Françoise Kassenberg

Born - 1946 ;  Location - Val d’Isère, France ; Sports - Rock climbing, Skiing,

If anyone exemplifies the "raison d'être" of the Silver Grey Sports Club it's Françoise Kassenberg.



Passionate about climbing, which she has been doing for 25 years, at 65 she sees no reason to stop anytime soon. Why should she? As she says, she is still making progress in her climbing. And that attitude is one of the things that makes her a perfect subject for a Silver Grey Sports Club film. The other things are all about the willingness to work at keeping herself in shape in order that she can continue doing what she loves. The latest activity that she has taken up is Yoga, through which she will maintain among other things the suppleness which is not only an essential part of her sport of climbing, but also a great way to avoid the stiffening up that often affects you as you get older.


She came to Val d'Isère from Normandy when she was 10 years old, with her family, and they bought a hotel. She began working there during her 20's, has worked there ever since and she is now solely responsible. As for why we are interested in her she says that she had always been a sporty child, and living in such an exciting, and healthy, environment she and the family always enjoyed the outdoor life. The result of this was a continued enjoyment of all of her mountain lifestyle: the physical activities such as climbing and skiing - which have given her not only the reason but also the ability to stay in such great shape - as well as an appreciation of nature and the environment that surrounds her, and she now makes good use of that environment to collect fruits, berries and herbs to make traditional remedies, food and drinks.


Going to school away from Val d'Isère meant that she didn't take up skiing until she was twenty, late for a mountain dweller, but skiing is still very much a part of her sporting life. She doesn't, she says, have a particular diet in order to stay in the kind of shape that enables her to continue with her climbing, but she makes sure that she does do a lot of exercise. In the summer she climbs at least twice a week and she cycles, which at the altitude of 1850 metres is a particularly strenuous activity. During the winter, as well as downhill skiing and indoor climbing, she does cross-country skiing. This is regarded as a particularly good all-body work-out, as testified to by the invention of the Nordic-style cross-trainers now seen in gyms world-wide. And of course, the most recent addition to her activities is the Yoga, mentioned before.


Françoise says that you don't need to be strong to climb, but this is slightly misleading in relation to most people's understanding of the word. She means that you don't need a body-builder's shape for climbing, you need a lot of technique, particularly if you are involved in a day-long climb. This is certainly true, but also you do need to be in the best physical condition, and the  kind of all-body strength that she takes for granted is something that we should all have as an aim. Maybe you should go down to your nearest indoor climbing wall, have a look at it, and make it the inspiration for your training regime.