It’s Monday morning on Mount Ruapehu. The weekend crowd of young folk and families has departed, and a new demographic has arrived. It’s those of the grey-hair, gold card, kid-free, care-free retirees.
Those of us who are lucky enough to have reached 65 years old, with knees that still work and a bit of spare cash, can escape for freedom on the snow fields. In fact, if you are 70+ years old and have your own skis, you don’t even need the cash. Your time and days on the mountain are unlimited…well, providing you stay healthy and active. Ruapehu Alpine Lifts “gifted” this opportunity several years ago and since then the number of senior skiers has continued to rise. Steve Huish, Marketing Manager for RAL says, “At the moment we have 392 people aged 70+ and 1013 aged 60-69 with season or life passes. Not only that, 318 of the 70+ have already signed up for the 2019 Super super pass”. These figures don’t even touch on the number of senior day pass holders.
Now if you think this demographic is the kind that totter, waddle or snow-plough their way to the chairlift gates you are wrong. Most of these skiers have skiid for life and approach the start of the day like a racer ready for a Le Mons start. Calmly clutching helmets and queuing for the First Lifts option they are as keen as anyone to make the most of a mountain day. And, to be fair, the better equipment, well-groomed runs and faster chairlifts have made the sport much easier than when we were younger.
While family groups round up stray children and juggle home-made sandwiches and thermos the super pass skiers seem to know just the right balance between the number of runs and the number of flat whites to have at the mountain top cafes. It’s a vastly different ski experience to the years spent paying for the privilege of taking children skiing, dealing with them screaming prostrate in the snow and pole-towing them to the chairlift. But we were younger then and it was all part of the ‘fun’. On a perfect day it’s hard not to stop atop a peak and take a selfie to post to family on Facebook, a wee reminder of the good old days and confirmation that we are at least, still standing.
Like all sports, a reasonable level of fitness is required and age-related issues such as maintaining balance, flexibility and loss of muscle mass can result in an increased risk of injury. But older skiers tend to take fewer risks and recognize when their body is becoming fatigued, the time when most injuries occur as we brace for one more run before relaxing with a mulled-wine. We know, that an injury at this age will mean a longer recovery time so carefully balance the excitement of skiing with the sensibilities of not over-exerting ourselves. So, what better way to pace yourself than waddle back to the campervan, one of many which are parked on the ski fields, for a wee nana-nap.
At Turoa there is a noticeably high number of campervans parked. Not the small Wicked or Juicy vans, but rather the larger, home-away from home models., another indication of the number of seniors on the slopes. And why not? There is nothing more satisfying than making those first runs early in the morning then popping back into the campervan, taking the boots off and diving under the duvet for a bit of a rest while fortifying oneself for another couple of runs when the crowds have thinned.
In our golden years with it seems only right to make the most of the opportunities available. It’s the end of spring and time to get in quick for those cheap passes for the 2019 season. If you’re 70+ don’t forget to register.