Before Road Scholar, there was Elderhostel.

My wife and I did 11 downhill learn-and-ski trips with Elderhostels from 1999 through 2009 when the programs were listed in a paper catalog, and registration was mailed in. We drove to most of the Western resorts from our home in Salt Lake City. For Tahoe and Winter Park, we took Amtrak, which was convenient, scenic, and relaxing. The skiing always top notch, and we were always lucky with snow conditions.

This is the average size of a Roads Scholar group. Taken at Crested Butte. Credit: Jan Brunvand
This is the average size of a Roads Scholar group. Taken at Crested Butte.
Credit: Jan Brunvand

Every program was first rate. I assume the Road Scholar downhill skiing programs are similar. [Editor note: Road Scholar ski trips include Alpine and Nordic destinations.] We’re signed up for the one at Telluride in February.

Each program started Sunday with a get-acquainted dinner. Most participants meet then for the first time, although sometimes a ski club or group of family or friends had signed up together. We skied four or five days with guides or instructors available.

As with all Elderhostel/Road Scholar programs, the price covered everything, and participation was flexible. For example, I was not interested in early morning stretching or warm ups (OK, maybe I should have been) so, with other fanatics, I would ski first tracks on the mountain while the prudent others were tuning up. If someone, after a day of skiing, was too bushed to show up for an evening lecture, nobody criticized.

On a couple of occasions when it had snowed hard the night before our guide would suggest that we simply hit the fresh powder on his favorite runs instead of taking our scheduled guided tour. Nobody argued with that.

Lodging was usually a motel or hotel in town, but at Schweitzer Mountain and Grand Targhee we were housed right at the resort—ski-in, ski-out. The most impressive housing we experienced was Buck’s T-4 Lodge near Big Sky resort. The simplest was the Red Fox Alpine Lodge in Vermont where we had bunk beds, and the facilities were down the hall. All places we stayed were clean, comfortable, and cozy.

Here's a portion of a Roads Scholar group at Craftsbury Outdoor, VT. Credit: Road Scholars
Here’s a portion of a Roads Scholar group at Craftsbury Outdoor, VT., enjoying the XC trails.
Credit: Road Scholars

Breakfasts were in the lodging; lunches were usually vouchers for on-hill restaurants or in a sack. Dinners were either at the ski area or in town. Our favorite experience was at Crested Butte where we stayed in a remodeled miners’ boarding house with a self-service cash bar. Dinners were at a different place each evening.

Educational components varied, ranging from avalanche awareness, winter ecology, and local history, to Shakespeare’s sonnets, jazz history, and Western films and art. At Tahoe’s Cal-Neva hotel, we learned about casino gambling from a blackjack dealer. At Grand Targhee, high school students illustrated their research on capturing and tagging Wolverines.

I’m not sure why Judy and I drifted away from Elderhostel ski trips after 2009. Possibly, it was influenced by the weak pun of changing the name to Road Scholar (just kidding) or the necessity of looking up programs on the Internet instead of browsing paper catalogs.

We are looking forward to our February trip to Telluride, a place we skied just one day long ago. Here’s our chance to get to know the area better. Road Scholars on skis, here we come!


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