6 ski school tips and tricks

The cornerstone of any great ski resort is a great ski school. And that couldn’t be truer than of North Lake Tahoe’s Northstar California Ski Resort. So we recently caught up with Northstar’s Director of Ski Services, Andy Buckley. Having guided and coached everywhere from the French Alps to Vail Mountain, Andy is the foremost expert on all things ski school. So get the lowdown below from Andy with tips and info about ski school that you may not know about taking ski and snowboard lessons in North Lake Tahoe.

You don’t have to bring anything to your ski school lesson. You don’t actually have to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, gear, and apparel before taking your first ski or snowboard lesson. No jacket or gloves? No problem. You can rent or buy all of those things at Northstar. In that way, Northstar California is the one-stop shop for learning to ski and snowboard.

Nonetheless, I recommend bringing some cash, especially for tipping instructors. The industry standard is 10-20% for private lessons, equaling to approximately $50 for half-day lessons and $100 for full-day lessons. For group lessons, standard tipping is at least $20.

No prep is necessary before taking your first ski school lesson. While you don’t have to bring anything to your ski school lesson, you also don’t have to do any preparation beforehand. I’d be remiss, however, not to say that having a certain level of fitness helps. But while fitness helps, it’s really about having an open mind about a new adventure. 

Bigger group lessons are the best value, while smaller lessons accelerate learning. For first-time skiers and snowboarders, many people start with a group lesson, which is a two and a half hour lesson that’s largely meant to introduce you to the sport. However, for something smaller, more intimate, and with more individualized attention, there’s the Ultimate Four lesson, which is never any more than four people, and is a full-day lesson. One of the biggest differences is the pacing between these two type of lessons, with the group lesson offering broad strokes and giving an intro to the sport, while Ultimate Four slows down the learning, allowing for more time to hone skills under the guidance of a professional.

Adventure guiding is the most unique, top-level ski school experience at Northstar. For those skiers and snowboarders who have progressed and honed their skills, this is the ultimate experience that Northstar Ski & Snowboard School offers. This one-on-one private experience pairs you up with an instructor who customizes the day (or half-day) inline with your skills and interests. Depending on the skill acquisitions you have, your private adventure guiding experience may include things like learning where the best snow is, discovering how to read the best travel patterns based on how the sun is hitting the mountain, and other insider tips.

Northstar uses a Smart-Terrain methodology of terrain-based learning. Northstar is unique in that we feature a methodology called Smart Terrain, where we’ve custom-sculpted the snow in areas of the resort for beginners, which in turn accelerates learning for new skiers. It allows new skiers and snowboarders to get far on the learning curve in a short amount of time by experiencing the sensory feedback that creates successful learning.

Take lessons during the week for a more intimate ski lesson. If you can only come to Northstar during the weekends, then make sure you book your lesson as far in advance as possible, especially if you’ve taken a private lesson before, and want to book with the same instructor. However, for a more customized, personal lesson with smaller crowds, then book on weekdays, especially mid-week. 

The Tahoe Ascent Staff represents everyone from snowboard instructors to ski patrol to chefs and more. They are locals who know the 4-1-1 on North Lake Tahoe, but also experts in their own fields, providing unique, and often behind-the-scenes perspectives of both the area and their areas of expertise.