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Splits: skills and attitude

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
This question is for instructors and students. When skiers are put into groups, which do you think will result in greater compatibility, a group at the same skill level with variance in their attitude toward skiing (e.g., self-protective/self-confident) or a group with a common attitude but with some variance in skill level?
post #2 of 20

I think this is a great question and I'll be interested to see what the instructors here have to say. My take is that barring "too wide" a variance in skill level, it makes more sense to pair up the similar attitudes.
post #3 of 20
I've been influenced by students who have a similar skill level to mine, but with a more agressive attitude. This works especially well when I perceive that the other student is better than I am, but the instructor points out that they are simply braver.

I think that separating by attitude can have its problems. I was once in a class with a woman who had been skiing for 20 years, She should have been in a much more advanced group, but she felt confortable with us since we were more tentative skiers. As a result, I don't think she was working at the appropriate skill level .

I have seen groups work where students have slightly different skill levels, yet ski at the same speed.
post #4 of 20
I agree with LM that it usually works out as better for me when I'm skiing with a group with a slightly more aggressive attitude than I have, or even a group with a slightly better skill set, because it brings my speed up -- although I always worry that I'm holding people up then, which I find can inhibit my skiing.

Also, some instructors aren't sensitive about people skiing at different speeds. One of the most unpleasant lessons I've ever had consisted of me catching up to a waiting group over and over again -- only to have the instructor immediately zip off again, so that I just became irritated and exhausted, and never learned anything.

In terms of attitude similarity, I think another factor isn't just the level of aggression in skiing, but also a person's goals in taking the class. For example, I have frequently been in classes where people didn't really want to learn skiing. Sounds ridiculous, but it's true. As a beginner, I was in classes with children who just wanted to get down blacks, not learn to ski. As an intermediate, I'm in classes with people who often simply want to socialize, and not learn to ski (a clear indicator -- they will want to leave or stop the class if it starts snowing or getting cold). I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with having that as a goal for a class, but obviously I'll have the most fun with a group of people who have the same goal I do.
post #5 of 20
In a perfect world it would be nice to have both skill level and attitude level in the same class. But really, it’s not that important as long as the levels are not too far off, IMHO. With skill level, I really don’t like to see a separation in ability more than one level in a class situation, and try not to let even that much of a gap happen. We move them and try to get them matched up better. But sometimes I have to deal with a much bigger split in skiing ability in a lesson private situation. So you just let the more advanced skier know up front that you will be skiing terrain suitable for the slower skier, and a suitable rate of speed for that skier. So if that’s okay, and they want to hang, then I would be glad to throw out some tips and coach them on their skiing.

We are pretty good on our hill about getting people in the right place for their lesson, so things go pretty smoothly. But every once in awhile, S@%t happens.---------------Wigs
post #6 of 20
I like to split by skill primarily. Oftentimes this is not as easy - unless you can take the group skiing before doing the splits.

I want to be clear that similar "skill" doesn't mean that they all have the same ability... often they all need to work on the same few improvements. I buddy skiers up - faster and slower skiers do drills together so that we can all maintain an average speed.

I think it's the instructor's job to TRY to affect attitude. If fear is the inhibitor - earning the trust of the learner will go a LONG (fast?) way!

post #7 of 20
if the group is advanced enough to be seeking challenge in the terrain, likeminded attitudes will get along much better. I'd be bummed out if someone in my group had such timidity that it caused the whole group to refrain from more challenging terrain... lowest common denominator problem, I guess is what I mean. but there's still an issue with terrain suitability regardless of attitude too.

ummm... I'm not sure you can separate them, that's what I'm concluding.
post #8 of 20
I used to split on skill. Then we tried combining this with "verbal" splits, where the students chose to be in the gung-ho group or the careful technical group. Now, my favourite way (at level 4 and above) is to ski them down, and the first lot down are in one group, the people at the back in another group. Speed and terrain comfort matched.
post #9 of 20

So far, in all camps I've been to, it's by ability

That was true both at the PMTS camps and the PSIA camps I've been to.

