Skiing is expensive, but if you truly love something it’s worth time and money because it makes everything else in life better. Photo: SuppliedThis time two weeks ago I was riding in a chairlift up Pretty Valley at Perisher ski resort in the NSW Snowy Mountains.

I started chatting to the man next to me, who told me he was 80 years old. He didn’t look a day over 70. Skiing at 80 is pretty darn amazing, but what impressed me most is the fact that he only started learning to ski when he was 60.

He’d skied every year since then, except for the year he had his cataract surgery. Since none of his family members are interested in skiing or the snow, he does all this on his own.

I’ve spent the past week telling everyone I know this story, and I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s resonated so deeply with me.

It’s partly a great example of the principle of carpe diem – “seize the day” – applying at any age.

How often do we tell ourselves that it is too late to learn or do or be something new? Sometimes it is literally too late – you’re probably not going to learn to ski when you’re 100 years old with brittle bones and dementia. But often we’re kidding ourselves and all we really mean is that it’s hard and we’d rather stay in our comfort zones.

Learning to ski was hard when I was 18. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been at 60. Beanies off to him.

It’s the same with money. It’s hard to save money and learn about investment when you’re young, and it doesn’t get any easier as you age.

Skiing is optional, but being able to take care of your finances is part of being an adult, just like being able to cook a simple meal. You might not be the chief financial officer of your family but you need to be ready to step into that role, because you never know what might happen in the future.

Another trap is to think that it’s too late because you’re being a perfectionist. You won’t get 40 years of compound interest if you start saving and investing when you’re older, just as our skiing octogenarian was never going to make the winter Olympics when he took up the sport 20 years ago. It’s still worth doing.

From a purely financial perspective, I’d suggest you don’t go anywhere near the snow. Between the accommodation, the equipment, the lift passes, the lessons, the national park entry and everything else, it’s a mountain of money.

Instead I’d suggest you cultivate a taste for simple pleasures – bushwalking, games nights, art and craft are all life-enhancing yet inexpensive hobbies.

But life is not that straightforward. If you truly love something, it’s worth devoting time and money to it because it makes everything else in life better.

This man loves skiing so much that he works really hard at keeping his body fit and well throughout the year so he can do it again next year.

Skiing is an expensive hobby but it’s literally keeping him young, and how can you put a price on that?

Caitlin Fitzsimmons is the Money editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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