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Ski school quality outside of Colorado

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I have been to Colorado 5 times to various resorts over the years and I went to ski school the first couple of times when I was  young(I'm 29 now). I have a lot more athletic ability and confidence than I do skill at this point, so next time I go skiing I will definately go to ski school. I just need a little bit of refinement and technique. I can get down just about anything without a 20ft drop off a cliff. It may not be pretty but I can do it. I really want to learn how to ski moguls better.

I've always heard about the excellent quality of the ski schools in Colorado, but never heard anything positive or negative about others outside of Colorado.

Next trip choices as of right now are Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Park City, Alta/Snowbird. Does anyone have any comments on the ski schools at those resorts?

Thanks,

Craig
Edited by csh8428 - 9/30/09 at 9:04am
post #2 of 23
There are many good ski schools, I'm sure.  I would postulate that it would matter much more which instructor you get and whether or not you take Group, Private, or Semi-Private lessons.  All instructors are not equal, and there is also a subjective benefit to locating one that relates to you and your skiing ability - an instructor of the same level might be great for one skier, and not so great for the next skier.
Edited by NE1 - 10/1/09 at 9:11am
post #3 of 23
 In general the more desirable the ski resort the better the quality instruction staff.  Ski schools at more popular resorts can be more selective with their staff hiring and more instructors want to work there so the process can be more selective.  Consequently, the more experienced and skilled staffs also promote a continual training program for it's staff further improving it's quality.  You will find that the resorts you have listed will have high quality instruction staffs.  Your job is to request the more experienced and/or higher certified instructors on the staff to insure a top notch lesson.  Ask around the resort at shops, bars, hotels who they might recommend as well or check in here at Epicski for specific names!

There are excellent instructors all over this country and continent!  You just have to ask the right questions to find a great one!  We have great instructors all around the Lake Tahoe area!
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
Bud, thanks for the info :)
post #5 of 23
As Bud said it is not the State, or even the resort that matters the most, it is the instructor. There are guys at small mid-west hills that I would stack up against many a Colorado instructor.
post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by csh8428 View Post

I have a lot more athletic ability and confidence than I do skill at this point, so next time I go skiing I will definately go to ski school. I just need a little bit of refinement and technique. I can get down just about anything without a 20ft drop off a cliff. It may not be pretty but I can do it. I really want to learn how to ski moguls better.

Thanks,

Craig
 

Great post from Bud.  In order to ask the right questions, you need to understand what you really want out of your lesson.  The issue is this: most skiers on the mountain (and this includes most of the skiers you see on the most difficult runs) not only do not ski well, but they have no clue about what good skiing actually is.  As a result, when skiers go take a lesson, there is often a disconnect between what the student thinks they want versus what the student actually needs. 

If your intention is to be a serious student, read on...

The typical, "I can ski any double-black diamond on the mountain" skier will usually approach a lesson with the assumption that since they can survive the hardest stuff on the mountain, they must be really close to becoming a good skier.  They assume that they just need some minor tweaks to start looking really good.  So they sign up for the level 9 lesson and tell the instructor "hey, I'm a good skier--just need some minor adjustments--so lets go over to the K-12 and you can sort me out."  And since that is what they asked for, that is what they get.  They go to the K-12 and they get some tips like "keep your hands forward" and at the end of the lesson (and the season) they still ski like crap. 

What the student didn't realize is that for most skiers (including, but especially "double-black diamond skiers"), the path to great skiing is going to involve significant retooling--to the point of throwing away everything they think that they know, going back to green terrain and starting over.  Even though the instructor probably took one look at their skiing and thought, "Uggh, another student with no fundamentals that wants to ski the K-12, what we really should be doing is working on fundamentals back on School Marm," many instructors are not going to tell you this.  They don't want to bruise your ego or whatever. 

