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Is my 78-yr old father too old to learn to ski? [Beginner Zone]

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

My father is 78 yrs old and lives in Hong Kong.   During the past 2+ years, whenever I talk to him on the phone about my ski trips, he’d always ask me, is it really fun?  how does it feel when you ski downhill?  From his tone, I can sense he is very much wanted to try and curious to know how does it feel like when one is sliding down the hill.  Last year, I agreed to take my nephew to WB for 1 wk., I know he wanted to join us but my brother said no because he’s afraid that my father might be attempting to ski and ended up hurting himself. 

 

Based on what I know & observed about my father’s current health:

Pluses:

1) He practices Tai Chi 1+ hour and swim 30-45 min. everyday year round

2) Hiking every Sunday with his hiking club.

3) He does have good balance from practicing Tai Chi.

4) He does have good athletic skills (when he was young), he picks ups new sport relatively quick.  

5) We did a 4-hour glacier walk (with crampons) in Iceland in Sept. this year and he managed it.

 

Concerns I have:

1) His reaction time is definitely slower because of old age.

2) He can easily get frazzled if there is too much information to process simultaneously. 

3) He does not have health insurance here in the U.S.

4) Lost in translation:  If I take him to try out skiing, I will get a private lesson for 1-on-1.  Since he does not speak english, I will do the translation.   Problem is, I am afraid many things will get lost in translation.  Plus many skiing terminologies are difficult to translate (at least for me) to Chinese, e.g. edging, skidding, carving, wedging, tilting. 

5) Fall and fracture.

6) Problems when getting off lift chair.  Again, because of his old age, he does everything slower, including getting up from a chair.  

 

I discussed this w/ my 2 cousins - one skies and one does not. The one does not ski said why not because he has good balance.  The one skis said, better not because you never know...., but if you really want, consider taking him to a terrain with very good snow condition.  If he falls, it won’t be as bad.

 

I thought about taking him to Japan, Nieseko, because of the powder condition., also it is close proximity to Hong Kong. If anything happens, it is 4 hour plane ride… 

 

I am unable to find any ski lesson videos in Chinese online, so he can’t really "study" much in advance. 

 

Questions:

1) Am I crazy to even contemplating this idea?

2) If not, what needs to be done to make it work?  e.g. bone density scan to assess fracture risk? 

3) How about adaptive skiing?  Is this a good comprise?

4) What else I need to assess to determine if this is a go or no-go? 

 

Bottom line, it just pains me that knowing he really wants to try the sport but couldn’t because of advanced age…   

 

I'd like to solicit your inputs!  Thank you in advance. 

 

Mod note: moved to Beginner Zone at OP's request

post #2 of 37

This may be a silly question, but has your father gone on roller coasters or water slides?

 

I'm guessing, but there may be instructors in Japan who speak Chinese.

 

Here's are stories of a man learning to ski at 65 at Deer Valley because he wanted to ski with his granddaughter. Not the same as late 70s, but I know how active my father was in his 80s so it's not completely out of the question.

 

http://blog.deervalley.com/?p=4170 - March 2013

http://blog.deervalley.com/?p=9225 - Jan 2016

post #3 of 37
Thread Starter 

There is no silly question.  Thanks for the articles

 

Yes, he has gone on rollercoaster rides several times and he was afraid of it. But he would still ride it because my nephew (his grandson) asked him to... 

 

I don't see the association between rollercoaster riding and downhill skiing.  I see rollercoaster ride is an experience that can rearrange all your internal organs and in the end, you feel nauseous.  Downhill skiing -> none of that.  So can you clarify?
 

Few people have taken the time responding to my thread via PM. Thank you all...

They brought up few good suggestions, request  a Chinese speaking instructor at WB (honestly i did not know they have chinese speaking teachers there), ski limo (sort of like adaptive skiing except someone else does the driving)....  

 

Besides getting injured, my another question is, what is the likelihood of a ski school willing to take up a student who is in late 70's? 

 

By no means my goal is to have my father be able to ski a blue or dark green.  All I want is to have him to be able to experience this (just for once or twice). I don't want him to have the expectation that, ok i can do bunny on day 1, I can probably do green on day 2 and blue on day 3.  No.... I don't think so.

