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DPS

Looking to improve skiing ability - opinions?

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Hello,

 

I have skiied for a long time but not often enough to get very good. In bounds I can comfortably ski diamond runs albeit while displaying a stunning lack of grace and form. I would like to improve and wonder if taking a lesson would be helpful or if spending the money on lift tickets and practicing more would be better. My main interest is ski touring and easy ski mountaineering. Opinions?

 

TIA,

 

Dan

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I used to take occasional lessons even when i was on ski patrol. I wasn't an amazing skier then or now, but i do think that lessons can help at just about any skill level. lot of fine points to really good skiing.

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I think your best option is to ski backcountry as much as possible. Ski lessons will not help you much at this stage of your development, and lift-served skiing does not teach you anything further that will be applicable to backcountry skiing, plus is very expensive.

 

It's hard to get the mileage in the backcountry, but it's the only place you'll find a variety of conditions that will ultimately make you a better skiier in those same conditions.

 

I don't remember the boots you were wearing when you broke your foot, but I thought they were fairly lightweight touring boots? A really good boot can't be emphasized enough: one that will keep you warm and dry all day, and not make you sweat too much in the up-tracks.

 

Finally, multiple sets of good skins and anti-balling wax will get you out more often. I suffered with a single set of (albeit pretty good) skins for too long and missed the second day on a lot of weekends because my skins had gotten wet enough to not dry overnight.

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I don't remember the boots you were wearing when you broke your foot, but I thought they were fairly lightweight touring boots? A really good boot can't be emphasized enough: one that will keep you warm and dry all day, and not make you sweat too much in the up-tracks.

 

I was wearing Scarpa Tambos, a light weight 2 buckle boot. I bought a new set up with taller, stiffer boots that I hope to be able to ski on next weekend.

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I'll take the opposite position and politely disagree about writing off resort skiing and lessons. It's not that hard to find crud and chopped up old snow at Pacific West resorts in my opinion, and you can get the mileage you need to make breakthroughs that you can't make falling down all over the backcountry in various types of really bad snow; save that joy for later since for most of us that never goes away. My opinion, if you are a strong athlete with mediocre ski form, I would take a lesson or two with an instructor that understands your ambitions, spend some resort time off the groomers, and see where that gets you.

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I don't think signing up for a full set of lessons is what you want. Signing up for a one day session will help. Then you have an outside observer there to spot problems with your form for downhill skiing.

 

Then spend some time at resorts, but stay off the big runs and look for crud to ski through. Places like Crystal and Baker have pseudo backcountry. Spend your resort time in those areas.

 

Lots of downhill time will give you time to focus on downhill form. In the end though Log as much time as you can in the true backcountry.

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I think your best option is to ski backcountry as much as possible. Ski lessons will not help you much at this stage of your development, and lift-served skiing does not teach you anything further that will be applicable to backcountry skiing, plus is very expensive.

 

If you can't find "backcountry snow conditions" (no fucking clue what those are) from a lift in the PNW you suck at life. You can easily get 5-10x the amount of skiing in.

 

Backcountry skiing is well, skiing, and ski technique is fundamental. If you want to be a good skiier, ski

 

Finally, multiple sets of good skins and anti-balling wax will get you out more often. I suffered with a single set of (albeit pretty good) skins for too long and missed the second day on a lot of weekends because my skins had gotten wet enough to not dry overnight.

 

Amazingly I've never had a problem with skins drying overnight. Take them out of the bag, hang them. Given a pair of skins is 2-3 lift tickets now.....

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One way to build up strength and balance is to take a pack and a shovel to the ski area, and fill the pack with snow at the top of the lift. Ski down with the heavy pack, and dump the snow at the bottom before riding the lifts again. If you can ski well with a heavy pack, you're ability and confidence will increase when skiing with no pack or with a day pack.

 

 

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One way to build up strength and balance is to take a pack and a shovel to the ski area, and fill the pack with snow at the top of the lift. Ski down with the heavy pack, and dump the snow at the bottom before riding the lifts again.

 

You'd have to put a gun to my head to get me to do this.

