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Group Lesson or Social Group?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Both the wife and daughter took a group lesson at Vail this week with hopes of getting some instruction from the ski instructor to improve their skiing.  After asking both of them about their lesson, their answers were strikingly similar.  Most of the people in their groups (my daughter in a teen group and my wife in an adult intermediate group) had taken "lessons" with the same group for the two previous days and were going to do so for the next few.  The actual "instructions" they received were few and far between.  Basically they were paying to ski with this group of people who had apparently paid good money to do the same for a whole week.  


While my daughter thoroughly enjoyed skiing with her group, my wife felt a little ripped off.  We skied BC the next day ands I bet a good 50-75% of the people we saw (and it was as crowded as I have ever seen the Beav) were skiing with a group lesson.


My question is, is this normally what group lessons are like, or is this an anomaly of taking lessons at Vail or BC over Christmas? 

post #2 of 15

From the way you are describing things, it sounds more like a camp or clinic than a lesson. Lessons usually are hourly, half-day, or full-day, not week-long events. If you don't mind my asking, what was the cost for the lesson plan?


I guess ones opinions of the success of a lesson or clinic is influenced by a number of factors, not the least of which are the expectations one has about what they can and cannot do.


For example, if someone expects to take a few days of lessons and then ski like a WC athlete, they have grossly overestimated what a lesson can do and what they are intended to do. I am not saying that's what's happening here but I know from my own experience that change usually happens relatively slowly and the successful lessons usually offers some new perspective or insights into what one is doing on the snow, as opposed to what one should be doing, but they don't always produce immediate and drastic changes. It's the take-aways that produce results and give you stuff to integrate into your skiing.


Now, if your wife and the majority of the others spent a week with professional instructors at Vail and they are stating they believe they have taken away nothing, I would say something is not right.


I have taken lessons before that I thought were crap, but that is usually the exception.




post #3 of 15

The ski school at Taos is famous for its ski week lesson program.  The student takes six 2-hour group lessons for six consecutive mornings from the same instructor.  Students are placed in a group following a ski off on the first morning.  Groups usually have six students.  A season pass holder pays $170 for a ski week but it is discounted to $99 during January and at other times.  I do at least one ski week every season.  I've always found it to be very social and extremely helpful to my skiing.  I've met and skied with some really wonderful people during ski weeks.  It is a rigorous program of top notch instruction.  I think it is one of the better ways to improve at this sport.

post #4 of 15


We use to teach 8 week programs 1 night a week for 3 hrs for 8 weeks. same instructor same people in group.

We worked very hard at trying to improve every ones skiing and I really cant think of a time the group as a whole did not improve greatly over the time ( remember they would ski during the week also and work on whatever we had gone over)

Alot of the instruction happened while the group was moving as to keep everyone warm active and happy. I cant remember what it cost them but I know it was way more then 170 bucks that's a steal.

If they just skied together with little instruction I am surprised.


So no doesn't sound standard to me

post #5 of 15



I've taken a lot of group lessons. The key to getting your money's worth is to make sure you tell the supervisor what you want out of the lesson.  Lots of people take group lessons as a method of cutting the lift line, and have no interest in obtaining any instruction, or slowing down the group to provide instruction to others for that matter.  But if you make it clear upfront that what you want is to have a lesson rather than a social group or lift-cutting privileges, you have a better chance of having your objectives met.  Also, I wouldn't hesitate to go in after the lesson and complain if you don't get what you want.  After all, you are paying good money and have a right to get what you expect.  



