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Can you/should you teach yourself to ski?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Judging by all the various threads on the issue I think we ought to have a definitive thread discussing the pros and cons that might potentially become a sticky. What do you think? Here is a thread up for grabs for that very purpose - fill your boots folks. The question is:

Can you or should you teach yourself to ski?

Edit in light of second posting on this thread:

OK, and please explain your answers!! wink


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Tue 18-11-14 17:29; edited 1 time in total
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Yes and No.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
No, because if you don't know how to do something, you're not well placed to teach yourself how to do it. Same as driving, flying, open heart surgery, for example.
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It entirely depends on what you want to get out of skiing, how aware you are of what your body is doing and your attitude to learning in general.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I would suggest teaching yourself to ski before teaching yourself open heart auto-surgery.
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I don't think you can simply acquire ski kit and reasonably teach youself to use it effectively, efficiently and painlessly.

Some application of books and videos will help.

Ultimately though, if you want to learn with minimum pain (of any form) and maximum economy (in any way), some form of external teaching/coaching is necessary for just about everyone.

Skiing is not intuitive. Riding a bike is.

Would you think of teaching yourself to drive.? Confused
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I don't think teaching yourself from scratch is a good idea unless you have a lot of time on your hands. That said, some people take a few lessons to get the fundamentals and then can get a long way just getting the miles in and skiing with/watching good skiers; others benefit from more regular lessons

It also depends slightly on your aspirations. If you want to squeeze everything out of whatever talent you have, you'll probably want to be doing more lessons than others
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
under a new name wrote:
I don't think you can simply acquire ski kit and reasonably teach youself to use it effectively, efficiently and painlessly.



I saw a guy doing this at Glenshee once, it was pretty funny. He traversed across the piste then flung himself on the ground, got up and began again facing the other way, it may not have been entirely painless.....
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I think you need a solid base of lessons to get you to a certain stage of competance and understanding. Then it all depends on what you want to do with your skiing.

I read the odd book and download the odd app. I found the 'ski school' series of apps really useful.

I still think my skiing is vagualy gradually improving, although I don't really care as it has reached a level where I am quite happy to bumble around.
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I've taught a small number of skiers who are mostly self-taught and have reasonably strong core skills. By "mostly self taught" that typically means a week of group lessons, or perhaps two or three privates, to get them going, and then using resources such as videos, books, YouTube or following friends who can get around the mountain. So for the question can you teach yourself to ski, the answer is "yes". However, most skiers that come to me with very little good instruction to help them develop usually have, at best, a very limited range of skills, or more typically a wide range of bad habits that are stopping them getting around the mountain and having as much fun on skis as they would like. So perhaps a more accurate answer to that question is "yes, but odds are you won't do a good job of it". Even for those rare people who do a good job of developing their skiing through self learning, perhaps it's a pertinent question "how brilliant would you be if you had also had the assistance of some instruction...?"

As for whether you should teach yourself, I'm firmly of the view that ski lessons should be entirely optional. It would be a sad day when there was any sense of compulsion to go to ski school.

All of this presumes that all instruction is good, so anyone who takes advantage of it will be guaranteed to get better. Sadly that's not the case, so for me the more important question is not whether to self-teach or not, but for those who do want to take advantage of instruction how do you find really good instructors?
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Quote:
Can you
Yes. Clearly vast numbers of people teach themselves to skate, inline skate, surf, kitesurf (the latter two, and especially for kitesurfing, usually after an introductory course), mountain bike, climb, etc etc.

Quote:
should you
Depends. Aside from all the usual answers that will be thrown at this thread, one factor that rarely gets a mention is the question of how many days of skiing you're likely to do. Someone who's going to do hundreds of weeks in their life has plenty more time to learn for themselves, and later undo bad habits, than someone who'll do less than a hundred days in their life. If snow time is at a premium, it does seem to make more sense to get lessons so as to progress as fast as possible. For kids that grow up on a mountain, less so.
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I taught myself the basics of windsurfing from a book. I knew how to sail from cruising on larger craft but other than that, I had no knowledge. After rigging up the board and setting off on a gentle waft around the lake, I decided I should actually fall in to practice lifting the rig back up. After doing this a few times, another chap who was on a windsurfing class was bobbing about nearby me asked "how long have you been windsurfing for?" He was a little shocked when I replied "about half an hour"

So yes, I think in any sport, it's possible to learn the basics IF you go about it the right way and are able to self-assess and self-analyse.
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Quote:

I taught myself the basics of windsurfing from a book.

