I learned to ski late in life. I moved into area close to a ski resort so why not. The first two years I tried to figure it out on my own with the help of my ex-ski racer wife and made only limited progress. My third year I took a season long course with a very seasoned set of instructors and did make a little more progress, at least I could get down the more challenging blue groomer runs. Two years later still not skiing all that much better, I heard that ski school would hire just about anyone and funds were too tight to buy a pass anyway so I signed up. Lets face it most of the volume in ski school is from parents that want to ski unencumbered and so they put their young children in ski school at least until they are able to keep up with mom and dad.
I have taught for 3 years now and what I have found is that very few people are good at teaching upper level skiing. I have learned as much if not more from non-certified fellow instructors as I have L2 or L3 types. I have run across quite of few of the natural ability types, my wife for one, that ski very well but could not explain how they do it if their life depended on it. I have run across L3 types that seem to have this sole focus on analyze then drill. So just because they have their L3 does not guarantee that they can teach it in a way that is understandable to you. Ski school has a trainer that comes in once a week and I have spend some major time with him and yes it has helped but still he has trouble explaining it all that well.
What seems to make it hard is that you have to both know it and be able to teach it. What I think makes this so difficult is that skiing is done from the non-verbal part of our mind, right brain. We communicate using our left brain. Most people are so left brain dominate that teaching something that is right brain dominate becomes very difficult.
For me trying to figure this all out is why I like being a ski instructor, that and for some weird reason I just love to ski. Sure be nice if the money was better, then I could consider going for my L1, but maybe not, for me I just want to become the instructor the quality of which I have yet to find.
Sounds like you are working with the wrong people. I know lots of instructors, most certified some uncertified who are very good at teaching upper level skiing.
PSIA could help you to be that instructor that you envision. It might not. You will only get back what you put into it. As far as going for level 1, if you are a PSIA member you have no real reason not to go for the certification. Lots of people don't want to pay dues and I can understand that. If you are paying dues and don't do a L1 because you don't think you can pass, you need to be thinking about doing something other than teaching skiing. L1 is pretty easy and should be a cakewalk for anyone who puts on the SS uniform. I haven't always been happy with PSIA, but I must acknowledge that PSIA involvement has made me a much better skier and instructor than I otherwise would have been. It sounds like you could benefit from some of the training that PSIA makes available to its members. Some of the better training is limited to members of specific certification levels.
You're right about one thing..... Explaining skiing is tricky. I am always trying to ski more and talk less with my students. The verbal component goes farther when it is specific and targeted to one skill. I have been in training clinics where we were challenged to run a short teaching segment using no words. It can be done and it can be fun, funny, AND effective. IME the most effective way to teach skiing is to find a way to have the student feel something different from what they are already doing. For example, I often "trick" my students into making retraction turns. I put them into a tactical situation that lends itself to that technique and have them do a simple movement exercise that leads them there. While they are focused on the one thing, the rest comes pretty naturally, they feel it, and the light goes on. From there we can focus the "beam". I would have a very hard time getting them to do what I want using a technical explanation of "exactly" what it is that I want to see them doing. Of course it is also critical that an instructors demos match the description that they give. It's even more vital as the verbal descriptions get shorter or go away.
Your desire to "understand the basic physics of skiing. The physics of how the snow interacts with the skis and then start with the foot and work your way up." Is commendable and IMO necessary for you to achieve your goal. There are a lot of parts to this understanding and I "think" I agree with the instructors who advised you not to teach this way. The first problem is that your mastery of the material might not be sufficient for this approach to work. Then there are the communication problems. If you say the same thing to 4 people in a lesson, wait 10 minutes and ask them to paraphrase what you told them, chances are good you will get 5 different answers. I would never "dumb down" the material, but I also try very hard to use the KISS (keep it simple silly) principle. The entire "lesson" and everything I say and do is informed by my understanding of the mechanics of skiing and what is happening "at the snow". It needs to be to be valid. However, I have learned through experience that the better value in a lesson comes from one skill that is retained vs a lot of tips, drills, and homework assignments. It is easy to lose focus in a lesson by getting lost in technical minutia. There is a place for that and that place is The Bar.
I don't teach a lot of kids. I do a weekly local kids group, a few kids or family private lessons, and occasionally fill in at The Kids Ranch. I have the PSIA CS2 (children's specialist) accreditation. IMO the PSIA CS1 & CS2 (we used to call it ACE) was some of the best all around training that I've ever gotten. I don't think I could teach a great "technical lesson" to most kids. I tend to lead them where I want them to go through games and tactical challenges rather than explanations. In CS training I learned that I could treat most adults like children, but should never treat a child like an adult. The fact is that all lessons are more effective when they are fun and I treat every student with respect and never talk down to any student. I teach a lot of very successful 50 yo adults that can't follow more than one single instruction at a time just like the developmental model for... say an 8 yo. A lot of these very successful types think they want the technical explanation and will happily go off on obscure tangents all day long. At the end of the day they don't get better and might even be more confused after "that lesson". I have seen very few students of any age who really learned from a highly verbal technical lesson. IME most students of all ages learn skiing best by skiing. Keep it simple, keep them moving, and get them to try new things until they can really feel it. Then apply the "new move" in as many tactical situations and terrain types as possible until they really own it. Remember it's not enough to tell someone to stop doing something unless you give them something to replace the old move with and help them nail it down so that it sticks.
I love talking about skiing minutia and happily go down that rabbit hole with any student at the bar, especially when they are buying. These discourses tend to be most productive when they directly relate to sensations experienced on snow rather than a cerebral event like reading a book by Ron Lemaster, Warren Whitheral, or even HH.
Edited by tetonpwdrjunkie - 10/25/12 at 10:09am