 

As my father gets older, he does not quite recognize that he is no longer physically strong and agile as before, he may not fully aware of his physical limitation (maybe I worry too much?).  With that said, how do you manage expectations? 

post #4 of 37

I really don't see why not so long the  lesson is a private one tailored to him with an very experienced instructor. From the info supplied in your last paragraph, I do suggest an experienced instructor to remain at all time while he is on snow at least for the first couple days. It will cost a bit to keep him safe, but I do believe the experience will be worth while. 

 

On another note, my experience of roller coaster is quite different. I have no issue with roller coasters what so ever. The speed and motion do not bother me at all. Matter of fact, I find roller coasters rather boring. The chance of death and injuries are between slim and nil. The insurance companies won't have it any other way. So where is the risk and the real thrill? Skiing is a whole different ball game. I could get into lots of trouble just on the green runs.      

post #5 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post
 

There is no silly question.  Thanks for the articles

 

Yes, he has gone on rollercoaster rides several times and he was afraid of it. But he would still ride it because my nephew (his grandson) asked him to... 

 

I don't see the association between rollercoaster riding and downhill skiing.  I see rollercoaster ride is an experience that can rearrange all your internal organs and in the end, you feel nauseous.  Downhill skiing -> none of that.  So can you clarify?
 

Few people have taken the time responding to my thread via PM. Thank you all...

They brought up few good suggestions, request  a Chinese speaking instructor at WB (honestly i did not know they have chinese speaking teachers there), ski limo (sort of like adaptive skiing except someone else does the driving)....  

 

Besides getting injured, my another question is, what is the likelihood of a ski school willing to take up a student who is in late 70's? 

 

By no means my goal is to have my father be able to ski a blue or dark green.  All I want is to have him to be able to experience this (just for once or twice). I don't want him to have the expectation that, ok i can do bunny on day 1, I can probably do green on day 2 and blue on day 3.  No.... I don't think so.

 

As my father gets older, he does not quite recognize that he is no longer physically strong and agile as before, he may not fully aware of his physical limitation (maybe I worry too much?).  With that said, how do you manage expectations? 

 

Certainly sounds like your father is stubborn enough to get past the initial never-ever stage.  That's because you said he was scared of riding a roller coaster but did it more than once any way because his grandson wanted to.

 

I have a friend who learned to ski because her kids (younger than 7) were in ski school for the first time.  She took the never-ever program that is two 1-hour sessions.  The first hour in the training area with a magic carpet, the second hour on the long beginner lift and the easiest green (very easy pitch).  It took her 3 times doing the first hour before she "got it" enough to be ready for riding the lift.  Meaning she was okay turning right and left in a wedge and coming to a wedge stop.

 

Agree that a private instructor for more than one day is best.  This is a case where you need a very experienced instructor, meaning PSIA Level III or CSIA Level IV (not sure but maybe III is okay?).  If you went to Whistler, I'm sure you could get a recommendation by name.

 

Advantage of Whistler is that in North America, doing adventurous things after age 75 is more accepted compared to Asia.

post #6 of 37
Consider bringing him to Snowmass. We have a great beginner area. It is fenced off and while it is open to the public, it is mainly ski school people who are in there. You can ride the gondola in your street shoes. The rental shop is at the top of the gondola and you walk right out to the magic carpet.

There is a restaurant right there as well. We may have instructors who speak Chinese. I do not know for sure.

Feel free to PM me with any questions.
post #7 of 37
No! I have meet several that started at that age. When I asked why now the answer is always along the lines "now I have time, and I want too!"
post #8 of 37
The main question for me would be if he is physically and emotionally capable of sustaining a fall, or even multiple falls?
post #9 of 37

Getting up after a fall at that age is a huge issue imo.   I ski with some life long excellent skiers in their 80's and 90's and when there is fresh snow they don't ski.  They tell me they have no problem skiing it, but cannot get up if they fall, and a fall is more likely in fresh snow.  These are excellent skiers.

 

edit:  fixed typo, changed "fall is more lightly" to "fall is more likely."