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If you're really serious about maximum improvement in minimal time, spend the $$ for a PRIVATE lesson, and specify your objective - backcountry skiing, perhaps with a pack. A decent ski-school should be able to match you with an instructor (take time to interview more than one) who will take you off-piste, ski your brains out, and larn ya more in a day than you could accomplish in several seasons of self-learning. No, I'm not an instructor; however, I did benefit immeasurably from many a day with a certified instructor during my 14 seasons as a professional patroller...

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If you're really serious about maximum improvement in minimal time, spend the $$ for a PRIVATE lesson, and specify your objective - backcountry skiing, perhaps with a pack. A decent ski-school should be able to match you with an instructor (take time to interview more than one) who will take you off-piste, ski your brains out, and larn ya more in a day than you could accomplish in several seasons of self-learning. No, I'm not an instructor; however, I did benefit immeasurably from many a day with a certified instructor during my 14 seasons as a professional patroller...

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I agree with taking a day lesson and spending time at the resort. I also prefer touring and would rather not to have to pay to ski but the only way to get good at skiing is to get the mileage in at a resort.

If you want to practice on variable conditions then don't be picky about your skiing days... of course easier to stomach if you have a pass somewhere.

 

But still, this doesn't mean that you can't get out there on smaller and easier tours and build from that. Nothing wrong with doing a "blue" BC tour. But still... if you really want to get good at skiing it's all about the mileage.

 

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I'd have to disagree with Alex - I tried to learn how to ski in the backcountry for a few seasons, and I still sucked major ass until I started putting in some lift-served days. In my experience, you just can't hit your groove when you're only getting a few runs, an hour apart. For the past few years, I've been paying by the ride whenever I go to the resort (which isn't very often) - much cheaper that way, since I only get 4 or 5 runs anyway. I don't know how many resorts offer passes for X number of rides, but look into it. Also, multiple sets of skins?? I've never known anyone who needed more than one, even on 10-day hut trips. Maybe if you're snow camping, but those shits are expen$ive. Pull 'em apart, hang 'em, dry 'em. And keep 'em out of puddles.

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I'll take the opposite position and politely disagree about writing off resort skiing and lessons. It's not that hard to find crud and chopped up old snow at Pacific West resorts in my opinion, and you can get the mileage you need to make breakthroughs that you can't make falling down all over the backcountry in various types of really bad snow; save that joy for later since for most of us that never goes away. My opinion, if you are a strong athlete with mediocre ski form, I would take a lesson or two with an instructor that understands your ambitions, spend some resort time off the groomers, and see where that gets you.

 

 

I second this. I was in the same boat as you Dan in lots of years of skiing but not a lot of skiing per season to get good at it.

 

Also if you don't want to shell the $$ for lessons, go skiing with some really good skiers. Seriously. The biggest jump I made skiing was two seasons ago doing a full day at Copper Mtn with some friends who are phenominal skiers. Keeping up with them and also the tips they handed out made me progress light years.

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I don't think signing up for a full set of lessons is what you want. Signing up for a one day session will help. Then you have an outside observer there to spot problems with your form for downhill skiing.

Agreed... just one or two lessons (private or group) with a good instructor will reveal plenty of areas for improvement. The instructor will give you some specific and relatively simple drills that you can do on your own for the rest of the season to help improve.

 

Beyond that, as others have said, riding the lifts and getting in as much vertical as possible on groomers and off piste terrain is what will make you a better backcountry skier.

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Be sure to get a instructor that has some mileage.. there are alot of level 1 graduates out there that are very good at demonstrating snow plow turns to beginners. but would be a fish outa water trying to help develop good off piste technic. simple queastions when purchasing the time at the ski school desk will result in a decent product. I taught skiing for many years before I changed carrers and the principle client is the "never ever" beginer. So its good to just give em a heads up that you are looking for a "upper end" type session..

 

 

Chris...

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Oh, and I totally fucking suck at skiing. You will immediately feel like your skiing improves three levels just by watching me and laughing.

 

Serious though, ski a bunch and let me pay half your gas.

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a single private lesson is what I would recommend.

 

db and steller bring up some good points. A private lesson where they know you aren't a total newbie and only want their opinion for use in the bc is what you want.

