Is 40 too late to start?

December 12, 2007 at 05:39 PM · Okay, it has nothing to do with violin, but I bet you guys can help me with this!

Some friends have invited us to go skiing over the break, and ... is this going to be horribly embarrassing? Will we end up in the ER?

I grew up in Colorado, but didn't ski much, and Robert has never skied, nor have our kids, 10 and 7. It's always seemed a little unaffordable, and also just hard to break into for the uninitiated.

But our friends are making it easy, giving us ideas on where to get second-hand ski jackets, etc., where to rent skis, letting us stay at their cabin; basically I can't see a better opportunity to be babysat through the whole process.

Still, we're a little skared to ski. I mean, don't people ski into trees and die? Will I break my wrist?

Replies (41)

December 12, 2007 at 05:59 PM · I tried both cross country and alpine (downhill) skiing as an adult. Cross country was fun and safe since it was mostly aerobic exercise and no hills. However, for alpine skiiing, I took a lesson before they let me on the "bunny hill." The most important lesson they taught me was how to stop; that way, it would decrease the chance of getting an injury. It also helps that a ski instructor is nearby and tells you what to do in case of panic:)

You may want to cross country ski (which requires different type of skis) before hitting the slopes. I highly recommend ski instruction before attempting alpine skiing. Otherwise, have fun! It is definitely worth it.

December 12, 2007 at 05:46 PM · 40 is definitely not too old! The key is to sign EVERYBODY up for ski lessons. You can often get a package (ski rental, ski school & ski pass, or at least ski school and ski pass together), so be sure to look into that.

On a "bunny hill" (beginner's hill), you're likely to have a fairly wide-open expanse with no trees anywhere near you. In ski school, they'll teach you how to fall and get back up, stop, and snow-plow turn. You'll probably fall a a bit, but the worst you usually get from this are some bruises (remember you're falling on snow - not cement!). You'll probably discover some muscles you never knew you had. Count on having sore muscles.

Usually the nasty accidents occur in the more advanced terrain, with people being daring/speedy, and narrower trails. I doubt if you'll be anywhere near this type of terrain.

Skiing can be quite fun, and doing it as a family sounds like great fun as well!

December 12, 2007 at 05:46 PM · My husband had a bad experience during a school ski trip as a teenager in Germany and refused to ski again until a couple of years ago, when he was around 36. But he seems to have decided to embrace winter now, and we've been skiing in VT and NH for the past 2 years and have another trip planned for later this season. My kids are only 8 and 4, but my daughter took lessons when she was 6 and 7, and she's doing really well (better than on the violin, I have to say). She can ride the chair lift and go down beginner (green circle) runs essentially by herself. She does wide, slow turns, and is cautious by nature, so I'm not really worried about her being a hot dog at this age. My son took a "mogul mites" lesson last year when he was 3 and it was just about riding up the conveyor belt and skiing straight down again. It was really cute, and he seemed to be having fun, enough that he wants to do it again this year.

I was most concerned about my husband, but he's also doing quite well. He has a tendency to want to point himself down the mountain and go straight, but for the most part he's realistic about his limits. He's just started trying out some of the easier intermediate (blue square) trails. I think the modern style of ski--shorter than the user, with rounded tops and curved edges--makes it easier to turn and remain in control. Older skis, like the ones I learned on as a kid, were longer and straighter, and they got stuck in snow more easily.

I'd encourage you to go for it. Like my daughter, I'm cautious by nature and don't usually take unnecessary risks. I think the breathtaking views and moderate speeds you can achieve without losing control provide a lot of thrills and excitement. I've been skiing since I was about 4 and have never injured myself skiing (unless you count getting snow in unusual places--injuring your dignity/ego doesn't count).

December 12, 2007 at 06:17 PM · Snow board? You wont have both feet/legs going in two different directions. An Elder in my congregation is 38 & snowboards and wont go back too skiies. I'm 42 and find it intriquing. And I agree with what the others say, get the lessons!!!!!! which ever way you decide to go!

December 12, 2007 at 06:39 PM · i cannot wait to see that picture where laurie coming down the bunny slope with violin and bow in hands instead of the poles! :)

or that she gets to share with her students in class about her new found wisdom: why skiiing is similar to violin bowing...

in term of injury prevention, i would suggest getting the lower limbs a little stronger. hold robert's hands, face each other and do squats alternatively. how about 50 times each person? :)

and falling is fun on the bunny slope. Weeeeeeeeeee! make sure you lower yourself and fall on the butts. a big tree in the front? no problem, just sit! :)

December 12, 2007 at 07:05 PM · Yup on getting a lesson first. I first skied at age 35. The important thing is to not get too ambitious/overconfident; ski smart and you'll be fine. And bunny hills are very good things, I know from experience. : )

December 12, 2007 at 08:32 PM · Laurie - you have to promise to provide some pics. Get lessons. I would say that 40 is not too old to start anything, so go for it! In fact, when you do something like this, you can really say you are 40 years young rather than 40 years old.

