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

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
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.
I bet as well that the blue runs there were likely on the easier side and would be classified as green on other mountains...
 

newboots

Angel Diva
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.

Very good point! Often when I'm trying to learn something, I'll sample different websites. I find myself reading the same content, word for word, on 3 or 4 different sites. Not "Joe's blog," either. My most recent example was a medical question, and I go to decent websites for that. Appalling!
 

Eera

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I don't think such sweeping generalisations are helpful; it's very easy - with anything in life - to look at yourself and think "why am I failing?" when compared to this sort of thing.

As others have said before, there are going to be many, many different factors involved, not least the amount of exposure you get to the activity. For me personally, I've progressed way slower than I might have done otherwise because I've developed a large risk aversion in later life; I don't bounce back and frankly things hurt when I fall over, so I don't push myself. I remember when I was a national-level mountain biker in my twenties we use to say "if you don't fall off you're not trying hard enough". Yeah nah. Not when I'm in middle age and know from experience how long bones take to knit.

My progression has always been a series which goes a long the lines of: Can't do this - Ooooh, now I can - My God I can't get off this plateau. I don't doubt if I could get more snow exposure in more than week long lumps a couple of times a year overcoming those plateaus would be easier.

So back to the original question, it took several weeks over various vacations to become comfortable - with a caveat that I'm intermediate blue and happy in that area right now. Confident? Still not there.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
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. ....
There are other things besides an instructor with limited experience that can cause a first day beginner to have difficulty getting themselves to turn left and right and stop. My comments below apply to group beginner lessons that do not last all day, not private beginner lessons.

1. The lesson is too short (1.5 to 2 hours). The beginner group is too large (12+ people). Either of these or both will mean there's not enough time and not enough individual attention by the instructor to help students individually if they are having difficulties that could be solved with just a bit more attention.

2. The beginner learning terrain is awful. This problem can take many forms.
--There's no carpet to take beginners up the hill for their first runs, so they have to side-step up to ski down. Walking up, side-stepping up, or herring-boning up, over and over, is exhausting. When tired, people fall more frequently. Then they have to get up, which is physically demanding. In a beginner group it can be demoralizing to get stuck on the ground unable to get up. Eventually tired students start falling more and more as their minds get fuzzy. They can't learn anything at this point and get terminally discouraged.
--There are skiers zooming through the beginner groups to get back to the lift (yes, I've taught on such terrain). This is legitimately dangerous and the adult beginners realize this. They are frightened. When feeling threatened, a student becomes defensive, which strongly blocks learning.
--There's no flat run-out at the bottom of the first-turns area. If the first attempt at stopping fails, the student has no alternative but to crash to stop. Fear freezes them up and they will never return.

3. The rental boots are two sizes too big. The student finds that their skis have a mind of their own. There is little control over where the skis point and no control over the edge angle. The student mistakenly thinks they are not naturally inclined to ski. They don't know it's the boots. They are doomed to not be able to hold a wedge; the skis wobble uncontrollably. If they can't hold a wedge, they can't turn left and right, and they can't stop. They think the failure of the lesson to teach them to turn and stop is because they personally are a failure. They won't come back.

4. The student is bow-legged. Or knock-kneed. Even if the rental boots fit well, the student cannot control the edge angle of both skis. It will be impossible for the bowlegged student to stop in a wedge; it will be impossible for the knock-kneed student to flatten the skis. Both situations leave the student feeling incapable of skiing. There is a liability issue with instructors stuffing folded trail maps inside the boot cuff of such students, and I've taught in ski schools which forbid doing this, even though it will temporarily solve the problem.

5. It's zero degrees Fahrenheit outside. The clueless beginner has no goggles, inadequate knitted gloves, no helmet, and no neck covering. These poor people are too cold to think. Being in danger of frost bite does not lead to eager learners, and their minds go blank. They wonder why anyone would like skiing, and can't wait to get into the lodge and warm up. They won't come back unless they have friends who ski who convince them that good ski clothing can solve the issue of being too cold. But if their budget prohibits buying all the stuff needed, they probably are lost to skiing.

4. The rental boots are too tight. The pain is excruciating. A student with this problem can't think of anything else. Their minds wander down to their feet, they can't attend to what the instructor is teaching. They reduce their movements to minimize the pain from the boots pressing against their bony feet, and miss what is being taught. All they want to do is get inside and take the boots off. They may persist with an exchange for a larger pair of boots. I hope so.

