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Continue with instructing or free ski (with coaching) to become a better skier?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I've been part time instructing for the past four years; before that, taught for seven years in a children's program part time.  Am a PSIA member and have been training for L2 exam.

Given the number of days required to teach, the very busy ski school where I work, and the unfortunate necessity of a full time job, I've had little free ski time.  Also, not a great deal of coaching at my resort. 

 

I really want to get better before it's too late!  I'm in my 50s and don't have forever.  I've learned alot from teaching but my personal skiing has not improved as I'd hoped.  Would I be better off just free skiing as much as possible ( I sometimes got out 50 days before I started ski school; now it's more like under ten to free ski).?

 

Opinions/experiences welcome.

post #2 of 24

Jane, look around.   There are many people who free ski for a lifetime, and never manage to take their skiing to the level you'd like to take yours.  Free skiing alone won't do it.  You have to combine it with a well structured skill development program.  Just spending skiing time sliding around having fun won't get your skiing prowess to the level you desire.  You need to devote that free skiing time to working on a program of skill building.  Working, practicing, drilling, building your skill foundation base.  

 

You've spent enough time doing the instructor thing to discover that at place you're currently at it's not working for you.  So, yes, it's time to do something different.  Short of walking away from teaching entirely, could you structure your relationship where you work, such that you could have more time for working on your own skiing?  

 

Once you figure out how to make more time available for working on your own skiing, you need to have a good training program to employ.  Something like my Building Blocks DVD program (link at the bottom of page).  You need to use the time you have wisely, with purpose and focus.  

 

Good luck!

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

I should have mentioned that I am well aware that I would need a training/coaching system in addition to just free skiing.  I clearly cannot just teach myself.  My question was more about whether or not the increased time away from teaching would benefit my personal skiing skills.

 

Jane

post #4 of 24

 

Quote:
My question was more about whether or not the increased time away from teaching would benefit my personal skiing skills.

 

If you don't feel like you're getting good coaching/mentoring/training out of the ski school you work at, then it might.  Working with some of the more senior people at my SSS has been tremendously helpful to me -- but your situation may be very different.

 

I know one person at my ski school who isn't teaching this year to focus on their personal skiing (working towards taking the L3), and another that actually switched mountains to work with senior people elsewhere (IIRC he's working towards one of the Eastern team tryouts, and the other mountain has some team members on staff).  So some people do go that route.

post #5 of 24

Hi Jane,  I've had a similar experience as you and have been indirectly advised by an Eastern Examiner that perhaps I should change mountains and teach at one with a better training program.  This is certainly a less expensive route then free skiing and paying for lift tickets and instruction.

 

If you're looking to be evaluated according to PSIA standards then training at a mountain with high level PSIA trainers is a good idea.

 

I've also been using Rick's DVD's and although they are not PSIA they definitely help to build great foundation skills.

 

 

 

 

post #6 of 24

M99 and SMJ are right.  If you are not getting the opportunity to reach your goals where you are, get out of there.  Find a mountain with a strong training program (including regular training with Examiners and DCLs) AND get them to make a commitment to your training goals BEFORE you commit to working for them. 

If you decide to go your own way, you should look for a group with the same goals as yours, and find a coach who can help meet those goals.  If you can't do that, consider finding an Ed Staff member to provide private coaching and attend some of the clinics he/she conducts for PSIA as well.  PSIA clinics are generally very good, and the groups tend to be a little more compatible than typical ski school groups.  If you have some money to spend, you can ski with the National Demo Team in events in some of the western regions.

Whatever you do, don't stay where you are not meeting your goals.

Good luck.

 

BK

 

 

post #7 of 24

Your situation is not unusual. I've been teaching for a few years now, and despite having made a few steps up the seniority ladder, I would still get worked like a borrowed mule if I let myself. Actually, I guess I do, because I have a hard time saying "no" although that's usually due to client requests rather than the ski school. Anyway, we are all so busy during the peak time sof the season that it is a struggle to get out and train.

 

A couple of thoughts - consider talking to your SSD or TD about whether you can get time to train in addition to lessons. Also consider getting away. Ironically I get a lot of my free skiing away from my home mountain. Comp letters are great for that. Getting away can mean getting to exam checkpoints during the year, or to PSIA events or to independent camps. It's a lot harder for them to slip you into an unplanned lesson if you're on another mtn.

