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The Big Mac

post #1 of 111
Thread Starter 
A while back, I was driving with a friend to Salt Lake City on a ski trip, which is about a 7 hour drive, and we hadn't packed a lunch. Passing through Pocatello around noon, I asked, "Where do you want to eat?" He said, "McDonald's." I said, "McDonalds! I stopped eating at McD's when my kids outgrew the Happy Meal."

He said, "McDonald's may not be good, but I know what I’m getting. When I order a Big Mac, it'll be the exact duplicate of the Big Mac I get in Bozeman, and I know I won’t be hungry when we leave."

We went to McDonald's.

This story illustrates the Big Mac theory of human behavior, which is our tendency to stick with what we know, however poor the quality, rather than risk being disappointed by an unknown alternative. This is why our culture flocks to franchise restaurants in every category – ribs, chicken, fish, steak, etc. The food is never of the highest quality, but is 1) good enough and 2) filling.

The Big Mac theory explains why there are relatively few students of skiing beyond the intermediate levels. People at this level can ski, so their technique must be working. It follows that all they need to ski better is to put in more days on skis.

The fact is, you can get better at doing the wrong (that is, unnecessary) stuff, the more you do it, and it feels good and works for the most part. We become adept at our unique adaptation, our improvisation of what we perceive as the Good in observing other skiers. The problem arises when we are mistaken. Practicing to improve a misconception is not going to lead to better skiing, yet this is what most skiers relegate themselves to doing.

This is by way of saying that it’s not the length of their equipment that causes so many skiers to leave the sport, it’s the frustration that results when the growth curve—the exciting progress that hooked them in the beginning—stalls out.
post #2 of 111
I think Outback has pretty good food for a chain restaurant. Kookaburra wings are awesome.

But back to skiing.

Some people expect too much too soon. They want to ski the whole mountain the first day and not put the time in. Shorter skis allow people to explore more of the mountain at a lower skill level. Obviously they have to move up in length or they will be sideslipping harder terrain.

Is that a good thing? Probably not for them improving their skiing but if it keeps people on the hill then why not let them have fun.

Skiing is cold and expensive and if it is not fun for a first timer then they will not do it again. If they have fun the first few times then we can snag them and get them on better equipment and give them the proper instruction.

I loved skiing my first time out but it was a sunny day with packed powder conditions and I was on 130 skis. I went out the next day and bought boots and went skiing again a day later. I think I would have liked skiing regardless of those things but I know alot of people who would not have.

Do people really go from beginner to intermediates and then just stop skiing because they are frustrated? Would these people have been lifetime skiers anyway?
post #3 of 111
Good points, Nolo. I recall the "why does it fee bad" thread and I think
your explanation is right on point.
post #4 of 111
Nolo, did you get the fruit and yogurt parfait? mmmmm.

I thought it was the expense and inconveniece that caused people to quit skiing?
post #5 of 111
BINGO!! The "Big Mac Theory" is true for most of the stuff that people do. We do what is comfortable and stay away from what is uncomfortable.

When I was in 7th grade (1964) a friend invited me to go skiing with the school ski club. I put him off until my parents stepped in and said, "You are going." It took a while but I found out I loved it. Mom and Dad knew enough to open doors for me and sometimes throw me through them. Thank you Mom and Dad for making me go out in the cold, spend money, slide down hills, fall down, and eventually become a highly paid volunteer ski instructor. Hmm, maybe it was revenge for the stuff I did as a kid? :

Anyway, isn't our job as ski instructors to entice people out of their current comfort zones and find new comfort zones, all while improving their skiing experience? Heck, sliding down a hill is not a natural thing. Remember when you slide normally its a prelude to a fall. (Which happens all to much to me on the slope, but thats another matter. )

So, is it a matter of ski instructors and mountains learning how to package ski instuction as a "Big Mac?" To get the skiing public to start thinking that whenever they take a lesson it will be fun, exciting, their skiing will improve, and they will actually learn something.
post #6 of 111
I have a different view on the Big Mac theory. I often stop at fast food joint for three main reasons.....they are fast, they are consistent and they are inexpensive. Most people I know learned to ski in community ski programs or some similar format where you were ran through cookie cutter lessons for a relatively small price. Once they got done with their basic classes it became much more expensive to take further lessons, the results were often inconsistent and they didn't progress as fast. I think a feeling of not getting as much bang for their buck causes people to stop taking lessons more than them reaching a comfort zone.
post #7 of 111