5. There are many other reasons to list that aren't about the instructor's experience. Don't always blame the instructor.
 
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Iwannaski

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
At one of my favorite local slopes, @liquidfeet , not only is there not really a runout, but the slope basically ends in a river, with a mesh plastic webbing all that is between the out of control slider and the icy cold water. It’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
And an instructor can spend way too much time in a group lesson with the lowest denominator, instead of the middle of the pack. Not helping anyone at all.

I had a rank beginner class that basically split into "can do it" and "haven't got it yet" and 1 scared sh#tless. (The daughter eventually promised to do the dishes for the next 3 nights if Mom would at least get down the bunny slope by sliding.) So I had 1/2 the group up the magic carpet, 1/2 still climbing and sliding and 1 standing around. I would not let anyone up the magic carpet unless they could stop on demand. Snow school supervisor didn't like it, but the clients didn't complain so I didn't care. In fact 2 came back the next day and ask for me for their group.

And on the thoughts about rentals. With most resort rentals looking the same, some families get the skis mixed up. I know that Tremblant is now putting the name on a sticker on the skis. So "Joe" knows he's got his skis and not his brother "Bill's"!!
 

floatingyardsale

Certified Ski Diva
It took me about three seasons. The first two seasons were beginning lessons and a lot of mom squats as I took the kids down the hill. Didn't get a lot of time to practice but I have killer newbie skills. This past season I took more lessons and more importantly got about twenty days on my own or with other adults. Went from greens to edging into groomed blacks in a season. Blues opened up most of the mountain for me so I was happy.
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Thank you for fascinating insights. Having read all, I wonder would you agree that there is a certain gap at
a particular stage of the learning process? I will call it "improver level" meaning a beginner who may have grasped the fundamentals: linking wedge turns and stopping. Personally, when I got to that point I felt left on my own. I did not fit into beginner groups, but neither did I belong with intermediate students who were going for parallel skiing. I still do not know what I should have searched for? As a result, I started to "figure it out" myself, with very bad results which I am battling now. I have figured out something between stem christie turning (I only found the term much later of course) and turns using edge change, but without proper weight shifts. Plus I have developed a classic backseat stance, in all innocence, understanding that the important thing is to bend the knees and stay as low as possible during turns (which gave me a sense of greater stability). . None of my subsequent teachers ever told me those were wrong moves and none tried to correct my stance . But I do not want to bash them. I think now that they were themselves in an awkward place. If they were to start to correct those errors, there would be very little to show after the one or two private lessons I usually took, and they were sure I wanted concrete results. Last year I took six lessons and still we never touched the question of stance or weight shift. And I can see now how long it can take to arrive at doing fundamentals correctly. Now that at last I have a proper learning process, it has taken me five months of twice weekly lessons to correct those bad habits (many are still waiting their turn :smile: ). I would like to know though, how do you, as instructors, deal with people at this stage? How should I have progressed from the linked wedge turns?
 
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EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
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.
I had a look. Oh yes, this sounds right up my alley. Too bad it is in Aspen, not likely that I should be crossing the Atlantic to join...In Poland I have not found anything comparable, I do not think we have clinics actually. But I hope this is what my coach has in mind for me, now on the carpet, but winter will come one day. :smile:
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
....none tried to correct my stance . But I do not want to bash them. I think now that they were themselves in an awkward place. If they were to start to correct those errors, there would be very little to show after the one or two private lessons I usually took, and they were sure I wanted concrete results. ....I would like to know though, how do you, as instructors, deal with people at this stage? How should I have progressed from the linked wedge turns?
You are so insightful. You've figured out your own issues, and you've nailed the issue with teaching good stance exactly as it is.

Most novices and lower intermediates who take lessons where I teach (New England) are skiing back seat. Higher skilled skiers don't take lessons much where I have been teaching, and if they do another instructor with a higher certification than mine gets to teach them.

My students have embedded that back seat stance deeply. Fixing it will take more than that one hour. Simply getting them to do two linked turns with a proper stance (fronts and backs of the skis both pressed down towards the snow) might be quite difficult in that one short lesson. If I were teaching out west in the US where day-long lessons are the norm, it would be different.

