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When not to take a lesson?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

During a recent trip had planned on taking a couple of private lessons but the conditions were basically white out for 5 days straight (NZ no trees)  and  my skiing seemed to get worse each day as the lack of visibility and a couple of crashes made me cautious which pushed me back which messed with my thighs and knees etc.


It wasnt pretty, by the end and I felt all my old bad habits like skid turns, shoulder rotation, back seat  etc I thought were in the past returning. Conditions werent great either chopped up heavy slush down low and pretty hard and fast up top.


So was this the ideal time to take a lesson with all my faults laid bare, low in confidence and physical condition or as I thought at the time it will  probably be a waste of money and I should wait till conditions improve which unfortunately they didnt before I had to head home? Assume limited budget for privates and the need to get most effective ROI otherwise of course a lesson should be beneficial.


I've only been skiing for about 5 years about 70 days all up now and apart from this trip  I've made good progress each trip skiing progressively steeper terrain with more control etc.  I'd stay out from first to last lifts regardless of conditions I was that keen and really enjoyed the challenge of coping with low light etc but this last trip I was mostly doing half days at best. Not sure what changed but I did come into it with a pre existing knee injury and picked up a bad flu on the 2nd day!



thanks for any feedback!

post #2 of 9

Sounds like you had a lot of issues piling up on you at once.  White-out with no visibility, sticky slush down low, ice at the top, will send most into caution mode.  That's often going to bring out old bad habits because it makes people ski defensively.  Defensive = leaning back, rotating shoulders, leaning in, losing grip and skidding out, stemming to start the new turn.  These are all natural bodily defenses on snow that appear when a skier becomes cautious.  And they are all the wrong thing to do on snow, no matter what its consistency.  Instructors help skiers by-pass those caution-driven dysfunctional behaviors every day and replace them with confidence-shaped good turns.  That is the bread-and-butter of ski instruction.  


So lessons would have been perfect.  


The fact that you have had in injury increases the intensity of your body's self-preservation behavior, but maybe in your case it doesn't add additional quirks to your movement patterns.  An instructor informed of your knee injury should be able to tell if you are favoring one side or another. 


Is your season over?  If you get a chance to ski again this season, take a lesson and tell your story to your instructor.  That should get the lesson going on the right track.

post #3 of 9

I'll admit, when I read the topic of this thread, I thought my answer would be an emphatic 'No', and I was mentally framing my 'no' answer. However, after reading the post, I have to say that my answer is yes, there is a time not to take a lesson.


The Coast Guard doesn't practice search and rescue in 50kt winds and 40foot seas. They practice on calmer days, so when the stuff really hits that fan, they know what to do. Similarly, if the prevailing conditions are extremely difficult for you, you're not really going to be in a position to effectively learn and improve on your technique. As was said above, you're finding yourself in defensive mode. Unfortunately, defensive mode isn't the best time to learn. If you're really looking to maximize your long-term improvement, a challenging day isn't the best time to do so.


Personal anecdote on the topic. There was a day last year where I was teaching a group of intermediate little kids. That day was incredibly windy. There were 85+mph wind gusts at the base, well over 100 further up the hill. I spent most of the lesson trying to keep these kids from literally blowing off the mountain, and when I was actually working on skills, I was struggling just to be heard over the screaming winds. Did we really make much progress that day? No. Did anyone expect much progress that day? No.

post #4 of 9

You've got a point there, freeski.  There are times when the conditions-du-jour are overwhelming.  For example, I had the unfortunate assignment of giving the last lesson of the season last year, 1:00 on closing day late in spring.  There was no beginner terrain available, nothing to walk up and ski down.  We had to ride that chair.  My client was a novice with a few days of not-so-successful experience.  This was a lesson that should not have been.  I won't step up to the plate next time; lesson learned on my part.  Perhaps someone else could have done a better job, because I sure was not the one that could with those parameters in force.


However, I still think anyone with enough skills and determination to spend half the day skiing in dense fog despite an injury and not feeling comfortable with the snow beneath their feet could take something good away from a lesson taught in those conditions .... maybe!

post #5 of 9

While there is no doubt that certain conditons are better for learning then others, its also true that no matter what the conditions a capable instructor can create a worth while learning environment.  Should you have taken a lesson in those conditions?  Yes.


