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Your best and worst ski school splits? - Page 2

post #31 of 55
Thread Starter 
KevinF--[re: post #9]
Good to hear from you! How did your season go, after Big Sky?

You remind me of a split I supervised a while back. It was a very large (several busloads) group of pre-teen kids of all levels. We had dozens of instructors assigned, and did all the pre-splitting we could. We finally got it down to one large group of more advanced skiers that needed to be split two ways. I told one instructor to take off fast, and the other instructor and I would corral the slower half of the group. He took off, and the kids took off after him, unaware of our devious plan. The split was immediately apparent, and we got them--all but one. He was pushing, skating, and poling for all he was worth, trying to catch the group ahead of him. I caught up and tried to get him to stop. "I can't," he panted, "I think my instructor is trying to ditch me...."

I appreciate the unfortunate reality that, for an advanced skier like yourself, you may often be put into a group beneath your ability, just because many ski schools abhor (and do lose money on) classes of one. My only suggestions are first, to be realistic about the realities of group lessons--they are not the same as privates, and there will always be some compromise between individual goals and group goals. (I know that you have no illusions about this, but some people do.) That's why they sell private lessons. And second, that said, be sure to learn the location of the complaints desk, and take advantage of it for any lesson that truly misses the mark!



Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #32 of 55
Thread Starter 
Onyxjl--Thanks for some great ideas [post #11]. I like the idea of as much advance information available as possible, to help at least those who take advantage of it. An informative web site should certainly help answer a lot of questions!

The only caveat to your "beginner/intermediate/advanced [whatever]" breakdown, with multiple focus and outcome choices, is that, even for a huge ski school like Vail, it is likely to create expectations they simply can't deliver on in a group lesson format, without breaking the bank. If a ski school can't average five or so students in group lessons, they probably can't deliver the financial expectations placed on their ski school director. It's a harsh reality, but there has to be a happy medium somewhere!

I like the idea of incentives for multiple lessons. I think few people realize that you'll get way more than twice as much out of two (good) lessons than one. Still, I think that the only real incentive will always be a great experience in your first lesson. Without it, no "discount program" would make me want to come back. And with it, no lack of a discount would keep me away!

Keystone, as with many ski schools, does offer a variety of return incentives, and I'm always interested in better ideas.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #33 of 55
Thread Starter 
Learn2Turn--I like a video loop like you describe [post #12]. Vail has used one for a long time, and it not only helps people learn where they fit, but it also inspires them to improve.

Thanks for your confirmation!

(Good point, though, KevinF. It's true that many skiers' concepts of how they look differ significantly from the harsh reality of video!)

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #34 of 55
Thread Starter 
JanesDad [post 18]--I love your idea of a little guide with maps and descriptions and other information available for students. Thanks!

I too lean toward the "information and knowledge is always a good thing" end of the spectrum. I just want to make sure I don't project my own biases on others more than I should. I'm glad that there is at least one other!

I hope to see you at Keystone!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #35 of 55
Thread Starter 
Oboe [post 19]--thanks for the reply--it's great to hear from you, and I hope that things are going well for you in your "new" career as a ski instructor. Sounds like they are!

That's a great story, about the "worst split." It's amazing how different the needs of two people "at the same level" can be, isn't it? Nice work keeping them together!

Hope to see you in Vermont.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #36 of 55
Thread Starter 
MichaelA--great points! I agree that there are probably some resources that PSIA could develop that could help, especially for smaller ski schools that lack the resources to develop their own. Since every program's needs and opportunities are unique, there would have to be a reasonable amount of latitude in anything a national organization puts forth, for it to have relevance across the board. That's quite a challenge, actually!

Developing systems that address as many "exceptions" as possible, without becoming overly cumbersome, and without losing the human touch, is another great challenge. There's a lot of gray area between rigid and all-encompassing, and just totally winging it, dealing with every case as an "exception." Sounds like you're familiar with this!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #37 of 55
Thread Starter 
Mosh [post #21]--thanks for describing what does sound like a very functional process at Snowmass! (Not that it should surprise anyone that one of the top ski schools in the world--just behind Vail Resorts programs --should have well-conceived systems that work well.)

"...feels good...looks disgusting..." How true! If they only knew!

See you soon?

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #38 of 55
It looks like Barnes is making up for lost time! WOW!

