COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Ann Peacock, 81, has gotten used to strange looks, like the one she got recently at a ski shop, where she came to get her snowboard tuned up.
She placed it on the counter and the man behind asked, “Is this your snowboard?”
“Yes, yes it is,” Peacock said matter-of-factly. “And I’m good.”
Other days, she’s at the gym, finishing her two-hour workout on the StairMaster — building her lower body strength for continued double-black-diamond shredding.
“I had seven people on Sunday come over to me and tell me what good shape I was in,” she recalled at her Colorado Springs home, finished with her morning hike. “It’s just, this is what I do. This is my lifestyle.”
She joked about getting a wig to conceal her white hair. But she’ll let it be, because she’s amused by the remarks, especially on the mountains.
Snowboard Magazine once wrote of her at British Columbia’s powder-filled Revelstoke: “She ripped down steep lines through thick trees, at speed and with style, ibuprofen tablets rattling in her cargo pants pocket all the way down. She swore it was Viagra.”
“Yo, Momma!” a group of young snowboarders, all boys, exclaimed as she cruised to the bottom of a slope at Whistler Blackcomb beside Julie Holmes, a longtime friend who was skiing, as do pretty much all of Peacock’s friends who know her as the black sheep on a board.
In Seattle, where Peacock lived for almost three decades between her time in Colorado Springs dating to 1968, Holmes marveled at the woman 25 years her senior. As far-flung as the powder trips were Peacock’s windsurfing trips to Maui or Venezuela. Four times, she raced her bicycle from Seattle to Portland, and twice from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada.
Rather than slow down, Holmes had to keep up during a backpacking journey through the Grand Canyon. “I think they should put a clothing line out for her,” the friend said.
Peacock is among the country’s 0.1 percent of women 65 and older who snowboard, say data from SnowSports Industries America. But she doesn’t see herself as remarkable.
Her diet might be stricter — lots of chicken, fish and veggies, and not much fruit, due to the sugar. And she’s not windsurfing anymore, swapping that to join Colorado Springs’ budding pickleball scene, in which she vies to maintain a winning ratio of 50 percent or higher. Otherwise, Peacock is living much as she has since the ‘80s, when she started snowboarding as the sport had yet to hit the American mainstream.
“I’ve always been interested in doing something different and something that challenges me,” she said.
Those somethings were tough to find early into adulthood. Her focus had to be on her two sons, on supporting them as a single parent who remained at her parents’ home in eastern Canada. Her father was a fisherman, and while working as a waitress, she also hauled nets between tide changes, at 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning.
She’d enjoyed skiing since the age of 12, when her mom gave her a pair with bear-trap bindings.
But there was little time for skiing. She worked and longed for something different.
Time for herself was still hard to come by when she moved to Colorado Springs with her boys. She pursued nursing and married an Air Force man.
Her career took off as that marriage dissolved. He was a good dad, said son Kevin McNamara. But Max Peacock “was kind of her first real husband, if you will, who opened the door and said thank you,” McNamara said. “He was a real gentleman’s gentleman.”
In Seattle with him, Peacock avidly windsurfed and cycled. They skied and traveled. They shared a big house until they didn’t.
Max Peacock was playing tennis when he suddenly collapsed. His death was the result of an enlarged heart.
Back at the big house, Peacock couldn’t stand the silence.
“Her love for life I think came in ‘84 after Max passed away,” McNamara said, “only because she was really looking for things to do to get out of the house and stay busy.”
A few years later she was skiing in Chamonix, France, when she came by a free snowboard lesson. It was different — indeed, widely scorned by skiers at the time — and it was challenging.
“I never looked back,” Peacock.
And she never remarried, cherishing independence and the time traveling, her mind distracted by the wind in her face and the strain in her muscles. She’s felt conflicted in recent years, like the young mother again feeling she has greater responsibilities. “I thought maybe I was being selfish with my life,” she says.
So in July she came back to Colorado Springs to be around family. But now and then, she’s out for powder, which is why last month she was in Canada. There she happened upon a pair of skis with bear-trap bindings.
For nostalgia’s sake, she tried them. But they didn’t work for her, as skiing in general doesn’t these days. “I can’t get that rhythm back, just can’t get back into it,” she says.
No, Peacock isn’t looking back.