The cold fact about ski schools, however proficient they may be, is that they take you so far and then turn you loose. A ski instructor's definition of a graduate is that he can finally "turn 'em both ways." But once he reaches that level, where does the student turn to improve his skills, to polish his act? Well, now he can go to Colorado's Copper Mountain, a resort that is offering an advanced seminar for experienced skiers. From January through March, in a series of six four-day sessions, skiers can earn a sort of Ph.D. in the sport. "No matter how good you are," says Jerry Muth, Copper's skier services manager, "there is always more to learn. Besides, where can you find a place to ski as fast as you want to without getting yelled at?"
Copper is still a small resort, and it concentrates almost wholly on making good skiers better. Students are lodged in condominium apartments. There are about half a dozen restaurants but only one discothèque. The terrain overlooks the eastern tail of Vail Pass and is a natural wonder that has steep runs to the east, intermediate runs in the middle and, to the west, easy slopes for snowplow bunnies. To the north, nestled farther back in the hills, is Union Bowl, a dish of powder that can be reached only by snowcat.
There are no more than seven students for each seminar, and they are kept on the go. One skis at speed, over moguls, on ice when there is ice and on hard snow. There are classes in slalom skiing and ballet as well as excursions on cross-country skis. Indoor workshops deal with, among other subjects, care of the body and equipment, the psychology of high-risk sports and avalanches. "Ski instruction has always followed three basic rules: safety, fun and learning," says Muth. "We believe that these no longer entirely suffice for the advanced skier: For that person we want to be able to offer an element of risk as well."
The price of $395 for the seminar includes four nights' lodging, all meals and the use of cross-country and ballet skis. Students generally bring their own basic equipment, e.g., slalom skis, if that's what turns them on. A snowcat, equipped with a roof, benches and a carpet, is being readied this year to take the students to out-of-bounds areas where powder is almost always plentiful and often untracked. There is one other luxurious touch. Skis are tuned, waxed and delivered to each participant with his bacon and eggs at breakfast.