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Intermediate and upper level lessons in sport

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
This is a follow-on to the BigMac thread, which is probably about to hit it's 4th page.

Although a lot of us instructors here claim that few skiers above the intermediate level take lessons, I don't know that I see this as abnormal.

Talking in recreational terms (not at a competative level), are there other sports where a significant portion (greater than say 10-20%) of advanced and expert level participants regularly take lessons? In golf, do <10 handicappers take many lessons? Do bowlers with an average >200 take lessons? Do good sailors take lessons? Mountain bikers? Water skiers?

I'm sure golf would be the best case for an example, because in in recreational golf, it's still always competative because you (almost) always keep score (I soometimes don't carry a score card). But even there, where there is always a competition/score, do more than 10% of them with even an 18 HC or better take a lesson more than once a year? My guess is no. I would bet that skiing has done better than any other sport at getting people who are already good enough to enjoy themselves, to take lessons. I don't think there is a single golf course in the world that could employ more than 10 golf pros at a time, much less a couple of hundred. I think that most have 1-3.

This is probably due to the perceived safety risk that skiing has, as well as people wanting to venture into areas of the mountain that they don't feel comfortable with, as well as ever changing conditions.

I guess it doesn't hurt to look this gift horse in the mouth and try to figure out ways to get people to take more lessons, or does it? Do we, the main advocates of skiing, turn off the general public, by emphasizing that you *must* get better, thereby making them feel as if they need to decide between regular lessons + new equipment, etc., and just quitting alltogether and attending all of the Creative Memories parties in their neighborhood next winter?
post #2 of 27
I certainly don't feel that ski instructors (at least not any of those with whom I've skied) turn off the general public. But I think there are several reasons why more intermediates don't take lessons. I'm not sure standard group lessons are as effective after skiers reach a certain, relatively low, plateau. As skiers progress, I think it becomes increasingly difficult to find coaching that is a good match to the skier. I basically suck as a skier but still find that some instructors just don't seem to be able to help much (others we've learned tons from). Costs of private or semi-private lessons, when added to the other costs of skiing, can be prohibitive. I'm also not sure the format of most lessons (1.5 hours or so) is going to help intermediates a whole bunch. And, some folks really don't care about getting better as long as they can cruise around the mountain safely, enjoy the scenery, and the experience, they're happy. I think the golf analogy is good. I do know of many single digits and low teen handicappers who take lessons, I even know of a +2 who works with a coach at least once a week. Just as with skiing, I find it difficult to find golf instructors who I think can make a difference. And just as with skiing, lots of golfers are just there for the experience and don't really care about getting better. FWIW, I'd really like to find a ski coach at a relatively local area with whom we could work with on a semi regular basis.
post #3 of 27
I agree that is difficult to find lessons which match the skier. Maybe the definition of lesson is the problem. Once you learn how to do something, getting better is a matter of practice. The intermediate level needs lots of practive, miles of ski time. This is when "pointers" are more appropriate than lessons, especially to keep bad habits from becoming practiced. There are also other methods of improvement, I can say that signing up for the beer league racing team really improved my skiing. Another factor that falls into self help improvement is to borrow from the old adage "my best teachers have been my students". Nothing like teaching, or learning to teach someone else to improve your own skills. Borrow the neighbors kids for an afternoon. Take them skiing, and it may cost you the same as a lesson.
post #4 of 27

There's an obvious answer to that

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnH
Although a lot of us instructors here claim that few skiers above the intermediate level take lessons, I don't know that I see this as abnormal.
As a beginning skier working hard to improve (I'm in my 2nd season), an intermediate skier is not sking a lot different from many of the ski instructors out there. Many of these instructors, even if they go all mountain, may themselves have locked in bad habits that they have compensated for. So, in order for an intermediate skier to want to take more lessons:

1. The intermediate student must be more and more selective about their coaches - they just can't sign up anymore and take whatever ski instructor is assigned to them. Rusty brought this up when he suggested finding a mentor type coach where you take lessons from the same person over and over again.

2. They must find the resources to connect with such a coach. Most ski schools have their better teaching pros but how does a student know whom to ask for that would be really good and utilize their training time and dollars efficiently.

