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Instructor fitness requirements

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi all, 

 

I'm looking to understand how ski schools implement mobility and fitness requirements.

 

Does your ski school use mobility/fitness testing as a condition of hire or rehire? (e.g. I believe Vail did, called Fit to Ride, and dropped it quickly)

Has your ski school incentivized fitness?

How does your ski school handle instructors who for whatever reason are not able to demonstrate effective movements? 

How do your ski school determine whether or not someone is fit to teach a given level?


Edited by Metaphor_ - 8/15/16 at 5:41pm
post #2 of 13

If they can ski and teach at a given level, then they will be given classes commensurate to their ability. If someone is technically very sound, but likely to be skied into the ground by a client, or isn't fit enough to meet the demands of the appropriate teaching terrain, then we'd find a more appropriate match for that client(elle). Our free ride coaches are all very fit as are our stonger L3 instructors. 

post #3 of 13

My current resort lists fitness requirements in their job descriptions. My last resort had voluntary fitness guidelines (e.g. able to do 20 push ups) but you needed to say that you met the requirements as a condition of rehire. That was mostly paperwork, but they did use the "fitness rule" to try to stop someone from working through an injury.

 

As an ex-trainer at a resort with over 300 instructors, I've seen a ton of instructors who don't demonstrate effective movements (and been there myself often enough). The gross violators don't get invited back to teach the next season. Everyone else at least gets appropriate attention in clinics. Most of the worst know their problems and ask for extra help. The ones that don't ask sometimes got extra help "pushed" to them (e.g. hey - let's go ski).

post #4 of 13
Fitness or lack of it can be the hardest part. Company programs vary but in most cases they only screen for disfunction and a gross lack of fitness. Thanks to a shattered ankle I fit in that disfunctional catagory most of last year. Proving I can still function at my usual level has been my goal and after nine months of rehab, PT, daily work outs, I am pretty close. To be honest, the company fitness test was not a possibility a few months back but now it will be super easy. That being said, that bar is pretty low compared to my usual fitness level. I am on track to exceed my usual fitness level, my flexibility and function is about 15% better than it was prior to the crash, and my strength training is 10% better than usual. Quickness and plyometric are only at about 90% of normal though. Ten weeks from now it too will be at least 15% better than normal.

So why share this? To point out that fitness is a full time job after an injury and company fitness tests have a legitimate purpose beyond what most perceive them to be.
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

JASP, just wanted to say I'm sorry to hear about your accident and I wish you a speedy recovery. (It sounds like you don't need wishes since you've taken charge of your recovery!)

post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post

Fitness or lack of it can be the hardest part. Company programs vary but in most cases they only screen for disfunction and a gross lack of fitness. Thanks to a shattered ankle I fit in that disfunctional catagory most of last year. Proving I can still function at my usual level has been my goal and after nine months of rehab, PT, daily work outs, I am pretty close. To be honest, the company fitness test was not a possibility a few months back but now it will be super easy. That being said, that bar is pretty low compared to my usual fitness level. I am on track to exceed my usual fitness level, my flexibility and function is about 15% better than it was prior to the crash, and my strength training is 10% better than usual. Quickness and plyometric are only at about 90% of normal though. Ten weeks from now it too will be at least 15% better than normal.

So why share this? To point out that fitness is a full time job after an injury and company fitness tests have a legitimate purpose beyond what most perceive them to be.

JASP,
I want to echo what Metaphor said with regards to your injury and recovery. I also wanted to add, that I have found similar results after injury that you have. In four seasons of skiing, I had three injuries that all required surgery and rehab. The silver lining is that they all pushed me to be healthier and more fit and I too have better range and am stronger than prior to the injury.

I know way more about my body and how it works and I agree that recovery is hard work. Now that I'm north of 50, staying healthy and fit takes serious effort, even withou dealing with an injury. At my last physical, I joked with the doctor about about just staying healthy is like having a part time job.

Ken
post #7 of 13
Thanks fellas, many of us have faced the challenge of injury and all that means. Without the support of others all this work would be twice as hard. In my case that includes my wife and the entire management team at Keystone. It feels good to know I am part of a team.
post #8 of 13

Last season was my first season teaching ever.  I teach at a western Massachusetts mountain.  

 

Our requirements say that teaching is and can be very strenuous and that instructors have to be fit enough to meet the demands of the job.  I could lose a few ponds but I'm very active and have no issue running all over the mountain with whatever student I have.  We have instructors of all ages, shapes and sizes but everyone seems generally physically fit.  

