10 Pieces of Advice from a Ski Instructor

Ski instructor and Curated Ski Expert Robbie P. shares his inside tips on getting ski lessons so you can make the most of your time and have a blast on the slopes.

An image of a snow-covered landscape.

The journey to skiing steeps like Square Top in Park City, Utah, often starts with lessons. Photo by Robbie Preece

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Maybe you’re tired of your girlfriend showing you up in the steep and deep. Maybe you want to be able to keep up with your kids as they start to ski bumps. Or perhaps you’re the only non-skier in your family and you’re done being the odd one out on the annual winter vacation, so you decide it’s time to book a lesson.

As a snowsports professional, I think that’s a great decision! Taking lessons is one of the best ways to level up your skiing or snowboarding. Lessons can be expensive, though, so some people feel pressured to get the most out of their time with a ski instructor. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to make sure you maximize the value of your lesson. Here are my top 10 tips on making your lesson count.

Before Your Lesson

1. Get your muscles ready.

One of the things I hear guests say most frequently mid-lesson (with a mix of a laugh-smile-grimace on their faces) is, “I’m working muscles I didn’t even know I had!” It’s a lot easier to try new ski skills if you’re working from a place of strength! My favorite ski and snowboard workouts are squats for your quads, sit ups for your core, and a lesser-known exercise called a “good morning” for your hamstrings. You can get results after as little as a month of consistent exercise! Don’t forget to practice good sleep hygiene the night before, eat a good breakfast (carbs!), and stretch the morning of your lesson.

2. Get your gear ready.

Uncomfortable boots are awful and can cast a shadow over your entire experience. Skis and boards that stick to the snow are not only annoying, but they can also be unsafe and make it much more difficult to try new skills. Sharp edges are easier to turn. So, whether you’re renting or have your own gear, take the time to make sure your boots are comfy and your bases will slide smoothly on the snow. You can always ask your Curated expert for advice on boot fitting and ski tunes!

3. Check the forecast and dress right.

Four people line up next to each other in brightly colored snowsuits.

Dress for success. Photo by Robbie Preece

4. Manage your expectations for how quickly you’ll progress.

My mom always told me, “Don’t expect to be Michael Jordan the first time you bounce a basketball.” Be kind to yourself! You’re about to try new things. I’ve been skiing for almost 30 years, have been an instructor for 15, and I still get humbled on the hill almost daily. It’s natural to get frustrated when progress doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like it to, but plan to be patient and celebrate small victories. Making the decision to approach your lesson with this attitude ahead of time will make a big difference in how much you enjoy yourself!

5. Plan to take your lesson at the beginning of your trip and in the morning.

A close up of groomed trails sparkling in the sun.

The early riser shreds the corduroy. Photo by Robbie Preece

Scheduling your lessons at the beginning of your trip means you’ll be able to use what you learn for the rest of your vacation! Schedule a rest day if you think you’ll need one. People generally have more energy in the mornings, so that’s the best time for half-day lessons. It’s also when most instructors I know teach new skills during a full-day lesson. Time after lunch is often spent on practicing what we went over in the morning. Who wants to charge hard after a juicy burger, anyway?

During and After Your Lesson

6. Tell the ski school your preferences for an instructor.

It’s really important to connect with your instructor! Ski schools can’t always honor requests for instructor traits (male, female, mellow, energetic, languages), but tell us anyway and we’ll do our best. Instructors themselves often have very little say in who they’re assigned to teach, so going to the supervisors for requests is your best bet. Additionally, if things aren’t working out, tell a supervisor when you get a moment. We know that sometimes personalities clash, and we won’t take it personally. If you really connect with your instructor, ask to request them for your next lesson. They’ll usually get a pay bump for requests!

7. Have a goal for your skiing — and tell your instructor.

A line of ski instructors in matching blue suits.

Instructors are waiting to be awesome with you. Photo by Robbie Preece

Want to learn bumps? Let’s bump it up! Always wondered how to carve? We want to carve with you! Is it your first time and you need the basics? We’ve got you, just let us know.

8. Communicate to your instructor how you learn.

Most instructors have different approaches for teaching the same skill and can adapt to your style. If you aren’t sure what your learning style is, think: “Do I want someone to show me (visual learning), tell me (auditory learning), or move me (kinesthetic learning)?” Tell your instructor if the way they’re explaining something isn’t making sense to you! We want you to succeed, so if we need to pivot our plan, we are all about it.

9. Don’t be afraid to look silly and go all-in on drills and exercises.

A family stands and smiles together. Their kids wear bunny ears on their helmets.

Bunny ears optional. Looking goofy is half the fun! Photo by Robbie Preece

One of the great things about kids is that they aren’t afraid to look ridiculous — it’s in their job description to mess around. For us grown-ups, though, it can be embarrassing to try a skill or exercise that we know will make us look goofy. Try to have a sense of humor and leave your self-consciousness in the lodge! When your instructor tells you to hold your poles like a lunch tray, make a loud noise, or lift your ski like a stork, try your best to play along. The more you go for it, the more you’re likely to learn.

10. Tip your instructor.

As instructors, we hear every day: “Wow, you’re living the dream!” It’s true! We live in the most beautiful places in the world and get to ski almost every day. Dreams often come with tradeoffs, though, and for most people living and working in a ski town, that means limited housing, dangerous commutes, high rents, expensive groceries, and sacrificing more lucrative opportunities to do what we love. One of my best coworkers is an attorney who gave up her law practice to teach people to ski. Instructors work hard for not a lot of money to help you have a great time. A crisp twenty at the end of a lesson means so much more to an instructor than just the dollar amount — it tells us you recognize how hard we work!

There you have it! I could go on and on about things that make a successful lesson, but those are my top tips. You may have noticed that more than one is about communication, and I think that’s really what it all comes down to. Tell us what you’re looking for out of your lesson, and we’ll try to teach you skills that will last a lifetime!

If you have any questions or are looking to get geared up for your first lessons, reach out to a Ski expert here on Curated. We'd love to help!

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Written By
Hi, I'm Robbie! ​ I have been skiing since I was 8, and decided to make a career of it in 2005, when I first started instructing at Robert Redford's Sundance Resort. I taught there for 4 seasons, earned my PSIA Alpine Level 2 certification, then transitioned to the luxury ski hotel industry for seve...

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