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How long does it take for adults to learn to ski from never ever to competent?

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
This is a question I have often pondered since starting to learn to ski at the ripe age of 58.
I was then influenced by a message that pops up first when you type this question into Goggle:

"Learning to ski will take around 1 to 3 days to pick up the basics skills and about 1 to 2.5 weeks to become a comfortable and confident skier. For some, it may seem like a scary and daunting task to learn how to ski, but don't let your fears overcome you and miss out on all the fun".
this one is a quote taken from https://theskigirl.com/how-long-to-learn-skiing/, which futher down specifies:
"an average person will take about 1 to 3 days to get basics down. After about 1 to 2 weeks a skier should be able to make parallel turns and be confidently skiing on the blue runs. So, overall for an average person, it should take somewhere between 1 to 2.5 weeks total to become a comfortable and confident skier.

As there are so many of us here who started at different times in life, and so many instructors who teach people in different age groups, would you say that this statement is:
mostly true, but depends what you mean by competent skier
mostly true, though some people will be slower than some others,
mostly too optimistic?
mostly true, simple as that?

Since the criteria have been defined: a comfortable and confident skier. how long did it take in your case to go from never ever to comfortable and confident?
 
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liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
The person writing that blog learned to ski as a young child by watching others learn to ski and trying to remember how long it took as a child learner. This person says it takes adults the same amount of time to get the "basics." You know what I think. Kids learn enough to get around pretty fast. Adults are a very different story. There are enormous variations in learning time for adults.

Here's a quote:

"I learned to ski at a young age, I was probably around 8 years old. There are positives and negatives to learning at a young age and it can be different for everyone. I feel like when I learned how to ski, it was so exciting that I really did not have a lot of fear, I just wanted to get out there and do it.

On the other hand, at that age, I probably did not yet have the ability to focus and concentrate for long periods of time so I probably was not able to hone my skills as quickly as an older student. Either way, I think I was able to get the basics down after a couple of days. One day of lessons and then one day just skiing around with my parents and my sister. I still had a long way to go to become a skilled skier but I was off and running after a couple of days.

Watching others learn to ski, whether they are children or adults, I have noticed similar learning times. About 1 to 3 days to get the basics down. After that, it seems there are a lot of factors that can determine how far and how quickly a new skier advances. I have seen quite a few of my friends and family members learn to ski and there has been quite a variation after those first 1 to 3 days of initial learning."


My assumption about this last part about family and friends learning "the basics" is that they learned to get down the hill and stop in 1 to 3 days. Nothing more. They probably had no control over their speed on increasing pitches, had only one turn radius at their command, and they were probably skiing in a wedge.
 
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newboots

Angel Diva
I became comfortable and competent on familiar green runs in my second year. My first year I skied nearly every weekend, often both Saturday and Sunday, and had some lessons. Now, in year 6, I find myself confident on familiar blue runs and pretty capable on easier black runs (expert in the US). But I think the salient thing is I started at 62! I wonder how old skigirl was when she started and achieved such confidence so quickly?

I'm still cautious and not all that confident on my first day or two of the season, and at a new ski area.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I became comfortable and competent on familiar green runs in my second year. My first year I skied nearly every weekend, often both Saturday and Sunday, and had some lessons. Now, in year 6, I find myself confident on familiar blue runs and pretty capable on easier black runs (expert in the US). But I think the salient thing is I started at 62! I wonder how old skigirl was when she started and achieved such confidence so quickly?

I'm still cautious and not all that confident on my first day or two of the season, and at a new ski area.
Page one of that blog says the writer learned to ski at around 8 years old. There are a number of writers for that blog. Page one may have been written by the original founder of the blog, known as "skigirl." But the name at the top of the page is Eric Winkler. He may have written those words.

I always read with caution anything said by an adult who learned as a child. Unless they are an instructor with years of experience teaching adult learners, they will assume it's easy for an adult to learn. That's because they learned as their brains were forming. They just can't remember the details; those details are buried deep and inaccessible in their brains. And because they make the mistake of thinking that their experience (as they remember it) applies to everyone.

