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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Ski instructor Alan Burriss, right, helps Abby Garriott learn the snowplow as students of the Deseret Morning News Ski School participate in the first day at Alta Ski Resort on Nov. 18, 2006.

The question often asked is: Why take a ski or snowboard lesson?

The obvious answer is to learn. A better answer, however, is to learn good techniques and avoid bad ones.

Self-taught skiers and snowboards tend to pick up bad habits along the road to learning a sport, which sometimes becomes impossible to shake and can hold back progress.

Teaching skiers the right way to make turns, keep balance and avoid mistakes were all reasons why the Deseret Morning News/KSL Ski and Snowbird School was started — skiing 60 years ago and snowboarding nine years ago.

Skiing and snowboarding look easy when accomplished people perform ... right turn, left turn, then a longer arcing turns, followed by shorter ones, then a cloud of snow and a complete stop.

Skiing starts with the basics — how to stand, how to walk and how make a stationary 180-degree turn around.

The stance is like a football player waiting for a snap or a basketball player on defense or a baseball player waiting for a grounder ... eyes forward, feet apart, knees bent.

Turns are made while in this balanced position. It involves little more than putting slight pressure on the ball of the left foot for a right turn, and on the ball of the right foot for a left turn — while moving, of course.

Knees bent, eyes forward, feet apart and a little pressure in the right spot, and the skis will turn as if they were on tracks.

Without someone there to point out these things, skiers can fight it all day and get nothing but tired, wet and cold.

A little instruction makes skiing a lot safer, more fun and puts people on a much faster learning curve.

Snowboarding is a little different in that people stand sideways on the board.

Heel, toe, wrists or backside. That's the way things usually go for beginning snowboarders — heavy on the backside. It's the preferred body part to hit the snow first.

Snowboarding is much easier than skiing for a lot of people to grasp — young and old.

Snowboarding continues to grow. About 30 percent of all lift tickets are sold to snowboarders. National studies also show that the average age of new snowboards is rising. Many times it's a case where parents simply want to be able to snowboard with their kids. The kids rave about it and the parents want to try. Also, a lot of people who ski want to try something new and different.

Actually, the first steps are easy. Learning to carry the board — and look professional — is a snap. Same with getting into the new step-in bindings and pushing the board like a scooter to get to the lift.

The heelside, toeside moves doesn't come as easily.

Heelside boarders face down the mountain, back toward the hill, and edge with the back of the board. Toeside boarders face uphill, push down on the toes and edge with the front of the board.

Then it's simply a matter of looking in the direction the boarder chooses to go. That's the key. Where the eyes look, the body will follow.

One thing that has made life much simpler for both skiers and snowboarders is equipment.

New technology in ski and snowboard equipment has brought about new teaching techniques. New equipment has made it possible to teach students much more quickly. It used to be that in some cases it would take a full season to get students to where they could ski or snowboard on moderate terrain comfortably. Now some students can do it in a few weeks and in some cases sooner.

New teaching techniques also help.

With skiing, for example, gone are the snowplow and stem christie, once key maneuvers back when lace-up boots and wooden skis were standard equipment. A season or two with the stem turn, and it was time to begin working the skis into a side-by-side parallel.

Now, in their places are the wedge turn and wedge christie, which lead directly into the wide parallel.

It's now possible, through the Deseret Morning News/KSL Ski School as a foundation to the basics, for a skier or snowboarder to go from the very beginning beginner to a wide parallel, and ski very comfortably, or for a snowboarder to make linked turns in one season.

Director of the Deseret Morning News' ski program is David (Hoopa) Robinson, who is also director of the Alta Ski School. Director of the snowboard program is Maggie Loring, who is also director of the Snowbird Ski and Snowboard School.

The first class for both snowboarders and skies will be Nov. 17. The following two classes will be Dec. 1 and 8. Registration is on a first come, first-served basis. Cost of the three classes is $35.

Facts about 2007 ski, snowboard schools

Deseret Morning News/KSL Ski and Snowboard School

When: Nov. 17, Dec. 1 and Dec. 8

Where: Two-hour lessons each week for skiers at Alta, snowboarders at Snowbird.

Age: First-time skiers or snowboarder 8 or older.

Cost: $35

Registration: Snowboarders must register at one of the three Canyon Sports locations. Two sessions available — 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Limit 150 for each session. Skiers can register at Canyon Sports locations or at Deseret Morning News offices, 30 E. 100 South or by mail-in coupon. Limit 400 students.

Equipment: Canyon Sports is offering Deseret News students special rates and one-time pickup and return. That is, pick up equipment prior to Nov. 17 and return it four weeks later after Dec. 8 class. Cost is $31 for the four weeks for skis and $35 for snowboard. Store locations are 1844 E. Fort Union Blvd. (7000 South), 517 S. 200 West or 45 W. 10600 South.

Information: 237-2135 or 942-3100.

E-mail: grassx@desnews.com