Guide to Buying Your Own Boots?

When it comes to owning your own equipment, one of the first purchases I recommend is a pair of ski boots. However, if you have taken the time to look into buying your own boots then you know that it can be a big investment, in both time and money! With so many options out there as far as companies selling boots, brands and types of boots, not to mention lingo such as boot flex and last (which means width, btw), the whole thing can get a bit complicated. I have tried to answer a few of those questions to give you a bit of an idea of the benefits and maybe what questions to ask as you go along.

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Cost

Boots can be one of the best purchases you can make when it comes to owning your own equipment. Even if you only ski 5 days a year, if you own your own boots you they will last you 7-10 years if you look after them properly. If you do the math and take into account you spend $60-$70 a year on boots rentals each time, once you ski 8 to 10 times that is the equivalent of spending $500-$700. While it might be a large initial outlay, if you consider what you spend on rentals, over time the cost becomes a little easier to take. If you are looking to save on buying boots then buying boots on clearance at the beginning or the end of the season can be a good way to go. Just be sure you don’t sacrifice overall fit and comfort for a good deal.

Fit

A big benefit to owning your own boots is you will always know that the boots are going to fit. There is nothing worse then having boot troubles throughout your vacation because the rental shop only has a small selection of boots that don’t fit the shape of your foot. In most cases you have no other option than just to grin and bare it, which is probably why ski boots have such a bad rap. There are lots of different techniques that are available to help mould the boot to your foot that include;

  • Punching – This includes heating a particular part of the boot and then pushing the plastic out to give your foot more room
  • Grinding – Like it sounds, they use a small grinder to grind the plastic down. Again this gives your foot more room.
  • Wedges – Pieces of foam placed on the outside of the liner to help fill space. Used a lot for those who have small ankles.
  • Heat Moulded Liners – Most boots will have this option: the liner of the boot is heated up and moulded to your foot.
  • Foam Injected liners – This is different from Foam Linerthe above example because they actually inject foam into the liner while you are wearing the boots. This is more expensive, but definitely more effective then the factory heat moulding liners.

New techniques and new boot technologies are being created all the time. This is just a basic list of some of the techniques that are used to help shape your boot and make it fit like a glove and less like a medieval torture chamber.

You may also hear the term “last” when it comes to buying boots. This refers to the width of the boot, which on average is around 100 – 102mm. Although some race boots are around 95-98mm and some boots can run as wide as 106mm. It all depends on your foot.

Foot Beds

Foot beds, also called orthotics, go it the bottom of your boots and help support your foot. There is quite a bit involved in a foot bed, and each shop will have a different system. Essentially you stand on a machine, the technician will make sure you are standing in a neutral stance, then they take a mould of your foot. Foot beds are optional and you can ski with the standard factory one. However, a properly designed custom foot bed will help to support your foot inside your ski boot and should improve the overall comfort of the boot. It will set you back approximately $150 – $200, and it is well worth the expense. If the initial cost is to much to afford a foot bed to begin with, it is definitely worth investing in after a season or two of wear.

Performance

When you buy your own boots you want to make sure that you choose a boot that fits your ability level. Every boot is given a “flex” rating, which tells you how easy or hard it is to flex the boot forward. The more more advanced of a skier you are the stiffer you are going to want your boot. The boot flex, in adult boots, ranges from around 60 – 160. To give you an idea, a 60 flex is about the flex of most rental boots, and a 160 flex boot is what a lot of world cup racers wear to help them feel stable going 100+mph down a black diamond run.

A boot that is stiffer will hold up better at speed and responds better under extreme force, so is better suited for the more advanced skier. While a softer boot is easier to flex and will work better for someone who is on the lighter side or someone just beginning skiing.

Different Brands

Each brand shapes their boots from a different mould. So if you decide to buy boots then be sure to try on as many different brands as you can to see which one fits your foot the best. While boot technicians can work wonders with tailoring a boot to your foot, it is best to find a boot that gets as close as possible so you are only shaping it a small amount.

Sizing a Boot

When you size a boot they are a few ways to fit a boot to your foot. First the boot tech will measure the length and width of your foot. Then once you have a rough idea of the size of your feet, they will do a “shell fit”. A shell fit is when you put your foot inside the boot without the liner in the outer plastic shell. This step should hopefully save you from putting on a boot that will be to tight and not the right fit. Once you have a found a shell or two that fit, you can put the liners in the boot and see how they fit with the liners in the outer shell.

How Tight is Too Tight?

If you are used to old rental boots, when you first put on a ski boot that has been properly fitted to your foot, you are likely going to think that the boot is too tight! Having that tight feeling is a good thing, after you wear the boot for 10-15 minutes that feeling will fade. The more you wear the boot, the more the foam in the liner will compact and the more room you will get in your boot. If the boot is loose when you first buy it, after wearing it for a few times your foot will end up having to much room to move. Movement in your boot will create discomfort and performance issues.

