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should he do it?

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
My father, age 71, has decided to learn how to ski. He is in fairly good shape, walks hilly terrain most every morning with trekking poles and a heart rate monitor, and swims laps during the summer. He doesn't have any old injuries, or new ones for that matter, and as far as I know, he's healthy as a horse. He's meeting us in Utah, and has made up his mind to "see why you guys like this skiing so much" while he's with us.

My question is this: have any of the instructors on this board ever had a student his age? How successful was the lesson? I don't think any age is too old to learn skiing, but, well, he's my Dad. :

And if ydnar is lurking around these days, would he be interested in a private or two for him?

post #2 of 39
Interesting question. I'm curious about the same thing. I wanted to take my dad skiing (he's about 76), but he was afraid of snapping himself in half.
post #3 of 39
I'd say, no. I am no ski instructor or fitness guru, but it seems to me that his bones and ligaments are his weak spot. Old people have very weak bones. In fact, i have quite a lot of first aid training, and in training they always stress that we should try to avoid giving chest massage when doing CPR on old people, as most chances are we'll break the chest ribs quite easily. So i would worry alot about him falling and breaking something. Breaking a hand is not very bad, but breaking the thigh or the pelvis should probably mean a very serious drop in the quality of his life.
post #4 of 39
If my area was still open, I'd say, "Bring him up to Whitetail (PA)". We've got a woman on staff who is about 78 years old, and I believe is L-II certified in both alpine skiing and boarding. She has also been active in the martial arts all her life. Sounds like the two of them would get along just fine.

With respect to instruction, as pointed out above, being careful in both instruction and equipment is clearly needed so some accident won't reduce his quality of life in the long term for a one day thrill. There is a PSIA specialization in teaching seniors. I would try very hard to get one of these people to guide him through his introduction to the sport. This guidance should include more than just instruction, but serious consideration of things like equipment, DIN settings (and double checking), warm-up exercises, pacing, selection of appropriate snow conditions and terrain, etc. Basically, there should be much more serious consideration given to risk mitigation and management than normally given to a beginning student.

Tom / PM
post #5 of 39
YES-- my mother is now 78- has skiied most of her life and teaches at a large southern VT area.

Quality of life? there is a huge amount of research coming out showing that physical activity is key to continued high levels of mental activiy as we get older- sure, he could get hurt, but he might get hooked and use this as the incentive to stay in good shape and keep the blood moving 12 months of the year- starting a new career as in instructor at age 71 did that for my mother and it has been GREAT-

good luck-----
post #6 of 39
Sounds like a midlife crisis to me. Mine took the form of a snowboard.
post #7 of 39
If someone is a skier and asking whether they should consider skiing well into their 70's or 80's, there's precedent for that.

If a person is already in the mid 70's and never has skied, I'd have to think long and hard before I'd say yes to that. It would depend first and foremost upon the physical condition of the person, and secondly upon the other sports the person does or has done. If a 76 year old is in good shape and is ice skating twice a week, I'd say give it a shot on gentle slopes after full consideration and balancing of the risks and benefits.
post #8 of 39
Well, she did say, "...He is in fairly good shape, walks hilly terrain most every morning with trekking poles and a heart rate monitor, and swims laps during the summer. He doesn't have any old injuries, or new ones for that matter, and as far as I know, he's healthy as a horse...", so I suspect he could do it with minimal risk, as long as he was being duely cautious as per my earlier post. It really needs to be an "informed consent" type decision on the family's part.

Tom / PM
post #9 of 39
I agree with oboe. He should know about this since he's an old fart himself. [img]tongue.gif[/img]

Sorry, couldn't resist.
post #10 of 39
What will you tell him if you think he should not ski:

"Dad, you're too old?"


Help him by getting him a private lesson.
post #11 of 39
The man is an adult, is he not? In full posession of his faculties? The decision is his and his alone.

Sure hope I don't have any young whippersnappers trying to tell me what to do when I'm 71.
post #12 of 39
No one's suggesting people tell us older folks what to do - I certainly wouldn't stand for that!