December 12, 2007 at 08:39 PM · You will fall down. A lot. Accept it.

Cross-country is easy, downhill.. I don't know if I would try it after 40.

BTW we're just starting to get into major snow, really only Keystone, Breckenridge, A-Basin and Copper have been open til the storms this week. Thanksgiving only Breckenridge was open and even then only 2 runs.. everything from Aspen to Maryjane had nada open. Its been too cold or hot to make snow here, but we were getting 3+ feet a day last week =)

December 13, 2007 at 03:32 AM · My serious advice is that if you have natural athleticism then follow the advice above. If you don't have natural athleticism don't ski at all.

How to decide if you are naturally athletic:

1. Can hit a softball with a bat and get the ball into the outfield.

2. Can shoot baskets (in basketball) with some consistency

3. Were a good roller skater/skateboarder/ice skater etc. as a child.

4. Can consistently return the ball in volleyball

5. Can volley well in tennis

6. Can regularly break 100 in 18 holes of golf


Yes yes I know that some will ask me what the correlation is and I can't prove it to you scientifically but I believe that all of the above indicate a higher than average level of body awareness that helps mitigate sports risk.

If you can't answer several of my questions affirmatively and with confidence then you may want to take a pass on sports that have an increased risk of falling.

December 12, 2007 at 09:03 PM · If you can ice skate, you can ski. If you can't well, it will be a lot harder.

December 12, 2007 at 09:21 PM · My first ski-img experience was when I was 37 and my children were 10 and 8.We took a ski instructer who spent the first two days down on the beginners slope then it was up to the top of the mountain.Be prepared to watch your children take off.Mine were whizzing down by the end of the week.I however remained the snail.I had my skis pointed up the mountain.Not a speed freak!!

December 12, 2007 at 09:27 PM · I started skiing when I was 40. Be forewarned that it may not be all that fun at first. Snowplowing is not particularly fun. But when you can get your skiis parallel and do some turns - well then it starts to get fun!

I had the good fortune of having a patient and expert skiier (my wife) teach me most of what I know. I'm also fairly athletic and have strong legs, which also helps.

December 12, 2007 at 09:32 PM · I started both skiing and snowboarding "late" (I'm a late bloomer); skiing at 25 and snowboarding at 28. I have to say that snowboarding is waaay easier and less scary. With skis, your legs go in different directions, you keep steping on the ski and can't move; I was afraid of twisting my knee. With the board, you have to learn how to get up when you fall (you get strong abs), but you fall on your behind, and you're less likely to fall on your wrist, at least that's been my experience. And I've fallen quite a bit. maybe wear wrist guards if you're really worried.

December 12, 2007 at 09:51 PM · Laurie,

Being raised in a family of skiers, I have been skiing since I was 3. Like the others said, make sure everyone gets lessons - Robert, too! Start small. There is nothing wrong at all with staying on the bunny hill all day long. You honestly don't have to be "super athletic" to learn and have fun. Of course you'll learn faster if you are, but there's no pressing requirement. The only thing physically I see that would keep one from skiing would be bad knees. I would also advise expecting mothers to postpone taking on the sport. If your children are small, they will get tired quickly. Have a couple hot chocolate breaks.

Oh, and relax that evening in some nice warm water and prepare for sore shins the next day. :-)

PS: I can't snowboard. :-P

December 12, 2007 at 09:58 PM · I absolutely LIVE for X-country skiing. Once you learn how to do it properly, you will never want to stop (it's like jogging on the moon)

Downhill? No thanks. There is simply too much chance of breaking an arm. Even though that chance is relatively tiny, it's significant enough for someone who needs both arms to generate an income. I just don't see the sense in it.

December 12, 2007 at 10:02 PM · You can never be really good learning to ski at that age. Just kidding. Lots of snow to you!. And be careful.

December 12, 2007 at 10:19 PM · I started downhill skiing as an adult-- love it. But snowboarding seems more difficult for me and most adult-starters I've talked to. I'd rather spend my time having fun on skis than being frustrated on a snowboard, although someone with a natural affinity and better nerves would probably love both.

Just watch out for other skiers. I broke my wrist years ago in Colorado when some out-of-control stranger plowed into me as I was waiting by the lift line.

