Podcast #72: SeniorsSkiing.com Co-Founder, Publisher & Editor Jon Weisberg
"What was needed was some kind of community ... for these older skiers"
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Jon Weisberg, Co-Founder, Publisher, and Editor of SeniorsSkiing.com
January 11, 2022
Why I interviewed him
Because when I started skiing as a teenager in Michigan, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t a sport you aged out of. All the kids around me played pickup basketball and football or ran or hell even tossed a Frisbee. None of the adults I knew did any of these things, ever. I figured sports was something you did until age 30 (remember, I was 17, that sounded ancient), and then stopped.
Not skiing (and not a lot of those other things, either). With the help of gravity and forgiving gear, you can arc your way down 8 a.m. groomers for as long as your body and health hold up. Skiing is a bit of a time machine that way: as you lay one sideways and pop from turn to turn down the mountain, muscle memory engages, and you glide. It’s amazing. On dry land, people slow down, lose a step. They can’t run as fast or jump as high or jump at all. Skiing, somehow, transcends that.
That’s probably why, as Jon points out, 20 percent of U.S. skiers are over the age of 50. That’s 2 million people, and they are some of the most passionate skiers. Retirement, after all, is the great weed-out. Many folks pack up their cubicle and move to Florida, tired of the snow and the cold. God bless them, but I have no use for these people. Why flee the snow when you can move to Park City and ski 100-plus days per year? Retirees – many of them – are the ones among us with the money to afford it and the time to catch up on years of missed pow days because they couldn’t miss the 9 a.m. with Mr. MacGregor. This is why, at every ski area in America, you will find tables full of wisecracking 60-somethings booting up and sipping coffee at 8 a.m. They’re done with the bullshit, and they’re going skiing.
What we talked about
Skiing in Utah this season: “These Vail Resorts crowds are insane”; growing up skiing the East; what you miss about Northeast skiing when you’re drowning in Utah pow; when and why Weisberg founded SeniorsSkiing.com; escaping Manhattan for Park City in retirement; the “phenomenon” of older skiers; the size and significance of the over-50 skier demographic; what ski areas and the ski industry get wrong about older skiers; why there isn’t seniors-specific ski gear and why that’s a missed opportunity for equipment manufacturers; how to get around the stigma of seniors-branded gear; the pride of defying popular perceptions as an older skier; skiing as a true lifelong pursuit; the difference between chronological and perceived age and how skiing skews that downward; the three technological advancements that have made life easier for older skiers; the 99-year-old legendary skier who finds it “much easier to ski than to walk”; why skiing matters as a generator of community and purpose; finding a ski buddy as your friends age out of the sport; the “vortex” of the spouse who wants to spend the winters in Mexico or Florida; the “lot-to-lift” commute; the quality of the toilets matters; thoughts on on-mountain collisions and safety; the problem of accident reporting; thoughts on the expensive-day-ticket-cheap-season-pass dynamic; the insanity of Park City crowds this season and the “downside of the inexpensive pass”; is a reckoning coming for Vail Resorts?; the Indy Pass and the trend toward independent ski areas; why Utah skiing is “too much of a good thing”; the surreal Salt Lake City boom; thoughts on the Little Cottonwood gondola or bus; and the abandoned mining railroads beneath the Wasatch and whether that could ever connect the existing ski resorts.
Why I thought that now was a good time for this interview
The pandemic has disordered much of American life. Our routines, habits, sense of safety. And, in many cases, our social circles. People are moving. People are dying. People are freaking the hell out and staying inside. The consequences of this are vast and varied, but an overlooked one is that some people are left skiing alone.
One of the main missions of SeniorsSkiing.com is to mitigate that loneliness with an online community of like-minded skiers (the site, I should point out, long predates Covid). Here, they can find each other and, possibly, connect for a day of skiing. That social part of skiing is maybe as important as the act itself, right? Just to feel a part of something. In sprawling, car-centric, polarized, screen-obsessed America, it’s easy to feel alone. Ski resorts are like mini-cities, interesting and slightly chaotic gathering spaces for folks of all kinds. They are one of the best engines capitalism has created to unite people around a healthy activity.
There is this scary but very real phenomenon that we discuss in the podcast: many people, defined for decades by their work, die within a year of retiring. A simple Google search will reveal dozens of studies confirming this. Absent 40-plus hours of weekly TPS reports, people need something to do. What better thing is there than skiing? SeniorsSkiing.com is an important website that makes sure people who want to form a community on the snow can do it. Check it out.
Weisberg mentions legendary ski journalist Lloyd Lambert in our interview - here’s a New York Times piece on him and senior skiers from 1982.