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Power Assist teaching method for teaching snowboarding

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

This is from a thread in the ski instruction forum. Since the reply is a snow board instruction reply, I've moved it here.


Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post


Hiya therusty, 


How does side-by-side work? All that I remember from the turning stage in the level 1 course (which was a few years ago) was:

  • Physically walking with the learner through a turn
  • Learner is on a board, and attempts to turn; the instructor is on foot "walking" through the turn offering hand support


(I have a feeling I'll be teaching snowboarding next year again, so any best practices would be helpful)

Note: this info is for instructors trying to learn how to teach with this method.

Note: this teaching technique is not well known, you should practice this on staff first and then review this with your supervisors before using it with guests

Note: you should ask for permission to touch the student before you use this technique


I call this teaching technique "power assist". You ride the same direction as the student (goofy/goofy or normal/normal), your belly button is facing their back. For maximum control, you grab the student's hips and force movements on 3 axis (fore/aft, edge to edge and vertical position over the board). It is harder for the instructor when they have to ride switch and work with a student who outweighs them and/or "fights" the support. I started using this technique with kids and worked my way up to larger students. As you are learning this teaching technique, you will fall occasionally while holding your student. For heel side falls, the student falls on top of you (no big deal). For toe side falls, you have to risk injury to prevent causing injury to the student by falling on them. I make fists and lock my arms so that I am doing a push up over them. With experience falls turn into rare and laughable events (as opposed to ouch events). The other safety tip is to be careful about overlapping your board over the student's board. It's going to happen. You just have to realize it and react.


There are a few fundamental concepts that make this teaching technique so powerful. The first fundamental concept of power assist is that the technique can be used to either prevent or reduce the impact (and negative feedback) of falls. For people who fear learning to ride because of fear of falling, this may be all that is needed to enable to learning. You can do power assist without holding on and just have your hands ready to catch the student if they start to fall (i.e. no assist until a fall begins). Another fundamental concept of power assist is that students are not going to "get" the movements until the feel the movements and they can't feel the movements until they do the movements. The idea is to physically help them do the movements so they can feel the feedback from the movements. The last fundamental is for power assist is to only apply as much power as needed directly where it is needed. We control from the hips to get direct access to the center of mass, but after the student has achieved minimal balance control, an instructor can go for different touch points (e.g. knees, feet) and touch techniques (e.g. tapping, pushing, holding) as needed. And we reduce the amount of "assist" as the student increases their abilities. I've worked students up to only holding my palm on their back hip and then gradually losing contact and starting to fall back (i.e. only mental assist).


When an instructor is walking with a student holding their arms/hands they can prevent falling and they can assist balance. For many students this may be enough. But once you're comfortable with power assist, you'll never go back to walking with students when you don't need to walk from one student to the next because the assistance is smoother (no steps), is more direct (vs through the hands/arms) and can be done at higher speeds (where there is greater feedback from the board to the student). However, there are snowboard instructors who I have great respect for who are strongly against using this teaching technique. I believe they are wrong, but I respect their right to their own opinions and when they have been my supervisors I have not used this technique per their request.

post #2 of 6

Cool concept. How much time did you spend practising before you were confident using this method with learners? In my mind, I'm concerned about catching my edge over my learner's edge. Are there additional terrain considerations beyond just using a bunny hill with this technique? Are you adjusting your turn radius at all? And where did you get this great technique?

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

I made this technique up. I'd been taught various "hand's on" teaching techniques for alpine teaching.  It was natural for this to transfer over to snowboard. I guess the first ever use of this technique was for stopping run away students. Instead of trying to coach the student to a stop, you simply just cut them off. But for "the technique" I started with kids in group lessons who were falling excessively, taking too long to get back up and holding up the group lesson. It's amazing what kind of innovation can get introduced by a 90 minute limit on a first timer lesson with >10 students. As I got more comfortable doing this with little ones, I started doing this with larger students, experimenting with tapping knees and controlling via the boots instead of the hips and experimenting with this technique on advanced beginner terrain. So I suppose the answer is zero time practicing before using it in lessons. For the folks I've taught this to, some have only needed about 5 minutes to get confident. Others have needed several practice sessions.

post #4 of 6

Cool--thanks for the details. I'll see if I can try this out with our ski club instructors next year.

post #5 of 6

Are you talking about those OLD senior citizens you'll be teaching next season?

post #6 of 6

lol. From what I remember when I took snowboard lessons with the group, the beginner snowboarders tended to be a bit younger. But either way, I'd be more inclined to say there are older members... rather than carte blanche "old" :)

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