The question is what's the wise thing to do, and have any of us instructors had such seniors for lessons. Yes, I have, if you count sixty-eight years old. Grandpa came with the whole family, including his wife, his daughter and her husband, and the grand kids. Dad and the kids were naturals. Grandma bugged out after walking on the flats with skis. Grandpa, at sixty-eight, stuck with it. After two days of TLC, he had some good turns, but never made it down the bunny slope without at least one fall.

At my age (sixty-two), in fact, I aspire to teach people who are - well, who are my age! At LEAST! Experienced or beginner, bring 'em on! One of the instructors with whom I teach is past seventy, and I want to be doing this well into my hundred plus years (no joke, I mean it). When I get beginners just starting at or beyond my age, though, I'll be very, very careful and especially considerate. Bear in mind that, for the most part, seniors brake bones more easily and heal less quickly and less completely.
post #13 of 39
Thread Starter 
Yes, its true he is an adult (though some in my family think he is not in full posession of said faculties ).

Thanks for all your input. Oboe, he would definitely be a never-ever. And I'm not sure if this is a one-time thrill, "cross one more thing off the list" kind of thing, or if he really does want to take it up. My brother has been pestering him to go up to Tahoe with him for awhile, and I think he thinks perhaps it would be a nice way to spend time with his son.

I like PhysicsMan's idea of researching for an instructor who is trained to work with older students. Can anyone recommend one in the PCMR/DV area, or Alta/Snowbird?

Of course, there is always the possibility that my Mom will totally talk him out of it. I hope not, because I think with his demeanor, he'll really get a kick out of it, as long as he is careful.
post #14 of 39
From Mammoth Mountain Forum - credit to Bullet for the post there.

Thread Title: Keizo Miura: Born 1904. Still Skiing in 2004
Created On Wednesday March 10, 2004 8:44 AM

Keizo Miura was living a dream as he glided down the snowy slope. The clouds had lifted and the powder was deep and light. With him were loved ones and close friends. Had he not know better, he might have been in heaven.

Bu this was earthly reality and it brough a smile to his weathered face. Miura, who may have skied more than anyone on Earth, had not only lived to be 100, he was celebrating that milestone by making tracks down one of his favorite mountains, negotiating the fall line with the prowess of a youthful veteren.

His great-ganddaughter calls him "ultra-grandpa". He flet powerful, alive.

Angling his skis to forma a wedge, he slowed his descent so the younger skiers, his great-granddaughter in particular, could keep up. When they reached the bottom, they reaised their ski poles and reveled in the moment.

Miura was supported by four generations of family and nearly 150 friends, many of whom had accompanied him in late February from Japan to Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah. The site was selected for the reunion because it is Miura's favorite place to ski. On this particular day, he said it was the best powder he had ever experienced. "The magic of skiing is that the snow is different each time I go," he said.

But his actions said more: Age is not the barrier some believe it to be. This kind of exercise, in settings so pristine, is beneficial to both body and soul. "Skiing isn't really the reason for my long life," Miura said speaking through a translator. "The reason for my long life is my passion for skiing."

A crowd applauded the venerable skier when he reached the bottom of the run, spanning 3,000 vertical feet. Among those in attendance was former President Jimmy Carter, who called the family "a true inspiration to not only the people of the United States, but the entire world."

Miura was born in Aomori Japan, on Feb. 15, 1904. After graduating from what is now the University of Hkkaido, he joined the forestry bureau and became manager of its ski club. His first skis were wooden planks and he wore army boots smeared with petroleum jelly as waterproofing. At 51, he retired and spent even more time skiing. Though he keeps no records, he says he has averaged 110 days annually on the slopes since he took up the sport 79 years ago - that's 8,690 days, or nearly 24 years of total time on the slopes.

With him for the commemortive run on Feb. 28 was his 71-year-old son, Yuichiro, who starred in the 1975 documentary, "The man Who Skied Down Everest." Yuichiro last year became the oldest person to summit the world's tallest mountain. His sons Yuta and Gota joined in conquest. Gota competed as a freestyle moguls specialist in the 1994 and 98 Olympic Games.