Alternatively, if after 15-20 minutes of wear you are in a good deal of pain or your feet have gone to sleep due to lack of blood flow, it might be time to try a different boot. The analogy I always use it that is should feel like a firm hand shake.

When the Boot is on

When you try the boot on, bend your ankle and push your knee forward over your toes. This will force your ankle to slide back into the heel of the boot. If that doesn’t work well enough, you can bang the heel of the boot against the ground before you buckle the boot.

The top buckles around your shin and ankle should be tight, without causing you pain. The buckles across the top of you foot can be looser, or else you’ll restrict the blood flow and your foot will go to sleep. Once you have the boots on and buckled, walk around the store and see how it feels.

After 15-20 minutes you may start to feel a pressure points along the side of your foot, or perhaps on the heel. These pressure points can be painful, so if it starts to hurt after only a few minutes the boot may not be the right size/shape for you. If the pain is bearable and you feel it after wearing the boot for 15 minutes or more, in most cases that can be fixed. If you can feel your foot moving around as you walk, then the boot is either not buckled tight enough, or is too big.

The Final Fit

Once you have gone through the fitting process you should have a boot that is comfortable, tight fitting and pain free. However, you never know how a boot will feel and fit until you ski it. So head out on the slopes and make a few turns. If you begin feeling pressure points or pain, head back to the shop and have them adjusted. Don’t let the nagging pain or discomfort go on for too long. With a good fitting boot you can now get out there and make a few well earned turns in your very own boots!

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Skiing vs Snowboarding: Which is Right for Me?

One question that I am frequently asked is, what are the differences between learning to ski and learning to snowboard. Which one is easier? Can young kids learn to snowboard? Whilst I spent a great deal of my time teaching skiing, I picked up some sound knowledge of snowboarding along the way. But to make sure you get the accurate and valuable information I reached out to SkiingRevealed’s resident expert snowboarder (aka my wife) for help. So with our help, we hope to arm you with the right information to make an educated decision.

Skiing vs Snowboarding

To begin with let’s point out a few obvious points about each discipline that will make explaining the differences easier.

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Skiing

  • You are fixed into two separate skis and each foot can move independently.
  • Your base of balance is wider because you are balancing on two edges.
  • You face forward, in the direction of travel.
  • Many people claim that ski boots are more uncomfortable than snowboard boots. While ski boots can be more challenging to walk in, they should be comfortable when fitted properly.

Snowboarding

  • You are fixed onto a board, which initially makes simple movements difficult.
  • Your base of balance is narrow, you have to position your center of mass over one edge.
  • You are facing sideways, and you are aiming to slide toward your front foot/shoulder/hip.
  • The boots are similar to normal winter boots and easier to walk in.

As you can probably see from these two lists each side has their own pros and cons. Now that we have a basic idea of some of the physical differences, let’s talk about the differences in learning each discipline.

Which is Easier?

The general consensus on this is that skiing is an easier sport to pick up in a short amount of time. However, after learning the basics, people will often hit a plateau and find it more difficult to progress to more challenging terrain. Snowboarding, on the other hand, can be a very difficult (and painful) sport to pick up at first (particularly if you haven’t done many sports that involve you facing sideways eg; skateboarding, surfing, windsurfing, etc). On average, it will take 2-3 days of practice before you can comfortably pick up the basics of snowboarding. Once you’ve got the basics of snowboarding, it is generally easier to progress to more challenging skills.

One of the major reasons that skiing seems easier is because it is easier to maintain your balance initially. Which means most people can be stopping and turning on green terrain in a couple of hours.

However, when both of your feet are locked into one snowboard and you have to balance over one narrow edge whilst facing sideways. It takes a little bit more time to work how to maintain your balance. Progression happens a little slower at first, which is why snowboarders seem to spend more time on their butts then on their feet.

Kids and Snowboarding

Whilst I have a good working knowledge of kids’ mental and physical development and how that applies to skiing, when it comes to snowboarding my experience is a little more limited. This is where Skiing Revealed’s resident snowboard expert advice comes into play:

In my 2nd season teaching snowboarding, the Canyons decided to offer snowboarding lessons to children as young as 4 (the minimum age was 7 prior to this). While I certainly had 1-2 standout kids over the course of the season, the majority of children between the ages of 4-7 would have been much better off starting with skiing. The reason being is that in order to steer a snowboard, the board itself must be twisted which is accomplished by flexing one foot and extending the other foot. This requires a significant amount of strength that children this age don’t have. Additionally, most children are not accustomed to balancing on snow yet. I often tell parents that skiing will set your child up with a strong foundation of balancing and getting comfortable on the snow and they will have improved success and enjoyment once they are strong enough to move to snowboarding. 

Before we go, it is important to remember that everybody learns differently. In my experience, the people who pick the sport up the quickest are the ones that know how they learn and are willing to give it a try. So no matter which discipline you choose, skiing or snowboarding, as long as you go in with an open mind and a willingness to learn you are going to have a good time.

