As simple as it may sound to just slap some sticks on to your feet and start sliding down a mountain, hitting the ski slopes with no training can lead to a lot of frustration and falls, even serious injury. Yet, between the cost of travel and equipment alone, skiing is already an expensive endeavor. If you’re thinking of cutting costs by skipping the lesson, you’re not alone.
So how much does a ski lesson cost? A private full-day ski lesson will cost an average of $500 USD, though lessons can range anywhere from $90 to $1,000 depending on the length, number of people, and dates that you’re skiing.
While that may seem like a lot of money, many mountains offer discounted day tickets when you buy a lesson at the same time, and that can be a really great value.
Since there is such a huge variety in the types of lessons offered, it’s important to know what you’re looking for ahead of time. The main things to consider are your current level of skiing, how long of a lesson you’d like, and if you’d like to be alone or in a group.
What you get away from the lesson will also vary greatly depending on your answer to each of those questions, so keep reading to know whether a ski lesson is worth it for you.
How Much Does a Ski Lesson Cost
Are you skiing alone, or with your family? Have you ever skied before? Is everyone in your family or group the same level? How in-depth instruction are you looking for? These are some good questions to ask yourself in order to decide what type of lesson is best. If you go to book your ski lesson online (which is a good idea, because it usually saves you some money), you’ll be asked to narrow it down by these parameters:
|Adult (15+)||Group||Half-day (am)||Beginner|
|Child (3-14)||Private||Half-day (pm)||Intermediate|
Child’s lessons may cost a little more than adults, but what will affect the price the most is ultimately the size and duration of your lesson. A half-day lesson is typically three hours (though at some resorts you can opt for a 1-2-hour lesson as well), and a group lesson is generally between 5-10 people. There typically is not an option for a half-day group lesson, and the full-day group lesson is the cheapest option.
A good thing to keep in mind is that if you’re skiing with a family, the price for a private lesson for the entire family is the same price as a private adult lesson for just one person. This is an awesome value and a cool opportunity to learn together, but I only really recommend it if everyone is at the same level.
Another piece of advice to get the best value out of your lesson is that full-day lessons are usually a better value. At Vail Resort, for instance (which is one of the more expensive mountains), a private (or family) half-day lesson outside of peak season costs $685, and a full-day lesson is $945, just $260 more for another three hours of skiing.
Again, the actual prices vary widely depending on not only these options but also the mountain itself and the dates you’ll be visiting. A private lesson on New Year’s Day at Vail will easily cost a grand, while a group lesson in the middle of February at a smaller resort might be closer to $150. Here’s a general breakdown*:
- Adult, private, half-day: $250-$800
- Adult, private, full-day: $450-$1,000
- Adult, group, full-day: $90-200
- Child, private, half-day: $250-$800
- Child, private, full-day: $450-$1,000
- Child, group, full-day: $150-250
*as far as I can tell, there’s no option for group half-days (adult or child)
When consulting this list, remember that your whole family can ski together for the same price as a private lesson, that the lower prices are usually only available at small mountains with less frills, and that you can usually get a great discount on tickets and rentals when you buy a lesson at the same time, which hugely increases the lesson’s value.
Finally, ski lessons will cost $50-$100 dollars more if you plan to visit during peak season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break being the big ones).
If you happen to be a season pass holder or plan on visiting the mountain multiple times, it’s also worth considering multiple day lessons. The length of these lessons can range from 2 or 3 days in a row to once a week for 12 weeks, and they offer not only the opportunity for in-depth instruction, but an overall great value compared to a single day.
Should You Tip Your Ski Instructor
While a ski lesson certainly isn’t cheap, it’s important to understand that you aren’t directly paying your instructor, and in fact, most of them make little more than minimum wage.
A friend of mine actually became a ski instructor in her retirement and jokes that she only really makes enough money to pay for the gas it takes getting to the mountain. She’s okay with this because she doesn’t have to live off her lessons, but some instructors do. This is why it’s common courtesy to tip your instructor.
When I asked her how much someone can expect to tip for a lesson, she said at least $10 in a group lesson and somewhere between $50-$100 for a private. A great way to show your appreciation is also to buy your instructor’s lunch (especially during a private lesson) and even offer to do the same for dinner or drinks après ski.
Can I Go Skiing Without Lessons
I’m going to answer this question with another question: would you rather spend a couple of hundred bucks on a ski lesson or a few thousand on knee surgery? Also, if you think lessons are only for kids, think again: old dogs will definitely need some help with this new trick.
While you can go skiing without lessons, I don’t recommend it. To put it plainly, skiing is a dangerous sport, and even more so when you don’t know what you’re doing. A lesson will give you the basic building blocks for good form, which will protect your body and preserve your energy, seeing as there are a lot of ways to ski very inefficiently. The most important things you’ll learn in a lesson, though, are how to stop and how to fall.
It sounds silly, but there are most definitely good and bad ways to fall. While taking a few tumbles is inevitable, a ski instructor can help you learn how to position your body in a way that keeps you as safe as possible. The best way to avoid falls is to know when and how to stop, though, and that’s a lot harder than it sounds, which is why it’s probably the most important skill taught in any introductory lesson.
Are Ski Lessons Worth It
If you’re reading this and already know the basics, don’t count out a lesson yet. Like any sport, there’s infinite potential to improve as a skier, but you won’t get any better unless you know exactly what “better” means. Good skiers aren’t just the ones going fast or taking on steep runs. Good skiing is all about form and efficiency, which pretty much has to be taught by a professional.
Every pro you’ve ever seen probably started their ski career with lessons. I’ve been skiing for 20 or so years and spent at least 10 of them in group lessons. Not only did I learn a lot during those lessons, but I also made great friends and a lot of memories—so don’t forget to include the ultra-important social aspect into the value of a ski lesson.
Finally, if you have money to blow and simply want a better understanding of the mountain, private advanced lessons essentially offer a guided tour to the slopes, with some instruction sprinkled in here and there. I remember one lesson specifically where my instructor took us on a brand-new run that wasn’t even on the map yet.
So, is a ski lesson worth it? The answer definitely depends on your ability level and the group you’re skiing with, but to me, it’s a definite yes if you’re willing to learn in a group or with your family, and if you capitalize on discounted ticket and rentals.