Exhilarating, fun, flow, relaxing, and even meditative are all common vocabulary terms used to describe skiing and snowboarding. But when you are new to these sports, words like challenging, frustrating, and scary, creep into conversation too. There was a point during learning that willpower was all that got me through. Naturally, we all want to move on to the more enjoyable phase as quickly as possible. Speeding the learning curve usually requires instruction. Unless you just have a natural gift, which I don’t.
I received superb instruction during my first three days of skiing at Brighton Resort last season. Since then, I’ve tried to refine my skills, but I felt stuck. I was improving, but I just wasn’t getting the flow. Additionally, as soon as the terrain got steep, I got scared.
Last weekend I took lessons at both Canyons and Alta. Those two days changed my skiing vocabulary. At Canyons, I spent a full day in the Intermediate Mountain Experience course, while at Alta I shared a half-day private lesson with a friend. For this post, I’m going to share my day at Canyons, and I’ll write about my day at Alta next.
It was dumping snow on Parlays Canyon when I drove to the resort. The ice started so abruptly that another car spun off the road a few minutes before I reached it, causing traffic to slow down and back up, possibly saving me from the same fate.
Powder dumped all day, which was a treat for skiing. I met up with the group at 10:00 am. There were a total of eight students, but we were never all together at once. Canyons strives for a 4:1 student to instructor ratio. My group of four was split in two by skill levels. With just two of us, it was similar to a private lesson. This isn’t always possible due to staffing, but I managed to hit a perfect day.
Our instructor, Marc Smith, has been instructing for over 25 years. He had amazing patience and teaching skills, but wasn’t afraid to nudge us to stretch our limits. Because we weren’t new skiers, he first watched our skiing to see where our skills could use some tuning. His comment to me was, “You’re a thinker…relax and breathe.” From there he worked on those areas and introduced new skills.
A new skill for my lesson-mate, Tatiana, and me, was skiing in powder. There was an average of 4-6 inches where we were skiing, and at times it covered our boots. It was funny because we both stopped as soon as we noticed this. Then Marc explained we don’t need to see our skis to ski properly. Off we went floating through the fluff. Sweeeeeet!
While the skill level of our instructor was my favorite part of the lesson, the full-day structure was also something I really enjoyed. As intermediate skiers, we could go all day without burning out. Because we had all day, our instructor guided us from the main gondola, all the way to the southern end of the mountain and back. Not only was this a great way to learn the mountain, it also meant we could try our skills on a wide variety of runs. I highly recommend this lesson for intermediate skiers who what to step up their skills and learn the mountain at the same time. If here on vacation, take this lesson early in your visit and you’ll have more fun during the rest of your stay.
Here is the official description of the class I took:
INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCE
Adults 13+: Ski & Snowboard, for those that enjoy Blue and Black Terrain
Take a look at the vast terrain that Canyons has to offer: our Ski and Snowboard School will take you there. With our Mountain Experience, we strive to provide you with more than a lesson: a memorable experience that both enhances your ability and transforms your day into a real adventure. Small groups will leave the meeting area at 10:00 am, and only return at the end of the day. The group will decide where and when to break for lunch, which will give you lots of time to explore the far corners of the mountain and find the hidden stashes that only Canyons enthusiasts, and our instructors, know about!
• Small group size, most likely less than 4 participants
• Full day lesson with a break for lunch (half day is not available for this product)
• Rental, lift ticket and lunch are not included
The school offers daycare, private lessons, group lessons, and specialty clinics from novice to advanced mountain experience.
While the school strives for a 4:1 ratio in its classes (staff permitting), the Ultimate 4 Kids Classes, have a guaranteed maximum 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio. They also have a selection of programs designed for local skiers such as a pre-school ski program.
Winter Hours of Operation: Ski & Snowboard School is open from 8am-5pm daily - (877) 472-6306. CanyonsSkiSchool@vailresorts.com.