Whatever level you ski and snowboard at, taking a professional lesson by a reputable company will pay off in dividends, and make you wonder why you have not been taking lessons all along. In case you need convincing, here are 5 reasons to take a ski or snowboard lesson.
Running the risk of stating the obvious, snow-sports do come with a certain degree of associated risk, and in order to mitigate that risk – we must be in control. From a beginner skier who is unable to stop on a green run, to an advanced rider struggling to find their line through the trees, control over our movements is paramount for the safety of us and those around us. The skills involved for skiing and snowboarding are finite, and the consequences for errors in judgement can be significant. Therefore, tackling the sport by foregoing professional direction simply makes life not only harder for ourselves, but at times outright dangerous. Though we may have a giggle at the flailing beginner on the bunny slope that is unable to stop, these are also the people that could hit a child, an elderly person or fixed object. Simply put, if we do not know how to remain in control whilst on the slopes – we need to remedy that.
2. Protect against injury
On that same thread, it is an unfortunate reality that skiing can be a cause for bodily injuries – though fortunately the odds are well in our favour with this being an extremely low percentage. One way to avoid injury, aside from being in control, is by making sure that we are moving our bodies in ways that they should be moved, and are biomechancially sound. So often bad habits and instinctively defensive movements make us vulnerable to injury, as supportive muscles and tissues that should protect us are not engaged and ready to respond. For example, if our core is not engaged and hands dragging by our sides, it is all too easy for our weight to shift backwards when we gain speed, hit some turbulence or feel nervous. Once our mass shifts backwards, it can be incredibly hard to bring ourselves back on to the front of our boots, and our skis are harder to manoeuvre and control. This shift is almost always the cause of beginner skiers falling backwards, risking a head bump as they fall to the tails of their skis. Fortunately, a basic understanding of some fundamental principles can avoid this entirely, even as a beginner.
3. Avoid the stress
Not surprisingly, when we are in control and feel comfortable on our skis – we can have a good time (which incidentally is the idea behind a ski holiday!) So often people skip the lesson and end up in stressful situations, intimated by terrain and frustrated at the sport and those around them! Unfortunately, a bad experience can have rippling effects for future ski trips, and instil phobias and fears that need not have been created in the first place. People will often have a clear memory of a stressful experience on the slopes, and carry that with them into their ski future. It is not uncommon to come across very accomplished skiers that will still swear off cat tracks and narrows trails because they had a negative experience on one as a beginner. Those negative associations can be avoided all together, so that you can enjoy the sport without any `baggage`.
4. Maximum efficiency
Simply put – technique provides us with the most efficient way to ski. When you think of skiing from a physics perspective – involving forces, angels, energy and weight distribution and – it does stand to reason that there would be efficient and inefficient ways of skiing. The most efficient is kinder on our body and requires the least wasted energy. This means that good technique will have you tiring less, skiing longer days and feel more comfortable as you do so. Many adult skiers that have skied for years take their first lesson and realise that they didn’t have to have achy calves or burning quads every day, or feel unnerved when presented with icy slopes. Just a few hours to tweak and refine one`s technique – at any level- can revolutionise their enjoyment of skiing.
5. Don’t limit yourself
Though there are plenty of `get by` skiers out there, in the absence of strong technique there is a limit to what can be achieved. A higher level of skiing can only be reached with a solid foundation of those basic principles, and without those a skier will never be able to carve or load a ski in a way that they may want to. When a practised skier feels bored or unchallenged, it is often because they have reached their limit in what can be reached without the knowledge and understanding to push to the next level. For example, when someone has a very narrow stance, they can only achieve so much edge before the weight transfers to the uphill ski (where we don’t want it to be). Until the stance in corrected, that will be their limitation – unable to effectively use their edges or remain stable at a faster pace. All the time we are not on the podium at the olympics, there is work to be done on our skiing to continually challenge that next level of performance. The only way that we can do that is by being firmly rooted in excellent technique.
Ski lessons are rarely cheap, and a reluctance to further spend on an already expensive holiday is understandable. That said, a lesson is very often the difference between a poor or average experience and an excellent one – and after so much time and expense has gone into making a holiday successful, we don’t want to cut corners on the very thing that we have come to enjoy. If you do opt for a lesson, it is so important that you do your research and choose a reputable company with a high number of long term and experienced instructors.
Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.