Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alta Lodge: Wise Women of the Wasatch

What activities will you still be doing in your 60's, 70's and 80's? Most of us would immediately cross out skiing.

Via
Alta, still for skiers only, in the old timeys

But of the 34 women in the ski clinic I attended last weekend at Alta Lodge in Utah's Wasatch, many were in their 50's like me and my friends. Five women were in their late 60's, three were in their seventies and the eldest, Francesca, was 83. Another woman who often skis here is 91 and she learned when she was 40. What keeps them going is a drive to improve their technique.

I was worried the clinic would be another reason for me to feel bad about myself, but I realised if I keep improving there could be another 30 years in these scrabbly legs.

My "style" has always been battling down the mountain using my knock knees and thighs. "It doesn't have to be that hard" said our instructor Connie "Just finesse it a little."

Me with my knock knees and instructor Connie, right

One of the reasons we feel so comfortable is the family-owned Alta Lodge itself. This place is intriguing from the get-go. The entry is just a doorway on the side of the road much like The Shining. On either side the mountains are powdery, high (10,550ft) and steep (you wake up in the morning to the sound of avalanche blasting).


We walk down to the mahogany-clad lobby which has original mid-century furniture and a Will Barnet painting over the fireplace.

Mimi, one of the owners, is there to greet us. Her father was Nicolas Muray, the most celebrated portrait photographers of the last century (Babe Ruth, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Greta Garbo were just three of his famous subjects) and his iconic photos of Frida Kahlo are dotted around the lodge.

Will Barnett painting over the fireplace
End of my hallway

Rosie, clinic organiser, in the lobby
Because of Utah liquor laws, staff have to walk your drinks from the bar to the dining room

"So retro" says my friend Melinda when she is handed an actual room key and then she notices the old press-button phones.

Many of the staff have worked there for decades, skiers have been coming for generations and it's okay to wear your slippers to breakfast.  The lack of TVs in the bedrooms encourages people to sit in the communal spaces and you can opt to eat at the communal table.(The only time I've heard grumbling from the clients was after the remodel seven years ago when they got rid of a beloved old red couch.)

A word to the wisest of Wasatch women: you won't lose any weight here. The day starts with a bacon and egg breakfast, steel-cut oats, handmade granola and fruit, rolls onto afternoon tea goodies like macaroons and carrot cake sweaty-fresh from the oven and ends with a three-course a la carte dinner.

Buffet dinner on Sunday (sorry it's lopsided, I'd had a few drinks)

(We came here often when the kids were small too: Alta daycare accepts babies as young as three months. Parents can enjoy a leisurely dinner - Alta Lodge offers a kid's dinner at 5pm and supervised care downstairs where kids can craft, watch movies or play ping pong.)

Speaking of kids, when I arrived home I announced my presence to my eldest boys: "I'm back! What about a hug?"

Without moving his gaze from the TV, one of them muttered: You've barely been gone a weekend.

Ah well, I'll always have Alta. Where everyone is happy to see you.  And proud you're still out there trying to finesse it, baby.


47 comments:

  1. Glad to see you finally making it to getting some skiing done. The place sounds/looks fabulous. Can I hang out with you but stay at the lodge to eat while you and the other girls do some finessing?

    Wow, the ski clinic women inspire. But I couldn't ski when I was 24 and doubt I will when I am 64.

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    1. You def could stay at the lodge by the fire. Lots of good people watching in that place and you could meet us for lunch, the clam chowder there was the best I've ever tasted.

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  2. Jody, You've given me hope. There's a few years left in me yet for skiing! :)

    Just started back this year after a year off and did my first black diamonds. This lodge and the people sound wonderful! What a gem. Putting it on my wish list!

    Thanks for sharing all your fun adventures! Love hearing about those 90+ ladies!
    xo
    Kim

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  3. Sounds like a great place with some inspirational women.

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  4. I love this whole post--I love the idea of being active into my 80's (and beyond!), I love the idea of a family runs ski place, I love the touch button phones! It sounds so un-fussy and relaxing. And I love that you got there in the end! I think I need soemthing like this in my world.

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  5. What a gorgeous scene out the hallway window!

    Recently on TV here, in Switzerland, there was a segment about a woman in her 90s who is still an avid and frankly, bad-ass, skier.

    As a rock climber myself, I aspire to be like the old-timers that every local crag has - 70+ years old and still climbing hard.

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    1. Hi Abby, sounds like a blimin good stretching, that rock climbing. That's one sport I've always been terrified of, must have something to do with my terror of heights

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  6. Sounds wonderful - I don't ski, but this is the kind of place where I'd think about it.Very homey and comfortable,it looks great.

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    1. Its a great place to unwindulax - by the lobby fire by day and in the rather grandly named Sitzmark Bar (which is a small knotty pine space under the eaves) by night with a frosty white wine.

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  7. I loved hearing about Alta Lodge! I used to ski a lot and I love the vibe of some of the ski resorts. This one sounds cool. My friend and I have a pact to ski on our 80th birthdays, which will prove challenging as at least one of them is going to mean find a glacier or go to South America lol. We have time to figure it out ;) Glad you had a fun trip! I love the idea of a womens' clinic, might need to look into that too.

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    1. Hi Cate, what a fantastic pact - to get together on a glacier in Sth America!

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  8. I have never gone sking but my younger son loves it and has gone on many great trips with the school! Lovely photos:)
    ~Anne

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  9. And I just gave my skis to my son last year. How bad a decision was that? No too swift for an old Bear. But it is hibernation time, so, yeah, I'm a bit Bear-brained about the whole thing.

    Great story; fine fotos!