 

Getting to your mountain midweek might help as well. Weekends for us are a zoo; sometimes at line up the announcement is 'everyone teaches", but if you go up on a wednesday, you can get some decent ski time in.

 

If none of those ideas work, maybe a new job is worth looking at.

post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaneB View Post

I've been part time instructing for the past four years; before that, taught for seven years in a children's program part time.  Am a PSIA member and have been training for L2 exam.

Given the number of days required to teach, the very busy ski school where I work, and the unfortunate necessity of a full time job, I've had little free ski time.  Also, not a great deal of coaching at my resort. 

 

I really want to get better before it's too late!  I'm in my 50s and don't have forever.  I've learned alot from teaching but my personal skiing has not improved as I'd hoped.  Would I be better off just free skiing as much as possible ( I sometimes got out 50 days before I started ski school; now it's more like under ten to free ski).?

 

Opinions/experiences welcome.

I haven't the experience of the others here but if you take "skiing" out of it and substitute any other "career"; it's time to move on.  If you aren't getting out of it what you desire from it, you're undervaluing yourself.

 

I know that this year I didn't get as much from the instructors clinics as I would like, but that is mainly because I agreed to work NASTAR each weekend.  Eats up a lot of time and caused me to miss many clinics (I thought I would be able to race more, but it ends up being like the kid that works at the theater to see movies - doesn't work that way).  I  only  bring this up because I've been  having similar thoughts.

 

From what I here, there are a few places that consider instructor development to far down the priority list.  Fortunately the place I work isn't like that and we have a great training staff.

 

If Southern NH works for you, PM me and I'll get you the info for the SSD.
 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by iWill View Post

Your situation is not unusual. I've been teaching for a few years now, and despite having made a few steps up the seniority ladder, I would still get worked like a borrowed mule if I let myself. Actually, I guess I do, because I have a hard time saying "no"


How could you not with a name like iWill.

 

Ken

 

 

post #9 of 24

Jane,

I taught skiing extensively every winter while attending college, and was also in PSIA. I made pretty good money teaching nights and weekends while a college student, would have been otherwise unable to afford to ski, plus I received great coaching from superb skiers/instructors. However, immediately after graduating college I had a decent job and could quickly afford to pay my own way to ski. I also had frankly grown tired of picking up so many over-privileged kids. Not that I disliked teaching, as I often found the art of teaching very satisfying with the right students, but I was weary of many of the drudgeries of ski instructing. I quickly let my PSIA membership lapse and enjoyed free skiing by myself and sometimes with friends. I made sure to take several private lessons each season with the best instructors I could find so that I continued to improve.

Eventually I determined that the thing I really missed most about teaching were the clinics, and the overall high skill level and supportive attitude of the participants in the clinics. I more recently joined a high level mountain group "seasonal lesson", where we all pay a very high level instructor to lead a group of high level skiers on all of the terrain at the resort where I mostly ski. The group meets each morning for three hours on weekends for most of the season, and uses the ski school lift line. This was the first time I had actually been on many of the slopes there, as I was in the rut of only freeskiing one or two of the steepest slopes, over and over, run after run. It was a revelation how much good terrain and good skiing I was missing. It was fun to be in a group/clinic setting again with other good skiers led by a truly excellent instructor. I augment that group experience with private lessons with a few other very high level instructors to work on specific skills.

The biggest difference is that now I pay instead of being paid, and I don't have to do anything I don't want to (when skiing). I am very happy I can afford this as it enriches my skiing enjoyment. BTW, all-in the "lessons" cost about as much as my season pass. So, for 2X the cost of a season pass I get the best of both worlds...

post #10 of 24
JandB,

Sounds like you're merely in a bit of a Rut. Training with the same people over time is fine if you're continually improving (and doing so faster than if you did things on your own). But if you've plateaued - it may not so much be you as that your clinicians have plateaued in their ability to teach to you. Not saying they're 'bad' or anything, just that they may not have what you need.

I'd suggest that you look around a bit more where you're at.

There are probably good people very close to where you are who can greatly improve your own skiing - if you can find them. No, you don't need to get into a never-ending series of Camps to improve your skiing, nor do you need to align yourself with any particular program - just explore your local resources a bit more and take a variety of local clinics (which you can probably get quite inexpensively if PSIA originated).