 

Just to clarify one point. I spent a brief time in the 90s instructing skiing. Never use the term snow plow. You may know what that means, but most modern folks are used to different snow plowing equipment. The correct term is either, "make a wedge," or, "make a piece of pizza."

 

A good instructor should also know what a kick turn is.

 

It ain't like the old days at a ski area. :grlaf:

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I have been an instructor for several years (not actively recently), and an avid alpine skier for 19, and backcountry-er for 5 or so. Not to toot my own horn (well, maybe a little - 'toot-toot'!) but I am a capable enough skier to enter big-mountain comps (and qualify) and had a brief (like 2 second) spot in a small company's ski movie last year.

 

I would second the opinion that a day or two of private lessons is a great way to go, albeit an expensive one, but I would suggest getting a good stack (10ish) days of lift-serviced mileage under your belt first, skiing with a BETTER SKIER THAN YOU ARE. Sorry for the caps, but this is by far the best way to improve, an noone else has mentioned it. Not a ton better than you, but just enough so you constanty have to push to keep up.

 

I was awarded instructor of the year in my pod at Whistler in my first year teaching there when I was 19, and it was due to positive comments by my clients and by my clients' parents about the rapidity of their improvement. With kids, I would give maybe two or three drills in the course of an entire week of lessons, with adults, usually one, maybe two a day ONLY. The rest comes from finding terrain that is challenging yet fun, and making them chase me down it. You will get stronger, faster, and more endurance like you wouldn't believe. When I am skiing with better skiers than I am, I notice improvements day by day. However, it helps to know the terrain too, because it's tough to ski when you're just chasing a coat and not able to read the terrain - which raises another point. Learning to allow the terrain and skis do the skiing will allow you to get way more out of your legs than the average skier. Again, this takes simple mileage.

 

Although with the snowpack we're stuck with this year none of us will be skiing anything that requires these kinds of skills anyway...

 

 

And finally, if ski mountaineering and technical descents is your goal, these are great ways to improve. Find a buddy who is a show off and follow him/her through increasingly difficult tight trees, gullies, billygoat rocky areas, maybe some small mandatory airs etc. But for 97% of backcountry skiing, these skills will be limited in their application to simply strength and balance training. In which case, skiing normal resort style with a moderately heavy pack is a great idea too - but don't fill it with snow, just fill it with normal stuff and put it on your lap on the chair...

 

sorry for the rant everyone!

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The quickest way to improve your skiing is to invest in some new equipment. Two years ago, I would have rated myself as a decent skier on groomed runs, but worse than useless on moguls, crud, or bowls...

 

Then, I bought my "magic" skis, and suddenly (like the very first day in those skis) I was skiing all the blacks at Whistler with no problem. Next, I got new boots and had them fitted, and suddenly I could ski the double-blacks. Now the blue runs I used to ski are horribly boring to me.

 

I took no lessons, don't really ski that often (10-15 days per year), but I went from a blue skier to a double-black skier based entirely on fancy new equipment.

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Get to the resorts and do laps, as amazingly awesome as some bc skiing is, there is nothing compared to getting 20k vert in a single day at a resort. As for the gear, well imo great gear is really only necessary in the bc (having good boots (that FIT) is good all around) so make do with what you have at the resort. Like a few people said ski with people who are better than your. They should not be the kind of guy that immediately drops you because he is that good, but somebody who always beats you to the chair because you are like 10/15 turns behind. This will push you to keep up and you will be a much better skier. If that person is a hottie, that is even better, you just need something to keep you motivated (A person promising to buy you a beer at the end works as well). On my first day of telemarking (last weekend, when we had no new snow for quite some time) I took two runs to get my "legs" then went into the bc (I bought an hour lift ticket); the bc sucked so badly I bought another hour lift ticket and on my 4th run of my life on tele skis I was skiing blacks. Why? It sucks being that guy that holds everybody up, and well, it sucks being slow. Also, I watch alot of skiing films so I now what the pros look like when they ski.

Also, something that I feel is slightly under-estimated out here is that your edges NEED to be sharp. You should be able to shave your fingernail on them; that way if it is not deep snow and a little "icy" you won't be skidding all over the place.

Hope some of this helps.

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