At age 88, Vince Rabbitte is not over the hill, in fact, he’s usually on top of it.
Every winter when ski season rolls around the Penticton octogenarian trades his tennis shoes for ski boots and heads for the hills.
At least three times a week Rabbitte, a retired high school teacher originally from New Zealand, gets to enjoy a little downhill fun and exhilaration.
A popular face, even behind the multi-coloured fire iridium goggles, he gets warm greetings from regulars of all ages who frequent Apex Mountain.
“The freedom of coming down the ski runs with the wind in your face is part of it, but it’s the whole atmosphere,” said Rabbitte, pausing for a moment. “I think sometimes when you look at the snow and the trees and the mountains beyond you really see a part of creation.
“The other side is the energy you get from being around young people and I think thirdly the discussions you have in the coffee shop.”
Rabbitte actually began skiing in 1945 in his homeland of New Zealand and worked for 60 years as a teacher before moving to Penticton after retiring in 1991.
“Back in those days, when I first started, the skis didn’t even have edges and they had kind of a spring binding and the leather boots would often come out,” said Rabbitte.
The Penticton resident is fast-paced proof you are as young as you feel and a body in motion stays in motion, especially on a slippery slope.
“Plus the energy I get saves me from taking medication and that saves me thousands of dollars. They’ll pump anything into you these days.”
And even though he’s getting older, he’s still getting better.
“Skiing’s been one of the most elusive sports for me to master but actually, yesterday, my skiing improved,” he said. “My turning is much better, I’m more aggressive, I’m more confident. I even went to the top of the mountain, but my older legs aren’t quite as good on the steeper stuff now. Once I get down to say the blue runs or well-groomed black run I can do it quite OK.”
Sticking to his philosophical roots, Rabbitte who has a PhD in physical education, believes in zen and the sport of skiing and incorporated that during his many years of instruction with the Apex snow school.
His most recent publication, Skiing, Competing and Winning has had worldwide circulation.
“Vince wrote the book on the philosophy of skiing. He is just a very passionate skier,” said Apex general manager James Shalman. “He’s loved by everybody and still gets out there all the time. He loves to bring the different philosophies of skiing and movement, the physics of it. He is a fun and entertaining man.”
Fun is the key element in what ever Rabbitte does and is what he feels is missing in sports, especially at the higher levels of hockey and football.
“True, certain people are going to be tops in tennis but they don’t beat the other fellow over the head with their racquet. They try to get better to win,” he said.
And even though he is retired, Rabbitte is not neglectful of his domestic duties: “I do house work on Thursdays and it makes me anxious to get up there (Apex) tomorrow. Cleaning the toilet isn’t as exciting as skiing down the slopes, but it has to be done.”
But it’s standing on the top of the mountain where his life and the world around him truly comes into focus and where he plans to be for as long as he can.