Iwan Fuchs, ski school director at Seven Springs, is just back from six weeks of skiing on the Stubai Glacier near Solden, Austria, where he goes every year as a senior coach at an academy for ski instructors.
"I see how other resorts work in Europe," Fuchs said.
He said his own school at Seven Springs has 220 instructors, and is highly thought of by students who have passed through its classes.
"Why do I teach? Because I want to share the passion about skiing. People will say it's about the magic of seeing the sun rise from a mountaintop, or skiing down in control through fresh snow, but they should mention the passion that brings people to the sport."
Fuchs said his programs this season are focusing on service and convenience, with offerings that include Prime 55 Plus, specially designed for Baby Boomers whose companions might not be interested in skiing, and who might be afraid to try skiing on their own; LTR, a learn to ride progression system from Burton that uses smaller and handier boards to start; Snow Garden for children, where they run around in boots a great deal to become comfortable in one of the basic tools of skiing; Family lessons, half or full day, for up to five persons; and programs for pre-teens and teens that use the area's freestyle terrain.
"We have all those nice parks, why not teach them how to ride them," Fuchs said.
Seven Springs teaches 22,000 to 25,000 ski lessons a season, of one hour to a full day, accounting for 10 percent of the area's skier visits. He said that percentage is normal for an East Coast resort, but much higher than for Europe (2 to 3 percent) or the West (5 to 6 percent). "So you can see that a ski school is very important factor on the East Coast. People are more likely to take a lesson here than anywhere else in the world," he said.
Jim Cottrell, founder and director of the French Swiss Ski College, said, "Anybody can learn to ski."
The 40-year-old school operates at Appalachian Ski Mountain in North Carolina, but is independent of the resort.
"They need to go three times minimum. It takes three times to get comfortable and in control on lower intermediate terrain. If people don't give it the three times, they're probably going to drop out," Cottrell said.
"Who can learn? Pretty much anybody. It takes some people longer than others. We teach blind people, deaf people, amputees, special Olympics, old and young, it's pretty wide open. If you have the will, there is a way," he said.
"Why ski? That's pretty mixed. It's outdoors, the scenery is incredible, the camaraderie is good, it's challenging. Why do people whitewater raft or sky dive, whatever? There's a thrill element that's really good.
"It completely takes you away. When you're skiing you're not thinking about anything else," Cottrell said. "But the adventure is probably the primary reason."
The French Swiss Ski College had a big military training program back in the 1970s, with a bivouac area in the parking lot, where 125 Special Forces troops at a time would do a week-long intensive winter training course. The school did the same thing with Navy SEALs and Army Recon units.
"When Gerald Ford was president, we trained the Secret Service so he could go skiing," Cottrell said.
Gunther Jochl, president and co-owner of Sugar Mountain, said, "For folks who have never skied, it's important to take a lesson and learn to do it right. When they're able to come down a mountain in control they're just ecstatic about it.
Ski schools start people on gentle terrain,
Winterplace, W.Va., for example, starts skiers on a dedicated teaching slope with a gentle surface lift. After attaining a modicum of control, skiers and riders move on to chairlifts that serve a variety of beginner slopes where a bit more pitch makes it easier to practice stops and turns.
Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, N.C., urges skiers and riders to try its Snow Sports School, which provides lessons for beginners to intermediate in skiing, telemark skiing, and snowboarding.
Ski instructors at Elk Mountain, Pa., say, "The perfect time to learn to ski is while you are young. Our staff wants to make your child's skiing experience fun. We offer programs that allow parents to enjoy themselves while their children learn to ski with confidence."
"For first-time skiers and riders (age 6 and older) Wintergreen Resort guarantees that our excellent teaching staff will have you turning, stopping, and even riding a lift by the end of your first lesson. If not, you can repeat the lesson at no charge," the resort ski school staff says.The Guaranteed Learn to Ski/Ride Program is among several programs offered by Wintergreen, Va.