Becoming an advanced skier is something that many of us dream about. After all, there really is nothing like being able to ski every part of the mountain with confidence. But what many beginners want to know is just how you become an advanced skier.
The 15 tips and techniques to become an advanced skier are:
- Learn the basics
- Practice your drills
- Don’t rush
- Get as much time on the slopes as possible
- Ski with people better than you
- Ski with an instructor
- Ski at a tough resort
- Push yourself mentally
- Venture into the side country
- Get racing lessons
- Ski in bad conditions
- Learn to read the snow
- Take an avalanche safety course
- Get boots with the right flex
- Stay centered
Before we explore each of these points in a little more depth, it’s important to understand where you fall on the scale of beginner to advanced. Once you realize this, you’ll know the best steps to take in order to improve your skiing as quickly as possible.
Being a beginner is something we all have to go through on our skiing journey. It is also often the shortest phase of your learning as the transition from snowplow to braquage/basic parallel turns is relatively straightforward. That’s not to say it’s “Easy,” but it’s certainly a quicker transition than from intermediate to advanced.
As a beginner skier, your technical ability will be next to nothing, and your mountain awareness won’t be great. However, the only place to go is up, so you’ll likely see extremely quick improvements.
Depending on how seriously you take your learning, you’re usually only classified as a beginner during your first ski trip (5-7 days). That said, everyone learns at a different rate and it’s not uncommon for it to take 2-3 holidays for you to become relatively comfortable with beginner techniques such as snowplow and weight distribution, and to have a basic awareness of the mountain.
Intermediate skiers are the most common type you’ll find across the mountain. It’s also the level of skiing that has the biggest discrepancy between ability levels. As previously stated, you could technically be an intermediate skier after your first holiday, but you could also be extremely close to becoming an advanced skier.
On the whole, most intermediate skiers will be able to navigate most of the mountain, though their technical ability will differ from one side of the spectrum to the other. It’s typical to see most intermediate skiers on blues and reds, with a few braving the odd black here and there. However, you can spot them from a mile away as they look a little out of place.
A prerequisite of being an intermediate skier is that you’re able to do basic parallel turns. These don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to be used more often than not. It’s often common to see a lot of intermediates fall back into the snowplow when scared, another hallmark of this type of skier.
It’s fairly common to see a lot of skiers stay at this level of skiing forever. Not because they don’t have the skill to be better, but because they don’t have the determination or desire to become advanced. If you’re someone who holidays to a ski resort once a year, that could be you, and there’s nothing wrong with that of course.
An advanced skier is the highest level on the mountain (excluding some instructors). They have the ability to adapt to just about any condition and ski almost the entire mountain.
You’re probably likely to see this kind of skier (at least, the higher-level advanced) far less on the mountain than some of the other types. That’s largely because most of them will find skiing on-piste either far too easy, or they’re primarily on the black runs.
As with each of the levels in this list, there is a difference between those just considered advanced skiers, and those who have been skiing most of their life. This discrepancy isn’t as large as intermediates however, as most people who venture this far into their skiing journey are fiercely motivated and determined to be as good as they can be.
But being an advanced skier is about more than just technical ability. Let’s explore what it truly takes to become an advanced-level skier.
An advanced skier is a skier who can confidently make any type of turn a given situation requires, adapting their stance no matter the conditions. They are able to read the snow with ease and they can take on any type of terrain. Advanced skiers usually have years of experience.
Advanced skiers are able to confidently make any type of turn. They’ve mastered all of them and most importantly understand the best time to use the correct one from their arsenal.
This ability to choose the correct turn for every situation is something that comes only with many hours on the slope spent learning it. There is no substitute for those hours on the slope, and it’s potentially something you’ll always be learning.
When you’re an advanced skier, the chances are high that steep and technical slopes will be on your radar. The only way to tackle these slopes is by learning to adapt your stance to fit each individual occasion.
This is not only the result of building your muscles and repeating the task so they adapt naturally to the slope, but also years of training their mind to work on autopilot. In most cases, an advanced skier won’t even need to think about how their stance should change depending on the steepness of the slope, it’ll just happen.
As an advanced skier, you’ll be happy on any type of terrain from powder and off-piste, to moguls and 60° inclines. If you are on the lower end of an advanced skier, you should still be able to ski all of these different types of terrain, and if you are highly advanced you should be able to ski them with extreme grace and proper technique.
