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These Senior Skiers Are Still Chasing Powder in Their 80s and 90s

These Senior Skiers Are Still Chasing Powder in Their 80s and 90s

It was a bluebird morning at the Alta Ski Area and Carol Bowling, 76, was looking for fresh powder.

Her husband, Nick, 83, and his cousin Bob Phillips, 84, shouted over the whir of the chairlift, deciding where to go. “Something like this is skiable,” Mr. Phillips said of the black diamond run below the lift.

At the top, the trio tightened their boots and waited for a few more friends. It was a Wednesday in late February at the Utah resort, one of the oldest in the country. The morning was cold and crisp with a few inches of new snow.

It was time to ski. The group headed down Devil’s Elbow, a winding intermediate run. Mrs. Bowling found her powder, cutting left from the trail into the pine and spruce trees. The two men stayed together in the open, carving wide S-shaped turns.

When they reached the bottom, it was almost 11 a.m. — time to meet up with Alta’s seniors ski club, the Wild old Bunch.

The Wild old Bunch (with a lowercase “o” to de-emphasize the “old”) started in 1973 and has around 115 members. A few depart each year, some to the deep powder of the afterlife and others to an old age without skiing. Jan Brunvand, 90, suffered a scary fall his first day this season and decided 85 years on skis was enough. But fueled by baby boomers, the group’s rolls stay strong.

“It’s hard to believe 90-year-olds can ski that well until you see them do it,” said Dr. Brett Toresdahl, an associate professor of sports medicine at the University of Utah, who sees plenty of older skiers — in his practice and on the slopes. “You’d assume that it’s foolish for them to continue skiing, but when done carefully and wisely, it can be a great way for them to stay healthy and be in community.”

Some inevitable effects of aging increase the risk of ski injuries. Bone density and muscle mass decrease; reaction time slows and balance falters. Dr. Toresdahl said that when he treats an older skier, it’s most often for a fracture.

But that’s not to say older skiers get hurt more often. They don’t seem to, Dr. Toresdahl said. A series of unspoken rules among the Wild old Bunch help see to that: Only ski on clear days. Ski on weekdays, when the crowds are smaller. Ski familiar territory, where you know the hidden rocks and shady patches from decades of experience.

The Wild old Bunch agree on another reality of skiing with age: Training is necessary. “We work out the rest of the year so that we stay in…

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