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Ski School FAQ
Should I consider ski school for me or my children?

Yes! If it works with your budget, there is no better way to learn how to ski than by getting personal instruction from experts. Learning how to ski from a certified instructor allows you or your child to develop good form and technique, instead of just hitting the slopes and developing bad habits. For children who are just learning to ski, or are working their way though the beginner category, ski lessons are the fastest way to build skills and confidence.

What is the right age for kids to begin ski school or start taking ski lessons?

We recommend having children ages 4 and up take with ski lessons, although they are available for children as young as 3. You know your child's coordination and maturity level best, so do what you think is appropriate. It is a question of balance and leg strength more than anything else, and 4 and 5 year olds will typically have the strength to adapt to the basic motion of skiing with relative success, especially if they have participated in other sports requiring balance such as skating, gymnastics, or dance. The focus at younger ages will be on turning and stopping. While this is a good age to begin lessons, parents should keep their expectations realistic. 4 and 5 year-olds may not have the coordination to begin taking large, green slopes on their own. Those skills come around ages 6 to 8 (depending on the child), when coordination is improving and children have more control of their leg muscles.

Snowboard lessons usually don't begin until age 6 or 7 due to the different type of balance and coordination required for that activity.

How much does ski school cost?

The price varies greatly. Ski lesson at a local ski hill may cost $35 - $50 per two hour session, while a ski school affiliated with a major ski resort may charge more than $100 for a full-day class. These prices almost always include the lift ticket, however, and often give you access to discounted gear rental. Our view on the local ski lessons at more modest resorts is that they are often just as effective as the more popular resorts. The instructors are always going to be good skiers, and if you're just learning you really only need 50 yards and a hill to begin to practice basic technique.

Different resorts have different ski school pricing as well. Check out our resort reviews for more information on different pricing of ski schools.

Are private lessons worth the money?

They can be, especially if your child prefers learning in a 1-on-1 environment, is "stuck" on a specific skill, if you are an adult trying to break some bad habits, or if you want to make a leap ahead in your proficiency (such as finally learn how to do moguls). They are more expensive, however, so be sure you are getting an instructor who can address your specific needs. Also, a ski school during non-peak time often only has a couple kids assigned to each instructor, which basically amounts to a private lesson.

If you decide to get a private lesson for you or a child, be sure to describe what kind of instructor you think would be the most compatible for your situation, both in area of expertise as well as personality, to be sure you get your money's worth.

How knowledgeable will the instructor(s) be?

Your instructor will always be an advanced skier, and will range from Professional Ski Instructor Association (PSIA) instructors at many mountain resorts to teenagers who are passionate about skiing at local places. Most often, young children will learn from well-trained ski instructors whose full-time job is to teach kids to ski. Resorts can usually be selective in choosing their instructors, ensuring you or your child has a great experience during the lesson.

If you feel that the instruction is not to the level that you value, be sure to speak to the ski school supervisor who usually is able to make a change to accommodate your needs.

What does my child need to know before going to ski school?

A child can start ski school at any skill level. If your child is so novice that they need to learn how to put their skis on, the instructor will help them. As a parent, your main responsibility is to ensure the ski school understands your child's skill level, and that your child is dressed properly. Beyond that, just let the helpful instructors do their thing.

Do I stay and watch ski school, or is it a "drop off" activity?

You are welcome to stay and watch your child progress, but ski school is almost always an activity where it is expected you will leave your child in the capable hands of the instructors. We always find a way to ski by the ski school a couple times to ensure everything is OK and cheer our children on, but beyond that it is a great opportunity for everyone in the family to go and ski to the level they are proficient.

Should my child wear a helmet at ski school or in ski lessons?

We recommend it. Some resorts will require that your child wear a helmet during lessons, and will have helmets available for rental in case you don't have your own. Most resorts don't go so far as to require helmets during ski lessons, but you'll find that 80% of the participating children are wearing them. Given that a ski lesson is designed to help your child push their boundaries and expand their skill level, helmets are a good idea.

Where are the best ski schools in the U.S.?

There are literally dozens of great ski programs across the country that will do a create job of teaching you or your child to ski. The good ski schools are not limited to well-known resorts, either. We've seen plenty of programs at local, low-key hills whose instructors do a wonderful job with their ski lessons.

As for major resorts, though, the reputations of places like Steamboat, Taos, and Smugglers Notch have always been highly regarded. But we've personally had great ski school experiences at nearly every resort we've been to.

With any ski school, ask around to be sure they have small class sizes, a good skier-to-teacher ratio, that they can accommodate varying skill levels, and that they will tailor the lesson to your child's capabilities.

Should my child be in ski school each day of our ski trip?

The pros of doing ski school each day is the routine it creates, and the ability to really see a great deal of growth over the course of the ski trip. For very young children, being in ski school each day can be the perfect way for them to enjoy the trip while allowing mom and dad to get on the blacks and blues. For children who are more proficient, it can be fun to allow a day or two for them to join the rest of the family skiing. There is nothing like seeing your child keep up with you on a long, green or blue run for the first time. In the end, your budget may dictate how many days of ski school you do.

How does my child's instruction adapt to his or her skill level?

On the first day of ski school, the instructor group will do a quick test of the childrens' skills to eyeball the proficiency level. From there, the children will be put in similarly skilled groups and paired with an instructor. A typical small group will have two to four kids. The instructors are very familiar with analyzing and adapting for skill levels - if, after 30 minutes, they realize your child is a stronger skier than they thought, they will usually move them up to the next group.

At the end of each lesson, the instructor will usually determine if your child should start the next day at the same level or in a higher-skilled group. It is common, over the course of a four-or-five day trip, for your child to be "promoted" a few times as they get their ski legs.

Rest assured, your child will be in a class with instructors who are tailoring their teaching to the exact right level. If you choose private lessons, this is all a non-issue - the instructor will adapt his or her techniques to the exact level at which your child is. Just be sure that the private instructor is a good fit for your child's particular skill level and learning style.

How many children will be in a ski school class?

In a group lesson, you will usually see anywhere from two to four, or perhaps up to six skiers with an instructor. Younger, beginning skiers are usually in smaller classes as they require more supervision. Midweek classes are often not full, allowing the student-teacher ratio to be very favorable. We've seen midweek group lessons during offpeak weeks where it essentially becomes a 1-on-1 lesson for each child.

What happens in if child gets cold or hurt during the ski lesson?

It is not uncommon for children to need a warm-up during a ski lesson. Ski schools usually have a staffed clubhouse or meeting area, often at the main ski lodge, where students can warm up if needed.

In the rare case where an adult or child is hurt on the slopes, instructors are usually equipped with whatever communication devices they need to get help.

Should I do half-day or full-day lessons?

While full-day lessons can be a great experience for an adult or child, half-day lessons can often allow a nice combination of instruction and skiing with your family or group. Full day lessons often include lunch, and a "full-day" typically runs from about 9:30 to about 2:30 or 3pm. "Half-day" often means a 90-minute or two-hour lesson.

Can I take ski lessons with my child?

Yes, more and more resorts are offering a parent/child combination ski lesson, which can be great but they typically are expensive. Be sure that the instructor is able to accommodate both the parent's and the child's skill levels. This can be a great experience and good value if both parent and child are just learning to ski. If there is a variance in skill levels, however, the instructor will need to focus the lesson on the student who is at the most rudimentary level.