Enhancing the mountain experience

Whistler Blackcomb/Toshi Kawano

Whistler Blackcomb/Toshi Kawano

Ski lessons with a qualified instructor can help visitors to British Columbia make the most of their annual ski trip. Lessons are obviously important for those just starting out, but they can also be enormously beneficial to intermediate and advanced skiers, says Jonathan Mosley, chair of the board of directors of the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (CSIA) in British Columbia.

“It’s a way of enhancing the mountain experience,” he says. “The perfect candidate is someone who lives in a city like Toronto and only skis for a week or two a year. If they take the time to spend a day or even a week with an instructor, they’re going to be with someone who’s on the mountain every day, someone who can take stock of their abilities, improve their technique and help them attain their goals as skiers. And because they know the mountain, they can also help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for, whether it’s big bumps, family-friendly cruiser runs or secret caches of powder.”

For skiers who are looking for variety of terrain – runs that suit every level of ability for groups of friends or family members – B.C.’s top resorts have the answer. Their offerings range from wide groomers to the “deep and steep,” all accessible from connected facilities, which brings the added bonus that skiers can step up the difficulty of their runs without having to change their base.

Working with an instructor to improve technique is something almost every skier can benefit from, adds Mosley, especially those who haven’t skied for a while. “The goal of good technique is to improve efficiency and improved efficiency leads to less fatigue, and that makes skiing not only more fun but safer because it is often fatigue that leads to injuries.”

Sometimes skiers know they have technique problems, but they’ve been doing the same thing for so long they don’t know how to change it. Again, a qualified ski instructor can analyze the situation and help make the right adjustments. “I’m a level 3 CSIA ski instructor and I take every opportunity I can to ski with other ski instructors in order to improve my technique,” says Mosley.
If spending time with qualified ski instructors is good medicine for intermediate and advanced skiers, it’s essential for those just starting out, young and old alike, partly because ski instruction has become highly refined and is as close to a science as it gets. “Ski schools at resorts in B.C. are professionally run by qualified ski instructors,” says Mosley. “There’s a consistent standard when it comes to instructor certification and a consistent educational model. Resorts invest a lot in ensuring their instructors are using the safest and most progressive techniques, and guest safety is always front of mind.”

Developing good technique for beginning skiers also helps them avoid the trap of developing bad habits early on that have to be unlearned in order to accommodate proper techniques later in life.
Another good reason to start out with qualified ski instructors is their ability and willingness to introduce new skiers to mountain etiquette, which is essential for both enjoyment and safety. “A key piece for skiers of all ages is introducing them to the Alpine Responsibility Code, which teaches them how to ski defensively, how to be aware of their surroundings, what the etiquette is for lift lines, how to merge on trails and so forth,” says Mosely. “It’s partly about manners, but also about safety; understanding the rules makes it safer for everyone.”

Skiing is a great sport that can be done alone or with family and friends of all ages, he adds, and taking a lesson or spending time on the hill with a qualified instructor is a way of enhancing that fun.

For winter sports enthusiasts looking for something out of the ordinary, B.C. resorts have offerings that include ladies groups, skiing for tots, backcountry and heli-skiing options. And starting an adventure with a personal connection improves the chances for making it a great experience. “The instructor is not only there to help you improve your skiing, but can be your tour guide and look out for your safety, and sometimes even knows which restaurant to take you to at lunch that has the shortest lineups,” says Mosley.

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