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Snow careers & career changers

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
A topic covered in many blogs but haven't really found anything on SH bar discussions on running a chalet company.

So hoping to kick off an interesting thread as I'm very seriously considering a career change, granted I'm a bit lost as to what exactly I want to do in the industry. rolling eyes

Has anyone on here taken the plunge and gone for a career change to the snowsports industry?

How did you go about jumping ships? Sabbatical?

What life stage were you when you made the jump? Close to retirement? Early career? Did you have kids?

What do you do now?

Are you permanently based in the mountains?

Pros and cons?

How did you deal with the issue of finances?

Any lessons learned and tips?

Keen to hear your stories and hopefully other readers will be too!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I'm also very interested in that. I work in software engineering and signed up for BASI L1 training just so I can have a feel if instructing is something I fancy or am capable. I have also tried searching for jobs in some top ski-related brands without much success for my skills.

At the moment I'm considering in 4 years moving to the Alps but the business part still is to defined, I guess having a chalet with few rooms for renting during season and perhaps some sort of courses with "alpine experience" during summer.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
So I didn't change career but I did change location. I guess I'd longed to live in the mountains for many years but couldn't really see how to make it happen without becoming some sort of penniless ski bum.

A few things happened which made me re-evaluate my life, I won't go into those.

I'd had many ski trips to Ski Amadé, made friends here and realised that people live and work here. They're not ski resorts as such (well maybe Zauchensee and Obertauern can be described as such) but normal towns with residents, year round economies, good transport links. All I'd need is a city within reach that I could get a job in. Hello Salzburg.

I moved here 1 year, 8 and a bit months ago. I was very lucky to find a job within my existing career field within six weeks. Not only am I continuing my career in graphic design but I work with motor brands (always my favourite clients in the past) and some of my work ends up in ski areas and on the ski world cup circuit. I work a 4 day week so during the season that's 3 days a week to ski, plus the odd day or week off if I fancy it.

I'm 50, lifelong single, no kids, so not that close to retirement, but I had no real commitments. My job in the UK was on shaky ground, my house was losing money and in a depressing area. I had no qualms about quitting and selling up. I was nervous about finding a job and having interviews in German was nothing short of terrifying. But it worked.

I live here permanently, the pros of being in the mountains are numerous. Skiing of course, but also hiking, cycling (badly!), mountain air, views, a relaxed way of life. I have quite a commute, 75km each way, I drive 25km of it and get a train the rest of the way. Trains here are cheap, clean, on time, it's quite a pleasure. I guess the only real con for me is missing my friends in the UK.

Finances are not really an issue, I earn a bit less than I did in the UK mainly due to working fewer hours. But my outgoings are also generally lower. I don't have a mortgage.

My only tip is that if you genuinely want to live in the mountains, then do it, find a way. It might not mean quitting your career, but of course it could if that's what you want. Of course now that Brexit has been postponed, you could have a window of opportunity assuming that you are a British citizen. After Brexit, if it ever happens, it will be much more difficult.

Good luck.
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Quote:

My only tip, is that if you genuinely want to live in the mountains, then do it, find a way. It might not mean quitting your career, but of course it could if that's what you want.


I'd second this.

I took a very different approach. Left a decent job with good career outlook to do a season in Canada. Decided 1 week a year was not going to cut it going forward. Now I spend 2-3 months each winter in Canada - no job just snowboarding. A couple of months volunteering in the mountains during the summer (food+board for a little work with tourists and lots of time to go hiking and enjoy the area). Then spring and autumn I work to save up some money. Much happier now than when I was working in a "good" job. I was in a rather easy position - no wife/kids/dependents.

There are always options just depends what you are willing to do to make things work.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
LittleBullet wrote:

What life stage were you when you made the jump? Close to retirement? Early career? Did you have kids?
What do you do now?
Are you permanently based in the mountains?
Pros and cons?
How did you deal with the issue of finances?
Any lessons learned and tips?
Keen to hear your stories and hopefully other readers will be too!


