Ski lessons are an essential part of skiing safely and improving your technique, whether you're a beginning skier just learning how to stay vertical on skis or a seasoned skier interested in learning how to navigate bumps and powder.

Ski lessons are offered at nearly every ski area across Europe. They differ dramatically in price and quality from one resort to another. So, what should you look for when signing up for ski lessons?

Ski lessons are typically sold as either group or private lessons. Some resorts offer special interest clinics that may combine aspects of both.

Group ski lessons typically accommodate six to nine students per class, are less expensive than private lessons, and are a great way for "never-evers," beginning, and intermediate skiers to learn the basics of skiing at affordable prices.

Private ski lessons are generally more expensive than group lessons and offer all levels of skiers more personalised attention to their skiing. They allow you to improve at your own rate of learning instead of waiting for the other members of the group.

Private ski lessons are very popular with intermediate to expert skiers who want to break through learning barriers or want to be guaranteed a unique skiing experience, such as how to master moguls, powder or skiing through trees. There's an added advantage: You can cut lift lines while skiing with an instructor, so you often get two to three times more skiing in a day. 

On the surface, private lessons may appear to be cost-prohibitive and a luxury reserved for the rich and famous. However, most resorts allow private lesson students to bring along up to five of their friends. If you take a private ski lesson with a few friends and divide the cost among you, you'll find that you end up with a better experience for the same price as a group lesson.

So, should you start with a less expensive group class or spend the extra money for a private lesson? It depends on you. Most beginning skiers do quite well in group ski lessons. You may enjoy the camaraderie of skiing with other students from all over the world if you're skiing at a large destination resort by yourself.

But, private ski lessons may be the way to go if you find that you're constantly held back by slower learners and you're not learning enough at the group's pace. Try both. Either way, you'll enjoy becoming a safer, better skier or snowboarder and get more out of your holiday pound.

Always check with the ski school at the resort you are visiting for special deals before purchasing lift tickets, rentals, or ski school tickets. There are lots of packages available.

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