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Tips for advanced skiers over 50 planning to ski until 80+

MissySki

Angel Diva
When my friends and I get lucky and the snow conditions are good off-piste, we are probably skiing 80% off the groomed trails. Meaning we are only taking groomed trails to get between other terrain after a warm up run first thing in the morning.

After working on ski conditioning off-season for 8+ years, I'm just as ready to ski off-piste at the end of the day as first thing in the morning. When I started skiing more regularly out west about ten years ago, I stuck to groomers by 2:00 or so.

What's really changed in the last few seasons is my ability to ski deep powder, untracked or tracked, without stopping on a reasonably long run. That was always the goal for taking lessons. Getting enough powder experienced required starting to ski 20+ days at big mountains out west so that catching a powder storm was more likely. Also helped that I was spending at least a week at Alta in April starting in 2010. There is usually one decent snowstorm while I'm there. Even though the powder may only last one morning, it was enough to get some experience. I learned about lots of short powder shots from friends who know Alta well, as well as during lessons.

A powder run story . . .

In April 2019 I happened to reach the top of the Collins lift just as ski patrol was about to open Ballroom. I was skiing solo because I was on my way to look for friends over on Supreme. I got in line while I decided what to do. I had a couple minutes to think before reaching the gate. I ended up deciding to go for it. After a bit I was following a father with two kids, probably 8/9 and 10/11. They were obviously locals. When he stopped to have them drop in, I stopped too.

I watched the kids go, as at the father took video. His daughter (in pink) was younger and went first. Made a few turns, fell, popped up immediately, waved, and carried on. After the boy went, I knew I couldn't wait much longer if I wanted first tracks. I took a deep breath, counted to 3, and dropped in. I'd never skied deep powder non-stop that far and that fast before. What was unusual that day was that the groomer below Ballroom hadn't been groomed at all since the storm. Since I knew the terrain well, I kept right on going on top of the groomer. I made sure to stay in tracks on the flat section in order to have enough speed to get to the high point (second picture). What a rush!

Can you see the girl in pink (center)? She is at what is usually the edge of the groomed trail.
View attachment 16463

Didn't stop until I got here. The people in the picture skiing down went much farther out on the Ballroom traverse. It's get steeper as you go farther out. Where I dropped in is "blue" on the trail map because there is less pitch. Obviously snow conditions makes a big difference in times of how hard, or fun, it is to ski that section of Ballroom after a powder storm.
View attachment 16462

That looks amazing!!

I definitely still have a lot of trouble in deep (or really heavy because usually in the East) powder. I don’t get in it enough to practice a lot. I was feeling better after a week of powder days out in Jackson Hole in early 2020, and thought gosh if I could do this for a month straight I might actually be able to really ski powder! Alas, now it’ll have been 2 years by the time I get back West again due to Covid. I’m still pretty horrible in powder in the East if it gets over say 8-10 inches and depending how heavy and wet it is.. someday I’ll get it! Lol Untracked in heavy snow I can do, but tracked out heavy chop is still so tiring and I stop a lot to regroup.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
As an update to Post #1, it turns out the Liftopia webpage with tips for folks over 50 is still available even though the company is gone.

4 Tips For Skiing Over 50

1) Get Modern - gear, clothing
2) Get Fit - year round fitness
3) Get Lessons
4) Get Out There

If you are looking for tips for intermediate skiers over 40 who plan to spend few decades on snow:


The idea of this discussion is to provide suggestions for an older advanced skier who plans to keep skiing for a long time, meaning well past 70. Or share relevant experiences.

If you are over 50, do you expect to keep working on improving technique? Do you plan to ski more in the future, or less? When you ski with others, are they usually younger or older than you are? Are your ski buddies better skiers they you or do they have trouble keeping up?
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
So there’s hope for me yet? Now just to work up to that one or two a day in the next couple of years
Now that you have more time for ski trips that include skiing with people who are a bit more adventurous, I have no doubt that we'll get you off the groomers more. Especially since you are doing Taos Ski Weeks, plus lessons locally.
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
My current [over 60] expectations - I imagine my goals will vary from year to year. My failing has always been that I simply don't ski enough in any given year to improve or even maintain level. I do plan to ski more in the future. I suspect that as I age, unless I do focus on improving, I risk losing what skill level I've have. But a big part of that is maintaining or building on my physical condition. I tend to ski with people who are about the same age as me.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I tend to ski with people who are about the same age as me.
At this point, my primary ski buddies are both a bit older (pushing 70), the same age (mid-60s), or younger (under 45). I've been skiing with younger friends who are still working who weren't quite as good as I was when we started skiing together. But they were willing to take lessons and are compatible travel companions. I'm certainly hoping that when they retire, I'll still be interested in going on ski trips with them. Even if I'm not spending as much time off-piste.

