Something in the Water

On December 15, 2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

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.


Seasonal Living

On December 7, 2011, in Uncategorized, by admin

I learned an awful lot my freshman year of college: Psychology 101 was more interesting than English Composition 101 (minor issue: I was an English major).  Dining hall meals, while survivable, aren’t Mom’s cooking.  Laundry doesn’t do itself.  Peppermint schnapps doesn’t mix… with anything.  And depending on the weather for anything important can make you crazy.

This last lesson was brought home to me that winter, when I worked at Sport House in Campton as a sales person.  The early winter was classic New England: a wet fall, early snow, decent Christmas week, and a catastrophic January thaw.  The mountain recovered for February vacation, but March brought unprecedented warm temperatures and hard rains.  Skiers returning rental skis to the shop in the afternoons were somewhat shaken and told tales of having to jump crevasses on Valley Run to make it back to the base.  My winter job ended a month earlier than planned, which wasn’t entirely a bad thing if you were a college freshman unaccustomed to having weekends off.

It was a valuable life lesson, though… at 18, I thought I had my life pretty well planned:  I’d work in a ski shop and dabble in writing and photography until I somehow magically broke into skiing photojournalism as a career.  What could be easier?  That spring, I figured out that I really didn’t have the constitution to have my livelihood dependent on the whims of New England weather.  I got a job in the psychology department’s rat lab and consigned skiing back to hobby status.

I am reminded of all this by the upside-down weather we’ve been enduring the last few weeks.  First, a decent cold snap, which allowed Waterville Valley and other ski areas to get a good jump on snowmaking, especially at higher elevations.  That was unfortunately followed by a warm spell — which broke just in time for a dandy ten-inch snow storm on Thanksgiving Eve.  Waterville opened on High Country for a great first weekend (Bob Fries told me they were just 100 feet short of opening down to Northside.  One more night of snowmaking… but they ran out of cold).  The snowpack held up splendidly through the holiday weekend’s warm temperatures, though it was more like late March then late November.  Unfortunately, the topsy-turvy weather has continued, with more warm, then hard rains and big winds last week, and more rain and fog this week.

The weather has oscillated between snow-making cold and April-warm-and-rainy.  The Resort has done a great job of dealing with the fickle conditions, but in the end, we really just need winter to make up its mind and settle in for good.  The latest weather forecast promises some snow tonight and colder temperatures for the foreseeable future.  We should finally be able to get on with the season — but I know I made the right call all those years ago when I surrendered my dreams of life in the ski-industry.  I just haven’t got the constitution for it.


 It’s that time of year again — the Waterville Valley Foundation will be sending out our Annual Appeal letter.  We trust we have met your expectations for the stewardship of your donations, and hope you’ll consider once again supporting us as we seek to support the things that make Waterville Valley unique.  In the mean time, I want to once again thank Waterville Valley Realty and Roper Real Estate for their ongoing support: we have received generous donations from both agencies in recent weeks.  Their donations, combined with generous gifts from several private donors, mean we’re off to a good start for 2012, but we still need your help!