Bumps for Boomers

As you age, you are likely to back out of skiing due to worries about knees, backs or energy levels. However, there’s a new school in Aspen that teaches you to ski for your age so that you can continue into your 70s and beyond.

At the age of 50, with a dodgy knee, back and ankle after 37 years on skis, I decided to try “Bumps for Boomers” for myself to see if it could change the way I ski. Created by former Apple exec, Joe Nevin, the new course, harnessing gravity and balance, is taught primarily on short 98 cm boards by instructors in the boomer age range. “You can’t take a 30-year-old instructor and expect them to know what it’s like to be 50, 60, 70 or even 80,” explained Nevin, who visits each class in rotation to reinforce the tuition. “One of our skiers is in his 80s, he’s come back three years running with B4B and I told him if he comes when he’s 85 he’ll get it for free.”

With my centre of balance totally compromised the first day, I had no choice but to obey every instruction and give up all my old, handy habits. All four of us in the class wobbled and rattled our way down the first slope, suffering ankle angst and thigh jelly as we strove to find the stable “sweet spot” on the stunted skis. First thoughts were: How on earth is this going to make skiing easier?

Miraculously, by only the second run, brain and body had subconsciously conspired to re-establish stability and the rest of the day was spent listening to instructor Bob Mattice (58) as he introduced us to both the technique and the fun of skiing on short boards, gradually progressing to steeper and bumpier terrain. The philosophy behind the short skis is that they are a “truth serum”, revealing every microscopic error so that the instructor can put it right.
The four-day course even includes homework – seven pages of tips and diagrams that first night, designed to help us understand the make-up of moguls. Nevin approaches skiing in the same way he did IT at Apple, with a scientific but simplifying attitude. One of the best things I learned to counteract double diamond despair on day two was his “green, blue, black line” strategy.

With maps and onhill demos, he and Mattice showed that turbulent trough-skiing is the black line; skiing the sides of moguls is the blue line; and mogul summit skiing is the green line. By dialing up this topographical tactic, I could now reinvent even the steepest double D as a green or a blue run just by a change in perception. “You can be the CEO of your own skiing,” Nevin confirmed. The confidence that comes from feeling in control of the mountain is immeasurable – particularly when you are on 98cm skis! Amazingly, by day’s end I didn’t want to give them up and seriously doubted my ability on regular skis.

The essence of what I learned could have been taught on longer skis. But using the short boards made me feel it much more and adopt it quicker – short boards take no prisoners! I have had many day lessons over the years but the four-day format, starting on boards and then progressing to 142 cm skis for the last two days really made the message sink in. My mantra became “tall, tip and turn” as I swirled down the bumps on flat skis rather than edges, using the gradient and gravity to make my moves. “Balletic not ballistic,” said Mattice, who advocated sedate skiing with no drastic movements. This was the exact opposite to my former mogul-munching method – a sequence of fall-line bunny hops in an anaerobic, bobsled ride. Not very sustainable for my old age! I am now a B4B believer and will try to maintain the method wherever I ski.

Nevin regularly updates his 300-page website (www.bumpsforboomers.com) with tips, techniques and fitness pointers to aid the aging skier. In the future, he hopes to develop his ideas via a B4B ski school franchise, helping boomers worldwide to stay in skiing.

If you go:

Fly to Denver and then take Grayline minibus to Aspen

Choose Sunday arrival and Friday departure to avoid traffic snarl-ups on I-70

Book Bumps for Boomers at www.bumpsforboomers.com/ or email Joe Nevin on nevin@bumpsforboomers.com

Stay at Fasching Haus, Frias Properties, two blocks from Aspen Mountain Gondola

Check out Aspen Central Reservations for packages on 1-800-456-0897

Rent from Four-Mountain Sports for convenient ski concierge service to all Aspen hills

Eat at Elevation for “New American” fine dining; Brunelleschi’s for best gluten-free pizza anywhere; L’Hostaria for topnotch Italian, including lobster tagliatelle.

Après Ski at Ajax for top truffle fries; J-Bar for locals’ scene; St Regis and Limelight Lounge for live music; Elks Club for cheap cuisine and friendly faces.

Shop at Suzie’s Consignment Store for second-hand Gucci and Prada.

Aspen Extras:

  • Heated, snow-free sidewalks around base station and best hotels;
  • Smart card, hands-free liftpass system with option to attach credit card for easy spending;
  • Free coffee at Aspen Mountain base;
  • Free cider and ski-in water fountain at Guest Services, top of Aspen Mountain Gondola;
  • Ski concierge at gondola base for overnight storage and daytime shoe cubby – free with Four-Mountain Sport rentals;
  • Free technique and tactical advice, weekly tips and ski fitness info at www.bumpsforboomers.com;
  • Free ski bus to all four hills and après-ski spots;
  • Deep relaxation chair massage in Sundeck Lodge;
  • MP3 docks in red gondolas on Aspen Mountain.
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Louise Hudson

Travel & ski writer

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