Stamina, skiing and senior skiers.

Have you noticed that the older you get, you have to work out harder to maintain an ever-decreasing level of conditioning?  Yeah, yeah, yeah…  I know all the reasons but the reality is vigorous work-outs just delay the inevitable.  As we get older our:

  • Bodies aren’t as flexible;
  • Bones are more brittle;
  • Muscles don’t recover as fast; and
  • We lose muscle mass and brain function.

Since I’m losing brain muscle, that must be why I can’t remember why I should stop skiing, so I keep riding lifts.  Then I have to remember how to get down!

Marc Liebman recommends elliptical training for senior skiers.

Seriously, what I did to keep in skiing shape at 40 isn’t appropriate for someone who is 71.  Like my body, it has evolved over time.  Back when I was just four decades old, I ran a 10K five to six times a week at a 7.5 minute per mile pace.  Plus, I did chair sits, squats that strained my thighs and calves, crunches to build my core and other stuff.  All in the name of conditioning for skiing.

Workout menopause started at age 60 during a visit to an orthopedic surgeon.  He gave me a “twofer” of bad news after looking at an MRI.  First, he said if you keep running you’ll need new knees around age 65.  Second, I needed surgery to repair a torn and worn meniscus.  What a bargain!

That was the last day I ran, did squats and chair sits because they strained my joints way too much!  My workout evolved into 50 minutes on an elliptical at least five days a week going fast enough with enough resistance to get my heart rate into the 140s.  Interval training led to strained groin muscles that took months to heal.  My goal in each session is to burn at 475 – 500 calories and cover 4.3 miles.  Crunches and a daily 3.5 mile walk minimize the strain on my leg joints.

All this is in the name of building stamina.  If my legs are dead tired, it is hard to turn or stop which could lead to a bad fall and/or slamming into a tree, lift tower, or worse,  another skier…

I also do much more stretching now than I did before. My focus is on maintaining flexibility. Over time, my body has told me my groin and hamstrings need stretching, and I’ve learned the hard way to listen.  Stretching is also important if for nothing else, flexibility minimizes the pain and strain of putting on ski boots!

You have to tune your body.  Nobody else can.  I’m not big on personal trainers but if that’s what it takes, go for it.  Just remember, as you get older, the whole conditioning process takes more calendar and workout time and effort.  The pay-off in building stamina and keeping flexible is longer ski days.  For me that translates to 27 to 30 thousand vertical.



  1. Marcia Carldon says:

    Thank you for this! I am a 74 year old racer and once a year mountain skier from Minnesota and watched the George Jedenhoff video and wrote this.

    Each year as I finish the skiing and race season as I did yesterday, I ask myself if this will this be my last year. My spirit always says no. I love to ski. It is in my blood and in fact in my heritage (my Grandfather and Dad both skied in fact my Grandfather was instrumental in designing the two rope tows and one jumping scaffold where we paid $5 for a family season membership in Gladstone, Michigan).I remember the ski instructor who came to Gladstone and put ski poles in our hands and taught us a beautiful ski technique. I had an incurable crush on him. As an adolescent I remember crying when the icicles would start dripping outside my window as I knew spring was approaching.

    I introduced my two children to skiing and watched them both grow to love it. But maybe I lived a bit too vicariously through my daughter who became a serious and accomplished racer. The world of racing as I know now as an adult racer is another world…..but not all of what skiing means to me. I ski/race at Buck Hill in a marvelous program of comraderie and competition called the Twin City Ski Challenge with people who are younger and older than I am and we all joke and look eagerly to the next year when we will move into a new age class and get better handicap points! Could we fall and get hurt? Yup. But I did that on my front walk last year. Does the competitive spirit diminish? Nope. I have probably never finished a run when I didn’t say with the young and older racers, “I could have been faster” or wish I had been anyway.

    And when I get lucky enough to ski my dream– deep light powder in the mountains– and feel the silky softness under my skis and see the flakes fly up around me and sparkle in the sun it is for me an out of body experience. I treasure the serenity of skiing that kind of snow in the trees and stopping in a place where the evergreens with lumps of snow on them surround me like a cathedral. I often pause for praise and thanks in those moments that are among the most sacred in my life. I still get butterflies on a steep slope and and yet (most of the time) still “point ’em down”. I love the challenge, the whoosh, the quiet, and I love the laughter and banter on the lift and the friendship and stories drinking beer and wine afterward.

    I will again cry when I wash my ski clothes but hopefully they will come smiling out of the basement again next year.

    I am lucky to have something like this in my life. I know that. And could fall on my knees in gratitude (but I need them for next year!)

    • Edward Cocca says:

      Marcia, I thank you for describing skiing as I do. It is a passion unlike any other. I started skiing at 38 and quickly fell in love with the sport. Today I am 76 and still going strong although on flatter runs and less hours of the day. Two friends and I strive to get in 11+ days a year usually spread among Arizona, Colorado and Utah. we are already planning our 2017/18 trips. Think snow and exercise/workout while you wait.
      Ed Cocca, Scottsdale, AZ

  2. Cansnowplow says:

    We need more articles like Liebman wrote. Focus on personal do’s and don’ts with personal experiences on growing older and attempting to remain confident in each of our physical condition in order to keep skiing at our own approved level. Amen

  3. Kathy Graves says:

    Mark and Marcia.

    Thank you for your posts. I just got back from a frustrating but wonderful trip to Whitefish, Montana. Wonderful because we had fresh snow everyday. Frustrating because I could have been in much better shape and couldn’t enjoy it to its full extent. As a 70 year old, 20+ years as a PSIA instructor-retired, plus a little racing, you can imagine my frustration.

    Both of your articles reminded me just how lucky I am. When I was in my prime skiing days my goals were to keep skiing the blacks and have someone look at me and say, “look at her go!” Now I could care less what people say as I’m savoring those beautiful blue runs. Yes, my knees are hurting this week enough to keep me off the pickleball courts, but will I go again…HELL, YES!

    PS to Marcia, I live in New Ulm, MN. Are you connected to any ski clubs that do western trips.

  4. Graham Smith says:

    Great story. I have been teaching as a hobby for 54 years and loved it. Still keep my hand in, but pick and choose who and when now. I must ski with a friend as alone is too boring. I guess this is due to always teaching someone. Very important to stretch before starting to ski. Tends to save me from aches and pains later. Have learned to line up the bones to save the knees over the years.

  5. Tom Parrott says:

    Another non-pounding technique is to ride a bicycle uphill in as high a gear as you can handle — the gear will get higher for you as training takes effect over time. It’s dynamic, not as repetitive as other training techniques, works the quads we burn in skiing, provides aerobic training. Just be sure to stretch as the other comment advises and warm up by walking or light jogging before you hit the bike and the hill.

    You don’t need a fancy ($$$$) bike, just one with multiple gears so you can adjust during your runs uphill and over time. And you get to wear your ski helmet during the summer!

  6. Kristina Fanning says:

    Does anyone use a pool for ski exercises during the summer months,if so what exercises do you do?

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