Edited by SkiMangoJazz - 9/30/16 at 9:01am
post #10 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz View Post

Getting up after a fall at that age is a huge issue imo.   I ski with some life long excellent skiers in their 80's and 90's and when there is fresh snow they don't ski.  They tell me they have no problem skiing it, but cannot get up if they fall, and a fall is more lightly in fresh snow.  These are excellent skiers.

Agreed. And as noted in the "Falling Down" thread, it's even harder to get up on flat ground than it is on the steeps.

I attempted to snowboard a few seasons ago, and although I was staring to get around with some proficiency, I eventually gave up because of the effort required to get back to my feet after stopping. It's tough on bad knees😕
post #11 of 37

I will chime in with my opinion. For reference, I had a Chinese international student living with me for 3 years (in the USA) and I taught him to ski. He wasn't 78, actually he was 17, but he had never skied before. I do realize for you the issue is more about his age and physical condition. And for another reference, the student  loved roller coasters and hated skiing. He actually learned quickly and was pretty good, but hated the feeling of not being able to control his speed and direction as well as he wanted to. I guess he trusted the roller coaster, but not his own ability?  I add this for what its worth.

 

Anyway, my opinion is its all about the physical condition your father is in. If he is an "athletic 78" and still moves pretty well. Then is should be fine in the right setting. If he needs a cane to walk and is not real steady, then no. It sounds like your father is in pretty good shape, so in the right learning situation, he would probably have fun. I have taught a number of friends how to ski (I am a race coach) and it usually doesn't go well. I have learned, friendship gets in the way of learning something new (or I am a lousy instructor). The other thing I learned is having a really well setup beginner area is the key. The pitch of the slope(s), having magic carpet lifts versus rope tows, and as a next step a long really flat green slope to gain some confidence on is very important for the first day. In New England, Pat's Peak has all those things and is a great place to learn.  The poster who described SnowMass's beginner area is giving good advice. I have been to Snow Mass and I agree with his recomendation. Check into the mountain you plan to go  to see how their beginner area is set up.  Skiing open terrain in Nieseko would be a really bad idea for learning (even deep soft snow is bad, you want nice packed soft snow)

 

Also, have an alternate plan if things don't work out for him on the first day, so he is not bored and feels stranded.  I would encourage you to give it a try.

post #12 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz View Post
 

Getting up after a fall at that age is a huge issue imo.   I ski with some life long excellent skiers in their 80's and 90's and when there is fresh snow they don't ski.  They tell me they have no problem skiing it, but cannot get up if they fall, and a fall is more likely in fresh snow.  These are excellent skiers.

 

edit:  fixed typo, changed "fall is more lightly" to "fall is more likely."

 

 

Agree that falling is more likely in fresh snow, but they aren't willing to take their skis off to get up easily??  I do have some bindings that are a PITA to get off and then back on, (Marker Jesters for instance), but I have been using some Solamon STH13 bindings that make that a piece of cake. I hope I don't get to that point when I get old.

post #13 of 37

My grandmother went skiing ~15 years ago (I believe she was in mid 70s at the time).  I remember she enjoyed it, but ended up with some sores on her feet from the boots.  They took a very long time to heal.  She did not go again after that.  She had been skiing before.

 

So the boot thing -- watch out for that.  Small blisters can become a big deal depending on health/age.

 

Maybe you could try doing a more accessible activity to test his balance -- like go roller or ice skating.  If he does not want to take his hands off the wall, that may be an indicator he won't be happy skiing.


Edited by TexSkier - 9/30/16 at 12:23pm
post #14 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by bttocs View Post
 

 

 

Agree that falling is more likely in fresh snow, but they aren't willing to take their skis off to get up easily??  I do have some bindings that are a PITA to get off and then back on, (Marker Jesters for instance), but I have been using some Solamon STH13 bindings that make that a piece of cake. I hope I don't get to that point when I get old.

 

I replaced my Marker Giffons for the same reason and replaced them with Solomon STH 13 bindings. They are advertised as easy to put on in deep snow and they are right!.

