The Number Of Senior Skiers Is Growing By Leaps And Bounds Every Year. Join The Gang. 

[Editor Note: This article first appeared in Liftopia Blog. thanks Liftopia for sharing Rose Marie Cleese with us.]

Statistics show that many people who give skiing a try—regardless of age—never return after their first day. Why? Because it wasn’t the most pleasurable of experiences. They didn’t prepare (wrong clothing, out of shape, etc.) and they didn’t start with proper instruction on Day One. To give skiing and boarding an honest shot and ensure that you’ll want to go back for Day Two, be prepared for Day One and make sure that day includes a good ski lesson. You’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of exhilarating days on the slopes. Here are four important first steps…

Step #1: Check yourself out.

Before you sign up for those beginner senior lessons or if you’ve been off the slopes for a number of years and you’re itching to get out there again, the first step is to have a physical exam and get your doctor’s blessing.

If you’ve turned into a couch potato, get back in shape. Attend aerobics classes weekly; walk a lot; start a daily regimen that includes balancing exercises, weights, and some cardiovascular activities.

Here’s the recommended conditioning checklist for older skiers issued by the Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA):

  • Check with your doctor before starting any physical training
  • Choose a low-impact exercise regimen that includes stretches, half-squats, drive-ups, lunges, leg curls, crunches—avoid polymetric exercises, such as box jumps
  • Include weight training in your exercise program—start with light weights and low reps, gradually increasing both
  • Don’t over-train; alternate among walking, biking, stretching, and active rest.

If you’re over the age of 50, see important tips for cardio, balance and strength exercises that senior skiers can do to prep for the slopes.  Click here for some ideas from Liftopia and here for the beginning of an exercise series from

Step #2: Gear up.

If you’re a first-timer, either purchase ski apparel that you can wear both on and off the slopes or rent ski clothing. You can also rent a helmet and equipment (boots, skis, poles, boards) until you’re sure that you’re going to continue. If you’re returning to the sport after a hiatus, consider upgrading since ski equipment has improved markedly in the past couple of decades and makes skiing easier, safer, and more enjoyable. And buy a helmet!

Step #3: Start smart.

Seek out mountain resorts that offer special instruction programs or workshops for adult or senior skiers. For your first day, pick a day with great weather and good snow conditions and go on a weekday when the slopes are more empty.

Choose a ski area that employs PSIA-certified instructors who have been trained and accredited to instruct skiers 50 years of age and older. PSIA’s Accreditation I offers its Levels 1-, 2- and 3-certified instructors two days of training to address the instructional needs of beginning and intermediate senior skiers; Accreditation II is three days of training available to Levels 2- and 3-certified instructors to enable them to teach all levels of senior skiers modern ski techniques that will optimize their strength, balance, and enjoyment of the sport.

Step #4: Be enlightened.

Talk to other older skiers about skiing at a certain age. What are the pluses? The minuses? Helpful hints?

To sum it up…

When considering sports that seniors typically take up, Snowsports Industries Association’s Director of Research Kelly Davis says, “While golf and sailing and hiking are amazing activities, skiing gives you an experience of freedom that’s difficult to match. While working your core, you get the thrill of flying down a snow-covered hill. Plus the bonds you form on the slopes and on ski lifts are second to none.”

Her message is obviously resonating. The number of senior skiers is growing by leaps and bounds every year. In 2014, skiers aged 55 and older accounted for 6% of all skiers (double that of 1994); today in 2017, approximately 15% of all skiers are over the age of 50. Make this the year you join (or rejoin) the growing ranks of older skiers. You won’t be alone!




  1. Mike Stebbins says:

    One of the major issues the industry faces is that no two organizations seem to come up with demographic data that matches. It is extremely difficult to reconcile studies by SIA, NSAA and PSIA. Vail has grown so large that they are virtually their own industry and the market dynamics around their resorts is much different that non-Vail resorts.

