14 Jan 2011

A Remarkable Woman

Skiing is a sport that I am ok at. Not brilliant, not fabulously stylish, not super fast or edgy like…just average…but competent enough to make it down from top to bottom without too much emotional trauma, hysterics and heartache.

All sport is like that for me…it’s not my strong point, never had been, never will be.
Skiing is a little different though…Unlike most sports I love it and even though I won’t master the moves I revel in my time on the snow.

I have learnt (the hard way) the best way to tackle the slopes. I take it easy and that means stopping when I feel the need, descending with wide carving turns and where possible choosing a reasonable gradient. I

have learnt that it is best (for me) to leave the speed hounds to themselves…

Shooting down the mountain at mach speeds is not for me. Joining the speedsters for a slow leisurely lunch somewhere up in the clouds with huge amounts of Alpine ambience – that is something I am good at.



I prefer to ski with a local guide whenever I can, especially if it is an area that I am unfamiliar with. Mostly because it removes the fear factor but also because I am still learning.

Skiing is like that…there is always room for improvement.



I have always had a vision of the ski guide…and perhaps this is the fancy of a middle aged woman…but he (not she) is youngish and handsome in that European, suave ski-tanned-face kind of way.

He is that guy…I mean guide…that makes you feel like you are the only woman on skis, that your parallel turns really are parallel and not lurking snow ploughs, that you are essentially fit and fabulous and one of the best skiers he has had the good fortune to teach.

The accent is seductive and comforting.

All in all, the European ski guide in my mind is a delicious experience and a great morale and confidence boost.


When I met my guide on Monday morning I was surprised to say the least – she (not he) is a 73 year old grandmother.

I am not ageist by any means, after all way back in the day I would have been pushing up daisies at my ripe old age, but I never would have imagined that a woman of that certain age would be still buckling up the ski boots.

Hours of ‘handsome’ time with the guide of my dreams quickly vanished as I clicked into the skis and headed up the mountain with my elderly companion.

Truthfully I didn’t know what to expect so we had a very polite but stilted fifteen minutes as we swung our way up the mountain.

After one run I new that I was in the company of an amazing woman. If that old saying, ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is any way true then it certainly was with my guide from Gstaad.

She is a breathtakingly beautiful skier, an inspired teacher and a brilliant raconteur.

With her, I glide down the slopes with ease and comfort, I make graceful turns and at times I even find the rhythm to ski in sympatico with her…my pole plants and my turns mirror hers and we seem to flow down the mountain together as one.

I am sure the feeling is more in my mind than on the snow but to feel that, ‘poetry in motion’ moment when you are not a natural sportswoman is one incredible feeling…and not one I had ever expected to feel.

She has skied in Gstaad all her life, has taught many famous families and most of the ski-instructors working in the village today…I was truly privileged to ski with her.



In the last few days I have learned some new tricks but more importantly than that I have had reinforced in my mind that age is really irrelevant for a woman.

Fitness, good health, confidence, vitality, an engagement with life and the willingness to try are the qualities that make us sensational woman.

I want to be shushing down the slopes and hiking up the mountains when I am 73 and if I have my way, nothing will stop me…xv

VA In Your Inbox

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A Gift Wrapped Life

You sound like my type of skier Vicki, I could handle the slopes with you………..or could have! Sounds like your technique has been given a lovely boost of confidence. Perhaps you weren't as distracted by handsome-lol! Sounnds like you are having a wonderful trip. Chat soon. XO

Renee Finberg

isn't that great???
73 and still hitting the slopes?
i like to 'think' of myself as
pretty athletic
(or i used to be)
but a day of skiing can whoop me for sure.



What inspiration. Yes, you are as old as your attitude. Choose the positive and life opens up. Have fun. Mary


Skiing is such a wonderful sport. Whether you take the mountain with a storm, or coast down the hills at your own pace, it is a joy.

Age is not important, it is how we feel. I could almost see you and your guide skiing down the mountain with such grace.


A very inspiring post on many levels. Whether it's skiing or pursuing a passion, it's so incredible to meet such inspiring women.

The enchanted home

What a beautiful and calming picture! I too am not a great skiier and have found that as I have gotten older, I am more fearful and frankly am just as happy to be in the lodge with a nice cup of coffee and a great book! But its a beautiful sport and wonderful to be in the great outdoors breathing in the fresh crisp air, and on a perfect day, I have to say it can be really quite wonderful.
Please check my new blog if you can, would love to know what you think.


