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Tips for intermediates over 40 planning to ski until 70+

Last week I had a chance to ski a few runs with Naomi, Her favorite trail in the spring off Supreme is Rock'N'Roll since that side softens first. With cold snow, she is happy to do a few funs on the Collins side in the morning and then go in for the day.

Naomi celebrated her 92nd birthday on April 8. She started her birthday with a early ride up the Collins lift at Alta with ski patrol before the opening time. Hard to see but that's her on the left on the chair just past the loading zone. I gather that sometimes happens on other days as well.
Alta 08Apr2014 - 01.jpg

What I learned this trip was that Naomi didn't start skiing until age 40. One story she told me was about the day she did Devil's Castle (5-10 min side step up then long traverse) over and over again. I think she said five times. Her memory was that she was in her 50s or even over 60. Naomi plans to be at Alta Lodge again next season. I'm looking forward to skiing with her again.
 
Love this story, would love to see Naomi! What an inspiration!
Assuming Naomi does her normal winter routine, she'll be at Alta Lodge the first two weeks of every month Dec-Apr next season. She skis every weekday morning. I think on weekends it depends on snow conditions and how crowded the slopes are likely to be. When it's a powder day, she gets ready in time to be among the first waiting for Collins to open.
 
Every year at the Sugarloaf pass holder picnic, an "Iron Man/Woman" award is given to a senior skier who exemplifies "the spirit." Started years ago with a legendary skier, Paul Schiffer, who skied every day that Sugarloaf was open for 3700+ days (now departed).

Don't know who got the award this year but last year's Iron Man winner, Ed, sat down next to me on the shuttle bus to parking lot last Sunday, and everyone knows him - Iron Man legend. 93 years old, skied 65 days this past season. Wow.
 
A number of posts have mentioned fitness. For me, discovering pilates was useful, especially for improving core strength. Just discovered a new video. It's by a ski instructor at Vail who also teaches pilates in Boulder. In the associated introduction video, she said her career as a full-time ski instructor started at age 40 . . . 30 years ago! The video is about 5 min and she covers 7 exercises. Take a look and see if she looks like she is 70.

 
:bump:

Questions asked in Post #1:
What tips or stories do you have for those who discover the fun of sliding down a snowy slope on downhill skis later in life? In particular for those who have so much fun they want to do it more and more as time and money allows. When is buying boots worthwhile? Buying skis? Is going on a ski vacation to a destination resort as a beginner or intermediate worth the time and money?

New questions:
How often are lessons useful for an intermediate who aspires to become an advanced skier sooner rather than later? During a vacation ski week? When live within an hour of a ski area?

What is the advantage/disadvantage of a full day lesson vs. a half-day lesson for an intermediate?
 

2ski2moro

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I would like to share my friend's experience from last year. She is a 40-something intermediate who began to ski 4 years ago. Although she mastered the art of the perfect short-radius, carved turn immediately, she has not advanced in her technique since the first year.

She only gets to ski for one week per year. Her major disadvantage is not being able to properly train the muscles needed to ski, and she always is sore during the trip.

Based on her experience, here is what I recommend.

1. Become as fit as you can, as soon as you can.

2. Take a half day lesson on the morning of the first day. Give yourself time to think about what you learned and practice in the afternoon for an hour or two, but don't overdo it. You don't need to remember how to ski or reinforce bad habits, just start out in the lesson.

3. Take another half day lesson the next morning. By jumping back into the class, you can move along and improve nicely. Ski in the afternoon with your friends. By this time, they are familiar with the mountain and can help you find your way.

4. Enjoy yourself the third day, skiing at your own pace. If you want to take another lesson in the following days, it's up to you.
 

Janis Williams

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
:bump:
Questions asked in Post #1:
What tips or stories do you have for those who discover the fun of sliding down a snowy slope on downhill skis later in life?
I started learning to ski at 37... not that old but then I have a moment disorder - so I have the movement patterns of someone with a brain injury. As an example I could not stand on 1 leg at 20 years of age - i could not lift the other foot a couple of inches and count to 5! I spent 10 years training to be able to do that!
The resort doctor tried to stop me skiing - too dangerous for me. Many ski instructors made fun of me - after all I was the super gumby of all time.

Eventually a few years later I ended up in a high end group lesson with one of the trainers who knew me to wave at but had not skied with me. By the end of the lesson he was trying to recruit me to teach for the ski school. Could not believe the progress I had made from the beginning I had had.

A bit of determination, some good coaching and anything is possible.

In particular for those who have so much fun they want to do it more and more as time and money allows. When is buying boots worthwhile?
As soon as you are definitely hooked!

