Longevity Project: Aspen panelists highlight what longevity means to them at soldout event

The noun “longevity” has two definitions: The first is “a long duration of individual life” or “length of life”; the second is “long continuance.”

But for five Aspen locals, the definition of longevity is more nuanced than what a dictionary implies.

Alex Ferreira, X Games and 2018 Winter Olympics freeskier and medalist, said longevity for him means being able to ski until he’s 100.

Christy Mahon, one of the most accomplished ski mountaineers in the state, said the word means taking care of herself and morphing her lifestyle to what gives back to her heart, soul and body. And orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tomas Pevny said it means knowing his limitations and embracing the wisdom that comes with living a long, prosperous life.

For the five panelists who talked about their life experiences in Aspen and beyond Tuesday night for The Aspen Times’ Longevity Project event, chasing longevity had its nuances for each and some universal ties.

“It’s so exciting to be in a town that’s constantly active,” Mahon said of how living in Aspen impacts her lifestyle. “We motivate each other and seeing what’s being done by others is just contagious.”

On the fifth floor of the Mountain Chalet, a sold-out crowd of roughly 125 people listened as moderator Penn Newhard, founder of the Carbondale-based Backbone Media company, asked the panelists about what motivates and challenges each of them in their everyday lives.

Most of the panelists expressed their love of the mountains and the Aspen area’s active, adventurous culture as empowering and difficult. All highlighted camaraderie and community as their keys to success.

“Connection is so vital to our longevity and when we don’t have it, we struggle,” panelist and mental health professional Christina King said. “There is a lot of individualism and competition in this valley. I think we get distracted by that sometimes and forget to wrap our arms around each other, too.”

Mountain Rescue Aspen member and avalanche educator Greg Shaffran expressed similar thoughts, noting that the backcountry rescue and mountain safety nonprofit couldn’t operate without its dedicated team.

“As individuals we’re OK,” Shaffran said, “but as a group we can combine and do some really amazing things.”

After roughly 45 minutes of discussion and an inspiring video featuring 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer — the German native and longtime Aspen local known for his positive spirit and for helping revolutionize the ski industry — the panel concluded and National Geographic adventurer Mike Libecki took the stage. Overall, the speakers highlighted the importance of self-care and creating meaningful connections with others as key determinants of a long, prosperous life.

“We all want to be like Klaus. It’s a good way to live,” Shaffran said of chasing longevity. “I think finding diversity in your life sets you up for success down the road … but I also think longevity is about what you are able to leave and what kind of effect you can have on other people.”