    Certainly, “participation-days” or “visits” in the 50+ demo are growing but studies vary widely on whether this is because their are significantly more 55+ skiing and riding or the same number of participants are skiing more often.

    One thing we know for sure. The “pass wars” have had a significant impact on the number of days seniors are skiing. If a senior with an Epic pass skis 30 days a season that’s roughly $30 per day. If that person had been previously been skiing 10 days on daily tickets at $100 each, it’s a net loss to the resort.

    Interestingly, there is a smoldering resentment in many younger skiers/riders, showing up in social media, who believe that senior discounts are unfair because older folks can afford it and have the time and, in effect, younger participants are subsidizing participation of older participants.

    • Rose Marie Cleese says:

      Not all senior skiers are rolling in dough, so the discounts are welcome to many of us! That whole attitude of not helping those who might need it or not respecting the contributions seniors have made in their younger years seems to be seeping into every corner of our national psyche 🙁 And as you probably know, in your own life, seniors, including many over 70, are continuing to participate in a lot of activities and sports in numbers that would have been unthinkable just a decade or two ago. It would behoove the wintersports industry to get their stats together, however!! PSIA seems to recognize the growing ranks of senior skiers as they have instituted and are expanding and refining their seniors instructional training for their instructors.

      • Mike Stebbins says:

        I knew PSIA West and NorthWest have Senior Specialist certification programs and that PSIA- Northern Rocky Mountains have been having their members certified through the program at Northwestern. The last I heard ASEA also known as “National” has not adopted a certification process for Senior Specialists. I have not heard if any of the 7 other divisions have a process to develop Senior Specialists..

        The younger crowd griping about senior discounts seem to have forgotten who was buying their lift tickets as they grew Sound like my Dad :)…”Kids these days…”

  2. I can sympathize with younger skiers/riders. Since 2012, I have skied free at my local mountain, Cannon Mountain in NH. That’s generally 20 days a year of free skiing! While I seldom open and close the lifts, and may tread a bit more lightly on the open trails and glades, I benefit from the seat space on the chair and the quality of the man-made base the same as they do. Furthermore, I get the benefit of mid-week, virtually non-existent crowds rather than skiing with the masses on week ends and holidays. I’m sure readers of Senior Skiing would strongly advocate for low or no rates for seniors, but it might be an interesting discussion as to whether or not they are really warranted, and who, besides seniors, benefits.

    • I suggest that any senior skiers who feel that they are taking advantage of free skiing and don’t deserve to ski free pony up and pay the full adult ticket. I’m sure no resort would refuse your payment! You do bring up a good point though, shared by Howard Trachtenberg below: senior skiers likely ski fewer hours on any given day and many ski mid-week rather than the weekends, when the numbers on the slopes are much greater. One of the SIA studies showed that senior skiers, when going to destination resorts, spend more days and more dollars while there, so it’s probably a wash overall!

      • P.S. One more thought: healthy seniors have a far less negative impact on our economy (think less hospital days!) and are more likely to be vibrant participants in their communities. And what better way to stay healthy than to do all the things one must to be able to keep skiing!

  3. Howard Trachtenberg says:

    Speaking from the point of view of an almost 82 y/o who takes advantage of the very low cost Super Senior season pass at Killington, my days on the slopes are much shorter than they were when I was younger. The days of first on and last off are long gone and age related discounts seem appropriate. What the discount should be and at what ages they should be applied is an another queston. While freebies are nice, I think the young skiers/riders might have a right to resent them.

    • Howard, As I noted in my reply above, you bring up a good point about seniors skiing less hours per day. Also, one way seniors can be an added asset on the slopes: spending those minutes while riding the lifts engaging in conversations with the younger skiers and boarders you’re sharing the lifts with about our past experiences on the slopes back in the day. There is way too little (if any!) conversation going on between older and younger generations these days, and what better place to have a captive audience than a chairlift!!!

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