Learning to ski or snowboard as an adult

Oct. 12, 2014

Learning to ski as an adult

“Am I too old to learn to ski or ride?” The short answer: No.

Learning to ski or ride is not a matter of age; it’s a matter of want. Longtime Vail Ski and Snowboard School ski instructor, Mark Raymond, has taught beginners of all kinds to ski. “People that have most success are the ones that really want it”, says Mark, “If you’re doing it because someone else is making you, you’ll be miserable. You have to really want to improve so when you do fall down, you want to get right back up”.

That said, Mark has taught people well into their 60s how to ski, “Whether you’re 3, or 10, or 92, we have the staff to get you down safely”.

Why do I want to learn?

Before you get out on the mountain, ask yourself why you want to learn to ski or ride. Is it to keep up with family members or friends? Attain a new skill? Get some exercise in winter?

Whatever your reason, it helps to define it and communicate your motivation to your instructor. They are experts at not only helping you connect with “why” you want to ski, but finding ways to help you stay focused on your goal throughout the lesson.

Mark tells the story of one woman he taught whose husband loved to ski and wanted to spend 2 weeks every winter at Vail. The woman wasn’t too excited to stand out in the cold learning a new sport but felt obligated to try. If Mark had left it at that, the woman probably would have tried to ski for an hour or so and given up. Instead he found an incentive that worked for both of them: she loved hot cocoa. Instead of focusing on the intricacies of technique and style, they focused on getting competent enough to do a circuit of the on-mountain restaurants to sample and compare the hot cocoas at each location. Now that was something she could get excited about.

In a group lesson Mark found himself with a group of teenage girls whose parents wanted them to learn to ski. The teenagers weren’t motivated to learn for the sake of learning – but when Mark noticed that they were interested in a group of cute guys in a slightly more advanced class, getting good enough to ski where they skied was all the encouragement they needed.

Whether you’re choosing to learn or learning to please someone else, finding a larger goal to motivate you is essential to success.

Why not have a family member teach me?

Let’s be honest, learning a new skill takes time, patience and a healthy bit of fear. Put all these together and your good intention to learn from a family member might turn into paying for two separate hotel rooms. Instructors not only provide a safe and more equable learning environment, they also are on the mountain all day every day so know exactly what terrain and snow conditions will best suit your ability level. As Mark puts it, learning with an instructor “Gives you the best chance of success”.

Vail Snowboard instructorGroup or Private lessons

The decision as to whether to take a group or private lesson is really up to your needs and goals. Private lessons tend to work well for people who are very driven and know what they want out of the lesson. You’ll also get lots of feedback from the instructor and the class will be tailored specifically to your needs.

Group lessons are good for those that enjoy a more social atmosphere. You will be placed in a group of people that are at a similar level so that you can learn together. “A group lesson helps build camaraderie and group support,” says Mark, “…and can help alleviate fear”. If it becomes apparent that you’re picking things up faster than the other people in your group, your instructor can easily bump you up to a more advanced class.


You’ll see that skiers and riders come in all shapes and sizes. That said, you’ll likely be happier on the slope if you do some core and balance training leading up to your trip.

If you’re still questioning whether learning to ski or ride is a good idea for you, Vail Ski and Snowboard School representatives are happy to speak with you about your specific situation. Just call (970)SKI-VAIL or (800)475-4543. Also feel free to post any questions in the comment section below!