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A Couple That Skins Together Stays Together

Doris Spencer and Kent Willoughby divulge how to keep alpine adventures alive.
posted: 05/28/2014
Skinning Into The Golden Years | Photo By Bill Linfield / Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

While most people are fast asleep, Doris Spencer and Kent Willoughby wake at 4:30 a.m., eat a light breakfast, and leave their Silverthorne, Colorado home by 5:15.

By 6 a.m., the pair is gearing up for their daily ski tour at such favorite ski areas as Keystone, Copper, and Arapahoe Basin.  They love it so much they chalk up a total of about 130 dawn patrols per season. 

“We start in the dark when the stars and moon are still out,” says Spencer. “Then three-quarters of the way up the sun is up, giving the mountain a totally different beauty to appreciate.”

Let’s be honest, skinning can be a sufferfest, but Spencer and Willoughby always focus on the endgame.

“It is so nice to be on the slopes by yourself with three or four inches of powder,” says Spencer, who came to Colorado from Houston to ski and climb. “I wish more people could enjoy the positive aspects of it.”

Big deal, you say. You work for your turns all the time. But are you a septuagenarian? (Look it up.) That’s right, Willoughby, 76, and Spencer, a spry 68, tour more tenaciously than people half their age.

“Skinning is a relentless uphill activity,” says Willoughby, a retired football coach and educator who moved from Louisiana for Colorado’s slopes. “The focus is on cardiovascular fitness, and the only time we stop is to drink water. But afterward we feel great all afternoon.”

The couple met 18 years ago in an Over-the-Hill Gang for skiers older than 50, and have been skiing, skinning, and climbing mountains all over the world together ever since. 

So how do these young’uns tour so much? The pair attributes it, in part, to the advancement of AT ski equipment.

“We’ve upgraded what we have four times,” says Willoughby, “the new technology is phenomenal. We thought heavy was good at one time because it makes you work harder, but what we have now is far better than 15 years ago. The equipment has gotten so lightweight and responsive.”

Now that winter in Colorado is wrapping up, Willoughby and Spencer have summer on the brain. After all, ski touring is how the duo stays in shape for summers spent bagging 14ers.

To date, they’ve hiked all 100 of the Colorado Centennials (the state’s 100 highest peaks), and 99 of the 100 Bicentennials (the next 100 highest), as well as Mont Blanc in France (their favorite), Mount Elbrus in Russia, and Aconcagua in Argentina. Next up: The pair is turning their attention to knocking out a few of the state’s 100 Tricentennials.

Feeling like a slacker? We’re right there with you.

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