post #6 of 15

It's always good to keep in mind what you are after when taking a lesson.  If you are very verbal and want a lot of one on one explanations and instructions of what you are doing, you would be best to book a private lesson where an instructor can dedicate their time to what you want specifically to improve and work the entire time on helping you understand what it is you want to improve, and spend each run helping you with your specific need. and each ride up the chair explaining it to you.  If you want to feel more comfortable on your skis and have a better understanding of what you should be doing (the correct stance, start to turn, body position through a turn, balance through a turn, how to pole plant, hand position, general skiing) so as to go away and work on improving things with picture or feel, then a group lesson is deffinitely appropriate.  You can ask your instuctor when he has you try something in a group lesson if you are doing it correctly if you don't feel anything different when he offers a drill to the group.  You can say, I don't feel anything different, am I doing what you asked?  THe instructor can then try a few different things with the group to give them a chance to feel or see what is being taught.  With a group an instructor will be teaching good basic skiing and trying to elminate bad habits.  He or she may make small comments to you like just bend the knees a little as we do....... they will not look at you and say "Don't stand straight, that's wrong".  So in a group, be sure to listen and try what is suggested, ask if you managed to do what was asked and get the instructor to show it again if you didn't get it.  If it is really cold, there will be very little talk and lots of skiing to keep everyone warm.  A quick explanation of what you are going to do and away you go doing it.


You will hopefully leave a group lesson with a clearer idea of what will assist you to reach your next level skiing to be more comfortable on your challenging terrain and knowing what you want to work on for the coming season.  If you don't leave with this direction, do feel free to ask the instructor at the end of the lesson, so what should I work on until I come back tomorrow, next week, next year and hopefully that will clarify it for you without a long technical explanation.  You may work on the same issue all week with different exercises each day until you and all in the group feel and master what is being taught.  Remeber,  group lesson cost far less then private for a reason, you can certainly learn in the group but you will not move on until the whole group learns.

post #7 of 15

With the exception of first timer lessons I'm not a fan of group lessons.  Private and semi-private(2-3 students) are much better for actually being able to help someone advance.  Although adult first timer groups lessons can be fine, all it takes is one very uncoordinated person to really hose up the experience of everyone else. Then there are the adults who've had a couple of lessons and claim to be intermediates so they get put into a group of open parallel skiers looking to advance their skills and this "intermediate" can only do wedge turns.  A large part of the problem with group lessons is how people view their own abilities or even worse, how they view the ability of their child who's had a couple of lessons.  I had a group of 7-12 year old kids yesterday who were supposedly ready to start learning parallel.  I had had several of these kids in their first ever lesson two days earlier and they were still only doing rudimentary wedge turns.  One kid, a 7 year old, had never had a lesson before but his dad had taught him how to stop that morning.  I didn't know that until about half way through the lesson when I rode the lift with him, I just thought it was his age.  He had also never ridden a chair lift before.  What in hell was his dad thinking anyway?  The kid was great about it and was actually doing fairly well by the end of the lesson, but he required extra time.

post #8 of 15

I've been in lessons before where I had to take the reins so to speak and say "hey guy, we were kind if hoping for some instruction here". Everyone else was grumbling, but suffering in silence. Don't do that, and if you do, don't go and complain to the supervisor if you didn't give the instructor a chance to meet your needs.

post #9 of 15

ditto what epic said.  when I went to music college I learned that I had to take - if not control - a very active part in my own education.  if I went to a private piano lesson and just did what the teacher asked I would have learned less.  I learned to go into a lesson and tell them what I wanted to learn, and if they didn't give me enough time to learn it, I asked them to write it down, to go over it again.     same thing in ski instruction and clinics - of course you have to show respect and not be rude or too pushy to the teacher or clinician as well.


A good student makes for a better teacher.

post #10 of 15

I don't get this . Why don't people when they pay money for anything ,goods or service speak up and get what they want or at least ask for it. Buying ski lessons are should be no different from purchasing anything else. It needs to be at the minimum a partnership between the buyer (skier) and seller ( instructor). Too many times as an instructor I'm the one always asking what the buyer wants. People must have some reason why they want to spend money on a lesson. Speak up we want to service your needs. We will do everything we can to meet those goals but you have to tell us.

