This edition of Short Swings! is dedicated to the many readers who generously donated during the fundraiser. The funds will help us continue to send you, free, original articles and other content created specifically for older snowsports participants. Thank you!

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As in other areas of our culture, we older skiers become less and less visible as we age. You may not have noticed this if you’re in your fifties or sixties. But become a septuagenarian or older, and it becomes obvious. Some cultures honor, respect and value the experience and wisdom that often accompanies longevity. There are exceptions, but it is less common in ours.

Bluebird.                                                               Artist: Aaron Hazel

French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir argued that aging isn’t only biological decline; societal ageist discrimination helps add insult to that injury. These and other observations by Beauvoir about the psychological effects of aging appear in an article by Skye C. Cleary in the March 11 edition of aeon, the free online magazine exploring big issues in science, philosophy, society and the arts.

According to Beauvoir, while, inside, we may not feel old, others judge us as old when they look upon our faces and bodies. That helps form a context in which we’re excluded.

Obviously, you won’t feel that alienation in the lift line or on the slope. But get into a conversation with younger people on a gondola where you’re face-to-face, and it’s quickly evident.

A few weeks ago, on a long gondola ride at Park City, I was, by far, the oldest. One couple was in their forties. The others were in their twenties. I broke the ice by asking if they were visiting. Once they recognized my age (one of them may have asked), I was promptly left out of the conversation.

Beauvoir wrote, “There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning – devotion to individuals, to groups or to causes, social, political, intellectual or creative work.”

I agree with her thinking but would add one more factor for good measure. Do what you do well and to the best of your ability.

When I exited the gondola and clicked into my skis, I saw that several of the youngsters who had excluded me from the conversation were standing nearby, looking at the old guy with whom they had ridden up. I took some slow, graceful turns down the edge of the steep trail…my quiet way of giving them the classic one-finger salute.

Cautionary Tale

Reader David Engel was hit while skiing. He’s been told it’s unlikely that his shoulder can be repaired. Read the following (slightly edited) account he posted in Comments and his appeal to ski areas to take action to improve on-snow safety:

On a recent ski trip to Northstar, California, I was skiing on Burnout, an easy black diamond groomer with a friend. We were skiing at a moderate speed, working on our technique and staying well clear of other skiers.

After trips to the emergency room, to other doctors, x-rays and meetings with surgeons, I’ve learned that it is unlikely my shoulder can ever be repaired. A separated clavicle and three torn ligaments causes my arm to hang limply. Prior to this, I was an avid rock climber and raft guide, even at age 66. The surgeon said that I should wait 6-12 months, and if I decide surgery is needed, there is still a 30% failure rate.

A teenage girl skiing out of control has changed the trajectory of my life.

I write this because it’s imperative that ski patrol, courtesy patrols and ski instructors start to take an active role in stopping skiers/boarders from skiing out of control. There needs to be an enforcement of a safe area around each snow participant. There is no need to pass within 20 feet of someone else. This is a very serious situation that winter resorts MUST start to enforce.

Now I live a compromised life because ski areas are not taking enforcement of safe skiing rules seriously. Safe skiing can only result if all those involved in the ski industry take this seriously and stop out of control and wild skiers/boarders.

Ski Town Game-Changer

Vail Resorts announced that a $20 minimum wage is being instituted at its 37 North American resorts. The minimum for Patrol, maintenance technicians and drivers will be $21. The much-needed increases should give VR a hiring advantage and, hopefully, cause other resorts to up their minimums.

RIP: Suzy Harris Rytting

Suzy Harris Rytting        Source: J. Willard Marriott Digital Library

 

In the 1940s and 50s, Suzy Harris Rytting was one of America’s greatest feamale ski racers, winning one important event after another. She was a member of the 1950 US Women’s FIS Team and the 1952 US Olympic Team. While training for the Games in Oslo, she and her husband learned she was in her early days of pregnancy. Doctors cleared her to race, but Avery Brundage, in his first year as president of the International Olympic Committee, was outraged upon learning of her situation. She was removed from the US team and sent home. Born January 21, 1930, she passed away February 28, 2022.

