by Lu Snyder
If you thought entering your senior years was reason to hang up your skis and pick up the remote, think again. Copper’s Over the Hill Gang has folks skiing into their 80s and, sometimes, even beyond.
In the 42 years since Copper’s senior ski program was introduced, the Over the Hill Gang (OHG) has become recognized as one of the nation’s most successful skiing organizations. Its goal is simple: to help senior skiers continue their sport as long as possible and to connect them with others who share that same passion.
It was the social aspect of the group that first drew Janis Taylor to join. She had just moved to Summit County and was eager to meet people who ski at her level. That was more than five years ago. Now Janis views the folks at OHG (guides included) as one big family. “It’s been fabulous,” she says. Many of the friends she’s met on the slopes are the same friends she now hikes with in the summer, but she values OHG for more than the social element.
The group meets four days a week, regardless of weather. Participants are divided into groups according to their ability and each group is guided by PSIA-certified ski instructors trained specifically to help OHG members stay healthy on and off the slopes. Though it is not a group lesson, the guides offer tips and suggestions to help OHG members, like Janis, become better skiers.
“They are incredible,” Janis says of the OHG guides. “They truly want to see us improve and be safe so that we can ski into our 80s. It’s a very supportive group.”
The years may be accumulating, but their time on the slopes keeps these folks physically active and young at heart. They are an inspiration both to their companions and to younger generations.
“Skiing makes me feel young,” says 77-year-old Mike Savage, who has been skiing with OHG for fifteen years now. “Across the U.S., people our age are winding down. We don’t see that with this group.”
Mike remembers when he first came to Copper and saw an older woman in line for the Sierra lift. He worried that she was heading toward terrain above her ability and might get hurt. “And then she passed me like a bat out of hell,” he remembers, laughing. She was with OHG.
“The thing that cracks me up about this group is that when you see them on the slope, you’d think they’re 20-year-olds, but then you see them at lunch and they all have gray hair, new hips, new knees,” says Janis. “I’ve never seen a hardier group of people.”
“It’s a great group,” agrees Mike. “We share a lot of things in common – a love of the outdoors, certainly a love of skiing, and a refusal to get old.”
Learn more about Copper's Over the Hill Gang here.