Do You Need Ski Lessons To Learn To Ski? The Truth From a Ski Instructor…

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“How hard can teaching skiing really be?” I had a mom tell me in the parking lot at the ski resort last winter.  She and her husband had each taken one ski lesson years ago and now had their 2 kids in tow and were going to teach their kids how to ski.  After they had to ask me how to buckle their ski boots (big red flag), I kindly pointed them to the ski school office and recommended they sign the whole family up for ski lessons.  

Do you need ski lessons to learn to ski?  NO!  But if you’re not going to take lessons, you absolutely need someone, who is at least a solid intermediate skier, who is willing to dedicate several days to teaching you how to ski.  

Kids ski lessons Solitude ski resort

Having taught hundreds of kids to ski as a ski instructor, I’m going to help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of ski school.  Whatever you decide, remember that in many areas you’re legally bound by the skiers responsibility code to ski safely and in control, and that only happens with proper instruction (professional or otherwise). 

Do Kids Need Ski Lessons to Learn To Ski?

Kids ski school can be really expensive, especially when you factor in paying for several days of lessons or for multiple children. So you may be wondering, “how much are my kids actually going to learn in ski school?”  If your child is an absolute beginner, but you know how to ski already, ski school can be nice, but it’s not essential.  In fact, for teaching the basics of skiing, most parents who are solid intermediate/advanced skiers can teach the essentials like learning how to stop and turn on skis.
  

Mom son high five skiing


Our Recommended Approach to Ski School With Young Kids

As a former ski instructor, I come to the table with a unique perspective.  Most people assume that the only way to learn to ski is with a ski instructor.  That’s simply not true.  In fact, if you’re a patient parent, I think that most kids learn the basics best from their own parents (especially really young kids).  

toddler learning to ski
Parents are often the best ski teachers for really young kids

When I talk about ski basics, I mean stopping in a wedge, turning, getting up when you fall, and learning how to get on and off the lift.  These are the skills necessary for all beginner terrain, and some easy intermediate terrain, and they’re not that difficult to teach.  All it takes is some advance research of the best ski skills to teach, be a solid intermediate skier, and having some patience.  Keep things fun, and if your child is really struggling, THEN hire a professional ski instructor.  

Teaching parallel skiing, mogul skills, and terrain park progressions are all significantly more difficult to teach, so if your child needs extra attention with those skills, don’t hesitate to sign them up for lessons. 

Even though my husband and I are both former ski instructors, we set aside money in our ski budget every year for our kids to take some ski lessons, and it’s always money well spent.  Whether they’re struggling with a skill, or just need to switch things up, when our kids really need ski lessons, we’re always glad to have that as an option. 

Mom skiing with little boys
Mom teaching the little boys to ski

 

How To Learn To Ski Without Ski Lessons

If you’ve decided that you’re going to learn to ski without professional ski lessons, then you’re going to need to figure out someone who can teach you.  I don’t care if it’s a friend who is already a good skier or a professional ski instructor, you have to have someone who is a solid intermediate or advanced skier who can teach you how to ski.  At a bare minimum, they need to be able to teach you how to safely get on and off a chairlift (both a surface magic carpet lift and a regular chairlift), how to stop on all green (easy) terrain, and how to turn both directions to control your direction and your speed.  To do this, you’ll need someone who can spend at least one full ski day with you on the beginner hill.  

family ski day
Family ski days are a great way to learn and solidify skills

Risks Of Learning To Ski Without Ski Lessons

The biggest risk of not learning to ski with ski lessons (whether for a professional or friend/family member), is safety.  If you don’t know how to stop or turn, you’re putting both yourself and everyone on the hill at a major risk of injury or even death.  

kids falling down on skis
When you crash on the ski hill, you put yourself and others at risk

As part of the skiers responsibility code (that you agree to follow when you buy your lift ticket), you are responsible to stay in control at all times.  If you’re skiing out of control, you run the risk of losing your ski pass or in extreme cases, legal prosecution.  Yes, did you know that if you run into someone on the ski hill, you can be prosecuted?  

I’ve been on the ski hill several times with people who clearly didn’t know how to ski or snowboard and it’s terrifying and dangerous.  Skis can get going super fast down a snowy hill, and if you don’t know how to stop, the only things that you slow you down are 1. Crashing and falling, 2. Crashing into another person (likely hurting both them and you), 3. Crashing into a tree (where you’ll get seriously injured and break bones). 

Read Next: Skiing vs Snowboarding: Which is Best for Kids? 