I taught myself dinghy sailing from a book, a very good book, read carefully when commuting in and out of London. I did then go on a dinghy sailing course but I knew "in my head" how to tack and gybe and the basics of trim. I didn't have a dinghy and knew nobody who did, so I had little choice but to go on a course, but if I'd had a couple of mates with dinghies (which I do now) I could have made a reasonable fist of it - and you learn from every capsize!

It is absurd to suggest that you can't become a perfectly competent skier without formal lessons - in the right environment kids grow up with it and learn to ski - but most of us don't live in that environment and didn't have those opportunities. And few people have the capacity to become really good performers in any sport without specialist coaching.

Just look at any bunch of 12 year old boys in a skate park, whether they are on bikes, scooters or skateboards. There are always a couple of stand-out athletes, a joy to watch. And I'll bet they "taught themselves". And the less good ones are watching, copying, falling over and skinning their knees and elbows. And improving.
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@feef, must be difficult reading and windsurfing at the same time though. wink
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Skiing is relatively intuitive if you skate. I know because I taught myself the basics, had my first morning lesson last year with Rob at Inside Out after 3 weeks and just been on another session last week ahead of my 5th week on snow. I could ski comfortably, but lacked knowledge in areas where my technique had problems, skidding into my turns slightly and occasionally reverting to the snowplough and the back seat.

If I just wanted to pootle round the mountain on blues and reds one week a year, I would have successfully 'taught myself' enough to do what I want. Problem is, with enough weeks a year now to warrant a season ticket, I want to be a technically proficient skier, able to head off piste and comfortably down the steepest runs, and that is what needs professional instruction.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Well, presumably the first person to ski taught themselves so that's a pedantic "yes".

Learning to ski seems to be a combination of watching demonstration (or making it up), individual practice, receving feedback on your performance, and falling over.

If you can do the individual practice/falling over without being a danger to others/yourself then with the advent of youtube there's plenty of demonstrations to see, so the critical piece is whether you're able to accurately assess how well you're doing and exactly what you need to improve to do it as intneded.

The biggest risk, I think, is making up actions (bad habits?) that work on whatever terrain you were on at the time but that hold you back as you improve. Videoing yourself would presumably help with self-feedback, but that has limitations without a personal videographer / drone following you around so all in all having a skilled person to give life size demos, select suitable terrain, impartially appraise your progression, and provide instant, tailored feedback has its merits and is much lower latency that checking videos of yourself after each run.
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@lampygirl, +1
Everybody can get down the hill (thanks to that strange thing called gravity). The question of lessons or not just depends on how you want to get down it.
Many moons ago, I made the mistake of 'teaching' myself golf...and many moons later... I'm still shoyte Sad
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
You can teach yourself TO GET DOWN THE MOUNTAIN, but SKIING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN is a different matter and most people would need lessons. I was hapilly GETTING DOWN for 5 years and then I decided to get lessons - a revelation of how fun and nice SKIING can be snowHead
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Teaching yourself is possible but extremely expensive.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Ultimately, yes you need to be able to analyse and self correct your own skiing to be able to perform well and adapt to difficult situations.
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@mooney058, Absolutely
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Should have asked the 3 yoofs that got booted out of Chill Factor yesterday after going to the top and blatantly hadn't skied before! I couldn't help but admire the fact they managed to negotiate the button lift without any issue?! Puzzled

I must admit I don't fully get the ski/skate cross over other than the balance or maybe I just haven't seen it in myself after skating plus playing ice hockey and roller hockey when younger.

