Now that ski season has arrived, we thought we’d take a look at a sport not universally associated with seniors or retirees: downhill skiing. Yup, older individuals are taking to the hills like never before!

There’s a growing body of evidence that skiing, which many people regard as something of a daredevil sport, is gaining ground among the very group most likely to avoid it.

It’s one thing to be an accomplished skier and take your well-established skills into old age. It’s quite another to take it up in old age.

But that’s what Rosalynn Ruptash did when she met her husband 13 years ago.

“I’m as athletic as a rusty nail,” the 66-year-old Edmontonian was quoted as saying in a recent article published in The Globe and Mail. Ms. Ruptash added: “I’m also very petrified of heights. I have acrophobia.”

Her husband-to-be was an avid, lifetime skier – so she decided to try it out.

As The Globe and Mail story went on to report, Ms. Ruptash no longer just skis. She is now president of the Edmonton-based Rocky Mountain Seniors Ski Club.

“You don’t have to be an extreme athlete or even athletic in order to ski,” says Ms. Ruptash. “You just have to have the courage to give it a try and enjoy being outdoors.”

Anyone who has skied will tell you that skiing is much more than about snow. It’s about celebrating the outdoors in winter and enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded ski buffs.

According to Ms. Ruptash, her ski club now boasts 885 members. All of them are 55 or older, while the oldest is 97. In summer the club organizes cycle and mountain bike expeditions, but the club’s main draw is hitting the slopes once Old Man Winter arrives.

One of the reasons that skiing has taken off among the older generation has to do with changes in equipment design. Skis are shorter, wider and easier to turn. Boots are lighter, warmer and more comfortable. Ditto for ski clothing.

According to The Globe and Mail story: “A decade ago, people aged 55-plus accounted for 17.5 percent of skiers in a season, according to the U.S.-based National Ski Areas Association. That percentage has grown steadily since.”

Canada’s Own Super Star Skier Still At It

Just to prove age knows no limits: One of the ski bums quoted in the story is former Canadian Olympic gold medalist Nancy Greene Raine, still an avid skier at age 78.

“If you can walk, you can ski,” says Ms. Greene Raine, who is the director of skiing at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, B.C.

The 1968 gold and silver medal winner in slalom says she still likes to ski fast. “I love the sensation of being free,” Ms. Greene Raine says. “It’s like you’re flying.”

Skiing is good exercise and very social, Ms. Greene Raine added. And it’s the kind of learning challenge that is very good for brain health and mental health, she was also quoted as saying.

Take Some Ski Lessons & Up Your Fitness Level

At the entry level, skiing requires instruction. It’s inadvisable to take to the sport cold turkey without the help of an expert to teach you the basics. The same goes for young skiers, too. A series of lessons from a professional can mean the difference between a good ski experience or one that turns you off the sport forever.

Plus, you need to consider some elementary exercises to prepare your body (and your gear) for some of the physical stresses skiing exerts on anyone, young or old, engaged in the sport.

Tips to Get You Going

If you’re going to take up skiing, consider yoga for balance, strength and flexibility. Exercise by walking and try lifting some weights to build strength. You may want to consider practicing some squats, which help you stand up again after a fall (and yes, all skiers fall). Other helpful conditioning exercises include cycling, leg lifts, stair climbing and hiking hills. It may also help to practice putting on shoes while standing, if necessary.

Now all you have to do is get out there, buy your senior pass or find a ‘seniors ski free’ destination and, as Paul Simon’s song suggests, start “Slip Slidin’ Away.”