Here is the latest post from Waterville Valley blogger laureate, Andy Knight.
Back when we were weekend commuters, I really looked forward to Friday night arrival, when we would unload the car and transfer sleepy kids to bed, then settle down for a few minutes’ relaxation before we fell into bed ourselves. We had a little ritual that involved shaking a small batch of martinis and sitting quietly on the couch to decompress. After we brushed our teeth, I had my own ritual, too: I would drink several glasses of cold, clear, fresh Waterville Valley water, and bring one to the bedside table. It always tasted just “right” to me, and after a week of Boston tap water, I felt like I was at home in the mountains again. I reversed the process (sans martinis) on Sunday night or Monday morning before we’d head south again: car loaded, I would sweep the condo, then stop to drink a couple glasses of water, a tonic to sustain me through the week.
Several mornings this week, I found myself out on the mountain with the weekday morning die-hards, making early season turns on the steadily improving snow. There were the usual complement of BBTS/WVA racers, training and drilling along the edge of High Country. There were a smattering of guests, thrilled to be skiing but wondering where the other trails were hiding. And there was a cadre from the Silver Streaks, Waterville Valley’s season-long ski program for skiers 50 years of age and up. All morning long each weekday, the Streaks meet to ski together, mixing and matching and socializing for the chair ride up, but skiing quite seriously all the way down.
As I watched these skiers — some a little older than me, and some my parents’ age — carving graceful turns down the hill, I saw a spectrum of techniques from a modified wedeln (probably learned from a Swiss instructor in the 1950s) to a thoroughly modern race-turn. I also saw something that would make most demographers smile and scratch their heads. These people were the definition of “active older adults”.
I thought about my many older neighbors in Waterville Valley, and was struck by their collective energy and robust good health. I thought about Doctors Suzi and Phil Boulter — Suzi was my pediatrician when I first moved to Concord, NH about four decades back (I am sure she was a child prodigy) — who are master athletes on and off snow. I thought about Nate Grifkin’s long, graceful GS turns. I thought about Harry Notowitz and Brenda Conklin, who climb peaks and maintain trails with unparalleled energy. And I thought about Toni Fallon, working her way into the Coyote Grill with slow, deliberate steps and holding my arm lightly, telling me she’d had to retire from skiing and tennis a couple years back, and how much she’d missed it.
What is it about Waterville Valley that draws and sustains so many vigorous older athletes? Is it something in the water? The statistician in me knows that this is a highly self-selected group. You don’t find suburban mall, Rascal-riding seniors here. The environment just doesn’t support that species. Instead, you find an environment that encourages active play, and a cohort to do it with. You find friends who will form a league or a team or a ride group, and better athletes willing to coach and provide advice and support while you buck the odds and get better. You find a resort that values active older adults, with programs like the Silver Streaks and tennis teams for all abilities. And you find something else very important: role models for aging well and gracefully.
I am pretty sure that the water doesn’t hurt, either.