By Skimum Beckie
Skimum Paula recently asked if I would write a blog post about skiing tips for women over 60. I politely refused, because, as I informed her, I am not yet 60 for a few months…So, what would I know? As she quickly extracted the ski boot out of her mouth and mumbled something about 50+ women, I laughed, relented and agreed so she could save face and we could get on the slopes.
This is my first season back on the mountain after a 7-year hiatus. Skiing was always what I was going to do when I had time, or when there was great snow, or when my house was clean, or when there were no lines, or when I had more money, … sunny day, bills paid, etc. It took until I retired from 34 years of counseling hormone enraged tweenagers in local schools and found a great group of skiing women for me to remember what I was missing.
OK, confessions of a skier over 50… When I met up with the Skimums for the first time in January I admit I was a bit anxious not knowing whether my body was going to meet expectations. I wasn’t the oldest on the mountain, but I knew many of these women and wanted to keep up with them — and I did. Like riding a bike (or my Italian scooter; yes, I ride a scooter off the mountain), my body remembered the flex, the balance, the movement required to glide down the slopes. It also occurred to me that in skiing (unlike sunbathing), gravity is your friend, and good skiers of any age take advantage of it. So, I didn’t try to do too much at first, because while skiing isn’t any different at 50 (or 40 or 30 or 20 – physics is physics), it woke parts of my body that have been hibernating for some time. So, I was a bit tired and knew when to stop, but I had a great time and was hooked. Each week, I’ve skied longer and better. Aside from the social aspects (these Skimums are very, very funny – must be the adrenaline), I felt stronger and more accomplished each time. In case you’re wondering whether I’m a triathlete, GOODNESS NO, but I do work out twice a week with a trainer and keep active with the typical Salt Lake pursuits, e.g., hiking, biking, meeting friends, things I know keep me happy and healthy.
The biggest difference between skiing when I was younger to skiing now is the equipment. I skied in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s…. I was the girl that skied in Levi’s and a matching jacket to look cool. I was cool – actually, freezing cold! Helmets were unheard of, and only geeks or racers wore goggles. Times have changed, fashions have changed, and technology has made it easier and more comfortable for people of any age to ski Snowbird. Today’s skis, for example, make flying down Path to Paradise or carving through Black Forest or floating through the powder in the Rasta Chutes much, much easier. Yes, I can do all of those things today, things I’m not sure I could do as well when I was in my 20s! My “old” skis (circa 2005) were straight, long and heavy, and the only “rocker” I knew of sat on my porch with the cats. So, while I considered myself a good strong skier in the past, the newer, wider parabolic skis have me widening my stance a bit, giving me more stability and, actually, more comfort, control and confidence. Yes, I needed to create new muscle memory, but the newer skis make it much easier to ski various terrain and are definitely on my wish list for next season.
The other big gear issue was that my old boots killed my feet. During one of Skimums’ lessons, our Mountain School “coach” said something incredibly profound, “It’s hard to ski, especially ski well, when you can’t see and your feet hurt!” Well, this may seem like a “duh” statement to most, but the only “duh” was why was I waiting to do something about it. Some Skimums introduced me to Chris at Incline Foot Science where he custom fit my ski boots, which may seem ridiculous for a non-competitive 50+ skier, but I’m exactly the person who benefits the most from a fitted boot (or liner or insole) in terms of comfort, warmth and performance – things that will keep me skiing into my 80s and beyond. After a few days on the mountain, they started to feel pretty good, and my skiing started to look even better.
Why is skiing so important to me at this time in my life? For three decades, I’ve been working with teens, and now hospice patients, and their families trying to help them find their power and positive paths during life and their dignity at the end. For me, living in a town where I can get on the slopes within 30 minutes, get to the summit in another 12 and just stop, breathe and sail to the bottom with friends, many of whose children I watched grow, fills me with a sense of peace and wonder. It’s like being a kid again. Skiing has brought this to my life. This is the Mountain of Youth.