The ski schools exacerbate this problem by including a lot of "comfortable on double-black diamond terrain" garbage in their ability descriptions.  Comfort on any given level of terrain has very little to do with skill.  In any event, it doesn't offer much guidance to the aggressive, athletic student who can make green skills work on double black diamond terrain.  And it really makes group lessons difficult when you end up with half the group wanting to learn to ski, and the other half just wanting to head to the nearest rowdy terrain.

So the point of all of this is that unless you tell them otherwise, most ski schools are going to default to assuming that you are the average gaper out for a fun time and few ski tips.  If that assumption doesn't match your goals, you may find ski school to be an unsatisfying experience. Unless you tell them otherwise.  So the question for you is, are you just looking for a fun time and some ski tips, or do you have a larger goal (that you are willing to work at) of becoming a great technical skier?
 
If the answer is the latter, you first need to make sure that you get hooked up with an instructor whose idea of great skiing matches yours.  Ideally get a referral from somebody you trust.  If that isn't possible, make it clear when you book the lesson that you want someone who is a great technical skier.  Find out if the ski school will refund your money if the instructor they send out isn't good enough for you.  Don't let them bulldoze you with, "we'll send you a PSIA level III and you'll be happy."  At least for me, I don't find PSIA level III to be a high enough standard, so make sure you can get a refund if they don't send someone acceptable.  And hold them to that.  Audition your instructor.  Make them ski something challenging early on and bail politely if they aren't meeting your standards.  If they can't demonstrate the kind of skiing you are looking for, find somebody who can.

When you meet with your instructor, tell them that your overriding goal is to become a great technical skier.  Make it clear that you want them to pull no punches in evaluating your skiing and not to worry about bruising your ego.  Also make it clear that you have no preconceptions about your own abilities, the skills you are going to work on, or the terrain you are going to work in.  Make them understand that you don't have a problem spending the entire lesson on green groomers if that is what is required.  If you don't understand what the fundamental skills that are required for technical skiing are, start there.  By the end of the lesson, you should understand the fundamental skills required for expert skiing, where you are weak and how to improve.  If you have a good understanding of the fundamentals and you think your execution is reasonable, then you should express your interest in improving your bump skiing, but make it clear that your interest is based on the instructor's assessment of your skills matching your own.  In short, (or I guess in long ) the only way to get a serious lesson is to make them understand that you are a serious student.

Good luck.
post #7 of 23
^Geoffda ^,
There is much truth to what you say.  It is to easy for instructors to grab a group from say the "Blue sign", & proceed to just give a canned lesson based on this information.  For all he knows, this "Blue" designation may have been determined by the desk person, who may not even ski.

Student Centered Lessons require input from the client.  Any decent instructor will take the time on the first lift ride to find out a multitude of things about the student.  IE: learning style, athletic background, professional background, goals, motivations, physical condition, etc.  There are many subtle clues that can be picked up just through friendly conversation.  Heck he can see alot on the way to the lift, just by the way they handle themselves.  It is up to the client to be honest & forthcoming in order for the instructor to make a good assessment.  The instructor needs to be on the ball to extract the important information, & then guide the skier in the right direction to make inroads toward establishing a learning partnership & reaching those goals. 

Within a few turns, a good instructor can usually tell where balance & skill strengths/weaknesses lie, or if they are even in the correct group.  Without wasting the students on hill time, they can formulate a lesson plan & get to the right terrain during the initial warm-up.  Without saying a lot he can begin to impress a good visual example for the students current level.

JF  
post #8 of 23
Its has more to do with the coach, than the coaches PSIA level, what hill they work for and what hill they ski for.

Even with that said you can have a great coach you simply dont mesh with. I know myself I have had supposely great coaches that to me SUCKED due to my 5 year old like attention span. For me if you talk forever you will lose me, I have skied away from PSIA clinics because of this as well.

So again who is a good coach for you might not be for someone else with some rare exceptions of truly great people who can truly relate to anyone.
post #9 of 23
Ya got a lot of info in here, but basically, you can find at least good instruction at almost any mountain and you can get lousy instruction at any mountain.