Ski Rentals Made Easy

Unless you’re lucky to ski frequently enough to warrant the cost of buying new ski gear or you’re still skiing on your equipment from the 80’s, it’s likely that you will need to step foot inside a rental shop. Often times, and especially if you’re traveling with family, this is about as much fun as going to the dentist. I recently went into talk to my friend Becca at Aloha Ski and Snowboard Rental in Park City about a few pointers to make rentals a lot less painful than pulling teeth.

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You wouldn’t wear clothes your parent’s wore in the 80’s, right? The same rules apply on the hill!

Booking Online

Most, if not all, rental companies will have some sort of online booking option. If you are traveling during a busy holiday, or even your average weekend, I strongly recommend booking ahead. There is nothing worse than being fit with 20 year old rear entry ski boots and straight skis because you wanted to shop around. Put in the time and effort before you leave to make sure you get the right equipment and it will pay off – Aloha will give you a discount for booking your rentals in advance. Google rental shops in the ski town that you plan to visit and it should give you a list of shops in the area. By visiting a few websites it should give you an idea of price and also the different rental packages available. Which leads me to my next tip…

Choosing the Right Package

Most rental shops I have ever dealt with have 3 levels of rentals; a basic package, a performance package and then a demo/ try before you buy package. While the names may vary the general idea is the same. If you haven’t skied much then a basic package will be plenty, it will provide you with ski’s and boots that are flexible and easy to learn on. If you have skied a bit before, or are looking to take your skiing to the next level then I would recommend a performance focused package, you may find this range to be stiffer which will provide more stability at higher speeds or as you begin to push your equipment harder. Finally, once you have done a bit of skiing and you feel like this sport is your thing, you may want to demo some equipment to see if you like it enough to buy it. This mainly applies to ski’s and not to boots. When demoing ski’s you should be allowed to try 3-4 different ski’s. I would recommend taking full advantage of this opportunity as you might be surprised by a ski that you would never have considered. Be sure to have a good chat with someone in store to help guide you toward the right ski for you. Most places will take the cost of the rental off the final purchase price if you choose to take the plunge.

Information You Need to Know

There is some important information that you will have to provide when getting rentals. When filling out the form you will need to provide the height, weight and ability of each skier. This information needs to be accurate to provide you with the correct DIN setting on your binding.  DIN stands for Deutsche Industrie Normen. Its likely this means nothing to you, it doesn’t mean much to me either, as I’ve just looked this up. What you need to know about this is that your ‘DIN’ setting regulates how easy it is for your boot to release from your ski when you’re taking a very graceful fall down the hill, as we all do, from time to time. So don’t let your ego get in the way of you ability to accurately provide this information – it could end up with you getting a one way ride down the hill in a Ski Patrol sled. 

When Do I Get My Rentals

So now you have booked your rentals all you need to do is pick them up. If you are thinking that it’ll be be really simple and convenient to swing by and pick up up your rentals the morning before you start skiing, then you’ll end up waiting in line with 50+ families that thought the same thing! You will have plenty of time during the ski day to wait in line for things. So make the first day of vacation a little easier and get your equipment the night/day before if you can. The Aloha rental store on Main St in Park City is open until 10pm, which means you can get your equipment after an early dinner. If getting your equipment to night before isn’t an option then be prepared to get to the rental shop EARLY and with a relaxed attitude (perhaps after an Irish coffee!?) If you have a lesson to get to or plans to meet up with friends and you want to make it there on time then I suggest getting to the rental store right as it opens to make life a little easier.

Delivery Vs Pick Up

Whilst this wasn’t something that I thought needed mentioning, there have been a few points brought to my attention that I feel are worth talking about. There are companies out there that, after providing them with the necessary information, that come to wherever you are staying and fit you with the ski equipment that you need. Then leaving you the task of getting your skis, boots and poles to the ski hill. Which if you are staying on snow probably isn’t that far away. However, if you aren’t lucky enough to be staying on snow it may be worth inquiring with a ski shop to see if they provide ski storage with their rentals. Aloha in Park City provides ski storage at both base locations of Park City, making it really convenient to store your equipment overnight – I promise, this is far better than lugging your stuff to wherever you’re staying.


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Aloha Ski and Snowboard Rental has 8 shops located throughout Park City, UT and can support all of your rental needs. Guests can switch out skis/boards/boots at any of the locations, so if you pick up a powder ski for the day, but want an all mountain ski for the afternoon you can pop into whatever Aloha is the closest to make the switch. All shops provide complimentary overnight ski storage. And, most importantly, Aloha is a local business that has grown slowly over the years. Aloha is currently offering 25% off rentals that are booked before December 15th.  Following the 15th, there is a 20% discount for online reservations. Follow this link for discount: Book Now!

