The silver skier: how to keep skiing in your sixties and beyond

skiing knee injuries

More and more people over 60 are taking to skiing, and there are more reasons for that than you’d first assume. People in that age group nowadays tend to have the time and money to be able to ski – and what’s more, they’re far more active than earlier generations of that age group. There are legitimate health reasons for taking up skiing late in life, too: it can be a huge boost to upper-body and core strength, as well as helping with memory and brain health – and it’s a far better way to spend your golden years than being stuck on the sofa.

And the good news for the older skier – whatever your level and experience – is that you are clearly not alone. The skiing industry is well aware of the boom in older skiers, with websites, clothing, kits, and lessons aimed at the more mature end of the market, with plenty of ski clubs in that age range, meaning you don’t be discouraged from taking to the slopes and enjoying the physical, mental and social benefits of skiing.

However, it can’t be stressed enough: skiing can be a risky pursuit, and it doesn’t get any safer as you age. And when you’re at an age when you feel less indestructible than you did before, those injuries can mount up if you’re not careful. According to recent statistics, the majority of injuries on the slopes happen to older skiers, and when you’re older, the recovery times get longer.

(Oh, and before we talk about how to get over the hill without permanently retiring from the piste, the obvious question is: Is it too late to start skiing? In a word, and according to the experts, no. As long as you’re reasonably fit – or at least not massively unfit – and not carrying any debilitating injuries or ailments, it’s never too late to take the sport up.)

Get checked out

Your first step is to visit your GP, state your intentions, and listen to them. They’ll be able to advise you on your current level of fitness, and either give you the go-ahead, help you draw up a plan of action to get you ready to ski, or rule it out completely. Don’t be afraid to bring your intentions up: by and large, they’ll be glad to hear you intend to take up skiing, as they know what comes next…

Get ready to exercise

Whatever your experience level, you can’t just walk off the street onto the slopes: you’ll need to embark upon a low-level exercise regime that’ll include, stretches, half-squats, lunges, leg curls and crunches, with light, low-rep weight training thrown in. Avoid the heavy stuff – the goal is to ease your joints into coping with the bending and balance issues that skiing throws up.

Get the right gear

If you’re a beginner, this is necessary. If you’re returning to the sport after a long break, it’s equally necessary, because the gear has got better and safer. Try out the shorter, wider skis – they help enormously with turning. Get acquainted with the new boots, because they’re far better in preventing injury than the ones you wore twenty years ago. And make sure everything fits.

Be realistic

Sad to say, whatever your level of experience, the days of going off-piste may be over. Your first experience at a resort should be in an instruction workshop, to get (re)acquainted with the right techniques

Fatigue, loss of concentration and alcohol consumption can all increase the risk of incurring an injury, one-third of which affect the knee, so it is important that you don’t overtire yourself or enjoy the social aspect of skiing too much. If you do suffer from a knee injury – typically a meniscal or anterior cruciate ligament tear – it doesn’t mean that your skiing days are over, but seeking treatment from a knee specialist as soon as possible is a must.