to Ski/Ski Better/Ski My Best"
Choosing an Area to
the Colorado Rockies
EpicMix of Vail
Why and How to Take a Ski Lesson from a Professional
How to Pick a Ski
Bill Jones, Ski
To Reserve a Private Ski Lesson with Bill Jones
Ski Slope Ratings
Skiing as a Career
Lnks to Skiing
Books and Videos
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"Oh, no," said the skier to the instructor at the ski
school meeting place,
You'll want to get in a class at your same level and on a slope on which you can learn. You'll not learn as much or at all if you are under- or over-challenged. Although a professional instructor can help you decide what level to take, you will find it useful to know what standards and reasons he or she will follow in getting you properly classified. In a private lesson, your instructor will adapt his or her teaching to your level and needs. Some resorts will use descriptive terms instead of the number ratings, such as beginner, advanced- beginner, intermediate, parallel breakthrough, advanced, mountain master, expert, or 101, 201, etc. If you take a private lesson, you'll still want to know about skill levels so you can select an instructor who is able and/or certified to teach your skill level (see "Why Take a Ski Lesson from a Professional" and "How to Pick a Ski Instructor").
skill level 10? (9 is the PSIA maximum)
The myriad ways to classify skiers
One wonders whether the skiing industry could have made skill level classification more confusing if it had tried! The Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) has spoken of 9 recreational skier levels based on skills, but many of its member schools use descriptive terms that correlate imperfectly with these. PSIA uses 3 certification levels to classify its instructor-members. One ski magazine has used a system that attempts to relate skiing skills to lifestyle and attitude, with 10 levels (for instance, "Are you a confident banker, then you should ski like.."). Ski shops confront skiers with 3 skill levels when bindings are being adjusted and skis selected (see "For chart of settings for release bindings: exits" for this system). Here we first present a PSIA system, blending the "classic" wedge progression approach to learning to ski by initially using stem (i.e., wedge or snowplow ski positions.) with another system called "direct to parallel". Most ski schools are now using elements of both these approaches in their teaching, but you may find an emphasis on either, which may be due to snow or crowd conditions of the day or of their usual students' characteristics. Too, sometimes descriptive terms are used for the levels instead of numbers, like "first timer", "advanced beginner", "intermediate", "advanced", and "expert". And sometimes the level is based on the maneuvers you can do, like "wedge", "wedge turn", "wedge christie", "parallel", and "dynamic". Or the level may be based on the types of snow you can ski, like "learning slope", "groomers", "bumps", "powder", "steeps". Skill levels are also based partly or mostly on the ski slope rating, such as green (easier), blue (more difficult), black (most difficult) or even double black. The descriptive system for skier skill levels used at Keystone and other Vail Resorts Ski School is presented below after the PSIA system.
SKI SCHOOLS arrange skiers into skill levels to help get students into the most productive learning situations. In the United States, these levels usually follow those defined by the Professional Ski Instructors of America. Level 1 is a first-time skier (never skied before, can't stop or turn) and level 9 is the highest, expert, level (and is a higher skill level than is required for instructors teaching most classes).
There are tremendous differences in the finesse of actions skiers can perform at these various levels. Yet the physical factors dealt with at each level are the same. These factors are the human body with its individual characteristics, varying snow types, differing ski-slope angles, fast or slow speeds, equipment differences, intentions, and more. And so modern ski instruction uses consistent progressions of the same basic skills to master higher levels as one moves up the learning ladder.
Commonly the first several skill levels (say levels 1 through 4) are accomplished in one session each of 2 to 3 hours (8 to 12 hours of lessons). Some beginners may be able to move through a level faster, and some will need to either retake a level or practice its maneuvers before moving up. Because skiing can be a lifetime sport, it is better to build an adequate foundation than to leave fundamentals unlearned or to have to relearn the better way to do a particular maneuver after learning it wrong--it's always easier to learn it right the first time. It might at first seem that instructors are trying to sell more lessons by having you move up the ladder one rung at a time or even to repeat a rung, but probably they will end up selling fewer lessons because folks will have a chance to get it right early on and thus avoid later fixes.
