They call themselves the Jack Frost Geezers, but that’s really a joke.
This hardy group of athletes doesn’t feel old at all — and some of them say their strength and energy comes from practicing their favorite sport.
“You can’t be a skier and think you’re old,” said Joe Infantino, 75, of Laflin. “It makes your legs so strong it’s unbelievable.”
“If you want a high, don’t take drugs, go skiing,” said Simon Saba, 81, of Hanover Township, who has been a skier for almost 50 years. “The biggest adrenalin surge is when you stand on top of a hill and go down and then look back at where you came from.”
According to figures from the National Ski Areas Association, active seniors like Infantino and Saba are far from alone on the slopes.
While the average skier is 38.5 years old, the person who spends the most time on the slopes — an average 9.5 days last season — was age 68 or older. As for the Baby Boomers between ages 49 and 67, they also skied more than the average of five times per year.
One of the reasons is retirement. If they don’t have to go to work, they can go to the slopes. And, they can choose the days they want to go.
Typically, seniors find slopes more enjoyable when they’re not crowded — so you’re more likely to find them schusshing along not on a holiday or weekend but perhaps the middle of the week.
At 10 a.m. Wednesdays from this week through March 5, Jack Frost Ski Resort near Blakeslee will offer clinics for skiers 70 and older, offered free to anyone with a valid ski pass. One of the instructors, Bill Runner of Shavertown, says beginners are welcome, as well as people who have skied before.
He and the other instructors typically divide people into small groups, based on their experience level, and work with them individually.
“They make you work on fundamentals,” Infantino said. “You could be the best skier in the world and they’ll find something for you to work on.”
But there’s more to a day on the slopes than just perfecting your techniques, Runner said.
“It might not be so much fun to go alone,” he said. “But just go and you’ll find a whole group you can socialize with.”
“Skiers are very compatible,” Saba said. “They have a common bond.”
Runner, 78, learned to ski when he was 17 or 18 and serving with the U.S. military in Japan.
In more recent years, he has trained so he can coach people with less experience and with such disabilities as blindness or amputations.
“No matter what your condition,” he said, “we’ll get you down that hill.”
But actually, you don’t have to go down a hill that you don’t want to tackle.
Maryann Infantino, 71, who is Joe Infantino’s wife, remembers a time she was part-way down a slope and did not feel comfortable continuing. The ski patrol came and gave her a ride on a toboggan.
Admitting she does prefer the slopes designated blue or green, which tend to be less challenging than those deemed black diamond or double-black diamond, Infantino nevertheless is thrilled when the weather signals it’s time to hit the slopes.
“It makes you look forward to winter,” she said.
“When you’re up there on top of a mountain,” Saba said, “it’s so beautiful, and you think, you’d have no reason to be here if you didn’t ski. You’d think you’re in heaven.”