EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › The worst (and best) lessons you've ever taught
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

The worst (and best) lessons you've ever taught

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I've been wanting to post this up for a while. I'm sure any instructor that is at all realistic has at some point realized that they were seriously stinking it up. Hopefully, they were able to learn something from it. Then of course, there are also those lessons where you see a real difference and feel pretty good about it. Perhaps we can share.

I had a real stinker last year. I thinbk it was during President's Week. The school was super busy and we were getting groups of 10 or 12 kids. My group was ranging in age from 7 - 12, and sadly there was quite an ability split. I was sort of given the leftovers and late comers after most of the other groups had gone. Hooray. It didn't take long to see the split, and it was hard enough to keep the group together on the same piece of hill, let alone coach everyone individually. So I decided to pair everyone with a partner who was similar in ability, give the group some input and help them coach each other. I would do a demo and then ask them to try and ski it with thier partner following along watching them. Then I'd ask what did you see, and give some feedback on what I saw and what they could try to do to improve. After a while I started to hear "did not"... "did too" from just about all of the groups. They were all arguing about what they had or had not seen, and were or were not doing. I won't ever try that again. Not with kids anyway. Works fine with adults though.

One of my best lessons (if you want to call it that) was a day skiingwith fellow Bear Jamesdeluxe. I had spent a week in Austria with him a few weeks earlier, where we had great snow, but all in all, I think he was pretty frustrated with how he was skiing. The trip was enough to convince him that his boots were not right, and he had gotten some new ones when he returned to the states. He was also skiing some pretty straight Volants. I soent a day skiing with him at Stowe and got him onto some Pocket Rockets. His stance was improved, I was sad to see that his turns were still the same. After a couple of runs, I thought he still looked pretty frustrated and proceeded to school him. I was trying to get him to go from the Z turns to a rounder turn. I think what finally got to him was listening to his skis and tryting to get them to ski quieter. Somewhere on Cliff Trail I started to see a breakthrough happening, and by the bottom of Nosedive he had a whole new turn. It felt pretty good to see that, and I think it felt good for him to make his new turns. James - I hope you bought some PRs, and can make those turns in Lech this year.
post #2 of 29
baaahaha..
I had a 9yo. that weighed 150 lbs. @4'9".
I had to give a "Never Ever" snow board lesson.
did the old one "foot in" 4 starters...Chubby just could not get the hang of that simple task.
And after 45 min.
he blerted out " This Sux, I am realy good at Snowboarding on my Game Boy"
Thats when I lost it!
post #3 of 29
The family last season that took a private half-day lesson together. Father: aggressive, power-braking-every-turn level 6; mother: timid level 4; 9-year-old: level 2; 4-year-old: Never ever. I was assigned the family the day after a disasterous lesson during which the father had complained in the most obnoxious manner about the intructor "not giving him his money's worth." I doubt he was much happier with me. Why, why, do people insist on this kind of lesson?!
post #4 of 29
The worst is a long story, that ended with one outraged student and one angry at the first for causing such a scene. One student caused a chain of events that resulted in becoming seperated from his spouse. He went on an uphill hike looking for his spouse, who was two hundred yard below him (with me). By the time I caught the hiker, he had hiked an additional five hundred vertical feet. I felt compelled to chase him up the hill and ask why he was hiking. When I finally caught him, I found out he was seaching for his wife. I explained the whole thing but because I left his wife on the side of the hill (to go after him), he became verbally abusive. When finally re-united, he became verbally abusive again and threatened everyone involved. She had skied down to the base (our designated meeting place if anyone got seperated on that run). So when we got to that meeting place, the expletive laced threats from the guy got to be too much. I left, but not before finding out that his wife was so embarrassed and angry, that she refused to get within fifty feet of him. I would bet, he probably slept on the couch for the rest of his vacation.