3. The normal bang for the buck starts to dimish as a skier progresses. The typical student does not have as many eureka moments as their sking improves and thus the cost per improvment goes up. Mileage starts to give the same level of improvement as lessons. If this happens most students will simply opt for mileage as the more cost effective solution. Once again, they may not be aware of the effectiveness of better coaching - theres that word again. There is a point where ski-instruction moves from "instruction" to "coaching". Instruction tells a student how to do something. Coaching is where the student knows how to do somethng but benefits from the external eye removing error in technique. Once a student reaches the Coaching phase, they may well not see the benefit of lessons like they had.


For number 2 above forums such as this are a great resource as people can get testimonials and individualized referrals.

I think the camp format is also great for an intermediate skier to continue their ski education.

But the everyday intermediate who just calls the resort and schedules another lesson starts seeing less return for their dollar as they go and thus just decides to self coach at that point. They are not aware of what coach/student oppurtunities still exist for their improvment in many cases.
post #5 of 27
Harald Harb claims that his Carvers provide such good feedback that using them regularly will result in more improvement than either skiing mileage or ski lessons. A bold claim to be sure, but if it's true, it could be a very economical way for intermediates and up to improve.
post #6 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by MilesB
Harald Harb claims that his Carvers provide such good feedback that using them regularly will result in more improvement than either skiing mileage or ski lessons. A bold claim to be sure, but if it's true, it could be a very economical way for intermediates and up to improve.
I built my own pair at home -- it was very time consuming, needed a drill press and I strongly suggest you consider buying from HH instead. I'm sure they are safer than mine.....

All comments here are with respect to MY version, not the HH version, which I would suspect would be much better. Mine have stiffer wheels.

The DIY version has shown up some interesting "problems" with my "skiing". I don't know if it is the DIY carver that needs to be used differently, or if my skiing sucks. I suspect that it is a bit of both. These carvers do NOT admit to any direct rotary input. If you are used to applying rotary to get the shovels to bite more, or to otherwise steer the skis, you will be shocked to find that such a movement is just not possible. This means that it took awhile to unlearn the application of direct rotary at turn initiation -- is that a good thing or not?

OTOH, this means that you are carving a clean trail without direct rotary movements. This should mean that the tails of my skis won't wash one bit.....I hope.

It took several short 20 minute sessions to get the carve going on a very flat space. Then I took them to a short "hill", where they were easier to turn. At first I could only do GS style turns. Two more 20 minute sessions on the gentle slope transpired.

Then, after realizing that they wanted me to incline and then apply strong hip angulation,(reach with the legs) I could whip off short radius turns. The turns all seemed to be the same radius -- no doubt the effect of the same angulation and same flex of the wheels. So different turn radius means different edge angles and different wheel flex. Excellent! Just like skiing!

Unless I was on a reasonably sloped hill, they were quite difficult to turn. Speed is a requirement to get a decent unweighting. I took them to a much steeper pitch -- similar to a blue run. Here the short radius fall line turns were much much easier, and I could change the turn radius. So the edging skills at work are real. Inlines are way different, as getting "on edge" is trivial -- like skating NOT skiing. Another point for the carvers.

I also found that the boot stiffness could lead to back seat skiing, especially if you are trying to learn on the flats -- eg. take a few strides and then carve a couple turns. Speed is critical to the usage of MY carvers.

I don't use them so much anymore because it is truly a pain to ski skate uphill for the next run. Yes, going uphill is a good workout, but that starts to mentally dominate the activity -- If I had a car to pick me up at the bottom, or tow me back up I'd do it every day! I did come to prefer using inlines since they skate uphill better. I'd really prefer to use MY carvers than inlines, as all other aspects are far better.

That's my 2 cents.

Added: If I were to do it again, I'd buy the carvers. Either the mid or top end model. I really enjoyed using mine, and am sure I'd prefer to use the real McCoy. I do think that while HH's expectations of how fast you can learn are bold, but they may not be all that far off. I am certain that they have taught me quite a few new tricks, and I think they'd be a great learning tool for teenagers!
post #7 of 27
John,

The NSAA model for growth puts more emphasis on improving the quality of the lesson experience vs pushing more lessons. Although there is heavy focus on improving the first timer experience, there is also recognition of the need for moving beginners to the intermediate stage in order to keep them in the sport long term. Noticeably absent is recognition of any "need" to move/improve moving intermediates to the advanced stage. Although I think we can do better here, I don't think it would make nearly as much impact on the sport as improvement in the areas highlighted by NSAA.

