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Why private lesson are worth the cost

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

I just came back from Jackson Hole...and my wife loved the trip.  She was nervous about going out there, but i had secured a private lesson with tetonpwdjunkie.  On the way to the mountain she was telling me of the butterflies in her stomach and could see how nervous she was about skiing at this resort.  Prior to this point I had several Pm's with Dave (tetonpwdjunkie) and he had already picked out the demo skis for her, this was the first step in calming her nerves.  Over the next few hours Dave was able to make my wife feel completely at ease.  Even though she is an intermediate skier she was able to make it down to the base from the tram with a smile on her face.  I credit this feat to the previous hours spent with Dave.

 

The private lessen helped my wife feel at home at the mountain, and with the guidance and help of our instructor the normal fears that she had quickly vanished.  By the end of our trip she was comfortably skiing black and double back trails across Jackson Hole.

 

If you are considering a trip with your wife, save the cost of a few days at the spa and set her up with a private lesson.  I cannot express enough how much those first few hours on the mountain made our trip to Jackson Hole one of the most memorable vacations of our marriage.

 

And Thanks to tetonpwdjunkie for showing us this amazing mountain and raising my wife's confidence level on skis.

post #2 of 21

Glad to hear of the good outcome.  I too have learned the value of private lessons.  I've taken quite a good amount of instruction, but it was always in a group setting, including several Epic Ski Academies.  I had the good fortune to use the Sunday Sensation program at Copper when they had it, with the result that I skied with the same coach for several seasons.  It was a good outcome.  And the ESA's were great.

 

It wasn't until this year that I took a private lesson.  Yes, they are very expensive.  But the one-on-one result is a step change above what you get with a group lesson, even if it is hiring the same instructor for a group of similarly situated students.  This week, I skied 5 days at Aspen with Jim Schanzenbaker, a member of the PSIA national demo team.  I met Jim last year at the Aspen ESA.  I took a couple of my buddies back to Aspen last season to ski with him.  It was a very good experience.

 

But this week was a revelation in my skiing.  I consider myself an advanced skier.  I generally ski with the level 9 groups.  Jim was able to immediately put some things in my skiing that had been missing.  I'm charging big steep bump runs in tight trees like I never could before.  While I though my steep skiing was pretty rock solid, through truly starting to understand extension and flexion, I'm able to ski steeps in a fluidity without chatter that was missing before.  Interestingly, I had one of my buddies join me for two days.  Those two days were less productive than the other three.  Of course, that might be because those were the powder days that we were ripping Highlands (including the last run in the Bowl at 2:30 where there were 3 tracks in G3 and G6) powder and the powder cat.

 

My objective for the past several seasons was to increase my mastery of skiing.  Private lessons with the right coach has significantly accelerated my progress.  While it is really expensive, it is, in my view, worth it.

 

Mike

 

(ps, don't forget to tip your instructor.  The ski school gets the vast majority of the money, and a good instructor should be able to make a living doing great education, not have to find a job that will pay a living wage).

 

post #3 of 21

Whether a private lesson is worth the cost depends 100% on the instructor.  I had a private lesson 2 years ago, my first lesson in a while.  I'd gotten some instructor recommendations beforehand, but did not make the effort to ensure any of them would be working the day I went up.  They weren't.  However I'd already gotten myself psyched up for a lesson, so I decided to go for it anyway.  Waste of money.  The instructor did not have much instruction for me at all.  I take partial responsibility because I didn't do what I needed to in order to ensure I'd get a highly recommended instructor.  But the ski area is also partly at fault for sending me out with someone who frankly wasn't equipped to effectively teach higher level lessons (I'm no expert, just a decent advanced skier).  The only plus was getting to skip the line on a very good snow day, so I guess it wasn't a total loss.

post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaobrien6 View Post

Whether a private lesson is worth the cost depends 100% on the instructor.



I totally agree with this. I've never had a group lesson (unless you count almost 25 years ago in French Alps. I didn't even speak English back then but that wasn't a big problem, neither did the instructor tongue.gif) but I've taken many privates. For a long time I believed there is not such a thing as totally useless lesson, you always learn something. Until this season I had an instructor who made an existing fault worse, and then two more who tried to fix the consequences but not the basic fault. Then I had a really good instructor and immediately regreted the previous lessons...

post #5 of 21

bcebby wrote:

 

"If you are considering a trip with your wife, save the cost of a few days at the spa and set her up with a private lesson.  I cannot express enough how much those first few hours on the mountain made our trip to Jackson Hole one of the most memorable vacations of our marriage."

 

Whoa. The assumptions here are incredible. Not all couples are like you and your wife, bcebby! I'm glad you had a good trip, though!