Progress is personal; it depends on factors such as other sports experiences, conditioning and functionality of one's body parts, attitudes, and equipment. Learning to ski is not a competitive activity.
Note in the levels outlined below, ski turns may follow the lines of the letter C (a single turn one way) or a backwards C (a single turn the other way), the letter S (linked turns each way, or Cs or Ss that are incomplete and/or have straight stretches before or after. Skiers speak of the parallel position of skis and of parallel turns. While parallel lines in mathematics always run straight, "parallel" lines in skiing may turn, just as "parallel" railroad tracks may. Note, too, that "parallel" in skiing means not only that each ski in the pair is aligned the same direction, but also that the bases are tilted at the same angle.
Skiers should aspire to at least skill level 6, that of solid parallel skiing, which will allow them to explore most of most ski areas with confidence and efficiency. As stated by the Professional Ski Instructors of America, "The parallel turn is your key measure to unlock the mountains' pleasures and treasures." While it is common for new skiers to progress up through level 4 or 5 with one lesson per level, higher skill levels usually require repeated lessons at the same level, more so if there is a time lapse between the sessions. If you can make the choice, take your initial lessons over a short time interval rather than over a whole season or more.
Again, ski schools may use a wedge approach to learning or direct-to-parallel. Both are valid. The choice may depend on terrain available and slope traffic any given day. Combining the two approaches is another way, and in the level descriptions below we include the skills learned in each of these ways to learn even though your instructor may introduce movements at different times than shown depending on which method is emphasized. In the earlier stages of learning, the direct-to-parallel method involves more tipping of both skis while the wedge method involves more turning of the skis with the feet and legs.
PSIA skill levels for alpine skiers
●Level 1 Aspirations: (You have never skied before; perhaps you only want to try the sport out or you may already be committed to learn it.) Learn about equipment, how to walk and slide with skis parallel, climb using ski edges, turn while standing in place (bullfighter turn), turn while sliding by stepping, tip skis to turn, turn using the gliding wedge (snowplow, skis are in a V with the point in front), stop gradually using the braking wedge, how to fall and how to get up, and ride a surface and/or chair lift. Learn basic ski skills: twisting the legs, tilting the skis, and managing the amount and distribution of pressure on the skis. (Level 1 is the hardest ski lesson you'll ever take; it will give you the alphabet to "read" the "book" of skiing and you will learn the most in any lesson you will ever take; you might not complete all the elements above but if you can adequately turn and stop on the learning hill, you should be able to go on to level 2 ; look forward to level 2 for more fun.) Ski on practice slopes ("palest" green). Below are links to videos and apps to help new skiers understand what they will learn in ski school. (Links below exit this site; return with back arrow. If any problem please report to Bill Jones.)
Rent or buy ski equipment? exits. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=kEh4ghSch9E)
SKIER SKILL LESSON-LEVELS USED AT VAIL RESORTS SKI SCHOOLS (including Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek/Arrowhead, Heavenly Valley, Northstar, and Kirkwood)
Standards for skill lesson-levels are implemented by Vail Resorts, shown below.
Within each lesson-level, when most elements are performed consistently, advancement to the next lesson-level may be recommended by the instructor; otherwise it is to the student's interest for the instructor to recommend retaking the lesson-level. Thus, only when a student has mastered most of the elements of a lesson-level, say lesson-level 5, is one called a Level 5 skier and is then ready to take the lesson-level 6, In private lessons, however, adherence to level standards and/or the sequence in mastering them is up to the student and the lesson-levels may be completely ignored if desired. Even so, the elements within each lesson-level are generally useful to advance skills most effectively and efficiently.
Similar standards are developed for snowboard lesson- levels. See Vail Resorts' EpicMix:
website for these. Also see there virtual Certified Pins that may be earned for
maneuvers at levels 4 through 9.