“And now we’re going to practice our turns, so that you can also get down steeper pistes safely and more fluidly”, my snowboard instructor Lawrence calls out to me cheerfully, leading the way. Fluidity – that’s an important point for me. He has hit upon a sore spot. I’ve been snowboarding for four years and can snowboard pretty well. Or so I think. However, there are always moments on the piste when I think to myself, “everyone else is boarding so fast”, “but it’s so steep here” and “it’s so icy there”. Then I get nervous and snowboard like a granny with a walking stick, which doesn’t exactly help me make my way down the mountain. But, with the tips and tricks I learn during my lesson, this nagging voice of doubt quickly disappears.
Concentrating, I follow Lawrence’s tracks and hear him already celebrating at the bottom of the slope. I did it! So, it is possible to board down the mountain without having to stop all the time. WOW!
I took two two-hour snowboard lessons with Lawrence and opted for private tuition so that the instructor could purely focus on my ability. Although I can also board red and black pistes, the lesson started with a few exercises on a flat, blue piste. Lawrence demonstrated to me some important boarding exercises which I should do to warm up or when I am feeling nervous. These aimed at giving me a better feeling and sensitivity for the snow and the terrain. For example, we boarded the piste whist turning in circles. As trivial as the exercise might sound, afterwards I felt as if my board and I were fused together.
Next we tackled some steeper slopes. Normally, I’d alternative between boarding in control and out of control, repeatedly needing to curb my speed. Lawrence showed me how to keep my speed under control throughout the descent. It was easier than I had thought.
After a few warm-up exercises and a refresher of some boarding techniques, my instructor reminded me of the most important thing about snowboarding. After all, the aim is not merely to get safely down the mountain, but also to have fun. So, we dabbled a bit with carving, with a jump here and a spin there. It was so much fun that, I was really sad when the lesson ended. Ideally, I would have liked to have had my snowboard teacher by my side for my whole holiday. But, with so much to practice, I couldn’t stay sad for long and couldn’t wait to hit the slopes!
If we’re being honest, most of us could do with a refresher course. I know so many people who have never once been in ski school. Don’t get me wrong, I was also taught to ski by my sports teacher and to snowboard by my boyfriend. I always thought tht learning by doing was the best method. But, I also know that, over the years, I have picked up a few bad habits and sloppy techniques which sometimes hold me back. For example, I use my arms much too much when turning. That’s maybe not such a big problem for one descent but, over the course of a holiday, it means I am simply not riding my best. Also, in the worst case scenario, perhaps I wouldn’t be able to avoid a potential collision quickly enough because of this flaw.
So, whether you want to fine tune your technique, practice demanding carving or just need a little self-confidence – a ski lesson is useful for skiers or snowboarders of every ability. I personally choose to have instruction in order to be confident, fluid and have fun skiing or boarding on all types of terrain.
The Mayrhofen Ski Area:
I took my ski lesson in Mayrhofen in the Tyrolean Ziller Valley. Mayrhofen is a large ski area covering two mountains: the somewhat smaller “Leisure Mountain” Ahorn with an igloo village and amazing views and the huge “Action Mountain” Penken with long descents which are easy to navigate between. I can definitely recommend the diverse and not too steep valley descent from the Ahorn. Also, the long, varied, red piste no. 10 on the Penken is very popular. For those looking for a special challenge, there is also the Harakiri piste with a gradient of 78%. Personally, I have chosen to only observe this run from a safe distance!
Mayrhofen Ski Schools:
I took my tuition with Lawrence, a fun-loving, talkative, cool-looking instructor from England. He gave me patient, helpful tips without being condescending and also had fun during our lesson.
Lawrence works for Ski School Habeler, which belongs to the son of Peter Habeler. Peter Habeler is the man who, together with Reinhold Messner, became the first person to reach the peak of Mount Everest without additional oxygen in 1978.