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Ski With The Pros is a three-day workshop that kicks off the winter season each year at Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia. Skiers of all skill levels can participate in the workshop. (Panorama Mountain Resort)
Ski With The Pros is a three-day workshop that kicks off the winter season each year at Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia. Skiers of all skill levels can participate in the workshop. (Panorama Mountain Resort)

Ski school isn’t just for beginners and kids anymore Add to ...

Last winter, when I told friends that I’d signed up for ski lessons, two invariable responses followed.

The first: “Dude, seriously? Why? You are a good skier!”

I didn’t grow up skiing, but I moved to a ski town a decade ago and over the years, in the process of chasing friends, I’ve learned to navigate challenging terrain – chutes, chest-deep powder, the glades. But I’m not an expert on the slopes, not by a long shot. And until last winter, I’d never taken a ski lesson in my life. I’m pushing my mid-40s, so it was time – because if I didn’t up my game, my eight-year-old son would be upstaging me.

The second response to my imminent ski lessons took longer to arrive and came hesitantly. But it never varied: “Ummm – funny you should mention it, because I’ve been kinda wondering about ski lessons. Is it too late to enroll myself?”

It seemed just about everyone I talked to – from twentysomethings to retirees – secretly dreamed of (or felt the need for) ski lessons. But they’d never told anyone. And never taken the next step.

For me, that was the three-day Ski With The Pros workshop that kicks off the winter season each year at Panorama Mountain Resort. The instructors are the best of the best; all CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance) Level 4 coaches, hailing from Whistler, B.C., Banff, Alta, Fernie, B.C., and beyond.

It was a crisp, clear Saturday, when my wife Christine and I joined a crowd of helmet-and-goggle-clad strangers at the Panorama base. Some had travelled from as far as the Maritimes. Many hailed from the icy slopes of Collingwood, Ont., north of Toronto. A few were locals. As we were shuffled into groups (based on skill) I was reminded of a child on the first day of summer camp, with both unease and expectation bubbling inside.

My group included three financial advisers from Toronto, a Canmore, Alta., lawyer and a Parks Canada employee. Our first instructor, Mike, was 72 years old, and had been coming to Ski With The Pros since it began in 1987. He skied as smoothly and powerfully as a racer. “Why do you keep coming back?’ I asked, sitting beside him on the lift.

“The fun!” he answered with a broad grin. “And the friends.” Not only do the same instructors return year after year, but so do a close fraternity of students; men and women from across the country who reunite for one weekend every year.

Over the coming days, we rotated through classes with six elite instructors, working on a series of basics (stance, edge transitions, tip pressure) then taking those new skills to more challenging terrain (moguls, steeps, powder.)

The beauty of the Ski With The Pros workshop is that it rewards skiers of all levels. Christine is brand new to skiing, yet for three days we were both able to ski to the very limits of our ability – and then enjoy evenings together; at après events, banquets and, of course, in Panorama’s big outdoor hot pools.

On the third and final day, our group reached Panorama’s summit just as the sun turned golden orange. Around us stretched a sea of crystalline peaks and rocky ridges. After a quick round of hot chocolate (and shots of Fireball) in a timber-framed café, we dropped into our final run together. Three days earlier, the same men and women had struggled in such loose, steep snow. Now, they laughed and floated around me, raising clouds of powder, even taking a few jumps. Okay, they were the type of jumps that make 40-year-olds proud and teenagers groan, but we’d had a truly great weekend together – and were better skiers for it.

Spaces remain for the 2016 Ski With The Pros workshop, which runs Dec. 9-12 at Panorama and costs $449. panoramaresort.com/ski-pros

The course cost was covered by Panorma Mountain Resort. It did not review or approve this article.

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