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

marzNC

Angel Diva
Hi, This is a really interesting question and I am enjoying the discussion. I cannot share personal experience because I learned young and like many took time off and picked it up again years later blah blah blah…

One thing that I have noticed from being a member of Ski clubs: beginners with a background in either ice skating or rollerblading tend to progress quickly, and I’ve read recent articles extolling the virtues of rollerblading for off season preparation. OK, maybe I am more than slightly off topic but still relevant information for someone looking to improve.

My motto is as long as you’re having fun you’re making progress.
Another group that learns to ski relatively easily are dancers, meaning ballet or modern dancers in particular. The core strength and balance required for ballet is a good fit for skiing. My niece was a tween when she did a Girl Scout ski day. Really never skied more than a day or two after that through high school, mostly with me and my daughter at our home hill. But when she joined us in at Whiteface years later for a day, she had no problem skiing the blue from the top of the gondola, which is pretty steep and narrow in places. My husband's niece was much the same, although her family did a few week-long ski vacations to destination resorts in the Rockies. What my daughter has in common with both cousins is that they all love dancing and are lousy at ball sports like tennis or soccer.

When a friend's daughter was going to have her first ski vacation long weekend as a young tween (age 7 or 8), we took her ice skating locally a few weeks beforehand. She'd never done that either. I figured I'd learn something seeing how she picked up ice skating (empty rink, no lesson). It was worth the effort. Fast forward a few seasons . . . after a few weekends with ski school (one per season at most) she was a solid intermediate at age 11 last winter. Also helps that she's been doing a martial art for several years on a weekly basis. But I think the fact that she's willing to listen and practice is almost as important as her natural physical ability.
 

DebbieSue

Certified Ski Diva
Another group that learns to ski relatively easily are dancers, meaning ballet or modern dancers in particular. The core strength and balance required for ballet is a good fit for skiing. My niece was a tween when she did a Girl Scout ski day. Really never skied more than a day or two after that through high school, mostly with me and my daughter at our home hill. But when she joined us in at Whiteface years later for a day, she had no problem skiing the blue from the top of the gondola, which is pretty steep and narrow in places. My husband's niece was much the same, although her family did a few week-long ski vacations to destination resorts in the Rockies. What my daughter has in common with both cousins is that they all love dancing and are lousy at ball sports like tennis or soccer.

When a friend's daughter was going to have her first ski vacation long weekend as a young tween (age 7 or 8), we took her ice skating locally a few weeks beforehand. She'd never done that either. I figured I'd learn something seeing how she picked up ice skating (empty rink, no lesson). It was worth the effort. Fast forward a few seasons . . . after a few weekends with ski school (one per season at most) she was a solid intermediate at age 11 last winter. Also helps that she's been doing a martial art for several years on a weekly basis. But I think the fact that she's willing to listen and practice is almost as important as her natural physical ability.
 

DebbieSue

Certified Ski Diva
I think comfort ice skating is great predictor of capacity to pick up skiing for kids and adults, and it is a great way to prepare for a ski trip for never-ever skiers and for those with experience. Its the gliding . . . and stopping, be it wedge or hockey/parallel stop.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I think comfort ice skating is great predictor of capacity to pick up skiing for kids and adults, and it is a great way to prepare for a ski trip for never-ever skiers and for those with experience. Its the gliding . . . and stopping, be it wedge or hockey/parallel stop.
Also edges, at least for figure skates. I never had ice skating lessons, just picked it up as a tween on a playdate. The first time we went skating with a friend of my then tween daughter after I'd had some ski lessons, I realized I was a better skater because I knew how to use edges better. Could go backwards better too.
 

newboots

Angel Diva
Also edges, at least for figure skates.

Oh, they're pretty important for hockey, too! (1) Watch a hockey game some time and just watch the skates or (2) think about where we got the term "hockey stop."

:becky:
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
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.
This is awful! Yes, this is probably the reality underneath the pep talk about "age not being a barrier", "age should not prevent you from taking up skiing". Like with many things you think you know: until you dig deeper.
I can tell from your posts that in your actual experience, unlike the glib and optimistic theory, few people who start skiing later in life actually become proficient. As defined by the Aspen clinic mentioned earlier, that is to the exclusion of anything more challenging that groomer skiing.
Not that it will discourage me, rather it gives me a reassuring thought that I am not behind any norm. And I wonder leisurely just how far I will be able to get on this journey.
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Also edges, at least for figure skates. I never had ice skating lessons, just picked it up as a tween on a playdate. The first time we went skating with a friend of my then tween daughter after I'd had some ski lessons, I realized I was a better skater because I knew how to use edges better. Could go backwards better too.
I am trying to pick up on what was unavailable when I was a kid. Learned to ice skate some time in my late forties, rollerblading in my fifties . So maybe, after all, I have something to build on?
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
You have to remember too, that for European's skiing is a vacation. Similar to some of us NA's going diving. The amenities are not local. I've had this discussion with many Brits when we were in France skiing. They would come to France for 2 weeks a year and that was it. They thought it would be great to go every weekend like we did. I did have to remind them that we didn't have Trois Vallee in our backyard.