At the 2003 National Academy (PSIA), it was apparent that the demo team had been thinking a lot about coaching. There was one elective session dedicated to the topic of the differences between coaching and teaching. They also talked about how their coaching pitch at Interski was well received.

In general, I think we have a chicken and egg problem here. Instructors are not going to get good at coaching (vs teaching) without practice. The demand is not going to happen until the product gets good. However, we tend to forget that coaching has been around for a long time. It used to be called the "ski week". A few resorts (e.g. Taos) still do a fairly good business doing ski weeks. Over the last few years, a number of ski camps have opened up. And in my travels, I've run across one or two ex-competitive skiers who are doing private coaching. So while there has been some growth in the coaching business, it's nowhere near enough to support a mass market like ski weeks used to be.

For those of you who think that the cost is the main problem behind coaching, I'm willing to make a bet. Whitetail, Liberty and Roundtop (Pennsylvania) are offering free lessons before Xmas. I'll bet that upper level lessons (let's say level 5 and above) at Whitetail are not more than 50% over last season. Although I'll have access to the numbers when we open up, I'd guess that we maybe did 1 or 2 dozen such lessons last year before xmas. We usually do over 50,000 lessons per season. There are over 6 million people living within a 2 hour drive of these resorts. If cost was the main problem, one would think that we'd see more than 3 dozen advanced skiers taking a free lesson. I talked with the guy who approved this idea. He said he had no idea what was going to happen. It is simply an experiment.
post #8 of 27
My greatest fear of taking lessons and clinics is that I will be the slow stupid foolish klutz of the group--the chicken, the girlie girl, the wimp-- have been made to feel like all of the above-- and I AM a pro myself! I think most pros underestimate how intimidating they seem to novice/intermediates. A lot of people are just very shy.

Also, lot of pros don't by into student-centered learning and just keep doing the same thing they've always done.
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by denyadog
My greatest fear of taking lessons and clinics is that I will be the slow stupid foolish klutz of the group--the chicken, the girlie girl, the wimp-- have been made to feel like all of the above-- and I AM a pro myself! I think most pros underestimate how intimidating they seem to novice/intermediates. A lot of people are just very shy.

Also, lot of pros don't by into student-centered learning and just keep doing the same thing they've always done.
We're pretty new to skiing and went to ETU last year -- I was aprehensive that I'd be the stupid foolish klutz of the group. Well, I was but nobody made me feel that way. Indeed, I felt pretty welcomed and learned so much. I've never had an instructor who made me feel like I was such a klutz I wasn't worthy of their time -- they may exist but I've not run into one yet. Indeed, I've found all of the folks from whom I've taken lessons to be very encouraging. That said, I've had a couple of lessons from which I've walked away feeling like I didn't learn anything. As for the last part, lots of folks just keep doing the same thing they've always done.
post #10 of 27
Speaking of golf and ski lessons, why is it golf school is something advanced golfers do, and ski school is something beginners do?
post #11 of 27
nolo,

How about ski instructors? Many of them are advanced skiers and get coaching frequently, right?

I guess for that matter, what defines an 'advanced skier' (as a distinction from the intermediates that other threads are discussing) and how big is that population outside of the instructor ranks?
post #12 of 27
At places like Bridger Bowl, the pool of advanced skiers (including the most advanced, the righteous) is like the ocean and the pool of instructors is like a tidepool.

No one takes lessons and pursues coaching like the pros--be it golf or skiing.
post #13 of 27
How did that ocean of advanced skiers get there if intermediate and advanced skiers do not partake in coaching?
post #14 of 27
John,

I think the answer lies in the question "why do people ski?"... if the goal is to have a fun vacation or to enjoy a hobby then the emphasis is likely NOT to be on improvement. In fact, the occaisional skiers tend to view ski school as the "babysitter" of kids or friends who can't ski well.