Alcira Molina-Ali

What a lovely, moving and why yes, very dynamic post.
I remember my phobia of skiing as a young child, being dragged to the slopes in Vermont, where I'd have risked life and limb just to get back to the lodge and some hot cocoa.
I recall being dragged up to black diamond runs by older cousins having a laugh, and the terrifying peril of hearing deft skiers whizz by…I recall it all with rather nightmarish clarity.
It's such a beautiful sport, so kudos to you for getting out there fearlessly. And what a gift to have such a grande dame for a guide. I truly savor these life lessons you toss our way at the most unexpected moments ;)
Cheers and enjoy the holiday, Alcira


splendid Market

What a great story — an inspiring reminder of how much we can do at 70 +. I love those "poetry in motion" moments — I am hoping for a few this weekend. Enjoy your stay!

david terry

Dear Vicki,

Regarding Old Ladies who Can Surprise You?…..Have I ever told you of Herve's 86 year old nanny in Tours? (for those who don't know Herve, I should emphasize that he turns 40 in March and hasn't needed diapering in a long while). Well, we just spent Christmas day with her at Herve's parents' house. In any case, I expect your readers will enjoy the facts:


1. Her name is "Mme. Paris" (if you wrote a novel in which a French nanny was named that, wouldn't you expect your editor to reply, saying it was "overwritten"?)

2. At age 86, she has had two cornea, two shoulder, two hip, and one knee replacement/s. She's been going about this since she was 65 or so, and was irritated by decreasing mobility. She doesn't like sitting still, to say the leat. French public health insurance does, of course, make all of this affordable.

3. Consequently, she is known as "The Bionic Nanny".

4. She used to live in the house, of course, but was given a nice, little house of her own once the two boys went off to college, 20 or so years ago. Since then, she comes (like it or not) twice per week for a full day's work… to "do" things around the house (where there's a maid already, but Mme. Paris irons and organizes and bosses-folks-around, etc). Herve's parents (67 and 71, themselves) haven't the heart to tell her they don't really "need" her.

In fact, they can barely pay her. Not that money is a problem, it's just that she's not officially allowed to receive cash from them without the matter's interfering with her government pension. SO???…Herve's 67 year old mother and Mme. Paris cultivate a rather complicated ritual which involves Mme. Paris's regularly saying how much the Mommmeja-Marin grandson would enjoy ____ or how delighted the Mommeja-Marin daughter-in-law would be if she received ______. Subsequently, Herve's mother buys the item, which she gives to Mme Paris as a present, and which Mme Paris then gives to her own grandson or daughter-in-law….and no one has broken a law in the least. Basically, Mme Paris never has to buy expensive presents for her own family or friends.

I think that both of these old ladies truly relish their little subterfuge (actually, I've gathered that Frenchmen of all classes keenly relish any opportunity to out-maneuver the taxman and his paperwork).

This business gets really Byzantine. The day after Christmas, the 2 year old grandson was watching Loony-toons cartoons (my first experience of hearing Bugs Bunny in French) when Mme Paris shuffled through the room on some pretense of "cleaning up" and announced loudly (if to no one in particular) "Bugs Bunny would look very handsome in a man's blue, silk scarf."

On Monday, I went shopping with my mother-in-law….in addition to other items, we had to find and buy a man's blue, silk scarf. That's just the way it IS in La Monde de la Mme. Paris……

Oh…I should also emphasize that, until just six or so years ago, Mme. Paris biked to the house (two or more miles) when she came. Now, she walks (except in the coldest Winter). She doesn't like being picked up. She told me on Christmas Day that it was simpler to walk than to sit around waiting for young people to come pick her up…it's just not worth her valuable time.

In any case (and like Vicki's 73 year old ski instructor) she's a walking-example of the dangers (i.e….you look stupid and presumptuous?) entailed by underestimating Old Ladies………

Advisedly yours as ever,

David Terry


Bravo Ms. Vicki ~ to your and your inspiration. I turn 70 this year and hope to maintain forward motion (though not on skis) for a long time.


