Every time I have a conversation with someone who is curious about skiing, the question always comes up: can I go skiing without ski lessons?
My answer usually is, “yes, of course, you can ski without going to ski school, but even though you could, doesn’t mean you should!” The reasons you should always take skiing lessons are 1) you’ll learn to ski faster, 2) you’ll learn the proper technique from the start, 3) you won’t be as much of a hazard to yourself and others, and 4) there’s a lot of fun and benefits in learning in a group with others, who are at your own skill level.
Learning how to ski from a friend or spouse is also not advised unless they happen to be a certified instructor. Neither is teaching your own kids!
Let’s look into the benefits of taking skiing lessons in more detail and how you can improve your skiing from watching lessons online.
Why should I waste my time with lessons? I just wanna go skiing!
When you look at those amazing mountain peaks glistening the sun and all the skiers and riding having fun on the slopes, I can understand why you would get impatient and just want to get up there and do the same.
After all, going “back-to-school” doesn’t really sound like much of a vacation, does it?
Also, skiing is expensive, and even more so if you’re a beginner and don’t have access to any gear, etc. So I totally get why some choose to skip getting skiing lessons the first time they hit the slopes. But I always advise against not taking lessons.
The thing is though, that you’ll actually learn to ski quicker – and with the proper form – if you take lessons.
Even though spending the first four or five days of your first skiing trip might seem like a lot of time, the chances are, that you’ll actually spend more time skiing this way, than you would if you tried to learn it on your own.
And you’ll definitely be able to go about exploring and go on your own adventures much quicker and safer, than if you chose to “skip school”.
I’m by no means an expert skier nor skiing instructor. But I have seen my share of beginners trying to learn to ski by themselves or getting “taught” by there friends or significant other. I’ve also seen parents, who aren’t good at skiing, trying to teach their kids.
I have also seen self-taught skiers (especially beginners) with their thumb or wrist in a cast.
Now just because you take skiing lessons, doesn’t mean that you won’t get hurt. But taking lessons does reduce the chances of harming yourself and others significantly. And if you use what you’ve learned and keep skiing responsibly, you’re much better off in the long run.
How many skiing lessons do you need?
Well, that really depends on a lot of things. If you have a background as a figure skater or cross-country skier, you’re likely to pick-up alpine skiing much faster than the average joe.
I’ve been on a skiing holiday with someone who had never trying alpine skiing before, but who was a proficient cross-country skier. A couple of days in he was doing tricks on the slopes.
The first time I went skiing, I started from scratch. The first four days I spend taking lessons together with a lot of other beginners. In the afternoon when “school was over” there was usually an hour or two left of the day, where we could play around ourselves and try to put the techniques we had learned to good use.
We started on a slope that wasn’t even a slope. It was more like a small tilt in front of a restaurant. After a couple of days of doing a lot of drills and learning how to plow, we ventured on to an easy blue.
And man I still remember those first few turns, on what felt like a vertical wall at the time. It took a lot of courage to overcome those.
Keep in mind that this was in the 1990s before carving skis. At that time the standard for average skis was, that they should be approximately 10 cm higher than yourself. And the didn’t have that nice, curved edge carving skis do today, which makes turning such a breeze. So it took a lot of effort to turn those two planks around.
At the end of the day, we all got down safely and had a lot of fun. On the last day of that five-day ski trip, a couple of us ventured on to try red slopes. I felt like the king of the mountain after conquering those!
The next few baby steps
The year after that, I progressed to be able to do easy black slopes and I felt safe at all times because the days I had spent at ski school had given me the basics I needed to be able to safely go about exploring.
Since then I have usually hired a skiing instructor for a couple of hours each ski trip. Hiring skiing instructors for private lessons can be a bit costly, so I usually do it together with a friend or two.
It has been money well spent because after carving skis became the norm, I had to learn some new techniques and relearn some old ones. The basics have always remained the same though.
I especially remember one time when some friends and I had hired a skiing instructor for some private lessons. One of the guys had never had lessons before, and he was skiing much faster than me. So I thought, that I did something wrong and started to copy how his technique.
As we had finished the run, I got in a chairlift together with the instructor. The instructor told me, “you’re starting to ski like him.” I thought, “awesome”. Then the instructor said, “stop doing that! You have a much better technique.”
I told him about the four days, I spend at ski school in Austria, and he said, that I must have had a very good instructor. That blew my mind!
So I would definitely recommend, that you spend the first 3-6 days at ski school if you’re a beginner.
And keep taking as many lessons as you can afford when you go on your next skiing holiday.
How quickly will I learn to ski?