How many skiers consider skiing a sport? I bet it's on par (no pun!) with those who take lessons at advanced levels - those who strive to improve and are willing to invest (time, lessons, gear) in their pursuit of improvements.

As for the "coaching" comments... "coaching" implies a relationship (of sorts) between the coacher and coachee. IMHO it's next to impossible to do in a 1-2 hour lesson. yet, being coached can be immensely satisfying for a learner.

kiersten
post #15 of 27
It was pointed out to me that another "point" in this thread is about how one can encourage intermediate skiers to improve.

I personally think it's rare to find anyone who's passion for a sport is so infectious that it inspires you to improve. The desire to improve (most times) comes from within.

kiersten
post #16 of 27
Perhaps one of the reasons is the opportunity cost of lessons. I ride my road bike or mtn bike perhaps 200 times a year. I ski maybe 25 times/yr. A ski lesson, due to its' on-the-mountain experiential nature, means I basically forgo a half day or entire day (2-4% of my annual skiing) of freedom on the mtn in exchange for the hope that I learn something that will improve my skiing in future. I can work with a cycling coach from my telephone or computer, with perhaps a visit up front to meet, ride together once for some feedback and get a proper fitting. Doesn't interfere with my bike ride.

And skiing is largely a social sport, so you've got to convince the whole crew to take a lesson, break up the crew while someone takes a lesson or just go solo that day.

Someone made the point above that skiing isn't a measured sport. Qualitative vs. quantitative, so you're probably not going to see the obsession on performance that you get in other measured sports. Maybe the penetration of coaching/lessons is high among amateur ski racers & more comparable to other sports.

Coaching in other sports: Cycling

I used to race bicycles until the early 1990's, and the formalized institution of coaching was rare at that time except among elite cyclists. Now it seems to be much more prevalent. I know a bunch of masters cyclists (with money but little time) who use a coach to max performance. I have no idea what proportion of masters cyclists at say, the Cat 1/2/3 level have coaches, but it is much more common than it was 15 years ago. Perhaps it is more important among advanced cyclists/runners/triathletes/endurance athletes than skiers because endurance sports may be more amenable to distance coaching (through coaching software, sharing performance data from heart rate monitors and power meters over the internet, low-cost conf call/chat/email communications, etc.) than cycling, but shows that the demand is there as you progress up the skill/commitment level in some sports activities. Look at Carmichael Training Systems (founded by Lance's coach) - monthly dues run from $49 to $499 for their web-based coaching programs. I don't know how many athletes they have, but must be significant. There are a number of similar coaching services (Joe Friel, etc.).
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by cgeib
How did that ocean of advanced skiers get there if intermediate and advanced skiers do not partake in coaching?
Bidger being a local hill, it is from Ski PE (5 days a week) which most schools within 100 miles participate in, from our great weekend kids programs which start at age 4 (very affordable), from our MSU programs (5 days a week over nine weeks, and cheap), our womens and mens programs for those that can get away, and finally because our mountain demands it if you want to really ski everywhere.

We have a tradition and culture of skiing in our area with few equals anywhere, and our area attracts good skiers like a magnet. If you talk to many of the locals that grew up skiing here, you will find that most came through one program or another. After that the mountain is happy to provide the motivation. Later, RicB.
post #18 of 27
What Ric said. Exactly.

That and Bridger being a mecca for good skiers from elsewhere.
post #19 of 27
Tennis is another sport that comes to mind where even very advanced players take regular tune up clinics and attend tune up camps.
post #20 of 27
My experience is different from most people, in that I'm an adult recreational racer and I expect to improve every year. So last year I attended a racing camp, a racing clinic, and a semi-private lesson (with another ski racer), and some Masters drop-in gate training. Our league requires a speed training day (with lots of instruction) as a prerequisite to participating in the annual Super-G race, for safety and skier comfortability reasons.

So, even though I'm a strong skier, last year I got about 14 days of lessons/coaching/instruction. This year, I'll probably get at least 8 days of coaching or instruction. (More, if I can really get up to the mountain for Masters drop-in training.)

