Ever wondered how to make the most of a ski lesson? Blue cruisers can be the scariest trails on the mountain for me personally. My fear is not a matter of terrain; it’s the other skiers. On the resort’s most-crowded runs, perpetual intermediates know just enough— or at least can ski fast enough– to be dangerous. Put a black-diamond on a trail sign and the skier density drops dramatically. The slope may be steeper, but I can focus on that slope, not the traffic around me.
My theory on this intermediate bulge in the skiing population rests on attitudes toward ski school. While the beginner group-lesson meeting poles are magnets, most advanced/intermediate and above skiers act like they’ve graduated forever from ski school. I’m one of the few exceptions. I’ve been skiing for more than 30 years, but try to take a lesson or two at least every couple of seasons.
Ski school—especially private instruction— is admittedly somewhat of an investment, so getting the most for your money is crucial. One key in a group lesson is finding the right ability level. You definitely don’t want to be “that guy/girl” who is holding up the group, but you also don’t want to be bored.
“Groups will usually go up and warm up in close proximity to each other so if there is a pacing issue or if somebody has either overestimated or underestimated their ability level, then we do some shuffling there,” says Jim Kercher, the ski-school director at Beaver Creek. “In the warm-up, try to make controlled turns, rather than just go down the hill as fast as you can which really doesn’t show too much other than you like to go fast. Make different turn shapes, which are really important in the warm-up process, because they are still assessing people’s ability in that warm-up.”
“A lot of people come in and say ‘oh, I don’t know. I just want you to tell me what I’m doing wrong,’ which I guess is OK,” says Craig Aldright, managing director of Mammoth Mountain Ski and Snowboard School. He stresses that what really helps is a more specific goal such as:
- I want to get more comfortable on the blue runs
- I want to control my speed more
- I’d love to know what to do tactically in the moguls
- I don’t know how to plant my pole.
“The more specific they are about what they want, the more likely we are to deliver on that,” said Aldright.
Chris Koch, adult manager of Winter Park Resort Ski and Ride School, says, “All of us got into this industry to some degree because we love helping people. When the guest comes down with a big smile and says, ‘wow that was really fun,’ that instructor is even more likely to invest energy in you because they are getting payback. They’re seeing your excitement.”
Indeed, an occasional ski lesson can provide excitement even for those who long ago made their first parallel turn.