When you make up your mind where you're going, post here, and someone will direct you to a good coach. I know a number of people on the board have taught or are currently teaching at a few of these area and you can probably get a good name of someone to contact by asking here.

All of those areas will have some really good instructors, so make up your mind and make a post and I'm sure someone will point you to a coach who'll help you out.
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post

 In general the more desirable the ski resort the better the quality instruction staff.  Ski schools at more popular resorts can be more selective with their staff hiring and more instructors want to work there so the process can be more selective.  Consequently, the more experienced and skilled staffs also promote a continual training program for it's staff further improving it's quality.

I'm sure I do agree with this. If you go to Whistler, you find that many of the instructors are from Australia and are there on a one year holiday. Certainly not all, but many. if you go some of the smaller areas in Washington you find instructors that have taught at those mountains for many many years. Both of the areas will have good and new instructors. The more "popular" resort has a higher turn-around, and I would venture, more instructors who are being used as babysitters for the vacationing parents.
post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by geoffda View Post


Great post from Bud.  In order to ask the right questions, you need to understand what you really want out of your lesson.  The issue is this: most skiers on the mountain (and this includes most of the skiers you see on the most difficult runs) not only do not ski well, but they have no clue about what good skiing actually is.  As a result, when skiers go take a lesson, there is often a disconnect between what the student thinks they want versus what the student actually needs. 

If your intention is to be a serious student, read on...

The typical, "I can ski any double-black diamond on the mountain" skier will usually approach a lesson with the assumption that since they can survive the hardest stuff on the mountain, they must be really close to becoming a good skier.  They assume that they just need some minor tweaks to start looking really good.  So they sign up for the level 9 lesson and tell the instructor "hey, I'm a good skier--just need some minor adjustments--so lets go over to the K-12 and you can sort me out."  And since that is what they asked for, that is what they get.  They go to the K-12 and they get some tips like "keep your hands forward" and at the end of the lesson (and the season) they still ski like crap. 

What the student didn't realize is that for most skiers (including, but especially "double-black diamond skiers"), the path to great skiing is going to involve significant retooling--to the point of throwing away everything they think that they know, going back to green terrain and starting over.  Even though the instructor probably took one look at their skiing and thought, "Uggh, another student with no fundamentals that wants to ski the K-12, what we really should be doing is working on fundamentals back on School Marm," many instructors are not going to tell you this.  They don't want to bruise your ego or whatever. 

The ski schools exacerbate this problem by including a lot of "comfortable on double-black diamond terrain" garbage in their ability descriptions.  Comfort on any given level of terrain has very little to do with skill.  In any event, it doesn't offer much guidance to the aggressive, athletic student who can make green skills work on double black diamond terrain.  And it really makes group lessons difficult when you end up with half the group wanting to learn to ski, and the other half just wanting to head to the nearest rowdy terrain.

So the point of all of this is that unless you tell them otherwise, most ski schools are going to default to assuming that you are the average gaper out for a fun time and few ski tips.  If that assumption doesn't match your goals, you may find ski school to be an unsatisfying experience. Unless you tell them otherwise.  So the question for you is, are you just looking for a fun time and some ski tips, or do you have a larger goal (that you are willing to work at) of becoming a great technical skier?
 
If the answer is the latter, you first need to make sure that you get hooked up with an instructor whose idea of great skiing matches yours.  Ideally get a referral from somebody you trust.  If that isn't possible, make it clear when you book the lesson that you want someone who is a great technical skier.  Find out if the ski school will refund your money if the instructor they send out isn't good enough for you.  Don't let them bulldoze you with, "we'll send you a PSIA level III and you'll be happy."  At least for me, I don't find PSIA level III to be a high enough standard, so make sure you can get a refund if they don't send someone acceptable.  And hold them to that.  Audition your instructor.  Make them ski something challenging early on and bail politely if they aren't meeting your standards.  If they can't demonstrate the kind of skiing you are looking for, find somebody who can.

