Plan Now For Next Winter

Seniors participating in Life Elevated Utah having fun and acting silly for the camera. Credit: Harriet Wallis

Gary and Sandy Nielsen have run Road Scholar programs in Utah for about 20 years. They’re experts at planning and organizing week-long programs including Hopi pottery, dinosaurs and rock hounding in summer—and the very popular senior ski program in winter.

But several years ago as the demand for more senior ski weeks kept growing, Gary and Sandy responded with an idea of their own. They created new, small group ski weeks especially for seniors, and they base the programs at Powder Mountain. It’s ski weeks with all the trimmings.

Gary and Sandy cookin’ up Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Credit: Harriet Wallis

Gary invited me to experience the program. As I entered the little lodge’s great room, the first thing I saw was an inviting table with every beverage a tired skier could want: refreshing lemon water, coffee, tea, cocoa, a selection of wine with nice glasses, and plenty of cold beer in the fridge. Such enormous hospitality! As the skiers came in, they chose a beverage and settled into the sofas to retell the day’s adventures. And that was just the beginning.

When it came time for dinner, we gathered around a beautifully set table and enjoyed huge portions of roast salmon, fresh asparagus, baked potatoes, and a crisp tossed salad. There are seconds! Then came dessert: steaming homemade peach cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. Gary and Sandy love to cook. Every meal was just as spectacular.

“When Gary and Sandy run a program, I know it’s going to be good,” said Henry, a repeat skier.

About The Programs

Gary explained how the ski weeks work. “Powder Mountain is known as ‘Utah’s Best Kept Secret’ and through our nonprofit organization called Life Elevated Utah,” we have been running week-long ski programs for older skiers between the ages of 60-90+ for the past few years.

“We stay right at the base of the mountain in a comfortable 1980s style lodge. This is a true ski-in, a ski-out experience in which our older skiers simply love. We only have five hotel rooms, each with a private bathroom. The rooms have great views of the slopes looking out from each room’s patio doors.

“Our programs are six days of skiing Monday-Saturday with programs beginning and ending each Sunday. We provide transportation to/from SLC Airport, cover seven nights lodging, prepare three delicious meals a day for our small ski groups in our kitchen in the lodge. We help set up ski lessons, mountain tours, and many other ski amenities,” he said.

“I know they really care about me,” said Kathy, a repeat skier. They make sure every detail is just right. This program has just the right number of people, but not too many. I used to do all the ski trip planning when my family was young, but this is so much better. They take care of everything.”

Life’s Lessons Achieved

Gary was one of five children, and it was a family rule that when you turned eight years old you learned how to cook dinners for the family. The cooking lessons stuck, and along the way he developed a specialty catering business. “Chef” is in his soul.

Travel planning has also been in his soul since he was young, and he’s skilled at it. He has degrees in Recreation Management, specializing in travel and tours, and a degree in Business Management. It all fits together.

Looking To Next Season

This really is a best kept secret. Gary and Sandy don’t have a website. So,  to get information for next year’s Powder Mountain senior ski weeks, email [email protected]

Seniors like to ski with seniors, but finding a program is as difficult as looking for a Yeti. Interestingly, Road Scholar has eliminated all western downhill ski programs for 2021. Just one ski eastern Road Scholar program continues.

Small group of seniors on big Powder Mountain: 8,400 acres with 154 trails. Credit: Harriet Wallis

4 Comments

  1. right on, Harriet,
    just a thought.
    I have always wanted to ski hut-to-hut in Europe Franceand 2nd choice, Italy, Austria..
    any experience on your end?
    I have skied Utah 3 times in my life and know how fabulous it is.
    will get in touch with gary for details on senior week.

