It’s not often that a seasoned skier gets the chance of a whole day’s instruction with a CSIA Level 3 instructor. So, when offered this opportunity at Sunshine Village, Alberta, Canada recently, I was thrilled to be able to address some of my bad habits and finesse my ski technique while discovering the delights of Sunshine’s black diamond territory.
Ski Big 3 Snow School Supervisor, Ross Hastings is committed to breaking the mould of traditional ski and snowboard lessons, integrating instead an ongoing instructional content alongside all-mountain experience. “Over the past few years, we have found that our average lesson participant has changed; as purse strings have tightened and lessons and indeed ski holidays have become more of a luxury, visitors to our mountains are more often accomplished and passionate skiers, rather than beginners,” says Hastings. “These higher end skiers often stay clear of what they see as a traditional lesson, as they want to ski more of the mountain as opposed to spending hours doing drills and perfecting technique.”
Hastings also extends this attitude towards newbies, giving them a holistic mountain immersion from the get go, rather than a static experience. “Any first time skiers, who take the plunge and venture out on a ski holiday, should be given the skills and confidence to experience the thrill of the mountains,” he explains. “This will give them the experience of a lifetime, hopefully making their ski trip the first of many. These beginner skiers and snowboarders, both kids and adults, are the future of our industry, the people who become the aforementioned accomplished and passionate skiers.”
Club Ski typically offers a three-day course in which the same instructor guides the same group of skiers around three different resorts – Lake Louise and Mt Norquay as well as Sunshine, all part of Alberta’s Ski Big 3. Hastings feels that this multi-centre experience adds significant value to the vacation, adding to the many firsts that the group experiences as they are conquering their first green, blue or black runs and adding new ski areas to their portfolio. But he maintains that the socialization element is also paramount. Instructors with Club Ski are social facilitators, encouraging guests to become familiar with each other, sharing experiences and stories. And this is taken to another level with the addition of shared lunches, après ski drinks and dinners. “Finishing touches like double checking rental gear, providing advice on new ski gear purchases and suggesting local activities and events can add that little extra to guests’ holiday experience,” Hastings explains.
Club Ski instruction can also be customized to suit different schedules, ranging from three to six or nine day programs during Ski Big 3’s almost seven-month ski season.
My own day at Sunshine Village was a daring dabble in double diamond descents, with Hastings providing safety tactics for approaching narrow chutes and rocky areas. It was like an epic powder day with a skillful ski buddy who had my back!