May 5, 2011
I think that I'm finally in a position to repay your past considerations for the kind responses to questions which I have raised on this forum. Being in the age group of your interest, I will offer the following personal insights. Please note, most of what I say is about me, so please do not draw any broad sweeping conclusions from a sample of size 1.
Avid skiers ages 60:75 are PROBABLY relatively healthy (mentally, physically) compared with the the average "geezer" of the same age group. The reason being that since we want to ski, we probably invest more time and effort keeping in shape during and after ski season. For myself, I usually run 25-30 miles a week and on the days I don't run, I'll do 100 crunches and some stretching exercises.
With this said, the generally accepted number of 1% loss of muscle mass starting at age 40 means that skiers in this group, even with the extensive exercises that we hopefully should be doing, have lost probably 15% of our muscle mass and maybe even 30% depending on age and amount of physical activity (which can retard the rate of muscle loss). However, I think this shows up in "endurance" i.e. the length of time spent skiing. Instead of being able to ski opening bell to closing bell (8:00 am to 4:00 pm), most seniors probably only ski in the morning (8:00 to 12:00). Two reasons. (a) loss of endurance (b) better snow conditions. But during these skiing hours, I don't think a lot is lost in performance. Well, at least for myself (sample of size 1).
So, I would treat them as "regular" skiers (at least in the mornings if it is a whole day class). I would take umbrage if you treated me too much as an "elder" and backed off too much. Note the "too". A little is fine but not too. So this is a delicate point, because even in this age group of highly active people, there is a spread of fitness, with some skiers very fit and some not so. Also, this is dependent on what you are teaching. I was in a senior group the past season, and so many of the seniors wanted to avoid moguls (for one reason or other), that I would have to with-draw from the class (usually when I felt that the class was close to ending), so that I can go ski the moguls. I had determined, come rain or shine (soft or hard icy bumps), to do at least two bump runs each time I went out skiing. This paid off handsomely in my ability to handle bumps when I went north for my final 10 day ski trip of the season.
Also, you WILL hear grumbling about the snow, if it is not perfect "corduroy". The worst the snow condition, the more grumbling. Again, I look on bad snow conditions as "snow that's good for you" as Bob Barnes would say. So, for bad snow days, you might want to develop skills especially for those kind of conditions. Strangely, here in the banana belt on the east coast (south central PA), the "grumbling" meter also goes up with the depth of soft snow. But powder doesn't happen frequently here, so for the most part it is not a problem. You probably have figured out the pattern, any kind of condition which is not well groomed conditions is likely to be a problem with your group. Well, it was with my group. I had the opportunity to spend a few days with a senior group at another mountain and they seemed to require less "hand holding". But since this group was 3000 miles from my home, I could not join them instead. Had a blast with you Senior Falcons
Finally, back to the "endurance" question. Your group is only going to be as strong as the least fit skier. So, identify the person who is the least fit. Obviously, if that person is too much off the group, you would want to recommend that he/she go to the next group down (usually, there are three senior groups. Beginner, intermediate and advanced). If the least fit person can hang with the group, you still might want to make sure that all the activity difficulty levels and length of activity are more or less geared to this person. Slow down and stop to rest when he/she is flagging. This can be achieved by frequent stops while skiing either by more talking/coaching(), or an unscheduled pit stop with a chocolate break thrown in (oh yes. pit stops are important for as the group ages, the ability to hold it in decreases ). You don't want to run the class to his/her breaking point. As long as you don't get to that point and let him/her recover with a short rest it will be fine. But if a person reaches his/her collapse point, then all hell breaks lose and maybe the whole class has to wait until the person is escorted down to the lodge, either by yourself or by ski patrol. One example, which I remember vividly in one of my senior class of this year. It was our last run of the day down a beginners bump run. The person completed the last bump and then we saw him taking a flying leap into the air of about 10 feet and landed 15 feet from where he took off. We all thought that he had killed himself. He blacked out and when he came to, he didn't remember what had happened. Maybe a "slight" concussion? We all waited around until the ski patrol came and transported him down the mountain. It took a good 10-15 minutes just for him to wake up. He didn't show up for the rest of the season.
Two more things you want to note is that as we age we (a) lose flexibility (b) lose quick reflexes. Loss of flexibility is the reason why seniors fall down and can't get up. Loss of reflexes is why we can not do real quick turns in succession. Loss of endurance is why we fall a lot because we tire more easy.
Hope this helps with your senior group.
Ps: I seem to remember a few month back, a 50+ year women appeared on this forum and exhausted all the colors for her postings . Her husband/significant other name is PJ and use to be on the PSIA demo team a few years back. He is now a senior skier and has developed a senior specific program for PSIA-Rocky mountian north(?), anyway the division for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. He has a manual and other teaching aids for training senior skiers. I don't know how you can contact him, but if I recall, I think that this women and maybe even PJ is known to Nolo (sorry Nolo to bring you into this discussion). Oh yes, the woman's name is Cookie Bewley Hale. I don't recall if she had left an e-mail so that you could PM her.
Edited by CharlieP - 5/5/11 at 12:15pm