 

I am 10 years younger than the OPs dad and a very experienced skier, but if I fall on the flats I have to take one ski off in order to get up. LOL

post #15 of 37

The Beginner Magic program at Snowmass includes boots, skis, poles and helmets.  The people in the rental shop have been trained to get people in the right size boots.  If the boots are uncomfortable, students can pop into the shop and replace them in a couple of minutes and be back in the class.  We use short skis - 125-136 cm for the first couple of days. Instructors use short skis as well.   This seems to work really well and puts people in a great learning environment.    I am not sure what bindings are on the ski but people do not seem to have a problem taking their skis off.

 

The greatest advantage is to have a whole area complete with a chair lift for new skiers.   It is nice that you don't have to worry about people skiing by at fast speeds.  It allows people to focus on what they are doing.   

post #16 of 37
I don't even evaluate whether the slope is steep enough, I just take one ski off. My last two falls were both instances where I was "standing still", only I wasn't. Did a pole plant next to the downhill ski. Oops. Maybe if I had more practice it wouldn't feel like I was going to tear an ACL or something in my knee, but my average falls per season (FPS) for the last 26 years is 1.96. If we don't have a decent winter, I might not fall at all.

I don't think I'm quite there yet, but as I age falls concern me more and more. Don't want to break a hip and end my skiing career forever. I did have a friend ski until he was ninety, but he stopped last year. I can't imagine starting in my seventies!
post #17 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by bttocs View Post

 

Agree that falling is more likely in fresh snow, but they aren't willing to take their skis off to get up easily??  I do have some bindings that are a PITA to get off and then back on, (Marker Jesters for instance), but I have been using some Solamon STH13 bindings that make that a piece of cake. I hope I don't get to that point when I get old.

 

They don't have the quad strength and physical strength to get up in the snow on a slope - even without their skis I assume.

post #18 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post
....my average falls per season (FPS) for the last 26 years is 1.96. If we don't have a decent winter, I might not fall at all.

 

 

You and I both keep detailed logs, so I wouldn't be surprised if this was a real number.  I don't log my falls.

post #19 of 37

@fosphenytoin : when was the last time your father was in weather cold enough to not melt snow?  Meaning 20's.  If you do decide to get him on snow, definitely better to go during spring season.  What works well for younger kids also works well for seniors not living in cold climates.

post #20 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

@fosphenytoin : when was the last time your father was in weather cold enough to not melt snow?  Meaning 20's.  If you do decide to get him on snow, definitely better to go during spring season.  What works well for younger kids also works well for seniors not living in cold climates.


2 years ago when he was here to visit me.  Maybe March will be a better time?  

post #21 of 37
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for taking the time to share your thoughts.

 

The question is: have a chinese instructor vs. ski at a terrain primarily for beginners (e.g. Snowmass), which is more important?  I will defer the question to him.  

 

I have some reservation at WB, primarily because of the condition (can get icy in mid mtn and slushy in the lower part, and some parts of the green trials have fairly steep pitch).  I never been to Snowmass so I don't know.

 

@MrGolfAnalogy:  good question: "The main question for me would be if he is physically and emotionally capable of sustaining a fall, or even multiple falls?"

Honestly, I am not sure if he is capable physically and mentally to sustain a fall (or multiple). With that said, do you think it is probably not a good idea?

During our recent glacier walk, he almost lost balance but did not fall.  After that, he knew what he needed to do (how to avoid slipping) and was fine.  He does have strong quad and good balance from practicing tai chi.  

 

I don't have big expectations or plans for my father, given his age.  All I want is, have him to get a sense of: with a pair of skis on, how does it feel like sliding down a hill.  Since he wonders all the time what that feels like, and asks me often. 

What I have in mind is, start a private 1-on-1 at our local PA small hill, for lesson or two.  See how he'll manage, then see if a trip out west is possible.  I think put him in a destination mtn at the first get go can be daunting and overwhelming.  He is easy to get overwhelmed.  

 

@SkiMangoJazz: If he falls, I will help him to get back up for sure.  I don't expect he can manage to get back up himself.  