As for learning....you learn to ski 1 turn at a time. So whether it's the rolling carpet, 170 vertical ft hill or 3,000 ft mountain, it's 1 turn at a time.
So true! a small hill is just as great a place to learn as a great mountain. I am so glad there finally is a small mountain available in Warsaw, with snow making, drag lift and lights in the evening. I have been waiting for years for this to arrive.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#liquidfeet I hope so, at least to some extent. Right behind the ski centre building there is a hill with a drag lift with snowmaking in winter months and maybe I can swap some of my carpet lessons for on snow lessons. If not regularly, then at least from time to time. But even if not, I will be adding snow skiing every day to the present schedule, which hopefully will be good in itself.
Does this mean you'll be skiing every day once the season starts?
Or if not, how often will you ski next season? Can you predict how many days you'll have on snow? Given how deliberate your approach is, I'm predicting you'll make progress that you can feel and see.
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
My plan:
1. Keep up lessons twice weekly till December,
1. Weather permitting, will go to the mountains in December, for a pre - Christmas warm-up, which of course depends on there not being another lockdown. Will not happen if there is no natural snow yet, because the made snow is only on a small part of the area and then overcrowded by thirsty experts.
2. First 10 days of January 2022 - trip to France with my ski buddies, meaning 6 days of solid skiing in Trois Vallees.
3. After return resume lessons and top up with skiing at least two days a week on the hill, hopefully I will manage most days.
That is the plan, but much may get in the way, e.g. my Mom's needs which may well require my longer presence in another city.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Best of luck on getting in all those ski days, Edith. As many people say, mileage counts because it embeds what you're doing into muscle memory.
 

newboots

Angel Diva
I can tell from your posts that in your actual experience, unlike the glib and optimistic theory, few people who start skiing later in life actually become proficient. As defined by the Aspen clinic mentioned earlier, that is to the exclusion of anything more challenging that groomer skiing.

Of course I should leave this to @liquidfeet to answer, but I like to comment on things, whether I have a coherent answer or not!

She certainly has attained significant proficiency despite starting "late" in life. I have not been nearly as serious in learning to ski as her, but I am reaching the point where it's clear that lessons will be important and I plan to prioritize them.

I might never get into the backcountry, which was a goal earlier in my ski career. But I expect to make it to ungroomed trails! I'd also like to ski in the trees, but it seems I will need to conquer bumps before I can get confidently into the trees. I'm not there yet.

However, if I never make it to "anything more challenging than groomer skiing," I'll still be happy skiing. I love being out there! I have always loved the mountains, and have been a hiker since childhood. I have loads of fun skiing with friends And I see the aged "regulars" who get to the lodge early on weekday mornings, ski for a couple of hours, and leave before the crowds arrive around 10:30 or 11. They are clearly enjoying the heck out of it. Very few of them are on Devil's Fiddle* or in the woods, but they love to ski.

Once in awhile, I do find myself imagining I could ski like Mikaela. But I have also imagined my way into being a quarterback in (American) football, playing professional hockey, and having a second career in medicine. All equally far-fetched (or impossible) at my age and my skill level. But skiing has its moments of pure joy! And I get better every year.


*Devil's Fiddle is a double black diamond at Killington, filled with rocks, cliffs, steeps, and trees.
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
She certainly has attained significant proficiency despite starting "late" in life. I have not been nearly as serious in learning to ski as her, but I am reaching the point where it's clear that lessons will be important and I plan to prioritize them.
Ah, of course! I have realised this by now. I guess I have expressed myself imperfectly: I meant your guys'experiences with teaching latecomers. Ones without very special abilities at that, abilities which clearly some of you have had in ample supply since childhood.
But skiing has its moments of pure joy!
Could not agree more! I really really hope I can yet catch at least some of the fun and excitement if I get better at it. And why couldn't I, at least to some degree?
 

fgor

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I might never get into the backcountry, which was a goal earlier in my ski career. But I expect to make it to ungroomed trails! I'd also like to ski in the trees, but it seems I will need to conquer bumps before I can get confidently into the trees. I'm not there yet.