The best, well there are so many happy memories and good friends I have met over the years. Although I do have one lesson that I feel would be really hard to top. By anyone. Twenty years ago I met a student who was a strong eight and over the course of a season (or two) I helped her become a strong 9+. It was a lot of fun and it didn't hurt that she was very charming and quite beautiful. Of course I had to stop charging her for the lessons once we got married but I think after twenty years I still came out way ahead.
post #5 of 29
JASP, that is the perfect ski lesson story! And yes, if you have a level 9+ skier for a wife, you are way ahead.
Later
GREG
post #6 of 29
Greg,
Yeh, I am lucky. She has slowed down some thanks to life and having a family. Really dangerous stuff is not her thing anymore.
post #7 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_m
The family last season that took a private half-day lesson together. Father: aggressive, power-braking-every-turn level 6; mother: timid level 4; 9-year-old: level 2; 4-year-old: Never ever. I was assigned the family the day after a disasterous lesson during which the father had complained in the most obnoxious manner about the intructor "not giving him his money's worth." I doubt he was much happier with me. Why, why, do people insist on this kind of lesson?!
Q: Why does the ski school always cave in, instead of directing to splitting the group up for the best learning experience for everybody.

A: $$$$$$$

Edit: sorry for the hijack
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
Interesting stories guys, but I was looking for ones where YOU messed up the lesson and what you could have done better. I'm not complaining about the crazy split I had, I'm saying that pairing up kids wasn't a good way to managethat situation. There are times (like President's Week) where you are just gonna have tough assignments.
post #9 of 29
Well, if you take my first story about the couple, there was a lesson I learned. Class handling and checking for understanding sometimes involves more than just the usual stay together speach, or the if you get lost here is where we are going. Handling the unexpected is the point. What other courses of action could I have taken with the hiker?
post #10 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro
What other courses of action could I have taken with the hiker?
A tazer?
post #11 of 29
What a great thread. Thank you!

My worst turned into my best. I had a little girl for six weekly lessons. She had Downs and was also autistic. The first lesson was hell. No matter what I tried, her only response was "no" (possibly the only word she would or could utter) or a tantrum. I never did even get her on skis. But at the end of six weeks, she would slide down a little hill about ten feet long in my lap on a "flying saucer" sled squealing with delight. Her father told me that her ski lesson was the only time she would go outside. What I learned was patience and, more important, the flexibility to alter one's expectations and goals to fit the situation. I could have seen it as a six-week failure, but with a little psych coaching from a friend, it turned into a success that made me feel good.
post #12 of 29

How about best and worst in the same lesson?

My first ever snowboard lesson was after I had only spent about 4 hours (mostly unsuccessfully) on a board. It was a night line up, there were no snowboard instructors on the mountain, but there were 7 students wanting a first time lesson. The supe said "Rusty - you've been on a board before - go get a rental and take that class out." Well, I taught them a toe side turn and a heel side turn, then how to ride the lift. To my astonishment, 1/2 way through the lesson they all "got it". So .... "The next thing is linking them together, here's what it looks like." Except I could not do it! By the end of the lesson 1/2 my class was linking turns AND I STILL COULD NOT! To this day, that was my worst performance teaching a group lesson with the best results.
post #13 of 29
the worst lesson I ever received is responsible for me being here at EpicSki.

in 2000 I returned to skiing after a 10-year hiatus, which had been preceded by only 2 ski days in a 5-year period. so for all intents I was returning after a 15-year hiatus from skiing.

when I got onto the modern skis I found myself being thwarted in my attempts to make them do what I'd done with my old pencils. after 2 full days of this frustration I realized that I needed to change my skiing to suit what the new skis wanted from a skier.

I signed up for a group lesson at The Big Mountain, asking for the "advanced/black diamond" group (not the top, but the one below it). as luck would have it, I ended up with a private lesson.

in the morning I had a guy who took me to one of the steeper mogul runs (elephant's graveyard) and watched me flail. his only advice after watching me ski was that I needed to begin my turns with an inward tip of the knee, and as long as I was going to ski like Stein (I guess I was a sperm turner) I was never going to be able to tip my knee inward.

as I tried over and over to get this inward tip of the knee in the sequence the instructor was trying (very poorly) to provide, I was completely unsuccessful. all I was doing was putting torsional stress on my poor knees, which had started aching by this point from all the exaggerated inward rotation.

when lunch rolled around he handed me off to another instructor who was friendlier, and gave me a bit better advice. she told me to try to stand more centered on my skis and try to feel where the ski starts to grab the snow and bend into an arc.

but for the most part, both lessons were about the instructor taking me around the mountain. and having a good time him/herself, not so much helping me ski.

