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How Long Does It Take To Learn To Ski? Learn Now

So you’ve thought about learning to ski but you are wondering how long does it take to learn to ski? How hard is it to learn to ski? The good news is that it’s not that hard to learn to ski. Most people can learn to do basic turning and stopping on their very first day of skiing. If you want to learn to parallel turn so that you can ski blue and black groomed runs, it will take you around 10 to 20 ski days.

I am not a professional ski instructor by any means. I have skied since age 6. I have taught several friends basic skiing over the years. I taught my wife to ski a few years ago up to the advanced level (Something no one with any hint of sanity should ever attempt to do).

Below are my observations over the years of watching friends and acquaintances learn to ski.

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Ski?

Most people picture skiing in their head gracefully sliding down the mountain wooshing from turn to turn going fast. If you stick with it you will eventually get to that point. It is going to take some work. Almost anyone can learn to ski regardless of age.

Can you learn to ski in a day?

Yes, you can learn the basics of skiing in one day. If you go to your local ski resort and sign up for an introductory lesson, you should be able to turn, stop and ride the lifts. After a few hours of instruction you should be able to ride chair lifts and ski the most easy ski runs on your own. You will only learn how to wedge or snowplow. You won’t be gracefully sliding skiing down the hill at speeds but you’ll be able to get the job done. You’ll experience skiing and hopefully get enough of a taste to come back for more.

Is it difficult to learn to ski?

It is not that hard to learn to ski. Skiing is a similar difficulty to ice skating or roller skating. Most of the mechanics are similar. Skis are a lot easier to stand on and balance than either ice skates or roller skates. Skis are also much easier to control speed.

Falling on snow doesn’t hurt very much. Most of the time it doesn’t hurt at all. You will fall when learning to ski. That is certain. I mountain bike also. I’d rather have the worst fall I’ve ever taken skiing over the softest fall I’ve taken on a mountain bike any day.

Being in good shape helps to learn to ski but it’s not essential. You can be pretty overweight and out of shape and still do alright skiing. Learn more in our article on overweight skiing tips.

Are ski lessons worth it?

If you want to ski, you should take lessons. Do not try to teach yourself to ski. There are countless stories out there about people that put ski gear on, went to the top of their local mountain. They pushed off from the top, went completely out of control, and crashed hard. They either hurt themselves or hurt someone else or both. Skiing is not hard to learn. Skiing is not intuitive. Ski lessons are really the only way to safely learn to ski. Ski lessons give you the best chance for success.

Can I go skiing without lessons

You can go skiing without lessons. No one will stop you from getting on the lift. You should not do this. You will start sliding down the hill. You will have no control, no ability to stop, and no ability to turn. If you are lucky you’ll fall pretty quick before getting a lot of speed. If your unlucky you’ll pick up a ton of speed and then fall or crash into something. Skiing the first time without lessons is the very easiest way to hurt yourself or someone else.

ski lesson group

How many lessons does it take to learn to ski

With one lesson you should be able to wedge turn and stop. You will learn enough to safely make it up and down the mountain on the bunny slope. You will need somewhere around 5 to 10 lessons to learn to parallel turn and stop.

How long does it take to become good at skiing?

The true fun in skiing begins when you can parallel turn and go down blue (intermediate) and black (advanced) groomed runs. This is when true freedom starts. You can explore almost any ski resort at this point. When you are wedging you are confined to the beginner’s area only.

When you parallel turn you start making your skis do the work and you use a lot less energy. When you are wedging or snowplowing you are using your skis to brute force scrape the snow. Wedging is very tiring. Parallel turning uses a fraction of the effort.

To be “good” at skiing you need to know how to parallel turn and hockey stop. It will take most people 10 to 20 ski days to learn these skills. This is 10 to 20 ski days in the same season. If you only ski for 2 or 3 days a winter, chances are you will never learn to parallel turn with any consistency. If you are serious about learning to ski you need to dedicate at least 10 days that winter. 20 days would be even better.

Stages of learning to ski

I taught my wife to ski a few years ago. She is not athletically talented in any way. She is not a native English speaker either which works against her for taking ski lessons in the US. Below is a video of her progression from her first year of skiing which lasted 17 ski days.

The stages of learning to ski go something like this. For a detailed progression chart from NisekoBase look here.

  • Snow Plowing or Wedging – Day 1 and 2
  • Wedging to start turns and ending parallel – Day 3-5
  • Parallel turns with lots of skidding and steeper runs – Day 6-7
  • Parallel turns with less ski and even steeper runs – Day 8-17
  • Carving turns without skid – Seasons 2 and on
  • Advanced skiing – ungroomed runs, trees, modules, powder, etc… – Season 2 and on

She was skiing black runs in Vermont on the 8th day. There comes a point in learning parallel turns where everything clicks and you no longer have to think about every turn. Once you pass that point a lot of the frustration goes away and it becomes a lot more fun.

How long does it take to learn to ski black runs

Let’s start with a note on black runs. Black diamond runs or advanced runs are relative to the ski resort you are at. They are the 20-30% most difficult runs at that mountain. This means that a black run at a small local ski resort is not as steep as a black run out west at a big resort. The black run at your local resort may be an easier blue the first time you go out west.

You can ski most blue groomed runs anywhere after you get proficient at parallel turns and stops. From there it isn’t much of a step up to black groomed runs anywhere. The answer is that you will probably be able to ski groomed black runs somewhere between your 5th and 20th ski day. This depends on how fast you learn and how steep the black run is.

What age is best to start skiing?

Like anything else in the world, younger is better for learning to ski. There is no reason you can’t learn to ski as an adult. The next best time to learn to ski this winter. It won’t ever get easier waiting longer. People have learned to ski in their 50’s and 60’s. I’ve been in advanced lesson groups at Whistler, BC with people in their 80’s who were the best skiers in the group.

Can I learn to ski at 40?

Yes, there is no reason you can’t learn to ski at age 40. My wife started learning to ski at age 37. A few years later and she can ski black diamond runs anywhere in North America. If the will is there you can do it. It’s not that hard with patience, persistence, and good instruction.

beginner skiers in glades

Final Words

I learned to ski at age 6 at Killington Vermont. I’ve been able to ski double diamond advanced runs since early teens. As a 43 year old, I’m still at it and still take lessons every year or 2. I love going to TheCamp at Whistler, BC, and still improve every time. I ski better now than I did in my 20’s. How long does it take to learn to ski? A few days to learn, a lifetime to master.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an outdoors enthusiast always looking forward to my next adventure. I spend as much time skiing, biking, and paddleboarding as I can. I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things outdoor adventures and to help other people have as much fun as me.

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