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Home arrow News arrow General arrow Grays On Trays: Snowboarding is no longer exclusively for the young
Grays On Trays: Snowboarding is no longer exclusively for the young
Friday, 18 February 2005
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Jim Brennan's skiing friends were not exactly thrilled when he took up snowboarding with his wife 10 years ago.
The lifelong skier and former U.S. Olympic team ski jumper wanted to try something new. He didn't touch his skis for seven years after that, and now - 64 years old - Brennan says he snowboards 70 percent of the time he goes to Mount Bachelor, the mountain closest to where he lives in Bend.
``When we started snowboarding, we would get on lifts with people we knew for 20 years and they wouldn't even look at us,'' Brennan recalls. ``Now they want to know how they can get started.''
The ``grays on trays'' are carving down the mountain, hitting jumps and rails, and riding powder. And they won't likely stop any time soon.

John Ingersoll, a 51-year-old snowboarder from Bend, is one of a growing group of adults moving from skis to a board on the slopes. More than one-third of snowboarders are ages 25 to 44, according to BBC Research and Consulting, a Denver-based firm.

The term ``grays on trays'' - used to describe snowboarders over age 30 - is sometimes used derisively by younger snowriders.
But the grays on trays don't care. A Web site devoted to adult snowboarders - www.graysontrays.com - suggests as much.
``I love the term,'' Brennan said. ``I think it's the ultimate compliment. If we keep active, we can contribute to the participation. Everybody's gaining from it. Besides, most of the grays dye their hair anyway.''
Gray or not, more and more snowboarders over 30 are taking to the slopes at Mount Bachelor and at ski resorts all over the country. Most of them lack the dyed hair, piercings, baggy pants, nonconformist attitudes and the ability to do impossibly contorted tricks, but still they have found their place on the mountain, helping to change the stereotype of snowboarders as teenage punks.
One-third of snowboarders are between the ages of 18 to 24, but now more than one-third are ages 25 to 44, according to BBC Research and Consulting, a Denver-based firm. Five percent are older than 45, according to the Denver Business Journal.
``It used to be you'd see a lot of young snowboarders up (on Mount Bachelor) midweek, and during the weekends and holidays, there'd be more adults on skis,'' says John Ingersoll, snowboard director for Mount Bachelor Ski Education Foundation. ``Now that's not the case. Parents want to connect with their kids, and they tried snowboarding and found out it was fun.''
After skiing for most of his life, Ingersoll - who's 51 years old - first tried snowboarding in 1989 when he was 35. He describes himself as a ``mediocre ski racer,'' but once he tried snowboarding, things changed.
``I thought I'd died and gone to heaven,'' he recalls. ``It was such a good feeling.''
Ingersoll blossomed into a strong, versatile snowboarder. He is not shy of the terrain parks - areas in ski resorts groomed for trick-riding. In fact, he prefers them. He knows that if he falls off a rail or bails on a jump he'll get hurt just like anybody else, but he doesn't mind.
Ingersoll is not a typical 51-year-old snowboarder, but he says there are many boarders out there just like him.
``There's a lot of adults close to my age doing jumps and rails,'' he insists.
Brennan, a real estate agent who's lived in Bend since 1968, says he'll go off jumps, but he avoids rails and the halfpipe. He says he suffered enough broken bones from his years of skiing, including his days on the U.S. ski jumping team from 1959 to 1962.
Though he got into snowboarding just 10 years ago, Brennan had an early start in the sport. When he was 10, he and his friends would take two trays from a ski resort cafeteria and screw them together to create a makeshift snowboard. They fashioned straps to the trays and would head down the mountain, crashing constantly.
``It's like being a kid again,'' Brennan said of snowboarding.
All adults trying snowboarding for the first time have to start somewhere, but it likely wouldn't be in a terrain park. Beginners should learn on shorter and less steep hills.
New snowboarders often develop skills quickly, and most riders need just three or four outings to find their toe and heel edges, necessary for carving and turning. But they must put in the time.
Andie Freeman of Bend represents a growing trend of adults who are new to snowboarding. The former skier is 33 and signed up to learn snowboarding through Mount Bachelor's Accelerator Sundays program, hoping to eventually excel at the skiing alternative. Freeman said she tried snowboarding five years ago, but she quickly grew frustrated and gave up.
``I was so black and blue,'' she recalls. ``But I'm feeling more adventurous than back then. I heard that once you get it, it's a little easier than skiing. I liked skiing but never loved it. I'm hoping snowboarding is easier on the knees.''
Meagan Stein is the camp relations manager at High Cascade Snowboard Camp, which conducts events at Mount Hood and Mount Bachelor. While most of High Cascade's campers are youths, the organization also offers camps for adults. Stein said she has seen snowboarders as old as their upper 50s participating in camps and events.
``They're looking for a little bit of youth and adrenaline,'' Stein said. ``They're finding themselves a little bit. The whole notion of snowboarding compared to skiing, it seems to be more of a youthful thing.''
As more snowboarders take to the slopes, ski resorts are catering to them, whether they're teenage punks or ``grays on trays.''
And Brennan no longer gets the cold shoulder from hard-core skiers.
``Everybody mixes real well, and ski areas accommodate everybody,'' Brennan says. ``That wasn't the way it was when it first started.''
For more information, log on to www.graysontrays.com or skicentral.com/oregon.html.


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