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Loon instructor recomendation & looking for some general insight

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
 Hi, first time poster, long time lurker. 

I've been skiing for around 15 years now with a 5 or so year break in there.  Started getting back into the sport seriously about 2 winters ago and have steadily increased my days on the hill each year (35 days last season, and already 14 this year).  I've rarely had a lesson, and when I have had them they have typically been at smaller mountains and I have been less than impressed with the quality of the training.  2 winters ago a ski instructor in the Pocono's wanted me to do some kind of "I'm a little tea pot" drill, not exactly what I was looking for.

A little bit about my skiing.  I'm a big dude, 6"4' 275lbs.  Typically ski an AC50 184cm but also have a shorter 177 ac3 I take out as my rock ski sometimes.  I'm fine on anything that's groomed, though sometimes my turns wash out a bit on some of the steeper blacks. I grew up skiing the Pocono's and only recently moved to New England.  I never saw a bump or thought about skiing in the trees before I came up here.

I really feel as if I am at the point where I need some instruction to take my skiing to the next level.  My goals for this season was to start getting into the bumps and I would like to start working on skiing some glades as well.  If the runs are groomed or it's a powder day, I don't have any issues skiing, but as soon as I see a bump or variable conditions my skiing totally breaks down.  I have a difficult time linking my turns, getting my knees pumping or really just about doing anything other than falling.  

The few times I've headed into some sparse trees this season it was a struggle for me to get my skis around.  Once I picked up enough speed to get my skis around I always felt like I was going too fast and I felt like I wasn't able to scrub enough speed.  Should I be looking at conquering  bump skiing a bit more first and will that help me in the trees?

It should also be said that I'm a new England pass holder, so if I'm going to take a lesson (preferably 1 on 1) it will need to be at either Sunday River or Loon.

So a few questions:
1) Should I bother even taking a lesson at either of these places?  Will they have the staff, knowledge and terrain available to help me advance in my goals?
2) If yes to #1 Is there a particular instructor(s) anyone can recommend at either Loon or Sunday river.
3) Any General things I should be thinking about when I get into these kinds of conditions? Any noob bump, variable, tree suggestions?


post #2 of 10
Hi Mac--Glad you decided to jump in and change your "long time lurker" status! Welcome to EpicSki.

On behalf of professional instructors everywhere, I apologize for that "little teapot" lesson you endured. I'm glad, at least, that you recognized enough to know that it was not what you were looking for. Although, as I've often said, there are no movements or drills--if they don't cause injury--that are categorically bad, and we can learn and develop skill from even the worst of drills--even if all our bodies learn is what not to do for a given need. A skillful learner can derive benefit even from the least-skilled teacher.

Nevertheless.... I'm not trying to make excuses for mediocre (or worse) instruction, or poorly trained, unskilled, or apathetic pros. They're bad for us all, and speak poorly for the entire industry. Even if you are a great student who can learn from the worst, you should not accept--or pay for--a poor lesson.

To answer your first question, yes! There are great instructors at pretty much every major resort, and if you can connect with one, you'll experience breakthroughs.

How to find one--that is the question! I hope that you'll get some good specific recommendations here. But if not, you can improve your odds by being very clear at the ski school desk when you sign up. Insist on a certified pro, for starters. While that is no guarantee of a great instructor anymore than an education degree guarantees a good teacher, it ensures that the instructor has at least devoted some time, energy, effort, and talent to go through the multi-year and not-inexpensive process of becoming certified. Certification in the U.S. (PSIA) comes in three levels--conveniently named Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 ("Full") Certification. In the east, they also have what they call the "Master Teacher" accreditation, which involves a broad-based educational curriculum, and is a program available (I believe) to Level 2 certified and above pros.

So insist on a certified pro. Tell the ski school desk personnel that you will not pay for a lesson otherwise. Also, tell them exactly what you're looking for in the lesson. Be as clear and specific as possible: "I want to learn to carve better," "I want a mogul lesson," "I want help with my technique and tactics for skiing trees," "my feet hurt, and I need advice on my equipment setup," and so on. When you get to the meeting place, repeat your specific goals to the "split" supervisor (including your request for a certified pro). And when you get assigned to an instructor, repeat them again.

And then, don't hesitate to help your instructor stay on topic by reminding him or her of the specific objectives that brought you to the lesson. If it is not obvious to you, ask the instructor how what you are working on is relevant to your stated goals. In a bump lesson, for example, the instructor may decide that you need work on your edge control, your pole plant, your "rotary" skills, your absorption movements, your line and tactics, your edge release and transition, your commitment and "will," or any other specific objective--sometimes on non-moguled terrain. Any of these might be the key to your moguls breakthrough, but the link may not be obvious to you. A good instructor will make sure you understand (and agree with) the relevance to your "moguls" goal. Some instructors may need the reminder of a specific question....

Finally, if the lesson goes well, get the business card of the instructor (and consider a tip in exchange). A great lesson is the beginning of what can become a long-term partnership devoted to your continued improvement. Keep in touch with that instructor. If you can afford it, request him or her for private lessons whenever possible. Recommend the instructor to your friends--and to the EpicSki community! If you have friends with like-minded goals and ability, get a few together and split the cost of semi-private lessons.