As conditions become more challenging, certain elements of our technique become more critical, and if they are missing or not properly developed our ability to ski drops off.


A good instructor can work with you, to give you some quick tips to help you handle those conditions better then you were.  Whether we like it or not, whiteout conditions are a fact of life, and learning to ski them is valuable espcially for those who may not have the luxury of choosing which days to ski, and which not to.

post #6 of 9

We have our share of white out conditions where I teach.  Granted these are not ideal learning or teaching conditions, but I have found there are positives to come out of lessons during these times.  As the instructor, I am always prepared to change my operating mode to deal with the conditions.  Part of my job is also helping you to shift your expectations to a point where we agree on a win/win plan.


First, you can probably get away with saving some $'s & take a group lesson.


Even if there are other fools;) at your level, there won't be many of them & they will help with definition in the bad light by playing games like line rotation & human slalom.


With the variable conditions & bad light you are describing, there is nothing better than having a seeing eye dog to help keep things safe & allow you to anticipate the changes in snow texture, terrain & pitch.  That's where I come in, cause I can ski this hill with my eyes closed :D !  If there are secret spots on the hill where visibility or snow conditions are better, I am gonna get you there.


On another positive note, sometimes dulling one of the senses tends to enhance some of the others.


So come on & follow me, I am sure we can make it better than it might have been!




post #7 of 9
Agreed, any instructor worth their salt can make something out of even the worst conditions. In my days as a supervisor, I never let my instructors blame weather for doing nothing with a class. OTOH, I also didn't expect maximum effectiveness on those days either. The question was about how the OP could maximize his lesson dollars. We can all agree a day with conditions the student finds terrifying isn't going to maximize his overall progress.
post #8 of 9
When not to take a lesson ? When your head is so full to the explosion point of losing your usefulness of the last lesson. Each lesson should leave you with ideas to practice and skills you build on. Make full use of your investment by working the instructor for homework before you ski away from him,. When you have had time to practice and apply mileage on your lesson then engage for more. Think of lessons as ways to provide waypoints in your path to learning how to master elements of your skiing. The instructor should help you farther down the path each time but much work is done solely by you and all of the drive to improve comes from with in. Is it in you ?
Some only wish so much out if skiing and others want it all and neither focus is a bad one. It's for you to decide where you wish this path to take you.

I need to add something. Leave your lesson focused on what your path should include. Clarity is important ,don't leave your instructor until you have made this clear to yourself. A good instructor will have this defined in your mind and a poor one will just fill your head with conflicting information if not properly presented
Edited by GarryZ - 9/9/13 at 4:05pm
post #9 of 9

your situation brings me back memories of when i just got back into skiing 5 yrs ago

and signed up for a 4 day 'ski espirit' program at whistler.


on our first day out we had 35cm of a fresh dump (the night before),

but i was on the wrong skis for the job: stiff head monster im77

(at that time i had no idea on something width wise more appropriate)...and

I was on ungroomed snow for the first time, too...had a few

bad falls given my 77 waisted skis on these conditions,

one of which had me landing on my pole and cracking a rib

..conseqently i had to go to the intake of one of the local wb med clinics for examination.


..also there was.lots of whiteout, fog, and even extreme wind conditions on some of the 4 days we were out.

(skiing down 'the saddle' in extreme wind and fog was a treat: you used the fallen bodies

in front of you as roadmarks to avoid)

so it was hardly a great memorable experience to 'enjoy' skiing...and like you my confidence

plummeted, i stiffened up too often and so wasn't very adaptive to the conditions...and by

stiffening up quickly out of panic (worried about another tumble on my sore rib) i quickly got tired

in the legs.


had ski espirit been much more technique focused to help us get through this 

(it was more of a 'experience whistler' with some instruction being secondary)

i would have enjoyed it more than I did (but war stories only make you stronger

if you get back on the horse).


and to finish things off and fast forward a bit later that season:

on the final day of the ski season at wb of that same yr

i was on some new (used) watea 84 and somehow caught an edge.

bad tumble and this time that thump was to the front of my chest

...was so winded i took the gondola down: and xrays once home

showed i had this time broken a rib in the front right below my chest plate. that was a war wound (took months to heal btw) that i carry somewhat

proudly and gives me more confidence.:D 

Edited by canali - 9/18/13 at 8:56pm
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