Making eights with octogenarians

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  • (Photo courtesy JOANN ROHYANS) Skiing nonagenarian Ellwood Werry skis with his daughter Jill Loftus at Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint.

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    A member of Schweitzer Prime Timers catches some powder on a blue bird day. The organization is comprised of active seniors, 50 of whom are 80 or older. (JOANN ROHYANS/Courtesy)

  • (Photo courtesy JOANN ROHYANS) Skiing nonagenarian Ellwood Werry skis with his daughter Jill Loftus at Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint.

  • 1

    A member of Schweitzer Prime Timers catches some powder on a blue bird day. The organization is comprised of active seniors, 50 of whom are 80 or older. (JOANN ROHYANS/Courtesy)

This winter in North Idaho, hundreds of spritely octogenarians will take to the ski slopes.

“Winter can be isolating and our older skiers know that the trick to not becoming too sedentary or alone is to seek out activities with others like them,” said Dig Chrismer, marketing manager at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint.

Schweitzer offers $49 season passes for seniors over 80 or free day passes if they come to the ticket window to check in. They’ve sold 63 of the season passes so far this year.

Ruth Dustin at Silver Mountain in Kellogg says seniors over 80 ski free, everyday.

“I have seen an increase in the past few years, which just tickles me pink,” Dustin said. “We call them ‘Exceptional Seniors.’”

In the past few years the program has taken off, drawing agile octogenarians and even a few agenarians to the slopes. Silver Mountain currently has 37 season pass holders over the age of 80.

The oldest season pass holder at Silver Mountain is 93. He drives over from South Dakota every January, just to ski.

Lookout Pass in Mullan offers every skier over 80 a free “Pass for Life.” Mount Spokane in Mead, Washington runs the 80+ Club, providing 60 free season passes to skiers over 80 years old last season.

On Thursdays in Schweitzer’s Lakeview Lodge, the Prime Timers meet to celebrate skiing. The group is comprised of active seniors, 50 of them 80 or older. Thirty of these octogenarians still catch fresh runs on the ski hill.

Membership coordinator John Rohyans moved to Sandpoint with his wife JoAnn, Prime Timers’ treasurer, 10 years ago.

“When we discovered the group 10 years ago we knew absolutely no one in town,” John Rohyans said. “We walked into the meeting and it felt like I was looking in the mirror: Everyone looked like us. We had found our friends.”

Rohyans said it’s “absolutely, unequivocally inspirational” to hit the slopes with so many enthusiastic seniors.

Of all the exceptional Prime Timers, Ellwood Werry leads the pack. At 92 years old, Werry skied 60 days last winter.

“We all want to grow up to be like Ellwood,” Rohyans said. “He is my all-time favorite story teller. He is probably one of the finest two or three people I’ve met in my entire life.”

Make some eights with The Coeur d’Alene Press this winter as we chase these feisty octogenarians down regional ski hills, catching powder and almost certainly some incredible life stories.

If you are or know a skiing octogenarian or nonagenarian, email jpassaro@cdapress.com. We’ll see if we can keep up with ‘em!

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