Personally for me a blend of good quality instruction and free skiing has me achieving my goals-enjoying the mountain and more of it as I move forward. I've no delusions that I'm technically any good but a wise instructor once told me "I'll teach you to ski and not how to demonstrate technique" Which has kind of stuck with me. For me skiing is about fun and so long as I have and continue to develop the tools to achieve that I'm happy. wink
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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You do not need lessons to be able to ski. Saying you do is quite absurd. I have had no lessons, have done 5 or so weeks over the last few years, and would say quite confidently that I am a 5/6 on a scale. It really is the same as learning to do anything physical as others have said above. We don't have lessons for so many other sports and we all manage fine. However as there are the facilities in place for ski tuition, and with the masses not skiing often, and feel like it's the way it should be done, lessons are taken.
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I agree with @rob@rar, once you have acquired the basics to keep yourself and other slope users safe, whether you want more lessons or not is entirely up to the individual. For some people skiing is simply a holiday/leisure pursuit, lessons are low priority, enjoyment and getting around the mountain is what it's about.

Other people may want to continuously progress and push their boundaries and ongoing tuition will help them to achieve that.

But I would imagine that it's hard to grasp basic control, and therefore enjoyment, without a decent level of initial tuition.
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Bene wrote:
I must admit I don't fully get the ski/skate cross over other than the balance or maybe I just haven't seen it in myself after skating plus playing ice hockey and roller hockey when younger.


Was teaching an 11-15yr old beginner's class at the weekend. One lad went from never having put on a ski boot to ploughing confidently and in control in a straight line on his 3rd run. By the end of the hour, he was in full controll in a straight line, starting and stopping at will by adjusting his plough, and was starting to introduce some turning and able to descend from almost the top of the first section of slope. He was by far and away the most advanced of the group, as well as getting bored of side-stepping up and finding it quicker to herring-bone up the slope.

I asked him if he skated.. "no, but I roller blade"

There is a very valid crossover, and it's often obvious
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I agree with the skating thing. I had no skating experience at all, yet when I tried the Christmas market skating rink I found it pretty easy. My friends were all clinging on to the hand rail squealing with fear whilst I managed to glide around with no assistance. Couldn't quite work out how to go backwards though, never really managed that very successfully on skis either... wink
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As a seasoned ice hockey player the similarities I found are
Obviously balance and also the fact that the sliding and skidding sensations aren't alien. hockey stopping is exactly the same right down to the weight transfer, the pressure used to turn a ski is the same used to turn a skate, tip over onto edge, push into ground, push harder turns tighter. Snowplough is taught to littlies to stop on ice just like it is on snow and again the weight needs to be similarly placed over the contact point with the ground. Oh, and if you end up on both inside edges or both outside edges at the same time you trip over.

Even on day one on skis when I couldn't really turn, I could straight line and hockey stop and repeat until I got to the bottom. With this and YouTube etc it's pretty easy to get a rough and ready turn developed.
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Well I have always been able to skate a bit - ice and roller - in fact I astounded myself that I could still roller skate a few months back, when I took my daughter for a session. However, that didn't help me learn to ski, one thing ice and roller skating don't have in comparison to skiing is gravity and an open slope and that was what I found terrifying when I started to ski. Interestingly I couldn't teach myself to ski 20+ years ago, and instructors couldn't help me to learn to ski 10 years ago - nothing could abate the fear factor. What taught me to ski was a SH bash 6 years ago and some really lovely people that spent a lot of time out of their holiday encouraging me around a mountain. Quite where that falls in my OP question I've no idea!!! Laughing
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I must have just been a poor skater or blade'r then or it's just been the gap between skating and taking up skiing. @lampygirl, Now that you mention it I've always been able to do a mean hockey stop on skis Laughing So much so that several times-unintentionally honest! I've come to a stop and sprayed friends, innocent bystanders with a huge plume of snow.........

I found it reasonably easy to skate on skis on the flat from the get go too.
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@lampygirl, There can be problems though with people who are skilled in one sport. I taught an Ice Hockey player last year, he was very confident and had great balance, he pretty much refused to snow plough though and wanted to get down the hill by making linked hockey stops, getting him to ski under control and with smooth, rounded turns was really difficult.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Quote:

I found it reasonably easy to skate on skis on the flat from the get go too.