Getting the Best Instructor

Finding the right instructor for you and your family can be the difference between the best vacation ever and an experience could turn you away from skiing forever. As it is in everyday life, you get along well with some people and not with others. So, it is important to find an instructor that has similar values to your family and the right skills to get you where you want to go. While I can’t guarantee that you’ll get the instructor of your dreams, hopefully a few of these tips will get you closer to an instructor that’s right for you.

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  1. Book a Private Lesson

As I have mentioned before, the private lesson is one of the most premium products that it is offered in the ski school. Because of this, the most experienced instructors are generally assigned to privates first. So if you are heading to a resort that you have never been to before then booking a private lesson can be a good way to find a more seasoned instructor. Booking a private lessons also allows you to ask for specific traits you want in an instructor, eg; kid friendly, able to teach bumps. However, when ski schools get busy during holiday periods, resorts can struggle to keep up with private lesson demand. In order to fulfill everyones desire for a private lesson, ski schools will start pulling less experienced instructors to fill the demand. Which leads me to my next tip….

(For more information about the benefits of private lessons and ski school in general, check out my blog Ski School?.)

     2. Ask your Friends and Family for References

When choosing a resort for your vacation be sure to ask friends and family if they have ever been there before. Asking someone who has been there before is the best way to get a feel for the pro’s and con’s of a resort. It is also a good opportunity to ask them if they had lessons and if they have any instructors that they can refer to you. Most instructors will have a business card that they like to hand out which will have their contact details, as this is a great way for them to get referrals and request lesson (resorts also offer instructors an incentive for selling lessons). Even if that particular instructor is not available they should be able to point you in the direction of another instructor who can help you out.

Alternatively, if you have had a lesson before from an instructor that you really like at a different resort you can always ask them for references. I have a network of friends, that I have instructed with over the years, which spans the globe. Particularly if you really liked your last instructor they will likely know others who have a similar teaching style to themselves. They may also to be able to join you at a different resort, particularly if it is part of the same company. Remember the earlier you make your reservation and requests the more likely you are to get what you are looking for!

     3. Providing the Right Information

When you book a private lesson, or any lesson for that matter, be sure to provide the information of people who will actually be in the lesson. If you provide your information, such as age and ability, and the lesson is actually for your kids. You may find that your kids end up skiing with an older instructor who has a hard time getting onto a their level, instead of the fun younger instructor! Ski Schools have schedulers that know which instructors are suited for each product.

Providing accurate information is all well and good when you are booking a private lesson. What about if you are in a group situation? What can you do to try and land the best instructor for you? The first thing I would recommend would be to talk to the instructor who is in charge of your particular level. Tell them what you want to learn, what runs you like to ski and any other information you think is important. You can also let an instructor know if you like to go a bit faster and ski more, or if you are more inclined to go slower and practice a particular skill over and over. The clearer the information the more likely you are to land a group and an instructor that is suited to you.

Remember! If You or your Child has physical, emotional or mental deficiency/disability no matter how mild or severe it is really important to let the ski school know so they can provide the best product! 

Training and Certification

Before I leave you and let you go on and test some of these tips out, I think that it is important to give some brief background information about instructor training. Every instructor is, hopefully, interested in improving themselves as a teacher and a skier. Each country that offers ski lessons has an associated teaching and training body. For example the association in the US is call the Professional Ski Instructors of America, or PSIA for short. Each association has different certified levels or degrees, PSIA has level 1, 2 and 3 (1 being the lowest and 3 the highest). An instructor must train with their own resort and also attend official courses/events to progress through the levels, improving their knowledge and skiing ability as they go. These certifications can take years to achieve, cost a lot of money and test each candidate physically and mentally. People who achieve their associations highest certification work and train very hard in order to do so.

It is also important to know that experience is just as important as certification. Someone could have all the technical knowledge memorized and have no experience on how to enact it. So when you find that special someone who just makes you all warm and fuzzy inside and helps improve your skiing at the same time you’ll probably find that you have made a genuine friendship that really enriches your families vacation.

Ski Town Tuesday – Jackson, WY

If Park City were my ‘ole battle axe’ of a wife then Jackson Hole would be the sexy mistress I sneak off to see as often as possible. Terrible metaphor, I know, but it fits!

Jackson Hole, WY is my absolute favorite ski town. It still has the old west, ski town vibe that so many other ski towns seem to have lost (or are loosing quickly). The town of Jackson is located in the Northwest corner of Wyoming – which brings me to the ONLY con of this town: getting here can be tricky and/or expensive. While Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) does have a growing number of flights from all over the country, there aren’t many nonstop flights. The cost can vary greatly – at the time of this article, 1 round trip ticket from JFK connecting through Salt Lake during the winter holidays will cost between $550 – $1,500. Here‘s a non-stop option (with a red eye return) for only $2,314!

