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Getting started...

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I am new to skiing and new to talking about skiing online. I decided to register here after reading these boards for a few weeks because there seems to be a real knowledge-share here, and that's what I need.

Before I ask my question I will give you some background on me. I am 27 and work for in a private sports medicine practice. My education is in sports medicine and physical therapy (ASCM and NASM CPT certifications).

As I kid I swam and surfed competitively (local only) in addition to cross-country (running) and soccer. These days I train and compete in triathlons.

Recently I met a group of avid skiers and I decided it's something I'd love to learn to do - their crazy adventures (backcountry, etc) sound very exciting to me. After reading so much of what's posted here, it sounds like learning to ski is a long/hard/expensive journey.

Which leads me to my question/problem...
I will spend hours training and learning. I can handle the physical and mental pressure of learning a new sport. Money is an issue - but I am not broke. BUT... I'm not very patient!

What's the BEST/FASTEST way for me to become an advanced/expert skier? How fast can it really be done? Is there a training program to follow? What supplemental off-snow activities can be done?

I appreciate all candid/real responses.

Thank you,
post #2 of 17
Welcome, hulagirl.

My initial response would be that it's going to be pretty difficult given where you live, but with all that motivation you'll probably make it happen.

Here's a good place to start:

Good luck.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

I am living in CA now. I can get to a ski mountain within 1 hour.

I have read a lot of these threads. I hope it doesn't sound conceited... I feel like I should be able to pick this up quickly because I am generally pretty good at athletic pursuits. That's why I asked for some ideas about how to *fast track*.

thank you,
post #4 of 17
For off snow excercises, I have noticed that roller bladers, roller skaters, and ice skaters have generally made the fastest progress for beginner skiers. If you can get to a ski area within an hour, ski as often as you can, and then some. Repetition and mileage on the snow are important.
post #5 of 17
Originally Posted by hulagirl
What's the BEST/FASTEST way for me to become an advanced/expert skier?
Quit your job, buy a ski pass and ski 100+ days a year. That's what I would do if I could...

post #6 of 17
hulagirl, the responces are coming slow because there really is no fast track to instant greatness in this sport. You're going to have to pay your dues just like everyone else.

Strength and fitness speed things up a bit, good athletic skills do too. Hours on the skis are manditory, and not just mindless hours. Your freeskiing will have to be structured with a definate purpose, specific things your working on each time you go out.

If you really want to do this in the quickest time you have to get quantity and quality instruction. Don't just jump into group lessons with no choice of instructor because all instructors are not created equal. It's OK for a couple times just to get your feet wet, but then quickly start taking privates or semi privates with an instructor of your chosing based on multiple referrals. Ask here for those referrals.

After milking that for a while, look for an adult race program that offers intense training hours, and does more than just stick gates in the snow and give you a quick couple words at the bottom of the course. They should spend the majority of class time on fundimental skills outside of gates, and should have top notch coaches. If you can find something like that, jump on it.

Read all the best instructional books, watch videos, keep reading here, meet high level skiers who will take you under there wing. Stay intense, and stay patient. If really have a background of success in athletics you should know the principles of achievement and patience should not be an issue. Tenacity trumps impatience everytime.

Good luck kid.
post #7 of 17
Aloha Hulagirl,

There are things you can do to get to the expert level faster than the average person. Let's start with some tips that will successfully get you to the advanced level where you can have fun getting down most trails at most resorts and be able to enjoy some back country as well.

First, consider your choice of sport. If you've surfed or skateboarded, you may pick up snowboarding a lot faster. It's the same experience as skiing, just a different tool.

Rollerblades and skiing are the best off season cross training sports for skiing. If you start these sports before skiing, learning skiing will be easier. If you start after skiing, your skiing will improve quicker. Athletes generally have all the fitness one needs to start skiing, but strengthening the core muscles will help. Balance drills are the real secret for better skiing. There are hundreds of drills to do on a Bosu, exercise ball or balance board. Yoga moves (I don't know the name off hand, but I call it a "T" - standing on one leg with the upper body parallel to the floor) can also help.

To get ready for skiing, start with good quality clothing and accessories. Don't forget goggles and a helmet. It's expensive, but you can save money by buying at a ski swap if you've learned how to recognize good stuff. Read up on knee safety - remember not to fight falls. Do the sports pyschology thing. Don't put pressure on yourself to learn fast. You will have up and down days. Remember you're doing this for fun. Even terminal beginners can have fun in this sport. Think Positive Attitude!

Start at a mountain that offers direct to parallel or PMTS. Start on short skis. Rent your ski equipment. If possible, make your first day a bluebird day (blue skis and soft snow). Make your first lesson a private and at least a 1/2 day. Going forward, determine the right mix of lesson and practice time that works for you. If you can work it out, using the same coach can help, but sometimes you need to try different coaches until you find one that clicks with you the best. As you get better, using different coaches can help broaden your skills better while using the same coach can help you advance your skills better.

