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Skiing keeps seniors young at heart

Alison Taylor checks out Canada's, and Whistler's, largest-growing skier demographic - seniors.



Before the days of shaped skis and step-in bindings, before graphite-sintered bases and polar fleece, Joan Deeks got her first pair of skis – wooden with no edges.

She was nine years old, learning to ski in the Ottawa Valley back when Whistler was little more than a handful of fishing lodges.

Sixty years later Deeks is still skiing, with about 60 days on the mountains this season. That’s not something to be scoffed at especially for someone who was out of commission for January and the beginning of February with a broken arm.

"I love to ski," said the soft-spoken Deeks at the Rendezvous on Blackcomb. "I love to be on the mountain."

At 69 years old Deeks is just one of almost 100 members of Whistler-Blackcomb’s Seniors Ski Team. Sure, they’re not the youngest bunch on the mountain, most likely not the fastest, the coolest or the strongest either. But they are keen to keep on skiing and are arguably having the most fun on the mountains while they’re at it.

In the highly competitive ski industry, seniors like these are becoming an increasingly important demographic for ski resorts like Whistler-Blackcomb that are eager to keep aging skiers on the mountain.

The baby boomers are getting older. They are seen as the ones with time on their hands and, more often than not, the money in their pockets to afford the sport.

Resort operators know it’s critical to keep aging skiers and today’s seniors on the slopes.

You don’t have to ask Whistler’s Seniors Ski Team twice; they’re raring to go.

On a beautiful blue-sky day when the fresh untouched corduroy sparkles and beckons, they gather at their meeting place beneath the Rendezvous on Blackcomb Mountain. There are no crowds on the mountain, no lift lines. It is shaping up to be a perfect ski day.

They meet briefly only to separate into 14 different "teams" and head off wherever they fancy. Some are going to tackle the double black diamond runs in Spanky’s Ladder for the first time, others are heading up to the Blackcomb Glacier. After today some of them will be able to say they’ve skied the Couloir Extreme, others the Blow Hole.

Today Coach Wendell Moore takes his seven-member team towards 7th Heaven. They stop on the way there for some warm up exercises. And though, like Deeks, many of these skiers have 30, 40, 50 years experience under their helmets, there is always something new to learn.

Moore puts them through the paces, warming up their muscles, reminding them of the cardinal rule of skiing – balance.

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