When you meet with your instructor, tell them that your overriding goal is to become a great technical skier.  Make it clear that you want them to pull no punches in evaluating your skiing and not to worry about bruising your ego.  Also make it clear that you have no preconceptions about your own abilities, the skills you are going to work on, or the terrain you are going to work in.  Make them understand that you don't have a problem spending the entire lesson on green groomers if that is what is required.  If you don't understand what the fundamental skills that are required for technical skiing are, start there.  By the end of the lesson, you should understand the fundamental skills required for expert skiing, where you are weak and how to improve.  If you have a good understanding of the fundamentals and you think your execution is reasonable, then you should express your interest in improving your bump skiing, but make it clear that your interest is based on the instructor's assessment of your skills matching your own.  In short, (or I guess in long ) the only way to get a serious lesson is to make them understand that you are a serious student.

Good luck.






 

This was such a good post, I would recommend anyone interested in this thread re-read the above. 

The problem of getting good instruction involves so much more than finding a "good"  ski instructor. There are at least two people involved in any ski instruction experience (and a bunch more if it's a group lesson). It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that communication is going to be an issue before you even begin. Understanding what you are looking for in a lesson, understanding what changing your skiing may require from you, and communicating your understanding effectively to the appropriate person is usually quite difficult.  Ski schools often are not well equipped to sort out the surprisingly varied aspirations of students, at least in my own experience,  and it is a rare student who seems prepared to really get the most of what a good instructor can offer.  The lesson that is often a gloss over a few typical exercises may be more a response to the usual expectations of people who purchase ski lessons than the real interest and expertise of the instructor.  When I was teaching I often had students tell me that all they really hoped to get out of the lesson was some helpfull hint or insight they could take with them. Often they seemed more interested in just skiing a lot than any concerted effort to improve their skiing. I'm sure that the serious student often gets lost in this mix. Its a perpetual source of frustration for ski instructors that they are trained to address movement problems and to develop skills upon what is assumed to be a fundamentally sound core of skills when in reality most people  have to revisit basics and "retool" as Geofda puts it in order to  progress. Very few of the students an instructor will meet are prepared to do this and most will be offended if he or she attempts to address what are often felt to be issues that are below their presumed level of competence. Often it is only if the ski teacher is fortunate or skillful enough to obtain some kind of long term clientele that he is likely to attain the conditions that will enable him to significantly help his student. Most qualified instructors would love the opportunity to teach someone who really wanted what they have to offer instead of the usually brief and possibly entertaining experience.
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Often they seemed more interested in just skiing a lot ...

 

There may be something to this. Some of the best lessons I've ever taught were "just skiing a lot".
post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by iWill View Post




I'm sure I do agree with this. If you go to Whistler, you find that many of the instructors are from Australia and are there on a one year holiday. Certainly not all, but many. if you go some of the smaller areas in Washington you find instructors that have taught at those mountains for many many years. Both of the areas will have good and new instructors. The more "popular" resort has a higher turn-around, and I would venture, more instructors who are being used as babysitters for the vacationing parents.
 

They do, but the desk isn't going to give you the "babysitter" for your private. They probably also have people who have been teaching in both hemispheres for the last two decades. So you just might get the Australian examiner.
post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post

There may be something to this. Some of the best lessons I've ever taught were "just skiing a lot

 

I  didn't mean to imply  that couldn't be a great lesson, just a different focus and aspiration (from the interests expressed earlier in this thread). The person who wants to make a concerted effort to become a very good technical skier,  on the other hand, may be somewhat of a rarity but a type that many ski instructors can identify with.
post #15 of 23
 A lot of people who say they want to become great technical skiers don't have the time or the discipline to actually do what they say.  I think if you really are serious about being that kind of student you will need to ski a lot more than most people do.  The best way I see to do it is to get involved in a racing program or start teaching.  Going back to the greens now and then is useful, but won't get the job done in an occasional lesson, esp a group lesson.  Also remember that practice doesn't make perfect.  Only perfect practice will make perfect and lots of it.


