Top Ten Reasons to Keep On Skiing 10
Author thumbnail By Jim Kenney, DCSki Columnist

Jim Kenney pauses at the top of Whitetail’s slopes.
A while back I wrote a piece for DCSki titled “Top Ten Reasons to Ski.” I covered some of my favorite memories after decades of skiing. A few years have passed and I thought it was time to revisit the subject with a new spin - the joys of middle aged skiing.

The risks and rigors of recreational skiing and snowboarding will always make them activities dominated by young folks, but there are powerful reasons to keep hitting the slopes for those at age 40, 50, 60, and beyond. Some resiliency is required, but snowriding is truly a sport for a lifetime. The veterans out there will be able to relate to much of my rationale, but I feel it’s my duty to apprise the younger demographic of a charming factoid: skiing remains really fun even with wrinkles, gray hair, and some worn body parts.

A quick search with Google reveals that approximately one-third of the current snowriding population is over age 45. Supposedly, this group is on the increase as a percent of the total. In recent years, however, I’ve lost some of my closest skiing contemporaries to the demands of life, injury, or dare I say it, advancing age. So I feel the urge to proselytize. What follows, from an average skiing joe ensconced on the AARP junk mail list, are my top ten reasons to keep on skiing or snowboarding into the golden years. The notional terrain I cover awaits many recreational snowriders with a little luck, persistence, and passion to keep goin’ big.

10. Discounts

Could be much higher on the list, but I personally haven’t yet leveraged age to save on ski related costs. My father did before arthritis finally forced him to hang up his boots in 1994 at age 75. During his last few skiing years he enjoyed sneaking up to the newly-opened Whitetail on weekdays to catch a few free hours of over-70 slope time. I know there are organizations out there such as that work hard to capitalize on this angle. Connie Lawn wrote an article for DCSki not long ago on the ageless appeal of skiing. It drew a detailed comment by a retired poster named Dicky Do who attained ski-cheap hero status by working an ingenious combo of senior discounts and weekday specials to finagle “10 days of downhill skiing, 2 days of cross country skiing, 2 days of cross country rental gear, and seven nights lodging for the grand total of $291.00.”

9. Fitness

If you hold a season pass and ski 50+ days a season, you already have a very legit winter exercise program. But even for the many of us in the mid-Atlantic that are lucky to get to the hill a dozen times a season, ski fever can have beneficial effects on overall health. Just the thought of my precious few annual ski days is enough to motivate me to pursue a moderate, if sporadic fitness regimen throughout the rest of the year. The pride and joy of laying down a few well linked turns keeps me pushing through many an off-season swim, jog or bike ride. Last fall as I readied for an early season ski trip to Colorado, every climb on the local bike trail induced my exercise mantra, “first day at altitude.”

8. Ego

Jim Kenney and son at Colorado’s Eldora Ski Resort.
As we mature it is tempting to relinquish ski time to life’s other demands. Resist this. There is a poignant, yet empowering feeling the first time you notice yourself playing among a mostly younger crowd at a ski area. I’m not necessarily speaking about whuppin’ youngsters down a bumpy black diamond plunge (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but put most of us on a groomer with good snow and the playing field gets pretty level - so to speak. Regardless of your skills, seeking fun on a ski slope is a surefire way to beat the wintertime blues. Four years ago I went to a Ski Chalet demo day at Blue Knob. My highlight was a couple of conscientious runs down Extrovert on well-tuned demo skis. It had been a dozen years since I’d made tracks on that particular black diamond run. My body had acquired a lot of mileage in the interim, but the sense of recapturing a little old glory gave me a mental high that lasted for weeks.

7. Camaraderie

Like they say, in the end all that really matters are family and friends. I’m not much of a social butterfly and skiing has been a useful facilitator for a number of fine interpersonal relationships over the years. As a career civilian, about as laughably close as I’ll ever get to the camaraderie of war was in 1997 when a couple of ski buds and I survived and thrived during a January week of zero-degree temps in Sugarloaf, ME. Thank God for hot tubs, those modern day fountains of rejuvenation. And there is nothing like a long ski road trip for catching up with old friends. Ten hours in a Chevy flies by when you’ve got to discuss ten sports, twenty women, and thirty years of skiing memories.

6. Aesthetics

No doubt, as you pass through life you take more time to stop and smell the roses. Where better to ponder the beauties of God’s creation than from the clarity of a mountain peak? And it doesn’t have to be from a cable car climbing the Matterhorn during a $2,500 ski trip (not that there’s anything wrong with that). During a January cold snap in the marvelous mid-Atlantic winter of 2003, a friend and I had a great day ripping down groomers at one of the Snow Time Inc. resorts in Pennsylvania. The temperature was 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but the sun was out, the snow was good, and there were few others to share it with on that weekday. We spent several lift rides discussing how most folks our age were probably indoors cursing another harsh winter day, while we were bundled up warm and reveling in some of Ullr’s finest blessings.

5. Culture

Kind of goes with #6. I think as you get older the neat places and new faces that skiing brings your way gain even greater richness. The city of Santa Fe, New Mexico has to be one of the most memorable cultural stops I’ve made during my skiing sojourns. The food, architecture, and feel of Santa Fe are light years from dinner at Applebee’s. The historical and melodic aspects of my ski trip to the Austrian Province of Salzburg a couple of years ago were just amazing, more than enough justification for the trip alone. Then there are the lift ride conversations - everywhere. You can’t go wrong with a captive audience that loves doing what you love doing.

