Understandably, not everyone thinks lessons are necessary. But this Level III PSIA pro and Nastar/club racer felt otherwise.
In truth, not everyone who skis possesses the skill sets of this citizen racer and veteran race coach. Yet, many folks routinely do not pursue lessons. In some respects its understandable. Over a season, new skis, boots, lift tickets, and lessons are not inexpensive. Still, he felt that weekend race clinics and week long classes can be quite affordable as these combine lessons with reduced lift prices and lodging packages.
“It was fun!” he added. “It really sharpened my skills and I was able to race on practice courses!”
Remember: The best skiers in the world have coaches. Okay. Not all ski pros are created equal. In fact, in more then 20-plus years of writing articles for publications throughout snow country I have skied with, worked with, and observed countless pros and coaches. From US Team coaches at the US Nationals to PSIA pros, it’s clear that coaching skills, ski skills, and teaching vary.
Here’s good news. Most resorts have at least a few good instructors and coaches. Locally, pros the caliber of PSIA Examiners Erik Barnes at Mount Snow, Brian Whatley at Stratton or Charlie Rockwell at Bromley Mountain personify top personalities. Understand, these folks are PSIA Examiners who have spent years training pros at resorts throughout the East. They’re great. And fortunately, there are many others. What can you do?
Talk to the ski school desk. Ask questions. If you ski at a mountain regularly ask season pass holders, who often know the top pros. Understand, just as teachers can vary in quality so can ski pros. If concerned, ask to speak with the director of training. Still, why does quality vary? To start, pay is low. Understand, it’s tough to cobble together a winter teaching skiing with an off-season career. And folks bring a wide range of technical, skiing, and teaching expertise. Not everyone is polished in all areas.
Skiers sometimes ask what makes a great ski instructor. That’s easy. To start, top pros need more than great skiing skills. Skiing skills are important but not enough. I once had a race director who told me, after hiring me, that he was hiring me less because of my racing skills and more because of his perception of my teaching skills. He felt heavy mountain time and effective training would easily advance my mountain skills.
Should you consider a lesson? Only you can answer that question. Still, you should know that inside virtually every snowsports school there are likely to be at least one or two gifted pros who can make it fun, and who can help add new skills. Sometimes you have to talk to the director of training to get that name. Sometimes not. Sometimes you can watch different lessons on the hill and gauge success by the sense of fun.
So what’s the lesson here? It’s kind of funny but in the end, if you want a top pro remember that learning is supposed to transform. It’s really just about helping you better enjoy the mountain, and it’s about helping you more effectively enjoy the sensation of sliding on the mountain. The flashy clothes? High speed lifts? Costly mountain amenities? And high tech equipment? Really, these are just intended to foster the mountain experience.
Here at The Deerfield Valley News we love to ski. At the same time we truly want our readers to maximize their mountain experience. Sometimes lessons can help. If interested, your challenge is to find the pro who can best help you.
Tony Crespi has served as both a ski school supervisor and development team coach. His column is published throughout the season.