Thanks for ALL of the personalized replies and for the amount of time and thought that went into that!
post #39 of 55
P.S. Bob Barnes is one of the great coaches who will be there for YOU if you attend the ESA Eastern Weekend or the EpicSki Academy in Utah. The Eastern Weekend first, December 17 and 19, 2005 at Stowe, and is a great "early season tune-up".
post #40 of 55
Thread Starter 
Ant--good to hear from you too! How about coming back now to "the new Keystone"?

I think that the typical U.S. skier's "take one lesson, learn to ski, and forget it" attitude stems from a lot sources. As you know, skiing in this country is a niche sport anyway, and few take it seriously. Most casual skiers seem to have little appreciation of the advantages of good technique, think it is beyond their reach, or don't even believe that some techniques actually work better than others and are worth pursuing. And, to be sure, much of the blame lies with our ski schools. If we don't deliver experiences that people find worth their time and money, on a very consistent basis, who could blame them for not wanting to do it again? Ski lessons have so much to offer, if they're good ones. They can make the whole ski experience so much more rewarding. But they can be right up there with a trip to the dentist, too. It's up to us!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #41 of 55
Thread Starter 
Quote:
It looks like Barnes is making up for lost time! WOW!




Yeah, I needed to catch up on the old post count! Plus, I'm getting tired of being referred to around here in the past tense....

Seriously, I really do appreciate the time and input from everyone here, and I am listening. The least I can do is reply!

Best regards,
Bob
post #42 of 55

Student Directed - and Autocratic sorting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
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.
I think my current percentage is 25% on instructor days to have fun skiing days. Determined - yes. Fitness has been my focus this summer. I'm down 20 pounds so far. Should be down about 25 pounds by my first ski day.

Interestingly, my experience once the sorting was done by relative ability, the rest of the experience is and has been very student directed. I don't know the size of typical groups in other settings are, but in my personal experence there are never more than 6. Once the autocratic sorting is done, then everything you mentioned is covered. The experience for each student is quite individuallized within the group of 6. Student Directed is a perfect term for how it feels.

Now lessons that I've been to in this type of setting, there is an overall sorting that happens ahead of the autocratic grouping by level as to are you wanting to be a better bump skier etc. Makes no sense to have people that want to carve groomers better be thrown in with people that want to do bumps better.

I think the point of the sorting process is so that the terrain for the group provide a common learning platform for the varied goals of the students. As John Clendenon says - people have their green terrain, their yellow terrain, and the red light terrain. You can't learn by throwing people in their personal red light terrain.

The camp I'm going to in November has an interesting format. It's a 4 day camp and is built into a series of 1 day seminars by subject/interest. Thus you can create your own sylabus that is of interest to you. In this particullar camp there is no sorting by ability as pretty much everyone can go everywhere (which certainly keeps it challenging for me as I'm by very far the newest skier at this particullar camp). This camp last year felt very student directed.

Specifically what I worked on in the context of these seminars (like V1 software for movement analysis) was fore/aft balance which was my specific goal to work on. This was different than my 5 peers as they had no issues with fore/aft balance. They all as individuals were working on other things using the V1 software to help them see with advanced (cruel) video analysis what they were really doing with they ski. It was quite student directed.
post #43 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
When I last worked at Keystone, several years ago, we had one of the best intermediate- and upper-level splitting areas I've ever encountered, in what was then called "Packsaddle Bowl." A quick ride up the Peru Express lift takes you right to the top of the Bowl, where lessons met. The meeting place was easy to find, and students would self-select as much as possible according to signs. At the lineup, instructors would be assigned to each level and further refine the divisions. We would form full and with luck, final, groups with instructors, based on a verbal split, before leaving the meeting area. Then each instructor would ski his or her group down into Packsaddle Bowl--a small area with many terrain options from easy green boulevards to groomed blue, a few little ungroomed shots with and without moguls, and a very short chairlift running right up the middle.
This didn't always work so well, and highlights a major pitfall with self selection. On many occasionas, we'd get to the top, and discover that several students had NO business being at the top of that mountain, not even at the top of Schoolmarm.

I usually volunteered to deal with these situations ie get them down to the base in one piece. But will never forget skiing the entire distance, backwards, with a HUGE guy gripping my poles. He could not even turn or stop properly.

Yes, it was a failure to correctly sort them at the base, but it happened so often!
post #44 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
Ant--good to hear from you too! How about coming back now to "the new Keystone"?
Chuckle, thanks, but not yet. I have found a place to teach where everyone, from the CEO down, is pulling in the same direction, and I really feel good there. The vibe of this is getting through to our guests, and if it continues, we could be on a winner.

