The “Silver Sliders” have been venturing onto the slopes of the Whitewater Ski Resort together for the past forty years or so. It is located to the south-west of the small town of Nelson, in the Canadian province of British Columbia. If the weather is perfect for skiing, the crew travels almost daily to the nearby skiing area, which is famous for its dry and light snow among the snowboarding and skiing communities well beyond Canada's borders. However, these four don't get their kicks on groomed ski slopes. Instead, they prefer to ski in the back country's deep snow, beneath the breathtaking landscape's snow-covered peaks, far away from the crowds. That's what they enjoy, and it keeps them young in body and mind!
But how have the “Silver Sliders” managed to retain their incredible zest for life, and passion for skiing, as well as adventure, well into old age? What does the name of the crew actually mean? What can we learn from them? After all, almost everyone dreams of being full of positive energy and remaining active in their old age – whether on or off the ski slopes.
We wanted to learn the answers to these questions, and therefore met up with four of them on a freezing cold powder day in the Whitewater ski area, and accompanied them with the camera, which not only resulted in an impressive video, but also allowed us to benefit from some of the wisdom of the “Silver Sliders“ crew: Bud Stoll, Ken McClennan, Joan Harvey and Mike Brewster.
THE KEY TO HAPPINESS? FRIENDSHIP.
Many people struggle with loneliness in old age. It is therefore incredibly important to socialise, and to continue to make the most wonderful memories together, as exemplified by the “Silver Sliders”. Mike Brewster and Joan Harvey have not only been a couple since the early 1970s, but they also share a passion for skiing. Every ski season, they spend over 60 days on the ski slopes together, almost always in the company of their “Silver Slider” buddies: Bud Stoll and Ken McClennan. Mike and Joan have been friends with them for decades. All of them are aware of the breathtaking beauty of this place in the middle of the legendary Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia, but also of the dangers of skiing on deep snow slopes. They've enjoyed skiing off-piste since their younger days – long before it became mainstream. Anyone lucky enough to accompany them on one of their joint skiing expeditions will quickly realise: this close group of friends is as thick as thieves. As soon as one of them goes into the lead, the others follow blindly. “Life isn't fun if you don't have any,” is one of their mottos, and so these pensioners and long-time friends fly down the slopes on this winter's day almost one after another, yeehawing for joy in unison. What a gift.
A ROLLING STONE GATHERS NO MOSS.
During the ski season, the Whitewater Ski Resort is open seven days a week. Whenever Bud has time to spare and the snowfall is good, which is basically every day, he is drawn to the gigantic mountain scenery. So it’s hardly surprising that the sprightly pensioner knows every inch of the ski resort like the back of his hand, with its steep descents, tree-lined tracks and plenty of fine, deep snow. Even the other locals are constantly surprised by how many secret spots he knows. This man is supposed to be over seventy? No way! Maybe it's this longing for fresh and new powder snow that has kept him and his companions feeling young, as well as active and curious like children? Neither artificial knee joints nor other physical restrictions can prevent these four from smoothly curving through the deep powder snow.
WE WERE CALLED THE 'SILVER SLIDERS' BECAUSE OUR FIRST FAT SKIS WERE THOSE SILVER VOLANTS.”
A large sticker on Bud Stoll's car boot lid reads: “When hell freezes over, I'll ski there, too!”. It not only reflects Bud's passion for skiing, but also the “Silver Sliders” crew's sense of humour. They often make fun of themselves and each other, cracking jokes about their creaking aged bones and bodies. Whether Joan, Mike, Ken or Bud – they all take turns being the butt of their jokes, but none of them mind. They'd probably be more worried if they were no longer subjected to such friendly ribbing, so there's plenty of banter on the slopes and during breaks along the way. They also pelt each other with snowballs from time to time. We ask Joan whether the name of the crew is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to their age. She reveals: “We were called the 'Silver Sliders' because our first fat skis were those silver Volants.” She continues, with obvious amusement: “But it has nothing to do with our hair colour because back then we weren't grey!”
BE ADVENTUROUS, BUT EXERCISE CAUTION.
Anyone who's into off-piste skiing is pretty much bound to have the adventure gene. That also applies to the “Silver Sliders”. In the late 1970s, they were among the first daring skiers at the Whitewater Ski Resort to enjoy sliding through the fluffy deep snow on the “backside”, an area beyond the resort's borders at its back. Preferably several times a day. To reach these remote spots, though, they also always needed a vehicle for part of the way that could cope with the rough and snow-covered tracks. Whilst some of them started their descent from the top of the mountain, someone else would pick them up again at a prearranged spot – all of this was organised via walkie-talkies. They still do it like that to this day. After each descent, a new designated driver is determined with the aid of a counting out rhyme. And it’s their many years of skiing in deep powder snow that the “Silver Sliders” now hold responsible for still being capable to manoeuvre through these glorious and completely deserted slopes this smoothly at their age. “It's easier on the knees,” says Mike.
BE OPEN-MINDED AND CURIOUS.
The “Silver Sliders” are not only role models when it comes to friendship, enjoying life, exercise and sports as you get older. They also show us what can happen when you engage with new, unfamiliar things and people beyond the ski slopes – like a film team, for example. None of the four had done any film work before. However, if they found waiting around during camera lens changes cold and exhausting, they never showed it. Everyone on the set benefited from their patience, and also their curiosity. As a matter of course, Joan and Mike also invited the whole team to their home for some more filming, and supplied them with tea and coffee. They were incredibly amazing hosts, and extremely interested conversationalists. It was also not a given that they would share their world and the story of the “Silver Sliders” with us. It does make us hope that one day, when we reach their age, we'll be just as fit, outgoing and ready to embrace new experiences and people as they are. We would therefore like to take this opportunity to say: Joan, Bud, Mike and Ken – thank you very much for your time and your trust, and: keep on skiing! To everyone else out there, we'd like to say: take the “Silver Sliders” as your inspiration when it comes to what life might be like when you're old, because this ski-crazy crew proves that age is just a number.