I don't see how the expert wanting to get better at bump skiing can be thrown in with the intermediate trying to get out of stemming turns.

I can also see the reasoning of the other idea. To put a completely unmotivated skier in with a group of motivated ones can put a real drag on the motivated ones.

I should quailify that my only group instruction has been at camps. All my non-group instruction has been private lessons. Thus, I propably can't relate to the question properly as most people that clear their schedule for a camp and make that level of commitment for a multi-day setting are going to be of the motivated variety.

I'm presuming this question is more for the day group setting at a ski resort rather than a group lesson in a camp. I would think by ability would be part of the equation simply because of the slope selection. But once that broad range is selected, how would one quickly surmise the motivation? Ask the student what they want out of the lesson? You could start with that. Someone can have a great attitude but be more fearful about streching their envelope. Someone with a bad attitude could be a young punk with no fear.

Obviously this can be a complex issue in that day/group setting.
post #10 of 20
John - I have been in a 1 week "ski improvement" session at Whistler....
About half the people in that group REALLY did not want to WORK at getting better..... they wanted to be dragged down black runs on their butts so they could go home & "boast" about "skiing run XXX" or "skiing a double black" or etc etc ......

Hence little improvement occurred (also instructor more interested in what colour she should paint her new house) .... 2 of the participants in the group said the next week that they did NOT learn anything the previuos week in the course... (Neither did I - but I am(was) a tricky student at times)

To give you an idea on one black tree run HALF the class "got lost" .... funny that as the instructor skied down last.... we spent maybe 40minutes looking for them.... seems one member fell down 3 tree wells in that run.... He kept offering me advice ( : ) ... so really seemed quite unprepared for any real learning....
post #11 of 20
I've had good lessons where the skill level varied and bad lessons where the attitude varied.

I'd split by attitude.

I've been in uncomfortable terrain with a group with similar attitudes and somehow it was OK. Uncomfortable terrain with a group with different attitudes was not OK.
post #12 of 20


What is greater compatibility?

(sorry I've been watching one of those Matrix movies)

(and drinking)

For levels 1-3, split on ability first, then "speed".

For levels 4+, split on speed/attitude first, then ability in order to minimize boredom.

The rest is up to the skill of the instructor. A good instructor will teach multiple lessons when faced with an "incompatible" group.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
A good instructor will teach multiple lessons when faced with an "incompatible" group.
I hear this a lot from instructors. I wonder if students think the mismatch compromised their experience, despite the skill of the instructor to paper over it.
post #14 of 20
I've been in classes with too broad a skill level on a couple occasions. The first time was when I was in college. We had a ski program through the college for P.E. credits. The area we went to assumed that all people there were beginners or low intermediates. I was actually assigned to the highest group they were sending out. They never got off of the green trails and I was very bored. I did get a 4.0 "A" in the course though.

The other time occurred more recently. One woman, though she had been skiing for quite a few years, should have been in a much lower level class as she slowed the entire group down and limited the terrain that we could go on. I should have been in a higher level class as all of the skills at this level were things I had previously mastered and the instructor, although he tried to give me some pointers at my level, had to spend the majority of the time with the woman who was in too high of a group. It actually was not fair to the others in the group either. The others in the class were decent skiers and it would have been ok, but not ideal to have been in the group with them. While the instructor tried to adjust to meet the needs of all of the students, it really wasn't possible because this one student required nearly 1 to 1 attention.

I really like the idea of a ski off to place skiers into groups, particularly if it's going to be a multi-session program or if it is a day long clinic.
post #15 of 20
Originally Posted by nolo
I hear this a lot from instructors. I wonder if students think the mismatch compromised their experience, despite the skill of the instructor to paper over it.
hmmm, good point. It's illuminating sometimes to hear people talking who've had a lesson, and their comments on the other people in the group. Even if the instructor taught a good lesson, they still seem to have very mixed feelings about their group peers.
post #16 of 20
I agree with ant and disagree with lurking bear, though I think I know where both of you are coming from.
post #17 of 20
I like taking privates - & taking my friends along - for just this reason .....

