Quality ski instruction is something every skier or snowboarder on the mountain can benefit from. Whether you’re just getting started or a seasoned skier or boarder, there’s always a new skill to learn or a technique to polish that will help boost your safety and fun on the slopes.
Robin May, Director of the Ski & Snowboard School at Angel Fire Resort, offers some important ways to make sure you’re getting the best quality instruction for your money.
1. Learn From A Pro
Taking a lesson with a certified school will fast track your experience in a safe, fun, and successful way. Whether you’re learning in a group or private setting, having an experienced facilitator is imperative. Going out with well-intentioned, but unskilled friends, parents, or acquaintances can yield disastrous results — for the new participant and those around them.
2. Credentials Really Do Matter
It starts with certification. The best instructors are always the best learners. They spend countless hours in clinics, continuing education, and have committed to professional development through the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) or American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI). They may also have credentials that denote specialties like children’s, freestyle, or senior instruction or specific disciplines such as cross country, telemark, and adaptive.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Around
It’s important to find out who the most requested or master teacher is at a particular resort. You typically won’t get this answer from the ski school desk as all instructors are essentially independent contractors that are compensated based on requests and return students. Ask locals, bartenders, or just someone on the chair. An instructor with a good reputation is easily found and really makes a difference.
4. There Is No Finish Line To Learning
Even if you’ve been skiing or snowboarding a few times before, there’s always something new you can learn that will boost your skill, confidence, safety, and enjoyment on the mountain. The best pros in the world and all the instructors you ski with are constantly learning by taking clinics and seminars. Learning how to ski more challenging terrain, tactics for varying snow conditions, or learning what playing in a terrain park is all about can really enhance your experience. Skiing and riding are sports where only you keep the score. The best way to a breakthrough in technique or challenge is by finding the instructor who knows you the best.
5. It’s About Skills, Not Colors
A lot of newcomers and parents of newcomers get caught up in tackling challenging terrain too soon. If slowly going down a steep blue/black in a Death Wedge, with bracing and defensive behaviors is what you consider skiing — it isn’t. Comfortable, athletic, skidded or carved turns that flow effortlessly down the mountain with shaping and speed control is the kind of behavior you or your children want to adopt — whether on a green, blue run; in a wedge or open parallel stance. Take your time and enjoy the process.
6. Enjoy The Group Dynamic
There is a current trend in the industry for smaller group lessons and hybrid private lessons or guaranteed small groups are becoming the norm. However, they do come at a higher price. For the average person, a group lesson is the way to go. Meeting people, developing a group dynamic, and sharing your accomplishments is fun and rewarding! With a well-qualified instructor, classes of even 8-9 can be effective and a great value. Later, if you have more specific needs, special circumstances or just want more exclusivity or the ability to get the undivided attention of your favorite instructor, a private or small group lesson is a wonderful way to go.
7. Take Advantage Of Local Access
The best value available is in local multi-day programs and race teams. Typically, the best Instructors are leading these and you usually keep your instructor through the season. Having the same Instructor working a season-long lesson plan with long term goals produces amazing results!
8. Always Tip
One last thing to remember. Your instructor only makes a small portion of the cost of a lesson. Like any other service, if you think you received a great lesson, don’t forget that a gratuity is always in order. They are not automatic, not required, but are greatly appreciated. Like a food server or a hairstylist, a 10-20 percent gratuity is the norm.