You soar over the bowl's lip, land in waist-high powder and race down 1,200 vertical feet of virgin snow. No lifts, no crowds, just you, miles of powder and an instructor ready to show you another fresh stash. And you thought ski school only happened on the bunny hill. Today's top ski schools adapt to your interests, employ the top pros as instructors, use video analysis and offer seminars on subjects such as biomechanics and nutrition. Skiing with an instructor also guarantees access to the best—often off-limits—backcountry. Best of all, the toniest schools take you from extreme conditions to extreme luxury in the après-ski hours.
Top prep: With 80 percent of its guests taking lessons, Snow Eagle Ski School at Gray Rocks in Quebec is ideal for first-time skiers or those looking to brush up on their skills. That's not to say Gray Rocks has only green runs. There's a freestyle park and racing gates, and Snow Eagle instructors will take advanced skiers to nearby Mont Tremblant for special clinics. However, the focus of the all-inclusive ski week (includes cocktail party and awards banquet) is on novice and intermediate skiers. For the 2005-06 season, prices begin at $1,300 (www.grayrocks.com/en/montagneEcole).
Ivy League: Ernie Blake Ski School at Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico teaches to the mountain, so you'll sharpen your skills on everything from chutes to trees, bumps to powder. It's ideal for the intermediate to advanced skier who wants to conquer it all. Themed weeks aimed at telemarkers, racers and experts are offered throughout the season. A week of instruction costs $200, though from January 8 through 29 the price is just $50. Lift tickets and equipment are extra. (www.skitaos.org).
Graduate study: The North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) is for the "serious student," says co-founder Jenny Fellows. Professional Ski Instructors of America- or American Mountain Guides Association-certified instructors help you master moguls in Utah, go off-piste in Tahoe, sneak in summer training in Chile or blow through powder while heli-skiing in Alaska. Four-star hotels, gourmet dining and wine tastings make après-ski all the more pleasurable, and spa packages are offered. Prices begin at $300 for a one-day course and go up to $4,600 for a week in Chile (www.skinastc.com).
Visit www.skiing.about.com for other top schools.
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