Ski Younger Now!
Ski Younger Now is a retraining program for older skiers, and skiers returning to the sport after recovering from an injury. Going into the 2022-23 season, I’m 74 years old. I retired from teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the following advice is as valid as ever:
The reason older instructors can ski smoothly, all day long, is that we learned years ago how to ski with low-impact, low-torque, efficient techniques in all kinds of terrain.
For years my clientele has consisted mostly of skiers in their 60s and older, along with their kids and grandkids and spouses. Grandparents want to keep up with the younger folks and even teach them a thing or two. I help them do that.
These over-the-hill jocks (of both genders) are fully committed to the sport and eager to be retrained so they can do it for another ten or twenty years.
They now face a number of physical challenges: slowed reactions, weaker muscles, fragile joints, cataracts, inner-ear issues, numbed proprioceptors. To the extent possible I want them to ski smoothly, using ski shape in place of muscle to start turns, guide skis and control speed. A critical issue is to reduce the torque on knees, hips and lower back. This means we’re going to reduce the steering component and replace it very largely with edging. Happily, shaped skis encourage this.
And we’re going to kill off up-unweighting, that ungraceful lifting of the entire body weight with each turn, in favor of energy-efficient lateral motions and, later, terrain unweighting.
Each skier is unique, and exercises to achieve efficiency must be tailored to each skier’s goals, skills and needs. But very often the first key exercise is the patience turn. Skiers need to understand that it’s unnecessary (and counterproductive) to muscle the skis into a turn. All that’s needed with a shaped ski is to flatten it on the snow, and the tip will seek the fall line. And all it takes to flatten the ski is a very small upper body motion in the direction of the new turn. Good skiers do this by moving the hands toward the new pole plant. For nervous people, this move toward the valley may produce anxiety, so I ask for a simple turn signal: point the downhill hand in the direction you’re going to turn, as you would in signaling for a turn while riding a bike. This works like a charm, and this gesture will be the pole plant tomorrow. Point the hand and simply wait for the skis to begin turning. As you pass through the fall line, tip the skis a bit further onto the inside edges to complete the turn.
You can see where this is going. The idea of simple lateral motions to flatten and edge the ski takes both the steering torque and the unweighting body-lift out of the equation, and saves a huge amount of muscle energy. It feels so easy and so natural, and because we’re not jerking the skis about, the turn quickly becomes a smooth continuous arc. There’s no need to pause or recover before floating into the next turn, or the next. It’s easy to link these turns.
Next step is rhythmic turns in various tempi to learn about turn shape, with a funnel exercise to demonstrate full precise control. All of this can be done without breathing hard, even at 11,000 feet elevation.
The technique is valid for people of any age after rehabbing from an injury, or when resuming skiing after a long absence from the sport.
I no longer offer Ski Younger Now through the Aspen-Snowmass Ski School. If you have questions, email me. .
Photo by Tom Lippert: Seth skiing powder at Squaw Valley.Ski Younger Now launched in 2011 at Vail and moved to Snowmass in 2018.All contents of this website Copyright 2011-2022 by Seth Masia. All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior permission.
I hope you keep posting, very useful ideas for some of us – I’m 59 and on a rebuilt ACL. Unfortunately, I’m a Mt Hood skier and unlikely to get near to Vail any time soon. Also enjoyed your article on ski shape evolution on ski history.com. Thanks!
seth–nice blog–how about skiing in our 80s?
Didn’t know you were teaching at Vail. Now I’m really disappointed that Oz and I didn’t get to ski with you during ISHA. (bad communications–they told us to be there at 10)
I want to send you my book, but don’t know your address. Are you in Vail? Boulder? Do you see Jim Kercher at Beaver Creek? I would like to send him a copy, as he was the mgr at Alpine.
Come west and visit your old friends.
I can’t believe I can actually understand your tips! I’m an avid participator in the sport and last year went to Morzine, France for the very first time. I’ve been taking private ski lessons for the past 4 years and I must say I’m often confused about the motions; getting the wind knocked out of me because I use muscle weight instead of allowing the natural flow of my movements to achieve a simple turn. Your post has helped me realize where I’m going wrong.