I choose who I ski with in the lessons.... we have decided in advance what we are prepared to deal with..... much simpler
post #18 of 20
I have had lessons where the skill level was close but the attitudes varied greatly and others where the skill levels were far appart and the attitudes close. Give me the close attitudes every time. I can always ratchet up what I am asking a much more advanced student to do vs what I am asking a less advanced student to do on easier terrain. I have found that attitudes are what causes the mismatch and complaints between students.

I learned split techniques flying airplanes. You can create a situation, even on a bright sunny calm day, that will overload just about any pilot. In those situations you must learn to split and divide you're attention. It is scary because you realize this could happen to you when the consequences are fatal.

You also learn just how to ratchet things up depending on the student.
post #19 of 20
Originally Posted by nolo
I hear this a lot from instructors. I wonder if students think the mismatch compromised their experience, despite the skill of the instructor to paper over it.
When I ponder this, I think it's a toss up as to who's at fault when a student walks away from a group lesson dissatisfied because of varied skill level.

When I've had group lessons, I listen and watch when the instructor is addressing the other students, but my focus is mainly on my needs and what the instructor is teaching me. As long as I maintain that focus, I don't think another student will affect my lesson. So, when I hear skiers complain about a lesson because of the other students, I have to wonder if their lack of focus played a role in that situation.

As to the instructor, my first thought is that a good instructor, in any "group" setting, will teach to the needs of each student. I think we can agree that in groups that are perfectly matched in terms of skill, student's strengths and weaknesses differ. If the instructor can't address these differing needs, he or she will likely teach a poor "group" lesson. When I have 20 baseball players on the field at a practice, it's basically a large group lesson. If I don't have the ability to address the group yet focus on the individual, I'm not going to be very successful in my efforts.
post #20 of 20
For me the answer is far more complex than the question. In the real world, so many other factors come into play. One in particular is age. Children present a bigger challenge because they are generally less patient.

Trying to effectively manage a group lesson with 8-10+ young people is a chaotic affair if assertiveness isn't taken into account. Regardless of skills, the aggressive-higher skilled child will most often take off from the group unless repeatedly pulled back. Likewise, the aggressive-lower skilled child will charge ahead with the more skilled child and present a danger to himself and possibly the group. Left behind are the less aggressive-higher skilled and the less aggressive-lower skilled. To some extent all groups have individuals that break out into one of these quadrants.

I usually try to focus on the best common denominator, which I believe is the less aggressive-higher skilled. I always try to give individual attention, but realistically if the group is too varied something has to give and it is usually the extreme ends. If the option is available, I move the aggressive-higher skilled to another more appropriate group. I generally would not move a less aggressive-lower skilled out unless that person makes it impossible to keep the group together.

Also important is experiential vs. technical goals. I can usually find a slower group speed if the overall objective is to work on turn initiations, movement, and other basic technical elements. If the majority of the group wants to focus more on handling terrain and freeskiing, then it is more difficult for me to find the best common denominator which allows all individuals to enjoy the session. Even then, I still tend to lean toward the less aggressive-higher skilled in the group.

I relate this to my own participation in PSIA clinics. For race clinics the coaches can stay put on the slope and provide feedback to each participant as they complete a specific run or section. I find this method of feedback is the most productive for me personally. I've never tried letting a group "circulate" on a run at their own pace and provide feedback as they ski past, but might be a way to address widely varying skills and attitudes. (I would never try this with children, as I take full responsibility for their safety at all times.)

For general PSIA clinics, I attend with the objective to improve technical aspects of my skiing. My last clinic I paired up with the less assertive team to balance out the two groups. At lunch I was asked if I wanted to join the other group, to which I replied no. I can always find something to work on without blasting down the mountain.

Not that it's worth much, but that's my two cents...
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