Older skiers are heading for the hills Budgets: Good deals and discounts draw people past 55 to the slopes. In many cases, these travelers are trying the sport for the first time.


When cold winds blow, seniors are expected to go South, and many do. But not the 2.5 million hearty travelers over 55 who head for the hills.

Amazingly, many of these not-yet-over-the-hill skiers will be trying the sport for the first time, drawn by an adventuresome spirit and a number of senior deals and discounts from competing resorts.

If you're over 70, you can ski free at more than 100 ski areas, while some resorts make the same offer to anyone over 65.

That privilege may not last forever. "They're already starting to cut back on the ski-free benefits because there are so many over 70 who love to ski," says Louise Conner, spokeswoman for the Over the Hill Gang, a Colorado-based international organization that sponsors sports tours for members over 50.

On the agenda for '97 is a Jan. 10-15 trip to Breckenridge, Colo. The package, which includes lodging at the Breckenridge Hilton, lift tickets, some meals and apres-ski activities, is $799 for under 70s, $711 for over 70s, who still ski free at Breckenridge. Members can also take part in a two-day, 50-plus seminar for $125 more.

Another club tour takes members to Ski the Summit, also in Colorado. This is high-altitude skiing, 9,500 feet at the base, another 3,000 feet to the top. Skiers are advised to arrive a day early to get used to the altitude. New membership is $40 a year. Call (719) 685-4656.

The "Gang" offers the bonus of friendship with other sports-minded seniors, says Alice Meyers of Levittown, N.Y., a member of the Northeast chapter. Chapter members plan their own tours on weekdays when rates are lower. In the offing is a women's ski clinic in Okemo, Vt., Jan. 12-17. (For details, write the Over the Hill Gang, P.O. Box 8778, Woodcliff, N.J. 07675.) Future tours include Jiminy Peak, Mass., Killington, Vt., Aspen, Colo., and Windham, N.Y.

Ski Windham, 2 1/2 hours north of New York, has a weekday program for skiers over 50, starting Jan. 7 and continuing every Tuesday for 10 weeks (except Feb. 18). Each session includes a morning lesson, a presentation at lunch and afternoon practice. It's $45 for one day; $275 for six Tuesdays; $350 for 10 Tuesdays. Purchasers of six- or 10-day sessions are entitled to a weekday nonholiday season pass. There's also snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the area. Call (800) SKI WINDHAM.

Tucked into the Massachusetts Berkshires, Jiminy Peak has a "Silver Sliders" program for skiers and snowboarders from age 55 on Thursdays starting Jan. 9. Daily cost, including a two-hour clinic, is $40. Seniors from age 62 can ski weekends and holidays for $27. (413) 738-5500.

Butternut in Great Barrington, Mass., discounts lift tickets for all seniors over 65 but especially loves 70-plus club members, who ski for $7 on weekdays. (800) 438-7669.

The Mature Traveler, a newsletter for "49-ers plus," lists 350 North American ski areas offering senior deals. (For a copy of its ski report, send $5 to Mature Traveler, P.O. Box 50400, Reno, Nev. 89513-0400.)

Here are some deals highlighted by Mature Traveler:

XTC Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Mich., has a "Silver Streak" program for skiers over 55. You get 10 percent off midweek lodging, free group lessons on Tuesday afternoons Jan. 7-March 11, half-price on all-day lift tickets, rental equipment, cross-country trail passes. (616) 378-2000.

Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico offers Masters Ski Weeks for skiers over 50 featuring morning group lessons with mature instructors. Groups stay together with the same instructors for six days. A Jan. 12-17 package is $329, Feb. 9-14 and March 2-7, $366. (505) 776-2291.

Silver Creek Resort, 80 miles northwest of Denver, also has 50-plus instructors for its "Never-Ever 50-Plus" beginners' program, which includes four-hour lessons, equipment rental and lift ticket, all for $60. (800) 754-7458.

Cross-country skiing is a pleasant alternative, less daunting than downhill. For "The Best of Cross Country Skiing," a guide to senior-friendly trails, send $3 to the Cross Country Ski Areas Association, 259 Bolton Road, Winchester, N.H. 03471.

Pub Date: 12/08/96

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