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If you’re a family of 4 and spending $8,000 before you even touch the snow, isn’t in your vacation budget, you’ve still got a couple of options. I would recommend flying into Salt Lake City where you can either rent a car or get a shuttle to Jackson. The drive from SLC to Jackson is about 5 hours. We’ve done this drive MANY times and it isn’t bad at all – even when its snowing, and I promise it is well worth it! There are a couple options for shuttles: Mountain States Express provides a regular shared shuttle for $75 each way. Salt Lake City Express offers round trip fares for $123/per person.

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Downtown Jackson, WY

The picture above shows the town of Jackson, WY. It is important to note that the ski slope you can see in the background is Snow King Resort NOT Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is in Teton Village which is about a 20 minute drive from the town of Jackson via a two lane road. This drive time can change drastically depending on the time of year, road conditions, and whether or not its a ‘powder day.’ So this begs the question….

Jackson or Teton Village?

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Choosing a place to stay really depends on your priorities. If you’re wanting to maximize your time on the slopes than I would recommend staying in Teton Village. While other activities are limited from this location, you’ll be steps from some of the best skiing in the country. If you’re coming with family that might want to do some shopping or explore other activities, you’ll have more options if you stay in the town of Jackson. As far as price is concerned, there’s really something for everybody in both locations. Here are some of my family’s favorites:

Teton Village

Alpenhof Lodge is our favorite! Moderately priced ski-in/ski-out rooms in a cozy Swiss themed lodge. The Alepnrose restaurant is just off the lobby and offers EXCELLENT food and wine choices. There is an outdoor pool and spa which our daughter loved and the lodge is just steps from the tram.

The Hostel is another fave, especially when we are watching our spending. As with most hostels, the accommodations aren’t anything special but they’re clean and right next to the Mangy Moose (voted one of the top Apres spots in North America, so all that money you save on your room, can be spent on beer right next door!) The tram is short hike from the hotel but you can essentially ski right to your door at the end of the day!

Teaton Thai FAVORITE. RESTAURANT. EVER. For real, this little hole in the wall serves up amazing Thai and even better cocktails, and they aren’t messing around with their spices (so beware)! If you’re going in for dinner, get there early because seating is limited (think 20-25 seats, max) and it fills up fast. I recommend the Tom Kha Gai and the Mai Thai’s.

We ALWAYS eat at Teaton Thai when we stay in the village, so I don’t have any other restaurant recommendations….sorry!  Oh except for breakfast. For breakfast and misc. groceries we usually hit up the Aspens Market for breakfast burritos. The market is just outside Teaton Village, so it would require a car or taking the shuttle, but it has some great snacks and its connected to the liquor store.

Jackson

The Wort Hotel is an absolutely stunning hotel located in the heart of Jackson. Overflowing with tasteful old west charm and history, this boutique hotel is cozy, inviting, and offers outstanding service. We’ve had the privilege of staying here a couple of times and the staff rivals anywhere else we’ve been.

49er Inn and Suites is just off the main strip in Jackson and its one of our usual accommodations when we visit. At about $115/night (peak season) it offers an excellent value considering they have a large pool, spa, and free breakfast! The rooms are basic, but clean, and not too small. Its close to plenty of restaurants, bars, and other activities.

Bin22 is a great little Tapas and Wine bar. They also have a small market attached so you can pick up a great bottle of wine and some snacks and continue the party at your hotel! Cozy little place, so plan on making new friends while your there.

Snake River Grill upscale restaurant offering excellent food and service. Definitely worth the price. We’ve eaten here to celebrate anniversary’s and birthdays and we’ve always left full and very satisfied. I highly recommend the grilled flatbreads and the Wagyu Zabaton Steak.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort vs. Snow King Resort

In my opinion, this really isn’t a question. I’ve skied both places and while Snow King offers some great steep terrain, you cannot beat the diversity available at Jackson Hole.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

As a former instructor, I love the beginner terrain that JHMR offers – wide open flat areas that don’t funnel a lot of people into a little amount of space is perfect if you’ve never been on snow before. As an expert skier, I always walk away from Jackson feeling like I’ve improved my skiing. JHMR offers some of the most extensive expert and backcountry terrain in the country.

Couloirs to trees, cliffs, and everything in between, this is not the place to mess around. If you’re coming here to experience something new and different, make sure you are properly educated (or get yourself an instructor – even if you’re an expert), you have the right gear, and don’t go into the backcountry alone.

Food here is reasonably priced (for a ski resort). There is a lodge at the top of the gondola that has really good pizza and a great salad bar, its centrally located so it makes for an easy and usually quick stop for lunch.

You can ride the ariel tram to the summit even if you’re not skiing down. There’s a small waffle shop at the top (Corbet’s Cabin) and incredible views. Skiing from the top of the tram can be challenging, and while kids (and parent’s alike) are often eager to do this, it can be very daunting to young children. The weather at the bottom of the tram can differ drastically from the top – which often experiences high winds and blowing snow. Better to ride the tram back down and admit defeat than needing Ski Patrol to get you down….

