Part Six: Jan and Judy Become Senior Skiers.

We moved to Utah in 1966 when we were in our early thirties. We retired in 1996 in our early sixties, and now we are in our eighties, still skiing what is hyped as “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”  It’s a catchy slogan and mostly true.

Many of our best skiing memories are of powder days, bluebird days, and especially Bluebird powder days, but there are also memories of less-ideal days.

Like the time Judy and I were evacuated from a quad at Solitude on a cold blustery morning. Some essential part failed, leaving us along with about one hundred other skiers stuck half say up. It’s an interesting experience to be lowered from a dangling chair by rope and pulley.

Or the time I lost our granddaughter Rosalie at Deer Valley when she was eight years old. I was half way down a trail before I realized that she had not followed me. I headed to the nearest lift, while Rosalie appealed to a host for help. When I returned to the summit I found her in the ski patrol cabin petting the rescue dogs and having a snack.

From the same year here is Rosalie leading Grandpa and Grandma down a run at Brighton. She’s wearing her trademark panda helmet cover.

Then there was the time when I got lost in thick fog at Snowbasin guiding a visiting friend. After twice failing to find the fog poles to lead us back to the main base area, ending up at Strawberry base instead, we appealed to the patrol. The sent over two snowmobiles, and the hair-raising ride to safety at top speed was almost as scary as skiing in the fog.

I got to ski with my brother Tor again in the Rockies when he came out for visits.

Not all of our skiing has been in Utah. From 1999 through 2016 Judy and I did a dozen downhill skiing Elderhostel trips (aka Road Scholar), including Schweitzer Mountain, Sun Valley, Big Sky, Smugglers’ Notch, Steamboat, Grand Targhee, Crested Butte, and Telluride. We drove to all the western sites except for Lake Tahoe North and Winter Park which we reached via Amtrak.

After joining the International Skiing History Association we attended several of their annual gatherings, including Sun Valley, Aspen, and Vail. At the ISHS event at Park City in 2014 I met Jon Weisberg and learned about SeniorsSkiing.com.

Our ISHA connection led to a couple of group ski trips to Europe led by Penny Pitou, 1960 Squaw Valley Olympian. We went with her to Chamonix (2007) and to Zermatt (2009). Here is the obligatory tourist photo from the second trip.

In August 2008 Judy and I fulfilled a lifelong dream by skiing at Portillo. And then, finally, in 2015, we qualified for free skiing at Alta when we had both passed 80 years old. Here we are celebrating the occasion, now on modern fat skis but still using bamboo poles, retro creations by Soul Poles in Park City.

Becoming Alta senior skiers also required joining the notorious Wild Old Bunch. I’m posing here with two fellow WOB members, all in our Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic volunteer jackets. That’s George Ramjoue in blue and Larry Weir in yellow. We never did find anyone in the fourth color, red, to pose with us.

That brings us up to the curtailed season of 2019-20 and the COVID-diminished present season. Last season I managed 55 days, closing out at Powder Mountain on March 16, 2019, after which all local areas shut down. This season I had a bout with gout, so have skied only sixteen days before seeking treatment and laying off sports. Meanwhile, Judy has knee issues and is not skiing this season. But we did get to Alta one sunny day to picnic in the parking lot and talk to other skiers, and we hope to ski into our 90s. I’ve already renewed one of our season passes, and more will follow.

No more reports, though. Thanks for reading.

13 Comments

  1. Jan, well done and keep up the healthy living so you can enjoy skiing for years to come. I hope Judy’s knee strengthens up so she can ski with you. I have 27 years before I can become an Alta sr skier but am working out now so I can realistically look forward to that day.

  2. Stewart Kriss says:

    There must be magic in those mountains! You guys look great. Best of health and happy skiing for many more years

  3. Tom Lott Lott says:

    Fascinating stories. Thanks!

  4. Thank you for this look into wonderful lives.
    Be well and ski on.

  5. Bernie Krasnoff says:

    Wonderful and inspiring story! Killington, where I moved to 19 years ago, identifies a super senior as 80 and above – and charges $ 59 for a super senior season pass. I look forward to reaching in 2022, Killington’s Super Senior status. Bluebird sky days, fantastic snow and relatively few people makes March my favorite time to ski. Glad to read of Judy and your plans to continue skiing.

  6. George Ramjoue says:

    Great story Jan! You have had quite an adventure living your life and skiing with your loved ones and friends has made that possible. You wrote a great article and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventures and your brief bio. I loved seeing the photo of the three of us, you, Larry and myself again. What great memories. I hope to bump into you before the season ends in the parking lot of Alta. You take care my friend. George

  7. Roger Evans says:

    Nice story…I too have been nearly ill in the Strawberry Bowl from the crazy whiteouts…I’ve had to look down to see if I was moving. One time two ladies traversed by in the opposite direction, blown by the wind. Very confusing. Another time I called the patrol to ask if they would look for a friend, probably lying beside the run, barfing. He showed up at the base looking light green. But Utah does have beautiful skiing…as the saying goes “do you prefer good weather or good snow?” Ski on, ladies!

  8. Rob Washington says:

    You’re stories are inspiring and remind me of my many trips on an in the white stuff… From helicopters to powder cats From 5 star hotel rooms to crowded A frames it’s all part of the grand experience right? Having been an instructor for many years I was smart enough not to teach my kids and grand kids to ski, but what seems like tens of thousands of dollars later they can follow me or should I say I can follow them on almost any “slope within the ropes” if you know what I mean!

  9. Keith Egan says:

    Thanks for the memories, I enjoyed the entire series. You two are very lucky and have sure had a fun life. We will try to emulate that except for losing grandkids.

  10. Alice Kane says:

    Thanks for these wonderful stories! I remember that when I first started skiing, many years ago, some areas in the N. East had “Free Skiing for those 55 & OVER!” Can you imagine how many areas would be ‘in the poorhouse’ now?!?!?!?!?! Bwahahahaha. Enjoy all your future ski seasons. 😀

  11. Patti Farkas says:

    I just started in the “80+” skiing at Alta this year, which was my husband’s 8th year! It’s a great benefit, as I doubt that we could afford a lift ticket nowadays. It does confine us to Alta, but there’s nothing to complain about there, and this has been a great ski year for us midweek, non-holiday skiers who fly all the way from PA for our annual 10 weeks in Utah.

  12. Win Stebbins says:

    Great life skiing stories Jan! What interests me is not only the memory of ski runs, but also the ski areas and the view riding up and/or skiing down. Being in the fresh air is wonderful, and getting a racoon tan just adds to the wonderful memories. I learned to ski at age 4 or 5 in our Lansing back yard, and you, your parents, and both brothers also joined us. Wonderful Start to a lifetime of Great Memories!

  13. I love Portillo, Chile, too……Ready to return!
    I welcome more suggestions from happy seniors who love to ski…..and travel and dine!

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