I didn’t truly fall in love with skiing until I was … 60! This wasn’t because of a late start. I started in rope tow, lace-up boot days, when a family pass at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood was $6.50 (eight people in my family. Thank you, Timberline.) My skills, however, plateaued at about 17. I had vague hopes of attending college in Colorado in order to hone my skiing. My parents were fine with this, as long as I paid. Colorado tuition put a pin in that balloon of a plan.
After that I skied maybe 5 or 6 times a year. My style: a confirmed skidder. If you’re a skier you know what that means. For anything with pitch, you turn, skid, turn, skid. It’s really hard on the quads, and nerve wracking. Also, heavy snow could bring me to tears, and cold was a problem.
About a year before his retirement my husband started talking about skiing. A lot. He subscribed to ski magazines. Discussed new ski designs. Bought an ironing board and special ski tuning tools. Since he’s a much better skier than I am, it was clear. I needed to up my game, be prepared to be the laggard, or throw in the towel.
I decided to dive in.
First, equipment. My husband has nudged me for years to get better equipment, and I’ve insisted I’m not good enough to tell the difference. Also, finding a good fit in a boot had always been a problem. Rather than go through the time and trouble of shopping for new ones, I clung to my old, stiff boots, even though they made my toes numb. With his encouragement, I tested several pairs of skis and discovered new designs make a big difference. With the wider tips and backs, slightly wider ski waist and a variety of lengths, almost any kind of of snow becomes ski-able.
I also visited our local ski shop and was fitted with a pair of boots that felt instantly better than the old ones. I invested in a pair of high quality mittens, and bought a stock of hand warmers for really cold days.
Next: The skidding had to go. I signed up for a private lesson. Lifts under my heels, a couple tips from an expert, and voilá. Possibilities began to emerge. Skidding is not necessary! I too, can handle heavy snow!
The payoff? Glorious days. We ski mid-week, often almost totally by ourselves. We try everything on the mountain. Well, not everything. My husband went off the cornice at the top of Mt. Bachelor for his 60th birthday, and I drew the line there.
There is nothing like a cold, clear day on the mountain, so quiet you can hear wind whistle through a raven’s wings. It’s all the more delicious knowing this won’t last long. One of us will tire of it, or get sore knees, or something. But for now! Oh to ski!
Six tips for affordable, enjoyable retirement skiing:
1. Start planning now, springtime. Check out what’s available in equipment. You’ll want to be ready to nab last year’s models in the spring sales. Find googles with interchangeable lenses, helmets, gloves, jackets at end-of-season prices. Put your community’s fall ski swap on the calendar, too.
2. Look into saving money with mileage points. Several airlines and credit card companies offer incentive programs, awarding points that can be used for hotel rooms as well as airline tickets.
3. If you are stuck in a technique rut, plan to invest in a lesson or two.
4. An enthusiastic buddy is helpful in getting over the “I can’t’s” and “I’m too old’s.”
5. Buy a mid-week ski pass if you’re retired. It only took us eight ski days to begin to defray the cost.
6. Get in shape. I recommend yoga for balance, strength and flexibility; walking either indoors or on a treadmill; and a couple of times a week, lift light weights. Particularly useful for skiing:
- Squats. Hang onto a book to counter-balance your weight, and work on getting your heels to the floor. The ability to squat helps with standing up again after a fall. (Yes, you will fall.)
- Practice putting shoes on while standing up. Lean against a wall to start. This helps with balance and coordination, and strengthens ankles.
- Any exercise that works quads — bicycling, leg lifts, stairs, hiking up hills
- Strengthen core muscles in your back and stomach