Herwig Kolzer is Regional Manager of Holland, Denmark, Belgium and the UK for the the Austrian National Tourist Office, based in Amsterdam. He’s well-versed when it comes to the challenges facing anyone who wants to get back into skiing after a lapse – he started skiing when he was 7 years old, but after an accident aged 19, didn’t rediscover his love for the sport until he was 30.
Are you wondering whether to take the plunge and go back to skiing, or do you have a long list of reasons why you just won’t be able to? How long has it been since you last skied? Five years? Ten years or more? You might have found it too expensive – what with paying the mortgage and/or bringing up your children, and maybe your other half wasn’t that keen anyway.
Whatever your opinion, here are ten reasons why some people might think it’s too late to have another go:
1. I’m Not Fit Enough
Then get fit before you go. The internet is groaning with ski fitness guides: but if you want something a little more sociable or outdoorsy you could try cycling, going on long walks, or joining a fitness class. Yoga and pilates can help with core strength and flexibility, too.
I’m not saying you have to become a fitness fanatic – just get yourself into basic shape. If you spend 48 weeks behind a desk and sitting on your sofa at weekends, your body is going to seriously complain when you take six hours of exercise a day during your holiday. If you can run up an Underground escalator or two flights of stairs and not be knackered, you’re moving in the right direction.
One more thing: you should book at least one session on an indoor real-snow slope. They’re a great introduction to sliding on snow for beginners: even better for those who haven’t touched a ski boot in years and need to remind themselves what it feels like.
2. I’m Too Old
You’re never too old to learn – or to improve! Yes, it’s ideal to start when you’re a small child, but not everyone has the opportunity or money to do so. But it’s certainly possible for reasonably fit people of any age to go back to skiing again, even after a long time away from the sport.
I would strongly advise you to take some refresher lessons at ski school, but there’s no need to ski all day every day. Skiing is just as much about the experience of being in the mountains, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and having a fantastic lunch in a mountain restaurant.
3. It’s Too Expensive
It needn’t be. Go during low season, choose a less well-known resort, drive out and self-cater, wait for a last-minute bargain or book an all-inclusive package, such as this Inghams one to Kuhtai. Chalets can work out cheaper too, like this Ski Total one in Ischgl, as they include half board, afternoon tea, and wine with dinner.
In fact there are lots of ways to make your ski holiday cheaper. Yes, it’s generally more expensive than a summer holiday: but it’s also a lot more fun than lying on a beach all day getting sunburnt.
Bear in mind that not all ski resorts cost the same when it comes to the incidentals, either. Take lunch for example. I know lots of restaurants where you can buy a filling Wurstl mit Senf und Brot (two frankfurters with mustard and bread) for about €4.20, or a mighty, meaty bowl of Gulaschsuppe mit Brot (goulasch soup with bread), for around €6.
4. It’s So Long Since I Last Skied That Equipment Has Changed
Yes, but it’s made skiing a lot easier! Instead of the long narrow planks of old, skis are now shorter and wider, giving you a lot more stability and ease of turning. It’s easy to read all about the latest equipment on the internet and you’ll be able to try out lots of different skis at your resort’s local rental shop.
Boots are more comfortable than ever and you can ever have them hand-made at places like Strolz in Lech or Daleboot in Kitzbuhel if you have wonky feet or stance!
5. My Ski Clothing Is Out of Date
Clothing has changed a lot in recent years. But you don’t want to buy everything new, so see what you can hire or borrow from friends. Alternatively, retro clothing is now in – so you can dig out your dayglo one-piece and actually wear it on the slopes!
Remember though that fabrics have improved a lot over the years, so modern clothing is a lot warmer and more weatherproof.
6. My Ski Technique Will Be Too Old Fashioned
If you really haven’t skied for a long time and are still in the old school of legs-locked-together style, then watch lots of videos online to get the idea before leaving home. The very first day back at ski school will show you how to change your technique and after a week you’ll be every bit the 21st-century skier!
Ski schools such as those in Mayrhofen and Saalbach-Hinterglemm are well used to teaching British skiers, ranging from young beginners to rusty older ones!