    Anne of Quechee
    [email protected]

  2. Avatar Ken Castleton says:

    Growing up in Salt Lake, I skied the area from an early age, eventually skiing all the local resorts, except for Powder Mt. Last Saturday I drove to Salt Lake anticipating one or two weeks of skiing, primarily at Alta, my favorite, in part due to the Wild old Bunch. Sunday a.m. reading the local paper I discovered that ALL the 10 local resorts were closed thanks to Covid-19. What a shock. I checked around and discovered that Powder Mountain expected to be open on Monday. Having felt a bit guilty for never having skied there despite many thoughts of doing so, I drove up there early Monday and discovered they have restricted access, i.e. they were sold out for the day. Probably for my good looks and sparkling personality (!!), they gave me a free pass and I had a wonderful day, likely the only day I get to ski this entire season. Yea, Powder Mt.!!

  3. Avatar Gary Nielsen says:

    Another great article Harriet!

    I thought I would also brag about what skills and friendship you brought to our small group of adventurous senior skiers when you found out about our Powder Mountain ski programs and drove up the beautiful canyon to spend a night with our group.

    We loved your evening presentation on how to tune and wax our own skis. Even though we (and many people do), typically have our skis tuned up and waxed at the local mountain shops, it made us realize how easy it is to sharpen the edges to get the burs out, scrape off the old wax and iron-on new wax. With the small box of tools, you brought, including table clamps to hold the skis in place and with a tarp under the table, it was fascinating to watch your technique as well as allowing other group members to take their turns. I was inspired to get a ski tuning kit myself and start taking care of my own skis. Simply put, with the cost of just one or two ski tunings done by the shop, I could just spend that same amount of money and buy my own ski tuning kit and as you taught our group, doing more frequent waxing and periodic tuning by hand, actually prolongs the life of the ski and gives you much better skiing performance versus the typical once a year wax and tuning.

    Our group loved your visit and skiing with you for those two days and hey love Senior Skiing Magazine and look forward to each Friday when a new addition arrives in their email boxes! Being a senior skier myself (okay, yes, I’m only age 60), I love hosting these Powder Mountain ski programs and look forward to meeting new people every ski season.

    Being a Utah native and skiing all of Utah’s resorts, Powder Mountain is by far our favorite ski resort. Because of the limit of daily ticket sales to keep the slopes uncrowded and no lift lines, in addition to the largest skiing terrain in North America, and our unique ski-in, ski-out location, Powder Mountain is indeed Utah’s best-kept secrets! The icing on the cake is for our skiers age 75 ane above, they get to ski for free, while the rest of our group members still receive our special senior rates.

    For those who read your article and haven’t yet discovered Powder Mountain and how easy we make your skiing adventure, we are taking enrollments for next year’s 2021 ski season so send me an email: [email protected] asking for details and to reserve one of our 5 available hotel rooms for any of our eight back to back weeks. Or as some past participants have discovered, they love doing two weeks back to back for one airline ticket!

  4. I’ve skied the program the last two years and it is exceptional. Gary and Sandy go out of their way to make all of their guests feel comfortable and have a really great experience.
    When I skied with them this year, it was my first ski day since breaking my leg at Mammoth last April. At 76, I was a bit apprehensive about whether I really wanted to do this again. But if I did, I wanted to ski Powder and I wanted my first run to be on Easy Peasy (about as mellow a green as you can imagine from the name). Gary drove me to a parking spot close to the top of the lift and waited there until I had completed my first run and I had given the okay sign and waved him off. That is how caring and helpful they are.
    What Harriet wrote about the food and beverages is entirely true. The selection of food and beverages is incredible and Gary and Sandy go out of their way to deal with quirky food preferences. I had driven up from LA and brought a few snacks and drinks (V-8 and coke zero) I thought they might not have. Wrong. They did.
    Both the years I skied with them, the other guests were great and people with whom I really enjoyed skiing/socializing.
    Last but not least, Powder is a great place to ski with groomed green and blue cruisers to …. (Okay, I, personally, stayed on the groomed, but everyone seemed to be happy with where ever they skied.)
    I recommend Life Elevated Utah most highly.

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