The Family Ski Lesson: Humbling, and Worth It

Not only was I humbled during the lesson, but I had my camera on the wrong setting. See how I am?

Is there anything more humbling than a family ski lesson? I found myself asking that question (of myself) several weeks ago at Colorado’s Winter Park Resort during a family bumps lesson. Now, before I get too far into the humbling aspects, let me just say, the family lesson was worth it. It was a great lesson, we learned a lot and enjoyed our morning with JT Thompson, our coach. Now let the humbling begin…

1. Scene One: In Which I Cannot Control My Son.

A hard fact of parenting is that as much as we’d like to control our children, we cannot. On the morning of our lesson, one of our sons refused to go. It was cold, he was tired and the idea of a “lesson” (which he envisioned as standing around, listening to an instructor, all the while freezing to death) was not appealing. I agree. That scenario is not appealing. But that isn’t what lessons and coaching are all about these days — especially for advanced and expert skiers. I told him that. He didn’t believe me.

Always better to ski than stand around.

We finally got him out the door and we were late. I was completely flustered, embarrassed and humbled. Luckily, the Private Lesson Center at Winter Park has very nice staff who were understanding and soon enough, without any more brain power on my part, we were on snow with JT. JT took one look at our family and announced, “First, I’m giving you a tour of the mountain.” No standing around, we were skiing.

2. Scene Two: In Which I Am “Old School.”

JT is a very smart man. He’s also a dad and has a son the same age as one of ours. On the lift, he explained that yes, we were going to take a tour and yes, he would do some coaching (not “teaching”) and yes, we would ski moguls. I began to relax.

We happened to hit Winter Park on a blue sky, new snow day. It was gorgeous and as JT progressed us from easier to expert terrain, I thought I was killing it. I was having fun, skiing well and, according to JT, skiing “old-school.” Brought back to earth, I asked him how old-school? Stein Erikson old school? (Had I watched too many classic ski films?)

No, thank goodness. My “old school” was age appropriate. I was simply skiing “I grew up in the 80s, skiing long narrow skis in bumps” old-school. Whew. I was moving up and down a bit too much (as a learned accommodation for those long, narrow skis). JT helped me smooth out my motion, ease up on the edges, improve my stance and use my nifty new rockered skis to their best advantage.

My husband shows off his "new school" stance -- it's wider.

My sons thought it was hilarious. “Mom is old-school!” they laughed. But guess what? They were listening to JT help me and my husband. And guess what else? They were internalizing his suggestions and making some changes as well (although to be fair, they never were old-school, so they had fewer changes to make). Smart man, that JT.

3. Scene Three: In Which I Gratefully Accept Tips From My Children.

All good things come to an end, and at lunchtime, so did our family lesson. We had learned a lot and enjoyed ourselves. But what happened later that day and throughout the weekend was truly the biggest benefit. Because we had all heard the same instruction and practiced the same modifications, we could help each other continue to improve. From time to time, I’d get confused trying to remember what JT had told me. All I had to do was ask one of my sons and I’d be reminded. My sons enjoyed helping me and evaluating my progress.

Me and my coaches.

Because the instruction had come from a pro, nothing was personal. It wasn’t like having a family member critique me (don’t do it, spouses!). My sons were simply helping me by reminding me of what JT had taught us. I was happy to be the family foil — I took the tips and I took the reminders. I was the party who was humbled. And guess what? We all learned.

When You Go….

The Private Lesson Center at Winter Park celebrates its first anniversary this season, and I have to say, it’s the bomb. Rather than standing in line to register for ski school and then standing outside waiting for your instructor (none of which is bad), the Private Lesson Center gives guests a warm, cozy place (with free WiFi) to wait for and meet up with instructors (all of which is better).

Housed in its own building in the Winter Park Village, there are complimentary lockers, indoor, overnight ski storage, and boot dryers for private lesson clients. Rental equipment can be delivered to the Center, and they also offer customized boot fitting. Helpful staff check you in, with no hassle at all, and are willing to answer questions and arrange local dining and other activities.

Dollar-Wise VIPs

Private lessons are not cheap, but they also won’t break the bank at Winter Park. A one-hour Mary Jane Quick Tip lesson for 1-3 people runs $129 – total. A half-day private, which is what we did, is $389 for 1-3 people – total (prices are slightly higher for families with 4-7 participants and these rates do not include lift tickets).

Divide those numbers by three and you’re getting premium service, professional instruction and private lift line access onto The Zephyr Express for not much more than the per person charge for a group lesson. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 970-726-1554 or emailing

(NB: Prices do not include tips. And while instructors will never ask for a tip or say that they are expected, they are always gratefully appreciated. Don’t forget your pro!)

Other Options

If you don’t want to learn with your family or friends (and prefer the company of strangers) check out the new Max Four Lessons for kids and adults. These classes start at 11:45 a.m. and guarantee a maximum of four guests per instructor.

Finally, if bumps are in your blood, check out Bob’s Mogul Camp on February 22-24. For $579 you’ll get 6 hours of instruction per day, from Ski and Ride School Director Bob Barnes and his best coaches.


Not to be paranoid, but do you think they are laughing at me? :0)

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    • says

      Thanks Judy! Have you made it to Winter Park yet? BTW, Echo got SLAMMED with snow last week! This is the Echo Mountain year. Hope you’re having fun. Cheers!

  1. Linda Williams says

    It is humbling the first time you realize your kids are better at something than you. But as my kids have gotten older, I’ve learned lots of great things from them. It only gets better from here!

    • says

      Thank you Linda! Actually, I’m thrilled. I expect my kids to be better than me at everything — better looking, more prosperous, smarter and more talented. How else will they support me and my husband? Cheers!

  2. Diane Sweeney says

    Glad you had fun at Winter Park. Lucky you hit a good snow day. Maybe I’ll see you there next time.

    • says

      We’ve been soooo lucky this season, hitting good snow days! I would love to ski with you again this season. I’ll let you know next time we’re up. Funny, we were having lunch at Sunspot and guess who was there? D A-O and her daughter! Fun to see them. All you lucky Winter Park people — wish I lived closer. Cheers!