I wire houses for a living. There are certain minimum code standards I have to conform to but except for that I wire the house to the needs and wants of the buyer. They come in with a wish list of things. I'll tell them if its legal, practical, logical , I'll give them some options and then we work up a plan. Sometimes when they see the costs of something they want, they  reevaluate and look for other choices, other times they don't care , they want what they are paying for.    Buying a ski lesson group, private, camp etc. should be no different. tell the desk, supervisor what you want, be as specific as you can.  You want bumps, steeps, get rid of your wedge, explore the mountain whatever. Then when you meet your actual instructor tell them the same things , some things might get lost from the desk/supervisor to the instructor it happens . Be proactive and get what you want. There can be some things that can hold back group lessons but get your wants and needs out before the groups take off. That way you have a  greater chance of getting what you have paid for.

post #11 of 15

Was in Vail over holidays.  Took 7 days of group lessons.  Not only did I have a great time, but also my learned a ton.  Just make sure you mention to the instructor that you indeed want a lesson, but also ask the supervisor to hook you up with an instructor that may help you.  In addition make sure you ask the supervisor to be realistic with the group formation

post #12 of 15



Group lessons are usually a free-for-all, unless there are only 2 or 3 in the group. There simply isn't enough time in a typical 2-hour group lesson for an instructor to cater to each student individually to a large degree. The group lessons I have been in over the years usually have the same format--everyone takes a run and the instructor picks out some developmental goal that is appropriate for all of the skiers. The lesson then consists of drills and discussions of this goal.


I don't really prefer group lessons but I get a free batch of them with my pass. The only thing I don't like about them is there are always two or three skiers in the wrong group and this tends to hold things up.  A lot of times, though, the instructor can figure this out before the lesson starts.


Last year, I was in a 2-hour group lessons centered around mogul skiing at HV. The instructor made clear to everyone that this was more of an advanced lesson and was best suited for those confident on steeper terrain and able to link short, quick turns. There was a couple who was there that didn't seem to really have it together and the guy was on really old gear. They looked a bit awkward as they skated to the lift. I think that the instructor had already spotted this as he had asked another instructor to come along as he figured the couple was in the wrong group. We took a quick warm-up run next to the mogul field and the instructor asked us to make short linked turns down to the base, while he watched from the side. We went one by one and the couple was in the rear. About a quarter of the way down, I saw something shoot past me out of the corner of my eye and thought perhaps some yahoo was trying to show off. It was the guy, moving straight down the fall-line like a freight train. His arms were flailing around and he had already lost a pole. He actually veered off to the right and went into the mogul field. It was ugly. I think the instructor was already on the radio for a sled. It was like--boom. I just saw a spray of snow and a ski went flying about 20 feet in the air. He broke is clavicle and I believe his ACL was torn because they put it in a brace.

post #13 of 15

one trick to a small group lesson is go out on a really crappy day, foggy, damp, windy and cold. you may get a private for your trouble, or at least a lesson with another couple diehards. wink.gif


I taught my son at 3yrs and for most of his ski days thru 12 yrs or so. but occasionally I put him in a class for an all day lesson. he enjoyed the rivalry with other kids and the instructor got them all doing hockey stops in one day. they were spraying each other and having a blast. they did hockey stops all the way down the mountain, laughing and shouting. sometimes a group is just more fun for kids. (however, if I see on a ski by that it is not happening, I go to the ski school and have a conversation with the director, sometimes resulting in a re-do for the original fee.)

post #14 of 15
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

one trick to a small group lesson is go out on a really crappy day, foggy, damp, windy and cold. you may get a private for your trouble, or at least a lesson with another couple diehards. wink.gif


Haha. SO true! It was pouring rain at Hood a few weeks ago. Not only were there like no lift lines by the afternoon, but I ended getting a dirt cheap private lesson. Poor instructor. What a trooper. We were soaked, but it was still well worth it. 

post #15 of 15

btw  some people DO come to a lesson as a social group. I teach a "race camp" every year where about half the group seems to be into just skiing around and recovering from drinking the night before. It's hard to balance that with the ones that do want instruction. I'm sure that I never please both sides (though most of the social butterflies know better than to get in my group now).

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