A half-dozen women skiers lining up to race down a long, steep pitch ribbed each other mercilessly.

“Oh, you haven’t got a chance. Why, you’re too old to go racing.” “Old? You’ve got me beat by ten years.”

“Right. I’ve got you beat. But it’s gonna be on this run, not on the calendar.”

“My old man says it’s time to stop racing.”

“And what does his ‘old lady’ say to that?”

At the gate the starter, a young and cheerful man obviously enjoying his role, called out for the women in the race to line up. “Show them what you can do, baby,” he winked at the first racer.

“This baby has been showing them what she could do for fifty years,” she called back, bending forward, her face suddenly intent on only one goal: to win the women’s-division races of the 70+ Ski Club’s annual March convention at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills.

The women had one thing in common: As members of 70+ they all were 70 or older. And, like the men in the club races, they were challenging each other on Racer’s Edge, a course long and steep enough for international professional racers.

It’s an exhilarating experience simply watching senior skiers compete in timed races on snowy pitches too difficult for most of the recreational skiers who throng the slopes of Hunter Mountain.

The 70+ Ski Club was organized by Lloyd Lambert - who first donned wooden skis as a kid playing on the snows of the Adirondacks about the time of World War I - in 1977. By 1955 more than 14,000 member worldwide were wearing its distinctive red-and-white shoulder patch. Its annual convention is held at Hunter Mountain.

These 70+ skiers, as well as the thousands of members of a cluster of other ski clubs for seniors who ardently, or gently, challenge the slopes in winter, are visible proof that skiing is a sport without age barriers. It’s estimated that a quarter-million skiers in the mid-1990s were 55 or older. Within the next 10 years, the United Ski Industries Association expects that number to grow by at least another 100,000.

You don’t need to be a lifelong skier who’s crossed the threshold into maturity to join any of these ski organizations. Age is the only criterion. No previous experience necessary.

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