By Inga Aksamit, Inga’s Adventures
If you’ve ever thought that you want to make an investment in your skiing or boarding to take it to the next level this is the year to do it. Conditions in the Sierra are fantastic and resorts are bending over backwards to entice snow sliders to the mountains with a myriad of good deals.
Advancing to the next level of skiing, whether from beginner to intermediate, intermediate to advanced, or advanced to expert, takes a combination of time and money, preferably coordinated together. Time, because if you’re like the average skier you ski less than 12 days per season, and money because you can get better faster if you get some professional instruction, and then put what you learn to use on the hill.
According to Colorado Wild and the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, the average skier in 2006-2007 skied 11 days in the winter season, while the average season pass holder skied 25 days per season. I can’t speak for everyone, but year after year over a couple of decades I have noticed that something magical happens around the 10th day of skiing in a season, whether it comes in five weekends or one long stretch. By day 10 my ski muscles are working, I’m balanced over the sweet spot on my skis, my stamina has increased and all of a sudden the skiing feels effortless. It’s difficult to improve your skill level at anything if you only do it a couple of times a year, so if you want to get better, commit to increasing your skier days this season.
Watching good skiers can be deceptive, and many skiers think that if they just observe a good skier they’ll absorb the skill. On the contrary, there are many subtle adjustments that an expert skier makes that are not easily observed, but a trained instructor will be able to impart that knowledge efficiently and effective in a relatively short amount of time.
What are some of the benefits of being a better skier?
1. Shorter lift lines
If you can progress to the advanced level lift lines tend to be shorter at the lifts that serve expert terrain, as opposed to intermediate. At Squaw Valley on a busy day the lines at the intermediate Gold Coast lift can be massive, while very few people take advantage of the advanced Olympic Lady lift. Similarly, at Alpine Meadows long lines can form at Roundhouse and Summit Six, while the Alpine Chair sits empty.
2. More friends to ski with
If you ski with a group of people the advanced skiers can ski with people of lesser ability but not vice versa. If you improve your skills you’ll have more flexibility to ski with more people who have a range of abilites.
3. More terrain to ski and board
Clearly, if you can ski advanced and expert terrain you have more terrain to choose from. Even on intermediate slopes, if you have greater skill you will be more comfortable straying from groomed runs, which attract more people.
4. Reduced chance for injury
The higher your skill level the more tools you have to draw on if you get into tricky situations. Literature suggests that beginners and less experienced skiers have higher rates of injury, though of course, speed and judgment come into play at any level.
5. More fun!
A good skier conserves energy, can ski longer and has more fun.
Steps to becoming a better skier:
1. Commit to increasing your skier/boarder days
Join a ski club, go in on a ski cabin, do some research to find deals, find friends who love skiing and get on the slopes as much as possible. Aim for a minimum of 10-15 days per season. Committed skiers often get 30-60 days per season and reap the reward of increased skills.
2. Invest in a season pass
Season pass prices were slashed this year, and as stated above, season pass holders ski more than the average skier, with an average of 25 days compared to 11 days per season. More time on the hill contributes to higher skill.
3. Take lessons from a professional.
Taking lessons teaches more than technique, it also provides valuable information about slope selection, proper equipment and safety maneuvers. You can also make friends in classes or clinics who ski at your level.
Lessons and Clinics:
Beginners and low intermediate skiers can benefit from group or private lessons offered at local ski areas. Upper intermediate, advanced and even expert skiers can raise their skills to the next level through participation in multi-day or specialty ski clinics staffed with certified instructors.
Professional instructors are certified through the Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA) or American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) at three levels. Specialized clinics are often staffed with the highest level of instructors, Level 2 or Level 3, who have undergone additional training to demonstrate proficiency in teaching a large range of skills in varying conditions and terrain.
Multi-day clinics are the best way to get better faster through focused instruction in small groups of skiers of similar ability. Though clinics vary in terms of length of sessions and specific goals, many offer tailored instruction and video feedback, as well as special workshops.
Squaw Valley offers a range of specialized clinics, ranging from the premier Advanced Ski Clinic, 1-5-day clinics focused on technical skiing, to the 1-3 day Just For Women clinics taught by an all-female staff. Prices vary depending on the program but the 1-5 day clinics range from $209 to $898. The following is a selected list of specialized ski clinics offered at Squaw Valley:
- Advanced Ski Clinics (1-5 days)
- Just for Women Ski Clinics (1-3 days)
- 50+ Women’s Clinic (3 days)
- Advanced and Expert Workshops (2 hours)
- Women of Winter on Wednesdays (2 hours)
Alpine Meadows also offers a variety of clinics for the intermediate to advanced skier, with 2-3 day clinics ranging from $369 to $658:
- Steep Camp (3 days)
- For Women by Women (2-3 days)
- Tele Camp (3 days)
- Snowboard Camp (3 days)
- Women’s Day Wednesdays (3 hours a day over 10 weeks)
Northstar-at-Tahoe features multi-day clinics to get intermediate and advanced skiers to the next level. Prices range from $499 to $1250.
- All Conditions/All Terrain camp by the North American Ski Training Center (3 days)
- Women’s Camps by Women for Women-for Skiers and Snowboarders (3 days)
Heavenly Valley provides several specialized clinics for skiers and snowboarders. Prices range from $100 to $560.
- Freestyle Park Camps (2 days)
- Women’s Clinics (1-3 days)
See related article on Women of Winter on Wednesdays at Squaw Valley.
Photo of Women of Winter on Wednesday clinic at Squaw Valley by Inga Aksamit