THE LAB: As laboratories go, this is as good a place as any to conduct your own personal skiing R&D. Vail, which says it grooms more terrain on a daily basis than any other resort in North America, has everything you need to test methods and techniques that apply to the science of our sport. Its 5,200 skiable acres include moderate mogul runs, steep bowls and tight tree runs on which to progress. There are dozens of trails at or just above your ability level, making it the ideal place to spend a full week submerged in an intensive accelerated learning program. And that’s to say nothing of its off-hill diversions.
THE CURRICULUM: Vail, not surprisingly, has grown its instruction programs to be bigger and more comprehensive than the average ski school’s. Other clinics are three or four days long; SKImmersion is a six-day program (Sunday through Friday), and participants are expected to come prepared. Prior to arriving, students receive a guide that outlines the components of the program’s Focused Learning System, which is aimed at making skiers mentally and physically stronger and tactically smarter on snow. They arrive Saturday night, and after a brief orientation and an individualized bootfitting session, they’re divided by ability and experience into groups of no more than six students per instructor. Each day begins at 8 a.m. with breakfast and a classroom session at the Vail Marriott Resort, followed by five and a half hours of highly personalized on-snow training. Skiing ends at 3:45, but the work isn’t done yet. More indoor training sessions and video analysis round out the daily learning portions, which are followed by the extracurricular activities: two après events and a final-night banquet.
THE INSTRUCTORS: An adjunct program of the Vail Ski School, SKImmersion recruits the best of Vail’s veteran PSIA-certified instructors. Most, like Charlie Baker and Linda Guerrette, are longtime Vail residents and highly sought-after teachers who, when not engaged in specialty programs like SKImmersion, are giving private lessons at Vail and Beaver Creek—often to skiers who specifically request their services year after year.
THE VIBE: SKImmersion attracts skiers of many ability levels, from fledgling beginners to advanced intermediates. Each session has an energetic and encouraging atmosphere focused around each camper’s individual progression, not to mention the excitement of a week in Vail. Participants range in age from 30 to 55 and hail from places like New York City, Chicago and Boston, and a playful camaraderie develops. Lucky enough to escape the clutches of corporate America for the week, some campers beg off each evening and return to their hotel rooms to catch up on work—although that might just be a guise for collapsing in bed after the demanding day on snow. Those with enough energy drink in the lavish Vail nightlife at least once or twice.
DATES: Jan. 17-22, Feb. 21–26 , March 7–12, 2010
PRICE: $1,315 (clinic only), $1,590 (clinic and five-day lift ticket). A $300 deposit is required to reserve a spot. Lodging packages are offered through the Vail Marriot.
INFO: focusedlearningvail.com; 800-503-8748