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Private vs Group Lessons for Intermediate Skiers - Page 2

post #31 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by tetonpwdrjunkie View Post
 
We used to have our upper level lessons meet at the top of the gondola.  That stopped when an avalanche hit the restaurant up there.  It turns out to be better to meet at the bottom anyway.  Sometimes the line for the gondola is long and students had trouble getting there in time.  Sometimes people sign up for the wrong lesson and it's better for everyone to simply move them up or down with all levels starting in the same place.  It is also more efficient to have all the instructors in one place so they can be moved where they are needed quickly.  If someone books a private lesson, the lesson can start wherever the student wants to meet.  I have met families at their condo to help get things moving or at the demo desk to get the right skis for the day.

 

The lesson club at Breck meets at Vista House (top of Colorado chair), and groups depart earlier than the normal lesson groups do. This has been an amazing improvement, not least in terms of being able to warm up my tootsies and visit the restroom after my first two runs and before the "serious" skiing begins. But I agree it would be a mess for people who aren't "pros" at the local setup.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CentralVT08 View Post
 

At this stage I can handle just about anything that is groomed. At Killington nothing intermediate causes me issues, though Superstar and the groomed Black Diamonds off the K1 test my speed control.

...

Getting pretty far on edge comes fairly easy to me, and I tend not to smear too much. When trying to carve I can leave what looks like two parallel cuts.

....

My goal is simply to become a better skier. 

 

I know you didn't actually ask anyone for their opinions on your skiing, so take this with the grain of salt it deserves. Also I'm not an instructor, just a skier who has taken roughly a billion lessons (feels like) and is sort of a ski technique geek.

 

In the quote above, I see a direct relationship between your comment about speed control and your comment about not smearing. When I read your comment, what I think you're saying is that you think smearing is a bad habit. Is that what you think, or are you simply describing your current skill set?

post #32 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bounceswoosh View Post
 

I know you didn't actually ask anyone for their opinions on your skiing, so take this with the grain of salt it deserves. Also I'm not an instructor, just a skier who has taken roughly a billion lessons (feels like) and is sort of a ski technique geek.

 

In the quote above, I see a direct relationship between your comment about speed control and your comment about not smearing. When I read your comment, what I think you're saying is that you think smearing is a bad habit. Is that what you think, or are you simply describing your current skill set?

I will happily take opinions. I would not consider myself above improvement on any level. Less than 100 days on skis in my lifetime means I am just starting out.

 

My comments about carving, smearing, and speed control were intended to be descriptive. From what I understand good use of one's edges and ski design should result in minimal smear. But maximizing one's skis and not smearing is designed to produce the minimum energy loss and maximum speed.

 

My comment about speed control on steeper terrain comes from observing folks who do either smear a good bit or take a much better line than I always seem to use down tougher trails. I often get caught their feeling like I need to bomb it down a steep pitch to safety, or smearing and scraping back and forth like a snowboarder. Watching other people tells me there is a better way. I have always assumed this has been related to my struggle with moguls. I seem to be comfortable letting the skis do their thing while getting on edge, but much less able when conditions demand fast and frequent short but effective movements to scrub speed or quickly change direction.

post #33 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by CentralVT08 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bounceswoosh View Post
 

I know you didn't actually ask anyone for their opinions on your skiing, so take this with the grain of salt it deserves. Also I'm not an instructor, just a skier who has taken roughly a billion lessons (feels like) and is sort of a ski technique geek.

 

In the quote above, I see a direct relationship between your comment about speed control and your comment about not smearing. When I read your comment, what I think you're saying is that you think smearing is a bad habit. Is that what you think, or are you simply describing your current skill set?

I will happily take opinions. I would not consider myself above improvement on any level. Less than 100 days on skis in my lifetime means I am just starting out.

 

My comments about carving, smearing, and speed control were intended to be descriptive. From what I understand good use of one's edges and ski design should result in minimal smear. But maximizing one's skis and not smearing is designed to produce the minimum energy loss and maximum speed.

