....give them a call.

post #7 of 13

The first older skiers I remember was 2 guys pulling up next to our RV in the parking lot in a little 2 seater sports car. They were rocking Santana Abraxis at concert volume. It was a cold, fresh powder day and they looked like contented puppies. I was a teenager and they were maybe in their late 20s, but to me they were old guys. Wow - what a life! Was that my future?


I'll never forget wandering through the crowd on the snow at some base area out west and seeing this old guy making a wake in the crowd like a rock in a stream. He was just moseying around and had a big 'ol grin from ear to ear. He was 84 and said he skied an hour a day every day. He had started skiing before lifts were invented. It was amazing how he was soaking in the whole experience and everyone else ignored him except for giving him extra space when they flowed around him. Talking with him was like stepping outside your body and viewing time in fast motion.


I had a private lesson with a lady in her late 60s. She said she only wanted someone to ski with since all her ski friends didn't ski any more. In the middle of a mogul run she tells me that her Dr. told her she could not ski any more because she had a bad hip and if she fell, she would break her hip and bleed to death on the spot. She said she was not going to stop skiing. She told me this just after we had witnessed a bad injury happen right in front of us and patrol had carted the guy away. Even though I was grinding my teeth and rolling my eyes, I had to admire her. She could ski.


(BadaBoomBada) Bing was an instructor emeritus on our staff. He was an Army Corps of Engineer guy in WW2 with some amazing history. You could see the Austrian heritage in his turns. I was shocked when I saw him show up at my  L3 cert exam at age 84. He passed away on snow at 86. His only friends were ski instructors.


Enjoy the ride and pay it forward. It will be our turn soon enough.

post #8 of 13


There are plenty of peaks and valleys in the long run.

Enjoy them all.

"Youth is largely wasted on the young."

post #9 of 13

Too many helped me along the way not to pay it forward. For myself, that's meant teaching the past few seasons. As my little guy gets to skiing age, I'll no doubt dial back the teaching time to hang out and ski with him.

post #10 of 13
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

 As my little guy gets to skiing age, I'll no doubt dial back the teaching time to hang out and ski with him.

...until you're too slow or it's not hip or groovy  to be seen with the ol man. wink.gif

post #11 of 13
Originally Posted by veteran View Post

...until you're too slow or it's not hip or groovy  to be seen with the ol man. wink.gif

I'm working on my OGTR skills.... Old Guys That Rip! I'm sure he'll be embarrassed to ski with me before he skis much faster than me. I hope so anyway. smile.gif
post #12 of 13

We are each in the end just another thread in the fabric of skiing.  We all help to weave the clothe and try make it a little stronger where we have passed through.  This is really the only meaningful thing we can give back to the skiing community.  


Went to the Intermountain SIA museum in the Olympic Training Center at Park City last year; it was humbling.  Seeing many I had learned from and admired, and many of who are gone, was a trip down memory lane.  Great is such a transitory thing.


Many who we effect and how are things we often never know; might be best that way.

post #13 of 13

I'm finding out that fitness plays a huge role as you get older. I used to be able to easily ski myself into shape if I got lazy over the summer. That doesn't work anymore. I finally realized I need to get and stay in shape year round to ski where and how I want. I'm still working on the getting in shape part.

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