The whole family was on hand to honor their hero, thier patriarch, and to reinforce that one man amounts to very litle without family and friends. "I beleive that my 100-year-old fathers is able to continue skiing because of the grand support he gest from friends gathering for him like this." Yuirchiro said after the descent thorugh eight inches of new snow.

Miura is a close friend of D-i-c-k Bass, the resort's owner and the first person credited with climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents. In 1983, Miura and Bass climbed Antarctica's Vinson Massif.

Miura's climbing days are over, but he vows to keep skiing until his legs or his heart give out. His granddaughter Emill said that while his eyesight and hearing are failing he is otherwise in good health. His diet includes lots of fish and chicken prepared in a pressure cooker to soften the bones, which he eats fo the calcium they provide.

On Feb. 15, the day he turned 100, he said, simply, that he felt "just another day older" and spent the morning skiing Teine Highland Resort in Sapporo. When it was time for the celebratory run at Snowbird he was admittedly nervous, not so much because of the large gathering, but because he ws beginning to feel rusty.

"He was relieved after it was over and he didn't fall because he hadn't been skiing in 11 days since he left Japan., so he was nor really confident," Emill Miura said. "That's a long time for him".

It must have seemed like an eternity
post #15 of 39
im hardly qualified to know ... but ;

my father died about 6 weeks ago, he had a blood condition diagnosed around 2 years ago which meant he had trouble fighting infection. An infection ultimately got him, as we had expected.

Doctors told him to wrap himself up in cotton wool. Citing he'd rather be dead than do that, he proceeded to continue living his retirement to the full, overseas holidays, yacht racing around whitsunday islands, getting married to his new girlfriend ... being the typical obstinate dad ive always known.

I think your dad should give it a go, if hes as healthy and fit as you say ... just so long as he knows he's not an unbreakable 25yr old anymore and to take it easy! If he really wants to try it, then go for it i say, its amazing how quickly a strong healthy adult male can lose the first two attributes just mentioned.
post #16 of 39
It just may give him the reason he needs to live fifty more years!

Short skis and gentle terrain and I predict he will have a new love.
post #17 of 39
Someone said (I paraphrase) "skiing at 71 no problem if they have already been doing it" I agree with that. My dad started somewhere around retirement age---young 60's I'd guess---and did so for 4 or 5 seasons until he tweaked a knee and decided that quality of life was more important to him than skiing was. He is now 82 and still ocasionaly beats me in a freindly (hah hah) round of golf. He rides cart now, but that is the only concession he makes to golf. I suspect he might still be skiing if he had not started so late in life.
post #18 of 39
I would certainly encourage him to try. He may or may not like it, but as others have pointed out he's old enough to make up his own mind!

I can speak from some experience here. I turn 67 in a week and had my first lesson at 58. I guess if I hadn't liked it I may not have persisted but I loved it from the first minute and like Oboe plan to keep on until I can emulate Miura-san who is a great role model for all us old farts.

BTW Oboe, I can readily identify with your objective of teaching newbies our age. I would love to do the same, however our Ski School has a policy of hiring kids, so I content myself with being a volunteer patroller.

In regard to injuries, I fully agree that older bones are more brittle and ligaments and muscles can be injured more easily, but that's nothing that proper stretching prior to skiing and cautious progress by a good instructor can't take care of.

I know I've had much worse injureies from in-line skating and cycling than I have from skiing to date!
post #19 of 39
Well, my wife is 71 and I am 72 and we still ski most any terrain, and not too bad if I say so myself, which proves oboe's statement that once you have skied for fifty-plus years it actually is easier than walking.

But as I discussed last year in a thread, we now stayaway from risky stuff like long mogul runs, hardwood trees for sure and other stuff that may result in a fall, fully realising that an unfortunate fall could end our skiing life.