It takes most kids who learn to ski in a wedge a looooong time to get parallel. Sometimes years.
 
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Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
I think it depends on a lot of things.
1. Physical fitness. Learning to ski you power around turns, you fight gravity. You fall and get up. It's demanding. This also includes mental. As we age, we think about hurting ourselves. We need to learn the skills to not let that happen. A kid doesn't think about hurts, broken bones, torn knees.....
2. Environment. Are you on a week long vacation, or do you live near skiing? I'm not talking about big mountains, just slopes and lifts. A place where you can slide down a hill.
3. Lessons - very important. Instructors can see issues long before they become a habit for a skier. Constant lessons and feedback will help shorten the curve.
4. Determination, commitment. This is where the time factor is. Some people only ski 1 week a year. Or in a lesson plan that is 8 Saturdays. Without practice in-between, the skills will slip. That's why even the dry slope, rolling carpet, indoor slopes are great. I learned to ski on a 170' vertical foot hill. You don't need a big mountain to learn, just a constant pitch and get out there.
5. Expense - I think that this is biggest issue with learning. Lift tickets, lessons, rentals....$$. That's why learning on a small local hill is better. Save up for the trip to the big stuff. I never skied anything large till I got my first job. I went from 170 to 2000 ft. Batawa to Tremblant.

But to me the biggest item is commitment to the sport. If you want to excel at anything it takes commitment.

There is a program at Tremblant where they take British students on their "gap year". Many may have skied in the past, but not well, or never at all. They come over in January and many take their L1 instructor course in March. They are out on the hill every day with instructors. So instruction, commitment and fitness all are at play with these kids.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Adding to what @Jilly just wrote upthread ...

Previous experience gliding helps an adult learner catch onto skiing faster than otherwise. If that person has roller skated, ice skated, roller bladed, skate boarded, surfed, or even ridden a bicycle, those help in varying degrees to help get the motors running.

Ballet dancers have a big advantage as adult learners as well, since they have trained their body parts to move independently from each other in all sorts of directions. They also tend to have excellent one-foot balance. This also goes for martial arts, tai chi, and gymnastics.

I've taught adult learners who have never ridden a bicycle, much less any of these other things. It takes them a while, meaning they need to bring to their skiing a big commitment of time and energy. And they need the personal gumption to keep at it when they perceive little progress. Often this isn't the case, and they don't come back. I am talking about learning to turn left and right, and stop.

Here in the US 85% of first day beginners do NOT return to ski again. This is a measurement of instructional success that PSIA computes every season. It hasn't appreciably changed since I started teaching 13 years ago. Depressing isn't it?
 
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liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Not all of those first day beginners take lessons. And not all of them are adults. The 85% non-returners applies across the board to all beginner skiers.

Before someone asks, I need to say that I don't know how they arrive at that measurement.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
Here in the US 85% of first day beginners do NOT return to ski again. This is a measurement of instructional success that PSIA computes every season. It hasn't appreciably changed since I started teaching 13 years ago. Depressing isn't it?

I dunno, people try new things, some stick, some don't. I've done things once that I thought were fine, or not my cup of tea, etc, and it's no biggie that I don't try them again. And of all hobbies skiing requires a commitment of time, travel and money for most of us, so it's not surprising it doesn't stick with many.
 

fgor

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Yeah, nah. Definitely mostly too optimistic, in my opinion, depending on what we're calling an adult.

21 year old dude who has never skied before, but full of relative youth, testosterone and unearned confidence? Good chance they'll get comfortable pretty quickly, yeah.

I personally skied for the first time in my early 20s, on the very occasional weekend trip with friends from university (we lived a long way from any mountains). I was super bad and had to have a couple of beginner group lessons to be able to turn in both directions and stop. My (male) partner at the time picked it up fast and just wasn't scared at all, and pretty much left me behind haha. Frustrating!

