By: Jackson Hogen
Published: September 25, 2017
A scene from the timeless classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail immortalized this mild protest from an unfortunate soul about to be tossed on a cart of medieval plague victims: “I’m not dead yet.”
The lesson of this poignant vignette is, until the plague cart rolls up to your stoop, you’re still in the game. Don’t let aches in your body and voices in your head spur you to the premature judgment that you’ve become plague-cart fodder.
This admonition is addressed to my many senior subscribers who begin their thumbnail bios – the necessary preamble to any request for ski buying advice – with a recitation of the things they can no longer do. They couch their negativity in the soothing balm of reason, referring to their decline like it was a Law of Nature.
Of course, they’re right. There are realities that can’t be avoided.
To age is inevitable. To let aging interfere with your skiing is not.
Of course you can no longer jump as high as you once did – explosive power is one of the first things to go – and moguls drain your tank faster than they did during your heyday.
Your esteemed Editor matching turns with fellow senior and co-author of Snowbird Secrets, “Guru” Dave Powers.
But don’t tell me you can’t still ski groomers or powder or even crud, as long as it’s not the consistency of petrified tofu.
I realize you’ve lost some flexibility, maybe a lot of flexibility. But flexibility and balance are attributes that can be recovered with a modicum of diligence and direction.
And no doubt there have been injuries during life’s journey. Who hasn’t had an ACL reconstruction, a ruptured disc or perhaps a joint replacement?
Did you have those surgeries so you could spend your last chapters cocooned in front of the TV as your body, mind and soul rot into desiccated shells?
It seems everyone is trying desperately to live longer, yet we all act shocked when we succeed. Uncertain how to proceed past a threshold we didn’t expect to cross, we’re tempted to retreat, count our blessings and content ourselves with dining out and crossword puzzles.
I’m not suggesting skiing is a portal to the Fountain of Youth, I’m stating it. On modern equipment, you adopt a stance that puts mild pressure on your shins, stand in the middle of your skis and point them where you want to go. It’s as complicated as walking, only less stressful. You can go 30mph in silken snow with less effort than it takes to open a can of beans, and you’ll feel, if only for a few moments, like time stood still.
For those of you worried about the ravages of age and infirmity, be emboldened by the examples of septuagenarians who rip. There’s an informal Breakfast Club that convenes every morning around 10:00 at the Forklift, just off the Snowbird Plaza, after having consumed several thousand vertical feet of Wasatch white gold. (Hi to Walter, Neil, Pete, Scott and of course, the Goo.) They can’t imagine doing anything else.
Every big mountain, hell, every little mountain has a similar clutch of seniors who manufacture turns every day, rather than excuses why they can’t. Do they ski exactly as they did in the halcyon days of youth? No. Are their motivations the same? Unlikely.
But the child within still revels in the ineffable joy of skiing.
It’s no revelation to say that our society undervalues its eldest members, a bias evident in how suppliers, resorts and industry institutions communicate about their brands and our sport. The focus is always growth, understandable in a business with a steadily eroding base, and growth means youth.
But youth doesn’t participate as an isolated stratum of society. If skiing plans to grow by appealing to youth and youth alone, good luck penetrating the social media fog that envelops them. The young ski because families ski, and last time I checked, families include seniors.
Families are the spine and sinew of our sport, yet the grandparent contingent is a largely forgotten part of the program, despite comprising 20% of the active population. Senior skiers may not represent the future, but they’re the reason the lights are still on today.