My brother is a recovering Big Mac'er

My older brother got hooked on skiing last season. He had bad habits and had not taken any instruction from me or advice. (probably because I'm his younger brother)

After a bumpy start at Breck in April 2003 where he walked off the green on his 2nd day of a 3 day trip because he got tired and his flawed technique (throwing the shoulder then letting the lower body rotation that ensued down the chain (I know it's gross) that eventually resulted in turning forces) stopped working. He didn't even go skiing his 3rd day that trip but moped in the condo. At this stage of his skiing he would not take anyone's advice or instruction. I could go down the hills up thru blue fine. I had just started sking the month before and this was my 2nd ski trip. I am his little brother so he should/could do it and certainly wasn't going to take any advice from me.

After that first bad experience in breck, the next fall (2003) I took him to Holiday Valley where he skied with a high school teacher of ours that now is a prof at Grove City college. Our friend, 10 years older than us, old school, stein style on his first ever pair of shaped skis that very ski trip with us made an impact on my brother. Having skied for decades, our friend skied in an efforless style that made my Big Mac Bro realize, if this older friend can ski that well then maybe he could too. (Ott - your probably an inspiration or a depression for many - and I'm still looking forward to meeting up at Holiday Valley with you this season) My brother really got the bug and wanted to ski fast and in an effortless manner like our friend.

Step one in getting out of the Big Mac mold, is get a goal. Big Mac'er's don't care and don't have any type of performance goals for their sport. If they get any type of goal its big progress for them in getting out of their Big Mac mindset.

The second breakthru for my brother was when I started video taping him. I had suggested this many times to him so he could see and believe the shoulder throwing he was sure he wasn't doing. This occured mainly because it was his idea and he wanted to show his wife how good he was getting. He was at this stage the epitome of what Nolo was bringing up. He was getting moderatly successful in has use of bad technique. (like unedging his skis so the shoulder throwing made him turn easier (gag))

Well, when he saw his own video the contrast between what he thought he was doing vs what he was actually doing was stark. He actually asked for advice for the throwing the shoulder and he was interested in some home base drills and some carving to turn drills. (which prior to the video I would show him and encourage him to try, but he would have no part of it)

So, I propose that the Big Mac skier doesn't have any idea what their actual technique looks like. They think they are skiing like the good skiers around them yet wonder why they can't ski all day or day after day or can't do bumps, crud, etc. In my brother's case the video feedback has gotten him moving away from his Big Mac tendencies.

The progress he made even with the little bit of drills and direction has totally given him the bug. We took him to Perfect North, Holiday Valley and Nubs Nob again. He got boots with alignment this summer and is all excited about going to Breck to face the same green run he walked off on that first trip out. He has made so much progress he will probably have an interesting Deja Vu Not experience and wonder how he frustrated himself so much the first time.

So, Big Macers out there, there is hope.

Get a goal

Do Video feedback

(which are good advice for anyone big mac'er's or not)

P.S. of course the Big Mac type of skier will not be the type to sign up to a forum to improve their skiing, but just in case one is lurking there I hope this helps or if you have friends - the "lets show our significant gal friend how well your sking" video idea can be a real wake up call for this type of skier.
post #8 of 111
Yep Nolo - people just plain do not want to work at learning to ski....

Remember Maccas understands that placing an extra maccas on the opposite side of the highway pretty much doubles the customers - YES - people are too lazy to turn to the other side - so they stop where it is easy..... This is our society's idea of how life is....

I am still amazed at how many people ask me WHY I bother to have lessons.... I still find the learning exhilarating.... the unlocking of the 'how' is still a huge lure even now when the gains are so much smaller & farther apart.... I find it hard to understand why peopel ask me why.... I find it even harder to understand why people are content to ski BADLY.... and so many are.... even harder to understand is why people want to run down those who wish to improve....

It does seem though that as a society we are content with 'good enough' and crave 'instant fix' ..... look at the diet plans etc that are sold & 'liver cleansers' etc.... - what happened to "eat well & get some exercise" as a program?
post #9 of 111
I want to be wealthy enough to afford all this learning. It's not easy if you have Anything else going on in your life, and you don't have the unlimited funds.