Make sure you get a variety of clinicians so you have the best chance of finding someone who actually helps you make changes you yourself perceive and are not just hearing the words, "You're doing better...". If you have the opportunity, take some clinics with people visiting from outside your area (visiting Nat'l Team members for instance).

Sometimes, it's not even the skiing skills and teaching knowledge of a clinician that makes the difference. Sometimes it's just your compatibility with the person in ways of learning and communicating. FYI: For the last ten years I've only skied one or two days a season out 'Free Skiing'. Nearly every day I ski is skied with other instructors and their friends so we always end up with a kind of self-made clinic - and it's fun the way we do it! We get lots of 'just skiing' in but we also share ideas, compare notes and observations, come up with new ideas to try, push proposed ideas to the physical limit (ie: threshold of crashville) and basically try anything that sounds interesting. We're just like any group of teenagers trying to figure new things out and seeing what they can get away with before catastrophe ensues. The only difference is that we're highly experienced fools...

.ma
post #11 of 24

JaneB: Like others mentioned, it's worth working for a ski school that has good instructor development opportunities. At Whistler Blackcomb, we have morning instructor training sessions every single day before lessons begin, along with daily full-day instructor training sessions. Presumably at least some of the US resorts are similar...? If you could switch to part-time, you could get a lot of training days in! I couldn't imagine working somewhere without daily clinics.

post #12 of 24

While I generally agree with the advice that you will do better with coaching....sometimes there is value in just getting away from it, clearing your head and skiing.  Taking a season out from teaching might not be a bad thing.  Remember, you can always go back to teaching...taking time out for you, is important too.

post #13 of 24

You cannot advance if you spend all your time teaching lower levels.  You need to divide your time between teaching and skiing/learning for yourself.  Maybe arrange to teach every other week or one week per month or something like that.


 

post #14 of 24

The movements you need for level 2 should be well reinforced by teaching levels 1-6.  I wasn't too psyched to spend time at lowers when I was hired, but found that it was way more fun and rewarding than I ever thought it would be.  Then I noticed sometime during my second year that my skiing had changed from the feet up.  I was quite strong and felt like I was an experienced big mountain skier with 15 years of experience before I was hired into the MSS.  I now realized that the time I spent at the lower levels really fixed a lot of "problems" in my skiing.  I am so much better as a skier now and am happy to be almost exclusively teaching levels 7-9 these days.  The level 2 skiing test is not that hard.  Relax and enjoy it.  If you are teaching the correct movements, they will become ingrained and automatic.  I teach full time, over 300 hours for the last 4 years and well over 400 this year.  The last 2 seasons I also did well over 100 hours of training so YMMV.  I easily passed my level 2 skiing test early in my second year.  So for me I would estimate about 400 hours of teaching the basic movements for them to become automatic.  At my hiring clinic I was shocked to learn that I couldn't even do a "proper" wedge turn.eek.gif

 

I would also second the free skiing is important sentiment.  Even though I teach upper level lessons these days, I can find myself getting stale and a bit used up if all I ever do is focus on others or being clean and smooth for the trainers.  Probably the best of both worlds for me are the early tram powder privates where my "job" is to keep my mouth shut, let the guest ski first, and never get left behind.  On the last big powder day we skied over 20,000 vert before lunch and two of my four "students" dropped Corbets.  That's fun work when you can get it!

post #15 of 24

I feel for you Jane. It's not a good place to want training but not have the time, or programs in place at your home resort. Perhaps the opportunity here involves you becoming a catalyst for the changes you seek. Before you dismiss what I'm suggesting let me tell you that I came to PSIA from the patrol system and as a trainer in the patrol system I would say the active training program there is much stronger. Mostly because a patroller must go through so much more certification training before ever being allowed to work with the public. As it should be, lives are sometime on the line and liability issues make that a necessity.

 

So when I started teaching for our ski school it didn't take me long to realize how little upper level training existed and any training had to occur during their slower times. Even then it was hard to get the SSD to pay a coach to lead cert clinics since that cost took money away from their "new" staff training budget. That role was generally believed to belong to PSIA and the cost of those clinics was shifted to the individual coaches seeking that additional training. So that's part of the solution but it didn't take me long to realize that without mentoring on a more consistent basis it would not be easy to train for those higher certification levels. Impromptu runs before line up, or during the day became my only opportunities to work on my skiing at my home area. 