This one is tricky.
If you live in UK - I'd say don't! You will pay to transport the skis to Europe. So unless you get a place in your fav resort and can leave skis there I'd probably rent.
In Australia - rental skis are horrid and I'd probably buy once intermediate and hooked.
If you live near a local slope(e.g. Europe near alps, much of North America, Japan) I'd probably buy at intermediate.
You surely don't NEED skis like you do the boots - but there is some reassurance in knowing your tools. For guys this seems less of an issue - but for women (the less muscling more finesse type of skier often) seems to be better to have something that you know how it reacts.

Is going on a ski vacation to a destination resort as a beginner or intermediate worth the time and money?
Hmmm again depends what is a destination resort and where you live.
In Australia - well except for perhaps lake Mountain ALL the resorts are destinations really... certainly if you are travelling from Perth or Queensland it is... and your other option is New Zealand...

Brits are in similar positions - they are going to travel - even if it is to Scotland. If they are going to Europe a 'destination resort' package deal may be a cheap way to do it. Then again they can drive the family and go to a smaller place and perhaps save money. Need to do sums each time.

If you are lucky enough to have a local resort (live in alpine Europe, right bits of North America) then you are probably better off learning at your local resort. However part of the joy of skiing is being out in the mountains. So if you can afford the trip to Italy, France, Switzerland, Vail, Aspen... whatever - then why not have a holiday in a gorgeous location AND ski... If money is more of a problem - ski at home...
 

Janis Williams

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Oh and re the skis...

I did organise a seasonal rental on skis once... very good deal and they even waxed, tune and stored them for me...

Another time(Europe) I had a longer term (2 weeks + I think) rental organised on a pair of race skis(summer glacier skiing cheater GS is a good ski). Again by organising ahead the deal was much better for the longer time and they had selected a pair just for me.
 

Janis Williams

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
This upsets me! What the heck is a ski instructor for, if not to help people ski better and overcome their handicaps?
Some (especially younger ones) are there for various cool reasons (like to pick up chicks)...

Some thought I did not know about their little jokes.... others were more open... one in particular even had his class make fun of me when I got stuck at a small drop and would not go over... (I skied around it and told my instructor I was not their for the other instructor's entertainment)...

Taking a lesson every day for 30 days straight(and the weekends of the season before and after) was seen as just plain odd behaviour. No consideration of why I might have been doing so... I picked my instructors carefully(as did ski school) to be those that actually gave a damn and wanted me to ski well - not hand holders or cheer squad or the mob that laughed. Funnily enough when I got good enough to ski the whole mountain they suddenly changed their mind and were trying to get my lessons for themselves. (Ha - sure i'm gonna forget you are an a'hole and spend 3 hours a day with you NOW).

My instructors tended to be race coaches or ex racers, trainers etc. Most of those had cert in adaptive also. Australian ski schools run differently - the adaptive skiers use regular instructors who are part of the ski school but adaptive certified(it is one of their second disciplines needed for ISIA stamp). There is an adaptive coordinator who will organise the equipment etc. No second ski school. So for instance one of my instructors was full cert Australian(and the trainer for clinics for most of the ski schools in Oz), full cert Austrian, a race coach(full cert Austrian means you can ski within 15% of a 50point FIS skier IIRC - just to get into the course), sponsored racer... He is now head of that ski school... but he was also adaptive cert and for a couple of years was my instructor. The 'boys' like to make fun of folks like that teaching someone like me. They don't understand that I need different teaching and the coaches/trainers suit me as they tend to be more technical. Analysing what happens(when I do odd stuff instead of same as everyone else) and developing new strategies keeps them thinking - they liked that! I was a challenge! I skied with a great trainer in France for the same reason - my friend muttered "no proprioception" to him and his eyes lit up like a christmas tree... he was "Really? How does she ski?" He was happy to take the lessons from her(she was busy) - he normally refuses to admit he speaks English to avoid teaching english holiday makers.
 

Janis Williams

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I had the good guys! My first instructor actually fronted the resort doctor in the bar and explained to him that I was in no danger at all because I was too scared to let go of him. He later kept me on easy terrain despite the constant harassment from his (and my) friends to get me off the beginner slopes. he was very determined I enjoy skiing. Dragged me to top of mountain on a fine day to look at the view over the national park. As far as you can see snow covered hills and all park - no houses/farms/shops for 2 hours drive south... nothing but trees, wallabies, emus, wombats, cockatoos... he wanted me to learn to ski well enough to go there out of the resort... that meant packs and climbing - no lifts... He was sure I could do it...

