January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month; improve your skiing and riding skills with a lesson | VailDaily.com

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month; improve your skiing and riding skills with a lesson

Jennifer Geisman
Special to the Daily
Beaver Creek Snowboad instructor Francesca Mondo takes Sarah Colo, left, through the toeside turn progression at Beaver Creek resort on Friday. Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month hosted the World’s Largest Ski Lesson on Friday, Jan. 8, at 10 a.m., and both Vail and Beaver Creek participated.
Townsend Bessent | townsend@vaildaily.com |

Did you know …

• Beaver Creek’s Ski & Snowboard School is nicknamed the Ivy League of ski schools. The school’s instructors are made up of experts from around the world, including the United States, England, Australia, Russia, Argentina, France, Poland, Slovakia, Chile, Austria, Japan, Canada and Bulgaria.

• Layering socks on the slopes will actually make your feet colder. Never grab any old pair of cotton socks from your drawer, and don’t double up under the notion that your feet will be warmer. Look for socks that are knee-high, breathable, moisture wicking and of thin or medium weight.

• Ski and snowboard lessons are not just for beginners. Although you may be able to ski or ride any terrain with confidence and flair, it’s never too late to learn terrain-specific lessons. According to Hugh Reynolds, vice president of sales and marketing of Snow Operating’s Terrain Based Program, education doesn’t end just because you get beyond the basics. There is always a new skill or new frontier to be explored.

• Bluebird powder days can almost double your UV exposure. It may be a high of 30 degrees on the day of your lesson, but don’t let the frigid temps fool you. According to UV Awareness, fresh snow can reflect as much as 80 percent of UV radiation. Couple that with high altitude, and you better wear your sunscreen.

Every winter, your buddies plan a ski and snowboard trip, and each year, you are a no-go. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, and it’s about time you discover what the fuss is all about. Imagine floating on pure powder with bluebird skies above and sun-kissed afternoons as you glide down Lover’s Leap … until you hit the brakes and realize that you need lessons to make this all come true.

Don’t worry: You aren’t alone.

“Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month is dedicated to beginners,” said Mary Jo Tarallo, director for the Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month/Bring a Friend initiative. “The initiative provides a way for beginners to find resorts near where they live and information for getting started on the snow.”

Conceived by a group of resort association professionals who wanted a way to attract attention to learning, Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month started in January 2009. Resort partners have provided more than 600,000 beginner lessons in the month of January in years since via this initiative.

Benefits of instructor lessons

Just because someone knows how to do a sport or activity, doesn’t mean that he or she can teach it well. Ski or snowboard lessons from a seasoned instructor will give you the dexterity needed to progress in the sport.

“Friends don’t let friends teach friends,” said Hugh Reynolds, vice president of sales and marketing of Snow Operating’s Terrain Based Program. “Every experienced skier and snowboarder knows the pains of trying to teach a significant other or friend how to slide on snow. There’s probably no surefire way to ruin a first day and a friendship than by trying to teach or learn from a friend. It’s very hard for an experienced skier or snowboarder to put themselves back in the shoes of a newbie.”

Reynolds emphasized that ski and snowboard instructors are highly trained in the best methods to get you up and sliding quickly and painlessly, and most importantly, they are passionate about sharing their love of snowsports with their guests.

Professional ski instructor Alexa Owen said that in a lesson with a professional instructor, you have opportunities to learn new skills, practice them and then receive feedback and further instruction on how to perfect those skills.

“Taking a lesson is the fastest and safest way to learn how to ski or ride,” Owen said.

The instructors at Beaver Creek and Vail will start you off on the right foot, as they teach you the movements and skills to enjoy a day on the mountain. Beginners will learn about their equipment, how to navigate the mountain, how to stop, get up from a fall, make different types of turns, ride the lift and, most importantly, have fun.