 

post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ice Queen View Post

bcebby wrote:

 

"If you are considering a trip with your wife, save the cost of a few days at the spa and set her up with a private lesson.  I cannot express enough how much those first few hours on the mountain made our trip to Jackson Hole one of the most memorable vacations of our marriage."

 

Whoa. The assumptions here are incredible. Not all couples are like you and your wife, bcebby! I'm glad you had a good trip, though!

 



No intention to offend, saw more than a few women skiers who put me to shame out there,  from my experience with friends and family...our better halves have taken up the sport to spend more time with us, I guess it could go both ways. th_dunno-1[1].gif.  Think it just goes to show how lucky I actually am to have a wife who puts up with my ....    

post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ice Queen View Post

 

Whoa. The assumptions here are incredible. Not all couples are like you and your wife, bcebby!

 

roflmao.gif
 

post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 

th_dunno-1[1].gif

post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 

..


Edited by bcebby - 2/21/11 at 4:00pm
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcebby View Post

..



I tried to quote your last post but it didn't come through, but you've edited - at any rate - 

 

Support is always better than coercion.  DH has supported me 110% of the way, happily paying for lessons so I can progress well - and it has worked, beautifully.  Sure, the learning curve was steep and long, but if we add up the cost of all the private lessons, it's still WAY less than a hospital stay that could have been incurred from an injury due to "coercion" - so it's all good.  Plus, we've made good friends in the instructor corps along the way.  I've done both group and private and benefited from both, albeit in different ways.

post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaobrien6 View Post

Whether a private lesson is worth the cost depends 100% on the instructor.  I had a private lesson 2 years ago, my first lesson in a while.  I'd gotten some instructor recommendations beforehand, but did not make the effort to ensure any of them would be working the day I went up.  They weren't.  However I'd already gotten myself psyched up for a lesson, so I decided to go for it anyway.  Waste of money.  The instructor did not have much instruction for me at all.  I take partial responsibility because I didn't do what I needed to in order to ensure I'd get a highly recommended instructor.  But the ski area is also partly at fault for sending me out with someone who frankly wasn't equipped to effectively teach higher level lessons (I'm no expert, just a decent advanced skier).  The only plus was getting to skip the line on a very good snow day, so I guess it wasn't a total loss.


Many of the smaller areas (especially those outside the megatourist draw areas) have limited numbers of upper level instructors. Some of them will send out whomever is available. Some ski school directors will recognize the value of honesty, and tell you to schedule ahead.

 

I know my schedule has gotten so booked lately that reservations are a necessity, rather than a suggestion.

post #12 of 21

Each instructor at my school is cleared, either by internal cert/audit process, or PSIA certification level to teach up to a given level of a class.  I've never seen anyone sent to teach a lesson above their cert level.  I really find it hard to believe that any reputable school would do that.

But I don't disagree that even at the same cert level, some instructors are far better than others.  And then, as there are different learning styles (watchers-thinkers-feelers), there are corresponding teaching styles.  In effect, the same instructor may be great for one student, and not so great for another.  That's why it really pays to nurture the relationship with a good instructor.

 

Lastly, there are strategies to end up in a very small group lesson.  For example, the demand for lessons dwindles very quickly on Sunday afternoons, and it's very common to end up with a private or semi-private at the group lesson cost.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by iWill View Post




Many of the smaller areas (especially those outside the megatourist draw areas) have limited numbers of upper level instructors. Some of them will send out whomever is available. Some ski school directors will recognize the value of honesty, and tell you to schedule ahead.

 

I know my schedule has gotten so booked lately that reservations are a necessity, rather than a suggestion.

post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by incognito View Post

Each instructor at my school is cleared, either by internal cert/audit process, or PSIA certification level to teach up to a given level of a class.  I've never seen anyone sent to teach a lesson above their cert level.  I really find it hard to believe that any reputable school would do that.

 


 



Our instructors only have one level of certification I think but obviously some are "more advanced" in their skiing and teaching than others and when booking in advance you get a "better" instructor (if you need one). When I called I was given a choice between two instructors (both were unknown to me) who teach upper level skiers and I was told all the other instructors working at that time only teach lower level skiers. So I said either one is fine with me. I had my lessons and thought they were good ones, learned something but struggled with other things. Then I met an instructor who taught me two years ago when I first started again after about 15 years of not skiing and booked one more lesson with him. I didn't even realize he might be there because I never thought he only teaches beginners. But turned out that was the first time this season he was teaching outside bunny hill. And yet he was the one who fixed my problems when the others failed to see what the problem was. After his lesson I started to feel like I had just thrown away the money I paid for those other lessons.

post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaobrien6 View Post

Whether a private lesson is worth the cost depends 100% on the instructor.  I had a private lesson 2 years ago, my first lesson in a while.  I'd gotten some instructor recommendations beforehand, but did not make the effort to ensure any of them would be working the day I went up.  They weren't.  However I'd already gotten myself psyched up for a lesson, so I decided to go for it anyway.  Waste of money.  The instructor did not have much instruction for me at all.  I take partial responsibility because I didn't do what I needed to in order to ensure I'd get a highly recommended instructor.  But the ski area is also partly at fault for sending me out with someone who frankly wasn't equipped to effectively teach higher level lessons (I'm no expert, just a decent advanced skier).  The only plus was getting to skip the line on a very good snow day, so I guess it wasn't a total loss.


