Back to School: There's a Ski School For Everyone

By Cindy Hirschfeld
9/17/2013 1:39:10 PM

How long has it been since you took a ski or snowboard lesson? Or even considered taking one?

If you haven't experienced a lesson since "rocker" made you think of Springsteen, not ski construction, and the term "sidecountry" didn't even exist, it might be time to reconsider.

"In the old days, ski school was about what the instructor wanted you to do," said ski industry veteran Weems Westfeldt, who heads up the ski school at [R25R, Aspen Highlands]. "Now, ski school is about what you want to do-with some sound coaching about how to get there and what more is possible."

A student follows an instructor at Snowmass Mountain in Aspen. Photo by Hal Williams.

With the aim of enticing intermediate to advanced skiers to continue their on-snow education, many resorts' have revamped their lesson options by developing specialty clinics that focus on things like steeper terrain or backcountry awareness, as well as expanding kids' and women's programs to include higher-level instruction.

"Some of this approach just goes down to basic understandings of what recreational athletes like and how they learn," Westfeldt said. "The other part of the approach is programmatic. One size and price does not fit everyone. Kids classes, family classes and special programs now abound."

Westfeldt, for example, developed the Diamond Sessions private lessons at [R25R, Aspen/Snowmass], with the goal of teaching skiers and riders to self-coach and achieve peak performance in a variety of situations, on snow and off.

Today's ski schools have become excellent resources for skiers of all levels and ages. Still not convinced? Keep this in mind: ski instructors themselves continually take training clinics to refine their technique. Here's a sampling of what you can expect to find at various resorts.

For the Groms

Most resorts do a great job of teaching little ones to ski or ride and, at best, helping to instill a lifelong love of sliding on snow. But some go above and beyond, with comprehensive kids' centers that combine learning and fun while providing a place for lunch and snack breaks during the ski day. The 25,000-square-foot Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center at Snowmass, for example, has age-appropriate themed rooms and interactive play features based on the mountain ecosystem. Child group ski lessons start at age two-and-a-half. [R435R, Sugarbush]'s new kids' center, The Schoolhouse, has murals and play structures designed by Vermont-based artists, and group lessons start at age three.

If you're concerned about potentially large class sizes, look for programs that cap the number of kids per instructor, like[R198R, Killington]'s Max 5 lessons or the Ultimate Four at [R482R, Vail], [R36R, Beaver Creek], [R77R, Breckenridge] and [R197R, Keystone].

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