Getting the chance to ski with Klaus Obermeyer during his 91st year was an opportunity not to be missed. The ski legend helped turn the eyes of the world onto Aspen, Colorado and invented double ski boots and down jackets, among a long list of contributions to our sport. When I met him in Aspen in April and he was in a good mood – he’d only missed a couple of days of skiing all winter. Over breakfast Klaus told me:
“The best thing about skiing. The very best thing about skiing - is that it is such a great family sport. An Olympian can go skiing with their kid and both can have fun.”
We had a big breakfast and then he drove, wearing his ski boots, to his VIP slope-side parking space. After getting off of the gondola, Klaus stepped quickly into his skis and accelerated away from the lift. I leaned on my ski poles to catch up, and started chasing the sturdy figure, white hair and white, form-fitting Obermeyer ski jacket turning heads left and right. As the run steepened, I caught him, but stayed behind to see how a 90-year-old skier approached a run. The best I can explain it, is that he let the run come to him, rather than him chasing the run. At the lower angled sections, he slowly opened up his speed, letting the skis run at the optimal carve and speed to make the pitch as pleasant as possible. When steep sections appeared on the horizon, he gradually slowed to conservative sweeping turns and I would find myself abruptly putting on the brakes while he smoothly adjusted his speed. Then, as the angle lessened, he would effortlessly conserve momentum from the steeps and race out into the flats, leaving me working to keep up.
He skied Aspen Mountain top to bottom without stopping or even once looking over his shoulder to see if I was with him.
“When the snow is good, can you still ski double blacks?” I asked him, once we sat down in the gondola.
“Of course.” He replied.
Back on the lift I asked him, “What’s your trick to staying so capable for so long?”
“Keep doing sports.”
After three hours of showing me around his home turf, Klaus went in for his daily swim. In the summer he switches his skis for a tennis racket, but swims year-round.
Klaus lives the mantra, “If you don’t use it, nature takes it away from you - very quickly.”
To put it all in perspective, the next day, I went skiing with my 3-year-old twin son and daughter. When a friendly loft operator asked me how old they were, I realized there was an 87-year difference in my ski partners from one day to the next.
I told the lifty they were 3, and that the day before I had skied with a 90-year-old. He replied, laughing, “Now that’s a great sport!”
Klaus and the lifty are both right.
If you agree, and have kids who are good skiers, check out CMH Family Heli-Ski Trips for an unforgettable family holiday.