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Learning a new outdoor sport or getting better at one you’ve done for ages can feel tough, but in the winter? Even harder. You’ve got to contend with weather and snow conditions, as well as possible environmental hazards, like avalanches or falling ice, depending on the activity.
Signing up for a clinic or lesson with an experienced instructor can make all the difference, because committing to a date and a place to focus on learning new skills means you’ll actually stick to it. Even if you’ve been doing the sport for years, a well-taught clinic can enhance your performance, rekindle your interest, and connect you with others. Whether you want to get into skate skiing or ice climbing, or get better at powder skiing or winter running, these clinics can give you a boost.
Ski Steeps with Confidence
Even if you’ve been skiing for years, stepping up to steeper slopes can feel intimidating. There’s no better place to improve those skills than the legendary landscape of Alta. (The resort is still closed to snowboarders, so this clinic is for skiers only.)
This four-day steep-skiing clinic (from $2,800), held March 14 to 18, is led by veteran skier Kim Reichhelm, a former U.S. Ski Team racer and two-time World Extreme Skiing champion. It’s designed for advanced to expert skiers who want to build confidence in bigger terrain, and the group size is limited to ten skiers. You’ll stay at Alta’s slopeside Rustler Lodge, and there’s an option to add on two days of backcountry shredding with Powderbird Heli Skiing in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Become a Stronger Winter Runner
Let’s say you run already, but you want to take your running to the next level by signing up for your first ultra or learning how to keep training through the winter. In this four-day winter running retreat (from $1,675) from February 10 to 14, decorated ultrarunner and two-time Leadville 100 winner Rob Krar shows off his favorite trails in his hometown of Flagstaff and the red rocks of Sedona for up to 11 people.
Daily routes can be tailored to your fitness level and preference, but the minimum distance each day will cover around nine miles, with the option to add on more. Everyone in the group stays in a Flagstaff hotel and enjoys meals at Krar’s home and area restaurants. Proof of COVID-19 vaccine required for attendance.
Advance Your Backcountry Safety and Skills
Mount Baker, Washington
If you’re looking to venture into the backcountry this winter, signing up for an avalanche course or two is critical. But those courses alone won’t necessarily teach you skills like how to ascend a skin track or tips on skiing in variable conditions.
This four- or six-day winter backcountry skills course (from $800) with the American Alpine Institute is held on various dates throughout the season. It consists of two online evening lectures to introduce you to the concepts of avalanche avoidance and mitigation, followed by several days on the snow in the woods near the Mount Baker Ski Area.
Each course has a maximum of 24 students, but once you get outside, you’ll be broken into smaller groups, with one instructor for every six students, so you’ll have plenty of time for personalized instruction. Stay in Bellingham or near the base of Mount Baker.
Snowboard the Deeps with Ease
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole’s Steep and Deep camps are notoriously fun: you’ll rip around the mountain with a crew of expert shredders and gain valuable insight from experienced coaches and a post-ride video analysis. The four-day Steep and Deep camp for snowboarders (from $1,850), taking place February 1 to 4, has a 3:1 camper-to-coach ratio and includes early ups on the gondola, so fresh tracks are all but guaranteed. Campers can benefit from discounted lodging packages in Teton Village, at the base of the mountain. There’s a skier’s version of this camp as well, though it’s mostly sold out already.
Learn to Jump and Hit Rails Safely
Mammoth Mountain, California
Love ripping laps through the terrain park or the halfpipe, but never taken the time to learn how to do so properly? Mammoth Mountain is undoubtedly the place to improve your moves. The resort’s two-day terrain-park clinic (from $379), scheduled from March 26 to 27 and geared toward intermediate to expert skiers or snowboarders ages ten and older, will help you fine-tune those tricks you’ve always wanted to master, so you can ride the park or pipe with style and safety. The camp includes a video analysis, a gear clinic, and a post-camp party.
Master the Technique of Uphill Skiing
Bolton Valley, Vermont
Uphill in-bounds skinning at ski resorts is becoming a popular pastime, with more and more resorts across the country offering uphill access. The benefit? Exercise and fresh air in a more controlled environment than you’ll experience in the backcountry.
But before you strap skins to your touring skis, consider taking Bolton Valley’s uphill-skiing clinic (from $175), a half-day lesson taught throughout the winter by U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association team member Milan Kubala. Groups are limited to six people, and you’ll learn efficient skinning technique, gear instruction, and how to transition at the top.
Get Introduced to Ice Climbing
Learning to ice-climb sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. A foundation in rock climbing helps, but it’s not necessary. Take a basic ice-climbing clinic to learn the fundamentals, like how to use an ice ax, navigate in crampons, and understand rope systems and protective gear. With these basics under your belt, you’ll move to climbing techniques that’ll help you get onto vertical ice walls in no time.
Inclusive Outdoors Project, in partnership with the Montana Mountaineering Association, is leading a two-day ice-climbing clinic in December in Hyalite Canyon, near Bozeman, for people who identify as BIPOC or LGBTQ+. The association leads one-day courses (from $275) throughout the winter as well.
Improve Your Skate-Skiing Efficiency
Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
Four-time Olympic cross-country skier Kris Freeman leads advanced skate-skiing clinics (from $35) throughout the winter at Waterville Valley’s Adventure Center, which has over 70 kilometers of groomed trails for Nordic skiing in White Mountain National Forest. You’ll join a small group of skiers to learn about more efficient body positioning and improving your cadence. If you’re just getting started at classic or skate skiing, the cross-country center has private and small-group learn-to-ski lessons, as well as lessons for adaptive athletes.