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Skiing at 80 …

Posted by Heather Burke  February 27, 2012 10:22 AM

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Yesterday at Wildcat, the wind howled and blew the 6-9 inches of fresh snow around in furious whirls as we skied down the un-crowded slopes. The strong winds must have kept most skiers at home on this otherwise sunny and super scenic day at Wildcat, because there were no lift lines on a February vacation week Sunday, even with a fresh coating of snow.

Despite no lines, Greg and I were glad to have a gentleman join us on the Wildcat Express quad, for his companionship of course, but also his help weighing down the chair in the brisk wind at the 4,062' summit. I immediately noticed the 80+ Ski Club patch on his jacket, and struck up a conversation during our lift ascent (it's what I do). Frank Davis, of Madison NH, admitted he gets about 40 days a season, lots of runs too. He was "bummed" that if Wildcat's speedy summit quad went on wind hold, he would not get his usual 26 runs.

I told Davis that was an impressive number of ski runs in a day at any age. He said he had just spent the previous week at Stowe Vermont, and skied 133 runs in five days, tracking a whopping 273,000' vertical. Davis said, "I was skiing with my grandkids (ages 25 and 27 by the way), and I told them there is no time for stopping, we do our talking on the chairlift."

Davis was going to ski Loon the following day, he had all the deals worked out on where to ski, and when. I asked him what was his secret to skiing so vigorously at 80? He replied, as our chair ride ended, "It’s all in the genes." Then he smiled and said, "Just don’t wear ‘em too tight."

What can I say; Davis was my inspiration for the rest of the ski day. The wind would not die down, but we did not either. We skied all of Wildcat’s scenic, well groomed runs (all with clever cat names like Bobcat, Feline, Cheetah, and Catnap), and a few soft snowy glades off Wild Kitten too. After all, it would have seemed wimpy if we had let the wind gusts keep us from getting our 20,000+ Wildcat vertical, if an eighty year old guy can do it.

Photos of Wildcat by Greg Burke Feb 26, 2012

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Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.

Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at and


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