 

On another note, I came across this article when I was doing research on the subject.  Interesting read: THE SWISS-CHINESE SKI SCHOOL FOR A NEW SET OF TOURISTS

 

http://www.newsweek.com/2015/02/13/swiss-chinese-ski-school-new-set-tourists-310507.html


Edited by fosphenytoin - 9/30/16 at 6:23pm
post #22 of 37

I'd say that the Chinese speaking instructor part is more important. A good instructor and clear communication makes up for the ease of the terrain. And if it helps, this season Whistler is doing significant work to the learning area on Whistler Mountain, making it much more beginner friendly. 

 

 

However, it might be worth calling up your local PA hill and asking if they have an instructor who speaks Chinese? You never know.

post #23 of 37

First of all, congratulations that you have a 78yo father in good health practicing tai-chi and swimming regularly and interested in activities you enjoy. I think of all the places for your father to try out skiing, Japan would be the best country because of 1) proximity to HK with direct nonstop flight, 2) closer culturally, and 3) Niseko is most likely to have Mandarin-speaking instructors. Cantonese is much less likely.  Definitely speak to someone directly in scheduling the 1-on-1 lesson about the situation.

 

Planning a winter family trip with him AND your nephew's family sounds like an ideal vacation. Gosh, you could even include extended family members like cousins! I encourage it whole-heartedly!  Hot springs, good food, touristy destinations not too far away with a mix of skiers/non-skiers to share activities with.  I believe there are snowshoe outings too.  I know you will be eager to try powder yourself there, but perhaps warmer/sunny March with great visibility to see the perfectly shaped volcanic Mt Yotei would make it more enjoyable for all; powder snow with low visibility is not beginner friendly.  

 

BTW, does he bicycle and has he ever tried roller skating or roller blading? Not totally related, but it's similar in high speed with some risk of fall, I took my dad on an Alaskan cruise few years back when he was in his early 70's.  He hadn't been on a bike for probably 50 years, but our bike ride downhill from Yukon Territory back to Skagway was a major highlight of our trip, if not in our lives.  

I imagine your dad will be cautious.  For nothing else, he'll earn the MOST bragging rights upon returning home to friends!  :beercheer: 


Edited by Rainbow Jenny - 9/30/16 at 7:42pm
post #24 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post

 

@MrGolfAnalogy:  good question: "The main question for me would be if he is physically and emotionally capable of sustaining a fall, or even multiple falls?"

Honestly, I am not sure if he is capable physically and mentally to sustain a fall (or multiple). With that said, do you think it is probably not a good idea?

 

 

Only you have the personal experience  to evaluate your father's capabilities, the rest of us are just guessing. However, if your first answer to the question of if your father could sustain a fall is "I'm not sure", then I think you already know it may not be a good idea. Potentially his "Carnage Quota" could be one fall. At best he might just call it a day, at worst he could suffer an injury that will affect his quality of life. In a sense, we all take that risk every time we ski, but I'm not sure if there is enough upside for an elderly never ever to justify the risk. My mother is eighty three and has the constitution of a pit pony. She plays golf three times a week, year round, walks the course and carries her own bag. Despite my mother's level of activity, I would be very reluctant to expose her to an activity such as skiing. Without being overly dramatic, a simple fracture is often the end of independent life for the elderly. Sorry to appear so negative.

 

Instead, how about arranging for a back country dog sled ride through the Rockies for your father. That way he could experience the beauty of the mountains in winter and the joy of sliding over snow at speed at the same time?

 

http://www.colorado.com/articles/dog-sledding-colorado

post #25 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrGolfAnalogy View Post

 

Instead, how about arranging for a back country dog sled ride through the Rockies for your father. That way he could experience the beauty of the mountains in winter and the joy of sliding over snow at speed at the same time?

 

http://www.colorado.com/articles/dog-sledding-colorado

Good idea.  There are also dog sled rides in the northeast.  Friends from DC did one up in Maine.  Can even do it on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid once the lake freezes solid.

 

Another snow sliding activity is snow tubing.  Plenty of places to do that in the Mid-Atlantic, including Massanutten and Wintergreen.  Not the same in that the person tubing has no control related to turning or slowing down.

 

Earlier someone mentioned a variation based on what Adaptive skiers do.  Might be worth a phone call to one of the Adaptive groups near DC.

post #26 of 37
I don't think tubing is a good idea for someone of that age. Whiplash, etc.