I was so pyst that I went looking for info on the internet as to how instructors get certified, what they need to be instructors, etc. I was convinced that the guy I had in the AM was pathetic, and that the gal in the PM was a tiny bit better, and that BOTH should have been much better than they were.

I wound up on a discussion forum at Paula's Ski Lovers and then when I saw how soft and cuddly that place was I ended up here. Pierre and John H gave me quite an education on ski education and straightened out a lot of my mistaken perceptions about responsibility for the quality of instruction.

the discussions on instruction quality already were ongoing in here when I arrived, and I suppose it'd be fair to say that out of those discussions grew the Epic Ski Academy.
post #14 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom

My worst turned into my best. I had a little girl for six weekly lessons. She had Downs and was also autistic. The first lesson was hell. No matter what I tried, her only response was "no" (possibly the only word she would or could utter) or a tantrum. I never did even get her on skis. But at the end of six weeks, she would slide down a little hill about ten feet long in my lap on a "flying saucer" sled squealing with delight. Her father told me that her ski lesson was the only time she would go outside. What I learned was patience and, more important, the flexibility to alter one's expectations and goals to fit the situation. I could have seen it as a six-week failure, but with a little psych coaching from a friend, it turned into a success that made me feel good.
Mom, what a nice story...my ex-husband's brother has Downs and was/is, on a good day, a handful. When he was young, the local mountain instructors were at a loss on how to teach him to ski. His older brothers eventually got him to the point where he could get down the easiest slopes and just whooped it up. This was many, many years ago. I don't think he skis any more but at least he experienced the joy and thrill of sliding down snow under his own power. Anyone who watched him had to feel it too.

Your post made my day!
post #15 of 29
The worst-a "princess" from back east who insisted on being the focus of the group and had to review everything we covered during the morning at lunch with her "instructor" boy friend back home.

The best-when she announced she had already mastered everything on the afternoon agenda (not in your wildest dreams sweetheart) and needed to go with another higher level group for the afternoon. Don't know if my buddy has forgiven me yet.
post #16 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonzostrike
in the morning I had a guy who took me to one of the steeper mogul runs (elephant's graveyard) and watched me flail. .
I too would like to master this area, but always find myself relegated to the "long traverse" by the end. For those not in the know, this is not just a "mogul run". It's full of trees, not very populated and pretty darn steep. It's not labeled as you ski by it, although it is on maps. I did it a few times last season, but was happy no one was with me. I enjoy Good Medicine with company, but Elephant's is still a private hell.
post #17 of 29
Epic,
IMO communication obviously broke down, his attention waned and I didn't notice. Losing the attention of a student usually is a sign of boredom on their part. Moving more, stopping less might have been a better tactic. While it was the last run of the day, it is important to monitor and re-assess the mental state of each student. Especially when things are winding down, fatigue, boredom, and distractions creep into the lesson.
post #18 of 29
I agree with the tazer option myself. She should divorce the guy.
post #19 of 29
Has anyone else actually told any of the "familiy" lessons. They would be bettter servered with out all of them taking the same lesson.

I have done this before and 90 percent of the time, gotten positive results. Most of them dont relize the mistake(why would they), and the ski school office jsut tries to make it work. It serves the customer right, because they are not always right. Infact at my families car shop our motto to outs friends, close customers, amd family is "Is the customer is not always right.". Way more true than the other saying(BTW we are the largest independent honda shop in PA)
post #20 of 29
What was really shocking for me was the mom interrupting my lesson summary at the end of a family private, asking "We probably would be better off with separate lessons next time, wouldn't we?". I was so happy I did not have to tell them, I forgot all the hints I had dropped to get us there.
post #21 of 29
I get quite a few of those horror family lessons... You can only fudge so far. You can NOT take a small beginner child up onto the mountain!
I tell them up front how it is, and if we can, we rejig the lesson, and if not, they get a very technical session on the bunny hill.
It's not good though, just sometimes it's not a complete disaster.