We have concluded another season of skiing with two weeks in Copper and A-basin plus all season of 3-4 days weekly at our molehill without a fall by either of us.

Guided by a good instructor who is careful not to let the 71-year-old get out of control, preceded by lots of preparatory 'getting used to those slats' time, I would consider it safe.

The problem comes when gandpa gets overenthusiastic after the lesson and decides he can make it from the top of the hill.

post #20 of 39
Well, SheSkis, it looks like the overwhelming majority of replies from this group are for your dad to give it a try (with appropriate caution, of course).

Don't even think of asking the same question of folks (particularly, those in your family) who don't ski or who have only gone a few times in their lives. I'm sure all you will get are responses like, "Whaddya, nuts?!?! He'll kill himself!". Skiing is still perceived by the general public as a high risk activity. Of course, since most of us here are reasonably experienced recreational skiers and/or instructors, we obviously have a much more objective view of the risks and rewards.

One more comment ... Exactly like in Oboe's case, my oldest beginner student this season was also 68 years old. She was in a group lesson with about 12 other beginners ranging in age from about 20 to 65 years old (her husband). They were all from southern China. None had ever seen snow, and only about two of them spoke English well enough for me to understand them.

Because of being so bundled up, I had no idea how old "Grandma" really was until it became obvious that she was by far the best student in the group. She over-rotated a couple of times, but I don't think she fell even once. When I saw how good she was, I decided to ask one of the English speakers to translate for me, and only then did I learn her age. I also found out that she instructs Tai Chi just about every day.

"Grandma" was linking 'em pretty well down the bunny slope by the end of the hour and a half lesson and was obviously enjoying herself. She probably was basking in the feeling of "still being the best" in some physical activity.

The other members of her group were extremely supportive and encouraging of her, even moreso than I would expect to see in a similar group of westerners. As per Ott's comment, at the end of the lesson, I tried to caution her to be careful when she practices on her own, but was reassured that they were leaving the resort in a few minutes, flying back home in a few hours, and it was unlikely she would ever come to the USA or ski again.

I perceived it as quite a bittersweet moment, but they obviously didn't. I missed the next lineup because with their newfound enthusiasm for skiing, and the fact that just about every one of them had their own camera, all possible combinations and permutations of individuals had to photographed together, most of them involving "Grandma" and me. [img]smile.gif[/img]

Grandma will probably tell the story of her day on skis for the rest of her life. My guess is that SheSkis' dad will have an equally good first day (if handled with reasonable care) and a long and happy skiing career.

Tom / PM
post #21 of 39
Thread Starter 
PhysicsMan, I agree that the overwhelming opinion is that careful and quality instruction is the way to go. I do believe he'll have a ball, and my mother will have a heyday with the Jewish-motherish guilt trip the entire time, but that's what makes our family fun (uh...) :

The kids will also enjoy "helping" Grampa if he decides to continue the next day.

By the way, thank you all for the nice stories. I like reading stuff like that. It's made me smile this morning. Its also my wish that my husband and I can live that long and continue to ski until we are no longer able.
post #22 of 39
Originally posted by sheskis:
PhysicsMan, I agree that the overwhelming opinion is that careful and quality instruction is the way to go. I do believe he'll have a ball, and my mother will have a heyday with the Jewish-motherish guilt trip the entire time, but that's what makes our family fun (uh...) :

The kids will also enjoy "helping" Grampa if he decides to continue the next day.

By the way, thank you all for the nice stories. I like reading stuff like that. It's made me smile this morning. Its also my wish that my husband and I can live that long and continue to ski until we are no longer able.
I hope he goes and has fun. I read a sigline someplace (could have been here) that says "Fear is temporary, regret is permanent."

That became my motto and I'm taking a tumbling class at the age of 39.
post #23 of 39
I have a number of students older than your dad who can outski 97% of the (more youthful) people on the hill. You would not guess their ages to be over 70, because they look at least 10 years younger and they ski like they are 20 years younger. They fall down, sometimes hard, and don't break. They prefer bumps to groomers. The only difference between them and their younger counterparts is they have no desire to hike the Ridge. I did take a 73 year old up last year who said when we returned to lift-served terrain, "Okay, been there, done that."

