If you’ve been frustrated with your wheelie turns, landing your first flip, consistency on your barefoot deepwater starts or any other technical problems that drive you nuts, consider this: There’s nothing like a trained eye watching your technique to help you identify and break bad habits. Have doubts about the benefits of ski lessons? No matter what level you ski at, you’ll get to the next one sooner with the help of an experienced coach. This season, plan a week’s stay at one of the top ski schools, and reap the rewards.
Consider your options. Which event(s) do you want to focus on? If you’re a barefooter, Ron Scarpa’s Watersports offers personalized instruction in an upbeat environment. If you’re a three-event skier, Jack Travers Ski School caters to your diversity by offering instructors specializing in each event. Do you want vacation time during your stay? Ski schools in central Florida have an advantage for those with families. At Drew Ross Ski Academy, Disney World is practically in the backyard of the highly touted Isles of Lake Hancock. Each ski school has unique qualities worth investigating.
Find a coach. Once you’ve narrowed down a short list of schools that fit your general preferences, pick up the phone and call around to find out which coach(es) will be available at those schools. Filled with energy and passionate about helping young skiers, April Coble at Coble Water Ski & Wakeboard Camp has a gift for working with kids. She is known for making up songs to drive home lessons and turning the step-by-step process of learning into fun. Corey Humburg at Ski Paradise loves turning his attention to advanced skiers who need micro adjustments. Every coach has areas of specialty, although the Alisters in our roundup have broad appeal.
MAKE IT COUNT
Don’t overdo it on your first day. “Limit your number of passes on your first few sets,” says Sunset Ranch coach Terry Winter. “build up as you go. Sometimes I witness students taking over 12 passes in one set, and then they’re spent.” Some skiers are so excited when they arrive that they rip the calluses on their hands, wreck their backs or otherwise injure themselves. Don’t be that person.
Make it good. Quality is more important than quantity, according to Ty Oppenlander, who coaches at Swiss Ski School. Maximize each set by being focused and strong, and spread lessons out so you have time to rest. Ride in the boat while other students are getting lessons: You’ll learn from their experiences.
Have an open mind. If you’re a skeptic when it comes to new advice, reconsider. “Once you’ve made the commitment to attend a ski school, be open to alternative ideas related to technique as well as unconventional training methods. After
all, you’re there because you want to grow, and a good coach’s mission is to help make this happen,” says Seth Stisher. It’s a good idea to keep a journal, noting the key points you work on with your coach as you go along. That way, when you’re back home, you’ll have a nice reference tool if you find yourself in a technical rut.
AFTER YOU’RE SCHOOLED
Continue to hone your newly learned skills. You’ve absorbed all this instruction from your coach, and your week was a success. Now what? “Skiing should be fun, so don’t overthink it by intensely scrutinizing every set,” says Jodi Fisher of Jodi’s Ski Skool. Every week or so, check the notes you took during ski school as a reminder of what you learned, and share your coach’s tips with your ski partners so they can help you stay on track through the summer.
Touch base. Bad habits can be difficult to break. Don’t give up on your quest to hone your technique, and don’t let your coach give up either. Keep in touch via e-mail, and let him or her know about your progress or any new technical issues you’re encountering. There’s a good chance that your coach will be able to lend some electronic words of wisdom to help you along!