However, if I never make it to "anything more challenging than groomer skiing," I'll still be happy skiing. I love being out there!

People underestimate groomer skiing anyway! I'm having fun getting more into skiing ungroomed stuff, but when the snow conditions are such that hardpack groomers are all that's available - quite often in NZ due to freeze/thaw conditions - I really enjoy that as well. I've become a lot better at skiing but I still have SO FAR to go. I love watching the instructors and the racers carving skillfully down the groomers, and I just know that it would take me a lifetime to get that good. Groomer skiing can be super challenging as well, imo :smile:
 

snoWYmonkey

Angel Diva
Bonjour Chere Edith,

I just wanted to chime in in reply to your original question. Having taught for 20 years full time, I can say that learning to ski seems to fit a fairly normal bell curve with outliers on both ends of the spectrum. I have often been pigeon holed into teaching those who for many different reasons might not learn to move or be comfortable on skis particularly rapidly.

Some things I have observed. It is not limited to a specific age or gender. Just this past winter I had a young, athletic, but by his own definition very clumsy young man in his early twenties, struggle immensely with what is often a couple of hours on the magic carpet lift, that turned into a few days.

One of my favorite people took 7 years to reach her first blue run, and even then it was years of back to greens until she permanently made the transition to the next level of skiing. For me the lesson that I learned, was that we still had fun on the slopes, and expectations were just that, to have fun, and tons of repetition. I told her that the day she could ski the same run (we have less than a handful of short beginner runs) without even thinking about what she was doing, we could consider going up. It took time. Eventually we were continuing our lift conversation while skiing down that green run. She was ready. In her case it was fear that would cause the inability to move her body in the requisite manner to execute the turns, and the parallel.

One student I suspect had a different challenge. She was completely unaware of her hip area in part due to being a professional truck and never engaging it in her day to day, and also I suspect as a result of very rigid conservative upbringing and a spouse that stood for literally 5 hours at the bottom of the rope tow for 3 days in a row and would not leave her out of sight. She was raised to be afraid of dancing (not kidding) and I am quite certain that her self body awareness of limbs and trunk in space were very limited.

One young woman who did figure out a wedge and how to stop in a straight run, took 5 and half hours to make her first turn. We have tried skis on and off, and just about everything. She was incredibly determined, and gave me a huge hug after that one turn at the end of the day. Her determination was unusual, as most of my students give up by lunch in such cases.

My point I guess is to remember to have fun, and sometimes, the instructor is truly providing all the technical, psychological, equipment, physiological information and practice skills available, but the process still takes the time it takes. The main takeaway is to find a way to let go of the goals for a bit, and surround yourself on and off snow, if possible, with coaches and allies, that are not attached to the goals either, but to having fun being outside challenging yourself in the mountains.
 

snoWYmonkey

Angel Diva
Oops, she was not a truck, but a truck driver! The opposite turning approach to skiing. All upper body.
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Dear SnoWYmonkey
Thank you for this message. It is one thing to know that "people learn at a very different pace" , quite something else to have concrete examples. I loved the story about the lady who gave you a hug when she learned her turn. I would too. But do most people really give up that fast?
My point I guess is to remember to have fun, and sometimes, the instructor is truly providing all the technical, psychological, equipment, physiological information and practice skills available, but the process still takes the time it takes.
It is very good to keep in mind that it takes time, or at least that it might. We say "Rome was not buit in a day" but somehow e we hope that in our case it will be.
The main takeaway is to find a way to let go of the goals for a bit, and surround yourself on and off snow, if possible, with coaches and allies, that are not attached to the goals either, but to having fun being outside challenging yourself in the mountains.
A great point! First and foremost, this is great, addictive fun :smile:
 

Iwannaski

Angel Diva
@EdithP - there are many people who have the mindset that if they are not good at something, it’s not where they want to spend time. Then there are people who have to conquer things. I think it’s really a mindset thing about how you feel when you have room to grow… does it challenge you or scare you?

You seem like a natural growth mindset person. :party:
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
People underestimate groomer skiing anyway! I'm having fun getting more into skiing ungroomed stuff, but when the snow conditions are such that hardpack groomers are all that's available - quite often in NZ due to freeze/thaw conditions - I really enjoy that as well. I've become a lot better at skiing but I still have SO FAR to go. I love watching the instructors and the racers carving skillfully down the groomers, and I just know that it would take me a lifetime to get that good. Groomer skiing can be super challenging as well, imo :smile:
I did not mean to diminish groomer skiing, I do not even begin to have all the fun available there. It is just that so many of you seem to have outgrown those .
 

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