For many, the term Ski School – or Snow School in current, inclusive parlance – conjures up images of instructors skiing beautifully down pristine pistes, followed by long trains of less graceful disciples trying desperately to ski like the instructor, who is often barely in view. More akin to a primary school congo line than skiing or snowboarding, it can be viewed as a necessary evil which must endured before you are able to join more proficient friends and family members cruising effortlessly around the resort.
In truth there are many different lessons out there, each tailored to the vast range of abilities and appetites across the winter sports enthusiast panoply. What follows is an idea of what you can expect from the lessons we feature across all of our resorts, grouped by ability from first time skiers right through to off-piste adventurers.
First Time Skiers & Snowboarders
The vast majority of resorts feature a programme for first time skiers & snowboarders, often with an instruction package that includes a lift ticket and rental equipment. This is great if you want to try the sport! We are here to help you work out what best suits your needs and your pocket. These lessons are usually taken in small groups of between 4 and 6 participants to an instructor, in an area of the resort reserved solely for first time skiers. Snow schools recruit instructors that specialise in teaching those new to the sport, who create an environment that nurtures the most apprehensive of first timers, while gently tempering those of a more robust nature.
Beginner to Intermediate Skiers & Snowboarders
This encompasses quite a broad range of abilities, from those who have enjoyed their first turns and are ready to progress onto green runs, right through to those thinking about taking their first turns on black/red runs. The premise is the same though; to refine technique and improve confidence in a small group environment. These groups tend to be a similar size to beginner classes, with between 4 and 6 participants to each instructor, grouped by their ability. In this format each participant can tell the instructor what they want to improve on, meaning that the group will cover a variety of techniques across the lesson. There are also speciality clinics and camps that will cater for this segment, but more about these later.
Advanced Skiers & Snowboarders
As skiers and snowboarders reach an advanced level, the number of speciality clinics and camps to cater for their specific needs increases dramatically. We will cover these next. There are still small group lessons for advanced skiers & snowboarders looking to improve their general standard, rather than concentrate on specific areas. These lessons again have between 4 and 6 participants to each instructor, who are grouped by ability and sometimes by the specific elements each participant wants to work on. Because each guest may want to concentrate on different elements, the lessons tend to cover a broader range of techniques than the dedicated camps and clinics. Although in Revelstoke, you can get a full day group Cat/Heli prep lesson for only £87 per person; probably the best value powder technique lesson to be found without venturing into a speciality camp/clinic. Which leads us nicely into…
Speciality Clinics & Camps
There are a huge range of these clinics and camps, which cater for everything from children’s camps right through to backcountry instruction. Here are a couple of our favourites.
These camps can be booked from 1 to 5-day durations, or longer in some resorts. They can include rental equipment and lift tickets as part of the package, or not. We can always find the product that will suit your needs at the best price. Children’s lessons usually include a supervised lunch, so you can drop your little treasures off at the start of the day, ski all day and pick them up as the lifts start to close. The snow schools will ask for any dietary and allergy information at the booking stage and will exchange contact details with parents at the start of the camp. These camps start from as young as 3 years old in some resorts, right up to 18 years old. Children learn more quickly with those of their own age and stage, so the snow school group children by age and ability.
Social Group Camps
Many resorts run camps for specific groups – Big White has Masters’ Weeks for over 50s with instruction, wine tasting, dinners and more. Whistler has The Camp, which groups like-minded individuals for instruction, analysis and après. Many resorts run female only clinics on specific weeks, which are very popular and often sell out before the season has even started. These camps & clinics offer great instruction but also promise a relaxed atmosphere and the chance to make new friends.
For those that feel the need for speed, there are speciality race camps. Racing through gates is only a small part of what it takes to be a ski racer, so look to race camps to find out how to prepare your equipment and select the correct waxing strategy for the prevailing conditions, before concentrating on the technique required to confidently push your limits at top speed. Sun Peaks even offers a private family race camp including race coaching, video analysis, gate training and a race series entry so you can decide once and for all who takes on the mantle of fastest family member.
For many winter sports enthusiasts, powder skiing and snowboarding is the holy grail, but the technique required to enjoy this often fleeting ambrosia can be almost as elusive as the conditions needed for the best experience. Fortunately, there are some excellent camps specialising in teaching these very techniques. Panorama offers Heli-Prep lessons, for you and one other, which teach the skills required to step up to the ultimate bucket list item for most skiers and snowboarders. Kicking Horse offers Big Mountain Private lessons that cater for up to 6 people and take you to some of the most dramatic places the resort has to offer.
Heliskiing in Panorama, CanadaWhistler is home to the Extremely Canadian programme, possibly the best and most comprehensive extreme skiing and snowboarding instruction available to recreational sliders. This programme guarantees to take you out of your comfort zone safely, either inside or outside resort boundaries, while delivering technique tips and instruction from some of the most qualified teaching pros in Canada, and therefore the world.
A popular European concept, guide services in North America have traditionally been limited to free orientation tours that usually cover green and blue pisted terrain, or hiring a private instructor and asking them to show you around. This is changing though, with many North American resorts adding guiding to their programmes, usually aimed at the advanced skier or snowboarder and offering off-piste, in-bounds guiding. In Banff, Ski Big 3 offer a Guided Adventure, the three-day version of which comprises guiding on all three of the mountains covered by the Tri-Area lift ticket – Sunshine, Lake Louise and the often-overlooked Mount Norquay. Sun Peaks offer Guided Gil’s Backcountry Tour, where an instructor takes you and up to two friends around the highlights and ‘secret stashes’ of the Sun Peaks Backcountry. Fernie offers a Guided Experience where an instructor will take you and up to two friends around the six bowls that make up the resort, looking for the best snow through the abounding glades and steeps.
Private lessons offer the ultimate customised ski or snowboard lesson, where the instructor will listen to the needs of the individual, or group (most private lessons allow up to 3, 4, 5 or even 6 guests for the same price; the cost of the instructor) and tailor the lesson accordingly. This can be the ideal way for a group of family or friends to ski together, each working on the area of technique they most want to concentrate on. It is worth noting that the instructor will teach predominantly to the lowest level skier in a group, which makes these lessons most suited to groups of a similar ability. Private lessons cater for all abilities of skier and snowboarder, from first-timers right through to seasoned powder hounds. When booking a private instructor please try to give us as much information as possible regarding what you, and the group where relevant, wish to get out of the lesson. This enables us to work with the snow school to assign a suitable instructor.
So, who needs a lesson? Beginner skiers apart, that is a question for the individual or group. What is beyond doubt is that, should you decide to take a lesson, there is something to suit your level and ambition out there. We’ll be on hand to guide you through the myriad options should you decide you want to improve your technique and take your skiing and/or snowboarding to the next level.
Our Ski Specialists are on hand to answer any questions you may have about ski lessons. For more information or a tailor-made quotation request, call us on 0131 243 8097, use the live chat feature, or submit an enquiry online.