I am finding over and over that the less I talk and the more we ski in a ski lesson the "better" the lesson is, the more the students show an improvement, and nicer the tip at the end of the day.
post #16 of 23
To me, the best instructors are the ones who can take you, with the skills you already have, and give you an opportunity to learn how to apply those skills effectively in a situation you haven't experienced before. This is real teaching- communicating effectively with each other, building trust, and finding motivation buttons. Then the instructor selects good "learning terrain" that will help the student figure out what to do. There will definitely be some coaching and skill tweaking going on, but the student gets to experience why he or she needs to change certain things and how to change them.
post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnf2004 View Post

To me, the best instructors are the ones who can take you, with the skills you already have, and give you an opportunity to learn how to apply those skills effectively in a situation you haven't experienced before. This is real teaching- communicating effectively with each other, building trust, and finding motivation buttons. Then the instructor selects good "learning terrain" that will help the student figure out what to do. There will definitely be some coaching and skill tweaking going on, but the student gets to experience why he or she needs to change certain things and how to change them.

I like this
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by oisin View Post
I  didn't mean to imply  that couldn't be a great lesson, just a different focus and aspiration (from the interests expressed earlier in this thread).
 
My point was if a student had experienced a "just skiing" lesson before and had great success with it, they would be likely to ask for a "just skiing" lesson the next time too.
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post



My point was if a student had experienced a "just skiing" lesson before and had great success with it, they would be likely to ask for a "just skiing" lesson the next time too.

 


No question about it, if that is what they want that is what they should get and will likely be most productive. I think it goes almost without saying that any good instructor pays close attention to his students and adjusts his approach to suit them. The problem is the mix of aspirations and learning styles often found in a group lesson. Some of those people will want something else and most likely be unhappy if they are left with the feeling there was "too much skiing" (and possibly too little of what they would have preferred), hence the signifance of understanding what you as a student are looking for and communicating that effectively as may be necessary. Obviously in a private there will be more opportunity to see that the lesson  is what suits you. A well sorted group lesson can be a lot of fun and very productive as well. One of my pet peeves as an instructor was that often very little was done to sort students by skill levels or learning styles and aspirations prior to their being handed to me and of course it is the students who stand to lose.
post #20 of 23
Since it's a total crap-shoot either way, just go to the place you want to ski. Ask for one of the best skiing instructors and then when he/she comes up ask them who taught them to ski, then ask for that person. 
post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by geoffda View Post




What the student didn't realize is that for most skiers (including, but especially "double-black diamond skiers"), the path to great skiing is going to involve significant retooling--to the point of throwing away everything they think that they know, going back to green terrain and starting over.  Even though the instructor probably took one look at their skiing and thought, "Uggh, another student with no fundamentals that wants to ski the K-12, what we really should be doing is working on fundamentals back on School Marm," many instructors are not going to tell you this.  They don't want to bruise your ego or whatever. 

The ski schools exacerbate this problem by including a lot of "comfortable on double-black diamond terrain" garbage in their ability descriptions.  Comfort on any given level of terrain has very little to do with skill.  In any event, it doesn't offer much guidance to the aggressive, athletic student who can make green skills work on double black diamond terrain.  And it really makes group lessons difficult when you end up with half the group wanting to learn to ski, and the other half just wanting to head to the nearest rowdy terrain.

So the point of all of this is that unless you tell them otherwise, most ski schools are going to default to assuming that you are the average gaper out for a fun time and few ski tips.  If that assumption doesn't match your goals, you may find ski school to be an unsatisfying experience. Unless you tell them otherwise.  So the question for you is, are you just looking for a fun time and some ski tips, or do you have a larger goal (that you are willing to work at) of becoming a great technical skier?
 
