Private Vs Group Lessons and Guiding. Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan.

Barbora delivering... the smile!

Barbora delivering... the smile!

Some of the most important questions for many who are entering the Ski and Snowboard world in Niseko (or anywhere for that matter) for the first time or those who are looking to develop new skills, learning how to tackle new terrain, searching for the 'big' breakthrough in technique, confidence or enjoyment factor is:

'Should I book  a private lesson?'

'Is a private guide the way to go?'

Answer to both is 'Yes'.

While the Private lessons are obviously more expensive, the benefits of having a smaller group sizes definitely increases the 'guest centred' experience. More individual time spent with a Private Instructor/Coach/Guide as in many other sporting industries i.e golf, tennis, personal training etc. creates a greater number of learning opportunities that may or may not be experienced during a group situation.

A rule of thumb in regards to group lessons vs private: Private lesson students generally progress faster due to the amount of 'one on one' time, feedback, and practice time that is given. Private sessions more accurately pinpoint mechanical requirements that guest are needing to move up in performance, confidence and enjoyment levels.  A great rapport can be built with a foundation of trust between the guest and instructor in Private lessons.

Matej sending the line.

Matej sending the line.

In a group the progression can be 'boxed' designed to accomodate and move the group at a slower pace to ensure all members can ultimately grasp the concept in mind and body. We all learn in different ways and our fitness and sporting prowess also differs due to our daily life habits. Human motivations are variable from adult to adult and child to child, affected by elements of environment and general mood. Private lessons are advantageous when taking all this into account. Remember it's all about you!

Many of us enjoy the group lesson scenario especially at the intermediate level and above, for the group social aspect. However, I wonder how many have been a little intimidated or frustrated by the pace of the group, felt like there was not enough personal 'one on one' time with the instructor, 'too much talk not enough moving, not enough time spent mastering movements and techniques, feedback that was not forthcoming due to size of group and indeed the length of the lesson. Is this you?

The instructor will always try to do their best in these situations, difficult as it maybe, in the hope of connecting with a large percentage of the group. Not always successful.

Bringing us into guiding, the group scenario works well as long as all participants are of the same skill/fitness level sometimes this does not always work out especially when the participants are unknown to each other. This element is important to the pace of the group and what can be achieved during a full-day. Private small group guiding works well in this situation a group of friends/family/colleagues can enjoy days or a week exploring one particular ski area or multiple ski areas sharing the same experiences and thriving in the moment. 

Niseko Annupuri Summit with the Lads. 1308m March 2016

Niseko Annupuri Summit with the Lads. 1308m March 2016

Ratio of guide to guest is important for many reasons and the same for Private Ski and Snowboard lessons as it brings a closeness to the group. Makes it easier to communicate, ensure safer travel, create islands of safety and develop trust and understanding. Whilst smaller groups are easier for the guide to manage overall it is definitely a better option and the bonus is you will get more achieved in the day.

If Private is the way to go for you you will need to ask yourself, 'what am I looking for in this experience?' As you are the guest you will need to establish the parameters of the lesson or guided experience. 'What do you want to do to day? What are your goals or desired outcomes?'

The Instructor/Coach/Guide should already be preparing the obvious questions before you or your small group head up the lift for the first time. Establish flexible goals, communicate motivations work with the Instructor/guide to create this experience together.

Length of the lesson/guided day is another important element. Most group lessons average around 2-2.5hrs. Privates lessons can be as short as 1 hour or up to 6 hours on snow. The best results come from + hours. 

In Niseko there are numerous Ski & Snowboard Schools and guiding companies to choose from. It may take some time to find the right one or the perfect fit for you but once you do you will not even think about the expense, you will focus more on the experience of sliding down a mountain in absolute awe of your own abilities and smile! An investment in your future happiness in the powder snow of Hokkaido.

By Pete Graham & Dan Marshall of Hokkaido Mountain Experience (HMEJapan)

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