Rio has it nailed for the majority, I think. Those people don't hang out here anyway, so we won't hear from them.

Skiing is expensive. It's even worse in the East, where a lift ticket to a resort with lots of terrain can reach $70. I don't know about the rest of you, but for the average joe, that's a bundle.

I heard the Tune Up will cost approximately $330 this year for 2 days. For both of us to attend, with room and food, gas, etc, it will be close to $1,000 for the weekend.

I think that's out of control. I may have to stop doing that, too.
post #10 of 111
Nolo, I think that this is a pretty amusing analogy, and most people have some area where predictability, a known factor, and low (or at least reasonable) cost are going to be sufficient (mine would not be food or skiing, but clothing). I've found two places where I can get outstanding ski instruction -- French Laundry restaurant ski instruction for fine dining prices (and ESA is one of them).

The problem is that there is one more advantage to McD's: ubiquity.

I can only get to my special ski clinics once a year.
post #11 of 111
Maybe ski schools should stop selling Big Macs.
post #12 of 111
And 5 star meals.
post #13 of 111
Thread Starter 

Why intermediates are the hole in the bucket

Intermediate level skiers comprise 77% of the 9.1 million people who ski in the United States. However strong in numbers, intermediate skiers are a bit like the unnoticed middle child in a family, their loyalty taken for granted, their progress assumed. How many intermediates drop out in quiet desperation at their lack of progress is arguable, but the fact remains that the skiing population has stayed constant while the number of novice and beginner skiers is trending upward, so the industry is losing as many participants as it brings in. We are reasonably certain that the advanced/experts who make up the “committed core” of skiers are not contributing to that loss except through natural causes. Therefore, the majority of the dropouts are intermediate level skiers.
post #14 of 111
Thread Starter 
What would cause my friend to drive by McDonald's in search of something better for lunch?

Related question: given that a certain number of intermediates drop out of the sport and a certain number stay, what causes them to stay?
post #15 of 111
What would cause my friend to drive by McDonald's in search of something better for lunch?
A really good restaurant review from someone he either trusts or knows.

In short, knowing what to expect in some way. I think people are willing to spend more than at McDonald's, but not for food that is only about as good as McDonald's. And how do you know what you'll get?

given that a certain number of intermediates drop out of the sport and a certain number stay, what causes them to stay?
I'm an intermediate who's sticking around. I can only speak for myself, but I simply know that I haven't achieved everything I'd like to with my skiing. I enjoy it, and I can better. I'm also lucky enough that I have someone to ski with, and I can afford to ski.
post #16 of 111
Big Mac skiing sounds terribly boring. I can't see Big Mac instruction being interesting either. Big Mac's are for when you can't get real food.

Skiing ONLY grooomed trails forever, which is what your terminal intermediate is faced with each time they go to the hill, can get dull real fast. Especially if you have no idea what you are doing.

Intermediates don't quit from frustration, but from boredom, fueled by a remarkable inability to reach the higher level. Why not? Ignorance. These folks don't know what they are supposed to learn, yet many are conviced it's not possible.

So that's the first hurdle ( what is skiing?) and I think T-Square nailed the problem: sliding is normally a precursor to a fall. Unless you can change their whole way of thinking about sliding, acquiring skiiing skills is impossible. Their focus will remain on stopping/braking and all things except sliding. Which just means the focus is on NOT skiing. Gee, I can do that easily at home....or at the bar in the lodge....

I see many students seeking out instruction that will make them better in the same was as going to church will make them better. They forget it's not enough to go, you have to work to become better outside the church/lesson too. But what they are told can be really boring, the point can be lost, so it's easy to forget.

I would place the faults at both the students and instructor misunderstanding what a lesson is supposed to do. These are the instructors that provide the Big Mac instead of real food, and students that think attending is enough. A lose-lose situtation. Let's face it, the student will expect that attending is good enough.

How to fix it? A student must feel that after any lesson, they ski better.

