by Sarah Johnson
This is me. And I’m not what I expected. This was taken on a spring afternoon when, after three days of skiing big mountains with high-speed lifts, my knees hurt and my muscles were sore. My legs were screaming their age, but I couldn’t have been happier. If at 18, I had given my best guess as to where I’d be and what I’d be doing at 45, this would never have crossed my mind.
Rare is the life that goes “according to plan.” But at 18 I didn’t know how to ski, had never been on a mountain bike, and probably figured I’d be living in the Chicago suburbs with a couple of kids, a nice kitchen and maybe a trip out West to look forward to every few years.
It has been a winding journey since 18, and now I make my home in a Western town I’d never heard of until I was 22. I ride my mountain bike as much as possible, and skiing, after my family, is pretty much my favorite thing. I know lots of women who made choices along the way that have led them to a similar life. We all love a good kitchen, but our priorities have ended up being better trails and mountains more than better homes and gardens.
I recently started an Instagram feed called “OlderWiserStronger” to celebrate these women and their choices. The social media rabbit hole is full of “women in the outdoors” feeds, but they usually feature wrinkle-free 20-somethings early in their journey toward “older and wiser.”
Western Colorado is full of women over 40 who aren’t giving up the active, outdoor things that bring us joy, not to mention, keep us sane and healthy. We are women who ski, mountain bike, run, and paddle. We climb rocks and 14,000-foot peaks, we ride roads for miles, and we practice yoga on stand-up paddle boards.
Some of us are a little thicker around the middle and our finish times are slower, but really, if we don’t care, why would anyone else? We might not be what outdoor retailers are looking for in a model, but we are still a force. We are older and wiser, and that is what makes us stronger.