My best lesson was a British school group I had for a week. They would come over in large groups, mostly beginners or the products of some crazy French ski school on another school trip 4 years ago.

So I got my 15-odd, boys and girls in their last year of school (so aged about 17+). Other instructors had similar groups. So we did the flats, we did the handle tow, then up the bunny chair. My group were the ones that the other groups had discarded because they weren't learning as fast as their groups, I lost a few of my better ones in the same way. So my guys were the Duds (we named ourselves this). And I didn't want to spend the week on the bunny hill. These guys had flown across the Atlantic for a holiday, after all.

So I applied something that is becoming popular in Australia: the good ol' Snowplough Wedln. I think these only work on younger, fitter, gung-ho-ish people, and that's what I had. So we did something like 7 laps of Stowe's bunny hill, Snowplough Wedln the whole time. It took that long to get them all doing it right, and then some mileage. I could see the rest of my colleagues watching from the chair, wondering what on earth we were up to.

8th lap, I got them to gradually bring the skis in a bit, out of the big muscular snowplough, but making the same moves. Then the next lap, they could start to bring them right in. And bingo, my "dud" beginners were making open parallel short turns. What a lot of noise ensued! Yelling and whooping and carrying on.
So we went in for lunch, and after lunch my Duds departed for Mansfield to do Toll Road from the top.

For the rest of the week, they were one, two or three steps ahead of the other groups. We did a Black run on Wednesday (complete with powder), Park and Pipe on Thursday (where the teacher who was hopeless discovered he was a total gun in the superpipe!), Friday they just did everything, including back to Spruce to do the top runs there and look at Canada. and the best thing was, now these guys could really ski, and they'd never lose it.

Worst lesson? Those weird ones where you just can't fathom why they bought a lesson, they obviously aren't getting what they wanted, and no matter what you try, they are disappointed. I hate those, and dwell on them for years. I've only had few, but they are despressing.
post #22 of 29
The "nanny" (25' ish), was brought to our local hill for her first lesson by her wealthy employers. I think that the "motive" was to have her ski with the kid while they did their thing at Aspen or Vail later in the game. They must heve "reveled" her with stories of "Lars and Franz" and other instructors they had at Zermatt and Gastaad .... but they bought her a first timer (group) package with rental gear from the shop at the hill.

Every thirty seconds (or so it seemed), she would pop a ski or drop a glove or pole and expect me to pick it up and help her back into her bindings. This was getting pretty old pretty quick and class was running way behind because of the time spent accomodating this Paris Hilton wannabee .... I had nine other people to consider! While I was helping another student, Her Royal Heiney, dropped her glove and I ignored it. She waited and waited and finally accosted me with .... "Aren't you going to pick that up?" .... "No, I have nine other special people who have needs too". She informed me that she was going to "upper management" and she did. I got a reaming for it.

Nightmare #36 in a series of 73, was a little "Russian" pincess. She hit and knocked other kids down cause "Mom told me I was special and was to stay right behind you" (instead of rotating during follow the leader) .... cursed and swore at me the whole time (every word in the book)! It was the only time I had ever written a negative report card on a kid, but this kid was a menace. "Mommas" comment (heavy Russian accent) .... "dat is bekaus you had failed to zufficiently challenge her!"

Joy #1 ... She was an early teen from Texas. I wasn't warned about her but noticed her movements were "strained and odd" during boot drills. She side stepped up along with the others to begin those first ski movements but I knew I had to keep her on a close leash. To begin that first gliding wedge" I offered my poles while I was in a reverse wedge ahead of her.