Whether it's a change of intent/attitude/confidence or movement, it does not matter. For it to be sufficient just "to go" to lessons, the student must sense beyond a shadow of a doubt that the lesson has made a change for the better. That way they will be willing to continue skiing like that. Otherwise, they will never "practice at home" or take another lesson, and eventually get bored skiing the same old groomers.
post #17 of 111
Thread Starter 
Thank you, Delta, for giving us a great answer: you are one intermediate who will stick around because you haven't achieved everything you'd like to with your skiing. You know you can do better. Same here. I always drive home with thoughts of what I could do better next time. The people who believe they haven't had their best day of skiing yet are not going to give it up--willingly anyway.

BigE, I agree, boredom can drive a person to try an unfamiliar option. Delta, I agree that relying on trusted word of mouth is how most of us actually try new things like restaurants and ski clinics. But I still think frustration is what leads to surrender--either to never ski again or to the effort and expense of getting better.

*Certainly there is a significant group of perennial intermediate skiers who do not become frustrated, so do not feel compelled "get better or get out." This group includes senior skiers who once were experts but whose athletic limitations have made them downshift in skiing ability.
post #18 of 111
the annual quest for "more growth," eh nolo?

honestly, the "Big Mac" explains a lot. it explains Rio's perspective, Nolo's friend's perspective, and certainly McDonalds' perspective.

I've said this before and I think this new thread is a similar inquiry to threads where I've said it before, so here it is again...

VERY FEW people are passionate about ANYTHING.

even fewer are passionate about their jobs.

even fewer about their hobbies.

so we start with a huge "passion deficit" and most folks are by nature lazy, searching for regularity and dependability. "good enough" is good enough for most.

you cannot create passion. it is innate, and must be cultivated. like with barren soil, sometimes the cultivation yields nothing.

cultivators take that risk.

the cultivated? well, if they're not passionate about improvement, GOOD LUCK.

I don't think you can create passionate skiers any more than you can change all Americans into intelligent, thoughtful people who vote based on facts and logic.
post #19 of 111
Or who vote. Oh dear... passion again.

Actually, I slightly disagree with gonz. I actually think that almost all people are passionate about something, but all those things are different.

As I said earlier, I'd take the time to find good ski instruction -- and better food! -- but the clothing equivalent of a Big Mac is good enough for me.

Even if I won a million dollars, I wouldn't buy a new luxury car; on the other hand, what I spend on books and theatre -- and yes, skiing -- every year would probably perplex many people.

But I do agree with where I think gonzostrike was headed, in that for some people, for certain things, a Big Mac is really good enough.
post #20 of 111
Passion is the key and it must be cultivated. As ski instuctors/coaches we have to exude that passion both to our clients and the other snowsports pros around us.

My best "lessons" have been improptue affairs. I call them nickel ski lessons. Those where you come upon a skier/skiers in over their heads and scared. After getting them out of trouble and where they feel safe I ask if they have taken a lesson. Normally the answer is, "Not recently." If they are willing, I do a quick MA on them and give them something to try. Most often it improves their skiing so they feel more confident. I leave them with, "See how that works. Why don't you go down and sign up for a lesson. Think what an hour or so with an instructor could do for you." The normal response is, "Yeh, we'll give it a try."

This is one way to get over the "Big Mac" ski instruction. But it takes commitment/passion on the part of the ski instructor.

Another way to get this going is to have a "Wooden Nickel" ski instruction day at a mountain. Give everyone who buys a ticket a wooden nickel. They can give it to a ski instructor on the hill for a one-run or half-run improvement lesson. It would get the public's intrest up in taking lessons. Of course it will take commitment on the part of both the ski resort running it and the instructors out on the hill. However, it would show the skiing public that the mountain cares about them and their enjoyment of the sport.
post #21 of 111
Thread Starter 
the annual quest for "more growth," eh nolo?
How many entendres can Gonzo get to dance on the head of a pin?

I'm an intermediate golfer who surrendered last week. I said, "I am powerless to improve my game by myself. I need professional help."

I had a one hour lesson that completely turned me around, reignited my passion for golf, and gave me real (not false) hope of getting better. My instructor deserves a hand of applause for her work, but I think the real contributor to change was me. I gave up my resistance and did exactly as she suggested, even though it intuitively felt like the wrong thing to do. Everything I did improved the flight of the ball, the ease of the stroke, etc. I left the lesson with a sense of incredible well-being and self-confidence--what I interpreted as happiness.
post #22 of 111
Thread Starter 

Good luck getting the ski area/school/instructors to do pro bono work.

