By Gina DeMillo Wagner
You’ve wrangled logistics, booked your rooms, and packed your bags for a haul to the mountains and the promise of an amazing ski trip.
There’s just one problem: The, uh, skiing.
Maybe it’s been 20 years since you last loaded onto a chairlift.
Maybe you’re competent, but traveling with a group of hardcore schussers who are well beyond your skill level.
Perhaps your kids need instruction and you’re not sure how to teach them.
Or maybe this is a first-time adventure for all of you.
What you should do is consider lessons for anyone (including yourself) who needs them…but, well, really?
Wouldn’t you be following a conga-line of 6-year-olds down a bunny slope?
Surely you’d feel ridiculous.
And how do you make sure your kids get the right instructor?
Here’s the thing: Ski and ride schools aren’t just for children and beginners.
They are a great resource for families, adults, and anyone who wants to advance their skills to the next level.
There’s no reason to balk at ski school as an adult, and no reason to feel overwhelmed when choosing the best options for your family.
To make your lessons as smooth as possible at any age, we asked ski school managers and veteran instructors to give us their best insider tips.
1. Know what to look for in a ski school.
First and foremost, you want a ski school that is reputable.
Look for one that is a PSIA/AASI member school.
This means that the school has a training program run by qualified trainers from the Professional Ski Instructors/American Association of Snowboard Instructors.
In addition, you can always call the resort and inquire as to whether or not the instructors are required to have a background check prior to working for the resort.
2. Ask the right questions.
Avoid surprises on the first day.
When calling to book your reservation, ask a few questions like: What can I expect throughout the day?
How much progress should my child (or I) make throughout the lesson? What should we wear to be comfortable?
What time should I drop my child off so we are not rushed?
Is there anything else I can do to be prepared?
3. Adults need lessons, too.
Skiing and snowboarding are lifelong sports.
Signing up for ski lessons as an adult can be intimidating, but consider this: You can always learn more.
Even the top athletes in the world are constantly working with coaches and learning new skills.
Adult beginners might fear that they’ll be the only grownup among kids.
Every resort has adult group lessons, private lessons, adults-only clinics, women-specific clinics, and more.
“For someone who is reluctant to sign up, I would let them know that we form our groups by matching guests with similar goals and similar skills,” says Mike Hafer, Ski and Ride School General Manager at Breckenridge, “so you can choose whether you want to relax on some fun cruisers or challenge yourself by exploring our high-alpine advanced and expert terrain.”
At the end of the day, you’ll be able to ski or ride longer with better technique, which also opens up new terrain in a safe environment.
4. Get the biggest bang for your buck.
There are plenty of ways to maximize the value of a ski lesson.
Many resorts offer clinics, small group lessons, and lesson packages.
For the most instruction time and one-on-one attention, a private lesson is a great investment.
Ask about private lesson deals or small group lessons for you and a couple friends.
The lower instructor-to-student ratio means that each student will receive more feedback.
The lesson is also catered to the specific goals of the student.
5. Find the best instructor for private lessons.
When booking your private lesson, you can specify if you’d prefer a female or male instructor.
You should also share a bit about your personality and learning style so that you can be matched with the perfect instructor for you.
A gentler, more nurturing instructor might help if you’re extremely nervous.
Or, you may prefer someone who will push you outside your comfort zone so you can conquer new skills.
Be sure to explain your goals, whether you’re a newbie or looking to master moguls and steeps.
6. Coordinate drop-off so that everyone can ski (Mom, too!)
A lot of times parents assume it’s too difficult to sign kids up for lessons and take a lesson or clinic themselves.
But at many resorts, adult lessons begin after the kids’ drop-off for exactly this reason.
And many resorts are taking it a step further, offering women-specific programs and adult lessons that align with kids’ park and pipe camps.
“This way, the whole family can participate in two separate camps at the same time,” Hafer says, “without having to worry about drop-off and pick-up times being separated.”
Within the next year, keep an eye out at your resort of choice for programs that allow all family members make the most of the mountain.
7. Where to find adaptive ski schools.
Everyone should experience the thrill and pure joy of carving down the mountain, no matter what barriers they might face.
Many resorts offer adaptive ski and snowboard schools that reach every ability level with special equipment and specialized instruction from expertly trained adaptive ski instructors.
For more information, here’s the list of resorts that offer adaptive ski lessons.