A Couple That Skins Together Stays Together - Ski Mag

A Couple That Skins Together Stays Together

Doris Spencer and Kent Willoughby divulge how to keep love and alpine adventures alive.
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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, Colo. home by 5:15. By 6 a.m., the pair is gearing up for its daily ski tour at such favorite ski areas as Keystone, Copper, and Arapahoe Basin. The duo love it so much that 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.”

While it’s true that skinning is a sufferfest, Spencer and Willoughby focus on the endgame.

“Skinning is a relentless uphill activity,” says Willoughby, a retired football coach and teacher. “The focus is on cardiovascular fitness, and the only time we stop is to drink water. But afterward we feel great all afternoon.”

Big deal, you say. You work for your turns all the time. But are you a septuagenarian? (Do you even know what that is? We didn’t think so.) That’s right, Willoughby, 76, and Kent, a spry 68, tour more relentlessly than people half their age.

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 ever since.

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

So how do these young’uns manage to tour so much? The pair attribute it, in part, to the advancement of AT ski equipment. “We’ve upgraded what we have four times,” says Kent, “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, Willoughly and Kent are moving onto their next season: Summer. 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, and 99 of the 100 Bicentennials, as well as Mont Blanc in France (their favorite), Mount Elbrus in Russia, and Aconcagua in Argentina. Next up: The pair plans to knock out a few of the state’s 100 Tricentennials. Feeling like a slacker? Yeah, we’re right there with you.

Related

The Skinny on Skinning

Skinning is crucial in the side- or backcountry because it’s more efficient and less tiring than hiking in deep snow. The fur-like surface of skins flattens as you move uphill, allowing your skis to glide, but it grips to keep you from sliding back after each step.