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Beacon Senior News

Powderhorn’s senior instructors make skiing fun for all ages

Jan 31, 2017 09:30AM ● By Melinda Mawdsley

It seems crazy now, but when George Rau moved to Grand Junction in 2000 he didn’t bother going to Powderhorn Mountain Resort. The lifelong skier didn’t think the small mountain would be worth his time.

Rau grew up skiing, eventually becoming a ski racer and then a coach in his mid-50s. He traveled the world, skiing at dozens of prestigious resorts on several continents. He doubted the small Grand Mesa ski area had anything to offer.

“I was shocked,” Rau said of his reaction the first time he made his way up to Powderhorn. “It’s a gem. I was embarrassed because it’s a really wonderful ski area.”

Now 77, Rau is Powderhorn’s oldest ski instructor, one of more than a dozen instructors age 50 or older who teach at the resort’s ski and snowboard school.

“They are seasoned and experienced,” said Stephanie Reynolds, Powderhorn’s ski and snowboard school manager. The senior instructors represent “an important demographic of our ski school,” she said.

Whether it’s the free season pass, the discounts on meals and gear at the resort’s ski shop or simply getting paid to ski, instructors at Powderhorn enjoy plenty of perks. But those pale in comparison to the joy several long-time skiers-turned-instructors get from sharing their love of the sport with others.

“My passion is skiing, and I truly do enjoy teaching people how to ski,” said Lori Bowers, now in her 18th season as an instructor.

The senior instructors at Powderhorn work with skiers of all ages and ability levels, including people the same age or older than them. It’s a wonderful sight to see a fellow senior enjoying a day on the slopes, said Jim Cox, a skier for 53 years who is now in his 10th season teaching at Powderhorn. The oldest skier he has taught was 84.

“If people are in good health and fit, they can learn to ski” well into their senior years, Rau said.

Cox said he has met quite a few seniors who are hesitant to get on skis for whatever reason, and those fears can be difficult to overcome.

That’s why lessons with experienced instructors can help, particularly instructors at a smaller mountain like Powderhorn, Bowers said.

“Older people are generally more fearful of falling down,” she said. “I cheer them on. There are precautions you take and if you follow them, people won’t fall.”

Powderhorn boasts more than experienced instructors. The mountain further caters to senior skiers (ages 50 and older) with the Young at Heart program, which takes place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. every Thursday. Participants with intermediate to advanced skills divide into small groups for fun on the mountain. Guides teach classes, there’s a break for lunch and an après ski event.

A discounted single-day lift ticket is available for $42. Consider it a bonus after successfully learning to ski.

For information, call 268-5700 or visit www.powderhorn.com.