Advantages of Taking Ski Lessons

Before you jump right in and sign up for ski lessons, learn all about how to make the most of your ski school experience.

Professional Guidance

When you’re under the guidance of a certified ski instructor, you’re learning from a professional. These instructors go through extensive training and are certified by organizations that establish safety and educational standards. They know how to introduce beginners to skiing in a systematic manner, which can be especially helpful for kids who are learning the ropes.

NOTE:  Not all ski instructors are certified instructors.  If you want the best instruction possible, book your ski lessons with a PSIA certified ski instructor. 

affordable ski lessons at Nordic Valley
Ski instructors often help fill gaps that most skis aren’t aware of

Safety

Let’s face it—skiing can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. From learning how to fall safely to understanding how to navigate different types of terrain, professional instructors can teach you to be as safe as possible on the ski hill. This helps instill confidence in beginners and ensures you don’t develop bad habits that could compromise your safety in the long run.  It is still possible to learn to ski safely without professional ski lessons, but it does take a more conscious effort.  I find that parents typically have a very vested interest in teaching their kids ski safety, but this step is often skimmed over when friends are teaching someone how to ski.  

snowbasin ski kids safety
family ski zones are great for learning ski safety

Efficient Learning

While it’s true that people have different learning curves, professional instructors have the skills to adapt their teaching methods to different learners. They have experience from teaching hundreds of people to ski and can quickly pinpoint your weaknesses and strengths, enabling you to improve more rapidly than if you were trying to teach yourself or learn from a friend.  Because of this, we always try to sign our kids up for ski lessons when they’re really struggling with a new skill since it builds confidence and the best habits possible. 

High five ski school Grand Targhee
ski school makes learning to ski more efficient and often faster

Social Advantages of Ski School

Taking group lessons can be a fun, social experience, especially for kids. If you have a child who is reluctant to ski, a group ski lesson could be just the thing to change their mind.  Overall, ski lessons make the skiing experience more fun and engaging for kids (unless mom and dad have a lot of extra patience that day). 

kids ski school
our kids love skiing with their peers so they always look forward to ski school

Disadvantages of Taking Ski Lessons

Cost

The most obvious downside is the cost. Skiing can be expensive and lessons can make it a more cost-prohibitive sport.  Typically, ski lessons will cost double what a one day lift ticket will cost, so the price of your lessons will vary depending on the overall price of the resort (check out our top recommended budget ski areas).  For families, this can quickly add up and put skiing out of their budget.  For this reason, we recommend a hybrid approach with teaching your own kids to ski sometimes and putting them in ski school other times.  If you’re not comfortable teaching your own kids to ski, go for lessons at a smaller and more affordable resort.  The same certifying agency, PSIA, certifies teachers at both large and small resorts, so all certified instructors have roughly the same knowledge base.  

Time Commitment

Lessons often take up a significant chunk of your day on the slopes. If you’re wanting some time to ski without the kids, it’s great, but if you’re looking for family bonding time, this will only leave you with time to take a few runs during the day.  If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll likely need several lessons before you’re comfortable going down the hill without a ski instructor, so factor that in.  

If you’re signing up for ski lessons, plan on at least 2-3 lessons for beginners.

Potential for Inconsistency

While ski schools generally maintain a high standard of instruction, you won’t always get the best ski instructors.  I’ve worked with plenty of amazing ski instructors as well as many who really weren’t good.  To get the best ski instruction, signing up for a multi-day or multi-week lesson where you’re guaranteed the same instructor is the best option.

What Type of Ski Lessons are The Best?

If you have options for different types of ski lessons, I always recommend multiday structured lessons, where you have the same class and same instructor for multiple days.  We’ve tried out so many different ski lesson types and both adults and kids seem to learn the most in these classes.  When you have the same instructor for multiple days, they’ll know right where you need to focus your efforts for every subsequent lesson, so you can get right to the learning part of the day.  

wildhorn goggles boy skiing

Are Private Lessons Better Than Group Lessons?

You may be wondering if private lessons are better than group lessons.  The truth is that it depends.  Private lessons give you a more individualized experience (which we agree is better), but often cost 5-10x what a group lesson would.  The same instructors often teach private lessons as well as group lessons.  As a better option, we recommend taking more group lessons and having your lessons during the week at non-peak times.  Then you can take multiple lessons for the cost of one private lesson.  

Written by Jessica Averett

Hi, I'm Jessica! After meeting my husband on a chairlift, we now live in the mountains of Utah with our 5 kids. As a former ski instructor and mom, I'm here to help you make your family ski trips as easy, and FUN, as possible!