When I taught skiing, the most common question I’d hear from clients, no matter what their level of proficiency, was: “So, what am I doing wrong?”

Well, that would be the first thing you’re doing wrong.

1. Worrying about what you’re doing wrong.

The brutally honest answer to that question is: You don’t want to know. It will suck up all the fun, make your head explode, and torpedo your morale.

6 Things You Don't Even Realize You're Doing Wrong With Your Skiing: Snow SchoolThe brain doesn’t operate constructively by focusing on the negative. If I say to you, “What you’re doing wrong is thinking about pink elephants. When you ski this next run, just don’t think about pink elephants. Think about hugging a bear,” I’ve basically offered you a recipe to have a mind-messed-up run thinking about elephants doing horrible things with pink bears while hating yourself and deciding you can’t do anything right. Fun-O-Meter? Zero.)

It’s better to start with a clear positive foundation… as in: Here’s something you’re doing right. Now here’s something to focus on doing to improve your experience.

But don’t believe me when there are actual experts around.

I reached out again to my on-call brain-trust, the pros who work in Whistler Blackcomb’s Snow School on the MAX4 program, and asked them to share the most common mistakes skiers make.

2. You’re buckling your boots the wrong way.

Last post, Ralph Forsyth dished on how to avoid the crowds. This time, the level 4 CSIA pro behind @SkiTipDuJour, redresses the most common mistake skiers make before they even get on the chairlift.

Friends, you’re buckling your boots the wrong way.

Ralph says that you’ve got to fasten that wide, Velcro power strap that wraps around the top of your boot, first, before you even snap a buckle closed.

“Make sure your long johns or base layer and socks are smooth and wrinkle-free and that the tongue of the boot is snug around your shin and calf. Then, with the buckles still undone, fasten the power strap nice and tight. Next, fasten the buckle that is second from the top. Stand up, flex the boot a few times and fasten the top buckle to ‘lock in’ your heel. Now fasten the third and fourth buckles from the top. Fastening your boots this way will make them feel ‘squishier’, and you’ll ski with more control and confidence.”

SkiTipDuJour shares a video on how to properly put on your ski boots.

3. You’re so afraid to suck that you’re stuck in a rut.

Caroline Perrin is too professional to come out loud and say that you’re boring. Instead, the 16-year veteran pro explains it thus:

“Skiing is an open-skilled sport.”

That means, it’s not like swimming or gymnastics or shooting hoops, where the environment is predictable, and you can do the exact same movement the same way and expect the exact same outcome. Those activities are essentially quests for perfection.

In skiing, there is no perfect move or position.

“There is so much variation from one day to another and one run to another that it is impossible for a recreational skier to do the right thing all the time. Seek ways to make it easier, safer and more fun. Expand your toolbox. Someone invented sliding down a snowy slope on planks of wood for a reason, so give up on perfection and instead find ways to make life on the slopes a constant adventure. That’s the fun of it.”

6 Things You Don't Even Realize You're Doing Wrong With Your Skiing4. You’re clenching your jaw.

Glen Irvine is a professional musician, teacher, and long time WB ski instructor who spends his off-season cycling around Europe and guiding hunting trips in the Yukon. His advice, passed down to him from his favorite yoga instructor, applies equally to playing jazz, taking down a moose, or skiing: “Tension is easy. Relaxation is hard.”

Glen says that human beings, as a species, tend to have difficulty relaxing. “With skiers, this emotional tension translates into unnecessary muscular tension which makes it very difficult to execute, technically or tactically. It certainly makes it difficult to create fluidity while skiing.

“Certain muscles must fire during the turn, but just as many muscles should be allowed to relax. Next time you’re skiing on an easy run, try scanning the body to determine which muscles are retaining unnecessary tension—You might be surprised. Focus on the muscles that relax in a turn, rather than those that fire.

“Here’s a fun little technique that a past student of mine once suggested. She was an Olympic level equestrian coach who, when confronted with an excessively tense rider, encouraged him to breathe deeply and fluidly and ride with a relaxed face and jaw.  Try this when you’re skiing. You’ll be amazed at how much unneeded tension flows out of the body.  Your skiing will become more relaxed, more fluid, calmer and you’ll have a greater sense of well being.”

6 Things You Don't Even Realize You're Doing Wrong With Your Skiing: Max4 Group Lessons5. You’re looking at the obstacles you’d rather avoid.

Dave Hobson oversees the MAX4 alpine crew and has been teaching skiing since he was in high school. More recently, he trains a crew of top-level instructors, has introduced them to myofascial stretching, and spearheaded a series of ski skill-boosting sessions for ski patrollers.

He says, “Skiers have a tendency to look at the hazard. They focus on the trees, rather than the opening. That is just a recipe for skiing into a tree.

“You’ve got to focus on the spaces between the trees. Look ahead. Look at the line you wish to follow.”

6. You’re not tipping your instructor enough. (If at all.)

The delicate art of tipping is not often spoken of – for some, it’s a little too gauche. But Evan Taylor, nail-banger, Race Director of IRONMAN Canada, and aspiring Level 4 pro, is willing to brave it.

