Ruth Lyons, 79, Bloomington, Ski Instructor
At 79, Ruth Lyons says she doesn’t ski as hard as she used to — but helping up fallen first-time skiers keeps her in shape. On a typical morning, she sees 200 to 300 kids, most of whom have never skied before. Lyons has been instructing skiers at Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area since the mid-1980s, when she taught the over-40 crowd. Since retiring from telecommunications at Land O’Lakes, she’s shifted her attention to kids — specifically, the busloads of elementary schoolchildren who come to Hyland on field trips.
TREES AND OTHER OBSTACLES “I learned how to ski in rural Wisconsin, where you had to learn how to turn or you’d hit a tree. I loved being outside in winter, so skiing fit quite easily. But that was when I was 17, and I didn’t ski again until the mid-’80s. My first husband didn’t ski, but I still brought my skis with me whenever we moved. You certainly retain that sense of moving over the snow and how to balance.”
A CHRISTMAS GIFT “When I married a skier, my skis were so old I had to let them go and get new ones. My [second] husband was on the ski patrol at Hyland, and one Christmas he bought me ski lessons. The teacher who taught me said I should try out for the teaching program, so I did. In 1987, I started teaching at Hyland.”
FOLLOW THE LEADER “I found that a lot of the teaching is really about your ability to communicate with the people. And as a teacher of a sport, a lot of it is demonstrative — not a lot of talking. It’s much more of a ‘follow me,’ and the ability to be able to ask another adult to get outside their comfort zone and lean down and let those skis work for them.”
BUNNY HILL JITTERS “I’m at the top of the hill starting the kids off on their test. I’m up and down that bunny hill continually. If they’re going to fall, they fall pretty quickly, so I’m pulling them up. A lot of them are frightened so I try to calm them down. I have them take some deep breaths, get in the athletic position. They go through a progression and learn how to go around cones like a slalom course. Most of them can pass it, but it might take three or four more times; it’s usually one little thing they’re doing wrong, so if we can correct it early they’re on their way. They can‘t see what they are doing [wrong], so I have to interpret that for them, give them something they can mentally or visually hang onto. It’s fun to see them make it. Some of them are saying, I can’t do this … and they go on and on, and then when they do it and they pass, they are just ecstatic.”
BLOOMINGTON: THE NEW ASPEN? “I go to Colorado every year, but I have no quarrel with skiing in Minnesota. I like it — I’m outside. The areas are well taken care of, the equipment’s good, the lifts and terrain parks are in good shape. You’re also never that far away from the chalet, so if you do get really cold you can run in for a while and come back out again.”
SEPTUAGENARIAN SLOWDOWN? “I’m more cautious skiing now. I can feel a difference. I think it’s strictly me — I have friends who are definitely skiing as hard as they used to. But I did a lot of hard skiing, so I don’t feel like I missed any. I also swim two mornings a week and I lift weights — but not as often as I should!” □