 

My comment about speed control on steeper terrain comes from observing folks who do either smear a good bit or take a much better line than I always seem to use down tougher trails. I often get caught their feeling like I need to bomb it down a steep pitch to safety, or smearing and scraping back and forth like a snowboarder. Watching other people tells me there is a better way. I have always assumed this has been related to my struggle with moguls. I seem to be comfortable letting the skis do their thing while getting on edge, but much less able when conditions demand fast and frequent short but effective movements to scrub speed or quickly change direction.

 

Okay, cool. So, funny that, I said in another thread that I thought a lot of people were under the mistaken impression that smearing was a bad thing, and I got flak for that. Well, no, I got flak for asking if ski instructors were responsible for that myth.

 

A bit of a lecture mode here, and I apologize. One of the four critical ski skills is edge control. The thing about edge control is, it includes getting up on edge - but it also includes skiing with the bases completely flat to the snow, and all the angles in between. As you mentioned, a pure carve will be very very fast. In fact, it accelerates you. When learning the bumps and on steep slopes, that isn't going to serve you. Smearing is combining intentional edge control with another critical ski skill, rotation. Smearing isn't bad - in fact, it's critical. But smearing is not the same as initiating a turn by pushing your tails. When you're smearing correctly, your weight and control are still over the center of the ski (aka over the boot), and you still have a still upper body. You're just using your edge control to allow the bases to be in contact with the snow, scrubbing speed.

 

I guarantee you that if you're seeing folks on steep terrain (I'm assuming groomed because that's what you've described) who are not going crazy fast and who are not turning back up the hill with each turn, they are smearing. (On steep terrain with 3D features (bumps etc), you can use the bumps to slow yourself down without having to go up the hill.)

 

Again, I'm not a ski instructor and I welcome any instructor corrections.

post #34 of 49

Ah, here's the thread - I think it has some good info for you. Fully recognizing that reading and doing are not the same thing.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/130058/how-do-i-carve-without-ultimately-building-up-too-much-speed-and-crashing

post #35 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by CentralVT08 View Post
 

 

My comments about carving, smearing, and speed control were intended to be descriptive. From what I understand good use of one's edges and ski design should result in minimal smear. But maximizing one's skis and not smearing is designed to produce the minimum energy loss and maximum speed.

 

My comment about speed control on steeper terrain comes from observing folks who do either smear a good bit or take a much better line than I always seem to use down tougher trails. I often get caught their feeling like I need to bomb it down a steep pitch to safety, or smearing and scraping back and forth like a snowboarder. Watching other people tells me there is a better way. I have always assumed this has been related to my struggle with moguls. I seem to be comfortable letting the skis do their thing while getting on edge, but much less able when conditions demand fast and frequent short but effective movements to scrub speed or quickly change direction.

Carving super clean turns is for going fast, and to many skiers it is the ultimate way to ski, but it is not for mogul skiing, and there are many places where additional speed control may be needed. 

 

For mogul skiing, even relatively fast mogul skiing, a different technique is required.  People who say they are "carving" in moguls mean they are employing their edges and making good use of them, but not that they are leaving railroad-like tracks with absolutely no sideways components. 

 

At first you might think that you should ski moguls by using the exact opposite technique, but that's not quite right either.  You don't have to pivot your skis by cranking them around with body torque applied at the boot; you can (and should imho) tip your skis onto their edges and let your edges engage the snow to provide the rotational torque, but you do not "carve a clean turn" in the sense that the ski does not move forward along a line that exactly matches the curved ski's edge.  No, the turns to use in moguls (unless you are insanely treating the moguls as a DH race course and glancing off every 3rd one) are definitely smeared. 

 

If you have only been working on perfecting your clean carving skills, you need to learn something new: the short radius non-carved turn.  Practice it on a groomed easy (blue or green) slope.  All the details and skills of good skiing and of carving clean turns more or less apply except the tipping angle is less than the critical angle needed to avoid slipping sideways. 

 

BTW, not an instructor, I've only had three lessons, and I suck at moguls, but I can relate, having only recently (last decade more or less) decided to bother learning how to ski them properly, and hardly ever see them these days (a few times a year if you don't count the ones that are only knee-high).

post #36 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by bounceswoosh View Post
 

 

Okay, cool. So, funny that, I said in another thread that I thought a lot of people were under the mistaken impression that smearing was a bad thing, and I got flak for that. Well, no, I got flak for asking if ski instructors were responsible for that myth.