You can double that for beginner/early intermediate lessons.  Most newbies don't even know we should ask for a highly trained instructor who's able and willing to teach basics, rather than just do a walk-in and go with whoever happens to be willing to take you for the day.  I now realize that not every instructor fits my needs and will do my part in the future.

 

I'm an underpaid civil servant, so $90 per hour is a big financial hit for me (totally worth it if it increases my whoo-hoos, though).  So for a 2 hour private I called ahead, told them everything I could about my level and my goals, but didn't specify what kind of instructor I needed because I didn't think I had to.  2 hours isn't long but it was all I could afford, so I was rearing to go from the start.  What I got in return was a day with a charming, chatty but bored ski buddy who gave me two tips then hardly looked at me for the remaining two hours despite all of my questions and requests for advice.  So I came away absolutely discouraged, thinking maybe I just didn't have that ineffable 'it' anymore.  It wasn't until I visited epicski's instruction and training forum that I learned what the heck he was talking about--for instance, I didn't even know where the beginning of a turn was (doh!).  Next time I visited the mountain I spent all day skiing steeper and steeper blues, more and more parallel, completely under control--no thanks to anyone but some fine epicski contributors and my own mule-headedness..

 

There's a difference between being a bad student and being badly taught.  Students and teachers don't always speak the same language, but you'd think a teacher would at least try.  I know instructors aren't paid buckets of money, but if I take the responsibility to ask for a good teacher and am frank about my skiing ability I expect the school to try to find a fit for me.  If they can't, I expect them to ask me if I want to reschedule for a day when someone appropriate is available. 

 

So, next time I'll not only call ahead but say I need a PSIA level 3 or higher who is willing to help someone at my level, analyze my form, and actually teach me.  I'll might tell them that I've been disappointed in the past, but I won't say that it was at their school, because I didn't do my due diligence last time.

 

If, despite that, they send me out with someone who's just not interested I'll cut the lesson short, and ask the school for my money back.  It's harsh, and again, I know instructors aren't paid tons of money, but neither and I.  They get points and kudos for personal requests, but if they can't even try both the and the school ought to learn from the experience--again, as long as I've done my part.  And regardless of the cost, I want to learn how to ski better because I do it for the joy of it and I want to ski more, not to have someone make light of me.  And if an instructor needs more training both he and the school should have the opportunity to make him an asset to students and to the school.

post #15 of 21

Getting lost in the discussion about cost and value, is that Epic contributor /JH instructor Tetonpowderjunkie, and his alter ego, David Rogers, got a call-out and props for delivering a great lesson. Last January, during the mini-gathering there, Dave gave a lesson to Lovebug and she also said some fine things about his instruction. TPJ contributes in the instruction forums and displays a good sense about teaching skiing. He has made time to ski and socialize with me and many others from the forum during our visits.

 

Good job TPJ, looking forward to skiing again with you and the JH team.

post #16 of 21

Yes; in ranting about opportunities lost I pretty much lost sight of the fact that this whole deal is about the joy I get from skiing and how much of a kick I get from learning and then using what I learned to add to my list of reasons to giggle.  Call it a cranky afternoon at work.

post #17 of 21

Quote:
Originally Posted by incognito View Post

But I don't disagree that even at the same cert level, some instructors are far better than others.  And then, as there are different learning styles (watchers-thinkers-feelers), there are corresponding teaching styles.  In effect, the same instructor may be great for one student, and not so great for another.  That's why it really pays to nurture the relationship with a good instructor.

 


I liked your other points! That said...

 

I wish we as learners and facilitators alike could break ourselves of this myth of "learning styles". You won't find any studies in peer-reviewed journals validating this notion of "learning styles". There is no scientific evidence to support a notion that people are programmed for only one type of sensory input. The closest you'll find is research validating learning and retention improvements by instructional techniques such as: 

- behaviourism (rewarding success; extinction of undesirable behaviour)

- practice and repetition

- creating memorable experiences

 

- self-directed learning

...etc.
 