That full cert Austrian Aussie examiner - he once told me he had just used every trick he knew to get someone to do XXX and they all worked backwards or not at all on me.... I asked if that was frustrating - he replied no it was fun because it was a challenge!

Plus - I'm very stubborn in my own way.... I knew it took me time to learn things... but I also knew I could with the right teacher some feedback and some dedicated repetition
 

Janis Williams

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
As an example... I have had a Jackson Hole guide(who has never seen me ski) tell me to take up knitting because I admitted that in the past and occasionally still I get terrified when skiing... he thinks that people who get scared like that should not ski! He cannot see that some people can be terrified(to point of freezing up) but that they still enjoy the bits that do not involve freezing up.

Sometimes I do really well in a race course or ski a steeper area very well(perhaps clean carve a steeper pitch) and my hubby and I will laugh and say - damn better get the knitting out! Same when people comment on my skiing skills... Hubby loves to tell me in private afterwards that I should polish my knitting needles. (He takes affront at that sort of stuff - in his race coaching ALL his kids were encouraged for reaching for THEIR BEST. Everyone that stayed with them ended up skiing to a high level. He does not go for only working with the star pupils routine and dislikes people who write off the poor ones)

It is my way to keep doing what I do not be obsessed by negative naysayers. I know the same idiots would struggle to do my day job - they would not even make it through the first month of my training... why let them bring me down by stopping... I'm doing the hard yards - I'm doing what does NOT come naturally... THEY are the ones wimping out - mostly they are just cruising in their comfort zone...

I just plod on and do what I do...
 

NZfarmgirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Overcoming and working through fear is where the best rewards are. Being terrified occasionally, teaches us to have healthy caution. I don't have a lot of respect for people with no caution.
Those who succeed despite their fears and physical limitations, are the truly successful people. If something comes easy to you it doesn't develop character.
 

snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
As an example... I have had a Jackson Hole guide(who has never seen me ski) tell me to take up knitting because I admitted that in the past and occasionally still I get terrified when skiing... he thinks
I should not go there, but was this a male instructor that is vocal on epicski? Either way, totally uncalled for comment. On rare occasions I have asked a student point blank "Are you having fun? Because it doesn't seem like it?" mostly when they are only skiing to please someone else. Most fearful skiers actually do like it or they would not keep comming back right?
 

Janis Williams

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I should not go there, but was this a male instructor that is vocal on epicski? Either way, totally uncalled for comment. On rare occasions I have asked a student point blank "Are you having fun? Because it doesn't seem like it?" mostly when they are only skiing to please someone else. Most fearful skiers actually do like it or they would not keep comming back right?
Bingo

yeah - if you really hated the whole thing then the family takes the next holiday on an island on the Great Barrier Reef (seen it happen way too often)... Being scared of one thing(steeper pitch, drop off, crowds, speed) does not make a person hate being out there. In my case I loved the mountains and snow... but was terrified that I'd get hurt - I have lots of experience of falling down just walking(I would just fall down for no reason all the time as a kid) - so I kind of expected to have sudden loss of control splat into tree/fall off cliff type of experiences.

I have met more than a few females who are fearful but much of the fear and discomfort comes because some else is controlling how THEY experience skiing. Eg - hubby who doesn't want to ski easier runs with wife, insists on skiing non-stop, tells them they have to ski "this way" (usually carving which he says is the only way to ski - except he cannot carve a clean turn to save his life as he tail pushes every initiation). I've met sooooo many women who kind of breathe a sigh of relief when hubby and I tell them it is OK to stop for a hot chocolate, or take a gentle run, or run for the less crowded slope, or SKID(controlled skidding as we don't like tail pushing), or EEEK - just ski SLOW! Especially with hubby because he is the guy that leaves their husbands in the dust within a couple of turns. When he says - oh lets do these slllllllloooooooowwww turns - you see them look a bit confused... and then their faces light up when he shows then how they can control their speed on a steeper pitch without making a zillion turns... wow - 3 turns and I'm done? Let's do it AGAIN!

Telling some female who is scared to "push through it" is a male solution. Generally men and women respond differently to fear. It is hormonal. I have a friend who was an athlete and used testosterone as a younger woman. She has a phobia. The response to phobic situation when on testosterone was VERY different to without. There are some interesting studies showing the responses though.

All that aside everyone has their own limits and own drives. I'd not necessarily want to ski for coffee everyday - I like learning and improving way to much. However I have no issues with skiing for coffee with friends some days. Having fun on mountain with a friend is worth changing to ski for coffee mode for me. I can handle the change. Some days I can see hubby wanting to cut loose - mostly he like skiing with friends more. I'll send him off to play though and he likes to do that. We switch it around because we like seeing people love to ski.