Since I don't teach at a mountain that caters to the uber-rich, my students will have paid dearly for that hour's lesson. I can choose to hammer on the stance issue, which I've done often enough to expect no discernible results, or teach them something else that they can succeed at and which will improve their skiing a little bit. I usually choose the second option.

But I start some lessons with a demo of skiing with proper stance, and I give them a few tries at getting the hips (pelvis) forward for a few turns. Then I switch to the other thing I'll teach (with only 30-45 minutes left). At the end of the lesson I bring our concluding discussion back to the stance thing and how much it will mean if they practice it daily, always. I don't expect many to do that as they return to skiing with friends and family on too-difficult terrain.

There are a number of exercises that can get a student to ski with proper stance. Shuffling, hopping, marching and stepping through turns will do it. Skiing backwards in a wedge will naturally get them in the right stance with pelvis forwad, but they have difficulty doing that same stance when they turn around. Practicing the proper stance while alternating it with too-far-back and too-far-forward will work. That's good on a wide trail without any traffic where the alternations can be done in a traverse. Lifting the tail of the new inside ski is a big one because it involves making actual turns, and it helps wedge skiers get parallel. There are other things one can use too, but here it's just words words words.

Some students are ready to do the whole bit in one lesson. For them, I can teach weight transfer from outside ski to outside ski along with proper stance. I use thumpers (lift and thump the tail of the uphill ski) in a traverse because it works well, then add thumping the tail of the other ski (the new inside ski) as they go around the corner. This also frees that lightened ski to bring its tail into parallel. I use this all the time if I perceive the student is ready for it. Lifting the tail of the downhill ski as one gets ready to make the turn is emotionally difficult, but if a skier can do it that's a BIG BREAKTHROUGH.

Many intermediate skiers continue to move the new outside ski's tail outwards as they start a turn, then bring the inside ski into parallel as the skis go in the new direction. This is not exactly skiing parallel, but it's close. It's called a stem christie. Eliminating that little "a-frame" or "snow-plow" or "stem" move at the very beginning of turns is quite difficult for people when it's deeply embedded.
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
I had a look. Oh yes, this sounds right up my alley. Too bad it is in Aspen, not likely that I should be crossing the Atlantic to join...In Poland I have not found anything comparable, I do not think we have clinics actually. But I hope this is what my coach has in mind for me, now on the carpet, but winter will come one day. :smile:
You might check out the fitness section of the Bumps for Boomers website. I found that when soon after needing knee rehab (not a skiing injury) back in 2012. There is an interesting self-test. The range of exercises for both lower body, core, and upper body provide insight into which muscles were actually important for smooth skiing. Leg strength is not the most important aspect at all for a senior skier who has solid fundamentals on skis made in 2010 or later.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
You might check out the fitness section of the Bumps for Boomers website. I found that when soon after needing knee rehab (not a skiing injury) back in 2012. There is an interesting self-test. The range of exercises for both lower body, core, and upper body provide insight into which muscles were actually important for smooth skiing. Leg strength is not the most important aspect at all for a senior skier who has solid fundamentals on skis made in 2010 or later.
@marzNC do you have a link for that?
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
I have to agree with @liquidfeet. Most issues are stance and balance. Because if it's not there, then nothing seems to work right. I took a L3 CSIA course and one of the participants was constantly in the back seat. He still wasn't out of it at the end of a week. It was hard work for him.

One of the things to mention when getting into a class or to the instructor is that you want to learn how to do X. The instructor then has a goal. They will look at your basics and determine if you're ready for that, or need more help somewhere.

ie - bumps. If you're not balanced in your stance then there will be problems. Also if you can't do really short turn, again problems. So the first step is short turns with stance improvements. You might not get to good bumps that day, but you will on your way.