Actually, that's a great way to build a clientele...so self-interest might motivate good works,
post #23 of 111
I think there are plenty of people who are happy with a Big Mac and a certain level of skiing. For some people, it is a week every year or less that they spend with their friends, families, etc. and they are happy to be out on the mountain taking a few runs and then hitting the shops, hot tub or bars.
They are content with skiing the way they are skiing and are happy to eat a Big Mac for lunch or dinner no matter what city they are in.

If those people have no desire to eat differently or ski differently, no one can force them to change. People can expose the Big Mac people to new foods and new skiing techniques and this will make the difference for those who have some spark inside.
post #24 of 111
I've had some good instruction at the ESA and ETU these past 2 years, but now it's time to log miles, miles, miles.

Sometimes, you have to just do it.

Sometimes, people on this board think that if you're not taking lessons, you're not passionate about skiing.

How completely far from the truth is that? People who never take lessons are passionate about their sport, hobby, etc.

Kayak lessons? Bicycle lessons? Hiking lessons? Skiing is just another hobby. Some just like to excel beyond normal. Good for them. To say people are "lesser" skiers because they don't live on lessons is ludicrous. (This is the assumption given : that Big Mac's are supposedly awful food.):
post #25 of 111
>>>>Certainly there is a significant group of perennial intermediate skiers who do not become frustrated, so do not feel compelled "get better or get out." This group includes senior skiers who once were experts but whose athletic limitations have made them downshift in skiing ability.<<<<

This is quite an insight, nolo. As a recreational skier who was passionate enough to become an instructor because skiers kept coming up to me asking 'how do you do that, how do you do this?' I felt teaching was mandatory for me because witholding knowledge is a sin. Naturally, I had to learn how to teach, but I think my excitement ,read passion, when I was teaching did as much to want my students to keep skiing as WHAT I taught.

Now as to the intermediate thing. Save for a broken leg in Switzerland in the Spring of 1970 and a stove thumb, I managed to rip the mountains before grooming was commonplace without disabeling injury (the leg healed fine during the Summer).

Now I have regressed by choice to intermediate level because after age 72 a hard fall or misjudgement of some kind could end my skiing days forever, and that would kill me.

Ann and I are contend to play the mountain and stay away from places where we would have to work the mountain.

Why the intermediate skiers I know have given up, or just ski ocassionally is mostly cost. My best friend, who owns an insurance agency, used to take his wife and two kids to Snowmass every year since it opened staying in the Mountain Chalet for a week with ski lessons for a week for all, and he hasn't skied but once in five years and that was last season for one day with his teeage daughter.

He told me after checking the prices that a week at Snowmass now would cost him twice as much as docking his 36ft Catalina sailboat at the exclusive marina where he is now FOR THE WHOLE YEAR.

Costwise. a week in Aspen or six month on Lake Erie just don't compare.

post #26 of 111
To get back to original question, I think ski instruction needs a Big Mac. Think about it: a reliable product that meets the immediate needs of most consumers, always the same with no confusing variations, delivered by low-wage workers who are indoctrinated into the specifics of delivering the product but who may lack real depth and breadth of knowledge. That sounds a lot like PMTS (except for the low wage part which PSIA has perfected).

post #27 of 111
Originally Posted by nolo
I'm an intermediate golfer who surrendered last week. I said, "I am powerless to improve my game by myself. I need professional help."

I had a one hour lesson that completely turned me around, reignited my passion for golf, and gave me real (not false) hope of getting better. My instructor deserves a hand of applause for her work, but I think the real contributor to change was me. I gave up my resistance and did exactly as she suggested, even though it intuitively felt like the wrong thing to do. Everything I did improved the flight of the ball, the ease of the stroke, etc. I left the lesson with a sense of incredible well-being and self-confidence--what I interpreted as happiness.
Ah, this begs a question(s)-not just for your golf swing but for a better understanding of the instructor/student/learning relationship-in whatever sport:

What did your instructor change?

Your understanding of golf mechanics? A substantial portion of what the average golfer assumes to be correct is in fact incorrect. Is skiing the same?

