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Powder Vroom

The Old Ladies' Board Adventure Team (OLBAT) will now come to order. If you are male, have always been athletic and wish to catch big air while riding faster than common sense would indicate you should, this is not your meeting. All you 26-year-olds? Who smoke cigarettes on the chairlift? That mountain isn't big enough for the both of us. In fact, if you are anywhere under forty, leave the room. And if you're not a mom, see ya.

Now I'd like to extend the warmest of welcomes to whoever is left.
At this point, my favorite fantasy--a snowboarding club for women over forty, started by me--always fell flat. I just couldn't picture a room full of older moms who shred, although I knew such creatures must exist somewhere besides in my mirror. By the beginning of this snowboard season, I had been desperately seeking my elusive peer group for nearly four years. I'd come close to finding it three years earlier, at the Wild Women Snowboard Camp in Jackson Hole, where I had been thrilled to locate another then-38-year-old. Since we tied for Oldest Camper of the Week, I imagined we would wallow together in our special status. But the other "old" camper, who was attending class with her beautiful, much younger lover, just wished I would give the topic a rest. Wearing all our cold-weather gear, did we not look pretty much like everyone else at camp?

Well, I did not, and would not, give it a rest. I continued my quest and told myself it was for completely practical reasons:

If (a) snowboarding is the best thing that ever happened to winter (and I have been hooked on it since 1995, belatedly born, it would seem, to rip); and (b) still, somehow, I have no athletic talent, and every time I dislocate a rib or throw my back out it takes me longer to heal; and (c) all the boys I ride with ride too fast for my enjoyment; then (d) my obvious snowboard partners should be people just like me.

The only way to meet them, I reasoned, would be to form my own club. The OLBAT name was catchy. Maybe, I mused, we could even form a NUBAT--New Underage Board Adventure Team--for twelve-year-old beginner girls who hadn't yet learned to hurl themselves off cliffs. Maybe we could order cool team jackets?

Typical fantasy. By the time the snow began to fall, I was still daydreaming and had yet to locate one old-lady pal. Time pressed in. At nineteen, when I should have been a ski bum, mixing in a little fitness with my dereliction, I was busy selling crappy jewelry on a California street. Now, at forty, I was asking merely for one four-month, snow-based goofoff of mass proportions. I couldn't let it go. Finally, I took the drastic step of renting someone to ride with. I signed up for Women's Wednesday at the Eldora Mountain Resort, faxing in my registration the day before the program began. I was lucky, the ski-school woman told me. Women's Wednesday was about to max out, with 257 females registered for the seven-week session of snow, lessons and gourmet lunches.

"How many in the snowboard class?" I asked.
"Uh, let's see--seven beginners...but you've ridden before? Looks like you'll be in a class of three."

At the time of this conversation, Joanne Henritze, a 46-year-old physiologist who lives in Boulder with her husband and two kids, ages ten and thirteen, was trying on the new purple jacket her kids had given her for Christmas. It was snowboardy, they told her, yet not too kid-looking. She wondered--as I did that same night--whether she really ought to take off one entire Wednesday. Her consulting clients would have to be moved around, her kids had science projects as well as other after-school activities up the ying-yang--and as far as she could tell, there had barely been any snow, meaning that the women, whoever they were, would be riding on ice.

Several miles closer to the mountain, in the woods near Nederland, Carol Baringer was driving home from her waitress job, feeling a noticeable lack of pressure. At forty, she had just sent her nineteen-year-old son back to college after Christmas break and was looking forward to continuing her winter as a "savvy ski bum." She'd been a single mom and working registered nurse all these years, had crawled out from under money and time problems, now owned her own house in Vermont and was halfway through spending one entire carefree winter in Colorado. She'd been staying with friends, working at whatever night jobs came her way and telemark skiing, snowboarding and cross-countrying all day, every day.

These were the two women I ended up riding with throughout most of January and February. All three of us enjoyed being Eldora's official old-lady snowboarders, probably because we had no intention of ever doing any concrete aging. As it turned out, both Carol and Joanne had been athletes all their lives--Joanne a former bike racer and climber, Carol pondering a summer of mountain-bike racing in the master's category. "I crumble in competition, though," she admitted. "My real goal these days is just to play as much as I work."

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