 

As far as qualifications I had to attend a one day orientation, a 2 day all weekend class room training session with many exercises including we each had to teach a skill (I taught juggling) and then we had a 2 day on snow training weekend and lastly an interview before anyone was hired.  Not everyone got hired.  I am proud because I haven't been skiing that long and I made it.  

 

The certified and more experienced instructors get the higher level students. However, I felt I did pretty good for my first season.  I quickly got out of the bull pen and started getting groups of 6-10 year olds, numerous private lessons and the occasional group of teenagers.  I have a long way to go and utilize whatever training I can get my hands on.  A long time instructor has taken me under his wing and I ski with him quite often, we free ski and work on drills.  When I'm on the bunny hill with a group of 6 year olds my skis are often set aside and I'm running all over in my ski boots.  Sometimes I'm on the bunny hill with never evers or newbies in general.  Sometimes I'm skiing blues with a kid or group of kids that's good enough to get off the bunny hill.  We play follow the leader and practice good form.  I am building up my bag of tricks and learn something new every day.  All of this has made me the most tired I've ever been but it's also the most fun I've ever had, the extra money including tips are nice and I hope to pass my level 1 soon and plan to teach for a good long time.  

 

I was allowed to keep my jacket and was asked to come back next season.  The director of the ski school said I was a welcome addition to the team.  


Edited by surfsnowgirl - 8/22/16 at 8:53am
post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by surfsnowgirl View Post

All of this has made me the most tired I've ever been ...

First off, congratulations for doing so well your first season. Second, thank you for your service.

 

I quoted this out of your post because it is one of the common factors in instructor injuries, especially for instructors who don't start the season in shape. Few people understand how the "mental energy" drain from teaching contributes to injuries when physical fitness is just barely enough to handle the physical demands. We all know about the "last run of the day" syndrome.  Imagine that syndrome affecting more and more runs as the season progresses and your stamina fades. This is why some resorts have fitness requirements. But they are hard to implement fairly and effectively. It's up to us as instructors to do a better job than what the requirements call for. It's harder for rookies because they don't know how much physical work beginner lessons can be and their mental energy drain actually increases through the season as their teaching skill improves. For most experienced instructors, there is always some amount of showing up to work early in the season and expecting to "ski into shape". The smart ones always arrive "fit" for duty beyond what the requirements call for. As a former trainer, I was usually asked to teach clinics all day starting right at day 1. Some years there was no opportunity for me to ski anywhere else before opening day to get my ski legs and many years or opening day was the next day after a 5 day pre season clinic at a different mountain. Being "over" weight for most of my "trainer" career I always entered the fall season terrified of that first impression look when the 20-somethings I was to teach saw that a fat old man was going to teach them (and it was even worse when I knew I couldn't cheat by getting on snow time ahead of time). That gave me the extra motivation to make sure that I was fit enough to outride my students on the first run (and blow away that first impression face) and drive them to their limits without finding mine. What took me years to realize was that this pre season effort to get into "shape" (despite still carrying extra pounds) helped to prevent injuries from happening throughout the rest of the season. What really drove the realization of how fragile the line between safety and injury can be was the 2 seasons when I changed my prescription glasses (from normal to progressive and from one type of progressive lens to another). Both seasons I had little falls and minor injuries because I was caught by terrain or conditions I could not see in my peripheral vision, yet was skiing with the same confidence as before when I could see those kinds of things. I have little falls every season (if you're not falling you're not learning, right?), but this was the first time I got hurt. All it took was one extra contributing factor to get me. These things did not happen until after the middle of the season. That's precisely when the "drag of the routine" starts to take effect and all of the staff starts to get just a little worn out. That's the one extra contributing factor.

 

This is a serious topic. It's a controversial topic. It's a nag. It is also an opportunity to learn and improve.

post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRusty View Post
 

First off, congratulations for doing so well your first season. Second, thank you for your service.

 