Knowing the snow conditions and how they correlate to the technique you should use is the mark of an extremely experienced skier – even more so if you can do this during the middle of a whiteout.
No weather condition, as long as it’s not dangerous, should stop you from skiing with an advanced technique. That means that during a whiteout your legs will have to do most of the work to understand how to best get down the mountain.
They’ll also have to help you realize where the terrain undulates, has icy patches, and thus requires a different technique. They’re making lots of calculations every second, just like your brain. At an advanced level, this isn’t even something you’ll have to think about because, as we said before, it will just happen – muscle memory is an important part of any sport at this level.
To get the most out of each situation, advanced skiers will usually have longer and stiffer skis. They also require more pressure, more speed, and a more significant transfer of weight to respond. It’s for that reason it’s not advised for a beginner to learn on a set of advanced skis.
Advanced skiers also use a higher DIN setting. A DIN setting relates to the amount of force required to unclip the boot from the ski. While advanced skiers make far more aggressive turns and need a higher number to prevent accidental unclipping, beginner skiers require a far smaller number so their skis unclip in case of an accident to prevent injury.
Advanced skiers don’t just need to use different skis, but also a whole range of equipment depending on what it is they’re skiing. These could be ice axes, skins, telescopic poles, probes, airbags, or avalanche transceivers, to name a few.
Once again, the main reason advanced skiers use equipment like this is that they understand when it is and isn’t necessary. The terrain often determines whether some or all of them need to be used, and only someone who has been skiing for years would be able to understand which is essential for each situation.
It takes an average of 10 to 15 weeks of skiing to become an advanced skier, and this all depends on how long your individual ski sessions are and how far apart they are. How long it takes to become an advanced skier also depends on your own goals and ability.
Answering the question of “How long does it take to become an advanced skier?” depends on a number of factors. Most of these are under your control, so technically it’s up to you how fast or slow that progression happens. On average, though, it’s likely to take anywhere from 10-15 weeks depending on your fitness and a number of the following reasons.
Potentially the biggest factor in relation to how long it takes you to become an advanced skier is the number of times you go skiing. For someone in the UK that says they go skiing every year, that’s likely to be 2 weeks or less. For someone living near a ski resort, that may incorporate an entire season. Be honest with yourself and try to be realistic.
That means the 3 days you spend walking around town or at the spa might be better spent on the slopes if you want to improve. If you aren’t getting up at 6am, getting the first chair up, skipping the sit-down lunch, and getting the last chair down, are you even skiing!?
Casually skiing with your family on each and every holiday you have really isn’t going to speed up your progression to an advanced skier. You might think it’s easy if you’re the top skier in your group, but it’s that kind of complacency that leads to no improvement in your ability.
If you get the chance to, skiing on a school ski trip is likely going to be far more valuable in helping you become an advanced skier than a family holiday. This is for two reasons. The first is there will always be some sort of competition among friends, and the second is because you’ll be taught by a ski instructor the whole time.
You’ll be shocked at just how much you realize you can improve by simply spending one afternoon with a skier that is better than you. Follow their tracks, copy their form, and understand how much better you can ski if you’re given the chance.
Following on from the point above, getting stuck in your comfort zone is another hard habit to get out of. Sure, you might feel safe by just skiing those gentle blues and maybe the occasional red, but it’s not doing anything to improve your skiing.
If your nerves get the better of you, or you don’t know how to safely approach skiing something a little more challenging, book yourself in for a ski lesson and let the instructor show you how to do it. That way you know you won’t be picking up any bad habits, and they’ll pick up on anything you need to change pretty much instantly.
Even after taking lessons, start your holiday out slow and work up to the bigger slopes. While you could attempt a more challenging run on the last day of your holiday, I would say you only need a morning or, at most, a day to get your ski legs back. You’ll be surprised how much your body remembers, even if it’s been a while since your lessons.
How You Spend Your Time On Your Slopes
Getting a lot of time on the mountain is important, but what you do while you’re on the slopes is even more critical. What I mean by this is that casually skiing down with a group of your friends and family isn’t doing as much for you (especially at a higher level) as targeted exercises and drills would.