“Many resorts have a variety of programs that cater to students of different ages, abilities and interests,” Owen said. “There are often special ‘learn to ski’ package deals available for multi-day lift tickets and lessons, which offer the greatest value for anyone interested in jump-starting their skiing or snowboarding experience.”

At Beaver Creek, adult beginner group ski or snowboard lessons are offered daily from 9:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and children’s beginner lessons are daily from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (for children ages 3 and older). In Vail, adult beginner ski or snowboard lessons take place 9:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. daily and children group lessons (age 7 to 12) start at 9:30 a.m., with registration from 8 to 9 a.m.

Learn when you’re young

With kids becoming more and more fixated on their smartphones, learning to ski or snowboard at a young age will give them the opportunity to get off the couch and be active outside during the winter. Advantages to learning while you are young come in a package deal — adaptation and balance. Young children have the ability to acclimatize faster to new environments, adapt to change, are quicker at picking up new skills, have more of a sense of balance than adults and know how to play hard in the snow.

“Learning to ski or snowboard when you’re young is ideal: You’re strong, limber and eager to play,” Owen said. “The body learns new movement patterns more quickly when it’s young. Another advantage — and perhaps the greatest one — is that your fear of falling and making mistakes is much less when you’re a kid, as opposed to when you’re an adult. This makes the learning process easier.”

Kids are the next generation in winter sports, and the resort industry caters to making it easy for families to take a mountain vacation. Both Beaver Creek and Vail offer discounted group lesson rates, specials on rentals and family packages.

Adult-only lessons

Most adults have the “a-ha” moment when their children learn to ski or snowboard or their super-crush is whisking them away on a snow adventure. Once you’ve gotten over your apres-only security blanket, you will discover that there are many adults just like you, learning to glide down the mountain for the first time.

“Kids and adults learn differently (for many reasons), so they won’t be placed in the same beginner lessons,” Owen said.

Most often, adult lessons take place in separate learning areas, with instructors who cater the classes to adult understanding and learning progressions. The instructor will teach you all of the basics, help you assess your equipment and give you guidance about the mountain and terrain so that you can quickly become acclimated and confident when you meet up with your friends and family later in the day.

Many mountain resort ski and snowboard schools also offer women-only lesson packages that are geared toward a woman’s body, focusing on the differences between men and women’s sense of gravity, balance and upper-body strength.

Vail offers Women’s Ultimate 4 Ski Lessons, which are group ski lessons for up to four women led by a female instructor from the Vail Ski & Snowboard School. In these lessons, women can learn, or brush up on, their ski skills in a small group setting, from the foundation-building basics of a first-timer class, to navigating the easiest greens, to sharing tactics and camaraderie on the resort’s beginner and intermediate trails. The Women’s Ultimate 4 Ski Lessons are available during peak holiday periods, Feb. 13 to 20 and March 13 to April 2. For more information, call 970-SKI-VAIL.

Getting started

Now that you’ve scheduled your lesson, what comes next? First and foremost, you need to understand your equipment and how it works. At the beginning of the lesson, your instructor will walk you through the basics of your gear, how to load and unload on different kinds of lifts (magic carpets, rope tows and chairlifts) and, eventually, navigating the mountain’s terrain.

“You learn the mechanics of a ski or board, how the equipment is built and, therefore, how to use it effectively. You’ll learn the basics of how to use the skis to slide, edge, stop and eventually turn. The same goes for using a snowboard,” Owen said.

The most important thing to learn when starting out is how to keep yourself in the right body position for controlling your equipment, according to Reynolds.

“You want to maintain a good, strong and confident athletic stance,” he said. “It’s natural when a first-timer starts sliding for them to shift their weight back — in the backseat, as we say — out of fear. This is the worst position for you to be in.”

In addition, make sure you are well-equipped for the weather on the day of your lesson. Use thermal layers to stay warm (never cotton), sunglasses for sunny days, and always wear an outer layer that is waterproof — alpine weather can change from the bottom of the chairlift to the top.

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