I quoted this out of your post because it is one of the common factors in instructor injuries, especially for instructors who don't start the season in shape. Few people understand how the "mental energy" drain from teaching contributes to injuries when physical fitness is just barely enough to handle the physical demands. We all know about the "last run of the day" syndrome.  Imagine that syndrome affecting more and more runs as the season progresses and your stamina fades. This is why some resorts have fitness requirements. But they are hard to implement fairly and effectively. It's up to us as instructors to do a better job than what the requirements call for. It's harder for rookies because they don't know how much physical work beginner lessons can be and their mental energy drain actually increases through the season as their teaching skill improves. For most experienced instructors, there is always some amount of showing up to work early in the season and expecting to "ski into shape". The smart ones always arrive "fit" for duty beyond what the requirements call for. As a former trainer, I was usually asked to teach clinics all day starting right at day 1. Some years there was no opportunity for me to ski anywhere else before opening day to get my ski legs and many years or opening day was the next day after a 5 day pre season clinic at a different mountain. Being "over" weight for most of my "trainer" career I always entered the fall season terrified of that first impression look when the 20-somethings I was to teach saw that a fat old man was going to teach them (and it was even worse when I knew I couldn't cheat by getting on snow time ahead of time). That gave me the extra motivation to make sure that I was fit enough to outride my students on the first run (and blow away that first impression face) and drive them to their limits without finding mine. What took me years to realize was that this pre season effort to get into "shape" (despite still carrying extra pounds) helped to prevent injuries from happening throughout the rest of the season. What really drove the realization of how fragile the line between safety and injury can be was the 2 seasons when I changed my prescription glasses (from normal to progressive and from one type of progressive lens to another). Both seasons I had little falls and minor injuries because I was caught by terrain or conditions I could not see in my peripheral vision, yet was skiing with the same confidence as before when I could see those kinds of things. I have little falls every season (if you're not falling you're not learning, right?), but this was the first time I got hurt. All it took was one extra contributing factor to get me. These things did not happen until after the middle of the season. That's precisely when the "drag of the routine" starts to take effect and all of the staff starts to get just a little worn out. That's the one extra contributing factor.

 

This is a serious topic. It's a controversial topic. It's a nag. It is also an opportunity to learn and improve.

 

Thank you, it has been a great season and I can't wait to do it again.

 

When I said it's the most tired I've ever been I'm talking about at night when I get out of the shower and am chilling out in the hotel room.   I never get tired during the day and feel full of energy and when I get to free ski I'm off for a few runs and then back to line up I go always with a smile.   I get a good night's sleep and am back at it with tons of energy and excitement and do it all over again the next day.  .  

 

I hear you on every point you make.  I do feel it's important to be physically fit for this job because that's probably how I survived last season.  I consider myself physically fit and active.  I do pilates-mat and yoga, hike and work out a few times a week.   

post #11 of 13
Aspen/Snowmass does a test similar to Vail Fit to Ride. It is, in my opinion, a low threshold. It does scare some people (the ones who likely are out of shape) into doing some training over the summer.

It is amazing the amount of complaining that people do about the test. The bottom line is that while being in shape may not prevent an injury, it may limit the extent of it which is better for everyone.

If I paid $750 for an all day private, I really do not want some out of shape person showing up.

Aspen does support its employees by having free guided hikes, yoga programs, free fitness and nutritional counseling. I think this is great.

New employees have to do a more in depth functional movement assessment.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRusty View Post
 

My current resort lists fitness requirements in their job descriptions. My last resort had voluntary fitness guidelines (e.g. able to do 20 push ups) but you needed to say that you met the requirements as a condition of rehire. That was mostly paperwork, but they did use the "fitness rule" to try to stop someone from working through an injury.

 

As an ex-trainer at a resort with over 300 instructors, I've seen a ton of instructors who don't demonstrate effective movements (and been there myself often enough). The gross violators don't get invited back to teach the next season. Everyone else at least gets appropriate attention in clinics. Most of the worst know their problems and ask for extra help. The ones that don't ask sometimes got extra help "pushed" to them (e.g. hey - let's go ski).

 

Hey TheRusty, 

 

When you say you ski with them into effective movements, in which situations do you find this creates meaningful change? Is it when the skier has a technical issue, tactical, strength, or mobility (flexibility and balance) issue? (I have preconceptions here, so I want to hear your perspective.)

post #13 of 13

Oh Wow - me and my big mouth. I don't recall saying exactly "skiing with them into effective movements", but I can see where that is implied. You've come up with a good list to which I'd at least add mental and gear. Mental being at least attitude and awareness. Gear includes pros on gear that's holding back their progress and pros that need to experience different kinds of gear  to expand their horizons. To directly answer your question about meaningful change, I don't know. Most people I work with tell me I've helped. Some, I'm sure, we're only being kind. Sometimes progress is immediate and obvious, sometimes not. We've certainly had successes that have been a team effort and only meaningful after years of effort. We've certainly had our failures. The one common thread behind meaningful change is the skiers desire for change. I've been successful with a few stealth efforts to get some folks to improve, but I've also met folks I couldn't change with any of my tricks.

 

Every case is different. When I take on a "project" I have to get to know the skier and I never know where that will lead. Maybe a few stories can help explain.

