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Skiing Lessons

Why Ski Lessons are Important


ski instructor and student
Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

First Time Skiing Tip - Lessons, Lessons, Lessons

Skiing lessons - who needs skiing lessons, who provides skiing lessons, skiing ability levels, and why professional instruction is important.

Who Needs Skiing Lessons

In a word - everybody. When you consider that a Ski Instructor is, in effect, really a Ski Coach, does it surprise you that all Olympic ski teams have instructor/coaches? In fact, Ski Instructors have Ski Instructors.

Who Provides Skiing Lessons

In the United States. the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) is the premier organization offering training and certification for U.S. Ski Instructors. THe PSIA was founded in 1961 to set a national training method and to certify instructors in this training model. In 1964 the organization standardized a system and published "The Official American Ski Technique" (AST) manual.

Prior to the adoption of the AST, teaching techniques from different countries such as Austria, Switzerland, France, and Germany were used at various resorts. The systems used were usually based on the knowledge and expertise of the individual ski school director and were not standardized.

The introduction and adoption of the AST by most ski areas guaranteed that students can move from lessons from one instructor to lessons to another instructor, even at different resorts, and be confident of some common levels of progression.

The PSIA has levels of certification for its members which allow and certify them to teach students of various abilities. For example, the entry level is a member who is accepted for training, a Level I instructor has been tested and certified to teach beginners, Level II certifies ability to teach up to Intermediates. and Level III teaches all level of students. There is also training available for instructors who wish to specialize in teaching children, adaptive skiers, or seniors.

Who is a Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Skier?

There is a general standardization scale of skiing ability that is used for placement in ski school classes. This scale starts with Level I and goes to Level 9. So, think of it as when you get off the couch and head for your first lesson on the snow you have already graduated from 0 to Level I. I think level 10 is reserved for the ski gods!

To be sure there is a degree of overlap in these skiing ability levels and there is no "sign off" as to what must be performed for advancement. However, you, as a customer/student should know what to expect out of each Level lesson and Bill Jones a PSIA instructor offers up what skiing skills you should be aspiring to as you pass up the lesson ladder.

Remember, that each time you sign up for a lesson you are usually asked about the level of your last lesson and when it took place. From this past lesson experience you can be placed in an appropriate group class, or provide an instructor a starting point for a private lesson.

According to Bill Jones, the most general, or average progression up the learning levels seems to be, level 1 through 4 can be accomplished for the average skier in one 2-3 hour lesson for each category. That's as long as the student practices the skill drills recommended and keeps taking lessons in a timely fashion.

This is only a generalization of what to aspire to, and every skier progresses a little differently - on the snow the instructor always knows best and will advise that you step down - or up - a level if you fit better!

Skill Levels and Green Circles vs Blue Squares

PSIA instructors are trained to teach skills that will gradually enable you to progress safely and confidently ski the whole mountain. But, again in general, don't expect to be skiing a blue square trail until about Level 4 or 5. This can vary based on the individual resort area's trail markings but the real way to be sure is to go only where your instructor (who makes it his/her business to know the resort terrain) recommends and don't be afraid to ask.

Don't Get Discouraged

Ski Instructors don't keep putting students into low level classes to make them take more classes. The skills you learn in the basic levels should become not only be firmly ingrained in your skiing technique, but they should be executed flawlessly. That means not just practicing but practicing to make perfect executions. A PSIA instructor is trained to spot errors in technique and if need be you should "relearn" the skill.

Believe me, it is a proven fact, the more you perfect the basic skills and make perfect execution part of muscle memory the faster you will progress through the Intermediate and Advanced Levels and actually spend less money on the more advanced lessons.

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