Skiing into his 80s: 79-year-old Texas resident continues skiing at Beaver Creek |

Skiing into his 80s: 79-year-old Texas resident continues skiing at Beaver Creek

THE LONGEVITY EVENT Why does Eagle County, and other prosperous Colorado mountain counties, have the highest life expectancy in the country? Speaker Tony Buettner, with the Blue Zones Project, will provide science-based answers on Wednesday, Feb. 28, during the Vail Daily's "The Longevity Project" event at Vail Mountain School. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are available now on the Vail Daily website. To find the path to long life and health, the Blue Zones team study the world's "Blue Zones," communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. Buettner is the senior vice president of business development at Blue Zones, a Minnesota-based team that puts the research of National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner into action in communities across the country. Dan Buettner is the New York Times best-selling author of "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest," "Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way" and "The Blue Zones Solution."

BEAVER CREEK — Seniors of Eagle County and other mountain communities have the highest life expectancies in the nation, according to a recent study.

And it’s not just those who live here, but also those who visit each year.

Jeff Austin Jr., 79, comes each year to Beaver Creek from Jacksonville, Texas.

How does he do it, skiing into his 80s?

“Well, I just put the skis on and go,” he said from a chairlift at Beaver Creek. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have good health, I’ve had good instructors and good people to ski with. It’s just one of those things that happened.”

For Austin, he started skiing in 1958 — 60 years ago — and has continued with the sport along with his wife, Sissy.

“I’ve just been fortunate,” Austin said. “We’ve been able to work hard and enjoy life and not doing anything in excess. I don’t have any special diet. I guess good genes in the family helps a whole lot.”

Working out five times a week also helps keep Austin in skiing shape. He has a personal trainer three days a week to help with balance, posture and developing core strength.

Even though snowboarding is not on his to-learn list, Austin has plenty of more skiing to do.

“It just depends,” he said. “One day at a time.”

Austin remembers his first time coming from the Lone Star state to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

“We came from Texas on a train,” he recalls. “A guy had put together a ski trip and he tacked about four cars onto a pasture train, and there were probably 75-80 kids from Texas who went to Denver. You didn’t have I-70. Buttermilk had just opened; Vail wasn’t open at that time.”

The skis were wooden and the boots were leather — and t-bars and rope tows hauled people up the mountain.

“We’ve come a long way,” Austin said.

And there’s still a ways to go for the 79-year-old skier from Texas.

Entertainment & Outdoors editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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