Whether you're a complete beginner or looking to sharpen your skills on the mountain, ski schools can offer great learning opportunities when you're in resort.
While you may well get your first taste of skiing or snowboarding here in the UK through the GO SKI GO BOARD initiative or lessons at your local slope, finding a ski school and getting some professional instruction when you’re out in resort can be a rewarding experience that ultimately allows you to explore more of the mountains. No matter what level you’re at, there’s always something you improve on or something to learn – that’s the beauty of skiing and snowboarding. Note too that as a Ski Club member there are a huge number of discounts available with many of the world's top ski schools – click here.
Although teaching methodology may vary from country to country, every ski school has the same goal – to develop your skills in order to make you a better skier of boarder. You’ll find highly qualified, professional instructors across Europe, and almost every ski school will be willing to teach you in English.
That said, there are a number of high quality British ski schools throughout Europe, some of which have branches in a number of the most popular resort destinations. The instructors will be BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) trained, so you’ll find a similar way of teaching wherever you go, and it’s even possible to book lessons in advance through English language websites where you can pay in pounds.
Scottish resorts are also an attractive option for those who want to progress their skills without flying to the Alps, plus the local UK mountains boast plenty of excellent BASI qualified ski and snowboard instructors.
Joining a group lesson is not only social and great way to meet other skiers, but also generally the most cost-effective way of getting snowsports instruction. Taking group lessons in the morning, with some free time in the afternoon to consolidate what you’ve learnt, can often lead to big improvements over the course of a week-long holiday.
The quickest way to improve, there’s no question. However, as private lessons can be expensive, this might be an option if you have some very clear and specific goals in mind. Private instruction may also be suitable and cost-effective if you have a group where everyone is of the same ability level.
Choosing a Ski School
Where is the ski school based?
This might seem obvious, but choosing a ski school that meets close to your accommodation can take a lot of the hassle out of your day. This is especially important if you’re skiing with children and coordinating lesson times of several family members. Also consider the terrain that can be accessed – are there beginner slopes and easy intermediate runs or will you lose valuable lesson time in ‘commuting’ to suitable terrain.
Group size and length of lesson
If you’re going to part with your cash in exchange for professional instruction, you’re probably looking to get some ‘bang for your buck’. Most full-day lessons will consist of two hours instruction in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, but it’s worth checking this to see that you’re getting the amount of instruction you want. Likewise, it’s worth enquiring about maximum group sizes, as you’ll get much more personal attention in a smaller group.
Making a connection
The more you enjoy your ski or snowboard lessons, the greater the chance that you’ll actually improve and want to keep learning. Making a connection with an instructor who can identify your needs and has a teaching style that suits you is all-important. While you can’t always hand-pick your instructor, many ski schools put profiles of their staff on their websites. Have a read, ask yourself if you want to spend a day or even a week sharing a chairlift with this person? Try to find out about the ‘ethos’ of a ski school, and make sure it’s something that you agree with. There’s a lot of choice out there, so it’s worth doing your homework.
Choosing a Ski School for your Children
British ski schools can be advantageous, as your will feel at ease being able to understand the language. However many local ski schools also have instructors with excellent language skills, many of whom speaking several languages fluently. Spend some time looking around for the best option - it's worth doing your homework as this can have a huge impact on your children's enjoyment of skiing.
Ski Schools vary in what age your child needs to be before they can join in lessons, so it's worth checking this before you book your holiday. A good age to start with lessons is usually 4-5 years old, though many will start earlier than this, especially if their parents are enthusiastic skiers or live near the mountains.
- Check what time ski school starts and finishes and make sure you arrive with plenty of time to settle your child, making sure there are no timing clashes with your own lessons. Book in advance if you can.
- Many ski schools offer lunch as part of a package, but check to see if your child needs extra money for this and send them with a snack in their pocket in case they do not like what is offered!
- Ask if there is an indoor play area if the weather turns bad.
- Your tour operator may have their own ski school which can be an easy, flexible option for skiing.
- Consider taking a nanny with you or booking specialist childcare in resort if your child is too young for ski school or not settling well.