“As an Australian, the whole tipping scene is a foreign concept but having spent the majority of the last 14 years in North America, I’m slowly warming up to it.

“There’s not one ski instructor in the Whistler Alpine Pod who doesn’t give all they have during a lesson, no matter what the climate or snow conditions. For the Alpine crew, giving all we have means not only being a ski instructor but a personal psychologist, restaurant critic, accommodation specialist, tour guide, marriage counselor, child care specialist, boot-fitter and maitre’d at the Roundhouse.  (My advice to apprehensive clients when standing on the top of double black diamond runs is simply ‘If you think this is hard, wait until we try and find a table for lunch at Roundhouse’.)

6 Things You Don't Even Realize You're Doing Wrong With Your Skiing
Photo Credit- whistlerblackcomb –

I love the line in The Matrix Reloaded when Seraph tells Neo “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”  The same goes for skiing. You don’t truly know someone until you have them ski a run that’s well out of their comfort zone.

“No matter what their confidence, personality, profession, education or social status, when you take complete strangers to the top of a run that they would not have otherwise gone to, their eyes, movements, speech or lack thereof, give away their true identity.

“Our clients come for ski lessons but if I’ve done all I can, they go away with more than ski tips. They go away learning more about themselves than they would have ever imagined.”


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Sub-Categories Beginners / liftopia / Ski / Ski & Snowboard / Snowboard

29 responses to “6 Things You Don’t Even Realize You’re Doing Wrong With Your Skiing”

  1. the_lorax says:

    Amen. Always tip your ski instructor!

  2. Chris Conway says:

    Funny how the ski instructors never tip out the ski patrollers…

  3. Chris Conway says:

    So ski instructors don’t get tipped enough? That’s terrible!! I’ve never seen a ski instructor tip out patrol or the trail crew or the groomers and sure as hell not the lift operators. You know….all those people behind the scenes that help you with your personal psychology and marriage counselling ….and your mistakes!

    • paul says:

      just an FYI pro patrol, trail crew, groomers get paid way more than any instructor does.

      • Chris Conway says:

        LOL thanks for your FYI – don’t kid yourself.

        • Chris Conway says:

          It doesn’t really matter though, that’s not the point – no one actually expects a tip out from ski instructors but this “article” is one of the crassest things I’ve seen – drawing people in with a title about the things guests are doing wrong in their skiing – telling them how to do up their boots and hold their jaw (what a load of shit) and then wrapping it up by telling readers how amazing and multi-talented ski instructors are and how much more they should be tipped because of it. Unbelievable really.

          • Skiteach says:

            Instructors and Patrollers need Certs and equipment, Not provide, I am Not paid on a level comparable to my expenses or certifications. I also have to attend events to maintain my certs.

          • Chris Conway says:

            Tell me about it. That’s not the point. Telling guests one of the problems with their skiing is that they don’t tip ski instructors enough is brutally crass. If you get tipped great

    • republicrats_democrans says:

      Have you ever earned a ski instructor’s salary? A word from someone who logged a ton of time “behind the scenes”

      I was never an instructor in my years working at a mountain, I was however a Lift Operator, Snow Maker, Tuner, Retail Employee, Life Guard, and eventually a Patroller (I left out the various construction jobs I performed to maintain brevity). As someone who skied regularly with a couple PSIA III instructors, who constantly pressured me to teach, I never would because instructors only get paid for the time they are in a lesson, and that means that they should wait tables during the week because there is no work and they make less than all those other positions on average while they get pimped out at ~$100 /hr.

      • Sandy Jenkins says:

        Would love to know where that is… I get around $8 an hour. That is not $8 for the entire day either, only for that lesson. If I get certified around $150 and three days lift ticket cost to another $150. I might get around $11 for that hour if certified.

        Yes, tip your instructors.. Regardless of what this guy states even big ski areas most all instructors do this as a second job in the United States. None of them make enough to live on. Even a PSIA level III instructor who has spent a considerable amount of time and money to be certified. It also takes a lot of skill to be a great instructor.

    • Fernie says:

      Why would you tip a patroller? They are professionals aren’t they? You don’t tip your Lawyer do you? But, you do tip your hairdresser.

    • Sandy Jenkins says:

      Instructors only get paid for the time they teach. Most days when I teach I am lucky to get 4 instructing hours. They also spend a considerable amount of money on certifications. So yes please tip your instructors. I know in the mid west – east coast the wages start at only around $8 an hour of instructing. No one does this as a full time job either. We give up a lot of time to teach because we love the sport and the people. I don’t think I have ever got a tip for teaching though. It would be nice but just not something that happens very often.

  4. Al says:

    how much do you tip?

    • CRL says:

      I heard from someone say “What’s in your wallet?” Haha. But really it’s what you feel comfortable with. They did spend 6 hours with you teaching, coaching, inspiring you to be the best skier you can be. What is that worth to you? You would tip 15-20% at a restaurant for spending less then 10 min in total to a server….a ski instructor will be stoked for the jester at all.