 

A bit of a lecture mode here, and I apologize. One of the four critical ski skills is edge control. The thing about edge control is, it includes getting up on edge - but it also includes skiing with the bases completely flat to the snow, and all the angles in between. As you mentioned, a pure carve will be very very fast. In fact, it accelerates you. When learning the bumps and on steep slopes, that isn't going to serve you. Smearing is combining intentional edge control with another critical ski skill, rotation. Smearing isn't bad - in fact, it's critical. But smearing is not the same as initiating a turn by pushing your tails. When you're smearing correctly, your weight and control are still over the center of the ski (aka over the boot), and you still have a still upper body. You're just using your edge control to allow the bases to be in contact with the snow, scrubbing speed.

 

I guarantee you that if you're seeing folks on steep terrain (I'm assuming groomed because that's what you've described) who are not going crazy fast and who are not turning back up the hill with each turn, they are smearing. (On steep terrain with 3D features (bumps etc), you can use the bumps to slow yourself down without having to go up the hill.)

 

Again, I'm not a ski instructor and I welcome any instructor corrections.

 

Skidding has gotten a bad rap in skiing somehow.  It seems like the pendulum might be swinging back towards a more rounded skill set these days.  I seem to remember when I first got involved with Epic that very few people would admit to making any turns that weren't carved.  I felt at times like I was the only person on this board advocating the Shmear.  That seems to have changed in the last few years.  Carving is fun, but it is not the end all that some people seem to think it is.  In fact I believe that pure carving is a one dimensional skill that has limited use in recreational skiing.  At least in the type of big mountain skiing that I do.

 

The disconnect, I think, is in the language.  Everyone has seen the lower level skier who pivots and skids with little or no turn shape.  When a more advanced skier uses judicious skidding in a tactical fashion in a well shaped turn, many people don't notice that the turn wasn't strictly carved, it can be very subtle.  I primarily spend my time teaching off-piste skiing.  This includes bumps, trees, rocks, chutes, and all kinds of variable snow on black and double black rated terrain.  There are very few skiers in the world who can carve all of their turns in these types of places.  I am often the first instructor to tell students to "get off their edges" or to discuss tactics and line choice with these advanced L8 type skiers.

 

I personally think that being able to shape the turn you need with your edges partially engaged is a higher level skill than an edge locked pure carve and is the key to being able to ski the entire mountain in all conditions.  An analogy that I often use is that of a stock car racer on a dirt track.  The winning driver drifts around the turns as fast as they are able.  All four tires have broken loose and are skidding, but the car is exactly describing the arc through the turn that the driver has tactically chosen.  Part of being fast is knowing where to enter and exit the turn and knowing how much speed they can carry through the arc and still maintain the needed level of control.  A skilled driver "drifts" through the turn, the lesser driver "skids" into the wall, and the cautious driver doesn't allow the tires to break free and comes in last.

 

The crux of the biscuit is that higher level skiers control the shape of their turns whether carving or not carving.  This turn shaping can come from active rotary movements or from ski design or both.  Where rotary comes from and how it is applied is a whole other subject.  I can say from experience that a lot of my skiing students who spent the whole day working on a controlled shmear off piste noticed unexpected breakthroughs in pure carving on groomed terrain at the end of the day on our cool down run.

post #37 of 49
It sounds like there are many variables that might make someone choose one length and type of lesson or another. If you're at an area where you lose an hour to lift rides, you'd be better off with a half day group lesson than a two hour private. If you want a private but your budget only allows for a 90 minute lesson, take that lesson where you get the maximum teaching out of that limited time--where lift rides are minimal, or on a Sunday afternoon or weekday. If you have a limited attention span or lack the endurance for a full day lesson, take a half day. If you get synergy from watching other people learn, stick with group lessons. If you're like me and have a peculiar learning style, get overwhelmed by information, are really stuck in your technique, or otherwise need attention, tell the ski school; my experience is that they'll try to find someone with the experience and skill to maximize your experience.