The advice given towards the end of this video about an 87yo ski patroller at Big Sky stuck with me. The video is well worth watching. Phil Capy didn't hold back, he said “Keep making young friends because your old ones are going to die.” It was something he learned from an older man when he was much younger.


I suspect that as I age, unless I do focus on improving, I risk losing what skill level I've have. But a big part of that is maintaining or building on my physical condition.
As long as you are having fun skiing, doesn't matter what type of terrain you're on. When Naomi was over 90, she was still a regular guest at Alta Lodge (two weeks every month Dec-Apr). She was only skiing groomers for a couple hours in the morning midweek. For her, it was worth the effort of yoga every morning. Note that Naomi did start skiing until age 40.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
When Naomi was over 90, she was still a regular guest at Alta Lodge (two weeks every month Dec-Apr). She was only skiing groomers for a couple hours in the morning midweek. For her, it was worth the effort of yoga every morning. Note that Naomi did start skiing until age 40.
Ack . . . Naomi did not start skiing until age 40.

The morning I got to chat with her riding up the Sugarloaf lift she pointed at Devil's Castle and said "I remember doing that hike 5 days on the same day." I had to ask how old she was then. She said probably in her 50s, but then though it might have been when she was in her 60s. She finished by saying "but that was where the good snow was." :snow:

I watched Naomi ski a groomer on the Collins side after an early morning snowstorm. At least five inches of fresh powder on top of a surface that had been groomed before the storm got going. She was having a ball! She was always at the base of Collins by 9:00, knowing the lift didn't spin until 9:15. That was a day when getting first chair was well worth it. The powder hounds headed elsewhere so she and a friend essentially had the groomer to themselves. I followed her because I wasn't quite up for deep power off-piste yet.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
For those reading who are over 80, it's never too late find a way to work with an instructor to improve technique. Harvey Simpson was 90 when the following article and video were done in March 2017. Clearly Harvey has the advantage of financial resources that allowed him to pay for private lessons. But starting in 2015 Vail Village Ski School began 3-day clinics designed specifically for seniors that are pretty reasonable, especially for someone with an Epic Pass. The Ski Younger Now clinics are held several times a season and run about $1000 if lift tickets are included.

Vail Daily - March 2017
Skiing better at 90: Vail resident uses lessons to improve his technique

"VAIL — When Harvey Simpson was 80, he started getting nervous about his future as a skier. Realizing that one bad fall could end his days on the snow for good, he made a decision to reduce the chances of that happening by becoming a better skier.

"I decided, in order to avoid that I'd better ski correctly," Simpson said.

Simpson is a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. He started skiing in New York in 1954 after he got out of the Navy, and he skied hard.

"I used to be wild out there," he said.

These days, he's 90 years old, skiing on two new hips and he resides at the Sonnenalp as their only permanent resident. Skiing as a lifestyle is very important to his goals in longevity.
. . .

Simpson credits Vail ski instructor Gunnar Moberg for improving his technique throughout the years and contributing to that younger appearance on the slopes.

"He's light on the skis, with good rhythm," Moberg said. "He was a wonderful student."

Simpson said he learned by mimicking Moberg's movements.

"Talking to me was not working," Simpson said. "I'd ski behind him about 10 feet … seeing what he was doing as we skied down the mountain, and if I didn't feel right I'd see where he has his hands, where he has his head, his knees and everything else."

. . ."


How neat! Harvey Simpson is still skiing! He was 94 in 2020. He has two hip replacements. Figuring out how to learn from an instructor in 2017 happened after recovery from the second hip replacement.

Sept 2020
 

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