But if the lesson is a disappointment, please go back to the ski school desk or--better--the supervisor or director--and give them the feedback. In all likelihood, they will offer you another lesson, at least. Many quality-minded schools will set you up with a private lesson if you complain politely--and they'll make sure to find you an instructor you'll be glad to ski with.

Demand quality instruction! It's out there, but without demand, the supply will continue to erode.

Have fun, enjoy breakthroughs in your skiing, and please keep us posted on how it goes!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #3 of 10
Hi Mac-   Welcome to EpicSki.

Regarding the Loon vs. Sunday River decision.  Do you visit one of those mountains more often then the other?  The Intro-to-bump-skiing lessons I've had have taken place primarily on groomed terrain.  That is, there are many ways to ski bumps, but the method I employ utilizes essentially the same turn mechanics that I use on groomers.  So a good instructor won't need to see you in a bump run to know why you're struggling in those conditions.

Basically, having a familiarity with the terrain -- even on groomers -- will help you focus on what your feet are doing and stop thinking (even a little) about what's under your feet.

Also, as I'm sure you know, Loon and Sunday River are zoos on weekends.  Good instructors tend to get booked quickly.  If you can get up there for a week-day visit, go for it.

One more thought.  Glade (tree) trails in New England (at least the ones that are on the trail map ) tend to be bumpy with the added issue of dodging trees.  I'd recommend having a certain level of competency with bump skiing before heading in there.
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
First thanks for the insight guys. 

I am at loon much more often as it is closer to my home.  I posed the Sunday River vs Loon question as I was unsure if the quality of the instructors or terrain would be better at one vs the other. 

And yes both places can be zoos on the weekends. I do however have some extra PTO saved up now and was thinking about taking a Monday to go and do this as I really do want some 1 on 1 time with someone to help me through some of this stuff, and i don't want to try and get the instruction while I'm on the slope with 10,000 of my fellow New Englanders.

Another question, how long should I look at to be spending with an instructor, or is it really going to depend on how messed up my skiing is?  Should an hour or two be sufficient time to figure out what's wrong, what needs to be improved and get some drills and strategies that I can practice, or should I look at booking a longer time?  1/2 day? longer?


post #5 of 10
An hour in a lesson goes by really fast.  By the time you throw in a chair-lift ride or two, some drills, demos, etc. -- it's gone.  And then there's the "what you heard" vs. "what your instructor meant" issue.  i.e., if you mis-understood the concept your instructor was trying to communicate, you might practice the "wrong" thing, which probably won't help you to your goal.

Learning to ski bumps is an interative process.  That is, once you fix one thing, you'll probably find there's something else that needs to be addressed, etc.  As Bob Barnes mentioned above, finding an instructor you "click" with is REALLY valuable, as you can keep going back to them, they know where you left off, etc.

As you no doubt know, private lessons have gotten really expensive.  Hopefully somebody here can chime in with specific instructor recommendations of somebody worth building a long-term relationship with.  Personally I'd prefer to do an hour or two semi-regularly then a lot of hours irregularly, but your preference there would depend on your style of learning.
post #6 of 10
Given the two choices, In my opinion the level of ski instruction is far superior at Sunday River. Tell them exactly what you want at Sunday River and they will get you the right instructor. You can PM me for more info.
post #7 of 10
Mac-  One other thought.  If you dig back through the archives of this forum you'll find a very similar post of mine, where I said I was pretty good at groomers, hopeless at bumps, and could anybody recommend an instructor at Killington (where I was hanging out at the time).  Anyway, I got a recommendation, I hooked up with that person a few times, and my skiing did improve to where I went from "hopeless" to "I could survive bumps", but progress was slow to say the least.

Anyway, about that time, I started attending the EpicSki Academy.  And I shortly went from "bump skiing survival" to "groomers are what I ski while getting to the next bump run".  i.e., I love bump skiing now, a transformation I credit wholly to ESA clinics.  Would the transformation have happened without ESA?  Maybe, maybe not.

ESA clinics are over for this season, but they'll be back in Stowe come December.  Something to think about. 
post #8 of 10
mac, check into this: www.arc2arc.com , These guys are up that way, Loon, Cannon etc. they can definitely give you what you are looking for. You won't go wrong with Jeb
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
 KevinF, yeah I had actually thought about doing the Stowe ESA this year but we had a baby in September and the timing was just a bit off.  I also have a myriad of questions about the ESA stuff but I will save that for another thread.  

In reply to Nik, I had been leaning towards taking the instruction at Sunday river, because the amount of people and instructors I see up at Loon, it all just seems like it could be really easy to hit or miss. If people call Killington k-mart, loon is wal-mart.  And when it all really comes down to it I would rather go up to Stowe (my preferred mountain hang out) and get the lesson as from what I've seen from instructors on the hill, Stowe seems to have a very high quality of instructors. But I don't think that's really a possibility this year.  I'm also looking to get some training in and a few ski days with the training behind me before I head out to Utah later in Feb.

SnowBowler I will look into the arc2arc guys, maybe see if I can find someone to split some instruction with me.  

post #10 of 10
Hey Mac,

Our neighbours are avid skiers and rent a house up at Loon. Both their kids learnt there. I'll pop round tonight to see if I can get any names to recommend. 

I had lesson up at Stowe before Chrimbo and it was excellent. Don't know where you are in NH but I also had lessons at Crotched Mountain and they were also good and very resonably priced.    
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