Program brings old-school skiers together
When Carl Carpinelli, 77, first learned to ski at the age of 10, only a leather strap connected his shoes to his wooden skis.
“It was a case of climbing the hill and pointing the skis between the trees, because that’s all you could do,” he said. “I went to school Monday morning with wet shoes.”
Through the evolution of stiffer boots, metal edges and parabolic skies, Carpinelli has stayed with the sport, skiing with a professional organization for the last 22 years and teaching ski lessons before that.
Now he is an instructor for the Senior Ski Program at Tahoe Donner ski area. On Thursdays, seniors meet at 10:30 a.m. for an hour and a half lesson, followed by free soup and salad. Those who prefer to get a later start can meet for lunch, then take a lesson from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The cost for the ski ticket, lesson and lunch is $25.
Every other week, the seniors head to other ski areas, where the price is the same but doesn’t include a meal. The clinics, sponsored by the ski school, are geared toward skiers 55 and older who have had some experience.
“The idea of the program is to get older people to ski together,” Carpinelli said. “This program brings them together.”
Drew Bennett, 66, a participant in the program for the last three or four years, praised the instruction he receives.
“It’s almost like individual instruction,” he said. ” Every year they tell us the same thing over and over. It’s like we forget it over the summer,” he joked.
He began skiing in high school, using skis without metal edges, safety bindings or brakes. His first pair of his skies had bindings like a “bear trap;” he couldn’t get out of them once he was in, Bennett said.
“(Skiing) is a lot easier now,” he said.
Bennett is one of approximately 78 skiers who have participated in the senior ski program over the years, said Ernie Gray, the head of the program. Four instructors coach the participants on things like error correction and pass on tips from the Professional Ski Instructors Association.
Tahoe Donner started the program after recognizing that the older generation did not have many opportunities to ski, Gray said.
“Being a senior myself, I kind of realized that when you get up in age, your skiing changes,” he said. “We wanted to have something for this group of people so they can still enjoy the sport.”
If nothing else, its “just a chance to ski with some old guys my age,” Bennett said.