: If you're new to an area, use the lift ride to orient yourself. Study the overall shape of the mountain and placement of lifts and trails. Figure out which trails get sun in the morning so that you can find soft snow early. Are the runs you're looking at in the fall line or on tilted sidehills? Are they wide or narrow?
2 : In addition to studying the runs below the lift, look through the trees for nearby runs where people are not skiing. Snow is almost always better off the beaten path.
3 : Assess the conditions. An elevated vantage point lets you spot ice, crud, rocks, bumps and other terrain to avoid. It also lets you see the best snow and pick lines that suit your style. Watching other skiers is another good way to get a read on conditions. Where are people skiing well? Where do they struggle?
4 : Search for good role models to emulate, such as instructors, racers, smooth bump skiers and graceful freeskiers. Watch how they plant their poles, attack terrain and shape turns. Where do they check speed? Where do they let their skis run? How do they use their upper bodies and hands?
5 : On a powder day, scout for lines no one has touched. Next ride up, you can admire your tracks. On a stormy day, identify sheltered places. They are warmest and retain snow well.
6 : Use lift time to talk to people. If you're in a lesson, pick your instructor's brain. Talk to locals who can offer priceless insight about where to go and what to avoid.
7 : Finally, remember that a run that looks flat from the lift is much steeper when you ski it.
Have an instruction question for Stu Campbell? Email him at email@example.com .