Reflections From A Lifelong Ski Enthusiast

Louise “Weezie” Johnston has always led an active life.

In addition to being a part of a regular tennis group, Johnston enjoys sailing, hiking, and gardening on most sunny days. In the winter, she loves to ski. Recently, Weezie, a new resident and former Trustee of The Hill at Whitemarsh, joined the Main Line Ski Club with a friend. Although she has yet to participate in their activities, she is looking forward to experiencing all that the club has to offer.

The Main Line Ski Club, founded in 1960 as a nonprofit to support the sport, organizes ski and social trips for its members. This winter, there have already been trips planned for downhill or cross-country skiing in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, and St. Anton in Austria. There are several other ski clubs in the area as well, including the Philadelphia Ski Club and the Wissahickon Ski Club. And with the Pocono Mountains just a short drive away, Philadelphia-area skiers have plenty of options to go skiing this winter, whether locally, nationally, or internationally.

“I started skiing when I was 6 years old,” says Johnston. “My mother’s family all love it. My grandmother gave me my first ski lesson on a golf course in Lake Placid, New York in 1947. I remember a very simple rope tow powered by a small engine of some sort, which pulled us up a fairly gentle slope. Great for real beginners like me, but the rope tow made me nervous. Once I got the hang of it, though, it was fun.”

The fact that ski equipment was pretty basic in the 1940s and ‘50s made it that much more impressive that Johnston not only learned how to ski, but also mastered the sport.

“Skis were wood with metal edges and had to be waxed every day,” recalls Johnston. “The boots were stiff leather blocks clamped to our skis. There were no safety bindings for years to come, and there were plenty of broken legs in those days. Skiers wore thin shell parkas over layers of sweaters, wool mittens got wet, and you shivered on lifts on your way uphill. Today’s equipment and clothing are truly miraculous.”

Despite the slight discomfort and sometimes undesirable conditions, Johnston continued to ski throughout her childhood, enjoying the activity with friends in college, and into her adult life. Always an intermediate-level skier, she’s skied all over the country, from Stowe and Sugar Bush in Vermont to Jackson Hole in Wyoming. On bitterly cold days, cross-country skiing was a great alternative to freezing on lifts.

“Cross-country skiing is a really nice activity,” says Johnston. “There’s less impact on the body and less risk, making it a good activity for older people. It’s fun, too. In fact, if we get enough snow this winter, I’d gladly try it here at The Hill!”

According to Johnston, the main benefits of skiing, both downhill and cross-country, include becoming totally absorbed in the activity itself, enjoying both the beautiful surroundings, and the company of family and friends.

“I’ve personally never enjoyed working out,” says Johnston. “But I like to keep moving. It’s wonderful that The Hill offers residents so many different ways to remain active. I am looking forward to exploring all The Hill has to offer, and to getting to share those activities with former and new friends.”