For me, cost isn't the issue, since skiing is already expensive, and I feel I get very good value for gate training experience and instruction: Compared to $100 of high-fluoro overlay, learning to carve a little cleaner or get a little more forward at turn initiation is a much better investment, even in speed events.
Quality of instruction isn't the issue either: I know what I want, and I know where I can go to get specific instruction on doing what I do better. Great training is available--the Tichys, two of whom are in the top 15 slalom racers in North America, run racing camps every year (a great camp, and great people), and there is a choice around here of daily drop-in masters training at Sugar Bowl, Alpine Meadows, and Northstar.

I think the key issue with advanced lessons is student motivation: Most skiers are reasonably happy with the plateau where they're skiing, and many of us (most of the guys anyway) are much better skiers in our minds than we actually are on the hill. Except for racers, skiers don't really keep track of their handicap like golfers do, and so have some difficulty seeing a clear goal and that a lesson is the best way to achieve that goal. Taking a lesson requires an admission that you aren't skiing the way you want to and a commitment to ski better. Any significant change also necessitates moving out of our comfort zone.

I'm motivated to get instruction and to improve my skiing, because I want to be faster, and I have specific goals. (Improve by one class in league racing, place in all my league races, finish in the top 5 at NASTAR nationals in my age group, etc.) I also get relatively instant feedback for improvements because I see it in the gates and the time results. I also have a more specific awareness than most skiers of the big room for further improvement. (I have a neat side-by-side video of Bode Miller and I skiing the same GS course. He does it better.)

IMHO, most people who ski 10-15 days a year could use a lesson, but with shaped skis and better boots, the average skier today is much better than the average skier was 15 years ago. And many 15-day a year skiers want to spend that scarce ski time hanging out with family and friends. For many of them, skiing is challenging and scary enough without doing a lesson that changes the way they ski and pushes them out of their comfort zone.

My 2 cents.
post #21 of 27
One more thing--in golf and tennis, you keep score, (and in golf you often bet.) Joan or John Q. Public often take lessons because they want to wipe that superior smile off the face of their weekly opponent (or win back last weekend's $20 bet.)

You might see more skiers take advanced and intermediate lessons if more of us ran NASTAR against our siblings (that works for my brother and me) or participated in heavily promoted local fun races.
post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty

At the 2003 National Academy (PSIA), it was apparent that the demo team had been thinking a lot about coaching. There was one elective session dedicated to the topic of the differences between coaching and teaching. They also talked about how their coaching pitch at Interski was well received.

Instructors are not going to get good at coaching (vs teaching) without practice. The demand is not going to happen until the product gets good. However, we tend to forget that coaching has been around for a long time. It used to be called the "ski week". A few resorts (e.g. Taos) still do a fairly good business doing ski weeks.......
And who killed the ski week? The areas and the NSAA and their focus groups. Sometimes it's a good idea to actually educate the consumer about what they need and not let them dictate what they want to the point of actually damaging what you are trying to deliver. Half day and full day lessons for groups should be the mantra for ski teaching. Put ski weeks back in place at destination resorts.

As for the PSIA and coaching VS Teaching ...I mean give me a break! This is the big idea a semantic word game where you define a new set of meaning to teaching and a new set to Coaching. This is right up there with what ASC did with ski "pros" and "perfect turn" IT DOESN"T MEAN ANYTHING, IT DOESNT CAHNGE ANYTHING.

PSIA needs to teach instruictors how to teach and connect with their students but beofre they do that they need how to teach and connect with their membership. How many of you have gone to PSIA events in your region and gone a whole day without any personal feedback from the examiner? How many have gone to an academy and had the same experience? All of this thinker doer sniffer feel me upper stuff is meaningless to most instructors and most students. To get better skiers need to go out skiing with another skier who is better and just ski. That's what a lesson should be and that should be it's focus. All the talking and pontificating and demos and exercises should be left at PSIA.

CGEIB asks:

Quote:
Originally Posted by cgeib
How about ski instructors? Many of them are advanced skiers and get coaching frequently, right?
Yeah they get coaching that is usually bad. For every Razor or Bergie there are dozens of examiners and trainers that will have you standing around talking on a powder day. So the bad example is set early and often.


You will have succes teaching intermediates and get them back into the ski school programs when you change the programs and revisit the elements that made them so succesful in the past
post #23 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sidecut
...and revisit the elements that made them so succesful in the past
Sidecut, What, in your opinion, made them so successful in the past?

