Septuagenarian logs 100 days on skis in memory of husband
Septuagenarian logs 100 days on skis
April 7, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Across the Rocky Mountains, skiing 100 days in a season is recognized by some as a lifetime achievement, and by others, as their lifestyle. But for Steamboat Springs resident Jan Theadore, 72, who reached the "century mark" at Steamboat Ski Area on April 6, it was a healthy part of the grieving process.
Jan’s husband, Ross Theadore, died on the tennis courts here on March 4, 2015. She was suddenly confronted with the loss of her partner not only in sports and outdoor adventure, but in life.
"It's been the hardest thing I've ever done," she said this week. "Ross and I did everything together. We played tennis, pickleball, did pilates twice a week, hiked and skied."
Ross, who, with a partner, owned one of a handful of companies in the U.S. that made expansion joints for highways and bridges, was 73 when he died. Jan, originally from Texas, had a 40-year career in education culminating in eight years as principal of the Escondido Union High School northeast of San Diego, California.
It was early in the 2015-16 ski season that an acquaintance pointed out to Jan that skiing regularly could be a a way to bounce back from the death of her husband.
"My first day was Dec. 3," she recalled, and I bumped into a friend who said, "'Jan you look the best you've looked since Ross died. You need to be on this mountain. This is your place.'"
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That's when she realized that her late husband would want her to continue with an active lifestyle and a sport they loved. Often, while floating turns through the powder this winter, she felt like Ross was with her.
"Part of the grieving process is that you fight early on not to go into that deep hole," Jan said. "Ross would have wanted me to be active and remember him and happy things."
Why not ski 100 days?
By January, Jan resolved to ski 73 days in the season.
Ross was 73 when he died, but there was a little more to it than that. Jan is quick to acknowledge the couple had always enjoyed healthy competition with one another. If she could ski 73 days this season, it would surpass an old milestone.
"The most we'd ever skied (in a season) was 72 days," she confessed. "I didn't plan to ski 100 days. But after I hit 73 days, I thought, 'Why quit now?'"
Jan had become devoted to maxing out her ski season.
"If I was playing tennis one day, I'd change clothes and go right to the mountain," she said. "It became my routine, and honestly, it was so healing."
Along the way to the century mark, Jan quite naturally became a stronger skier.
"I skied one day with Liz Zarlengo," she said. "We skied Heavenly Daze and See Me without stopping."
A non-traditional memorial
Over the course of the seasons, friends of the Theadores have taken part in several nontraditional memorials for Ross — one a living remembrance and the others part of Steamboat tradition.
Ross was known on the ski slopes for his flamboyant (some might even say gaudy) taste in ski clothing. You could say he was a fashionista of the slopes, Jan said.
"He had 14 jackets and 12 pairs of ski pants, and they were all loud — orange, lime green, plaid — he had a jacket that looked like a TV test screen."
During a celebration of life for Ross in July 2015, his ski clothing was spread out on a table, and guests were invited to help themselves to an article of clothing on the condition they occasionally take it out for a spin. In that way, Jan has spied Ross all over the mountain this winter.
"March 4 was the anniversary of his death, and we put on pants and jackets, and we skied the mountain,” Jan said.
On another occasion, Dr. "Andreas and Lisa Sauerbrey helped to place Ross's season pass, still attached to its lanyard, high in an evergreen tree along a trail that links Buddy's Run to Flying Z.
And then, there was the visit to the Mardi Gras underwear tree beneath the Storm Peak Express chairlift on Jan. 23.
"Andreas and Lisa went with me on (Ross's) birthday, and I had a pair of his underwear (briefs if you must ask) with his name written on them in my parka,” Jan said. “Lisa dropped them from the chair and nailed it on the first try."
An acquaintance observed to me this week that septuagenarians in Steamboat are the youngest 70-year-olds anywhere. And after hearing Jan tell the story of her approach to the grieving process, I'm inclined to agree.
We should all be so lucky as to have our friends drop our memorial undies from Storm Peak Express into the branches of an aspen tree.
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