Snow King Resort

While Snow King boasts one of the longest ski runs in North America, that’s really about it. It is easily accessible if you’re staying in the town of Jackson, but with only 3 chair lifts I would only recommend planning for 1 day of skiing here. If you are staying in town and have a child or two that’s never skied before and you’re not really sure skiing is for them – it could be worth getting them started here as the prices are significantly lower than JHMR.

 

How to get the Most out of Your Ski Lesson

Have you ever had that perfect lesson where everything goes your way? Full of good weather, big improvements and fun! Or perhaps a lesson where it seems nothing goes your way? Where your confusion levels seemed to go up and your ability level went down as the lesson went on? By the end of this post I hope to give you a snap shot of what a good lesson may look like and what to do if you feel like things may be taking a turn for the worse.

Ski School photo

Teacher Centered Vs Student Centered

Teacher centered learning is when the teacher leads from the front and tells you what you are going to learn. It follows the old school principle of “bend zee knees and follow me pleaze”. This style works for people who aren’t sure what to work on and need to be told what to do next. However, if you know you want to improve your bump skiing, being taught how to carve will not teach you all the skills you need achieve your goal. Which leads us to student centered learning.

Student centered learning is when the student is in charge of the goal of the lesson. This can be anything from making turns on a green run to skiing black bumps. If you have a specific goal in mind then be sure to tell your instructor, even if you aren’t asked. This will ensure that you get exactly what you want out of your lesson. It is important to note, that when in a group environment you may find people with a variety of goals. So be sure to tell the instructor exactly want you want from the lesson before leaving the meeting area. This way if you have a goal that is vastly different from the rest of the group, the instructor may be able to ask around and put you with a different group that has similar goals to your own.

What, How, Why

What, How and Why are, in my opinion, the 3 most important aspects of a good lesson. In my experience, when a student was having difficulty understanding, it was probably because 1 or 2 of these aspects were missing from my explanation. However, I found that explaining “HOW” was what helped people the most. Getting concrete information on exactly what your body should be doing, “how” it is going to move (eg: turn your ski by turning your foot and leg) is a lot more impact full than the “Just Do It” type approach. So if you find yourself in a lesson and not understanding what is happening, then perhaps ask “how” or “what part of my body is meant to be moving?”.

Having said this, long winded explanations can be boring and confusing. So be sure to ask for an explanation that is short and to the point if you find yourself getting lost during a lesson. Also, what may make sense to one person may make no sense to you. For this reason, a good instructor will have many ways of explaining the same thing. Again, don’t be afraid to ask!!

Terrain Choice

Choosing the right terrain can make or break improving a skill. The saying goes “new skill old terrain, old skill new terrain”. So, if you are trying something new, do it on terrain you have skied before. Skiing on terrain that is too difficult will leave you focusing on the terrain instead of on the skill. If you feel like you are just barely holding on then it may be time to ask to take a step back. If you are in a private lesson, it is easy to move back to old terrain if you are struggling. However, if you are in a group environment, asking to ‘take it down a notch’ could be intimidating. Never the less, always ask!! Your instructor may be able to give to alternative routes to ski, whilst staying close to the group.

Practice, Feedback, Repeat!

There is nothing worse than getting lots of information and not being able to try it out. When you are practicing always focus on one thing at a time. If you have a lot of ideas floating around or aren’t sure what to focus on, ask your instructor for what idea or skill you should think about as you ski.

Once you feel like you are starting to get the hang of it, check in and make sure you get some feedback. When you get feedback look for;

  • what you are doing well,
  • ONE thing you need to work on
  • HOW you are going to improve that ONE thing

If you can follow those steps you will be able to keep everything in order without getting confused! Follow the Keep it simple stupid (KISS) philosophy! Then repeat and practice some more, keeping your one focus.

 

Ski Town Tuesday – Park City, UT

Park City has been my home, year round, for the past 4 years. Prior to living here year round, I completed 10 consecutive winter seasons here. Back in the day, so to speak, I taught skiing in Jindabyne, NSW Australia from June-September and then came to Park City and taught skiing from November – April. Yes, you read correctly – I completed 10 years of back-to-back winters teaching skiing.

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But I digress….. I’ve traveled the country (and the world) but I thought I would start off Ski Town Tuesdays with the town I know best – Park City, UT!

Pros

Easy to get to

Park City is incredibly easy to get to as it is located only 45 minutes away from Salt Lake International Airport. The airport is still relatively small making it easy to get your bags, rent a car, and hit the road.

Elevation

At an elevation of about 7000 feet above sea level, Park City is a relatively easy adjustment for most people coming from out-of-town. A lower elevation generally means milder skiing conditions and more oxygen!

The Best Snow on Earth

Because Park City is technically considered a high altitude desert, the snow here is incredibly light. Powder days here are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced!

