Keep Experienced Skiers and
Snowboarders Interested in Instruction
BY SHERMAN WHITE
In the Winter 2012 issue of 32 Degrees I read some excellent articles about attracting more advanced skiers and riders into ski school programs. It
got me thinking about the next step in
the process; once someone’s curiosity is
piqued, how do we as instructors provide
them with an experience that makes them
come back for more lessons?
Find Out Why They Showed Up
It’s almost impossible to meet a guest’s
expectations if you don’t know why
they showed up in the first place. Most
experienced skiers/riders are not motivated
to buy a ski school product, so something
had to have prompted them to buy a lesson.
Sometimes your student may not really
know what that reason is until you help him
or her find it. Try asking these questions to
get to the bottom of it.
1. When does their confidence start to
go downhill (pun intended)?
2. Is there something about the way they
ski or ride that they don’t like?
3. Does their reason tie in to some social,
non-technical reason, such as skiing more
difficult terrain with friends and/or family,
or preparing for a special event or trip?
Finding out what your students’ goals are
will allow you to plan out the lesson in
order accomplish as much as possible in the
time you have. If you have several people
in a group, asking these questions is also a
great way to see how compatible the group
is. Once you’ve unearthed their motivations
and goals, everything you do for the session
should relate to those.
Focus on the Will, not the Skill
Oftentimes a skier or snowboarder’s will
becomes much more important than their
skill in a lesson. If you haven’t seen the
Swedish Interski 2011 presentation about
Will/Skill/Hill, do yourself a favor and
check it out (search Interski 2011 Sweden
Key Lecture on YouTube/thesnowpros).
There is a reason for the old adage “if there
is a will, there is a way.”
Here’s a great example of a group I
skied with that drives home this point.
I had three experienced skiers in the 40-
60 age range who wanted to spend time
skiing glades and bumps. I also had a
less experienced skier in his late 20s who
wanted to learn to ski trees and bumps.
Once we got skiing, it was clear that his
skill was nowhere near that of the others,
but he had the will (plus a much younger
body). If I had initially gone by his
demonstrated skill as a skier, I would have
passed him off to slower group that would
have stayed on groomed blue trails and
worked to build up his skills. As a result,
he would have left frustrated at not having
come anywhere near meeting his goals.
Instead, we spent the morning skiing trees
and bumps. The others in the group got in
Sherman White cruises in his finest skiing attire after winning the “Hook ‘Em” award
given by his home resort, Smugglers’ Notch, VT.