As a learner, I've had one 'meh' and one awful group lesson, about four frustrating and almost useless half day privates, one outstanding two-out-of-three half-day clinic, and one outstanding private. That great private lesson was with an extremely highly qualified instructor, was incredibly productive, and gave me enough material to work on for months, but I'd say that I made the biggest improvements after the clinic even though I skied very little that season. For one thing, I was amazed at how skillfully the instructor, another old dog, managed to teach each of us at our level so that everyone seemed to come away with something good. Like @Atomicman I get a lot out of watching other people learn and listening to their feedback. I also now realize that the group setting eased some of the pressure to perform that I feel when I'm the only student. More importantly, the clinic gave me plenty of time to process, struggle with my resistance to, and finally crack some important new skills and concepts.
post #38 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by litterbug View Post
 I also now realize that the group setting eased some of the pressure to perform that I feel when I'm the only student. 

 

I think I can relate to this.  Maybe there are group lessons in my future.

post #39 of 49
Thread Starter 


A few other things I have read on EpicSki and elsewhere about lessons leads to a follow up question:

 

What is the chance of having 1) a too large group and 2) a much less experienced instructor at a place like Killington over the busy Pres Day week?

 

My back to back days with group lessons option would be at Killington on the Thurs and Fri of Pres Week. Cutting the long lines with the group lesson would have been a benefit in the AM. However, I have heard that as lesson demand increases the better instructors will be shifting towards the better pay of private lessons (as logic suggests they should). Killington also does not set a max limit for group sizes it seems.

 

I realize trying to take an advanced group lesson focusing on shorter radius turns might get me into a better than average spot, but I am a little concerned about the quality suffering.

 

For about the same $$ I could take an AM & PM lesson on a Friday at Pico the week before or after Pres Week. (Pico seems to have the lowest cost option for getting 3+ hours of instruction in one day, thanks to discounted lesson prices on the slow midweek Fri). Sugarbush has a similar option with Max 5 groups and the same instructor for both lessons, but logistical reasons will exclude that option for me this year.

post #40 of 49

I'd choose the Pico option.  Holiday lessons are always a mess because of lots of people signing up, sometimes short-staffed ski school because of that, and crowded slopes.  

Midweek non-holiday group lessons are often groups of one.

post #41 of 49


You are likely to get a smaller group at Pico.  There are some excellent instructors for the level you're wanting.  PM if you'd like names.

 

JaneB

post #42 of 49
Thread Starter 

I took my first lessons of the year and I lucked out.

 

I hit up Bretton Woods on Dec 19th, and scheduled AM and PM group lessons.

 

I called ahead and mentioned wanting to take a more advanced lesson concentrating on short radius turns. The reservation gal probably put some information down, but I got lumped into the generic "Blue" group--which was probably correct since I was not looking to do moguls or trees.

 

My fortune came both in getting RJ as an instructor, a PSIA Level 3 Gold instructor, and being the only person in my group. I effectively got 3 hours of private lessons with the same instructor split between the morning and afternoon.

 

Most of the AM lesson was spent on refining my mechanics and balance--mostly in the area of committing fully to the turn when transitioning. The PM lesson was spent taking my improved form and applying it to areas other than gradual groomers.

 

I had a lot of fun, skied off the groomed trails with success and enjoyment for one of the first times in my life, and feel like my skiing improved over the course of the day and since I have gone out to ski again.

 

Thanks for everyone's advice and input here in this thread. I definitely felt informed and prepared to schedule and take a lesson, and got more out of it than I was expecting.

post #43 of 49

Sorry to be late to the party.  I did not read thru all the responses so forgive me if I duplicate anyone else's reply.  I hope to provide a little different angle on this...

 

A group lesson is always an inexpensive option. However, you are an intermediate skier, not looking necessarily to ski with other folks, but looking to improve, hopefully one day to become an expert skier.  Without having seen you ski, I believe there are some things in your skiing that need to be altered to allow you to progress. And if you are in a group and the majority of the group displays the same traits as you AND the instructor chooses to address them, then a group lesson will be just fine. 

 

However, depending on the area/ski school, with a private you will have the undivided attention of an instructor who can look at you, speak to YOU, to your specific needs.  Additionally, where I've taught, privates usually get more experienced instructors.  But I'm sure you realize that getting a private doesn't guarantee that you'll get a great lesson either.  It just improves your chances. 