I kind of made a career out of converting friends who were less keen on skiing into ski nuts - mainly by telling them it was OK to ski their way. Hey - ski for a couple of hours and break for lunch. Stop early and go for a swim... it is YOUR time off from work - enjoy it damn it! If enjoy means sleep in - so be it. If it means take a day off mid-week - do it... Don't give up on the skiing - ski it your way! Take up cross-country and cruise through trees... Who cares... I'm here for the long haul and I don't need to be the extremest cliff dropper out there...
 

Janis Williams

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
New questions:
How often are lessons useful for an intermediate who aspires to become an advanced skier sooner rather than later?
Every day. Of course money is usually the limiting factor to that. That is why we made the DVDs we made... I pretty much lessoned every morning. Did a quick warm up, picked up instructor for a couple of hours. Sent him back to ski school and worked on my 'home work'. Not cheap but effective. (I needed the feedback until I developed my own replacement system).

We made the DVDs with the idea that instructors could set "homework" from the DVDs between lessons because most people can only really afford an occasional lesson at the price many resorts charge. (Especially with resorts insisting on selling privates only by the 1/2day or day not hour). While Rick knew that his race program was affordable, he was pretty horrified when he realised what people needed to pay to learn to ski as adults in most locations.

We do have people that have had a zillion lessons in the past and are just using the DVDs alone though... They kept sending us messages saying "OK why didn't they explain THIS" I think often the instructor did try to but the message got scrambled along the way... One of my friends and his wife have both said separately -"Oh THAT is what they meant when they said xxxx" I still think having lessons and mixing with DVD drills is better myself... but hey I can understand they are a bit disillusioned with lessons - they had given up lessons before they got the DVDs...

During a vacation ski week?
When live within an hour of a ski area?[/QUOTE]

Well ideally as above - every day if money is no object. Of course that is not the reality... vacation ski week - perhaps second day
If you have a good warm up routine to get things going then do that day one.
lesson day 2
Practise what you learnt while you ski the other days... Perhaps(maybe) a follow up final day if you can manage that...

Live near ski area - get in some program... do it!
OR(if you really really don't want that) - Do your season warm up routine first day or two... then a lesson... then "homework" then lesson etc etc... Use week vacation above to be a travel holiday rather than your learning time (i.e. learn from the new resort not new technical skills in that week) (DVD drills work well like this - we have a lot of feedback on this from "steep and deep" type skiers who have found "steeper n deeper" from some work at the local ski bump before hand)

What is the advantage/disadvantage of a full day lesson vs. a half-day lesson for an intermediate?
Hmmm depends on price...
I wrote this up years ago for the aussie forum I think but here goes.

If you really are hard up for the money then you will often get a discount price for a private lesson at 'unpopular' times. In Australia that will be afternoon and 8:30am. It can be effective to grab that 8:30 1 hour time slot if money is tight but group lessons not working.

Generally 2 hours is minimum time - instructor might be late from previous lesson etc and you need time to go find terrain, work on stuff, try to consolidate that...

1/2 day is pretty good length for an experienced skier. However often too long for a beginner/intermediate who will tire more easily for a variety of reasons(more tense, working harder as less efficient movements... etc) Plus you can really really wear out mentally if focusing hard. A good instructor can fix this by strutting down time mentally during that lesson. So yeah pretty good... spend rest of day on homework.

Full day - unless difference in price between 1/2 and full day is not much then this is not that great unless you are a more advanced skier.
Benefits - can split a day between say a couple of kids or a husband and wife etc - meet for lunch and tag team instructor. Fantastic for powder days or advanced skiers who need time to get to terrain.

For me - I always booked 2-3 hour lessons yeah day and upped to full day if it looked like a fresh snow day(not really powder in Australia mostly) Fresh snow days the guys and I liked to hunt the snow and farm... not a day for homework. If I couldn't swing the whole day lesson I'd wave good bye at the place I was skiing and they would quick return to their next lesson while I stayed and made the most of the stashes we had decided I should get to next.

"Homework" - can be anything... It can be "Go use that corn we found up above the trees at xxxx" "10 runs of drill A, 5 of B" "Run the gates" "Work on spinning 360's" "Lap Lift Y a few more times and focus on what you are doing with your hips" "Ski the trees up at Z" "Try making turns like .... and then ... keeping rhythm like.... " "Work on falling leaf" "Jump that jump a few more times" "See how many turns you can get in the area between Tower C and F" "Try to make your long turns half the width of Z run"(i.e. looooong)...
Often it was to use certain types of terrain to focus on certain things - but to ski where I wanted just remembering to think about certain things at various points.
 

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