 

Quote:
So, next time I'll not only call ahead but say I need a PSIA level 3 or higher who is willing to help someone at my level, analyze my form, and actually teach me.  I'll might tell them that I've been disappointed in the past, but I won't say that it was at their school, because I didn't do my due diligence last time.

 

That's a good plan. It may work at a school with a high ratio of upper level instructors. That said, at some schools you have to take what you can get. I couldn't get a CSIA level 4 at Cypress for a private instructor prep lesson (they didn't even have any at their ski school). Based on your self-description, a PSIA level 2 would be capable of assessing and developing your ski skills. For comparison sake, as a CSIA level 2, I can teach intermediates up to short radius and bumps. The PSIA level 2 has in theory a higher minimum competency requirement than that. Yeah, a PSIA 3 is great, but even a 2 would be sufficient. (PSIA tops out at 3 btw.) I find lessons have more to do with a person's teaching skills than their certification level--at least until you hit the advanced level.

post #18 of 21

Thanks, Meta.  While it won't take a rocket scientist (that is, a level 3 instructor) to see what I need to correct, it will take a teacher to show me what to do and how to do it, and then help me integrate it into whatever it is that I'm already doing right.  Not even a great teacher.  Just a teacher.  I mean, who knows, maybe I'll be a great student, right?  You never know.  I'd even bring an apple.

 

The last thing I want to do is call the ski school and get pegged as a PITA by rattling all of this stuff off to whoever answers the phone.  Identifying my skill level and asking for a certain level of training seems like a better approach, though the ski school might not agree.  I guess I'll burn that bridge when I cross it.

post #19 of 21

IMO...  You or anyone else who is willing to pay for a private lesson has the right to lay out your goals and expectations for that lesson.  Our ski school would certainly make every effort to accommodate those types of requests.  You can also request a specific instructor if you know who you want.  In a group lesson you don't get quite as much request ability, although I would still lay it out to the supervisor at the line-up.  The supervisors that I work with will grant requests whenever possible, it's not an imposition...  It's just how we roll here.  As an instructor I always try and find out from each student assigned to me what it is that they want before the lesson starts.  Sometimes there is a discrepancy among the people in the group and I can get it straightened out before the lesson even starts.  I can tell you that I have a lot of respect for everyone that I work with at the Mountain Masters (uppers Lv 7-9) line-up.  You won't get a bad instructor, there's a lot of people in the school who want that assignment and those of us that have it have had to earn it.

 

Thanks for the kind words Mike (livingproof)!  It will be nice to ski with you again sometime soon.  I had a great time teaching Brian (blebby) and his wife.  She was a great student and improved quickly.  I was bummed that we only skied together for 3 hours.  I really was ready to change coats and do some free skiing with you guys if I hadn't had an assignment that afternoon.  Thanks for the public acknowledgement and complements on my teaching style and lesson content.  I really appreciate it!  If I can clear some space on my hard drive, I will upload some Go-Pro video to your new site.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by litterbug View Post

Thanks, Meta.  While it won't take a rocket scientist (that is, a level 3 instructor) to see what I need to correct, it will take a teacher to show me what to do and how to do it, and then help me integrate it into whatever it is that I'm already doing right.  Not even a great teacher.  Just a teacher.  I mean, who knows, maybe I'll be a great student, right?  You never know.  I'd even bring an apple.

 

The last thing I want to do is call the ski school and get pegged as a PITA by rattling all of this stuff off to whoever answers the phone.  Identifying my skill level and asking for a certain level of training seems like a better approach, though the ski school might not agree.  I guess I'll burn that bridge when I cross it.

post #20 of 21

Thanks, tetonpwdrjunkie.  Makes me want to visit Jackson.  I think I just need to get over my Level 5-6-skier inferiority complex!

post #21 of 21

I wish to give a plug for the Ski School at Big Sky.  I skied there two weeks ago (mid-February) and had no companion for the day.  I signed up for the group lesson and found that I was the only student in my group.  I am an advanced skier hoping to learn not to embarrass myself on steeper terrain.  My instructor, Jim Anderson, tore my form down and then helped me to rebuild it.  Before the lesson I skied off the Challenger lift but was always out of balance and could not link more than 4 turns on steep terrain without having to stop and regroup.  Now , I can ski Challenger top to bottom, without stopping, and in control.  The Tram was closed that day but the next day I skied Bridger and went all over Schlasman's and the Ridge.  I have skied for 30 years + and my skill level has not changed for the last five years until that day.  Having a private lesson is unbeatable and Big Sky is a great place to improve. Half the challenge with ski instruction is to find that terrain that is just beyond easy reach for the student.  When in a group, you always compromise on terrain choice for the sake of the group and that slows the learning curve.  Private lessons remedy that problem.

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