Probably not exactly what you're asking, but:

1. 19, then straight back out after University. First job I had that falls into the 'career' category was content marketing for an online ski/surf travel agency, around 2 years after doing standard retail type work in Innsbruck. From there I spent a couple of years writing for various ski media, then on to the below.
2. Online Marketing for a tourism board + a small online business
3. Yep, been here full time for almost 7 years now, plus seasons before that
4. Pros - basically everything; Cons - no good fish and chips in Austria + career progression is harder than it would be in my first language
5. Wasn't really an issue for me, going from being a student in a shared flat to sharing a flat with my then gf + 30 hours a week work and still living like a skint student
6. Many (not all) jobs in the ski industry involve working when you would want to be skiing and don't pay well. Doing 'normal' work (like the 2 years I spent working in the H&M womens changing rooms putting bras back on hangers) can actually be much better for ski time - and is a BRILLIANT way to learn the language

To follow on from that, it depends what you actually want to do. If you have good savings and don't need to work much, buying and running a chalet can be a good way to make your home cover costs as a lifestyle type business. Plenty of people seem to do much better than that (probably Flagesax will jump in here and tell me I'm wrong!), but my perspective is that it's getting harder, if your ambition is to grow/scale it.

Ski instructing... For me, got pretty tedious, and working 6 days a week with little time to ski for myself got old pretty quickly. If you're good enough to teach high level classes and offpiste trips - or become a guide - that would be much less of an issue.

But if you want to live somewhere you can ski a lot and make a reasonable income, generally IME the ski industry is not the one to be in, and even a ski resort might not be the place to be. I know Brits here (around half of whom have pretty limited German) working as, for example: university proffessor, marketing for medical device companies, business development for similar, filmers and photographers, yoga teachers, engineers, dsigners, etc. Essentially, just normal jobs and careers with good earning potential, but with skiing on the doorstep and 5 weeks of paid holiday a year. Personally that's preferable to me than pretty much any of the typical resort jobs. However the resorts and hardware brands do all have higher level 'proper' job opportunities too.

If you're looking to move and start a business, I also think there are a whole bunch of opportunities that are easier and more lucrative than pretty much anything in the ski industry. And of course there's always remote working too.


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Fri 12-04-19 18:10; edited 2 times in total
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clarky999 wrote:
... But if you want to live somewhere you can ski a lot and make a reasonable income, generally IME the ski industry is not the one to be in, and even a ski resort might not be the place to be. ...
If you're looking to move and start a business, I also think there are a whole bunch of opportunities that are easier and more lucrative than pretty much anything in the ski industry. And of course there's always remote working too.
I was trying to think of a good way to say that.

The ski industry is full of low skilled work being chased after by people who just want to play in the snow.
That means wages are low, and there's no shortage of volunteers.
Even if you're the best in the world, you don't have a significant advantage over the next kid when it comes to shovelling snow,
driving a cat or teaching people to ski. You're at a disadvantage over "locals", who are better connected than you.

That's not to say that living in those places is a bad idea - I've many friends who do just that.
I get more days than almost all of them, except for one set who ride every day just because they can. That sounds a lot like work, to me.
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I did it slightly differently, I contract in the UK in highways management positions and live half of the year fairly close to @queenie pretty please in the Austian Alps. It's a bit lonely contracting away and I don't half miss Kooky but it does mean that I have the entire winter to ski.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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clarky999 wrote:


But if you want to live somewhere you can ski a lot and make a reasonable income, generally IME the ski industry is not the one to be in, and even a ski resort might not be the place to be.


Like Clarky I've worked a couple of years in the ski industry in the past and you don't necessarily get a lot of skiing done (ok I skied first season 7 days / week from November to May but that is exceptional, second season I didn't ski a day until I quit in February).

Austria sounds easier than France for work. First of all you really need to speak French to work here. The cost of living is eye wateringly high and wages are not great so I have to keep a close eye on what I spend, I couldn't blow 5 grand on a bike, for example. Being France there are always lots of complicated ways to reduce costs though but you really need to understand the system.