7. I’ve Had an Injury and I Might Hurt Myself Again
Equipment and accessories may have come a long way since last time you went skiing, and you can now buy off-the-shelf knee braces, spine supports, wrist splints and all kinds of other aids to give you more confidence and to strengthen the weaker parts of your body.
Never say never – for most people it should be perfectly possible to get back to skiing, as long as they get themselves reasonably fit beforehand. If you’ve had an injury in the past, it would be a good idea to get checked out by a physio before you go.
8. The Slopes Are Very Crowded These Days
They can be in some of the larger resorts in the peak weeks of Christmas/New Year, February half term and Easter, but but you could avoid them by going out of season in January or March. The slopes will be a lot emptier. If that’s not possible because you have school-aged children, then book into a smaller resort at the end of a valley – such as Obergurgl, or Bad Kleinkirchheim which is a long way from anywhere.
It’s unlikely that either of them will attract the weekend crowds. Alternatively try one with an ultra modern and fast lift system, like Ischgl.
9. The Resorts Are All Concrete Monsters
No they’re not! Have you ever seen the pretty little huddle of hotels and guesthouses around the church in Alpbach? Or tried your hand at curling on an open-air ice-rink in Seefeld? In fact there are pretty villages and towns scattered right across the Alps, and many of them have managed to keep their character despite their success as mountain resorts. St Anton is an obvious example. So too are Kitzbuhel and Zell am See.
10. There Might Not Be Enough Snow
Yes, global warming is certainly here. If you’re planning on going early or late in the season then it’s a good idea to stay high, and choose a resort such as Obergurgl or Obertauern where you will be sure of getting decent snow.
Glacial resorts like Kaprun, Hintertux and Solden even have skiing in summer, which is an ideal way to combine skiing in the morning with other activities such as cycling, hiking, tennis, golf, sailing or going to a high-altitude activity park.
What Do You Think?
Hopefully this gives you a starting point if you plan on getting back to the mountains this season or next. I’d love to hear your thoughts though – if you have your own story about getting back to skiing, please leave it in the comments box below.
Also see our feature on The Best Skiing in Austria.
February 18, 2015Arnie Wilson
Fascinating! Here’s my response to Herwig – a lovely man.
1. I’m Not Fit Enough: Nor am I but once you’ve learned to ski reasonably well , fitness isn’t that important. I find it easier to ski than walk! (at least to walk up-hill).
2. I’m Too Old. Nonsense. There are people in their 70s and 80s who ski really well. Again, practice makes (almost) perfect.
3. It’s Too Expensive. Not if you are selective. Italy is cheaper than Austria, France and Switzerland. Slovakia is even cheaper. Take a look at Jasna!
4. It’s So Long Since I Last Skied That Equipment Has Changed. It certainly has – for the better. It doesn’t take long to adjust to carving skis which are infinitely easier than “skinny” skis from the past!
5. My Ski Clothing Is Out of Date. Who cares? In any case the one-piece is back in fashion!
6. My Ski Technique Will Be Too Old Fashioned. Again, who cares? There are still plenty of instructors skiing with their legs together!
7. I’ve Had an Injury and I Might Hurt Myself Again. A reasonable anxiety. But maybe stop worrying and go for it. I broke my shoulder five years ago, and I never even think about breaking it again. So far so good!
8. The Slopes Are Very Crowded These Days. Not that I’ve noticed but that could be right. Be assertive! Learn to ski off piste!
9. The Resorts Are All Concrete Monsters. Rubbish. The ones that are concrete monsters are only the same old same old ones in France and they’ve mellowed with new, prettier add-ons.
10. There Might Not Be Enough Snow. Poor excuse. OK, global warming – or as I prefer to call it climate change – is happening but don’t necessarily expect good snow before Christmas. Ski in February or March. Or even April!
February 19, 2015Herwig Kolzer
Thank you Arnie, yours is a very useful list as well!