Spring skiing can be harder than packed snow.

I've thought about this a lot and I just don't think it's a good idea. Perhaps as others have said in Japan, but the risk of injury, even if not a major injury, without health insurance in the US could be a very costly thing.

Just the ambulance to the hospital for x-rays, even if they're negative, will cost a ton of money.

Risk management being what it is and if he falls and seems hurt at all, no Ski Patrol is going to take a chance and will want him evaluated.
post #27 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz View Post

I don't think tubing is a good idea for someone of that age. Whiplash, etc.

Spring skiing can be harder than packed snow.

I've thought about this a lot and I just don't think it's a good idea. Perhaps as others have said in Japan, but the risk of injury, even if not a major injury, without health insurance in the US could be a very costly thing.

Just the ambulance to the hospital for x-rays, even if they're negative, will cost a ton of money.

Risk management being what it is and if he falls and seems hurt at all, no Ski Patrol is going to take a chance and will want him evaluated.

 

As a Canadian who regularly takes ski trips to the US, my B.C. government health insurance coverage does not extend to the USA so I always purchase additional private health insurance coverage and have had occasion to use it. Unless the OPs own health insurance covers her and her family for trips abroad, then she should also purchase additional coverage for trips to Canada and the US.

post #28 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post

....

@MrGolfAnalogy:  good question: "The main question for me would be if he is physically and emotionally capable of sustaining a fall, or even multiple falls?"

Honestly, I am not sure if he is capable physically and mentally to sustain a fall (or multiple). With that said, do you think it is probably not a good idea?

During our recent glacier walk, he almost lost balance but did not fall.  After that, he knew what he needed to do (how to avoid slipping) and was fine.  He does have strong quad and good balance from practicing tai chi.  

....

 

My elderly aunt fell and broke her hip when she was 85.  She was never able to go back home after that.  The surgical repair kept her in the hospital for a while, then she went to a nursing home for "recovery."  Her new hip healed, but she never recovered mentally.  She had spent too much time out of her home after that fall.  Being in unfamiliar surroundings left her unexpectedly confused.  Dementia either grew or revealed itself, leaving her unable to take care of herself.  She had to stay in that nursing home permanently.

 

Your dad is not as old as my aunt was.  However, if you are not sure he could handle one or more falls during his first day lesson, or if he (and you!) could not handle a trip to the emergency room, then you probably should not have him ski.  Reasons for not doing it are adding up as this thread continues.  

 

What do you think of the alternative activities that people are suggesting?

post #29 of 37

I want to reemphasize the ski limo that is available at Sun Peaks. They also offer evening rides in a snow cat. It is a 3/4 to hour long ride as a passenger in a snow cat while they groom the slopes.

post #30 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post
 

 

My elderly aunt fell and broke her hip when she was 85.  She was never able to go back home after that.  The surgical repair kept her in the hospital for a while, then she went to a nursing home for "recovery."  Her new hip healed, but she never recovered mentally.  She had spent too much time out of her home after that fall.  Being in unfamiliar surroundings left her unexpectedly confused.  Dementia either grew or revealed itself, leaving her unable to take care of herself.  She had to stay in that nursing home permanently.

 

Your dad is not as old as my aunt was.  However, if you are not sure he could handle one or more falls during his first day lesson, or if he (and you!) could not handle a trip to the emergency room, then you probably should not have him ski.  Reasons for not doing it are adding up as this thread continues.  

 

What do you think of the alternative activities that people are suggesting?


Before posting this discussion on Epicski, I did consider alternative options mentioned above, e.g. dog sledding, snow tubing, snow shoeing, adaptive ski (closest to being able to ski). But knowing my father, I know he will want to attempt to ski (given the fact that "since I am already on the slope, why not give it a try" type mentality.)  

 

One thing concerns me is, : 1) my father may not be totally aware of his limits as he age (think he is physically more fit than a 40 yr old).  2) what he thinks he likes, may not be actually what he wants.  But then, I can't say I understand my father 100% well.  Sometimes he can do things that exceed my expectations (i.e. i think he can't manage, but actually he manages fully well).  Hence I become a bit indecisive about this whole thing.  

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