 

In my case level 2 happened quite early in my PSIA experience so I volunteered to help the trainers with our newbies. This allowed me to work with some higher level skiers and gain the experience necessary for my personal training goals. Eventually topping out there, many of us in the level 3 pipeline reached out to examiners at other resorts who graciously allowed us to sit in on their staff training since we were actively involved in staff training at our home mountain. I wonder if that would have happened if we weren't "trainers in training". All I know is that my commitment to helping others opened up the opportunities I sought.

 

I should add that I eventually moved to a resort and that's when I had the opportunity to work on my skiing on a daily basis and learn from a variety of demo team level mentors. What I discovered is like me "paying it forward" and serving others is quite common among these luminaries. In many cases their coaching was unpaid pre line up stuff like I did way back at that smaller resort. Not that I didn't offer to pay them, I did. None of them would accept a dime. So in a way it was free but in other ways the price was so much higher than simply paying their day rates. I was tasked with paying forward all that I have learned and to do so freely with no expectation of payment. The fact that I get paid by the school to train staff is nice but it is so secondary to the idea of our school only being as good as our weakest coach and helping them raise their game makes all of us better teachers and coaches. So get involved and I think you will be surprised by how much you can change your world and the world around you. BTW I want to extend an invitation to you, If you're ever out by Keystone, PM me before hand so I can set aside some time to share a few turn with you. Good luck on your journey Jane.

 

Ski well my friend,

JASP

 


Edited by justanotherskipro - 3/26/11 at 1:17pm
post #16 of 24

Jane, I'll 2nd what jasp said. I think you have to actively seek out the instruction you want. talk to your higher level staff and see if you could get some runs in with them. See if they could formulate a plan for you and work through it.I know at my mountain as has been mentioned above money for training plays a big part in not getting enough from the SSD and management but that does not mean there are higher level instructors who  will not go out and ski with someone if they ask for training.  I'm sure most would be glad to help if asked and they can fit it in. Also everybody else has given some great ideas for you to try and take your game to the next level. If you ever want to come up to Vt at the Middlebury College Snowbowl pm me and I'll be glad to ski with you.

post #17 of 24

I hoped my last post communicated the giving first mentality among so many ski coaches. The folks who think "me first" don't last very long in our industry. After all we're serving the needs of our clients and that includes our peers and the school.


Edited by justanotherskipro - 3/27/11 at 9:54am
post #18 of 24

Jane,

 

   I  think you have gotten a lot of good advice here. 

 

   I have noticed that at my mountain at least the women instructors tend to get more classes than the men because of a belief that women work better with children and there are more private lessons (and group lessons) for children than for adults.  As a result the women tend to be teaching all day whereas the men might teach one or two classes and have more time for free skiing (and training).  Some of the male instructors likewise do end up teaching all day and certainly all of us do during holiday periods. Nevertheless, these practices might give you a basis for negotiating with your SSD somewhat less instructing time and more time for free skiing and training.  Even expressing your interest in advancing might prompt your SSD to schedule more clinics for instructors and to invite Level 3 Examiners to provide an instructor clinic.

 

  Another idea is to ski regularly at another mountain midweek and get a lesson there.  Generally, the other mountain will comp you for the lift ticket (with a director's letter) and you would only have to pay for the lesson. Oftentimes, you end up getting a private lesson for a group rate. If your job prevents you from doing this, you might try another mountain that offers night skiing midweek.

 

  Good luck.

 

Tom

 

post #19 of 24

Jane,

 

My thinking is that if you really need clarity about what is most important in your life. Why do you teach and what do you get out of it?  I hope it's more than a free lift ticket and a few bucks coupled with mediocre professional development of your skiing skills. I know many choose to instruct to gain, in part, financial relief from the cost of skiing and I don't belittle anyone who factors this into the decision to teach. If you need the financial support, then, your question really is how do I maximize my skiing development while still teaching.

 

If you goal is to be the best skier you can become, then, stop teaching and put together a plan to become a more proficient skier. You can always return to teaching.

 

There is plenty of good advice above about how to become better, no matter what path you choose. Take back control of your life, don't let a ski school rule it.

post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Living Proof View Post


If you goal is to be the best skier you can become, then, stop teaching and put together a plan to become a more proficient skier. You can always return to teaching.