I think the last paragraph was brilliant. We ladies need to remember these words as we head into the adventure that is aging.
Thank you,

Pamela Terry and Edward

I was once making my way, slowly and carefully, up the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye…. a rather treacherous trek.. when I was blown sideways by an elderly woman jogging along, leaping over obstacles like a gazelle, and in a black and white catsuit and boots. Age is totally irrelevant! Have fun!


Ohhh, Vicki, what an amazing post! Your guide is a tribute to all women, and so is your post. Learning, continuing to grow, is the constant lifeblood to having a productive and valuable life. Kudos to you girl!!! This rocks !


Fabulous post, Vicki. I couldn't agree with you more that age is just a number – it's our choice what we do with each day from here on out, no matter the age!! Congrats on the skiing, I would be the one sipping Baileys & Coffee by the fireside in the Lodge!! :)


I am really so pleased to read you. You desserve such a brillant teacher ! Yes it's a real gift to meet such people. Many thanks to witness. By the way I wish you a lot of unpredictable time like this one ! Sorry my english is a bit rocky. No maybe rock&roll; … Sunny Side

Deja Pseu

I ski like you do. Take my time, enjoy the scenery, stop when I'm tired. I stick to the green and a few blue runs.

One of the best ski instructors I've ever had was a woman who was pushing 70 at the time. She was fantastic.


Vicki I wish that I could still ski….the thrill of it!

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Dumbwit Tellher

I am wonderfully inspired Vicki. It's too easy to fall into the traps of thinking our age restricts us. Bravo to you for writing this great story.

Enjoy each moment on those beautiful slopes. xx oo Deb


I can't even tell you how much I LOVED this story. So inspiring these older women who are still active, doing what they love – and good at it!! I am in your league of skiing – but it's tougher to do here in the east where the trails are narrower and frequently icy. But like you, I'm trying and (usually) enjoying the process.


What a timely post for me at this age of 55. Women are so underestimated! If this were a man I wonder if the initial judgements would have been the same? For me, hearing about women such as R gives me the a feeling that I can control my fitness, my 60's and 70's can still be fulfilling and satisfying.
I bet you're great on the slopes Vicki!

classic • casual • home

My husband works for a wonderful ski resort in California called Mammoth Mountain. I definitely hope to be skiing in my 70's but for now I would just like to keep up with my 18 year old son! A challenge. Enjoy.
Mary Ann


Oh, she reminded me of my grandmother, who passed away a few years ago aged 101! She was remarkable in her own ways, wildly entertaining and quick witted, when people thought she was demented….
Love your beautiful story!
I am not a skier, due to back issues, forbidding me that sport now. But it rings true in so many ways!
Let's strife to be like them and to get there, let's start right now…
Confidence, posture, style and some solid knowledge of something please!

Sally-Ann @ a beautiful space

A friend once described me as "skiing latte to latte" .I have definitely lost my nerve in the past few years. You have encouraged me to go back and have another go, to take is easy and be aware we have nothing to prove. Enjoy your lovely holiday! Sally-Ann x


lovely, inspiring post -a good reminder to keep on going and doing what you enjoy – and I just love following a pretty skier – it makes such a difference. enjoy the rest of your trip – beautiful blue photo of the morning


I have skied with women like that, they are the best if you can find them. Unfortunately it wont be me, with only one eye and knee problems my skiing days are sadly over.

Splendid Sass

Well you just keep on keeping on, Vicki! Age IS just a number I have found.
So happy to hear that you are having a fun trip.

Shannon Fricke

I'm with you on the whole ski thing Vicki – slow and steady is the most entertaining and ensures the least amount of hysterics! My family on the other hand don't necessary agree! And so, we meet for lunch somewhere on the slopes and that keeps everyone friendly! Happy skiing!

La Petite Gallery

Talk about an Amazing woman, YOU ARE
I am old but today I wish I had a snow board, we have snow up to my knees.
My Daughter Renee has a comment
I just read. Gosh Vicki, you are my age and sound like a KId. I love you..Go Go Hat's off to you.

david terry


My friends, Skip and Dotty, are both what you might be tempted to call "old ladies". They're 74 and 75.

