As with most EpicSki discussions, this one has gone off the rails.
I don't think that anybody is arguing that "off piste" lessons should always be on groomed terrain, regardless of the skill of the student(s).
My point is that if the student is exhibiting gross upper-body rotation, their turns consist of stem-steps, they're back-seat driving, their turn shape looks like a "Z", or if they're exhibiting any other of the classic "inefficient skiing" problems that plague most of the skiing public (just look at the general public from the chairlift...),then taking them into ungroomed terrain is a recipe for disaster, or at least frustration.
If the student(s) are capable of making round turns in a variety of radii, in balance with basically good mechanics, then sure -- take them into ungroomed conditions. That's a far cry from saying that you have to be able to challenge Mikaela herself in a slalom race type of expertise. I don't know where you ski, but where I do, I don't see a whole lot of skiers on groomers who are making round balanced turns.
Groomed terrain and modern skis mask a great variety of flaws, so a lot of people get competent on groomed terrain (i.e,. they don't fall), they try bumps/powder/trees, etc., find those conditions to be highly frustrating... They sign up for a lesson thinking they just need a few pointers and what the instructor needs to do is reconstruct their skiing from the ground up, which is going to be hopeless except on easy groomers.
Student leaves thinking "I didn't learn how to ski bumps / trees / powder today, that lesson sucked". Why would you sign up for another one? Or if the instructor explains the scope of what needs to be fixed and this is going to take some commitment on the part of the student... i.e., how many people care enough about how they ski to reinvent it when you can just head to the ski shop, buy the latest powder board and voila' -- you're skiing powder.
I think I'm not expressing myself well enough. I'm not talking about taking a student to terrain that an instructor or expert finds challenging. I'm talking about taking a student to the terrain that he/she finds a bit challenging.
Someone with the bad habits you describe will probably find an ungroomed blue or easy black to be challenging. I'm not saying you should throw such a student off the top of a double-black and expect him/her to learn anything. I'm saying you take that person to an ungroomed blue or really easy black that has just enough little bumps or cut-up powder to highlight the student's weaknesses but is not too challenging/frightening to prevent the student from following your instruction. That way, the student still gets to ski something fun while you try to fix some of the flaws.
Everyone agrees that groomers mask flaws, but no one seems to consider that they might also mask the benefits of improvement. Improved technique on terrain that a student finds easy could end up feeling like nothing more than a different way of messing around on easy terrain. But, improved technique on terrain that is a bit challenging is immediately recognized as a better way of skiing, because it makes that terrain feel less challenging and more fun (or simply easier).
I think your last paragraph just highlights the point I was making about how ski instruction might need to evolve. As you said, most people don't want to take the time to completely reinvent their skiing, because most people only get to ski a fairly limited number of days. But, there are a number of people out there who, despite owning wider skis or even powder-specific skis, would like to improve their off-piste skiing as long as they are able to enjoy themselves while they do it. In Europe, I can find a number of companies or individual instructors who are willing to offer such services. The courses I've taken were taught by ex-racers who spent most of the time skiing terrain that the group enjoyed, rather than making us spend all day on the groomers reinventing our technique or doing drills. But at the same time, I am able to remember specific things that they've taught me that have improved my skiing significantly. I had fun while learning things that made skiing even more fun, which is why I'm willing to take more courses.
If I skied in a place where the options were either drills on groomers all day or nothing, then I'd probably choose the latter like so many other people. I know from past experience in other sports the potential benefit of doing repetitive drills all day long. But at this point in my life, that's not something I'm interested in doing.
Edited by CerebralVortex - 10/29/14 at 4:37am