older-skiers

Senior Skiing

Elsa Bailey is legally blind. She uses an oxygen tank, in order to breathe in Colorado’s thin air environment. But on May 11, 2013, she decided to celebrate her birthday by skiing at Arapahoe Basin. Elsa started skiing when she was 25. While she was not one of those people who popped out of the womb on two planks, her age did nothing to curb her snow sliding passion. If you are currently teaching the over-50 crowd, can you say this about your students? What can you do to keep them involved in the sport? This article will explore your options.

Steadily Downhill and Loving It

J.R. Gurney’s play, titled Love Letters, follows the 50-year correspondence between Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. In one scene, Melissa tells Andy that she is in Aspen. “What are you doing in Aspen?” asks Andy. “Going steadily downhill,” she replies.
Such is the state of the international senior skiing scene. Like Elsa Bailey, an increasing population of baby boomers are refusing to trade in their skis checker boards. And rather than switch to cross-country and snowshoeing, many are sticking with downhill skiing. As such, they’re going steadily downhill.

This makes sense. After all, it was the baby boomers who popularized the fitness movement, and they are taking advantage of their maintained fitness by staying on the slopes. Case in point:
Over the Hill Gang

According to their website:

Over the Hill Gang members receive discounts for lift tickets, lodging, food, rentals and much more. Over 300 discounts are available at ski resorts throughout the US and Canada.
Over The Hill Gang, International® …unsurpassed camaraderie, outstanding discounts and great trips for people 50 and over! We’re enthusiastic, fun-loving people who enjoy sharing the experience of skiing and other outdoor activities with other physically active seniors.
Membership is available to individuals and to couples as long as one spouse is at least 50.
Three thousand people (and counting!) can’t be wrong! More than 3,000 people in the U.S. and around the world enjoy OTHGI membership. >

Many people join local OHG chapters, and ski with the same group on a regular basis. For example, the Copper Mountain OHG meets on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The ski groups include:

Club Incline:
Club Incline is only for the serious skier/rider. If there is anything you don’t want to ski, this group is not for you.
Club Decline:
Club Decline skis moderate bumps and powder, but usually stays on marked trails.
Groomed Zoomers:
his group skis mostly groomed black and blue terrain.
True Blue:
True blue skis all blue terrain, but with some stopping along the trail for stories and tales.
No Worries Mate:
The terrain skied is green and blue at a pace that fits individual needs.
source

Each group has its own designated guide. In some cases, the guide is actually one of Copper’s ski school instructors. Many of these instructors have discovered that this is one of the best ways to gain new clients. Additionally, the club often hires instructors for special ski clinics.

The Over the Hill Gang also conducts workshops on Balance and Injury Prevention. These are essential topics for senior skiers.

Boomeritis: The Down Side of Going Downhill

“Boomers are the first generation that grew up exercising, and the first that expects, indeed demands, that they be able to exercise into their 70’s,” said Dr. Nicholas A. DiNubile, a Philadelphia-area orthopedic surgeon, told the New York Times.

“But evolution doesn’t work that quick,” he continued. “Physically, you can’t necessarily do at 50 what you did at 25. We’ve worn out the warranty on some body parts. That’s why so many boomers are breaking down. It ought to be called Generation Ouch.”
This is a serious concern for senior skiers, and it can especially apply to the Club Incline crowd. It’s the proverbial spirit willing vs, weak flesh conundrum.
Other issues include:
Reduced Proprioception and Spatial Awareness
Aging Eyes in Flat Light
Mike Stebbins of Senior Skiing — a superb website — wrote an informative article on [training the fine muscles used in skiing.](http://www.seniorsskiing.com/fine-tuning-fitness-means-playing-around
These are ideas you can share with your senior skiers.

The Bottom Line

The most important thing about successfully teaching senior skiers is a sincere desire to do so. This should be a no-brainer, but, unfortunately, the group lesson system is often set up by who’s available, instead of who’s a good fit. Consequently, people who have no tolerance for children end up teaching kids, and young player dudes find themselves teaching people their pàrent’s or grandparent’s age.
One 50-something woman, an adult learner, complained about what happens when she takes a lesson from a 20-something female instructor:

“These young women benefited from Title IX, which gave them the opportunity to engage in sports in elementary school. Meanwhile, when we were children, the girls were in home economics classes, learning to make tuna-noodle casseroles. We were not athletic as children. Some of the younger instructors do not understand this, and openly show their frustration. They seem to forget that without the political pressures that came from the baby boomers, they would never had the opportunity to develop their athletic prowess.”>

If you do specialize in senior skiers, build it into your brand, and let your ski school director know your preferences.

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