Had a long break from skiing, moved closer to mountains in my late 20s, and honestly at that point I'd say it took me a season and a half to REALLY become comfortable on skis. Like, I did a whole season of skiing and still wasn't comfortable turning on blue runs, just tended to traverse across the runs and end up in the wall. Still had fun, but ah yeah. Wouldn't have called myself confident and comfortable on skis. Maybe on green runs. As long as they weren't too narrow. :smile:
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Haven't read the blog yet . . . here's the story about my friend JF who learned at the same time as her kids (started at 4 and 6) at a small hill (Massanutten in northern VA). JF started with the never-ever lesson package on Day 1. She skied again a bit more that long weekend but in short spurts since her kids were still young and her daughter only did one day of ski school. The next few seasons, the family would do two 4-day long weekend ski trips. By the time they went to Alta during spring break (kids were 8 and 10), she was good enough to ski the greens solo. She did a three group lessons that turned out to be solo lessons. After that she could ski the easiest blues when going with a more experience skier.

This past winter JF and her son (taking a gap year) skied more days than usual at both our home hill and at Alta. I'd say it was the first time she was completely comfortable on any blue groomer at Alta, including skiing fresh powder. So essentially took 6-7 seasons skiing 5-8 days at a small hill, then adding 4-5 days at a destination resort in the Rockies.

I've always believed that it's worth the effort to become comfortable on any blue at big mountains (black at small hills). Just skiing the easiest green groomers gets boring pretty fast if skiing for an entire day. There is actually quite a big of variety to intermediate trails, both groomers and ungroomed terrain. That's all I skied for a few decades as a working adult only taking a ski trip every 2-3 years. Had a perfectly good time. If my daughter hadn't liked skiing from Day 1, would probably still be doing that since my husband is a non-skier for assorted reasons.
 

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Reading that blog I had to laugh just as I rolled my eyes. What experience does this guy, who by his own admission barely remembers learning as child, have of adult learners? What does comfortable and competent even mean? I wouldn't even describe myself as comfortable and competent without specific qualifiers - and the goalposts shift because as I get better, I want to get better!

My take is: the first bit is accurate, assuming that those 1-3 days are days where the learner has lessons, and that 'the basics' means 'can get on a lift, get down a beginner slope and turn using a snowplough'. The rest cannot be generalised because of myriad factors as many others have pointed out above. Even the author admits there is a huge variability, yet tries to apply a sweeping generalisation based on anecdotal friends-and-family evidence, which will make some people feel good about how fast they learned to ski (even if the technique they use is perhaps suboptimal for progression) and others worry that they aren't progressing.

There is a huge difference between being in your 20s vs your 60s, being a confident sportsperson vs someone who already sees themselves as 'not sporty', being risk aware vs risk taking, etc. And yet all these people are swept into the umbrella category of 'adult learners'.
I've previously skied with (reasonably fit, gym-going) people in their early 20s who were doing their second long (4-day) weekend skiing ever, and were already on intermediate slopes with an instructor and progressing to being comfortable on all the intermediate slopes on that mountain by the end of the second weekend.
I've also been skiing on the indoor slope with female friends who are the same age as me but with significantly less athletic backgrounds and a strong awareness of their own mortality. They needed 2-3 hours with lessons on the indoor slope to feel confident that they can stop and turn on the beginner slope there.

I think when it comes to measuring the speed of progress in skiing, comparison and beating yourself up over meeting some random blogger's arbitrary timeline will be the thief of enjoyment! Ultimately, I ski because I love it, and I want to be better so I can enjoy myself in more ways for longer (and also, I figure there's less people on the more difficult slopes, right?)
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Thanks a lot for your opinions. They seem closer to reality as I experience it. What made me very curious is that this is not an someone's isolated view. This kind of time scale proliferates on the internet and pops up every time a question is asked about "how soon may I progress". With the mandatory proviso, that people differ and individual results may not be what is true in the majority of cases (rather like when some new diet is advertised).
It is this majority of cases (aka: people on average, average person, typically, etc) that caught my attention. Of course people are different and their learning curves will be different. My son went to a 14 days' ski camp at the age of 15 as a never ever, next year he was doing instructor training. But frankly, he does not seem to me an example of typical progression.
I thought initially that those blogs or forum posts serve as dressed up promo bits for ski school. But I think it is now a bit of received wisdom.
 