Also, I do feel that I actually get something out of the Master's Academy that I go to every year. I've been doing it for something like 10-12 straight years, so I guess I wouldn't keep going back if I didn't feel I was getting something good out of it.

I also don't agree with: "To get better skiers need to go out skiing with another skier who is better and just ski." That works for those of us who have a good eye for movement analysis (but still, only to a point), but most people will just ingrain inefficient or bad habits. Not to mention the fact that you could follow someone around for a week and not gain what you could in a two hour lesson with a decent coach/instructor (agree, it's just symantics - but I think the word "coach" will appeal to upper level skiers more because it strokes their egos).

Love the feedback. This is good stuff.
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by RicB
Bidger being a local hill, it is from Ski PE (5 days a week) which most schools within 100 miles participate in, from our great weekend kids programs which start at age 4 (very affordable), from our MSU programs (5 days a week over nine weeks, and cheap), our womens and mens programs for those that can get away, and finally because our mountain demands it if you want to really ski everywhere.

We have a tradition and culture of skiing in our area with few equals anywhere, and our area attracts good skiers like a magnet. If you talk to many of the locals that grew up skiing here, you will find that most came through one program or another. After that the mountain is happy to provide the motivation. Later, RicB.
Sounds like a great arrangement, RicB. I imagine rising to the demands of the mountain is no small part.

I've never skied Bridger, but expect to change that in January-and looking forward to it!
post #25 of 27
golf and skiing? Who ever heard of a golfer blowing out their acl, their thumb..or having the dreaded slow twisting fall (broken ankle) or being crashed into by another golfer and shoved off the course into a tree. I started lessons to stay safe --the idea that efficient skiing is not going to wear our my body is very motivation and more than enough reason to keep getting coached.
post #26 of 27
Hey Sidecut,

There are several diffrent learning styles. Whatever works for you.----Wigs
post #27 of 27
Sidecut,

I've never been to a PSIA or AASI event where I did not get some personal feedback every day of the event. This includes exams, where (strangely enough) you're not supposed to get feedback until the end. Note that exam feedback was not the prohibited explicit "here's what your doing, here's what you need to do" type of fedback. It just does not take much effort to read through an examiners "hints". I've rarely not gotten enough feedback from a clinician at an event. On the rare day that that has happened, I've been able to easily remedy the problem simply by asking for feedback.

Clearly semantics is an issue when discussing teaching vs coaching. Out of context, this can be a problem. The meaning that I got out of "teaching vs coaching" discussions I've had with the PSIA demo team members was that when we have the opportunity to work with people over periods of time there are different activities to perform, different teaching styles to pursue and different goals to achieve. They were pretty clear about defining the semantics during the discussion so that the labels applied were really just convenient to facilitate the discussion. Nonetheless, I personally believe that most members of the general public would describe teaching and coaching as two different activities even though there might be a wide discrepancy in descriptions of the differences. There is value in capitalizing on this distinction.

Many instructors rarely see students for more than a couple of hours. We have very little opportunity to practice "coaching". But some of us do get "regular" private customers or the opportunity to work in multi day programs. In my case, as a trainer, I get the opportunity to "coach" our staff. You're right. I don't care about the semantics. But I do highly value the insights of the demo team members about the style of teaching they labelled as coaching. Their advice had little relevance to the 90 minute lessons I spend the bulk of time teaching, but it was helpful for growing my teaching skills and will help me help to develop a stronger pro staff. The fact that they took the time to incorporate the topic into the Master's Academy means that they also recognize the importance of the "ski week" concept in whatever flavor it comes.

You'll be happy to know that the "ski week" concept is not dead, even at smaller "day resorts". My resort (Whitetail, PA) has several multi week programs where skiers can get the same instructor each week. The program is growing.

To follow up on John's idea, it might be a highly successful idea to call all ski teachers "coaches" instead of "instructors". What an ego boost for a first timer to have their own "coach"! It may only be semantics, but the implication that they could do it all by themselves (i.e. coach is just a helper, they are the star) could have a powerful psychological benefit. Semantics can be quite powerful.
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