What’s the cut-off age for starting to ski or snowboard? The answer is simple: you can take up—and keep—skiing or boarding at any age! You can never be too “over the hill.”
It’s unanimous. Just as health experts have been saying for years about exercise and fitness programs, ski industry experts say it’s never too late to start, whether it’s downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country schussing, or snowshoeing. And never too old to stick with it. As long as you don’t have a debilitating health issue that your doctor says is definitely a winter sports “no-go”, there’s no reason you can’t go out and do it. In fact, here are four reasons to start or return to skiing later in life.
1. You’ll live longer.
To be able to start or continue with skiing or snowboarding at an older age, you’ll HAVE to stay in shape. You’ll learn how to improve and maintain your balance, your cardiovascular fitness, and your muscle strength—extending your life span in the process!
2. It’s easier than ever to learn.
Thanks to huge improvements in equipment, apparel, and ski run maintenance in recent years, it’s easier than ever to learn to ski or get back on the slopes. Skis are lighter; boots fit better and are warmer and more comfortable; waterproof outerwear is more breathable; many instructors have special training to teach skiers over 50; and the slopes get groomed to perfection every night.
If you’re a first timer, you won’t have to unlearn any bad habits or old styles of skiing. On the flip side, if you’re a returning skier, you’ll need to learn how to adapt your skiing to maximize your experience on today’s totally reconfigured skis.
3. Being “of a certain age” has its perks.
You’re likely in a better position to afford winter sports than when you were younger; conversely, you’ll be able to take advantage of the many senior discounts on lift tickets that are offered by most ski resorts.
If you’re retired, putting in fewer hours at the office, or now working as a consultant with your own hours, you’ll be able to ski midweek, when the slopes are wonderfully devoid of people and the atmosphere more chill.
4. You’ll be off the couch enjoying fresh mountain air and spectacular views.
Not only will your family, friends, and colleagues be majorly impressed when they hear that you’re now or still participating in a wintersport, you’ll get to enjoy one of the most sublime participant sports there is!
Learning To Ski As An Adult – Preparation & Instruction Are Key
Statistics show that many people who give skiing a try—regardless of age—never return after their first day. Why? Because it wasn’t the most pleasurable of experiences. They didn’t prepare (wrong clothing, out of shape, etc.) and they didn’t start with proper instruction on Day One. To give skiing and boarding an honest shot and ensure that you’ll want to go back for Day Two, be prepared for Day One and make sure that day includes a good ski lesson. You’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of exhilarating days on the slopes. Here are four important first steps…
Step #1: Check yourself out.
Before you sign up for those beginner senior lessons or if you’ve been off the slopes for a number of years and you’re itching to get out there again, the first step is to have a physical exam and get your doctor’s blessing.
If you’ve turned into a couch potato, get back in shape. Attend aerobics classes weekly; walk a lot; start a daily regimen that includes balancing exercises, weights, and some cardiovascular activities.
Here’s the recommended conditioning checklist for older skiers issued by the Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA):
•Check with your doctor before starting any physical training
•Choose a low-impact exercise regimen that includes stretches, half-squats, drive-ups, lunges, leg curls, crunches—avoid polymetric exercises, such as box jumps
•Include weight training in your exercise program—start with light weights and low reps, gradually increasing both
•Don’t over-train; alternate among walking, biking, stretching, and active rest.
•If you’re over the age of 50, see our tips for cardio, balance and strength exercises that senior skiers can do to prep for the slopes.
Step #2: Gear up.
If you’re a first-timer, either purchase ski apparel that you can wear both on and off the slopes or rent ski clothing. You can also rent a helmet and equipment (boots, skis, poles, boards) until you’re sure that you’re going to continue. If you’re returning to the sport after a hiatus, consider upgrading since ski equipment has improved markedly in the past couple of decades and makes skiing easier, safer, and more enjoyable. And buy a helmet!
Step #3: Start smart.
Seek out mountain resorts that offer special instruction programs or workshops for adult or senior skiers. For your first day, pick a day with great weather and good snow conditions and go on a weekday when the slopes are more empty.
Choose a ski area that employs PSIA-certified instructors who have been trained and accredited to instruct skiers 50 years of age and older. PSIA’s Accreditation I offers its Levels 1-, 2- and 3-certified instructors two days of training to address the instructional needs of beginning and intermediate senior skiers; Accreditation II is three days of training available to Levels 2- and 3-certified instructors to enable them to teach all levels of senior skiers modern ski techniques that will optimize their strength, balance, and enjoyment of the sport.
Step #4: Be enlightened.
Talk to other older skiers about skiing at a certain age. What are the pluses? The minuses? Helpful hints? Also, check out the articles and reader comments at the e-magazine, www.seniorssking.com, which was founded in April of 2014 and has proven to be an excellent resource and forum for skiers and boarders over the age of 50.
To sum it up…
When considering sports that seniors typically take up, Snowsports Industries Association’s Director of Research Kelly Davis says, “While golf and sailing and hiking are amazing activities, skiing gives you an experience of freedom that’s difficult to match. While working your core, you get the thrill of flying down a snow-covered hill. Plus the bonds you form on the slopes and on ski lifts are second to none.”
Her message is obviously resonating. The number of senior skiers is growing by leaps and bounds every year. In 2014, skiers aged 55 and older accounted for 6% of all skiers (double that of 1994); today in 2017, approximately 15% of all skiers are over the age of 50. Make this the year you join (or rejoin) the growing ranks of older skiers. You won’t be alone!
Rose Marie Cleese is a correspondent for SeniorsSkiing.com, an e-magazine devoted to wintersports enthusiasts aged 50 and up.