Five Good Reasons To Join A Class.

A ski class practicing kick turns at Peckett’s-on-Sugar Hill, 1930s, where, for the first time, Americans could take lessons with skilled Austrian.
Credit: Concord Monitor

[Editor Note: In a SeniorsSkiing.com Survey, 30 percent of respondents revealed they took a lesson sometime during the season. Why? Correspondent Marc Liebman  found out five core reasons lessons might be a good idea.]

Back in the days when I was on the staff of Ski Magazine responsible for all its ski equipment and instruction articles, the most frequently asked question from readers was “When do I need to take a lesson?”

The question is a good , and the good consulting answer is “It depends….” After talking to several ski instructors and racking my brain as a former certified instructor, here’s a short list of conditions assuming you are not new to the sport and walking onto the slopes for the first time.

Keep in mind, Mother Nature didn’t have skiing 30,000 vertical feet a day down through waist high moguls when she created the aging process. As we age, despite our best efforts, we lose flexibility, muscle, and bone strength. In short, we’re more susceptible to injury. When we are hurt, it is usually more serious, and, even worse, it takes longer to heal.

So, you need to take a lesson…

  1. After you have a serious illness or a major injury or a joint replacement or it hurts when you ski. Why? You don’t know how what happened will affect your ability to turn, your balance or stamina. The lesson, assuming it is taught by a trained instructor, will help you figure this out.
  2. If you haven’t skied in awhile. Why? Two reasons. One, ski equipment has changed. The new short skis are easier to turn, generate less torque on your legs and more stable than the longer skis of yesterday. To ski them well, you have to adjust your technique. Two, while some may think skiing is like riding a bike, it is not. If you haven’t skied for awhile and your name is not Billy Kidd or Jean-Claude Killy, take a lesson!
  3. If you just bought new equipment. Why? Unless you were the first person to use a pair of demo skis, your new ones even though they are the same make and model, may ski differently than you remember for reasons beyond the scope of this article. So, to get the most out of your new skis, take a lesson!
  4. If you are planning to ski conditions with which you are not familiar. Why? If you have never skied waist deep powder, take lessons to learn how. Or, if you skied only in Utah or Colorado and suddenly find yourself living and skiing in Vermont, you need a lesson!
  5. To polish your skills. Why? Unless you are an expert and can ski any condition with aplomb and in perfect control, you need a lesson. The majority of skiers are “intermediates/advanced intermediates” so take a lesson. Even instructors go to clinics to polish their skiing (and teaching) skills.

So that’s the consensus five. I’m sure there are others. Net net, if you cannot ski any condition or trail on the mountain like an expert and without hesitation, then you need a lesson!

Ski School, Austria, circa, 1930s.

7 Comments

  1. Avatar Patricia Dossiea says:

    Your article is right on time for me. I went skiing at Steamboat recently while in the third year of recovery from a lingering illness and a twenty year hiatus from the sport. After the first day of a few runs, I realized I needed a lesson, I knew my legs would last for an hour so I went looking for a private lesson. My options were full day group or three hour private lessons neither of which would have worked for me. So the question or suggestion for a follow up article is “Where can a senior get ski lessons that are geared for senior skiers?”

  2. I was full certified in 1975, turned 70 last year and joined Mountain Masters at Sugarloaf in order to “keep up the velocity”! It’s the lack of velocity that is the problem with old people according to the author of
    “Cloud Atlas”. Rock on! Started teaching kids again. “That what doesn’t kill you……..”
    Alan Arbo

  3. Avatar Sterling D. Mumaw says:

    Good article – we are just in our 70’s and my wife is starting back to ski this year after a 6 year break. She started when she was 54 and after 3 years of lessons and lots of mileage she was skiing all terrain at both Stowe and Kirkwood. I’m skiing my 50th season this year – but we both are ‘achey’ – so along with our Season Passes (Camelback and SKI3-NY) we get a lesson.
    After reading your article this AM – we both are taking a lesson or two next week at Whiteface.

  4. I would like to learn how to ski powder but how do you schedule that? You never know when powder will be present at the ski resort. The only thing I can think of is to show up on a powder day and find who is available.

  5. Avatar Peter McCarville says:

    Marc

    Thanks for this fine, simple, answer to the question–Why should I take a lesson? As one who works with adult (senior) skiers in both a guiding and ski lesson capacity, I find that it is hard to get guests to want to “change”. Change is difficult for us all, no matter the age. But one certainty in life is “Change”. Change will either be thrust upon you or you can be proactive and get in front of the change curve. Most seniors will be amazed at the few changes in body position and tipping (putting the skis up on edge) that can improve one’s skiing. You will stop sliding every turn and have more control. When I say “improve” I am first and foremost talking about making it safer and more fun for the senior. And, improving means getting better than your previous self, not getting as good as “this guy” or “that gal”. Compare yourself to only your previous self. The great thing about skiing, in general, is that one does not have to be an Olympian to have fun.

  6. Avatar Marc Gershel says:

    Hi, I skied for over 50 years and had to stop for a knee replacement and sports hernia repair 3 years ago. I started skiing this year and found that it’s not “like riding a bike”. At least not for me. So, I decided to take a lesson and the instructor started me out with the snowplow. I had a hard time with that and got nowhere.
    Since that I’ve been trying to get better by myself with little success. I definitely need a lesson, but how do I find the right instructor for an older guy like me. 80 yo.
    Marc

  7. Just getting around to reading this issue. I am a PSIA instructor, too, and well over 60 years old. Still working to improve my skiing. There is now a special certification for teaching seniors. Some of the western divisions offer it but not the Midwest yet. Ask for it at your resort. I enjoy teaching older adults how to ski more efficiently-saving energy and making the ski day longer and safer! There are a lot of little things about stance and technique that can
    make you feel more confident and have more fun.

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