The next time you think about volunteering to teach a friend or family member how to ski, remember this true story.
It was a snowy winter evening in the mountains of Colorado. We were sitting in a hotel hot tub when a couple joined us. It was their first vacation without kids and her first ski trip ever.
When he asked us where to find the best terrain for beginners. We answered “at the ski school.”
He thought we were joking, but we weren’t. The next day, when we saw her on crutches, we learned that she had skipped ski school, only to end up in the clinic with a broken leg.
How Hard Can It Be?
When you already know how to ski or snowboard it’s tempting to want to teach your friends, your partner or your children how to ski or ride.
You might be saying to yourself, “I know how to do this! How hard can it be to teach someone else?” The answer to this question is “pretty darn hard,” with broken legs being less common than broken relationships.
There’s a reason why resorts offer discounted “learn to” packages each winter. They know that if you let a friend or family member try to teach you, you and they may not have a great experience.
But if you begin with lessons, the likelihood of having an enjoyable first day on snow, with many more fantastic days to come, is much higher.
Three Advantages Professional Instructors Have Over You
Certified Skills. Skiing and snowboarding are evolving sports and the techniques for teaching them evolve as well. In the U.S., Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) ensure that certified instructors are up-to-date with the latest teaching methods, including training in how to make learning pleasant and fun.
A Full Tool Box. in addition to providing the most current instruction, professionals also know how to adapt their teaching to meet individual student needs, even in a group lesson.
“Instructors are trained in the art of listening to their student’s goals and identifying what and how to help the student move toward their goals,” says Jennifer Simpson Weier, a PSIA Alpine Team member and ski instructor at Aspen Snowmass. “Simply from a physical and teaching skill viewpoint, instructors have more tools to help you learn.”
An Objective Outlook. While the quality of instruction is important, the neutrality of a professional instructor is equally critical. It is hard for us to teach our loved ones, because even when we try to be calm and objective, our emotions are bound up with our friends and family.
Ann Schorling, a ski instructor at Jackson Hole, who is also on the PSIA Alpine National Team explains. “With loved ones, any coaching is inherently loaded. It is too easy to read too much into any instruction and have a much more significant emotional reaction. It’s also easier to stop when you’re tired, overwhelmed or scared. I find people push themselves more with a neutral coach than they do with someone they are close to.”
How Many Lessons Does One Need?
The answer depends upon many things including budget, personal goals and distance from a ski area.
As mentioned above, many resorts bundle beginner lesson packages, combining rentals, lift tickets and lessons at a more economical price. Often these packages include three lessons.
The thinking here is that after three lessons, most children and adults feel confident about continuing to ski or ride, and are ready to enjoy time on the mountain with their friends and family.
In our experience, and the experience of a friend who learned to ski as an adult last season, this is true.
But this doesn’t mean you’ll never need or want another lesson.
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert skier, taking at least one lesson every year, or every few years, will increase your enjoyment of snow sports.
Becoming a better skier or snowboarder is a matter of setting goals and working to meet them. For this, you’ll want the support of family and friends, just not their instruction.
We want to hear from you! Comment below. Share with us your experiences – from a frustrating time you tried to learn skiing or snowboarding from a friend, to the time you loved your ski lesson.