February 18, 2015Mick Garton
I didn’t start skiing until I was 51! Always loved watching it on TV but never had the chance. Then I went to Whistler in Canada and have since been skiing each winter in wonderful places like Breckenridge in Colorado, Megeve in France and also Glenshee in Scotland. Never too old, and a couple of lessons to get you going, and then a morning’s refresher each subsequent year and all’s good! Good company, fabulous mountain scenery, great resorts & mountain food, and wonderful skiing, what could be better!
February 19, 2015Herwig Kolzer
I am pleased you’re enjoying it. It just goes to show that age is no handicap when it comes to skiing.
February 18, 2015Catherine Scott
I first skied when I was in my late 20s (1978) and then injured my knee so was out for years. I managed to get started again when I was in my late 40s when I persuaded my husband it was the most wonderful experience ever! I found the equipment was so much better – the boots especially were much more comfortable. I then injured my knees again (playing badminton) and was out for about 10 years but 11 arthroscopies later I built the knee up enough to get going again and have been skiing for the last 4 years – the key for me is to choose a resort with lots of blues and minimal walking to the pistes in ski boots – that is the real killer for my knee. Gliding down a gentle blue or the wonderful green Marvel in Morillon doesn’t demand much of my decrepit body!
February 19, 2015Herwig Kolzer
That’s very good to hear. I hope you’ve got yourself a good knee brace, Catherine?
February 18, 2015James
How about … I don’t have anyone to look after my St.Bernard dog. She’s due to come into season and no one wants her! Howz that for a reason?
February 19, 2015Herwig Kolzer
A good one, James!
February 19, 2015lorraine
Thanks for the comments, my Husband and I aged 52 & 53 respectively, are heading off to les Arcs next week, skiing for the first time in our lives. We went to Snozone in Milton Keynes last weekend, and were the eldest in the class by about 25 years, we both found it incredibly difficult but absolutely loved it. Don’t let age hold you back is what I am reading in the previous posts. I will let you know how we get on. (Hopefully not from a hospital bed!).
February 19, 2015Herwig Kolzer
Please do tell us how you get on and hopefully you might try Austria next year!
February 20, 2015Margaret Wynn
Age is definitely not a barrier to skiing. I fell in love with skiing when in my thirties, even though I was technically awful because friends, who could ski, persuaded me that I didn’t need a qualified instructor as they could teach me. MISTAKE! Having not skied for several years because of many of your listed excuses, I returned to skiing a few years ago. I trained and became a BASI 1 Ski instructor at age 65. Have worked as a part-time ski instructor for about 9 years and recently achieved my Advanced UK Instructor badge at the wrong side of age 73, nearly 74. However skill doesn’t necessarily protect you from injury. I still managed to knock myself out and dislocate my shoulder in bad visibility, whilst skiing in Val d’Isere recently. So don’t forget insurance. The injury is a nuisance because I can’t work or ski at the Snozone MK for a while. But as soon as my doctor says it’s ok, I’ll be back on my skis.
February 20, 2015Herwig Kolzer
What an encouraging story, Margaret – well done in becoming an instructor at 73! I hope you will be back on your skis very soon.
February 21, 2015Lynn Clarke
Thank you for bringing all of your points up, as I’m sure it’ll persuade many to return!! I started my skiing experience at the wonderful Aviemore, aged just ten, and it has been a passion ever since. With several gaps, inbetween due to …. Money, lack of willing person to ski with…bringing up daughter etc etc, meanwhile having to make do with dry slopes or latterly snow domes, I returned (with daughter) to Austria two years ago after a 26 yr gap!! I had never been, and it was always at the top of my wish list. I agree with ALL your comments Herwig, clothing better – cheaper, equipment easier to use and kinder to your muscles, oh and as for those lunches in our favourite Austrian ‘Hutte’s’ …. Words fail me!
February 21, 2015Herwig Kolzer
I’m so pleased you like my feature Lynn. It was good to hear that you have taken your daughter skiing to Austria and that you enjoyed the delicious lunches there!
February 27, 2017ND
Thanks for this. Just returned from Quebec and was too chicken to get back out there. My kids had a lesson and loved it. Now I am determined to get over my fear after having not skied in 20 years!
February 27, 2017Felice Hardy
We’re pleased to hear it. Good luck on your return to skiing!