BOZEMAN — On a bluebird March day, you can find 86-year-old Molly Hayes riding the chair lift at Bridger Bowl, her sights set on her favorite run, Easy Money.
And it isn’t her first line, she’s been on planks for more than half a century.
“I was 13 years old on Camano Island (Wash.), my brothers brought home five pairs of white 10th Mountain Division skis,” Hayes recalled. “And we had snow that winter, I skied the road from the top of the cliff. It was just something special to do and I loved it.”
The love for skiing grew into a competitive affair in high school, and that spirit never died, even with age.
She’s not your average 86-year-old — Hayes has raced in more than 300 triathlons, including a first-place finish for her age group in the 2017 U.S. Spring Triathlon.
She’s also participated in numerous downhill ski races, and she most recently took home gold in her age group for Bozeman’s annual 10K Pub Run.
“I just never stopped skiing. And any place I could find a race, I would race. I was so glad when Bridger Bowl got the community ski races,” Hayes said.
Staying active also helped Hayes through personal grief, the loss of her son Walter.
“So Walter goes on when I’m in any kind of race, I have him on my jacket. And he’s been the guardian angel for our family,” she said.
“He died after a surgery when he was 6 years old. Grief from a loved one, family member, that lasts three years. Just intensely it’s within, three years maybe the person is holding their own and back to normal, but you just gradually try and make it a positive thing,” she added.
And the exercise was key for Hayes.
“It definitely helps. When you start running fast, then you can’t cry,” she said.
And with sports like skiing, Hayes believes there’s not an expiration date for anyone.
“I don’t have any words for anyone who is just a sissy and a wimp and really would rather just sit. I have heard so many people say, ‘Oh, I could never run again. Oh, I could never ski again. I’m just going to sit on the couch and just waste away,'” she said. “Know your own body and what you can do, but if you skied in the past, then get out there and start like you’re a beginner again. Don’t overdo it and stay healthy.”