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Planning to Ski ‘Til You’re 100? Here’s Some Inspo.

For most senior skiers, the magic is in the doing: "I want to be the 100-year-old making runs from the top. A beginner trail will be fine.”

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One brisk February morning as Arctic air spread across Pennsylvania, Deb and Bernie Labuskes awoke to more than a foot of new snow. Shoveling the sidewalk would have to wait. They knew first tracks at nearby Roundtop Mountain Resort would be awesome. 

Both approaching their mid 60s, the Labuskes began skiing together in 1984. “We’re fortunate that our home mountain, Roundtop, is 20 minutes from our house and we get out there two to three times a week,” she says. “We also take several trips out west and to Mount Snow. I feel that skiing makes winter something to look forward to. There is nothing better than being outside, usually with family and friends, having fun and making shared memories. I hope to be able to ski for many more years.”

Deb Labuskas
Deb Labuskes skis with her husband, Bernie, two to three times a week. “Skiing makes winter something to look forward to.” Photo: Bernie Labuskas

Further north at Camelback Resort in the Poconos, retired high school physics and math teacher John Armagost, 76, prepared for an early morning schedule of lessons. As a ski instructor for the last 15 years, Armagost now spends almost as much time on the mountain as he did in the classroom. “Skiing or riding is great exercise,” he says. “It allows us to improve and maintain our flexibility and our stamina. Our secret is stamina rather than speed. I want to be the 100-year-old who is still on skis and making runs from the top. A beginner trail will be just fine.”

Also Read: The Number of Senior Skiers Is At An All-Time High, And We’re Here for It

The Labuskes and Armagost are certainly not outliers. Last year, 10.5 million senior skiers took to the slopes, a record number that accounted for 59 million skier visits, according to the National Ski Areas Association. They ski with other family members, old and young alike, or with groups of retirees. Their camaraderie is evident both on the slopes and in the lodge during après, when tales of epic runs are often greatly exaggerated, all in good fun. 

Perhaps no one appreciates the joys of senior skiing more than Jack Sanders, 86, former Chairman of the U.S. Freestyle National Teams Committee and the Treasurer of the U.S. Skiing Foundation. A frequent skier at Waterville Valley Resort, N.H., Sanders says, “I ski because it’s who I am. I ski and I cycle and it’s a way of life. It’s who I am.”

John Armogost senior skiers
Camelback ski instructor John Armagost (far right), 76, began teaching skiing after a full career as a high school physics teacher. Photo: Camelback Resort

Don’t be misled by the age of senior skiers, many of whom still enjoy the challenges of bumps and off-piste skiing. Inge Franberg,72, is originally from Sweden where she was a ski racer before running a ski school. She came to Vail, Colo., during the 1979-’80 season as an instructor and has now been in ski school management since 1985. “I find that the variety in terrain we have here is a big factor for this age group,” she says. “As we get older we appreciate having a choice of everything from a lot of groomed runs to runs with bumps of all different sizes. On a powder day you can make your own tracks on the frontside or venture to any of our bowls and find the best run for your ability.”

Related: Why I Haven’t Missed a Season of Ski Instructing in 54 Years

The Over The Hill Gang at Copper Mountain, Colorado, meets 50 or more days per season regardless of weather. The group is a combination of like-minded and similarly skilled skiers under the guidance of instructors who help skiers in the 50-plus age categories improve their capabilities while reducing the effort and impact of skiing even the most challenging terrain. Guide Steve Hultquist says, “Skiing is such an awesome sport, offering everyone the opportunity to not only be out in the most incredible alpine environments, but also to participate actively in the joy of sliding down those snow-covered mountains on a pair of waxed sticks.” 

Kim Hovren, 62, from Bogus Basin, Idaho, belongs to VertiGals, a women’s social group consisting of skiers age 55 and older, along with Prime Timers, a social ski group of mostly retirees and long-time skiers. “I would describe the 55-plus alpine ski community that I’ve had the privilege to know over the years as ageless,” she says. “Bob Greenwood, 96, has been instrumental in the development of our local ski community, and you can find him and his wife Dottie at Bogus Basin almost every Wednesday with the PrimeTimers. Locals clamor to ski in Bob’s tracks, be lucky enough to ride the chairlift with him and learn about the history of skiing on all levels.”

Kim Hovren and Bob Greenwood
96-year-0ld Bob Greenwood, right, still skis every weekend at Bogus Basin. Kim Hovren, left, also skis there with the VertiGals and the Prime Timers, social ski clubs that bring senior skiers together. Photo: Bogus Basin

Although born and raised in the concrete jungle of Manhattan, Bernie Weichsel, 73, began skiing at age four via family trips to the Catskills in upstate New York. He recalls, “From my first ski experiences I loved the feeling of freedom that I got from the sport, to whoosh down a mountainside under my own power with only gravity to assist me. Skiing became the entry to many great experiences, culturally as well as physically, and most important to me, skiing has introduced me to thousands of friends around this country and the world. I know many people who have skied into their 90s and I plan to follow in their ski tracks.”

Jon Weisberg, 78, publisher and editor of SeniorsSkiing.com, a virtual community and meeting place for snow enthusiasts over 50, sums it up for many senior skiers. “I continue to ski because it has possessed me since I was ten years old. I continue to ski because it taps me into a life force and a form of expression that is essential to my being.”