Ski schools, why don’t they work better?


Perhaps because they look like this.  OK for kids, just havin’ fun.  Not much more.


“Change? Change? Who wants change, things are bad enough already !”  So said Lord Salisbury.

The biggest change that comes about, and by a country mile the one that matters most, when skiers first come on one my courses, is the change in belief about what may be possible. What may be possible for them!

Since before I was a coach I have adopted many aspects of Neuro Linguistic Programming in my teaching.  There is a concise explanation of NLP here – it’s worth a look I think.

One of the key questions in NLP practice is “What is blocking you ?” If what you have currently is not matching up to what you want, then what is it in your external circumstances or within you yourself that is inhibiting progress towards it ?

My experience over the past few decades strongly indicates that the “blocks” are internal. If you are not skiing as you would like, then it is your internal responses, the what and how of your thinking, and/or your belief systems which are keeping you in your current status quo.

All of the feedback I have, from my pupils, supports this view. Their ( often renewed ) hope, and improved skill development is never attributed by them to a renewed ability to bend their knees, or hold their hands out even further in front of them ( which is not a good instruction anyway ).  it unerringly stems from new understandings,  new beliefs, and new thinking patterns.

ski schools and instruction.

Every ski resort has ski schools and plenty of instructors. Hundreds of thousands of skiers have spent money with them over probably millions of hours of skiing. So the key question surely must be why are there not more excellent skiers? Why are so many skiers frustrated by their not having progressed as they had both hoped and expected? Why is there so much and so prevalent disappointment in ski schools?

Is it because those skiers are not motivated? Is it because all those skiers are basically useless people? Is it because they are all too dumb to comprehend? Are they physically incapable? Does good skiing require some kind of super-human ability that only a few possess?

Of course not.

So some other influence must be at work. Perhaps the model that underlies the ski schools industry is less effective than it ought to be. Perhaps the way ski instructors are produced, produces good skiers but not many effective teachers. Perhaps the ski schools ‘ clients are given inappropriate expectations. Perhaps the realm of possibilities, and their time scales are not elucidated.

I have my own views as to the causes, but this is not the place to expand upon them. Whatever it is, there remains on the slopes a veritable host of skiers who when questioned admit to levels of personal disappointment that are very saddening, and in my view avoidable.

Commonly, especially in adults, self-imposed limits are accepted based on thoughts such as “Oh well, you have to be different from me, to be any good; it must need a special kind of person”. Or more commonly amongst us chaps perhaps – “Yeah well, I’m bloody good, me. I can get down anything!” The open question being “Yes, but how?”

How easy is it?

Highly effective controlled skiing is not easy. It is however perfectly possible for ANY reasonably able-bodied, sane person of any age, including my own advanced one. It is also perfectly possible for non able-bodied folk – plenty of one-legged, or one-armed, or chair-bound people ski brilliantly. For all I know insane folk do as well, I don’t see why not. Come to think of it, there is evidence …..

Developing skill in skiing is a process. Consequently it will take time. How long it will take will vary not only between different people, but constantly throughout the development process. Sometimes you will progress quickly through some stage, and then perhaps have a considerable struggle through some other stage.

I began my ski coaching career by training as a dry slope ski instructor, qualified to teach the snow-plough from half-way up a 60 mtr long plastic slope. It was pretty awful, and not improved by the quality of the teacher. At one stage, six weeks had passed during which I attended three nights a week, and no progress whatever had occurred.

I blamed me and not the teaching. The teacher blamed me and not the teaching. I was ready to conclude that other folk were “better” than me, and better adapted to the task of skiing. I was ready to give up when a visiting recreational skier, enquiring as to why I looked so glum, observed that “something is probably changing in your skiing and you won’t know what it is, until it has”.

With that he skied-off and left me to it. Something in the way he said it, “went home”, so I did not give up, but kept on, and in less than three more weeks my skiing had improved sufficiently for other instructors to comment on it.

There is no need to give up. If you would like to be a more proficient skier, you can be. All you need is to develop a process that suits you, and to do it along with a good, understanding teacher. It will take time, and it will not happen in a group of twelve, skiing down one piste after another quite possibly out of sight of the instructor who will be miles ahead, while supposedly watching him/her so you can copy.

You can’t copy. You can learn very little if anything by watching. But you can certainly become a much better, controlled skier at any age, and no matter how you ski presently by finding the right process.


Quite possibly nothing, you may well be on your way. If you are not, then I would put money on the cause being a poor process, and not you.

A bit more NLP – “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got. If it isn’t working do something else; anything else. Wiki’s NLP page is here.

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