4. Spirituality

You may not get religion on a ski hill like I did last year with my church group at Bryce Mountain’s lovely slopeside chapel in Virginia, but you can find peace and spiritual nourishment all around the ski world. While driving to Wisp, MD I’ve seen a heavenly manna of frost all over Frostburg. I’ve parted a sea of perfect corn during the spring at Massanutten, VA. I’ve seen the light radiate from evergreens drooping with a foot of freshies at Snowshoe, WV. I’m pretty sure I found Nirvana one day on a powderfield at Smugglers Notch, VT. Injuries, aches, and fatigue are a fact of life for older skiers, but a good prayer life can help overcome many obstacles.

3. Family time

Jim Kenney’s family.
A biggie for me. I witnessed my parents skiing with their grandchildren. It was a thing of cross generational beauty. I’m not quite at the grandparent stage yet, but I can tell you that for my wife and our four kids there is no better place to achieve a little family togetherness than on a ski slope. I include teaching my four kids to enjoy skiing as one of my greatest personal accomplishments. Last year my 13-year old son and I were tackling some fairly tough terrain at Loveland, Colorado and for one of the first times ever he beat me to the bottom of a serious black diamond run. The competitor in me felt a little elderly, but the father in me screamed, “YES, this guy is reaching the age of formidability.” My defiant child, the teen that shunned skiing two seasons ago, is back into it now and looking forward to a youth bus trip to Mt. Tremblant in February, 2005. All is right in Dad’s world again.

2. Fun

There are fewer and fewer things that take me back to the unabashed gleefulness of childhood and when I get that frisky feeling, I’m more grateful than ever. Thankfully, the bliss derived from cutting up some freshly rolled corduroy or poaching a leftover powder line does not diminish with age. I spent last Christmas Eve on a ski slope with my family. That was MY Christmas present and I wore a big, tacky elf hat and a smile all day. My 15-year old daughter was mortified, but another thing about old fogies, they don’t embarrass easily when acting silly.

1. Satisfaction

Like a romantic interlude between aging spouses, the joy of skiing can get better with time. The heart pounding intensity may not be quite the same, but soulfully savoring the aggregate rewards of a lifelong love delivers the ultimate sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

About Jim Kenney

Husband, father and retired civilian employee of the Department of Navy, Jim Kenney is a D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim's ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism's Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article.

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Reader Comments

John Sherwood
November 26, 2004
You might also add: skiing gives one the opportunity to wear strange clothing, helmets, and gear. Sometimes I feel like I am heading for the moon as opposed to a ski slope. Strange outfits give the sport a carnival flavor. I like to see people wear funky hats, strange parkas, and neon hunting garb on slopes: anything out of the ordinary.
Connie Lawn
November 26, 2004
Jim - that was a terrific, heartfelt article. It really adds to mine in very important ways. I endorse all the points you made - exercise, family unity, spiritual values, and the rest. Snow sports are a wonderful way to put life in perspective. And, as we get older, it is more fun than ever to play in the snow! Keep it up - all of us!
Charles Sneiderman
November 26, 2004
What amazed me was not just that I hold the same ten values, but even in the same order! I would add an 11th value -- environmentalism; we greyhairs have the responsibility of balancing development of our alpine areas for snowsports for the next generation with preservation of the wilderness that we share with the other mountain species.
December 3, 2004
Great article Jim. Thanks.
December 3, 2004
It's never too late to begin, either! I'm 45, and started skiing only 3 years ago. Now I'm eagerly planning a trip to go backcountry skiing in Wyoming next winter.

You can teach old dogs new tricks!
December 6, 2004
You folks are kind, I was expecting some flack about the toasty retro snowmobile garb in 2003 Bold Decision foto. What can I say, a dinosaur before my time.
December 22, 2004
I am dying to try out my new skis next week - MUCH easier than it was in 196... Have any OLD pix to post from the olden days? New technology will help keep we boomers skiing as we gain grandkids! That and hot tubs & liquid libations :)
January 6, 2005
Great write-up and I have to agree with everything you say!

I am a grandfather who has had the wonderful opportunity to ski with my son and my granddaughter at the same time! What a delightful time we all had. At 62, I'm not old enough yet to get free or reduced rate lift tickets (with one exception) but am getting there. But I ski 10-12 days a season and am an avid inline skater in from Spring to Fall. Love to go out and skate 20-30 miles at a time!

Bottom line is while I may be slower now than in the past, I'm still active and hopefully will be for many more years.
Dicky Do
January 28, 2005
Great article, and thanks for the honorable mention on reason No. 10, "Discounts". My ski buddy "Random Dog" and I are at it again this year. We just returned from three days of skiing at Canaan Valley and Timberline. Our lift tickets for the three days were a grand total of $28.00 each. Our lodging at the Canaan Valley Resort was $ 56.00 each for two nights. By the way, another good reason to keep at it is that your Nastar handicap becomes more realistic with age. Random Dog is ranked No. 1 at Timberline age 65-69, and Dicky Do is ranked No. 1 age 60-64. Not bad for two retired Navy civilians. (Of course we are the only two entered in both age groups so far this year). Enjoyed your article,
Dicky Do
February 10, 2005
Great piece. It gives me hope that I'll get my 18 year old back on skis one day. One of my greatest memories is following my then 7 year old down Big Acorn at Wintergreen, listening to my then 14 year old's edges scratching at the hardpack behind me. That 7 year old is now the best skier in the family ... a fact the big brother doesn't deal with well. Here's hoping that soon, he can get past that ego stuff and rejoin us on the slopes.

My father took us all skiing, regularly, for years, and skiing binds me with my 5 siblings more than any other force. Dad passed a few years ago, but as they lowered his casket into the frozen ground, my sister tossed some snow his way. We all smiled through the tears.

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