I get around 3 months off a year though, plus weekends, which is nice.
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We moved to Calgary instead!!
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@LittleBullet, what skills do you have?

@Gustavobs, plenty of jobs in CH for good software engineers.

As per others above, if you can get a decent paying job somewhere with easy access to good skiing you can have the best of both worlds. Grenoble, Lyon, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, Innsbruck etc.

Remote working, contracting probably the best way to be based in resort if you have the right skills.

Ski season starts in Nov and ends in May. There’s 50 days of skiing just doing weekends.
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Moved my job so we could relocate to the Alps. I’d done two ski seasons and knew I didnt want to work in the ski industry long term. After 4 years I was bored of mountain living and the ‘seasonal’ life of everything being open in winter and summer and very little in between. So we moved to Switzerland - still surrounded by mountains but have lots more options and a great mix of city and slopes.


Last edited by snowHeads are a friendly bunch. on Sat 13-04-19 16:33; edited 1 time in total
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I did a season years ago and couldn't wait to get back to London to find conversation, let alone activities, unrelated to snowsports. I'd agree, therefore, that a 'proper' job with easy access to the slopes is the best option. (I couldn't do that because my job didn't travel easily, nor did it give me much spare time and at that point I wasn't ready for a career change.)
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
I'm not keen on spending endless weeks in a ski resort, tend to go a little stir crazy. I like being back home from time to time, and 10 weeks per winter feels about right for me.

In terms of career change, find something you like doing. Doing something you dislike in order to spend more time in the mountains and on the snow doesn't seem like a longterm plan. I like ski teaching, these days as much as skiing and often more so. For me it's not satisfying an aim just to spend more time on skis, it's a goal in its right.


Last edited by So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much on Sat 13-04-19 10:58; edited 1 time in total
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I did a season years ago too. Yes the ski time was great and I met lots of interesting people. But I did feel very disconnected from normal life. I was in a resort rather than a town, up a winding mountain road, with nothing more than skiing and après ski on offer. Even a trip to the shops was a major undertaking. Whilst this was fun for a season, I would never want it as a lifestyle and employment opportunities are really limited to seasonal low paid work.

The trick is to find somewhere where you can have a 'normal life' and ski in your spare time. I think we're pretty much all saying the same thing on this thread.
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Gustavobs wrote:
I'm also very interested in that. I work in software engineering and signed up for BASI L1 training just so I can have a feel if instructing is something I fancy or am capable. I have also tried searching for jobs in some top ski-related brands without much success for my skills.


Someone (I think it might have been Steve Angus, who has his Val D/EK thread) said to me that it wasn't liking skiing that you needed to be an instructor, it was a love of teaching. The problem with teaching people to ski is that you have to go out in all conditions, you might have a bluebird powder day where you're stuck on green slops etc. etc. Of course many people are happy to deal with that, you just need to be clear on what you're signing up for.

I keep thinking about how I'd move abroad but trying to do my job in a foreign language that I don't really speak would be start out as an apprentice again. I've considered what transferable skills I have but there aren't many that fit outside of the construction industry. I'm envious of the way that Scarpa has made it work (other than the lengthy drives) but again it's not something that I could do simply at the minute...or I'm just making excuses.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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I was made redundant after many years as an IT Manager 3 years ago. As I was over 55 at the time I decided that I was never going to work in an office again! Nowadays my wife and I spend our winters in the Alps (Just back from working a season in Montalbert)), late spring/early summer cycling and camping around Europe on our touring bikes, and the bits in between we earn a bit cash as freelance self employed bus/coach drivers. We also have a couple in as lodgers in our UK house - their rent pays all the running costs, and they look after the place while we are away.

I don't want the stress of trying to set up my own business, and we just decided that for us now lifestyle is more important than money. After working in a good, but stressful job, and seeing conventional retirement receding into our old age it took a big change of thinking to not worry about future finances - there is no money in working seasons! (and even owners of small businesses often seem to struggle to make much money).

