Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz
It took me forever to be a strong 7, but even that to me was still an intermediate. Bumps, powder, crud, trees - all were out of my reach. Steeps I could ski. Defensively, but I could ski them.
FWIW, YMMV, etc, if a person can't do bumps, powder, crud, or trees, I don't think they're a strong 7. But it may depend on what you mean by "out of my reach." If you mean you wouldn't try them, that's different from you were working on them, but didn't feel comfortable. I seem to recall instructors at Breck talking about working on bumps at around level 6, but that may be me misremembering. From a student perspective, I would have been annoyed as a strong 7 if someone had come into the group and said they didn't want to ski bumps, trees, or powder ...
Originally Posted by dbostedo
This year I took two private lessons and skied 13 days. (My first lessons since I learned to ski in the early 1990's.) Some number of days in the teens is probably as much as I'll get next year too, along with at least a couple more lessons. Given that, what I'm wondering is, how much more progress can I expect to make? The last couple of years, I've gone from backseat tail pusher with occasional wedge to a more solid intermediate who understands tipping and edging, and can do a little carving and has an actual turn shape. So what should I expect from next season?
It's something I plan to ask an instructor when I get into next season - I'd like to have some goals but don't even know how to set them. And I'd like to think I won't plateau and will continue to improve. Will I hit a plateau?
In my experience with a number of physical activities, plateaus can't be avoided. I don't think they're a bad thing. Sometimes your brain or body or both just need some time to absorb what's already been presented to them. Actually, sometimes what we think is a plateau is actually just action happening beneath the surface - like an egg that looks like it's just sitting there, but inside, there's a ton going on. I've had long periods with no progress, feeling frustrated, and then all of a sudden, every ski day brings at least one revelation.
There's a lot to be said for mileage (vertical), but absolutely you can make progress even with just a few days a season. The progress will be slower and it will be harder to retain what you've learned. I'm a big fan of keeping notes from lessons, so that you don't forget what your last instructor told you. Visualization is also very effective, and can help you retain and even build on your understanding between ski days. There are also some sports that complement skiing nicely - after a summer where I had several days of downhill mountain biking, I came into ski season much more comfortable with taking a direct line.
The better you get, the more subtle your improvements might be, and the longer it might be to see change. So as you become better, it is natural to see more gradual improvement, or maybe more of a step function with longer segments between each step (ignore that if it's gibberish to you).
Your ratio of 2 private lessons in 13 ski days is much, much higher than most skiers.
Natural athleticism plays in. Some people pick things up much more quickly than other people do. You can improve your chances by being in good shape, especially using exercises that challenge your balance and your core, not just static leg exercises, though those are great, too.
I've had about twice as many days this season as I normally would, and I will admit that there were a lot of benefits. Obviously more days skied, but also things like if I was starting to get something one day, I was able to go back the very next day and work on it, rather than having to put a pin in it and wait till I got back, and possibly lose the feeling. And my legs got much, much stronger so that my confidence level shot up - I could recover.
I would encourage you to reframe your question from "What should I expect from next season?" and "Will I hit a plateau?" to "What is a good reasonable goal for me next season?" and "What is a good stretch goal for me next season?" Slightly different wording. Expectations have a bad habit of leading to disappointment. And instead of asking that of us, maybe tell us what kinds of things get you most excited in skiing, and then we can suggest some milestones you can work toward on your way toward whatever it is you ultimately visualize when you picture yourself skiing the stuff you wish you could ski today.