You Can Do It If You’ve Done It Before.

Pat Standing On The Cornice. Not A Problemo.

You know, as you age, little things creep into your mind like, “Can I still ski that?”  “Am I too old to keep trying this pitch?”  But, one of the things that keeps our minds in check is the familiarity with the terrain after years of experience. 

For instance, every year, I travel to Mammoth Mountain, CA. with my posse of friends  All of us have skied that mountain for years.  After exiting the gondola at the top , we ski off the famous pitches and faces up there with confidence.  Why?  Because we know the terrain. 

This last year was no exception. I made several runs down the cat track off the tram relaxed and tucking to the top of Paranoid Flats and skied right off the top with no trepidation.  I have become very familiar with that terrain and know that I can ski it.  Now there are pitches and couloirs there that I have not skied and for me, the consequence factor is too high with the surrounding rock walls that will suck in unsuspecting skiers who have made the error of skiing above their ability. 

I take Coumadin and my doc always says, “Pat, you are the only patient I have who skis and mountain bikes on Coumadin.”  But I have done those sports for years and know my limitations.  And, I know how to ski safely over a familiar cornice, even though I am now 65 years old.

We all do this one way or another.  Confidence occurs because of repetition over certain terrain.  I have a friend who I ski with, who not only skis the same runs all the time at our local area, but he skis the same lines.  He becomes so familiar with the lines that he is confident and tries to make the perfect turn over and over.  I ride my local trails a lot on my mountain bike and am so familiar with the layout of our trail system that I can confidently ride them with speed. 

The flip side of the coin is that if you keep yourself in shape and have the confidence that you can ski or ride most anything within reason, you are not adverse to challenging yourself on new terrain. The more familiar you become, the more confident you are.  This is especially important as a senior skier. 

There is nothing wrong with using a little caution, but for the most part, years of experience on the slopes will give you confidence.  You know how to ski ice, you know how to ski powder and have that centered position and not sit back.  You have seen rain soaked snow before and know that it is consistent.  Why?  Because you have been there before.  When the young dudes see an older guy confidently ski a sketchy line, they are amazed.  But really, we know that confidence and experience rule the day. 

One day, a few years ago, my friend Eric and I saw a guy rocketing GS turns down Strawberry Express at Snowbasin, UT.  His effortless turns goaded us on to stay with him and when we got to the Strawberry Gondola, he took off his helmet and exposed a gray beard with a grizzled, leathery face, and a full shock of gray hair.  I politely asked him how old he was and he said he was 75 years old.  We asked his secret and he stated that he skied or hiked every day, and he is confident in his turns because he keeps himself in shape.  He knows every trail intimately. 

So, the lesson for all of us is stay in shape, keep skiing, and there is nothing wrong with picking lines and sticking to them.  The more confident you are, the more fun you will have. 

You can do it. Remember when you did it? Try.


  1. At 76 I have benefited from skiing with the Copper Mountain Over the Hill Gang for the last 14 years, skiing with instructor-led groups of enthusiastic over 50s skiers tackling interesting and challenging terrain with a have-a-go attitude that quells any nervousness. By focusing on skiing powder snow any falls are well-cushioned and it is easier to get back up on a steep pitch. One has a responsibility to crash entertainingly for the amusement of ones fellow skiers from time to time anyway and with a group to ski with there is always someone to help you up or at least to report where the body is buried! I ski resorts in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and BC, usually with adventurous friends I have made in earlier years on the bus rides up to the slopes. Skiing with a like-minded like-skilled group is key for confidence, safety and enjoyment especially if you love skiing in trees.

  2. Yes, familiarity is important and that should help you gauge the runs you ski.. I am 87 years old and am a “bionic man”( knees, shoulders, arthritis, etc.)” I love to ski but now am content to ski only those runs I know will not offer any unexpected challenges. I know there are others my age and beyond that can ski runs of greater challenges and I am envious but I prefer to be safe rather than sorry..

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