Just for background?….they spent the fifties in Thailand, where their doctor-father was in charge of starting and developing the first women's clinics in southeast Asia, after WWII; otherwise, they're readily identifiable products of a very particular, yankee, wealthy-but-everyone-does-PUBLIC-SERVICE, class and era). I could also mention that both modeled, in their younger days…one a brunette and one a Grace-Kelley blonde. The latter would be Skip (formally, "Sylvia"), whose daughter put herself through Yale architecture school by being "The Breck Girl" in the 80's, and whose son (through whom I initially met her) spent a lot of 1988-1992 featuring in full-length ads for Armani.

In short? They're all very smart, all good-looking enough to be PAID for being good-looking, and all highly educated. I'll be honest and admit that I've had times (I'm friends with the whole family) when it's occured to me that I could really hate all of them (born smart, gorgeous, pleasantly-mannered, AND already welathy?…WHAT?!?!?!?!) if I gave in to my ever-present shallow side.

That said?…..there's the mother. She died just last year, at 106.

Prior to that? She'd never been noticeably sick in her entire life and had never been in a hospital except to have her three daughters… including the years in SE Asia. She was a graduate of Holyoke (bascially, for non=-Americans, the female ivy-league years ago).

Only eight or so years ago, her daughters (both in the seventies) were at my house one afternoon, and thr emergency topic was how to "HANDLE MOTHER"…..

"Mother" was in a very nice rest home and seemed, at age 95 or so at the time, to be massively pissing off all the 70-80 year old residents by smacking them down in every single bridge tournament and community scrabble game.

So, all the septugenarians and octogenerians were throwing hissy-fits…..because that nonagenarian, 95-pound woman kept whooping their asses at every game.

Skip and Dotty had been asked by the nurses to "do" something about their hyper-competitive, 95 year old mother…..tell her to slow down and let the "younger" residents win sometimes, just maybe…sometimes?????…..

I'm chuckling as I type this (I really am). I hadn't thought of the anecdote in at least a couple of years.

Incidentally? Their mother WOULDN'T play nice and let other people win. I recall Skip's telling me that her mother's reactionwas "Most of them have just Let Themselves GO…..they need to be put in a HOME….."

By the way?…..she died this past year by smply going to sleep and not waking up one particular morning. Very simple and straightforward, as her entire life had been previously.

Bemusedly as ever,

David Terry


Thank you for that inspiration! I've never had the courage to return to skiing after I skidded down the side of a hill on the left side of my face, so I applaud you!

I hope when I'm 75 people will see my loading my big harp into my truck and say, "Wow, she does that so gracefully!"


I love this post, Vicki! She sounds like the best kind of teacher–one who instructs and inspires. What a gift to have met her. xo Gigi


LOVE that story. I hope to be that 73-year-old woman, although what my equivalent will be, I don't know, since I don't ski! I'll be learning for the first time next year, when I'm 42!


Same thing happened to me but on a horse instead of the slopes!
I'll never forget the woman.
What a great story, thanks for sharing.

Francine Gardner

My thoughts exactly.For the first time ever (on account that i was exhausted and sick) my sons (19 and 21) beat me down the slopes, the trees and the moguls. I am still the first one on the slope 8:15 and the last one at the base. I met an ex Olympic skier on the lift and we went down a couple of "chutes" together. He must be in his late sixties and left me breathless. Time to get in shape ! You can enjoy skiing at any level and any age, my knees just do not like how I treat them in the moguls…maybe it is time I change my ski style.
I used to go for years to Saanenmozer next to Gstaad. My husband (lucky guy) went to school at le Rosey and skied Gstaad every winter!


Vicki, I could not have read this at a more opportune time. My 67 year old husband just left to go heli skiing in Western Canada, something he has been doing every year since we were married, over 35 years ago. I have also joined him heli skiing, and he began skiing in Austria before we met.Of late I have been somewhat apprehensive about getting out there on the slopes, worrying about what would happen if I took a bad tumble, I just turned 60. Thank you for this insightful read, our idea of age limiting activities has certainly changed since our mothers generation, but I think the stigma still remains. Age appropriate is a very personal thing, more of the mind and heart. I am so enjoying your blog, cannot buy your books here in Canada yet, but will purchase them when I am in the USA. Nella


Your blog today made me so envious. Being a former downhill mad and crazy skier, it made me remember former days of fun. After a torn miniscus and surgery about six years ago, I gave up skiing –just one bad tumble and I would have to go through that again. But I do miss it all. Skiing in the French Alps sounds so great. Lucky lucky you.


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