Unlike @queenie pretty please we like being disconnected from "normal life" - being in a ski resort in the winter and cycletouring as well we are only part of normal society for about 4-5 months each year.

This approach is certainly not for everyone, but we have had some of the best times of lives in this last 3 years.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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@RobinS, well done you! Nice!!

Our own story involved moving to Geneva from the UK 13 years ago on corporate gigs, her ladyship's actually relocated us which was helpful. And at the same time investing in tourist apartments in Chamonix as a long term investment/pension plan.

So for the last 13 years we have been mostly corporate and not skiing nearly as much as we wanted - albeit with a bit of seasonpassitis. But living in a very nice part of the world.

Mid Feb we sold the house we'd bought in Geneva and moved into one of the apartments in Chamonix. Which is delightful. Bit late in the season - but I have had one extra curricular ski Happy.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@under a new name, I could contemplate living in Chamonix - it's much more than a ski resort and offers exceptionally easy access to other places.
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@Hurtle, I almost prefer it in Summer to Winter. I do like this time of the season, some more ski days to be done and watching my poppies sprout in the garden snowHead Cool
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If you are reading this and young enough, plan to retire at 55, pay as much into pension schemes as you can, get good financial advice and when you are old and grey spend as much time skiing or sailing or bike riding as you can Toofy Grin
Only bug bear is your health, but Cancer is beatable now...
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@boredsurfin, or alternatively, don't wait till you retire to do things you want to do. You might be dead, and I dare say we all know someone who is. Skullie
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Definitely don't wait. Firstly as said, you might not make it. Secondly almost nobody can ski as hard in their late 50s as when they are young. Better to make the most of your youth and good health while you can.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
under a new name wrote:
@Hurtle, I almost prefer it in Summer to Winter. I do like this time of the season, some more ski days to be done and watching my poppies sprout in the garden snowHead Cool
Very Happy Very Happy
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My last full time, permanent job in the UK was in 2004. I'd sold my house & business. I was 54. Applied for a reps job with a UK ski T.O. Was appointed a hotel/resort manager as my career & experience warranted that. Have now spent 14 winter seasons in Switzerland, France, Austria, Canada & the USA. I had 1 season 'off' but had 5 ski trips. I hope to still carry on doing winter seasons as long as someone will have me! I suppose the lesson here is you're never too old?
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boredsurfin wrote:
If you are reading this and young enough, plan to retire at 55, pay as much into pension schemes as you can, get good financial advice and when you are old and grey spend as much time skiing or sailing or bike riding as you can...
I'd be a bit careful with that as there's a lifetime limit on pension contributions these days, and the size of that pot is probably not sufficient if you want to ride a lot.
In my view "financial advisors" are mostly sales people, and even the ones you pay aren't as good as doing your own research.

Quote:
Secondly almost nobody can ski as hard in their late 50s as when they are young. Better to make the most of your youth and good health while you can.

I agree with the second bit.

Although I'm not quite in my "late 50s", I'm heading there. My climbing isn't what it was, but with snowboarding....as you get older you get way more technique, so
I can ski top-to-bottom all day with world-class people without breaking a sweat these days.

I think it's mostly an attitude thing. If you don't mistreat your body, you may be surprised at how well it holds up.
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Must say I have to disagree with some of your misconceptions there.

Your view of pensions is somewhat jaundiced. If I hadn't saved and invested in good pension schemes, I wouldn't have had the freedom to do what I've been doing for the last 15 years, and I still have lots more to do! The lifetime limit on pension withdrawal is in excess of 1 million pounds a year!!! If you can't manage on that. you're on a whole different planet to me. Before anyone thinks I'm some kind of fat cat wnker, whoops sorry banker. Think again. I was an apprentice and worked in factories until my mid thirties but worked bloody hard at several jobs. Often at the same time,
As I didn't start to ski until I was in my mid thirties, I was still skiing as hard in my late 50's early 60's as I ever did. Now 68 and can still ski some of the kids who come out each season off the mountain. they all think they're the bees knees and get a shock!
The last two sentences I do agree with.
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Quote:

I think it's mostly an attitude thing. If you don't mistreat your body, you may be surprised at how well it holds up.