It's ok to learn one day at a time. It's a bit of a commitment to start your ski career with a destination trip. Expect to be at least a little sore after your first day. No matter how fit you are, you will be using muscles in a new way. If you do take the plunge and commit to a trip for your first experience, make sure to choose a resort that has plenty of other activities available so that you do not feel pressured that skiing is your only alternative. It's a good idea to do other non-skiing activities (sleigh rides, snowmobiling, snowshoe, etc.) anyway to help round out your experience.

Once you get going, consider doing a week long trip for a "camp" experience. When you get to the intermediate level, consider treating yourself with a day snowcat skiing (cheaper than heli skiing).

Less than one in a hundred (maybe more like one in a thousand), CAN go directly to advanced on their first day. In my 12 years of part time teaching, I've seen 2 go from first time to intermediate in one hour. Athletes learn quicker than the general public. Taking five to 10 days on snow before you're ready for your first expert trail is not unreasonable. It could take 25-50 days to get to the point where you feel like you've mastered the expert terrain. You rmileage may vary. The better you get, the more you have to learn. Especially when you've become an expert.

One way to save $$$ on your quest is to get a job part time at a resort or a shop. You'll get access to free skiing and lessons, and deals on gear. However, free lessons won't necessarily take you on the road you want to go. Consider networking to find the pro you want to work with and work a barter deal to ski with them. Becoming an instructor is one way you can choose who you get your free lessons from. Many resorts have "teaching" positions that only require intermediate level skiing.

Please keep us posted as you progress. That's our reward for these posts.
post #8 of 17
That tread that Bob Peters pointed out is great. Lessons are important but I have found that it can be hard to find a good instructor. You are going to need one so do your research. You sound like you want skiing and that you will be coachable.

One point that is often over looked is equipment. If you have the right package you will improve much faster. Equipment and skiing go together and that is especially true for the newcomer.

I would start with boots and go to qualified boot fitter. You are going to live with your boots. You could rent skis the first few times out. Beginner skis are helpful at first but you wouldn't necessarily want to buy a pair.
post #9 of 17
Hey Hula,
First of all, welcome! Secondly, I was exactly in your position, albeit a couple and a half decades ago. I was an island boy, grew up skate boarding and surfing. Went to the mainland, hooked up with a bunch of skiers, and discovered my main winter sport while at university.

There is much from your surfing that translates very well to skiing. First, the sense of balance you have perched on a moving platform. Second, you are used to perched on this moving platform plunging down at high speed. Surfing translates better to snowboarding than skiing, however.

As others said, and as you are probably well aware, there are no short cuts to becoming expert at anything. You do your time, you pay your dues, and you will get there. One important thing is your desire to get there, and probably no less important, your ability to enjoy your journey.

post #10 of 17
Don't know what the standards are at the mountain 1 hour from where you live. If it's like the smaller mountains in the East, once you reach the advanced-intermediate level, you could take an ITC (Instructor Training Course). Then sign up to instruct. You'll teach beginners for your first few years but you'll ski for free, get free training, and get discounts on lots of stuff. The best way to get good is to teach. I actually know at least one instructor that got on staff their second season skiing!
post #11 of 17
I agree with most of what is written here. For equipment, get your own boots and make sure you find a reputable boot fitter to make sure you get the right boots and get properly aligned. For skis, you can get "new" skis that are a model-year or two old on eBay or off season at ski shops. That'll save you money.

You have a lot of the basics from your athletic background. Take your first lesson as a group beginner lesson at an off time (not on a Saturday), so the class will be slightly smaller. From there, get private lessons, because you will probably advance faster than most. Then, as others have said, get out and ski a LOT. You can do week long camps or private lessons for a couple hours a day, depending on where you are and how often you can get out.

As others have said, there is not real shortcut to being an "expert". You may be able to learn to make clean turns on fairly steep terrain pretty quickly, but learning the feel for terrain and condition variations, bumps, handling speed, etc., just mean that you need a lot of experience. If you can get out and ski all day for 100 days, at the end of your first season, you'll be pretty good.

The idea of getting in a race club is good, but don't let it take all of your ski time. You need to be able to concentrate on other situations if you plan on going on trips with friends to big resorts where a lot of time might be spent off the groomed trails.

Once you get comfortable with making good turns on good terrain, remember that some conditions are good and some are good for you. Spend a lot of time in conditions that are good for you. Take lessons for dealing with those conditions. Find a good instructor (or instructors) that you learn from well, and stick with that person (people) as much as possible.

And as was already mentioned, remember to have fun. It's not about being the best skier out there, but about having a good time, whatever that means to you (of couse, being the best out there might be what floats your boat).
post #12 of 17
The one word of advise I have is do not advance terrain or speed too quickly. For most people I might have to push them to try something more challenging or pick up speed as too much energy is going into controlling speed. For someone athletic who is determined this is going to be easy I think the concern is to be competent and successful on the terrain and speed that you are working on BEFORE you progress it and make sure you can take that competence comfortably to that next level of terrain.

