Ski schools aren't just for beginners anymore. As part of an overall resort revival, ski mountains are pouring millions of dollars into their instructional and guiding programs. "People are asking for more personalized coaching," says Andy Buckley, director of skier services at Northstar in Lake Tahoe. "When you struggle with something technical, it's analogous to work and life stuff – the psychological barriers, getting over the hump. The best ski coaches turn into life coaches." These days it's not uncommon for your instructor to be a local legend or an Olympic medalist; some resorts are engineering their runs so they have just the right angles and aspects to learn on; cat- and heli-skiing trips now often include a full master class on evaluating snow conditions. These are the best mountains, ski schools, and guided adventures to help you raise your game.
Guaranteed Powder: Alta/Snowbird, UT
INTERMEDIATE TO ADVANCED
Powder is what every skier and boarder lives for, but only the best really know how to take advantage of it. There's no better place to learn how to float on the fluffy stuff – champagne, in the connoisseur's parlance – than Alta and Snowbird, which gets more dry snow than any other resort in the Lower 48.
At the Alf Engen Ski School, named for the man who invented powder skiing, they've perfected powder-technique instruction. "Once you learn," says Brad Asmus, author of 'The Powder Hound's Guide to Skiing Alta,' "the very steepest pitches will be open to you." After getting the basics, head to the High Traverse trail (Alta is skiers-only; boarders should hit the similar Cirque on the Snowbird side): It goes from chute to chute, each one steeper than the last. The first, and easiest, is Upper Sunspot, followed by Annie's, Jake's, Santa Clause, and Jitterbug. When you can float down the hardest, Stone Crusher, you know you can ski powder anywhere.
More information: Half-day private lesson, $285; alta.com.
Credit: Will Wissman