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The Value in Hiring a Coach

This past weekend I decided to give downhill skiing a try. I skied a handful of times in high school, but that was almost 20 years ago. Since then, I have been a snow boarder and for the past 15 years or so, I’ve gotten out a handful of times a year. I also love to Nordic Ski.

The advancement in ski technology in the last 20 years is staggering. Skis are wider and more stable, easier to turn, less tricky to plow through powder and even the stiff ski boots are more comfy to wear. More and more of my friends are skiing now a days, and I find skiing more of a practical skill as it opens up more possibilities for adventure through alpine touring and backcountry skiing – something there is a lot of potential for in the Pacific Northwest. While my wife was in a Nordic Ski Camp, I figured this was a chance for me to get back on skis.

Since I have some experience on skis, I was going to just rent the right gear and fumble around on my own at Silverstar Mountain Resort for a few days. I figured that after launching myself downhill a few times my muscle memory would kick in. Good thing I didn’t try that approach! Instead, sanity prevailed and I ventured over to the ski school and booked 2 group lessons, on back-to-back days. Since it was early season conditions and there weren’t many people on the mountain this weekend, my group lessons ended up being semi-private lessons.

I had two different instructors, both older (one was almost 70, the other 58) and both in phenomenal shape. They would ski backwards down blue runs (moderately difficult slopes) while called out coaching instructions…at times doing so while balancing on one ski!

While I was pretty tired by the time our 2 hour lessons were done each day, my teachers were hardly warmed up. By using proper technique, they not only got down the hill faster and with more grace, they also did so with far less wear and tear on their joints and muscles.

By the end of the second lesson, I experienced this phenomenon myself. Despite just learning a few simple drills — (1) focusing on my feet and the inner edge of the skis while turning (2) keeping my hands out front and (3) initiating turns from my knees without moving my hips — I was cruising along without fatigue. My knees didn’t hurt. My feet didn’t get sore. I was able to float through soft and choppy snow as well as harder groomers.

I can now see myself as a skier again!

Three little drills – practiced for a couple hours over two days – had completely transformed my skiing ability. Whereas I was nervously moving down a green slope at the start of the first day, I was confidently carving down blue runs by the end of the second day. The increased enjoyment and confidence I now have on skis was worth every penny I paid for the lessons ($320 for 2x 2-hour lessons with lift tickets and ski rentals).

If you are serious about learning anything – be it skiing, snowboarding, yoga, writing, weight lifting, painting, music, presenting, blogging, business building, real estate investment, tax rules, etc….really any skill – it pays to find someone who is not only good at what they do, but also a GREAT teacher (not all skilled people know how to teach!). I lucked out, both my ski instructors were amazing and the fact that they were essentially private lessons meant that we could progress as fast as I could learn.

Typically, people who know how to do something well aren’t cheap to hire for private lessons, but you will find that the progress you can make with careful instruction will far surpass (or at least massively accelerate) what you could do on your own.

Call for comments:

  • Have you had success hiring a coach to learn a skill?
  • What did you like about the approach your coach used?


  1. Thank you for posting, we are enjoying growing vicariously on your travels as we raise our kids here in Florida ( : No question about great coaches, there is nothing worse than learning bad habits from someone who is good but not great in their field. We have our kids in chess lessons now, and there is a big difference between good and great players, and good and great coaches! Keep posting, this is a great blog : )

  2. craig says:

    Great advise and I will do the same when I ski this year for the first time in 4 years since back surgery. Glad you sent this when you did before I launched down the hill with my ego!

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