The Future of Skiing?

A ski through the park.

An article about Big Sky in the March 15 edition of The New York Times suggests that the resort’s modern lifts, vast terrain, and high ticket prices provide a glimpse into the future of successful ski resorts. Like so many other prognostications, there may be some of truth in the piece. High prices are a barrier to access, which, combined with thousands of acres of terrain, keep slopes and trails uncrowded. But doesn’t that run against the industry’s current emphasis on making skiing more accessible and inclusionary?

Happy Birthday, Bob!

Happy 98th, Bob!!!                                                           Photo: George Ramjoue

At 98, Bob Murdoch of Salt Lake City is the oldest member of Alta’s Wild Old Bunch. Many of his fellow WOBs showed up a few weeks ago to help celebrate his birthday. Even though he hung up his boards a few seasons back, he enjoys memories of many years on Utah’s trails.

The Failure of the Mt Hood Skiway

The Mt Hood Skiway was a bizarre engineering project intended to transport skiers and tourists from the small community of Government Camp, Ore to Timberline Lodge. This video tells the story of its creation, its short life, and its demise.

 

4 Comments

  1. Cansnowplow says:

    Dave Engel’s experience of collision has got to be a ratio of catastrophic injury instead of just being splayed. Those lucky rise up off the snow and go about being shaken but uninjured while having just encountered a runaway tractor trailer (out-of-control) skier/snowboarder. I too, was clipped from behind and knocked down, not knowing what happened. I was totally unsuspected of being struck down by a man who was a beginning beginner (as I had passed him 20 seconds before being clipped, hundreds of feet up hill.) This beginner was on a blue square’s steepest pitch. No yell, no sound, no warning was made. He watched me get up and said “are you OK?” I think this clipping offense has been occurring throughout the generations of our ski industry. To try regulating it would be similar to steps made necessary in getting your class 1 drivers license.

  2. Paul Lucke says:

    This is not just a USA problem. My wife gave up skiing several years ago after suffering a series of wipe-outs from out of control boarders in the French Alps. I discovered boarder-free skiing at Alta and persuaded her to try again there with me. She felt a lot safer but couldn’t cope with the altitude so she finally gave up. My solution to the problem has been small-group skiing exclusively off-piste, in the trees and on steeps and bump runs. avoiding crowded easy blue groomers which have the highest collision-risk. My experience at Vail-owned resorts is Colorado is that they designate with barriers and signage that crowded popular routes are “slow skiing areas” and station monitors to watch for and chase after offenders who can lose their pass on the spot. My impression is that this approach is effective but probably resource-limited unless volunteers can be recruited. The key issue is often that the out of control skier is out with more skilled friends and he or they just haven’t realised that his skill set is not suffient to keep him and other skiers safe in the prevailing conditions.

  3. Victor Polonski says:

    A few weeks ago, I was at Sun Valley going up on the gondola with two of my friends (also in their 70’s). There were 4 “kids” with us (probably teens or early 20’s). We had great conversations especially about where to ski since we had never been there. Sometimes the younger generations isn’t so bad.

    • Victor,

      Good point. Today at Steamboat a thirty something skier went across a trail without looking up. Fortunately, the senior skier moving at a good clip was able to avoid the offender. The offender had no idea why the downhill skier yelled at him to look up.

      Part of the problem is that younger skiers don’t seem to be being taught the rules of the hill by experienced skiers as I was years ago. Skiing with my granddaughters (6 and 7.5) I am constantly reinforcing the rules, reminding them that when they stop they are no longer skiers and must look uphills before starting, again, etc.

      Also at Steamboat, a 10ish year old, clearly on a ski team, was racing down a run. He doesn’t understand that when he does that in a race it is a closed course and he shouldn’t do that on an open run. Have his coached never explained this?

      Enough rambling!

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