People are living longer. Why not learn to ski?
post #24 of 39
If he wants to do it, why deny him of the experience because of his age? I say go for it.

There are plenty of instructors out there his age as well as plenty of skiers. I agree, try to find an instructor close to his age for the lessons if possible, if for nothing less than "common ground" when it comes to aches, pains and fears.
post #25 of 39
I think the risks associated with learning how to ski at an advanced age far outweigh the benefits.

He may be better off trying cross country skiing and if he can handle it and enjoys it, then he can give downhill skiing a try. However, if he made up his mind, then support him and make sure he starts with a good instructor.
post #26 of 39
We have a dude named Charlie at Smuggler's Notch here in Vermont who wears an 80+ club patch. I see him all the time even in marginal conditions in bad weather. He always wears a tie while skiing, so the ski patrol will all wear ties on the next-to-last Saturday of the season, as a tribute to our skibrother Charlie whom I intend to emulate. Good skier, too. Smooth.
post #27 of 39
Well if he is looking for direction --Here at 7 Springs we have a cert. Master Teacher --80 yrs old, with whom he can work.....and if that doesn`t work out I`m a lev 3 and 75 and could probably struggle thru turning in both directions!!! I wish They had all of those smily symbols that I could click on at the end--but I`m sure you understand---Larry C
post #28 of 39
SheSkis - I'm glad you liked the story. That incident warmed my heart as well.

A couple more thoughts:

1) If there is worry that he has unexpectedly brittle bones, a visit to the doctor could clear this up one way or the other (as well as be useful in other ways). If it turns out that his bone density is average (or better) for a guy his age, he probably will be like all the older skiers presented as examples in this thread in that he probably won't break anything with the usual tumbles one has when skiing. Then, with some stretching exercises and practice (dryland and on-snow) in learning how to fall safely, and good coaching, he will be good to go.

2) In terms of finding an instructor with specialized training in seniors, since none were suggested in this thread for the area you are visiting, I would contact the ski school and tell them what you are looking for. A 2 hour private every day of your stay with such an instructor would make a helluva nice gift for your dad and reduce the chances that after a few days of skiing without problems he'll become overconfident and decide on his own to take the high traverse at Alta.

3) With respect to DIN settings on his rental gear, obviously he goes in as a Type I, but to be honest, even though it is not quite kosher, I would crank down his bindings even further to the point where he can demonstrate that he can comfortably force a release from the heels and toes of both skis. I'd rather see him twist out a few extra times during the inevitable beginner's bobbles and get used to falling at 1 mph, rather than risk getting all tangled up in some beginner's fall and wind up sitting down sideways on his knee (or worse).

TomB - XC skiing (ie, prepared track?) is indeed an interesting idea to get him used to sliding across slipery surfaces. Probably any "safer" sport that gives him transfer skills would be useful, and he might actually like these activities as well. Ice skaters and rollerbladers always do well when they learn to ski, but obviously, there is also some risk that he will hurt himself in the preparatory activities. I know that my face and arms always seem to find way more roots and rocks on XC skis than on alpine gear, and when I'm doing my own crude imitation of ice skating, my falls are always harder than when I'm on snow.

Tom / PM
post #29 of 39
hey Liz, don't forget how well Ed Amende did in our group at ESAII!

hook him up with whomever Maggie & Chip Loring suggest. he'll have a blast, just don't make him ski with you and Daron.
post #30 of 39
Originally posted by Larry C:
Well if he is looking for direction --Here at 7 Springs we have a cert. Master Teacher --80 yrs old, with whom he can work.....and if that doesn`t work out I`m a lev 3 and 75 and could probably struggle thru turning in both directions!!! I wish They had all of those smily symbols that I could click on at the end--but I`m sure you understand---Larry C
Man, I always knew you were old, but geez

You don't ski like any 75 year old I know [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
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