Your actual mechanics? Golf is interesting in that two wrongs can offset each other producing a reasonable shot but raising the question what happens if one of the "wrongs" goes away. Or did she make some fundamental yet simple changes? 80% of what goes wrong with a golf swing occurs before you ever begin your backswing. Is skiing similar? Are we "dead" before we begin a turn? Not that I really want to open that can of worms on beginning and ending turns.

The psychology of hitting a golf shot? Sometimes golfers worry more about the outcome of a shot in lieu of focusing on making a good swing. Usually that is a recipe for disaster. The poor golfer sees the lake, the good golfer sees the target. Does this translate to skiing?

How does sucess ingnite passion? Can fear ingnite passion (or deeper concentration)?

Almost sounds like GCT doesn't it?

Does quality sports instruction transcend the sport? Would your golf instructor be just as good teaching another sport (assuming the technical skills were there)? If so, why.

I found your lesson story provocative because today I took all the ladies of our womens golf association who won an event during the season to another course for our annual "Tournament of Champions". I played with two ladies, one who never practices and another who takes lessons and practices relentlessly. They both are similar in ability (and in need of fundamental help) and wound up with almost identical scores. It was fascinating watching the psychologal approaches of each because unlike skiing, I (or most golf pros) rarely teach where we play, we have ranges and lesson tees. "Never practices" was happy, just enjoying being a participant in the event. While with "always practicing", she was just grinding, dying over every shot. Winning was eveything, even to the point I finally had to warn her not to ask me any more questions or seek my advice (my responsibility is to protect the field and she was close to violating Rule 8 on asking advice from a non partner). Are skiers the same in approach and how does it impact their learning?

And the last question-how are you going to take what you learned to the course?

It's Ryder Cup week-I'm pulling for Team USA to bring the Cup home-by the smallest of margins, 1/2 point. It is fun to see the lonely, individual competition of golf changed to a team game. I can't imagine the pressure of representing your country.
post #28 of 111
I don't think skiing is any different from any other sport. Since mikewil checked in I considered golf.

Go to any course public or private. How many golfers take lessons beyond the introductory phase.

If my memory serves me correctly the average handicap index is aroun 19. Sample that group and you'll find a tiny percentage who take even one lesson per annum.

They'll subscribe to a magazine, watch the golf channel, buy some swing aid and/or perhaps pick up a new video but they won't book an hour with their local PGA professional.

Oh.....i almost forgot......they'll buy this years newest driver in search of that elusive extra yard.
post #29 of 111
Nolo, I never said it was all pro-bono work. Yes, the helping out of guests in extremis is a freebee. However, I consider that just a part of Guest services and part of being a professional.

Now the "Wooden Nickel" ski lessons would be for pay. The number of nickels you turn in at the end of the day would be proportional to the amount you earn that day. I imagine that this type of event would occur on a slow day and maybe once a season. Just enough to pique interest and show the benefit of taking lessons. Flood the hill with instructors and have them mingle with the guests. Good, outgoing instructors would benefit from this type of event.

Mikewil, yes, good instructors transcend the subject that they teach/coach. (This applies to all facets of teaching not just sports.) A good teacher understands his subject and can bring the best out of his students through teaching, coaching, and mentoring. The best teachers can even coach their students beyond what even the teacher can do. (For many years the swimming coach at West Point had winning teams. He couldn't swim a stroke himself, but he understood it and could coach others. Hard to believe, but true.)
post #30 of 111
First of all, I like Big Macs.

That being said, I hate to admit it, but I have to agree with Gonzo. (Though I'm not a big fan of the word passion.) I was an intermediate for a long time. I kept skiing because I loved it and was determined to get better. I challenged myself. I fell. I was cold, wet, sore, exhausted. I didn't take lessons.

Like a lot of my friends and skiing buddies, I learned by skiing with better skiers and just by observing better skiers and trying to follow thier lines, mimic their movements. What I'm trying to say here is it's not about the instruction - it's about the individual. You either want it and are willing to put in the miles and feel the pain...or you dont.

Yeah maybe, probably, I would have learned faster with lessons, but you aren't going to get from i to e without the "p" word.

I like Whoppers too.
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