 

"Evil Rusty" came about when I noticed one of our junior instructors doing the "intermediate plateau" thing. She was doing relatively great open parallel skidded turns. They were a little sloppy but perfectly suitable for safely navigating our intermediate terrain. There was obviously no awareness of the possibility to work the skis more on this terrain to gain the skills to perform efficiently on more advanced terrain. I could see that in her mind, because she could ski the advanced terrain, there was no need to get any better. Juniors typically don't get a lot of clinic time and I could see that she was headed for dead end skiing. So I took her out for a let's go ski session at the end of one day instead of just packing up to go home. After a fun (i.e. warm up) run, I asked her if she wanted a tip. When she said yes, I had her follow me for a series of short turns. I waited until she got synced up in an easy rhythm before I subtly reduced the skidding in the turns to slowly speed up without changing the turn shape or the rhythm. As soon as I could see that she had sensed she was falling behind and started to cheat to try to catch up I switched to very carved short turns and "leapt" way ahead of her, then stopped to let her catch up. After the third iteration of this with no feedback, she skied up to me and proclaimed "you'rrrrrrrrre eeeeeevil" (hence - evil rusty). She knew about edging and carving but she had no awareness that she had plateaued or what the next level of performance was and had no need to improve. But seeing that performance happen right in front of her and not being able to turn it on to keep up opened her eyes and motivated her. There may not have been meaningful change that season, but it was a least a meaningful first step. The Evil Rusty concept is useful when there is a mental block that is the primary thing holding back progress. You have to identify the mental block then design an exercise that will induce so much frustration/overemphasize the performance flaw/demonstrate an "impossible" task being accomplished with ease that the mental block simply explodes with an "aha" realization. Working around a mental block to chip away at it is usually preferred, but in rare cases extreme measures are called for.

 

Riding up the chair over our bump run, I often saw a couple of our older pros navigating the bump run methodically. These guys were feeding off each other and there was nothing "wrong" with their bump skiing other than it hurt to watch them because I knew their approach was a dead end and they could ski the bumps so much better,  Both of them had the same basic problem: they were wayyyy to slow and that caused them to do a lot more work than they needed to. Since I knew them both fairly well, I made it a personal goal to help them both if only to relieve my eyes. But I had to work with them separately. I was working with one of them one day (I offered "you want some help" and he said yes). We were working on turn mechanics when another trainer joined us, asked what we were working on, and politely offered us a better solution. My victim thanked him politely, said "he'd look into it, but wanted to continue what we were currently working on. After that guy left, my victim stopped and explained why he liked working with me better. The reason the better solution didn't work for him was because of a physical issue the guy was unable to fix. He hadn't told me about it before, but he could tell that I had guessed about the limitation and was giving him a workaround that was actually working for him. I had not consciously guessed about a physical limitation, but I could see the standard approach hadn't worked for him. I never did get this guy to go much faster in the bumps, but I did get him to shape his turns in the bumps a lot more and put a lot more pep into his groomed run skiing. That was meaningful enough change to make him a happier skier and meaningful enough for me to see his technical level bump up a bit. The other guy is a longer story. 

 

On one of the rare powder days at my home mountain, I came across one of our better instructors struggling in it. I gave him the "make your turns in slow motion" tip, let him follow me for a run and voila - problem solved. Sometimes you can make friends on a powder day. 

 

I can't tell you how many clinics I've taken out on rental gear. In the old days, the learning opportunity was just "Jeez - no wonder the students can't buy a turn". Lately, the super intense feedback the modern rentals have even doing beginner drills can be eye opening. But the opportunity to have fun runs and open these baby's up let's pros experience a playfulness that they can incorporate into their "regular" skiing. The feedback you can get from a 7M radius ski can induce a new intensity of movements on "regular" skis that would take a lot longer to happen otherwise. Personally, I learned a lot from a clinic where we did a few runs a 130m ski on one foot and our regular ski on the other.

 

The key thing I've found for being a trainer is to make yourself available. Be seen answering questions and others will be more willing to approach you with theirs. Take time to hang out at the end of the day instead of just taking off so more people can "run into you", Be willing to put your gear back on go out for an extra run. Follow up with your clinic "victims" to seek feedback on the things you've given them. Ask more questions when you teach. Let the questions do the teaching. When you take clinics, watch how the clinicians teach instead of just focusing on what they're teaching. Steal their best stuff. Lots of folks teach for the opportunity to get taught themselves. If you've done your homework, you ought to be able to help them with something. After all, if we can do it for our guests we can certainly do it for the staff. There aren't many mistakes I've seen out on the slopes that I haven't already done myself (over and over again).

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