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Learning to ski in the USA - advice required

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I have skied twice before, once as a child and once again 15 years later (2 years ago). Both times, I didn't get on too well with it, and last time I had a bad experience with ski school in France (I am from the UK). I found the instructor very unsympathetic and unwilling to help people who could not pick things up quickly. As a result, I left the class after 3 days, as he was threatening to take us on a red run, but hadn't really taught us anything - had just made us ski down lots of different blue runs, not really noticing if people were falling over or not mastering the techniques.

Several people have told me that learning in the USA would be completely different. We are considering going to Breckenridge in February, and I am looking for some advice on what to do in terms of lessons. I am not a complete beginner, so don't need to do the absolute basics, but need to spend some time really perfecting the basic techniques on fairly easy runs, and also building my confidence (I'm quite nervous and don't have a lot of confidence with skiing.)

Would there be a group class that would suit me, or would I be better off going for one to one tuition? I don't want to be forced into progressing too quickly.

I've also been told that in some North American resorts, each group class has two instructors. Does anyone know if this is the case in Breckenridge?

Thank you in advance.

Hannah
post #2 of 17
You should take private lessons. Learn at YOUR own pace, not the pace of the middle of the group. Have the instructor address YOUR needs. It may seem more expensive, but I bet it's not when you take into account how much you learn for what you pay.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice.

How many private lessons would I ideally need, and how long for? In ski school, each session was 3 hours, which I found completely exhausting. :
post #4 of 17
Your experience raises a number of questions.

1) Was it the Ecole du Ski Francais that you had lessons with. or an independant school ?

If it was the ESF you should note that many people find independant outfits better. Personally I found ESF OK( not that there was much choice in my day).

2) What resort were you in ? A small beginners resort might be less intimidating than a bigger resort . Many people would be at a similar level. This often helps.

3) If you had a language problem, then Andorra would be ideal and cheaper too.

You should be aware that lessons will be about twice the price in the US as in Europe. Ditto lift passes.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Yes, it was ESF, and I learnt in La Plagne. The main problem was the attitude of the instructor, who just didn't seem to actually want to teach us anything, he just wanted to make us ski down run after run, getting progressively more difficult, without giving us any new skills in between. He actually told me that he found it hard to understand why people can't ski, as to him it is just like walking. Not really the right attitude for an instructor in a beginner's group!

The issue we have with destinations is that my partner is an advanced skier, so we need a resort that caters for both of us and has a lot of black runs and red runs, as well as being good for beginners.

We were looking at the USA in view of the excellent value for money in terms of accommodation, food etc. The pound is currently weak against the Euro, but strong against the dollar so we should get a good deal, even though the skiing itself may be a little dearer. But thanks for the advice, I've heard good things about Andorra.
post #6 of 17
I live about 14 miles from Breckenridge. It has a good assortment of runs of all difficulties. In addition, there are three other areas within a few miles: Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin. There is a free bus service between them. And Vail and Beaver Creek are about a 45-60 minute drive away.

Breckenridge is an actual town with a ski area attached, so there are many shops and restaurants.

More advanced class lessions will probably not have many people in them. Possibly only you! I suggest you try one first.
post #7 of 17
Hannah,

From your last post it sounds like you had a very bad experience. Pardon the blunt Yankee expression, your instructor sucked! Any instructor that has that type of attitude should not be in the business.

I know its trite, but your best bet is to find a good instructor. Someone that relates to you. Ask around, maybe post a note on this board. Getting some recommendations is a good idea.

Check this part of EpicSki too for instructors: http://www.epicski.com/Content/Train...ructorList.htm There are some instructors at Breck listed here.

As far as group versus private lessons. To start off with I'd recommend a group lesson since they are less expensive. I like group lessons since I gleen things from the other students around me. Learning and interacting with the group also makes for a more fun time. If you really like the instructor and want some one-on-one time, you can then request additional private lessons from that individual. (Its also a nice complement to the instructor.)

If you get an instructor you don't like, then when signing up for additional lessons, ask that you get someone else.
post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hannah
Yes, it was ESF, and I learnt in La Plagne. The main problem was the attitude of the instructor, who just didn't seem to actually want to teach us anything, he just wanted to make us ski down run after run, getting progressively more difficult, without giving us any new skills in between. He actually told me that he found it hard to understand why people can't ski, as to him it is just like walking. Not really the right attitude for an instructor in a beginner's group!

