There is a huge body of observational evidence that suggests the majority of skiers only ever make slow or no progress towards skillful skiing.
It doesn't matter how many seasons you enjoy. In many cases after years of skiing holidays
very few skiers develop any level of real skill such that they feel comfortable in most snow
The industry recognised this very early on and it's the reason that ski resorts spend so much money and time on creating “pistes” for us to ski on. Pistes make life easier. Very
few skiers depart from them.
So it is even more regrettable that even on pistes, most skiers do not become truly skillful
at the sport. Even a cursory observation of any piste as you ascend in a ski lift glaringly
demonstrates that fact. It's a great disappointment to me.
Initially folk go to ski school. Ski schools for most part have the job of converting non-
skiers into folk who can somehow get down an easy slope without too much risk of getting
hurt or hurting someone else.
To begin with this involves getting used to what having skis on your feet feels like; getting
used to peering down a snow slope while maintaining some control over your emotions;
and being shown some way of not going too fast and doing some problematical direction
Over thirty years worth of teaching has proven to me that for most people this is as far as it
goes in ski school. After a while nearly everybody gives up on them with some
disappointment. Young men move on either fearlessly or hiding it, some to get quite good
but most simply to demonstrate a lack of imagination and burgeoning chutzpah.
Other men “get the miles in” and find some, often pretty ugly, way of “getting down most
things” as they commonly put it, and don't really care whether they are any good or not – equating the avoidance of injury (or ignoring it) as a sign they are “pretty good”. Yet other men, acknowledge their skill level and look for ways to improve it.
My own experience over all these years is that more typically the womenfolk seem to feel a
greater level of disappointment if they do not make the progress they were hoping for, and
feel left behind by their menfolk and children. The men and the kids go faster, and are
often less inhibited by what might happen.
I think that this suggests that a different teaching/learning paradigm makes sense. Not
just for those women (I'm not suggesting all women!) whom I have just described but for
members of either gender who have a hankering to really become first-rate skiers. People
who want to gain their satisfaction by being highly skilled at it.
The ski school isn't the place to look for this because it's not the ski school's job. Ski
schools are holiday industry businesses; they are not skill development organisations even
though some claim to be. They have a living to earn, they need to maximise profits, so they
operate like any other business.
For anyone who wants to develop a really solid skiing technique, what you need is small
concentrated groups where you get personal attention to your developmental needs, and
do so in an immersive learning environment.
In addition you need to work with someone who understands how we learn. We do not
learn by watching. While you can get a very general view of skiing by watching someone
else, what you can learn that way is extremely limited, and worse is likely to come with
In fact the better the skier demonstrating to you, the more misconceptions you are likely to
have. You'll pick-up on the idea that the ski's pointy-end goes first, and that heading
straight downhill for too long is unwise, but you won't learn much else.
If you want to gain real confidence; to build a secure foundation for your skill
development; to become a very competent skier in a wide variety of conditions you need to
find a process that does the following:
Is very patient with you, and does not push you ahead of where you feel
Encourages you psychologically.
Enables you to understand skiing (it's not enough to be told, confidence comes
from understanding what happens, why it happens, how to control what happens).
The process needs to be immersive - “tips and tricks” and the odd “private lesson”
will not work. Anyone who has tried it will attest to this.
Skiing isn't easy; that's what makes it satisfying. It's a challenge, and it's one that anyone
can succeed with. Those folk who are not currently succeeding with it simply haven't
found the right process. It's not easy to find and is in very short supply. Not becoming a
first rate skier is not caused by some personal inadequacy – it's simply not having had
access to the right process.
Imagine you wanted to take up tennis. Would you expect to be shown how to do it? Watch
Roger Federer repeatedly and you serve will get like his? Fat chance. You'd expect it to be
a slow process; you'd expect to need to learn to understand its issues; you would not take
kindly to being put into competitive situations – certainly not for years – where you had to
try and keep up with harder-hitting, more accurate, faster-moving people.
You would hope that your teacher would help you overcome any creeping feelings of
personal inadequacy. You would expect them to watch you, not the other way round.
Skiing is the same. So is any other human situation, sport based or otherwise.
So if you are doing, stop feeling inadequate – it's not you, it's them.