December 12, 2007 at 10:37 PM · Greetings,

I think skiing is fine. The only thing I woudl avoid like the plague if they still have them in the US is the artifical ski slopes like the ones we used to have in Britain. These actually has a kind of netting on the surface and they were norious for cuaing broken thiumbs,



December 12, 2007 at 10:38 PM · Full disclosure: I have to answer no on all the test questions I posted and I do not ski nor will I ever as long as I have an interest in the violin.

December 12, 2007 at 11:41 PM · If I hadn't moved to Salt Lake City at the time (with world class snow in the Wasatch mountains) and married a woman who is an exceptional skiier and teacher, I probably wouldn't have started skiing either!!

Laurie, most of the people who ski into trees and die are the diehard ones who go "out of bounds". Going out of bounds is going into territory that is ungroomed and much much more risky. Only really advanced skiiers usually attempt it, and those that do do so at their own risk - and some do die.

December 13, 2007 at 02:13 AM · Go for it; it's fun. Although I do seem to have a lot of memories of lying on my back under the skilift as fourteen year olds laughed overhead.

The lessons really help.

December 13, 2007 at 02:58 AM · Wow, thanks for all the advice! Hmmm, I did a lot of roller skating as a kid, so maybe that will help. My daughter is good on the ice skates; both the kids have mastered their funny Heelys shoes. :)

We're going to Mammoth Mountain, so I will certainly take pics, etc. Will have to get some warm clothing!

December 13, 2007 at 04:41 AM · Don't learn from a friend or spouse. Get the best teachers you can find. Commit to ski for three seasons. Take the long view. Don't be cheap and get comfortable equipment and warm cloths. Boots are key to how your day will go. There is definitely a misery index vs. happiness quotient that needs time to work itself out. Get up on the mountain so you can look around. Don't hang on the bunny hill too long or you will miss the point. There are easy runs that will give you amazing views that you will cherish your whole life. Take time and enjoy the moments.

Drink heavily afterwards and you will feel like a hero. Don't watch videos of yourself skiing for at least 5 years. Skiing with good skiers can get you down. Kids are also like rubber and have a low center of gravity so falling is no big deal to them. Don't chase them or you will feel old. Soon you will be good enough to enjoy yourself and then you must also be kind to all older beginners.

December 13, 2007 at 02:30 PM · The backcountry around Mammoth is outstanding (I've skiied it and the "cherished moments" J speaks of are vivid in my mind). So after you get used to the alpine skis, next year you can do the "trail" from Mammoth Lakes to Devil's Postpile and back:-)

BTW I agree with J on boots, equipment, getting to the top etc etc!

December 13, 2007 at 10:25 PM · Wear lots of thin layers rather than one big heavy sweater. That way if you get hot, you can gradually shed some things. And make sure your socks aren't wrinkled in your boots. :-)

December 14, 2007 at 12:14 AM · Everything J Kingston just said could also be said to an adult newbie taking up the violin! (Insert smiley face here).

December 14, 2007 at 02:24 AM · Especially the part about boots.

December 14, 2007 at 08:51 AM · I tried a few times at 40 and am NEVER EVER EVER doing it again. First time, with no teacher, the skiis went down hill with me facing the mountain, the things opened out and I ended up on my face, and I don't know how I managed to not break both ankles, it was scary. Second time with instructor I paid big euros for an hour of just standing, inching along looking pathetic and 5 year old daughter whizzing by pointing and laughing(first lesson for her too ..sigh!) Now I tried cross country skiing and THAT is a different story, nice gentle hills and you are not strapped into a boot. If you need to stop you can put you butt down to use your rear end as a brake. (not orthodox and a bit hard on the ski pants)

But do not let me discourage you ....I know lots of other 40 year olds who have done it and love it

December 14, 2007 at 09:35 AM · "Soon you will be good enough to enjoy yourself and then you must also be kind to all older beginners."

Now THAT is the bit I like best!

HOPE reigns eternal!

December 14, 2007 at 10:52 AM · Face it--you are old girl! Blow your nose first.

Need advice on po'boy's humidifiers?

December 14, 2007 at 11:29 AM · i really think the age is not the issue here, but the level of conditioning (your legs will be very tired after the first session, heavy boots and what have you), thus my recommendation of getting the lower limbs in better shape, which also decreases the chance of injury.

if you are young at heart, go for it! it will be a blast guaranteed!

December 14, 2007 at 07:08 PM · Take at least one lesson. The moves you need to employ are not difficult, but you need someone to explain them. One or two group lessons will do wonders.