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
This kind of time scale proliferates on the internet and pops up every time a question is asked about "how soon may I progress".
I wonder if this is more about being comfortable getting off beginner slopes couched as "progress" rather than truly being confident on all terrain (although some people are, likely because they are more confident in their physical ability to start with and have a background that allows for faster progress). Most people can still make it down easier blue runs with a snowplough relatively comfortably...
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Ultimately, I ski because I love it, and I want to be better so I can enjoy myself in more ways for longer (and also, I figure there's less people on the more difficult slopes, right?)
Of course, enjoyment is the thing here, not being in competition with some unspecified "models". Just was curious, as I do not know other people who would be late starters like myself, what a more diverse bunch of people would say. Thanks !
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Ultimately, I ski because I love it, and I want to be better so I can enjoy myself in more ways for longer (and also, I figure there's less people on the more difficult slopes, right?)
You are quite right about the advantages of improving technique in order to more comfortable on harder terrain where there are fewer people. I wanted to get better (after age 55) because I like to ski powder. Once I learned that skiing trees meant finding leftover powder, that was a reason to learned to ski trees. Since learning to ski bumps can be a first step to developing skills useful in trees, that was the focus for a while. Easier to deal with ungroomed, bumpy terrain with no trees in the way. :smile:

My primary ski buddy in the last 10 years was an expert skier in high school. (Classmate from a boarding middle school in ski country, an old bachelor.). He was skiing bumps every weekend since he was at a boarding school in Colorado near Aspen. When I started doing ski trips with him to destination resorts, he was around 60. Hadn't had a lesson since he was an instructor in high school. It's been a very enlightening experience after he started taking lessons as an older advanced skier. The lessons we've done together as semi-private lessons have been with very experienced instructors (mostly PSIA Level 3). It took a couple seasons, but as he learned to be more "efficient" with the current design of skis, he started skiing longer days. His bad knee hurt less. In short, it's never too late to learn from good instructors.

I would guess the problem for some adult beginners is that they are taught by relatively new instructors who only know one way to teach. If that approach doesn't work, then a beginner can think there is no point for any more lessons. They either quit or figure out ways to get down easy slopes that mean they quickly develop bad habits. If they are only skiing at small mountains a few days a season, they never really know how much trouble they would have on more challenging terrain. They don't come to understand that "blue" or "intermediate trail" can be very different between mountains. From what I see at my home hill, they still have good fun. I know of families who drive 6+ hours for an annual ski vacation who can't even ski "black" trails in the southeast, which are easier than most "blues" in other regions.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Of course, enjoyment is the thing here, not being in competition with some unspecified "models". Just was curious, as I do not know other people who would be late starters like myself, what a more diverse bunch of people would say. Thanks !
I think this ski forum may well be the only one where there is a fair number of people who are willing to talk about learning to ski as an older adult (over 50). Even the Seniors Skiing website is skewed towards people who have been skiing most of their lives. Or at least were intermediates before age 25, even if they didn't ski much before reaching retirement age.

Have you ever come across Bumps for Boomers? They have a program specifically geared to intermediates over a certain age who want to be more comfortable on snow and only intend to ski groomers.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
This kind of time scale proliferates on the internet and pops up every time a question is asked about "how soon may I progress".

So much internet content is written by people that lift content from other websites. So maybe one (ridiculous) person said that most people should be skiing blues in a couple of days, then 100 others took that as gospel and put it in their websites.
 

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