Free Transportation

You will want to take advantage of this, I promise! The bus system is easy to figure out, usually on time, and will save you money and frustration trying to find places to park around town. Check out there maps, timetables, and additional info here.

Plenty of Non-Skiing Activities

From shopping and spa-days to sled-dogs and yoga in a yurt at the top of the mountain, there is something for everybody in and around town. If you are looking to explore activities besides skiing, it would probably be a good idea to have a rental car as many of these offerings are on the outskirts of town or in the nearby towns of Kamas and Heber City. A few of my family’s favorites include: Gorgoza Park (tubing hill), Park City Yoga Adventures, Utah Olympic Park, and Luna Lobos Dog Sledding.

Resorts, Resorts, Resorts!

Within the town itself, Park City has 2 options for skiing – Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort (referred to by locals as PCMR). If you look at the picture below you will see Deer Valley is the southern most resort in town, followed by Park City Mountain, and then the Canyons. As a side note here, Vail Resorts recently purchased Park City Mountain and  The Canyons and has connected the two resorts with a gondola, and is now known as PCMR. While Deer Valley remains in very close proximity to PCMR, you will need a separate lift ticket and you cannot access Deer Valley from PCMR and vise versa. Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 12.14.29 PM.png

Deer Valley – used to be a bit more expensive than PCMR, but since Vail’s takeover it’s comparable in price but still provides excellent customer service (such as people greeting you and helping you get ski gear and children out of the car) and really great food! Deer Valley’s terrain is great for groups as there is usually something for everybody at the top of each lift. There are definitely some challenging areas of Deer Valley, but it is not known for its extreme terrain. It also isn’t open to Snowboarders.

PCMR (Park City Base) – I find this side easier to actually get onto the snow. Meaning you can park your car and walk to the slopes. Note, however, during holidays parking lots fill up fast (usually by 9:30am). I would NOT recommend eating on the mountain, especially on this side. The food is nothing special, insanely overpriced, and overcrowded even by ski resort standards.  Instead of spending $30 on a cheeseburger, you can ski down into town and head to Davanza’s for pizza, tacos, and a beer or High West Distillery for a bit more upscale (but still less expensive) lunch.

PCMR (Canyons Base) – Unless you are staying at a hotel that is ski-in/ski-out, it is a bit harder to get onto the snow here. You will have to park at the Cabriolet lot, take an open air (cold) gondola ride to the base, and then take another gondola ride up the actual mountain. If you’re a beginner skier you’ll have to take yet another chairlift ride until you’re actually taking your first run. With that said, I find the Canyons side of the mountain to be less crowded and have more challenging terrain. Remember, you can access the ‘Canyons side’ via a gondola from the Park City Base.

If you are traveling to Park City and renting a car, it is also quite easy to get to the following resorts (I’ve included driving times for each):

Alta Ski Resort: 56mins

Snowbird Ski Resort: 50mins

Brighton Ski Resort: 25mins

Snowbasin Resort: 1hr 10mins

Powder Mountain: 1hr 30mins

Solitude Mountain Resort: 1hr

Cons

Size

Park City is no longer the cute little ski town it was when I first got here. Over the years, and with the arrival of Vail Resorts, the town has grown considerably. Park City’s infrastructure isn’t always capable of handling the growing number of people visiting the town. The best way to avoid this is to come during off-peak times.

Cost vs. Quality

As with most ski towns, you can expect to pay substantially more for everything from groceries to your Uber. The price tag around here doesn’t always match the quality (or quality of service) rendered, either. There are, however, some great restaurants around town – Park City Restaurant Guide, coming soon!

Ski School?

When planning a ski vacation, particularly as a family, the question of ski school is likely to come up. Should we book a lesson? If so how many days and hours should we do? What is the difference between a group lesson and a private lesson? When is the best time to book? Ski school can be quite an investment, and hopefully answering these questions will help make the most of what ski school has to offer.

 

Ski Lesson?

Time

The amount of time you spend in ski school will depend on what you want to achieve, where you are in your skiing journey, how you like to learn or how much time you need away from your kids in order maintain your sanity! A full day lesson is not uncommon with first timers and beginners. It will not only boost your confidence, but also ensure you are not developing any bad habits or end up on a trail that may be beyond your ability level. However, if you are an athletic person and know yourself to learn by doing, then you may only need 2-3 hours each morning. If you are more of an intermediate/advanced skier then 2-3 hours can be enough to brush up on your technique and getting to know the terrain before skiing the rest of the day with your friends and family.

Group Lessons 

In a group lesson, you will be taught by an instructor in a group of people who have similar ability levels. The lesson will be tailored to everyone in the group, in the hope of giving each student something to work on. Groups are great if you are a just starting out, because everyone is at the same level. As you get toward the intermediate/advanced level it can become harder to get exactly what you want out of a group lesson, as groups can only ski as hard as the weakest person. Group lessons are also ideal for those looking to acquaint themselves with the mountain, to get a few pointers, and if you’re on a budget.

