11/16/2014 07:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Second Thoughts About Returning To The Hill? Older Skiers Take Heart

2014-11-06-DSC04525.JPG This is what is on the minds of many older skiers as they wait for the flakes to fall:
  • Should I go for another season?
  • Am I in good enough shape?
  • Will the knees continue to do what they're supposed to do?
  • Should I bag it and go south?

Love of playing in the snow trumps many of those concerns. Snow enthusiasts who are 50 and older comprise a fast growing segment of the US ski industry. A National Ski Areas Association survey shows that, per capita, skiers 65 and older ski almost twice the number of days as the national average of five.

But the questions linger. For some, the older they get, the less confidence they have in their ability to return to earlier performance. Unless they're in poor health or very poor physical condition, they should consider the advice of Bernie Weichsel, a lifelong skier, winter sports marketing entrepreneur, and past chairman of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

"Everyone gets in shape for the new season differently. Some people do pre-season conditioning. Others do it on the slopes with a lot of easy gliding," he explains. Not of the "do as I say" school, every season Weichsel skis, minimally, the same number of days as his age -- a goal he encourages all to emulate.

Favoring older skiers are big advances in three types of technology.

Ski design and construction make turning in all types of conditions easier, adding more runs to every day. When skiers say 70 is the new 50 what they're really saying is, "Thank you, fat skis!"

Ski areas are able to make snow earlier and cover their slopes more efficiently than ever before. And lifts like the heated bubble chairs at Okemo (VT) and Canyons (UT) make the ride up almost cozy on the coldest days.

Medical technologies from implantable joints to the proliferation of over the counter NSAIDs help keep Boomers and their elders more active, pain free, and suited for the hill.

A recent survey of 85 North American ski resorts reveals that as age increases, the cost of skiing decreases. Some areas provide free skiing for those 70 and older. Many areas extend discounts to restaurants, instruction and equipment rentals. The survey also shows that older skiers tend to use the resorts mid-week, when fewer people are around. But some deals require local inside information. For example, Snowbird (UT) takes 10 percent off food purchases at its popular Mid-Gad restaurant, but only if you're over 60 and know to ask for it.

"We see skiers in their 60s, 70s and 80s continuing to enjoy the sport season after season," says Joe Harvis, president of the National Ski Council Federation, comprising ski councils and clubs across the U.S. "Older skiers enjoy the opportunity to ski, socialize and travel with other active seniors. Many are introducing their grandkids to the sport."

A few runs and most people are back in the groove, enjoying the thrill, the fresh air, and the scenery. So if you think you're too old, think again. Go skiing!

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

'Bumps For Boomers'