Feeling stuck? Feeling plateaued? Frustrated that no matter how many days you’re out there skiing you just can’t seem to break through to “the next level”?
Cut yourself a little slack.
“Skiing is fun!” says Drew Downing, snowsports manager at Burke Mountain Resort in East Burke, Vt. “Anyone getting enjoyment coming down the hill safely is doing it right.”
Downing leads Burke’s independent ski and ride school with a staff of instructors ranging in age from 14 to 80. Their focus, he says, mirrors industry benchmarks. “But we certainly celebrate unique and individual efforts. Games and drills with a purpose. We prioritize safety, fun and good content on snow.”
And they specialize in helping guests progress to the next level with instructors who share a philosophy to keep it simple and safe.
“If you are chatting trailside for more than a minute or two, that’s too long,” he says. “Use the learning cycle: Talk about it, demonstrate it, have them do it/try it, and re-evaluate. This will appeal to different learning styles.”
Downing says almost everyone can benefit from a lesson that keys in on hand position, body position, and turn shape. “Ski technology has made the introduction to carved and round turns exponentially easier,” he says. “Choosing flatter terrain to let this happen is key. Fear in a lesson will surely stop the learning process.”
A common plateau, particularly among upper-level beginners, is using rotary steering and skidded turns. “It is a spot we see guests in for long periods of time,” Downing says. “This is where there are hundreds of drills to play around with one’s skiing. In addition, it may be how they learned how to ski on older-generation skis. We would focus our efforts on lengthening the turn shape, riding the downhill edge, and some drills for committing to that next turn.
“Patience, persistence and repetition come to mind,” he says. “Keep it light and provide achievable drills for positive feedback.”
First-timers are in a particularly good position to advance efficiently. “We love never-ever skiers and riders,” Downing says. “The learn-to-ski progression starts with a foundation of bootwork, equipment introduction, and single- and both-ski drills on flat ground. Each step is a layer of skills and confidence. How long does this take? As long as it takes.”
It’s all time well spent, Downing says. It’s not a race and the Burke Snow Sports School utilizes the terrain perfectly to achieve goals. The terrain ranges from wide and gentle slopes to tight and narrow pitches. The Magic Carpet, J Bar and Sherburne Express (quad) serve beginner learning terrain, while the Poma and Mid-Burke Express (quad) access intermediate and advanced learning terrain.
“Our terrain is awesome for developing skiers and riders,” Downing says. “Our rubber mat area cements a strong wedge. Our magic carpet reinforces the wedge, turning out of the wedge both ways, and a strong stop. Then it’s off to our J-Bar and beyond where we start deconstructing the wedge. Again, fun and safety are paramount, and we definitely are not in a hurry to push someone through the progressions at break-neck speed.”
By the time guests navigate to their first sloped runs, Downing says they should feel budding confidence in their movements and equipment. Key points of emphasis throughout the process, he reiterates, are “hand position, body position and turn shape.”
Burke Snow Sports School provides day lessons, seasonal instructional programs, school vacation camps, an all-mountain program for teens, and customized clinics for men and women at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
Burke’s day school programs include one-hour private lessons for ages 3 and older and two-hour privates for ages 6 and older, each designed to give guests personalized instruction with professional coaches who are focused on progression at all levels. Burke’s Learn to Ski/Ride package for ages 13 and older includes a lift ticket and rentals with two hours of coaching.
The seasonal Explorer program is a 10-week session for kids ages 3-17 that focuses on all-mountain skills development. The Freestyle program for ages 6-12 works all winter long to help athletes build a core foundation of skills leading to proficiency in freestyle terrain in a non-competitive environment.
The school also provides two-hour clinics on Fridays and Saturdays for men and women at all levels who are looking to boost their overall mountain performance through teamwork and group skill-building. ′