 


I don't see this as good advice. All the years of skiing for myself did nothing for my proficiency compared to the skier improvement opportunities since I became an instructor. She may need to find another mountain that has a proactive TD and a better improvement program. Getting out of teaching closes a lot more doors than it opens, as few people could afford the level of lessons and clinics offered to instructors.

 

post #21 of 24

Let's try this again, since my last post vanished into the bit bucket.  Lots of good advice here, what Rick says about building blocks is right on the money, but I think there are two issues:  (1) What does "getting better" mean to you (not to someone else)? Let's say, for example, you want to ski bumps better.  There's some fundamentals you need to attend to, but a bunch of it is just, you know, skiing a lot of bumps.  You want to be as knowledgeable and well prepared as possible when you try to go up a level, but life is short, and my view is that if you start down a path and it doesn't turn out to be the right one, then change the path, but keep moving ahead. 

 

Here, for your inspection, is my own path.  After college, I decided I didn't want anything to do with the real world, so I moved to Stowe and ski bummed for two years.  You can't ski the Front Four, and survice, without learning something, and I surely did.  Then I decided to go West, young man, so I went to Breckenridge and ski bummed there for 3 years.  Learned how to ski powder, too. 

 

Then I started teaching at Breck, for four years, and Copper for a year, where I got my L3. Lots and lots of good skiers on both ski school, some excellent trainers, learned a lot more about teaching and skiing.  Ran out of money, got a real job and went back to...skiing.  I stlll taught, friends and neighbors, I just didn't do it for money or put on a ski school jacket...I just kept doing it because I wanted do.  Taking the building blocks I acquired during my teaching career and going out and using them all day long instead of just over lunch was when my skiing really started to pick up.

 

Then, about 20 years ago, I started Masters alpine racing, and I started all over again.  All of a sudden, people were telling me where I had to turn, and expecting me to go fast doing it, and that was a whole new learning experience.  Now, at age 62, I'm a much better skier...a better skier, not just a better racer...than I was in my 30s and 40s.  The nice thing about racing is that while you still need the building blocks...which are pretty much the same as the ones Rick discusses...there aren't any style points.  You either win or you don't.  Standing in the starting gate of a downhill where you know you're going to average 65 mph, and the penalties for screwing up aren't just losing the race, is both the toughest and most exhilarating experience I've ever had, bar none, any sport.  It's helped make me immeasurably more confident and self-sufficient than anything else I can imagine in my skiing career...

 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JaneB View Post

I've been part time instructing for the past four years; before that, taught for seven years in a children's program part time.  Am a PSIA member and have been training for L2 exam.

Given the number of days required to teach, the very busy ski school where I work, and the unfortunate necessity of a full time job, I've had little free ski time.  Also, not a great deal of coaching at my resort. 

 

I really want to get better before it's too late!  I'm in my 50s and don't have forever.  I've learned alot from teaching but my personal skiing has not improved as I'd hoped.  Would I be better off just free skiing as much as possible ( I sometimes got out 50 days before I started ski school; now it's more like under ten to free ski).?

 

Opinions/experiences welcome.



 

post #22 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by iWill View Post

I don't see this as good advice. All the years of skiing for myself did nothing for my proficiency compared to the skier improvement opportunities since I became an instructor. She may need to find another mountain that has a proactive TD and a better improvement program. Getting out of teaching closes a lot more doors than it opens, as few people could afford the level of lessons and clinics offered to instructors.

 

 

iWill, that's interesting - my experience is also that after reaching the intermediate level, the best organized, purposefully directed lessons catered specifically to instructors. General lessons as a non-instructor just didn't support my development. My most beneficial lessons were CSIA level 1, 2, and 3 prep. I've also had great bumps lessons through our ski school. 

 

I'm sure you can get good general ski improvement as a member of the general public, but instruction as a ski professional is so much more focused.

post #23 of 24

Ever think of becoming a Ski Patroller?

 

You can increase your skiing days while helping out. Plus those awesome days of first tracks opening slopes.

 

I did it for 10 years. Certainly improved my skiing.

post #24 of 24

 Jane

 

 I think coach is really on to something. I have never ordered his videos but I was on his site & tried some of the drills he mentioned & I could not believe how much of a better skier I have become. ( this is coming from a skier that has often been told the whole mountain is talking about my skiing when I go somewhere & I never straight line or do cliffs) Now Iam trying to get a few people togeather to buy his DVDS . In the mean time I just try to be creative & make up my own drills.

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