Jumping ahead would be like jumping on too big a wave too early. You may survive but you'll likely do it through new bad habits and as you get comfortable with the wave/terrain you will also get comfortable with the bad habits.

If you are renting skis early on (or buying) make sure you are not using railed skis. Nothing will make your easy task more heinous more quickly. Buying the right boots for you is a great start as mentioned but do not get on evil skis either.

Of course my other thought is that this is a blatant troll but I'll play either way.
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
hey guys...

I really appreciate the posts here and the Private Messages.

I do realize that there are different teaching models - that PSIA and PMTS (did I get that right?) advocate different progressions. To be honest, I don't care about HOW I learn to ski... I just want to buckle down and get good fast.

Maybe I have to ask if it's possible to just learn to ski really well without subscribing to a particular methodology. I mean ... I want generic ski tips, if that's possible.

Thank you again,
post #14 of 17
Originally Posted by josseph
Hey Hula,
There is much from your surfing that translates very well to skiing. First, the sense of balance you have perched on a moving platform. Second, you are used to perched on this moving platform plunging down at high speed. Surfing translates better to snowboarding than skiing, however.
I don't think the synergies are that great. I have surfed most of my life and started skiing at 29. After 15-20 weeks of skiing spread over 12 years my progress in skiing has been unspectacular. My friend at university was an international junior ski racer, but after 5 years of trying to learn to surf his surfing progress was probably below average (much to his annoyance). Balancing while standing sideways seemed to be a big problem for him.

On the other hand if you have exceptional coordination and athletism then you will progress fast in most sports.
post #15 of 17
agree with comments re rollerblading -- would add you should get off flat pavement and try going uphill fast as you can to build up the legs - then downhill carving imaginary slaloms. good interval / balance workout.

second there's a lot of good books to read that could help speed the learning curve. my personal favorite is "the all-mountain skier" by mark elling - i don't know the fine points of the PSIA / PMTS debate, just know that this book really breaks things down into fundamentals and helps me to understand what's happening and what i want to happen when i ski, made it much easier to try new and harder stuff as i learn. others like the book by eric & rob deslaurier (i forget the title) and another by lito somebody or other. i'd just browse at a bookstore and buy the one that seems to make sense to you. by reading these kinds of things you really can visualize what will happen when you do get on the hill and make the most of your skiing time.
post #16 of 17
I noticed that you are NASM certified, as I am. The training regimens in the CPT manual are the absolute best for your dryland training! Every year, i devise a program for participants of Epicski Academy. I use ptonthenet, which I'm sure you are familiar with. So you are already doing the same sort of dryland training used by serious skiers!

I've been in the fitness industry for over 25 years. The old, traditional style of training did absolutely nothing for my ability to ski. In many ways, my strength and flexibility without the integration of dynamic core stability worked against me.

That being said, it's really important to realize that no matter how ski specific your routines are, there is always something that is very different. Take a traditional squat, for example. It may look like a skiers tuck, but it is not. This was pointed out to me by boot guru Jeff Bergeron, when he came to my studio in Frisco. Since I now work in ski country, most of my students are ski professionals. For any given exercise , we can discuss how it relates to skiing, and how it is different from skiing.

This year, I have made more progress than I have ever thought possible. I have even surpassed my personal aspirations, skiing terrain that I used to be afraid to look at, let alone ski. Step one is to get to the mountains as much as possible. All the dryland training and reading cannot comptete with mileage. Step two, is to shop around for an instructor that you can click with and work with them for as many days that you can afford. Find out which ski schools have unlimited lesson plans. Don't worry about what technique they use. It's the teacher/student chemistry that enhances learning.

Good luck, and welcome to Epicski!
post #17 of 17
hulagirl, you've gotten great advice here. May I also suggest that you plan now to attend the ESA next year? You'll learn more in 4 days from this crew than you would in weeks of "normal" instruction. If you can afford it, consider attending as many of the EpicSki events as you can (the ETU, the FRFW, and any that may come to Tahoe [I keep hearing rumors!]). Honestly, as one who has skied for more than 34 years, I can tell you that having instruction from this caliber of coach goes far beyond what is otherwise possible. That is one of the reasons that many folks (probably like your friends) never take lessons: they don't actually help! However, that is a direct function of the coach, not the possibility for rapid improvement.

BTW, there are equipment issues, too. I'm not sure if you're in SoCal or NoCal, but our own Bud Heishmann is in Reno and can set you up on boots in proper balance in such a way that you'll not be equipment limited right out of the gate. I would highly recommend that as soon as you are ready to get serious about your learning. Don't bother buying skis for a while, but get your own boots, recommended by a person like Bud, and balanced before you're even on the mountain and you'll progress far faster!

Welcome to EpicSki! We're excited you're here!
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