 

As to an "all day" lesson... It depends. If the cost is nominal, then go for it.  But what ever you learn that is new or different will be taught in the first hour or so. Beyond that is practice, repetition and supervised mileage.  And sometimes that's good to have. If something is completely different than what you're doing now, there will be a time when you won't be able to feel whether you're doing something the new way or the old way. It's good to have a set of eyes that can tell you.  Good, but not critical. 

 

I'm sure you've had the lesson by now, but I wanted to chime in for others who may be contemplating the same question.

 

Good luck. 

post #44 of 49
Thread Starter 

Well I got out for my second lesson of the year. I was taking a never-ever up to the Dartmouth Skiway and slid in a cheap ($65 added to the budget) one hour lesson with T-Square.

 

I had a good time, we tweaked a few things (standing up straighter rather than leaning forward, and pulling my feet back in order to "get forward" instead). We worked on side slips--which I was not great at--and shorter radius turns with pole plants. The end result was I was able to take 4-5 runs off groomed terrain in some chopped up powdery crud and enjoyed it. I never would have said that a 3 months ago before my lessons!

 

Observations about my original questions. The one hour lesson with T-Square was good, but it felt super short. 3 totals runs I think. That may be the 1 hour vs the 1 3/4 hour lesson I had at Bretton Woods, or the fixed grip vs high-speed lift difference. Either way I understand why several posters have advocated for longer private lessons. Even if it is just a few more supervised runs without anything brand new, instilling those patterns and confirming I am getting things right would have been a plus.

 

Very good lesson. Great to meet T-Square. Good to learn first and some of the variations in how lessons and timing impact things.

post #45 of 49
Thread Starter 

I am now sitting just about all the way back at square one because of Christmas. I asked for $ to take ski lessons this year, and my in-laws in some unexpected generosity provided a gift.

 

Other factors are narrow my options to lesson at Killington on the Thursday and Friday of Pres Week. It will be busy, and I know this, but my wife is doing the Women's Clinic with Donna Weinbrecht those two days, and I have tickets to use, and I am skiing solo.

 

#1 Group lessons on back to back days at 9:45am. I get two lessons, ski school privileges when lift lines will be longest, and something that will certainly see improvement. Downside is group sizes are not capped at Killington, and instructor quality could be much lower on these peak days.

 

#2 Private lesson, probably around 10am. All the benefits of private instruction which I have enjoyed, same lift privileges, and probably better tips on how to navigate Killington in the crowds (I know the mountain well midweek, but never on holidays). Cons are the one hour time may seem short, and I only get one lesson.

 

#3 8am 1.5 hour private lesson. All the private lesson benefits, but with even more time. However, the lift line privileges mean less at 8am I would think, and I will be aiming for first chair no matter when my lesson will be.

 

At the moment I am leaning towards #1 for the double lesson option, and to try a group lesson, or #3 because of the private benefits and being able to get that extra 30 minutes.

 

Any further thoughts?

 

Thanks for everyone who has been willing to provide advice. Being involved on EpicSki actually has paid dividends in become a better skier, and that for me has been pretty cool.

post #46 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by CentralVT08 View Post
 

I am now sitting just about all the way back at square one because of Christmas. I asked for $ to take ski lessons this year, and my in-laws in some unexpected generosity provided a gift.

 

Other factors are narrow my options to lesson at Killington on the Thursday and Friday of Pres Week. It will be busy, and I know this, but my wife is doing the Women's Clinic with Donna Weinbrecht those two days, and I have tickets to use, and I am skiing solo.

 

#1 Group lessons on back to back days at 9:45am. I get two lessons, ski school privileges when lift lines will be longest, and something that will certainly see improvement. Downside is group sizes are not capped at Killington, and instructor quality could be much lower on these peak days.

 

#2 Private lesson, probably around 10am. All the benefits of private instruction which I have enjoyed, same lift privileges, and probably better tips on how to navigate Killington in the crowds (I know the mountain well midweek, but never on holidays). Cons are the one hour time may seem short, and I only get one lesson.