You can also check out a book from the library.

December 14, 2007 at 07:29 PM · I grew up in Idaho. I started skiing at a very young age, I think 7. My teen years were spent shredding the mountain and breaking ski's. Thankfully I didn't break any bones. I am 45 now, and I don't get to ski as much though it is still very enjoyable.

The point is, I was the skier. My brother who is seven years my senior isn't what I would call the most athletic person in the world. He started skiing for the first time when he was around 43 I think. He skis very well now, and enjoys it so much. He always rubs it in that he can ski as much as he wants (I moved to the south).

As we discuss with adult beginner strings, get some lessons and learn the basics. This will enhance the enjoyment of your experience considerably. Just as we use different bows and strings, you may find you'll have different skis for different conditions.

I have powder skis, mogul skis, trick skis, skis for icy and skis for soft. considering that there are bindings for each of those sets, it can get expensive.

Rent to start, but get properly fitted. The right boots make a huge difference. Use a MP3 player and get a backpack with some snacks (bota bag with a good red helps). Helmets are practical, keep your noggin safe and can be wired with headphones.

Have fun and be safe. Skiing on fresh powder with a blue ski is one of the most spiritual moments I have experienced!

December 15, 2007 at 04:02 AM · Just like learning the long as you have a good teacher, it all falls into place... In all seriousness like most finesses activities in life as long as you have a good jungle guide aka teacher learning to ski is not hard at all. You can usually save money this way too! Even the big mountains have special ski rental + lesson + lift ticket packages which are less than what a normal lift ticket costs.


December 16, 2007 at 04:11 PM · >Everything J Kingston just said could also be said to an adult newbie taking up the violin!

Love it, Anne!

I especially like the idea of drinking heavily afterwards and feeling like a hero. : )

December 16, 2007 at 04:52 PM · It is essential to be completely relaxed at all times (remind you of something)

December 16, 2007 at 06:26 PM · The stereotype is that skiiing is easy to learn but hard to master, and snowboarding is hard to learn but easy to master.

Just one piece of trivia: I heard years ago the most common injury for ski racers is...a broken thumb!

December 17, 2007 at 08:58 AM · I'm assuming you're not including tricks. Because a switch inverted 1080 with a grab is not something most people are likely to call "easy to master". If you can pull one of those off, then dye your hair purple and find a sponsor.

December 17, 2007 at 07:10 AM · We didn't have mountains in New Jersey.

This whole concept of speeding down a steep slope with feet locked into brace-like boots, attached to long shiny wood strips that seem to have minds of their own...this did so NOT appeal to me that I talked myself out of it for a long time.

But it got better once I realized (with the help of a teacher) that I wasn't expected to speed 'straight down' to get to the bottom of the mountain...instead, you gradually wind your way down the slope in a lovely, sinuous figure "S".

Not having to stare straight down the slope made the difference between stark terror and "ok, maayyyyybe". Try it!

December 17, 2007 at 02:35 PM · You COULD just spend your time sliding back and forth on the flat bottom area of the baby or bunny slope. :) Or take up cross-country. Very good whole-body exercise in that. I would suggest you take every free/low-price lesson that comes with whatever package or day ticket you buy. Some people swear by the beginner method that utilizes very short skis and then goes to longer skis. It's much easier to turn on the short ones, and you are way less likely to trip yourself. Keep you hands and wrists warm with very good gloves, heat packets, wristlets or bands, etc. When you fall, you're more likely to hurt cold hands and wrists than warm ones. And when you fall just let yourself go, and try to land on the side of your butt; feet down the hill is good, but you can't always plan on that. Try to keep yourself from twisting your arms or hands back to catch yourself. You could always decide to be the snow bunny, and hang out in outdoor hot tubs with a toddy. Sue

December 17, 2007 at 06:53 PM · I say go for it Laurie!

I only started skiing about the time I was 40, a lifelong chicken with bad knees up until then. I married a lifelong skier so on the slopes I went. Now the whole family skis or snowboards and it is really a nice thing to do together.

I went on within a couple of years to get good enough to become a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol and I figure if I could do it anyone could.

As advised make sure to dress warm and I would strongly advise you to sign up for a few lessons right off the bat. You can cut out a lot of pain and frustration that way plus build confidence which is very important. This is what I did and I still will take a few lessons at least every winter. You can either go private or with a group (which is cheaper)

I love skiing, it's just beautiful to be outside gliding along. Interesting to me it's a lot like the bow arm, about balance. A good turn feels like a good bow change. I hope you decide to go and have a great time!

cheers Leslie

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