As we started down, all hell broke loose. Her skis were flailing like Charlie Manson on speed and off his meds while hacking sugar cane ... When we "reached" the bottom, she was the first back (sidestepping) to the top. Repeat .... repeat ... till she smoothed out a bit. Her dad came over later and explained that her dream was to see snow and ski ... and that she had MS .... my purty new P-40's were slashed up pretty bad ... but we both had big grins. Thanks honey .... YOU were the BEST!
post #23 of 29
One of my best lessons ever, was one i didnt want to take. Late Feb last year my resort was getting dumped on like no other(we ended up with 3 feet in place, this in SW PA BTW). I decide to meet my best friend up there after work to ski powder, we arrive at about 5:00 o clock. When we get there best snow condition i have ever seen there. We made no effort to sign in to ski school cause of the time and snow, we thought noone would be there. we were so wrong are SSD spots us, PAs us in and tell us there is group of 4 for one time group lesson. Me and him are like so bummed, we get to teach a group of beginners on a cold, snowy night. We decide to teach it together cause at this piont who ever got the money didnt matter we figured an hour with 2 instuctors would be better than an Hour in half with only one of us.

So here we are 4 woman over 40, with 2 young men(probably notiabley not that happy). I started talking to them how they came because they are worked together etc, etc. Well if you can imagine neverevers snowplowing though powder, aint going to happen 99 percent of the time. First me and mike set down are skis, and said you are so lucky that we have soft snow. Then we jumped into snow after doing a flip and explained it is very soft and falling wont hurt to bad. We actually had them fall backwards into it to gain our trust. Then we explained are only real way of control in this stuff was turning(note after all the flat land stuff like one foot skating side step etc), and proceeded to show them a small wedge shape, using rotatary as the emphasis to turn. After a little bit of fear the first couple times, they were are within the first 45 mins linking wedge turns down are bunny hill and using turn shape to control speed. Plus none of them had the rotation problem sometimes accompied with teaching this way. they all had smiles on there faces, loved the rest of the night. Stayed out till 930, and 2 even came up the "big hill" with us later that night.

I actually hope when they come back i can get private them, would lvoe to see how they are doing.
post #24 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki
Nightmare #36 in a series of 73, was a little "Russian" pincess. She hit and knocked other kids down cause "Mom told me I was special and was to stay right behind you" (instead of rotating during follow the leader) .... cursed and swore at me the whole time (every word in the book)! It was the only time I had ever written a negative report card on a kid, but this kid was a menace. "Mommas" comment (heavy Russian accent) .... "dat is bekaus you had failed to zufficiently challenge her!"
Wow! I swear I had that exact same girl two years ago.
post #25 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro
The best, well there are so many happy memories and good friends I have met over the years. Although I do have one lesson that I feel would be really hard to top. By anyone. Twenty years ago I met a student who was a strong eight and over the course of a season (or two) I helped her become a strong 9+. It was a lot of fun and it didn't hurt that she was very charming and quite beautiful. Of course I had to stop charging her for the lessons once we got married but I think after twenty years I still came out way ahead.
Unbeatable. You win.
post #26 of 29
I think my best lesson I have given was with my daughter 2 years ago. Took her to Okemo in early Dec for her birthday when she was 8. We were just out for a day of skiing, took her out of school to have fun mid week with no crowds.She has always been a fast skier but mostly with a flat ski and hard edging for control at the bottom of the turn , they weren't z turns or anything but I could see it would be great to get the top of the turn working better. We were mostly on the cruisers moving along fairly quickly when I suggested we go back to the base where the flatter green trails are to play around with some stuff. I was trying to show her by rolling up on the edges earlier i.e RR tracks and letting the ski turn her was going to help her carve the whole turn better. Explained it a little, used my 2 hands to show her how the skis should tip up in the snow then demoed. She started following and trying the moves. We would stop after a few hundred yards and regroup then I would demo and get ahead of her and watch her coming to me. It was happening the skidding was disappearing and some clean arcs where getting put down. I went all the way to the bottom to watch her for the last stretch and there had been about 20 Okemo ski instructors out gathering up down there and as my daughter came into view and finished her run they had been watching and gave her a big ovation. She does not hear that well and with a helmut on it is not good but she heard them, thanks guys! So after I'm talking to her you know tech talk blah , blah, and she says" you know dad I just tip the skies and stand on them and they do what they did"