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    1. Maybe you could do a time share with your son on the skis!

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  10. God it sounds heaven and the fact that even though I can't afford to ski now with kids to educate I will be able to take it up again in my retirement. It will be Skiing and SKIing - Spending the Kids Inheritance - love it!

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    1. That's the best kind of skiing! My parents are currently doing that quite nicely

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  11. I skied Alta many, many years ago and remember loving it because it was not near as crowded with tourists! But Alta Lodge - I've never heard of such a glorious place. 5pm kids' dinner with crafts and activities afterward - swoon! I love vacationing with my kids in such a way that also allows me the ability to enjoy adult time. Sounds like they've devised a lovely formula for just that. Of course, a girls' trip sounds even better!!

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    1. There seems to be nobody there, even on a Saturday. Sometimes I'm not really sure how they make money. Alta ski area is owned by a family too, so maybe they're happy how it is. They are the last hold-out in America (I think) against snowboarders.

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  12. This place sounds fantastic--- even a skier like me (ie- someone who has only skied a couple of times and is terrible at it!) could enjoy it. Plus they have carrot cake--- so I am sold.

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    1. Carrot cake is the bacon of the baked goods world

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  13. that sounds like a true one off - what a wonderful place. we are also off skiing in the morning to Austria. Can't wait, it's one of the few places in the world I have a longer than 3 year history with. Looking forward to seeing the children bombing down the hill way faster and better than me x

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  14. I love to ski and Alta lodge sounds wonderful. I never thought of giving up skiing because of age, many times these are the best skiers. I never tried those women clinics but my neighbor swears by them, I was always afraid they will burst 'my technique is just fine' bubble ;)
    Maybe I should reconsider, it actually sounds like fun, but everything does when you tell the story...

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    1. I have to admit our instructor did say to me: I'll find a way to mess you up. Good excuse to stay an extra day and de-mess.

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  15. So there's still hope for me? I have been known to flounce off a mountain in Vermont .. ah yes! struggling sideways 'til I found a road and then made my way clumsily downwards in my ski boots. Skiing and I were never friends :) Love your descriptions and that lodge sounds like a little slice of heaven. As always, it's a joy to read your writing. Helen

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    1. Vermont is hard, icy and cold! Helen: I would have flounced too!

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  16. I was so jealous reading about your ski trip. (And I am seldom truly jealous.) But my doctor nixed skiing when I broke a bone ice skating. And showed me some scary x-rays just in case I wasn't convinced. Rats! I would love to ski Heavenly Valley from California to Nevada again. But maybe if she knew there was still a place without snowboarders, because falling isn't anywhere near as big a hazard as getting run over. When my kids were young, we would go to Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia, where the "Children's Social Hostess" would entertain and dine with them while we enjoyed adult company.

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    1. HI Beryl,
      Yes I snowboarded for five years, but the rumble of a snowboarder behind you is as scary as the sound of ice underneath!
      Loving the sound of the "Children's social hostess ' - how civilised!

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  17. Jody! You are to be admired:) I stopped skiing a few years ago because the cold (I'm 53) bothers my joints. Sounds like a great place:)

    xxL

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  18. What a great place, Jody. And I loved that these women are skiing so late in life.

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  19. It sounds blissful. And what a familiar response to you arrival home!

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  20. Ooh I love hearing about quirky hotels. Love proper keys too. Feeling very hungry reading that menu.
    Welcome home, Jody!! (will that do, as your kids' effort was hopeless?)

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  21. Sounds awesome! My idea of skiing is a good lodge and hot beverage by the fire. Good for you for improving your technique. Gives me hope that maybe some day I can go down a mountain without snowplowing the entire way.

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  22. You are so brave to go downhill skiing, I went once when I was 13 on a school trip. I barely made it past the bunny hill, I was falling on my ass the entire time!! oy. I would love the quirky lodge, though! :)

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  23. Do they have baby slopes for beginners with no hope? Like, er, me?

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  24. That sounds a really cosy hotel. The perfect place to read a Kindle really, and just ski for a little bit. :)

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  25. What a fun ski trip and a great place to stay - a lovely cosy area around the fireplace and a stunning shade of purple!
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

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  26. A great place that's probably why it has lasted so long. I think it is so great that older people continue to ski and certainly much better than me I have never skied.

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  27. A lot of older people I see still skiing actually spend a lot of time on the slopes. Given that I ski for a maximum of three weeks per year, I hope I'll be able to get out in my 60's but the older I get, the more I worry about breaking something! That's just an accident waiting to happen!

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  28. I so wish I can ski. I also wished that my very first ski instructor actually taught me how to stop. That sounds like an ideal holiday location. Ah yes, kids! Don't they know we own the very air they breathe in?

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  29. This truly looks like a wonderful place, perfect to go with your friends! And that is so cool that the eldest woman is 91, she must have magnificent technique by now!

    Love from the NaNa girls xoxo

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  30. good for you!!!
    my husbands mother is 79...still playing tennis and softball competitively

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    1. Softball wow! One of the originals, in a league of her own!~

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  31. Loved reading about Alta! I met my husband in Utah and we spent a lot of time at Alta while we were dating. We are actually in New Zealand right now -for 2 1/2 months for my husband's sabbatical. We have 2 boys, ages 8 and 10 and would love suggestions on fun places. We are renting a house near Howick but heading to the South Island for ten days later this month. Right now we are trying to explore the North Island.
    PS: love your blog!!!

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    1. KCD, thanks for stopping by. What a coincidence! I would love to see what your impressions are of it these days - I'm sure it's not changed much at all!
      Am feeling very homesick after seeing your Kiwi beaching photos on your blog today...

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