How To Get The Most Out Of Ski Lessons: A Complete Guide
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Don’t let the name fool you.
Ski School is nothing like sitting at a desk staring at the clock. In fact, it can be a life-changing adventure if you approach it right. The mountains are your classroom and your instructor is more like a knowledgeable friend, helping you get comfortable in your gear, showing you secret stashes, and guiding you to the next level.
We asked veteran ski instructors how to make the most of your ski school experience (whether it’s for your kids or yourself).
Here’s what they say you need to know before you enroll:
Does my kid need lessons?
Many parents who ski like to teach their children to ski.
But consider this: Ski school instructors have experience teaching hundreds of children over the course of a season (and thousands over the course of their careers). They are knowledgeable about the latest gear and techniques. They are infinitely patient, fun, creative, and they have some tricks up their sleeves that you may not have considered.
Let them do the heavy lifting while you enjoy some carefree runs on the mountain. Certified instructors will provide all the teaching (and nurturing!) your child needs. Then, when the kids are ready, you can ski together confidently as a family.
Group or private lessons?
Group lessons are an affordable, fun way to advance your skills. Experienced instructors are able to give each student attention while leading the entire group.
“In a group you still focus on your needs,” says Lance Welbaum, General Manager of Vail Adults Ski & Snowboard School.
“The big advantage is having many more resources than just your coach – your peers. By watching and listening to others’ performance and feedback, you tap into different learning modalities,” he says.
In a group, you also get the huge advantage of camaraderie and group support. The encouragement of your fellow learners can often be the key to overcoming uncertainties. A little friendly competition can also be a huge helper for the right person.
If you’re looking for a little more attention, many resorts offer small group lessons that cap the number of students at three or four.
Private lessons can be structured however you choose, whether it's one-on-one instruction, a fun-for-the-whole-family affair, or a couple's escape to the mountain’s best runs. Explore with a personal coach and skip the lift lines. Some lessons even offer video analysis so you can really perfect your technique.
Not just for kids
You might think kids and beginners benefit the most from lessons, but experienced adults and teens can take their skills to the next level, too.
“Adults can really ramp up their ability to enjoy their time on the hill with lessons,” Welbaum says.
“Modern equipment has made skiing easier in many ways and allows average skiers to enjoy ever more terrain and snow conditions – if you know how to use it!” he adds. Instructors will teach you efficient movements and tactics that save energy and get the most from new technology.
If it’s been a while and you want to get your legs back under you, or if you’ve reached a plateau in your skill set and want to break through, you could really benefit from a day of personal instruction.
As Welbaum says: “Every instructor I know is always working on something in their skiing and riding, some after 40-plus years of teaching. If they can still learn, what’s holding you back?”
What to look for in a ski school
Highly trained instructors who are experienced with the age group and skill levels they teach. Kids’ instructors are really focused on understanding how a child’s brain works and what their bodies are capable of at different developmental stages of life.
They use a variety of strategies to teach and motivate each student because they understand that every child is unique.
Don’t be afraid to ask about the available instructors and their teaching style when you make ski school reservations.
- Eat a good breakfast
- Arrive early
- Stay hydrated
- Wear sunscreen
- Dress in layers
When you enroll in ski school (or enroll your child), be honest about your skill level and open about any concerns or fears you have. This allows the team to match you with the perfect instructor for your goals and personality.
The last thing they want is for anyone to feel out of their element.
What to wear
Weather can change rapidly in the mountains, so it’s best to wear several layers. It’s better to have too many layers than too few, since you can always shed a layer if the weather gets warm.
Avoid denim and other cotton fabrics since they don’t wick moisture and will make you colder when damp. A scarf or neck gaiter will keep the wind out, especially when riding the lifts. Ski goggles are essential, as are insulated gloves and warm wool or synthetic socks.
Also remember to wear sunscreen, even if the weather appears cloudy. UV rays are intense at high altitude and reflect sharply off the white slopes.
Helmets are highly recommended, and some ski schools require them.
What to expect during a lesson
If you’re new to skiing, your lesson will include learning about your equipment and the basics of the mountain environment. You’ll learn how to start and stop on skis and develop confidence as you begin to make turns.
As you progress, your instructor will help ride the lift and navigate beginner runs. Intermediate skiers will learn how to conquer blue terrain, how to plant their poles during turns, and ski with more confidence and speed.
The more skilled you become, the more focus on consistency in your turns and master exciting new terrain, like steeps, powder and moguls.
Instructors may challenge you to try new things, but will never push you beyond your limits.
Reserve ski school lessons at one of these premier resorts today: