Nancy Middleton, 82, Ski Instructor at Steamboat Springs, Colorado

By Jane Gilgun

A ski instructor in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, 82 year-old Nancy Middleton has no plans to retire. The thought never crosses her mind. She’s having too much fun. “Stay in good health and be grateful” is Nancy’s motto.

Nancy first strapped on skis when she was 13 years old, 68 years ago, at Little Switzerland, located outside of Milwaukee, where she grew up. The area has many small hills but no mountains. She loved being physical and being outside in the cold weather. Early on, she began to give lessons to pay for her own lessons. A turning point was a trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1947 through her high school. “The trip gave me a lot of experience in the mountains. I had a wonderful time for the two week,s “ she said. “It cost $75 a week. Imagine that.” From then on, she was hooked on skiing.

Almost 50 years ago, she spent about five years taking clinics and courses with the Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA) to pass the exams and earn her Associate Certification as a Professional Alpine Ski Instructor. She has distinctive gold Medal with 40 years from PSIA. She said, the medal “is the envy of many of the other instructors who are great coaches and trainers, but they haven’t be in PSIA continuously as long as I have.”

She has taught at several ski schools including at the Aspen Ski Company at Snowmass in Aspen, Colorado. Today she is beginning her thirteenth year as an instructor at the Steamboat Ski School, whose website states that the instructors are welcoming and

If you want to build your confidence in a safe, controlled environment with instructors who can guide you around the mountain, showing you the secrets of skiing and riding, you’ve come to the right place.

You don’t have to read the website to know that this is Nancy’s teaching philosophy. Specializing in teaching women, Nancy said, “Many women, both young and middle-aged, have been taken right up on a big mountain by their spouses, children, or friends who are good skiers and tell them they’ll teach them. This turns out to be a disaster. The people mean well, but they aren’t ski instructors, and they don’t realize that beginning skiers need to start at the bottom of the mountain and build a solid foundation with a ski instructor who understands their fears.”

Nancy tells her students, “Believe me I won’t take you up on the mountain until I know you are ready and have the skills and confidence to ski down with good controlled turns and appropriate speed for the terrain level and conditions.” She said, said, “We have fun. We take lots of pictures. We have lunch.”

During the eight months she’s not in Steamboat Springs, Nancy is real estate agent in the western suburbs of Minneapolis and the Lake Minnetonka area in Minnesota. Nancy writes a blog ( and a monthly newsletter called Nancy’s Network. In both blog and newsletter, she shares her thoughts and adventures that arise from her many activities.

Among the topics she covers are her reflections on being a ski instructor, her beliefs about helping people buy and sell homes, her fund-raising for charitable activities of the Rotary Club, and her volunteer work for Meals on Wheels through Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior.

On one her meal deliveries, Nancy rescued a man who had fallen down his basement stairs and broke his leg. She wrote in her blog, “Since he lived alone, I wonder what would have happened to him if I hadn’t come to deliver his noon meal.” She phoned 911 and the police. Paramedics took the 83 year-old man to the hospital where they found he had broken his leg in two places. Reflecting on the incident, Nancy said, “I thought I had been calm, cool, and collected, although many days later, I still visualized his body lying there on the cold cement and felt grateful I had found him.”

Nancy has written Nancy’s Network for 15 years. It’s her way of staying in touch with other people and informing them of events she participates in. Stories and photographs of sailing races and regattas on Lake Minnetonka are regular features. A long-term competitive sailor herself, today, she is responsible for timing five to seven different fleets in their starts and records and takes photographs of the finish of the races. He does these tasks with her oldest son, Blake, who is principal race officer at the Minnetonka and Wayzata Yacht Clubs.

She also writes stories about what’s new in the housing market in the Lake Minnetonka area. The newsletter is as much a photo album as a newsletter because she includes photographs that she takes of her ski students, the people she’s involved with, the sailboat races, and activities of the Rotary Club. Each issue also has three guest writers. She said the newsletter “is a labor of love.”

Nancy also teaches needlepoint and does photography not only for the yacht club, the Rotary Club, and Steamboat Ski School, but also at Trinity Episcopal Church where she creates photographic records of events there.

Nancy summarized what motivates her: “I like to help people to do things that I have learned to do. I’m always trying to educate myself.”

About the Author

Jane Gilgun is a freelance writer and professor who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Her outdoor sports are riding horses, hiking, and gardening. She has many articles and books available on the internet.