John Mason--Thanks for your perspective [post #5], as I know that you are as much a determined "full-time student" as there is (and believe me, I respect that!)
I am fascinated that you prefer a "dictatorial" approach, and I'd love to pursue this a little more. It is primarily that autocracy that most ski schools try to avoid in their splits and that, frankly, PSIA has tried to move away from, toward a more student-centered, rather than instructor/supervisor-centered or technique-centered, experience. We need to know what YOU want--what are your goals, motivations, and aspirations, both long- and short-term? On the other hand, if "what you want" is to have an instructor's well-trained eye assess your movement patterns and tell you (in his opinion) "what you need," than that is a legitimate motivation on your part, and a competent instructor would certainly help you achieve it. (Did I mention that not all instructors are competent, unfortunately?) But even there, we need to find out what your desired outcome is--better carving? Moguls? Racing? The "Phantom Move"? Some particular movement pattern you're trying to master, or that you've maybe just heard about or read about? They're all legitimate, but for an instructor to assume to know your personal motivations without verification or to generalize about what you "should" like, would be considered a rookie mistake, or sheer incompetence. We believe that no technique stands on its own as "good" or "bad" or "correct," and that it is only when tied to an intended outcome that any movement can be assessed. Don't get me wrong--all instructors do have their opinions, and most would be glad to share them with you, if you ask, but we believe that your opinion is much more important (to you) than ours!
The PSIA philosophy is that we need to find out what you WANT. Then we'll help you find what you NEED (which may not be entirely the same thing, of course), in order to accomplish it. Few students have a particular movement pattern or technique in mind as goals--not that there is anything wrong with that (in fact, it makes it very easy for us). Generally, motivations are more vague, or more outcome-based--to "get better," "get comfortable on ____ terrain," "earn a NASTAR medal," "get to the top of the mountain," "learn to ski parallel," or "carve better," or "get over my fear of steeps," or "keep up with my children," or "get the phone number of that lycra-clad bombshell in your class," or ... just about anything! And who are we to argue? It's your money and time. But I guarantee one thing--if we fail to find out what you really want, it's extremely unlikely that we'll be able to help you accomplish it! In your case, I know that you are looking for a specific technical package, and that is perfectly fine. But woe be to the instructor who assumes something else!
In the days of the dictatorial "ski down," it was far too common to hear the complaint that began, "they put me in a group where . . ." (and completely failed to deliver what I wanted). And that's (mostly) why we don't do it any more. The best instructors can teach virtually any technique, any movement pattern, anywhere. But assuming that what we like, and what turns us on, is what you're looking for, is anathema to any competent instructor. (It is much easier, of course, but much less likely to satisfy you!)
It is interesting, though. If you sign up for a particular program, because you've already decided that you like its focus, then much of the sleuthing and self-selection are already done. Harb's camps have a pretty clear technical outcome. The Mahre Training Center was a known quantity. You pretty much know what to expect at Snowbird's "Steeps" camps and Copper's "Diamond Cutter" bump workshops. Mermer Blakeslee's "Fear Workshops," and Deb Armstrong's women's clinics, and any NASTAR workshop, clearly narrow your expectations before you even sign up. (And indeed, these programs are more likely to have some sort of ski-off for a split.) But a regular "ski lesson" leaves all your options open. We just can't assume to know what you want, can we? It does take a little time, but we owe it to you! (We don't like the time it takes either, and that's the main reason I started this thread--to minimize the time while maximizing our ability to give you what you're looking for.)
For what it's worth, I am fully aware that the vagueness and uncertainty of "what you're going to be taught" is a turn-off for you--and that's why there are special programs with pre-defined focuses and agendas. But you have to realize that--for the very reason that there ARE different motivations--the vagueness is a necessity. There simply is no pre-set agenda for a good ski lesson. It is entirely up to you! Want Harb? A good instructor can (despite Harb's protests) and will give it to you--yes, of course, some better than others. It's just one subset of technical options that is good for some things, not so good for others, and useless in some situations (try lifting and tipping above the rim in a Half Pipe!) I know that you, and a few others (Si?) get frustrated when a ski school or instructor refuses to tell you in advance specifically what they're going to teach you. But that isn't because of indecision or lack of clarity on the instructor's part--it's because we respect the role of your own opinion, and recognize that it is a big missing piece in the equation, until we find out what you want. As soon as we find out, you'll see the clarity you're after. Want a dictator to tell you how to do it right? (Really?) Try me!
I hope to see you this winter. And I congratulate you on your progress to date!