One of the worst and it wasn't the lesson but the feeling for the kid afterwards was a little girl around 11, beginer, parents "drop" her off and want her to have a all day private( I could only do 1/2 day for her someone else finished up). Now all day for a never ever is brutual. They have to learn how to walk and move in rigid plastic boots, step, climb with skis, get up after falling etc. The body is not ready for all that for 6-7 hr in one day. The girl was a real trouper though and she tried so hard, in the 1st 1/2 of the day she accomplished so much. I was asking her about why her parents wanted her to ski all day and she had this look in her eyes that said to me this is normal, dump the kid some where with somebody for the day. The girl said her parents went shopping in Manchester, Vt. thats 2hr away from where she was! I was talking with our SSD afterwards and explained the situation and they had no idea the parents dropped her off. I couldn't hang around but I wanted to lay into those parents for doing that, all I could think about was how do we get ahold of someone who can make a decision in a medical emegerency. What a miserable feeling I had leaving the mountain that day knowing how that child is just another possession to those people and they don't even give her anytime, just dump her off.
post #27 of 29
When I was a younger instructor I had a beginner lesson with a 250lb. Hawaiian female teenager, who insisted that she couldn't do this because it's so different from the surfing she does in Hawaii (right, sister!). I didn't do anything right, and she just kept trying to surf. Her surfing consisted of waving her arms in the air over her head until she knocked herself over. I then had to try, once again, to pick her up. When she finally quit, she was lying exhausted on the snow like a beached whale and she had steam rising off of her body. Clearly I was a haole devil as I was totally useless to this woman. It shattered (temporarily) my belief that anyone could learn to ski. I was paralyzed with incompetence.
post #28 of 29
Wow, Weems, your story is a lot like mine, only my 350 pounder was the very nice twin of one of the national patrollers, who was also a large man, but not morbidly so like his brother, and athletic and skilled enough to ski with a sled. The fit twin bought the fat twin the private lesson as a gift, with probably more than a little hope that the love of skiing would take and his brother would launch a healthier lifestyle. Now, those who know me will tell you I am petite, and this man was at least 6'5" and perhaps he weighed more than 350 lbs. He was a gentle, physically timid man who was about as unsuited to the sport as a person can get, but well-meaning and wanting so much to succeed for his brother's sake. His attitude was let's get this over and done with, with as little bloodshed as possible.

He was probably right to sit down the instant he felt like he might fall, but then getting him back up was such a chore that we would have to go to the lodge for a cup of coffee until he recovered sufficiently to have another go. We had at least two cups before he learned how to stand up, and naturally there was a bathroom break at some point too.

At the end of two hours he was able to ski down the hill without sitting down (I'm not saying it wasn't scary to watch), and he never did fall, though he was completely exhausted and wringing wet and I doubt he ever skied again, though he thanked me genuinely for the experience--"Now I've tried it. That's all he wanted."

The lesson was doomed, but the experience itself was funny because I was so inadequate for the job (holding him up and helping him up), and fun because the guy had a great wit and a warm personality and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with him over coffee.

Epic asks us to offer up our best and worst. I don't know if mine was either, just extraordinary enough to always be remembered.
post #29 of 29
Then there was the 18 kids I had for the entire duration of the 2nd Mt Snow X-Games.... No lesson, just keeping them safe, fed and moving! I organised several of the parents to meet us at our lunch venue each day, to help get their food, and we managed to be on the chair above the Skiier Cross track when they stopped it so we could watch the final, right above the finish line. I owed some liftys beer that day! Sometimes just having a great environment, and skiing for enjoyment, is enough. I still remember that time and chuckle. 18 little kids, bloody hell.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Instruction & Coaching
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › The worst (and best) lessons you've ever taught