Typically a full day group lesson will cost anywhere from $150-$250 at some of the larger resorts (eg Vail Resorts, Aspen/Snowmass, Deer Valley). However, I found that some smaller, lesser known resorts have full day group lessons for as little as $95 and half day lessons for $55. So, it can pay to shop around if you are on a budget.

Private Lessons

Having the one-on-one attention of an instructor can make a huge impact on your skiing, it does, however, come at a price. The lesson is entirely structured to meet your goals, which is helpful because sometimes skiing with others can take the attention away from exactly what you need. How much of a “greater price” do you ask? Well, you can expect to pay $800-$1,000 for a full day lesson. While half day (typically 3 hours) private lessons are $300-$700. Again, if you want the private lesson experience on a budget then searching for lesser know or smaller resorts can be a good way to go.

There are a few reasons why resorts want you to pay (or sell your first born child) for a private lesson. Like I said, only having 1 or 2 people gives you more attention and a lesson that is structured totally to you needs. You are also more likely to get a more experienced instructor. Because of the cost of a private lesson, resorts will try assign instructors with more experience to these products. Hence, increasing the chance of you actually learning a new skill and not just learning what the back of the instructors coat looks like.

Kids Lessons

I have personally taught kids as young as 2 years old. However, as a parent myself, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for every child. Reason being, most children under the age of 4 struggle physically and emotionally when they’re required to be out on the snow for longer than 60 minutes. Most large resorts offer great daycare activities for children under 4.

Most children between the ages of 4-6 are physically capable to take an all day skiing lesson. Group lessons at this age will have a balance of on-snow instruction and snack/activity breaks off snow. Generally speaking, this age group will have a lower number of kids per group. Kids instructors are, usually, well versed on the benefits of taking frequent breaks throughout the day. Also, there is usually other support staff available for those children needing some extra love.

Group lessons for children ages 7-12 will be larger, have more on-snow time, encourage greater independence and knowledge of how to be safe on the mountain. While private lessons are beneficial for all ages, it is around this age the some kids will greatly benefit from individualized attention. With that said, kids at this age enjoying making new friends and find great success in the group environment as well.

For kids 13 and older, available programs will vary by resort. Some resorts have lessons geared towards teenagers while some will incorporate teenagers into adult lessons, and some resorts only offer teenage programs during school holidays. In my experience, teenagers are a forgotten group – too old for kids groups but still a little young to be grouped in with adults. If you have a teenage child that is eager to ski, this would be a great opportunity to splurge on a private lesson. This will ensure that your teenager gets acquainted with the mountain and has a few skills to work on should they decide to ski on their own or with friends.

Its also important to note, at this point, that informing your child’s instructor of any noteworthy health or emotional issues (eg adhd, autism, etc.) is critical to your child’s success. As an instructor, having background information on a child will ensure they are receiving the most impactful instruction.

 

Book the Lesson

You’ve worked out the details, and now its time to book your lesson. If you’re traveling during a busy period (i.e. school holidays, public or religious holidays, etc.) bookings should always be made WELL ahead of time to ensure you get the product that you want. Most ski schools start accepting bookings in September or October for the up coming season.

How you book your lesson will vary by resort. Most resorts allow you to book your lesson on their websites, or alternatively you can call the resort reservation number. Some resorts may bundle lessons, rentals and lift tickets together and make things cheaper, eg; first time skier bundles, rentals and lift tickets with children’s lessons. So that can be something to look for. Resorts may also offer better prices if you are willing to book your lessons before the season even begins.

Welcome to Skiing Revealed

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Ski vacations can be an amazing family experience. Every year, I remember getting in the car, driving 6 hours to spend a week skiing at our closest ski resort. This one week of skiing was the most exciting week of the the year for me. Skiing from dawn til dusk, playing games and hanging out with friends at night. It was from these family holidays that gave me a passion for skiing that has lead me to spend most of my adult life living, working and skiing in the mountains.

I have been involved in the ski industry as an instructor and coach for the last 13 years. It has taken me all over the world and I have had the pleasure of teaching and skiing with many families and have seen how much fun it can be to spend time on the slopes as a family.

Through work and ski vacations with my own family, I am very familiar with common mistakes and misunderstandings that can strike fear and tears into any family vacation. From painful ski boots and lost gloves to not being able to book a ski school lesson. That is where the following blog posts will come in. The information contained within these posts are designed to help create a fun and stress-free Family Ski Vacation, and also shed some light on topics that can better prepare you for your next trip to the mountains.

As well as a creating a stress-free experience, I will also be bringing you some good tips and pointers to help you improve your own skiing. How to’s on skiing bumps more efficiently, tips on how to progress to parallel and fun games to help kids of all ages improve there own skiing.

Skiing has brought me and my family a lot of joy. I hope that in the blog posts to come I can share some insight about how to create a fun vacation and lasting memories that you will be talking about for years to come.