If you’ve ever done ski drills before, you know they aren’t the most interesting things in the world, especially when you have to repeat them run after run. That said, if you complete them with full focus on their intended outcome, they have the possibility to do wonders for your skiing as a whole.
Of course, to be an advanced skier you have to know the basics of skiing. The key is to not forget them. When a situation changes, you still need to keep the fundamentals of skiing at the forefront of your mind. Don’t fall back into a sloppy and dangerous technique.
A great exercise to practice is being as mindful as possible of your posture and form while skiing the run. Allow your mind to be present in the moment and not wander. Concentrate on what the changes in terrain mean for your body, and how you can keep your centered and stacked form throughout the run.
They might be some of the slowest and most unnatural runs you’ve done, but with enough repetition it’ll do wonders for your skiing. It’s probably best to practice this on your own as it might be a little boring for the other people in your group and you won’t feel rushed. Plus, you can feel smug in the knowledge that you’re improving your skiing and they aren’t!
Fancy taking the point above to the next level? One of the best tips to become an advanced skier is by practicing drills and exercises. That doesn’t mean just doing them once or twice on your holiday, it means dedicating entire days to it.
There are, however, an extremely large number of drills you could do to improve your skiing, but it’s too specific to give you a recommendation. The best way to figure out what drills you could be doing to push your skiing level up to advanced is to grab a lesson with an instructor, find out what your bad habits are, and have them recommend a drill.
Ask them why that drill works, understand what it is in your skiing that is trying to be fixed, and repeat the drill over and over again until you feel you’ve improved enough. By using an instructor’s guidance once, you can feel happy with the knowledge that your time spent practicing these exercises afterward are exactly what you need to be doing to get better.
We’ve all watched those big mountain ski movies and dreamed of skiing like that one day. Or perhaps your jaw drops in awe when you see a ski instructor performing perfectly tight turns next to you, something only the instructors seem to be able to do.
With all the confidence in the world, you snap into your skis, pull your trousers up, and proceed to make a mockery of yourself when you realize there’s no way you could do it that well. Doing anything remotely similar to what you see in the Olympics, in the movies, from ski instructors, or perhaps other advanced skiers is going to take a lot of time.
That’s especially true if you are only able to get 1 or 2 weeks on the snow per year. Unfortunately, those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live near a ski resort will need to have more patience and make better use of our time when we do get around to skiing.
Trying to be the best and, in a sense, run before you can walk, will only lead to frustration and potentially injury. Give yourself time, as advanced skiing is not an easy thing to do.
As we discussed before, one of the best ways to get better at skiing is to get as much time on the slope as possible. Most of your free time on your holiday should be spent on the slopes because you aren’t going to get any better by wandering around the resort.
This is a lot easier, and possibly not as important, for people that live close to a ski resort and can buy a season pass. But for those of use that only manage to get out once a year, it couldn’t be more necessary. If you’re really serious about becoming an advanced skier, and getting more time on the slopes means going off on your own for a few hours, then so be it.
One of the most achievable ways of becoming an advanced skier is by skiing with people better than you. If you ski with a relatively large group each year, you might be able to do this very easily.
If you ski alone or are at a similar level to all of your friends, you can normally find other groups of people visiting the resort that wish to ski with people of varying ability. Simply type the name of your resort into Google followed by the words “Skiing Group” and you’re bound to find some options to suit your situation.
Hands down, skiing with an instructor is the absolute best way to quickly become an advanced skier. Your sessions will be targeted specifically toward what you need to improve, and you won’t just have to use general skiing drills like you otherwise would have to.
Not only will your comfort zone be completely demolished when they throw you off a mountain (safely, of course!) but you might even get to skip the queue lines, which would really make the most of your time on the slopes.
There are some ski resorts that won’t be nearly as challenging for you as others. Some are better for snowboarders, others are better for beginners, and some are strictly for advanced people only.
For instance, if you’ve just started exploring the world of off-piste skiing, sticking to resorts that have great on-piste areas won’t do you much good. Instead, going to somewhere like Silverton Ski Resort in Colorado (if you can get there), or somewhere similar will push you in the right direction.
Skiing at the resort that you’ve lived near for your entire childhood is unlikely to pose too much of a challenge to you either. Even if it offers everything you need it to offer to improve your skiing, it’s good to put yourself in situations that aren’t natural to test your ability to adapt to new terrain.