 

#3 8am 1.5 hour private lesson. All the private lesson benefits, but with even more time. However, the lift line privileges mean less at 8am I would think, and I will be aiming for first chair no matter when my lesson will be.

 

At the moment I am leaning towards #1 for the double lesson option, and to try a group lesson, or #3 because of the private benefits and being able to get that extra 30 minutes.

 

Any further thoughts?

 

Thanks for everyone who has been willing to provide advice. Being involved on EpicSki actually has paid dividends in become a better skier, and that for me has been pretty cool.


Not sure why you consider Thu and Fri of that week "peak days."  Do the regional schools get the whole week off?

 

For the private lesson options, do you have someone particular in mind?  Seems like Killington is big enough that it makes more sense to go with 1.5 hr for a private and not worry about the advantages of line cutting mid-morning.  But I've never skied there.

 

You might start a thread with your Killington ski dates and see if you can meet up for some runs with a Bear who skis Killington midweek.

post #47 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by CentralVT08 View Post
 

I am now sitting just about all the way back at square one because of Christmas. I asked for $ to take ski lessons this year, and my in-laws in some unexpected generosity provided a gift.

 

Other factors are narrow my options to lesson at Killington on the Thursday and Friday of Pres Week. It will be busy, and I know this, but my wife is doing the Women's Clinic with Donna Weinbrecht those two days, and I have tickets to use, and I am skiing solo.

 

#1 Group lessons on back to back days at 9:45am. I get two lessons, ski school privileges when lift lines will be longest, and something that will certainly see improvement. Downside is group sizes are not capped at Killington, and instructor quality could be much lower on these peak days.

 

#2 Private lesson, probably around 10am. All the benefits of private instruction which I have enjoyed, same lift privileges, and probably better tips on how to navigate Killington in the crowds (I know the mountain well midweek, but never on holidays). Cons are the one hour time may seem short, and I only get one lesson.

 

#3 8am 1.5 hour private lesson. All the private lesson benefits, but with even more time. However, the lift line privileges mean less at 8am I would think, and I will be aiming for first chair no matter when my lesson will be.

 

At the moment I am leaning towards #1 for the double lesson option, and to try a group lesson, or #3 because of the private benefits and being able to get that extra 30 minutes.

 

Any further thoughts?

 

Thanks for everyone who has been willing to provide advice. Being involved on EpicSki actually has paid dividends in become a better skier, and that for me has been pretty cool.

President's week at Killington will be very, very crowded, and the ski school will be swamped with lessons.  Massachusetts schools are out for the entire week, and familys flee north to ski.  The ski school may have advertised for temporary instructors to help with the predictable overload, and they will have taken whoever wanted to do it (maybe).  

 

If you choose the group lesson option (which sounds great except for it's President's Week), you're taking the risk of getting a group lesson with too many people in it who have wildly differing levels of ability, or an instructor who doesn't have much experience, or (gasp) both.  A difficult lesson situation is not certain, but it's definitely possible and more likely during the most crowded week for skiing in New England.  

 

My advice is to take a private.  Make it the 8:00 am lesson that's 1.5 hours.  First thing in the morning means you get to beat the crowds.  Your instructor can do more when there are no crowds to dodge on the trail.  1.5 hours is a good length.  

post #48 of 49
Thread Starter 

All of Mass. being on winter break, plus a few other New England states is exactly why I am expecting big crowds. I am hoping Thurs/Fri on the back end of the week might be a little less crowded.

 

The 1.5 hours private lesson is sounding like the best option. My wallet can't handle two private lessons sadly, but the single one 1.5 hour is probably the better option of the two.

 

There is an old thread on Killington instructors I have dug up, so I may utilize that when making reservations.

 

Marznc has a great point about trying to see if other Bears might be there those days--funny to think of myself as one of you all know given how new I am to EpicSki.

post #49 of 49

Great bump for intermediates near the end of the season. 

 

There seems to be a difference (east vs. west) on whether a shortish private (1-2 hrs.) is worth anything.  On small mountains, even short privates can be useful (with a good instructor), especially on a hill with high speed lifts. On big mountains, privates of a half or all day make more sense — but they're expensive.  Group lessons, with the right instructor and the right group, sound workable, and some like them better than others.

 

Lots of good information here.  Enjoy!

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