Skiing can be an exciting wintry vacation for seniors

 
Published3/7/2009 11:30 PM

There are vast differences between winter vacations and wintry vacations. Many seniors seem to prefer their winter wonderlands on a sunny and sandy Caribbean island, but others welcome the warmth of a northern clime with cozy wood stoves and the exhilaration of a downhill run in the snow.

Though skiing and especially snowboarding may seem the exclusive province of younger folks, I see skiers in their 90s and even know of a tiny old grandmother, who on her first day on a snowboard, accidentally clipped the skis of a middle-aged skier who in an appropriate fit of anger chased her downhill, anxious to catch up to this impulsive ill-mannered kid who recklessly crossed his path. The skier caught up, cursed her out with epithets like "you little @#$%&." When the wee old woman then removed her helmet, allowing a cascade of snowy white curls to fall out, the skier not only nearly passed out with apoplexy, he had to apologize to his elder, and learned a whole new respect for "mature adults" who pursue the outdoors with vigor.

 

So where are good winter locations for a schussing senior to get in an enjoyable week at an affordable cost? Just about every ski resort offers senior discounts of some kind, but not nearly so generous as the free skiing for seniors over 70 available about 10 years back.

In New England, the choices are many, with accessible airports like Boston, Manchester, N.H., and Burlington, Vt., within an hour or two's drive. At Berkshire East (www.berkshireeast.com/) seniors 65 and up pay $20 midweek and $35 weekends and holidays. At Ski Butternut (www.skibutternut.com), seniors 70 and older can buy a season pass for $99 or pay $20 a day Monday through Thursday and $26 Friday. It costs $45 on Saturday and Sunday.

One Green Mountains area that I would suggest is in Vermont, with three resorts in particular that not only provide bargains for seniors but offer a variety of experiences that make you want to come back. Mad River Glen, Smugglers Notch and Jay Peak are all within a 75 mile area, and are within about an hour's drive from Burlington International Airport. Also in the neighborhood are the resorts of Stowe, Bolton Valley and Sugarbush, but the other three go out of their way to entice seniors with exclusive bargains.

Geographically, Smugglers (www.smuggs.com/), or "Smuggs" for the familiar, sits in the middle of the mix, with Jay Peak about a 45 minute drive to the north and Mad River Glen about 1 hour, 45 minutes to the south. The bargains are:

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Smugglers is one of the few remaining resorts in New England where those aged 70 and older ski free. Though younger seniors (ages 65-69) pay a not so cheap $46 a day for a lift ticket, the savings are 25 percent less than the $62 regular price.

Jay Peak (www.jaypeakresort.com/) is Vermont's northernmost mountain, widely known for its unique weather system, which catches air currents off Lake Champlain, and being close to the Canadian Border, receives tons more snow than elsewhere in the East. Skiers aged 65 and older can enjoy this snow-filled terrain for only $21 a day.

Mad River Glen (www.madriverglen.com), about a half-hour drive south of Interstate 89, is one of the most famous wild mountains in the world, extremely challenging in most spots, a raw New England throwback to the days before grooming and snow-making. No Guccis here; no snowboarders either. An old rustic lodge welcomes flannel-clad locals and hotshot skiers from Europe and beyond. Those in the 65-69 pay $39 weekdays, $44 on weekends and holidays and 70+ can ski fee for up to five midweek days per season. An even stronger bargain for 70+ skiers is a season-long Legend Pass that costs only $149.

Mad River Glen is located in one of the most beautiful patches of scenery in the Green Mountains, with quaint village inns and restaurants, dairy farms, country stores and villages with 19th Century architecture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Nor'easter Season Pass for seniors is an enticing value if you are an ardent skier able to make your way to Jack Frost and Big Boulder (www.jfbb.com/) in the Poconos at Blakeslee, Pa., and to Attitash (www.attitash.com), Bartlett, NH; Crotched Mountain (www.crotchedmountain.com) in Bennington, NH, and Mount Snow (http://www.mountsnow.com) in West Dover, VT.

The adult pass for ages 19-64 is $949, but those older than 65 save $300 off that price. Still, one would have to ski 30 days in order to achieve an average of $22 a day.

John Hilferty's column for
mature travelers appears
monthly. He can be reached at
hilf@johnhilferty.com.

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