The issue we have with destinations is that my partner is an advanced skier, so we need a resort that caters for both of us and has a lot of black runs and red runs, as well as being good for beginners.

We were looking at the USA in view of the excellent value for money in terms of accommodation, food etc. The pound is currently weak against the Euro, but strong against the dollar so we should get a good deal, even though the skiing itself may be a little dearer. But thanks for the advice, I've heard good things about Andorra.
It was definitely the instructor then.

As it happens, I learnt to ski in La Plagne. It was in the days of 'evolutif'. You started with skis a metre long and the skis were changed to longer ones as you progressed. You learnt parallel turns early on.

You might also think about getting some practice/lessons on dry slopes or snow domes before you head out. It could be particularly useful at your stage.
post #9 of 17
I'd suggest a first lesson in a group, then move up to private or semi-private as you break into your own specific needs. Ask for a PSIA level III instructor.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by T-Square

Any instructor that has that type of attitude should not be in the business.
And this points up the great difference between the ESF and PSIA member schools. In a PSIA school you are just as likely to encounter this or a similar bad attitude and they'll have perhaps .01% of the training as an ESF instructor has.
post #11 of 17
Hannah, I have skiied with several instructors from the US and from France (and Austria)
No matter what badge the person wears, from which ski school, I have yet to meet a US instructor who is a bad communicator. I have met several French ones who are, because, as Sidecut puts it, the ESF are trained in speed, and believe they know it all. Thankfully most US instructors don't have that attitude, although I have heard of a few outside the PSIA who purport to know everything, and that everyone else is wrong.
You should be fine with a group lesson for a couple of days, then maybe go for a private after that.
post #12 of 17
Hannah, of course, you might want to consider the EpicSki Academy (see the link in my or WTFH's sig).
post #13 of 17
Hannah, I had a really bad experience with a similar type of instructor in Bormio Italy, so I can relate to what you are saying.

Many participants in this forum teach at the various Summit County resorts. All of them are superb instructors. While each may word things differentlty, the concepts will be similar. The trick is to find someone who has the key to unlocking the learning process for you specifically.

I sometimes find that instructors who easily picked up skiing are not the best instructors for me.

Someone who is usually not fearful can have a hard time relating to any tentativeness you may be feeling.

If you can get over to Copper, I would strongly suggest a lesson with mike_m. In the instructor profile , he states his specialties are:

"People with fear, recovering from injuries, or recovering from instruction with well-meaning significant others!"

He is extremely patient, and has a way of making you feel safe on runs where you would normally feel terrified. More importantly, his approach is systematic. Rather than putting you on challenging runs just to feed your ego, he first helps you build the skills that will help you ski more challenging terrain, not merely survive it.

During lunch, he will write down what you need to work on, so you can have a reference for future ski trips.

If you take class midweek in Feb., the class will probably not be too crowded.
Please contact us once you come out here. We are {usually} a fun group of people!
post #14 of 17
Does the ESF have a bad reputation for producing bad instructors?
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat
I have met several French ones who are, because, as Sidecut puts it, the ESF are trained in speed, and believe they know it all. Thankfully most US instructors don't have that attitude, although I have heard of a few outside the PSIA who purport to know everything, and that everyone else is wrong.
You want to argue a point thats fine but don't put words in my mouth even if it is a pathetic attempt at sarcasm.

French certified instructors are light years ahead of PSIA certified instructors in every way. Their training is far superior. Instruction and guiding is a serious and well respected profession over there.

In fact if you want really want a great ski lesson instead of asking for a PSIA level 3 at a US resoort ask for a French or Austrian certified instructor. There are a few. You may end up skiing a day with a Franz Fuchsberger.
post #16 of 17
hmmm, speaking of which: if you end up at Keystone, find out if Jeff Fox is still there. He is from Eastern USA, AND is French certified (ecole du ski francais). He's level 3 PSIA, too. Top bloke, great skiier, loves what he does and he does it well.
post #17 of 17
Sidecut, apologies, I didn't mean it to sound like that, what I was trying to say is that the ESF may initially require higher levels of ability (particularly in speed), but the actual ability to teach, or the ability to learn, is lacking in many of them, based on my experience of skiing in France with the ESF. I confess to having not skiied with many French instructors in the US

Rhys, they have a reputation for producing very arrogant instructors. Ask on snowHeads!
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