I agree with you that if you take care of yourself it's possible to be skiing hard later in life. But physiologically it's harder; decreased testosterone, decreased muscle mass etc are all problems that come with age. There's a reason why we don't tend to see any older professional athletes.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Plenty of 'older' skiers about on the slopes though. Perfectly possible to ski well in your eighties and nineties if you look after yourself. After all if you're skiing correctly, gravity is doing most of the work!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@boarder2020, hmm, my aim is to ski for as long as I can walk. That is of course not the same as being a professional athlete, but I can still keep going all day at the age of 72 (at least on piste, my upper body strength is not up to dealing with falls off piste) as my technique is fairly sound. The great thing about skiing is that, up to a point - it's a lot more enjoyable if you do have a decent set of technical tools to draw on - you can choose your level at which to do it.

Decreasing testosterone doesn't seem to be causing me too much of a problem. wink
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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@Old Man Of Lech, exactly
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Poster: A snowHead
boarder2020 wrote:
Quote:

I think it's mostly an attitude thing. If you don't mistreat your body, you may be surprised at how well it holds up.


I agree with you that if you take care of yourself it's possible to be skiing hard later in life. But physiologically it's harder; decreased testosterone, decreased muscle mass etc are all problems that come with age. There's a reason why we don't tend to see any older professional athletes.


True, but it's not like you hit 55 and all of a sudden can't ski. I'm 33 but there are plenty of Snowheads that I've skied with who are twice my age and ski harder. Professional level? Not so much. Still able to enjoy skiing full days? Absolutely. The idea that you have to make the move before a certain age is just silly.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I guess it depends what your goals are. Personally don't see many "older," people riding the way I want to be, of course there are exceptions. There are certain issues that come with age (e.g. arthritis) and are definitely going to have an impact. The question is why waiting is better? IME most of the "I'll do it when I'm older" mentality results in things never getting done.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Quote:

my upper body strength is not up to dealing with falls off piste...Decreasing testosterone doesn't seem to be causing me too much of a problem


Decrease of hormone production like testosterone and HGH is one of the reasons people lose muscle mass and strength as they age.
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@boarder2020, If you have the resources at a young age and that probably means well to do parents, fine do it at someone else's expense. You haven't been around much if you haven't seen 'older' skiers or riders. They do far outnumber the 'youngsters'. Simply because they do have the resources to indulge their passion. To assume as you seem to that everyone is going to suffer from arthritis or similar conditions is way off the mark.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@boarder2020,
Quote:

it depends what your goals are
Indeed. I don't play the piano any more because I don't do it as well as I would like to and just don't enjoy doing it badly/worse than before. Luckily I enjoy skiing at the level at which I do it, partly perhaps because I never did it particularly well.
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Old Man Of Lech wrote:
Before anyone thinks I'm some kind of fat cat wnker, whoops sorry banker. Think again.


fat cat boomer then?
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Having had a year of ‘oh gosh but they’re so young’ deaths and awful life changing injuries around me, put nothing off, Be Nice please! your pension. Live. If it doesn’t work - go home and do something else. Not trying is the saddest thing.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@davidof, Hard working normal man. No silver spoon, no rich relatives, no inheritance, no wasted time at uni doing worthless degrees, no regrets! Worked hard,saved hard. Enjoyed life and continue to do so.
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boarder2020 wrote:
I guess it depends what your goals are. Personally don't see many "older," people riding the way I want to be, of course there are exceptions. There are certain issues that come with age (e.g. arthritis) and are definitely going to have an impact. The question is why waiting is better? IME most of the "I'll do it when I'm older" mentality results in things never getting done.


I agree, do it while you are young. Who know's what the future will bring... probably no snow.
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@davidof, Scaremongering? Best advice is do it any time you can. Young, old, middle aged. Age doesn't matter. Do it when you can!
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