In asking the initial question, I was assuming that in skiing (as in any sport) the better you get the more fun it can be. So, to Samurai's point, its not whether someone is having fun skiing at any point in time, it's whether they can have more fun if they improve. As I noted in the initial post, if a person is (a) consigned to a congested slope, or (b) struggling down a slope that's too difficult for him/her, IMO that limits the person's potential enjoyment of the sport.
Epic, you made the point that I may have under-estimated how many skiers have taken lessons. Does anyone know if there are data on this? I have no doubt that the best skiers have taken lessons, and have been or are now on ski teams with professional coaching, etc. -- but that's probably less than 5% of the skiing population. I would guess that over half the North American skiing population has had less than 10 lessons in their life (pure wild guess). In fact, based on some of the comments, I wonder what the data are even for Epic members? [Richie Rich, how do you do surveys on this forum?]
Many posts raised the money issue. But put that in perspective: we've paid for skis, gear, lift tickets, lodging, expensive food. Why not get the most for those sunken costs? You wouldn't go to Disney World and stay at the hotel (OK, bad analogy, some might do that). But, my point is, its not just the money; as many pointed out, there are a lot of other reasons why people don't take ski lessons.
I've been a more-than-the-average consumer of ski lessons. This is partly because I started skiing later in life (mid-50s), but also because I was a coach in another sport (kids baseball) for 8 years, and so I don't subscribe to the Music Man theory of learning a new skill. But, with two ski trips yet to go this season, I do find myself getting more hesitant about signing up for lessons, and I share many of the views posted by others:
1. There can be a lot of down time in a group lesson, usually directly proportional to the size of the group. That's not just time that you've paid for the lesson, but it takes away from the finite time you have (and have paid for) at the resort.
2. It's a roll of the dice what kind of instructor you'll get, and who your fellow classmates will be, for any given lesson. We had a guy join us at Smuggs who said "they told me I'm a level 3, but I think I'm a level 5 so I'll just hang with y'all" -- and of course he slowed down the whole class.
3. There's also down time when a resort brings in a different instructor every day. Instructors have learning curves too about the students, and a new one has to start from scratch learning the students' abilities and weak points.
4. As you move up in skill, the lessons get harder -- or should get harder, if the instructor knows what he/she is doing and knows you. At "Level Zero" there's a lot of low-hanging fruit to be learned -- "this is how we put on skis" -- but it gets harder (or should) as you progress. I had a lesson where the instructor had us first lift one ski then the other while doing turns. I hated it, until I started to get the point. As in any sport: no pain, no gain.
5. I go skiing with my kids. When we're in separate lessons, we're not skiing together. Now that my kids and I are getting closer together in ability, taking a lesson together might work.
So, for me, the ideal lesson might be: (a) a group of five or fewer students at the same skill level (not self-selected) who stay together for 3-5 days with the same, incredibly good, instructor; (b) a concentrated private lesson at one of my local places with an instructor about whom I've gotten prior recommendations; or (c) taking a private or small group lesson with my kids (if that would work).
That's my $.02. Sorry for the too-long post. I'll stop typing and get back to work.
Edited by Jimski - 3/11/2009 at 04:46 pm