      • Chris Conway says:

        And they got paid for those 6 hours. That’s their job. If someone wants to tip then that’s great – everyone appreciates getting a tip now and then but EXPECTING to be tipped and writing a bullshit article the ONLY point of which is to sucker in the reader to the punchline that one of the things they do wrong in their skiing is not tip ski instructors enough – get real!! Any professional ski instructor should be embarrassed by this….

        • Sylvia says:

          Most of us ski instructors do it for the love of the sport and we only get paid when we are teaching. If we do not have a lesson we still have to be at the mountain, show up for line up and do not get paid.
          The hourly wage depends on where you work, but here in the east is only about 8 to 12 dollars.
          We spend money on training, equipement, travel and some of us logding.
          Every year it cost a lot of ski instructurs more money then what they make. Just ask your local skiinstructor.

          • Chris Conway says:

            Thanks for the tutorial on how hard done by Instructors are. Everyone working on the mountain is doing it for the love of it. No front line employee is getting rich. Almost everyone is getting a low wage. Maybe you need to look around you more at the other staff on the hill who work bloody hard in all conditions for little pay to provide the services and product. It sounds like you need to have a chat with your local liftie or trail crew. How much do you think a rookie patroller is getting paid?

            It really sounds like you need to start thinking about the team of people around you that make you look like the superstars. You might not tip them out but have you ever even helped them out? Or even said thank you?

            Like I said – it’s nice to get tipped and it’s great if you do. Awesome! But you don’t go telling guests that one of the things they do wrong with their skiing is not tip you enough. If you can’t see how crass and superficially manipulative this article is then there;s probably not much more I can say to help you.

          • Neil Lees says:

            Stating the obvious, tipping has definitely gotten out of hand in North America generally, and now is expected in ever increasing amounts for any kind of mediocre or even sub-par service instead of what it’s meant for — good service.

          • Jimbob says:

            I am an instructor and agree that asking to be tipped is not something any of us actually would ever do in front of a guest and a tip of any denomination is gratefully received and we understand that for some the lesson itself is expensive enough.

            Some days however when you have killed it during the day, made significant changes to skiing, shown students where they are capable of skiing beyond what they thought and end the day with comments like “best day ever” there is a feeling that if that mediocre beer and burger in the pub warrants dropping $5 for the serving crew that maybe the lesson warrants something too?

      • RBiggs43525 says:

        Waitstaff are paid less than minimum wage. By design, their take-home pay is substantially based on tips.

  5. Cleezy says:

    Buckling your boots top down, huh? See ya on the bunny hill, brah.

  6. Brian says:

    I have been in the ski Industry for over three decades. I started in lift ops and had an amazing half decade as a ski patroller and have spent the last 25 years as a ski instructor. I agree with Mr. Conway, we all do, whichever role we are in, for the love of the sport, the mountains and mostly the amazing staff members we work with. And of course our guests who make this all possible.
    As for this article there are so many disturbing elements. If a skier or snowboarder comes to a snow sports school for development we will help them add to their riding skill development. Any competent instructor will guide their thoughts and energies towards the positive elements of their riding. Skiers who do not seek out an instructor’s help and are happy with their riding and experience generally aren’t concerned about what they are doing wrong they are too busy having fun. Skiing is an incredible sport, because it is one that can be wholly enjoyed no matter what skill level.
    As for your tips:
    That is the correct way to do up a ski boot. Perhaps re-tightening the power strap after the buckles are done. However, more important is a proper fitting boot.
    Not clenching your jaw,….Really, 1400 WB instructors and that’s what you came up with. Next.
    Yes skiing is an open skilled sport. To achieve mastery in changing conditions and terrain one needs to develop strong skiing skills. These skills are the same for every turn, only used in different amounts depending on the outcome the skier wants. Perfecting a quiver of skills is a much better goal than “giving up on perfection”.
    I am less than impressed with assessing students by scaring the hell out of them by taking them places they would not ordinarily go (probably with good reason). Google “skier skis off cliff at Whistler”. I do believe that guy was with an instructor at the time.
    As for the tipping; perhaps you have missed the point on why we all do this and love doing it and will back here next year doing it again: passion, friendship, adventure, healthy living all the best things in life that money can’t buy.

  7. Johnny says:

    This article is a hot mess. The liftopia blog has REALLY gone downhill lately.

  8. Ski Pro says:

    Hi Chris “hater, troll, all round opinionated know it all” Conway. Are you the same Chris Conway who was fired for cause then sued by another Canadian Ski area for defamation?

  9. Lisa Richardson says:

    Chris, you’ve given me an idea for my next post: 5 Things Ski Patrollers Wish You Knew Before You Came Skiing. As for the tipping debate, I think Tarantino probably said everything that ever needed to be said on that topic:

  10. Sears Outlet says:

    Sears Outlet

    I absolutely love your blog and find the majority of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content for yourself? I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write about her…

  11. […] proven — 6 times over — that you’re such an amateur at skiing, we’ve decided to cut you out of the annual Banff […]

  12. jizzle says:

    Number 6 was seriously annoying and out of place.

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