Ski School Interview

Kathleen Roberts
Improve your ski technique

This ski school interview will give you some helpful tips on choosing a ski school and why it can help you improve as a skier.

North American Ski Training Center

North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) director Chris Fellows opened his ski school in 1994. NASTC is based in California but offers ski clinics all over the world. Catering to intermediate through advanced skiers, NASTC offers a variety of programs designed to teach ski mastery, all taught by some of the top instructors in the world.

LoveToKnow recently spoke to Chris Fellows about the value of ski schools and how you should choose the right one for your needs.

Ski School Interview with Chris Fellows

About NASTC

Chris Fellows Chris Fellows

LoveToKnow (LTK): What is the role of the North American Ski Training Center?

Chris Fellows (CF): The role of the North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) is to provide ski training venues that include the top coaches and guides in the country, the most pristine mountain ranges, using the latest ski equipment and lodging at the most convenient (ski in ski out) hotels and chalets.

Our coaches are past and present national PSIA alpine team members (the coaches of the coaches) and fully certified ski guides who pride themselves in creating a positive and exciting learning environment that will help any skier get to the next level or achieve a long sought after skiing goal. We have a 70 percent return rate of students who visit us year after year for continued ski training at our world class venues. NASTC is truly best in class in the ski instruction world.

Why a Ski School?

LTK: Why should experienced skiers consider a ski school?

CF: Even world cup skiers need coaching. Everyone likes to improve; it helps motivation and opens new possibilities that seemed insurmountable before the training experience. We all have limited time for recreation, so to take the most direct approach by attending a NASTC clinic or one of our personal ski training session, is the quickest and best way to learn. Our top pros will help avoid time wasting by trial and error or misinformation from a less experienced coach. Meeting like minded skiers with similar abilities and aspirations also enhances the learning process and assures continued fellowship on future ski training adventures.

LTK: What opportunities are available for people who attend such a school?

CF: The ski training process will lead to better performance on the snow, as well as help you avoid injury due to poor technique or lack of fitness and functional movement. As your technique improves, new terrain, snow conditions and slope difficulty become available.

We have seen some of our students achieve a high level of skill, eventually earning positions as ski instructors, ski patrol or top spots on competitive race and freeride teams. The majority of our students aspire to improve their skills enough to ski at the first class ski resorts that exist around the globe. They are also driven to ski efficiently and effectively as they mature.

Skiing is a life-long sport that can be enjoyed into your 80's if you take care of yourself. Opportunities are available to anyone willing to take the time to sign up for one of our courses.

LTK: What should students expect to learn?

CF: Most importantly they will learn to be self sufficient, self aware and self confidant on any mountain. Our coaches understand that everyone has different needs and will work with the individual to bring out the best performance possible.

A one size fits all approach does not work well in skiing, because there are too many variables that challenge a student's learning process. The NASTC progression includes ski fitness tailored to the individual, customizing equipment to meet the skiers profile and technique and tactics training based on specific strengths and weaknesses as identified in our on hill screening process. Every student will come away from one of our camps with new on mountain skills, ski fitness suggestions and equipment knowledge that will make the process that much easier. The lifelong friendships established at our clinics are an unexpected benefit that makes the NASTC experiences so special.

Choosing a School

LTK: What should students keep in mind when choosing a school?

CF: The best schools promote their PSIA level III instructors. These instructors have achieved the full certification from the best educational/certification body in the land. Putting your money down for a non-certified instructor is a crap shoot at best.

Granted, there are many great ski teachers out there that are not PSIA certified, but they are a little harder to dig out. Make sure your instructor is willing to do a full screen of your skiing needs. This should include a fitness screen, equipment evaluation and a complete on snow assessment of your technique and tactics. Last but not least, does the school offer venues and courses that will allow you to progress efficiently to the highest levels available in skiing?

LTK: What else can you share about ski training schools?

CF: Snowsport schools and ski training schools are like apples and oranges. The resort snowsport school exist as an amenity to the total resort experience. It also happens to be one of the resort's top profit centers. In the case of the bigger schools, the revenues contribute millions of dollars to the bottom line each year. The bigger schools employ 100's to 1000's of instructors every season requiring a huge infrastructure to deliver the lessons and products to the skiing/riding guests. These schools have ski, snowboard, adaptive and Nordic instructors waiting, willing and able to take you out on a moment's notice for a lesson. With that kind of large scale operation there is something for everyone.

The negative is that it is easy to get lost in the shuffle from parking to tickets to snowsport school to lessons and finally to sliding on snow. The quality of instructor may vary greatly as well, because of the huge work force needed. The U.S. has 60 million skier visits every year and it is the bigger resorts that handle most of that work load.

The ski training schools are more boutique like in that they cater to a niche in the market. They are usually led by one or two individuals who have championed the schools philosophies and ethics and will attract other like minded teachers and students to that particular school.

Some of these schools are led by high profile skiers who grace the pages of the ski magazines and appear regularly in the latest ski movies. These pros pick the low hanging fruit made up of fans and groupies who want to ski with the celebrities. This works until the fickle finger of fame fads into history.

The schools with longer shelf life are the ones who establish a methodology rooted in sound fundamentals and provide consistent and established coaching practices. The schools that have legs for the long run also provide the best customer service and the best connection to continued progress year after year.

LoveToKnow would like to thank Chris Fellows for this ski school interview. To learn more about the North American Ski Training Center, visit their website.

Ski School Interview