Another thing I wanted to bring up was attitude. I've had students that want to run before they can walk. I had one student on a ladies night that I would not let go up the hill on the chair lift. This women could not do 3 complete turns on the bunny hill without falling. I was not letting her up on the main hill which is narrower until she could stay upright. After 3 lessons, she complained and was moved to someone else. Guess what, she didn't do any better. She was a menace to the other skiers on the hill. It's a really small hill in Ontario that takes 2x as long to go up as to down. And it's race practice on the same night. I was surprised that she didn't get hit by one of them.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
There are a number of exercises that can get a student to ski with proper stance. Shuffling, hopping, marching and stepping through turns will do it. Skiing backwards in a wedge will naturally get them in the right stance with pelvis forwad, but they have difficulty doing that same stance when they turn around. Practicing the proper stance while alternating it with too-far-back and too-far-forward will work.
I have seen such and similar exercises practised on the slopes, but exclusively for participants of ski camps, like where I sent my son when he was a teen. None of the instructors I worked with -individually- suggested that we do any such.
And yes, I did specifically ask that we concentrate on my stance, but that did not help: we always did the same thing, as if they all followed some blueprint . I practised lower ing one shoulder during a turn, and staying on the weighted foot for as long as I could during a turn. This had its merits, for sure, only did not address the fact that my stance and many other aspects were all wrong and would not get better on their own. In the end I concluded this was not getting me anywhere, and if I wanted to improve I had to look for some other way.
I have this awful suspicion that instructors from those ski schools were doing a quick assessment of the situation, and if they think the student does not seem "promising" (too old? not very fit? idk, really) they do they put the minimum effort in the task ahead. While instructors leading the ski camps seem a different species altogether, but there are no such available for people past college students' age.
I have never been skiing in the USA or Canada, and it may all be very different there, so those of you who are instructors, please do not take this comment personally.
 
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Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
Oh, I hear you. For a long time the CSIA had a "template" that you were to follow. That finally went out the window about 20 years ago.

Now we're all about the student with student centered learning.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I have never been skiing in the USA or Canada, and it may all be very different there
My impression from reading ski forums for a decade is that there is clearly differences between ski instruction by country. However each country has different training and examination processes for professional instructors. For instance, in the USA an instructor for beginners does not need to be certified by the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America). A ski resort typically holds their own instructor training during the early season for new hires. Sometimes that ends with taking the Level 1 exam, but at other places that might not happen until the end of the season, or not even at all. An instructor who only expects to work at their local hill may not feel there is any reason to invest the time and money required to become PSIA Level 1. In Canada the first level of certification is required to work as an instructor.

What happens for ski schools in France, Austria, and other countries in Europe with ski slopes are also country-specific.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@EdithP, you just said:
"I have this awful suspicion that instructors from those ski schools were doing a quick assessment of the situation, and if they think the student does not seem "promising" (too old? not very fit? idk, really) they do they put the minimum effort in the task ahead."

I hear you on this one. As I went through my instructor training, and let my trainers know I was interested in working towards advanced training, they ignored me. I was left out of the sessions specifically focused on higher level stuff for those preparing for certification exams.

They (all males) did not ignore the younger women nor any of the men seeking higher level training.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
While instructors leading the ski camps seem a different species altogether, but there are no such available for people past college students' age.
Is there no option for "private lessons" for any price?

In N. America sometimes investing time and money for a few private lessons is worthwhile. Especially if can get recommendations by name for very experienced instructors, meaning 15+ years of teaching experience. Doesn't just apply to destination resorts. I've learned a great deal from a few private lessons at my home hill that is nowhere near ski country (a couple hours from Washington DC). I worked with the instructors who were also trainers of the ski school.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
....I have this awful suspicion that instructors from those ski schools were doing a quick assessment of the situation, and if they think the student does not seem "promising" (too old? not very fit? idk, really) they do they put the minimum effort in the task ahead.
One more thing about this...
I finally found a mentor to work with me on that advanced training. I asked her after we had been working together for a while if she could explain to me whether it was something about my skiing that my previous trainers saw as making me not worth their time, or if it might be my gender and age. She paused a long time before answering.

Then she described something about my skiing and explained that most instructors at her level of expertise knew it to be nearly impossible to fix. I was using Rotary Push-Off (RPO) turn initiations. I won't describe that here, but some of you might know what that means. She said most high level instructors have worked enough with skiers who do this to know they don't respond well to training. She said she thought I might be different since I was so determined to succeed, and that she was already working with me on fixing this thing.

The RPO is gone now, overwritten by better initiations. But when I'm flummoxed by difficult terrain or conditions it raises its ugly head and takes over my skiing. I usually figure out what's wrong, but sometimes it takes a few runs before I realize, oh right, that's what's going on.

I still think the age and gender thing was a big part of their disregard for me. Not every trainer treated me this way, just some. Those that didn't have that disregard were not directly able to work with me, however. It was a good day when I lucked out and got myself into a group of instructors working with this mentor. Those of you who frequent this forum may know who she is. Mermer Blakeslee.
 
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