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On First-Time Skiing

Lessons from My First Ski Vacation (Part I)
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In a previous post, I shared some thoughts about being adventuresome and accepting the pure joy of the ski life.  What wisdom came from those ski vacations (besides the MONOCLE Mantra)? Well, here’s my attempts at lessons learned.  This first set of lessons is about learning to ski. Subsequent sets are about life on a ski vacation. Results may vary, but you’ll only know if you Take a Ski Vacation!

Lesson One: Take lessons from the professionals if you are a new skier.

Learning a new skill like skiing takes time, practice, and a bit of talent. Luckily, the latter is a pretty small component of recreational skiing (or it is in my case). But the first two are helped along if you turn to professionals for advice and guidance. To put it differently, taking a lesson is your way of not reinventing the wheel.

I learned to swim as a kid by taking lessons offered by the local swimming pool. I learned to row from certified coaches. I learned to fence from former Olympic athletes (yeah, I know: awesome). The people who teach you should be good at the skill already, and trained to convey to others how to learn and improve. Ski instructors at most major resorts are the real deal, and you can make major strides in your levels of comfort, fun, and technique by taking advantage of their expertise. (Maybe I’ll do a post in the future on the certification requirements of ski instructors).

Now I know there are dissenting opinions on the value of ski instruction; however, I think most of the criticism comes in relation to the benefit derived by experienced skiers who take single lessons, rather than continued coaching. If you are a new skier, I suggest you put those criticisms aside.

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I think this is the Orange Bubble Chair in Park City, UT…

Photo by Pockets.

At least two objections keep many people from taking lessons on their first ski trip. The first is the cost.  Some resorts will offer free basic ski school lessons.  These resorts are heroes in the industry and ought to be celebrated to the fullest extent.  So, dearest readers, I have a plea: please let me know which resorts offer this.  I promise to do a post cheering these snowsports champions once we compile a large list.  If you know of or work at a resort that doesn’t yet have this: please consider it!

For those places that charge for all levels of lessons — I still think it’s a no-brainer to shell out some bills to get some skills.  This is an investment — an investment in your enjoyment, in your safety, and in your ability to feel confident on your own later on.  After a few ski trips with lessons to get you started you will feel confident that you’ve got the basics in hand (or, er, under foot).

The second objection is that taking a lesson takes away from the time you get to spend with your friends, family, or colleagues with whom you are traveling.  While this is true, I will leave it until part two of this post series to get into the social dynamics of the ski vacation.

As a neat alternative, you could always take inspiration from Sninja and teach yourself how to ski!  But she’s a secret superhero, able to leap tall buildings, melt steel with laser eye beams, and learn from YouTube ski videos!

“I still think it’s a no-brainer to shell out some bills to get some skills.”

Lesson Two: For uber-beginners who have never skied before, a group lesson (see examples: here; here; and here) is probably the way to go.  Here you can avoid the embarrassment of the first-time bloopers by making mistakes in front of strangers you will never see again.    The geniuses at Warren Miller Entertainment have this gem to share with all of us via YouTube:

Enough said, right?  Don’t go hang with your experienced ski bunny friends until you at least have a sherpa show you the chairlift to the alpine.

Lesson Three: This may be the most important one.  Tip your ski instructor.* 

Stay tuned for part two, and share your lessons learned in the comments!

[*Note: Wannabe is a former ski instructor.  SNOWCHASE Media was not compensated for promotion of instructor tipping.  And we’re sad about that.]

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