Originally Posted by adipose
...but I'd like some input as to the actual value of attending.
I went last year and am going back this year.
I've been struggling to put together a good answer for you. I meant to put together a trip report over the summer, but never got around to it. Now that the new season has started, it seems the moment has passed.
I'll try to sum up how S&D worked and what I got out of it. To tell the truth, as a semi-local with JHMR experience, some of what was most important to me may be irrelevant to you.
When you get down to essences, S&D is really just four days of group lessons. But it is 4 days of very good group lessons. The instructors are excellent and the other students are preselected to be serious about skiing and have similar abilities. (It is also slightly longer each day than a walk-up lesson, since it goes bell to bell. Actually, we rode up early and waited at the top for the mountain to open in the morning.)
Even though they sent out questionaires ahead of time, they matched up the groups by an old-fashioned ski off. I was surprised how well this worked. My group was very well matched. (And they had it so well orgainized that it did not chew up very much time at all.) My group was slightly below the middle - we could all ski most of the double-blacks, but it was kinda ugly.
So each day we gathered before the lifts opened, skied, had an excellent lunch, skied, and then had an apres-ski event. One night we had a banquet. One afternoon we went out of bounds with a guide from the guide service and our instructor.
My camp was really just steep, no deep. I had my usual bad powder luck and was there one of the few weeks that it did not snow all winter.
So what did I get out of S&D?
1) A chance to push my limits with someone who knew the mountains and the group. I knew I wasn't going to suddenly find myself at the top of an unskiable cliff. This was the main thing I was looking for ahead of time.
2) Someone who knows where some less obvious corners are and how the different faces react to sun and temperature. If we had had powder that would've been even more important.
3) Four days of instruction. This wasn't really at the front of my mind ahead of time, but wound up being important. Four days is long enough that the teaching can be subtle but persistent. We'd alternate -- some runs we'd work on technique, others we'd just ski. All of us improved over the four days.
4) Skiing with the same group for four days. We got to know each other's skiing pretty well.
5) Going OB with a guide. I'm not completely sure, but I think some of the better groups went out more than we did. Also not high on my list going in, but was pretty cool.
What didn't I like? Not too much, obviously, since I'm going back. There were a couple of things, though...
a) Almost everyone was there with a group, so there wasn't much opportunity to dine / hang out / drink once the apres-ski was over. I'm sure if I was a little pushier socially I could have tagged along with one or another group, but I didn't feel like doing that. Besides which, skiing hard all day followed by a couple of beers did not leave all that much motivation to do anything in the evenings.
b) video. I wish there could have been more video, and sooner. We were basically taped skiing two pitches on one run the afternoon of the second day. Now I realize it is hard to set up taping without bogging everything down, but I wish someone could figure it out. The video was very enlightening to me -- our coach told us to stand up taller, I said to myself, "yeah, yeah, I am standing up." Then I saw the video, and said "Holy cow, I'm bending at the waist!"
Bottom line, I had a great time and I'm going back.
If you want any more details or have any other questions, ask away.