I live in envy of folks that can do this. Again I skate, but find that it doesn't automatically translate to skating on skis. I can manage about 3 or 4 movements before it goes to pot. I will always remember a male instructor or advanced years tall thin, avec hand rolled cigarette type, ESF outfit in Les Arcs when we were there. Skating on skis UPHILL!!! as though it just wasn't there - oh, how I'd love that skill it would solve so many problems!!!
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@Megamum, Practise makes perfect, my mate does it but cracks me up as he is so frenetic-seems to need to use his whole body to get any movement! Laughing
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@mooney058, +1 - the vast majority of brit holiday makers you see on the mountain are going down the mountain on a pair of skis but not skiing so yes you can teach yourself to get down but it certainly does not look like many people can teach themselves to ski effectively. I completely understand the reluctance to take lessons as a holiday skier and they are having fun but not having nearly as much fun as if they could ski.
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Quote:

You do not need lessons to be able to ski. Saying you do is quite absurd. I have had no lessons, have done 5 or so weeks over the last few years, and would say quite confidently that I am a 5/6 on a scale.


Toofy Grin Shocked Laughing

Men always rate themselves at least 2 levels above reality though
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Before my family arrived I used to ski with a large group of friends. By far the best of them was a self taught skier. He had done a season in the 3Vs with no formal instruction at all, but was more than competent. He did have the advantage of being a very talented athlete (same rugby club as me, but one of the girls wink ). In no way was he a danger to anybody else on the slopes, in fact he was not only a better skier but more considerate than most in the group who had had several weeks professional instruction.

That said, I can't imagine anybody else in that group who could have achieved as much without the help of a skilled instructor.It is very much down to the individual in my opinion. Personally I like a very technical explanation of what I'm supposed to be doing, and plenty of time to "visualise" it and put it into practice. That's one of the reasons I love SnowHeads so much - plenty of time to talk and think before putting anything into practice.The old style ESF "follow me" approach really doesn't work at all for me.

I think I need to treat myself to a few hours private lessons for Christmas Toofy Grin
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@geeo, Laughing maybe it's a scale that goes up to 100 = downhill racer wink
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capability wrote:
I have had no lessons
Just out of interest, no lessons whatsoever? What did you do for the first few days? Ski with friends, or just strap on a pair of skis and start sliding down the hill?
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@TTT, "the vast majority of b̶r̶i̶t̶ holiday makers you see on the mountain are going down the mountain on a pair of skis but not skiing". Fixed it for you.

@feef, the skating/skiing crossover is not actually that obvious, as I found out when, after 8 years of frequent (2-3 hours a week in April-October) of blading for exercise, basically skiing on the blades as that felt quite right, I went for lessons...

Instructor, "you'll be a skier then, yes? I can tell as you're doing it all wrong".
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I had lessons for a week when I was 9 years old in Austria & there was only enough snow to sidestep up a mound about 30 metres & ski back down. I learnt to snow plough left, right & stop. About 15 years later I went skiing again & didn't bother with lessons. I've been skiing on average about once every 5 year since then & never had lessons until 2 years ago (I'm 54 now & I've never crashed into anyone). The lesson 2 years ago was just myself & 2 friends that have put in a similar amount of ski time. I was the better skier. I was doing all the right things in the correct way even though I didn't know the correct terms for the moves I was doing or even that I was doing them. I'm not against lessons & have made sure that my children get lessons, but saying that people can't learn or improve without lessons is just people wanting to justify their own experiences as they do not want to accept that some people may be better skiers than them without having gone through the formality of lessons.
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@capability,
Quote:

You do not need lessons to be able to ski


I'm not sure that that's the original hypothesis, being "can you teach yourself to ski?"

For example, let's say you were wrecked alone on a snowy desert island, with enough shelter, food, water etc. and nothing to do but play with the remarkably well fitting ski kit that also washes up. I doubt that when rescued 6 months later that what you were doing would correspond very well to what's considered best practice today...
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