January is Learn to Ski Month, and there’s never been a better time to head to the mountains in New Mexico and take a lesson! (Children 6-12 learn for only $50 a day in January!) Whether you’re new to the sport or have been practicing for years, taking a lesson by a trained instructor can help you improve and have more fun on the slopes.
We reached out to Stephen Trask, a ski instructor at Ski Santa Fe, who has taught hundreds of students the basics of skiing as well as advanced skills. When you spend the majority of your career on the slopes, working with people of all skill levels, you get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Here are some reasons Trask says you should learn to ski this month:
“With beginner lesson packages costing only a little more than getting a lift ticket and rentals separately, it is great value,” Trask says.
The KOAT program in New Mexico allows children 6 to 12 years old to have lessons, rentals, and lift tickets for $50 per day at participating resorts! This is a great way to get a taste for the sport and try it out as a family. If you decide you like it, you can always go another day or even plan for a season pass in coming years.
You can learn at almost any age.
Depending on the resort and lesson availability, children can start learning to ski as young as three years old. First-time skiers may have the most to gain from lessons, as they can quickly learn the foundational skills required and continue to build upon them. If you are starting your children young, Trask says patience is key.
“Take it slow to begin with,” Trask says. “Try a half-day or even just an hour. A positive experience is key. And be aware that learning will take time at this age, there is no need to rush the process.”
Some parents may prefer to teach their children themselves, but Trask says it doesn’t need to be an either/or solution.
“It is well worth starting out with some time on snow with your child so they get used to the environment and even a little sliding around,” Trask says. “Lessons can be key to getting your child to progress. Having someone teach your child good technique from a young age will set them up for success.”
Skiing is a great workout.
While skiing is a fun way to pass the time outside, it also burns a considerable amount of calories! An hour spend downhill skiing or snowboarding could burn as many as 300 to 600 calories, as compared to 292 biking.
As you’re skiing, you work many main muscle groups. Your quads help support you and guide the skis. As you’re bending, you use foot and calf muscles. Your core stabilizes you to prevent you from falling, and if you ski with poles, your arms get a great workout as well. Not to mention, walking to and from the lifts and lodge!
You can take it at your own pace.
Although your first instinct may be to fit as much as you can into your lesson, remember, no two people learn at the same pace. Depending on your fitness, interest, and many other factors, you may want to take your lesson at a faster or slower pace. That’s okay.
“Remember that the experience should be fun, it isn’t all about becoming as good as you can as quickly as possible,” Trask says. “Everyone learns at different speeds, and quite often the student that takes longer to learn to ski/snowboard ends up being the best.”
Your family could bond through the experience.
Traveling to New Mexico and learning to ski could be an incredible bonding experience. While there are plenty of fun off-mountain activities for the entire family, learning a new skill together can be a memory you recall for years to come and something that brings you together for trips and holidays even after the children are out of the house.
Learn stress-free from professionals.
Many people are tempted to save money by learning from a friend or significant other. Keep in mind instructors are trained to teach lessons and have plenty of practice doing so. They can help you stay safe, learn new skills, and be more patient than a loved one might.
“If you want a positive experience rather than having your significant other, shouting, ‘Just turn!’ as you are going 30mph toward a tree, take a lesson,” Trask says.
You’ll set a strong foundation to build on.
When you learn to walk, you don’t start out in the middle of the floor putting one foot in front of the other. You first learn to hold your head up, then roll over, sit up, crawl, hold yourself up, and eventually take tentative steps before you’re fully confident. Skiing is the same way. You need to learn basic skills, like how to slow down and turn at a slow pace before you’ll be ready to ride the lift and head down a complete trail. Once you have a strong foundation built, you can start working toward bigger challenges like harder trail difficulties or attempting tricks for the first time.
“Whether it is a tiny step towards a goal or a big one, we are here to help you through the learning process,” Trask says.
You can choose a lesson type that meets your needs and preferences.
The option to choose between group and private lessons is an appealing one. If you’re one of the many adults who has a fear of failure or don’t want to move at the pace of a group, signing up for a private lesson could be the right move. You’ll also receive more individualized attention and guidance.
“Group lessons are a good idea because of value, as well as the opportunity to learn with friends and meet new people,” Trask says. “With a group lesson, try finding quieter times of the season and you can end up in a small class anyway.”
You’ll be safer.
In addition to eating and resting well before a lesson, understanding safe practices, and wearing good protective gear, it is important to be as safe as possible while skiing and snowboarding. Reading up on how to prevent common injuries beforehand can help make your time safer, as well as learning from a professional who can teach you in a controlled, safe environment.
“Instructors have an understanding of how the body and the skis/snowboard work together,” Trask says. “Taking you through the basics step by step, building on what you learn, helping to correct inefficiencies and making your experience a positive one is why instructors exist.”
Another tip, in addition to learning from a skilled professional, is to relax while practicing. Trask suggests those who are nervous focus on their breathing or sing a song in their heads to have a more enjoyable time.
There’s a reason millions of people pack up and hit the slopes each year. It’s not for the car ride (although, you can see a lot of sights on the way) or to watch the funny way people walk in ski boots. It’s because skiing is a great way to have fun outdoors and spend time with friends and family.
“It’s like being a kid again,” Trask says. “Skiing is play. Plus you are in a beautiful environment and getting some great exercise!”
We hope you will join us on the slopes this January for a great time skiing and learning. As you’re planning your trip, Trask has a few tips to set you up for success.
“There is a lot to learning to ski or snowboard, some basics can really help,” Trask says. “Factor in plenty of time to get ready and organized for your day on the slopes. Be fed and hydrated, make sure you have clothing/gear for a cold-weather environment as well as sunscreen. But most importantly of all have fun!”