How quick you catch on has a lot to do with your fitness level and if you’re an aggressive or fearful person and your level of proprioception.
If you spend your whole day behind a desk sitting down and don’t do a lot of workouts, you’ll get tired and exhausted much faster. And that will, in turn, slow your progression.
Also, if you’re used to doing a lot of sports, you’re properly more aware of your body, than if you’re not working out on a regular basis. Having a sense of where both your feet are and what your arms are doing at the same time is definitely an advantage when trying to how to ski.
Skiing is also about having a bit of courage. Making those first turns can be very intimidating. Especially when you’re staring down a mountain at the same time. Thoughts about tumbling down the mountainside like a giant boulder and not being able to stop before you’ve reached the river in the valley below are not that uncommon. Luckily those are just thoughts, that need to be conquered as well.
But skiing is very counter-intuitive. You have to turn your upper body downwards when you have to make a turn when all you want to do is turn the other way. And when you need to control the speed, you need to lean forward in the boot, when all you want to do is put in your heels and try to stop.
Having a bit of aggression can be necessary to overcome those counter-intuitive fears. And if you are fearless by nature, you’ll properly get this faster, than if you’re of a more fearful nature.
How long does it take to get good at skiing?
How long it takes to get good at skiing is a really difficult question to answer. It depends on what you mean by “good”.
If you by “good” mean being able to compete at an Olympic level in half-pipe events, doing moguls, slalom or racing the answer is years, with lots of training each day. And unless you’re a kid reading this, you’re already too late to achieve that level of skiing.
If you by “good” mean being able to get down an easy green, you can learn it in a day.
If you want to be able to ski parallel on reds, blacks, and moguls and not using the plow on every turn, you should count on putting in at least a 1000 hours.
If you want to be able to just get around in the terrain by still using the plow to get past the steepest passages, you can learn that within the first two-to-three skiing trips.
Though I hate to admit it, I’m still in the latter group. I can get down reds and blacks and feel safe, but my skiing is definitely not fluent and far from parallel. I tend to ski the best on blue slopes in general. That’s where my skis are the most parallel and I experience the most fluent skiing. It’s actually also the most fun, though I do enjoy a steep challenge now and then.
Moguls and snowparks? Forget it! I’ll stick to the groomers, thank you very much.
But though I suck at skiing compared to those, who have started young or those who have put in a lot more time, than me, I can still enjoy the experience, enjoy the beautiful nature and get safely around in the terrain and have fun. And that’s “good” enough for me. I still aim to get better at it though, so I’ll keep taking lessons, as much as I can afford it.
How much does ski lessons cost?
There are a lot of different skiing lessons you can take. And the prices reflect that.
Private lessons tend to be the most expensive, though private lessons also vary in price. It depends on the kind of skiing, you want to learn in those private lessons.
Hiring a private skiing instructor for two hours to brush up on your carving technique on groomed slopes are much cheaper than hiring private lessons for heli-skiing and off-piste.
For most beginners, it makes the most sense to enroll in a week-long program, with skiing lessons each day. Those programs are by no means only designed for beginners though. Expert skiers enroll in those programs too.
A five to six-day program with a couple of hours of skiing lessons for beginners each day will set you back around $240-280. If you already know how to ski, you can get it cheaper. Prices usually range from $170-270.
For kids (usually ages 3 to 14 years) there are often either half-day or full-day options available, which may include ski pass as well, as well as group lessons.
Half-day options which include ski pass will usually set you back between $650-700, while full day options cost around $950-1000. Group lessons for kids are usually between $220-250.
Prices for private tuition usually range for $600-850 for a full day (6 hours) of lessons or $250-525 for half a day (3 hours). You can usually also find private lessons for one hour. Prices usually starts around $110.
You can often save some money if you book your lessons from home and pay in advance. So before you leave home, check the website for the ski resort you are going to, and book in advance if you know, that you plan to take lessons that season.
Can I use videos to learn how to ski?
Yes and no.
It is always good to be prepared, so if you’re about to go on your first ski trip, you can get a sense of what you should expect to learn.
And you can definitely use videos to get a sense of the basics. If the instructor in the video is good, you can see how it is supposed to be done.
You can also use online videos in the evenings to refresh what you’ve been taught on the ski runs in the day. Or to brush up on some of the things in the days before your next trip.
Lastly, you can use videos to discover new techniques or tricks, that you might want to learn. In other words, you can use videos to be inspired.
But in the end, skiing is very much a learning-by-doing process. You need to get out there and try it yourself. You can’t get good at skiing without sometimes biting the snow.
So I can recommend videos as an excellent supplement to taking skiing lessons, but I would never recommend using videos as an only means of education.