If the answer is the latter, you first need to make sure that you get hooked up with an instructor whose idea of great skiing matches yours.  Ideally get a referral from somebody you trust.  If that isn't possible, make it clear when you book the lesson that you want someone who is a great technical skier.  Find out if the ski school will refund your money if the instructor they send out isn't good enough for you.  Don't let them bulldoze you with, "we'll send you a PSIA level III and you'll be happy."  At least for me, I don't find PSIA level III to be a high enough standard, so make sure you can get a refund if they don't send someone acceptable.  And hold them to that.  Audition your instructor.  Make them ski something challenging early on and bail politely if they aren't meeting your standards.  If they can't demonstrate the kind of skiing you are looking for, find somebody who can.

When you meet with your instructor, tell them that your overriding goal is to become a great technical skier.  Make it clear that you want them to pull no punches in evaluating your skiing and not to worry about bruising your ego.  Also make it clear that you have no preconceptions about your own abilities, the skills you are going to work on, or the terrain you are going to work in.  Make them understand that you don't have a problem spending the entire lesson on green groomers if that is what is required.  If you don't understand what the fundamental skills that are required for technical skiing are, start there.  By the end of the lesson, you should understand the fundamental skills required for expert skiing, where you are weak and how to improve.  If you have a good understanding of the fundamentals and you think your execution is reasonable, then you should express your interest in improving your bump skiing, but make it clear that your interest is based on the instructor's assessment of your skills matching your own.  In short, (or I guess in long ) the only way to get a serious lesson is to make them understand that you are a serious student.

Good luck.





 

WOW awesome post, thanks for the tips and candor. I know exactly what you mean and thanks for letting me know where I stand(I mean ski). LOL I've been s a speedskater for over 15 years and a coach for 7-8, so I understand where you're coming from on the whole "good student" idea.  I can take criticism no problem, but my wife may not agree with that. A ski instructor would certainly not hurt my feelings by pointing out my inadequacies. Like I said, I have way more confidence and ability than actual skill. I enjoy it when an experienced athlete can explain to me in detail the "how and why" to do something. As a coach I am a big time stickler for fundamentals and biomechanics.  You'd be surprised how much speedskating and skiing have in common in regards to edge control, weight transfer, and other biomechanical principles.
My overrall goals is to become a better overall skier and more specifically ski moguls well. That's what I enjoy the most.

Also, on a funnier note School Marm was actually one of the runs I learned on when I was a young kid.

Thanks again,

Craig
post #22 of 23
Quote:

You'd be surprised how much speedskating and skiing have in common in regards to edge control, weight transfer, and other biomechanical principles.
 

 

Not surprised at all!  Be sure to let any potential instructor/coach you have, know this valuable tidbit. 

In this day & age of kids on rollerblades, skates, skateboards etc., an experienced instructor/coach can take a whole different path in the development process. 

JF


Edited by 4ster - 10/12/09 at 4:05pm
post #23 of 23
I was once privileged to give a private level one (beginner) lesson to a fellow who was quite an accomplished (figure)skater. It was a rare experience. This gentleman had the skills and movement patterns to a very high degree that were more or less directly transferable and his progress was phenomenal. Some of the skills and blends like leg rotation at low speeds were a bit different  from those he was familiar with as was the constant pull of gravity but he seemed to like the concept of the mountain as a large ice rink tilted on edge. In this context he already was a skilled skier in some respects and the need to re blend his skills was immediately apparent to him. Needless to say this fellow was skiing way beyond the average student at the end of this brief lesson. I suggested he spend a day or two practicing to firm up his skiing skills and come back. When he came back for his follow up lesson I referred him to my own mentor who is much better equipped than I am to facilitate the rapid progress at the upper levels this person was capable of. The report I heard back was that at the end of the day in this session this student was enthusiastically skiing double black diamonds in good control and with correct movements. My friend/mentor just marvelled at how accurate and correct this student's movement patterns were.  Of course his skiing was a little rough in ways that only practice and mileage  would smooth out but he was already  an advanced skier. Neither of us is the type who would push a student quickly or see a virtue in doing so but it was as if this person already had been an accomplished practitioner of a different form of skiing.
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