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.
Introduction to Out-of-Bounds: Jackson Hole, WY
ADVANCED TO EXPERT
With 4,139 vertical feet, 50 percent of which is rated as expert, Jackson Hole has the best in-bounds terrain for pushing yourself. Jackson's fabled out-of-bounds terrain is so legendary that the resort finally opened it up via seven gates, almost doubling the amount of skiable terrain and making it the place to get your first taste of "sidecountry."
Start by signing up for Jackson's famous four-day Steep & Deep Camp, where the goal, explains camp instructor David Ellerstein, "is to push you hard but keep you safe." Specifically, they divide the curriculum into two parts: overall skills and a personal goal, which could be anything from skiing a steep chute to hucking a 360. And they guarantee to bump you up a level. Or try the Backcountry Camp, where mornings are spent skiing powder with a highly trained Jackson Hole mountain guide (one of the only in-resort backcountry guide services in America) and afternoons are dedicated to learning about things like snow stability and conditions.
More information: Steep & Deep, $1,195; Backcountry Camp, $1,195; jacksonhole.com.
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