Ask Amy: Ensuring effective ski instruction with clear communication

Ski lift

Ski lifts at Wildcat Mountain ski area, pictured March 15, 2020, in Gorham, New Hampshire. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)Getty Images

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Dear Amy: Sometimes, I want some help with a skill. For example: skiing.

I’m a perfectly competent skier, but I know I have some quirks in my form, and some one-on-one targeted work with an instructor might help me to straighten them out. Ditto weight-lifting and physical training.

My problem is that signing up for a lesson through a resort or a health club is such a roll of the dice. Half the time, I get an instructor who is bound up in their own schtick.

Last year I took a class with a teacher who spent most of the time showboating and regaling us with stories of ski issues he had helped people resolve in the past.

Another time, I got an instructor who was tediously insecure about giving pointers and advice, and constantly musing about how out of practice they were with giving lessons.

We’re all human, but it’s so frustrating to get put in the position of being a captive audience. This is a paid service, and the objective is to help me do better at something I care about. It’s not cheap, especially when it’s a one-on-one lesson.

Do you have advice about how to communicate with schedulers when I am contracting for a lesson, so that I get an instructor who fits my style?

I’ve tried, “I work better with female instructors” (in the ski scenario) and “I tend to work better with physical trainers closer to my age” (in the gym).

But when I say those things, I feel like I’m overstepping in some way. And no matter how pleasant I try to be when making the request, it’s often not received well.

I’d really appreciate your help! I would love to have a good experience this winter with a solid, productive ski lesson.

– Elie

Dear Elie: I can imagine your frustration. Private instruction can be extremely expensive; the idea is for you to soak up a lot of instruction in a concentrated amount of time. This encourages you to take the lessons you’re receiving and apply them later, on your own time.

Attentive and competent instructors also offer lessons that are vital to your safety.

Any time an instructor doesn’t instruct, or wastes your time and money by delivering unrelated monologues, you should notify management, ask for a refund and/or a gratis session with a different and more qualified trainer.

If you are looking to maximize your experience, your stated parameters to the scheduler (preferring to work with female or compatible age instructors) are insufficient. Be very specific in your query: “I will show up on time and ready to learn, but I need a trainer/instructor who devotes the class time to instruction. So if you can schedule me with a no-nonsense non-talker, I’d appreciate it.”

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2023 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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