Quite often, one of the most critical reasons someone isn’t able to make the leap between intermediate and advanced skiing is that their mind is stopping them. Your technique might be fantastic and easily allow you to ski everywhere on a mountain, but if your mind is saying no then it won’t ever happen.
Your mind will almost always take the path of least resistance until you force it not to. Dropping off that ledge or plucking up the courage to get on the chairlift to the black run often only takes a few seconds of courage. Take some time to think about whether your mind is the only thing holding you back (you obviously need to stay safe too). This can be a game-changer.
Side country is the safest way to dip your toes into the water that is off-piste. If you’ve ever been skiing on a freshly groomed run that, for instance, bends around to the left, you might have seen the “Side Country” without knowing it. That ungroomed, unkept snow in the middle is side country.
Normally it offers a quick shortcut or interesting route down the mountain. It’s safer than going fully on the backcountry and will mix things up in terms of terrain and snow conditions.
Technically just skiing around the piste flags is “off-piste” and it’s relatively safe to do so. Learn to ski this terrain well, and you’ll be training up your body and muscle memory to adapt to constantly changing conditions.
One of the best ways to improve your skiing to an advanced level is to improve your form. The best way to do this at a high level is to get race lessons. These sessions will focus heavily on theory and microanalysis of your form because, in racing, every second counts.
The forces applied at such speeds are huge, which means your movements have to be exact, powerful, and confident. Even the smallest discrepancy in where your weight is placed can lead to you wiping out. Learning lightning-fast weight transference from foot to foot is something only a qualified race coach will be able to help you master.
Oh, and if you think you know what edge control is, be prepared to think again! The slopes on which races take place are not far from vertical. As such, your sharpened ski edges are critical to keeping you on track.
There’s an old skiing saying that goes something like “There’s no bad weather to ski in, just a bad skier.” As long as you’re safe, this statement holds true. If it’s too cold, put some more layers on. Too much snow? Perfect conditions to practice powder skiing.
The only condition that may thwart your plans to ski is high-speed wind. It has the possibility to close down both the gondola up to the base station and any number of chairlifts in a resort. If that’s the case, either write the day off or search for a lower altitude resort nearby. Be warned, everyone will probably have a similar idea, so expect a bigger crowd than usual.
We’ve touched on it earlier on in the article, but learning to read the snow is something that can only come from experience. As such, confidently reading the snow is something that advanced skiers are well known for.
This means being able to pick the right technique for the right conditions, plotting a path down the slope, understanding when it is and isn’t safe to ski, and being able to navigate your way down the mountain during a whiteout.
As an advanced skier, you’ll get to the level where you could ski down the mountain with your eyes closed. Of course, you shouldn’t do this, but the point is that your legs do just as much work as your brain in some situations.
If you’re looking to really push yourself to the upper levels of an advanced skier, taking an avalanche safety course is a great next step. They will teach you everything you need to know to be safe in off-piste situations that only advanced skiers are likely to face.
From specific ski equipment to testing the snowpack, this is an absolute must if you wish to do any form of backcountry skiing in the future. The course will cost money to go on, but it may ultimately save you or a fellow skier’s life in the future.
Just like skis, advanced skiers need to have boots that will keep up with their skiing. That means having a boot with a high flex to give each turn a load of power, 110-130 is ideal. Don’t ski with a flex range outside of your ability & weight though. Get it properly fitted at a ski shop and discuss your requirements with a professional.
Higher flex boots will keep up with your aggressive and dynamic turns, but failure to use a high enough flex would make your skiing sluggish and unresponsive – not something you need when you’re trying to navigate a technical environment, where every movement counts.
Skiing steeper and more technically challenging runs mean your form needs to be perfect to avoid becoming unbalanced. Lower-level skiers have a tendency to lean back on steeper runs, so staying centered over your skis is something to mindfully try to do.
A good way to do this is to attack the slope rather than ski it. That often means leaning further forward than you think, to keep your body and center of gravity stacked over the skis. That way, you make the most out of your skis, boots, and personal ability.
Becoming an advanced skier is something that takes time to achieve. The less you go skiing, the more focused and goal-driven your sessions need to be to help you make the leap between intermediate and advanced levels. With repetition, focused training, and resilience, you should be able to progress to advanced level in 10-15 weeks, depending on your fitness and ability.