Have Lessons, Ski Better At Hotham

snow action team 19.08.2023

Sounds like a no-brainer – have lessons, ski better at Hotham, and it is.

Anywhere too most likely, but Hotham’s exceptional terrain (by Aussie resort standards) means you can get more from a private lesson here than most places. Dave Windsor certainly thought so coming back rusty after an enforced COVID lay off.

Rip up Hotham better with a private lesson © Dylan Robinson / Vail Resorts

“Lessons, who needs ‘em?” is a common attitude for semi-competent skiers. But coming back rusty on a first post-lockdowns family ski trip for 3 years was a wake-up call for me at Hotham: pro tips work!

Funny about that. Hey, we all know kid’s programs are great for the kids and will happily book them in for those. Don’t only do that is my view: first family trip back since 2019 meant being good dad for the first few days, enjoying some quality snow time with them, but Hotham’s kid’s programs are too good not to take full advantage of.

I signed my 9 year old Jack into Kids Club at Big D and let the expert ski & ride team coach him back to black runs. The friendly crew are super easy, fun and focus their attention on the small groups of equally matched kids (from Level 1 to 6). Three hours later, Jack’s spent and ready for lunch at Hotham Hotel.

“It was a good group dad and the instructor was really nice,” he tells me, “am I signed up for tomorrow? I wanna get to the next level.”

Sure son. Which got me thinking what about me? Or rather us, mum too!

So a private lesson with Canadian Mike Meaney follows. Mike hails from Caledon Ski Club, 45 minutes north of Toronto, boasting 6 chairs, 25 runs, but a mere 80m vertical – talk about keen. Life changed when he headed west to British Columbia, instructing at renowned tree heaven Red Mountain and the legendary powder capital of BC, Whitewater, for 6 years, before arriving at Hotham for the 2022 season.  

“A handful of people have come from Hotham to Whitewater,”Mike explains, “So it made sense coming to Hotham, which is my first overseas ski trip.  Instructing has made skiing more fun – I’ve gotten a lot better, made plenty of friends and found my full appreciation for the sport.”

How is he finding Hotham?

“I’ve been blown away by the skiers and skiing here. The terrain is steep, there’s a lot fun to be had and a lot of off-piste. And the snow has been really good at times.”

If ‘The Hoth’ is good enough for someone who knows Whitewater, it’s good enough for me. But am I good enough for it?

Well, thanks to Mike I certainly have a better shot at it now. We kicked off in Heavenly, before heading to Orchard and finishingup smashing Spargos.  Mike kept it super simple, focusing on one weakness (though I’m sure there are more). Good instructors know not to overload their subjects with too much to digest in one hit. That KISS principle sure worked for me.

Mike reminded me of a weakness, coincidentally also picked up by an instructor at Mt Hutt 8 years ago, and clearly forgotten by me in the meantime – when turning I tend to leave my uphill shoulder uphill and consequently slip through turns rather than carve through them. Mike had me visualising a rubber band from my knees to my shoulder pulling it downhill. This squared me up, transferred upper body weight forward, and dramatically improved ski control. One little thing makes a huge difference. Lazy turns become controlled turns.

Next day was my last at Hotham and I made the most of it with a 7:30 start accompanied by SnowMonkey proprietor Richard Neville.We ripped laps with confidence and control down Gun Barrel, the Pimple, Imagine, the Cornice and Snake Gully, then took on The Orchard after lunch. The cover was perfect, with a sprinkle of fresh on immaculate grooming. Mike was in my head, “Imagine a rubber band pulling your shoulder downhill.” And so it went – shoulder control leads to weight control which leads to ski control. Simple.

So lessons, who needs ‘em? Me. Probably you too.

Like getting the right gear – especially boots – in the scheme of things a lesson, especially a private lesson, adds value to a snow trip as you’ll ski better, get less tired, and be at less risk of injury as a result. 

Hotham Ski & Ride School is nothing short of brilliant, and are a worthy investment for one’s improvement.

“I’m a bit scared of going down the steep hills, so that’s why I have to work on my technique so I can stay in control” Jack summed up. “But we don’t always have to do the steep ones!”.

No son, we don’t. But now we can do more of them together.

More info:  www.mthotham.com.au/lessons-hire/lesson-type/lessons