Our three-person team clambered onto the gondola at the base of the mountain. A young woman on the ski lift looked up at my gray hair, then down at my snowboard boots and made a comment I’ve heard before: “You’re the oldest snowboarder I’ve ever seen.”
She had a point — I was born a few weeks ahead of D-Day — but the two friends who were with me are hardly spring chickens either: Dick Zellner is 78, and Joe Ptacek is 71.
We three tend to move from one resort to another. In deciding where to go next, we naturally look for ski areas that offer soaring mountain vistas and a decent bar or two. But we also consider each resort’s “respect for the elderly” — that is, how much of a price break we get.
We first discovered this consideration a few years back, at a mountain ski resort in New Mexico. As we approached the window to buy our lift tickets, a great day got even greater. A big sign read: “70 and Over Ski Free.”
Dick and I easily qualified for the free tickets, but Joe was a mere boy of 68 at the time, so he did not. Naturally, Joe made the argument that we are a team — we call ourselves the Medicare Ski Team — and thus should split the $70 cost of his lift ticket. We voted 2 to 1 not to do that.
We three old friends have been hiking, biking, skiing and drinking fine wines together for decades now. In summer, we used to climb mountains, but over time those excursions became too strenuous for our aging joints, despite replacement parts. When snow season comes, though, we’re still drawn to the slopes. As I’m zipping through a snowy glade on my board, I feel lucky that we live near the Rocky Mountains and can still enjoy them at our age. But I feel entitled, too: After decades of paying for the privilege, doggone it, we’ve earned those free lift tickets.
T. R. Reid, 74, is the author of 10 books, including, most recently, A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System.