That said, I will watch Keystone's rapid rise with great interest. If they've got you back, then something's going right. All they needed was the right personnel and attitude, cos they have so much going for them already.

I think there will be a return of the Keystone Diaspora though, sure of it. You guys will have a big challenge ahead of you, and the great things that result from this will have everyone taking note.
post #45 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by mosh
Bob,

Some sugestions from Snowmass. After 18 seasons teaching it is the best split process I have been a part of.

We do all the desk work and verbal splits and all that jazz, but the one thing that sets our splits apart is we do a free ski split. Once the groups have been verbaly split we herd them rodeo style all at once toward the same trail. starting on flat greens upper levels go first down to the slower levels. so that there is not any congestion. So it is a natural split they think they are warming up and we are watching to see if someone drops back and like magic they just chose the slower group and vise versa if someone under estimated their true ability they can slip into the faster group just ahead of them. We regroup above a small steep slope to let people show off a bit but the split has mostly been done by then. It is a very natural way to warm up and not feel threatened by people watching you all by yourself.
Oh, so that's what was going on that morning. I was innocently standing by the "6" with my skis when a supervisor came by and asked me if I had been on the snow that season. When I replied I had been teaching snowboarding at another resort all season, he made me go and stand by the "7". When we reached the "small steep slope?" it was just me and one of the instructors. We waited for the others. I liked the split that resulted. I always wondered why you had the ski lessons start up there instead of the mall. I like it. Sneaky though.
post #46 of 55
Group preference and split reasons for adults were covered pretty well in the thread Likes & Dislikes of Instruction started by Ron White. Experience at my own school suggests younger skiers are easier to group & split than older students.

Lengthy thoughts below are relevant to students 14 and under.

---
My own school asks typical placement questions long before kids hit the snow. Pre-grouping is done through verbal interview and notes from previous lessons. Students are asked where they’ve skied before to establish reference runs. We carefully ask “How did you like that run?” to gage reaction as this indicates whether they were qualified to be there or not.

Aggressiveness, athleticism, speed and ‘skiing capability’ are all topics of discovery. Capability is asked about first, but is quickly amended by the other three attributes for actual placement. This represents our initial Classification Function.

---
Once categorized by the Query Process above we allow Natural Selection to reclassify students. Students who remain tight with their current herd stay in that herd - those who race too far ahead or linger too far behind get picked off by Wolves …er, Supervisors for redistribution.

We use Snowboard students in our skier culling & evaluation process. Snowboard students are released a minute or two before ski students whereupon they automatically *run* to every lift’s rope line and plop themselves down all about the entrance to boot up. We then release the ski students.

Blocked by a 1960’s style sit-in at lift entry lines, our ski students Self-Classify by Learning Type. Doers are the ones clawing, biting and pushing their way through the blockage of ’boarders. Feelers are doing the same, but more gently. The Watchers just stand around mesmerized by the mêlée. Meanwhile, the Thinkers have ducked under the guide ropes and are at the front of the line waving us forward. Students are now self-classified by learning type.

At the top of the lift our second Classifier (The Landing Gauntlet) executes. This test classifies students by Turn and Braking Quickness as well as Athleticism. Upon reaching the top Snowboarders have again plopped themselves down all about the area. We observe how well our ski students respond when launched down the off-ramp into this maze. We rate Quick-Turn skills and degree of Braking skill prior to impact. Falling on soft underbellies with elbows rather than ski poles demonstrates the degree of Athleticism.

---
Once on the hill we test the student’s ability to follow directions in a way that also deliveres a sequential look at each Student’s skiing ability at their normal speed. We ask the group to make the ‘Best Turns they can’ between "Here" and some place we identify. We clearly say, “We’ll wave you down one at a time when we get there!”. Then we then take off.

Of course, students unable to follow directions take off immediately behind us. These are generally Doers. The Watchers watch the Doers and follow them down immediately after. Feelers then feel like they’re being left behind and take off after the Watchers. We generally have to wave the Thinkers down.

This short Sequential Process reveals who the fast Doers are vs. the slow Doers, the Fast Watchers vs. the slow Watchers, and so on. We also observe who tends to stick with whom. Kids with an affinity for each other tend not to get lost from the herd later on. At this point instructors divvy up students by matching speed, skill and learning preference as evidenced in the preceding tests.

---
Our school puts a premium on speed matching. Very slow and very fast kids just don’t ski well together and a group ends up waiting a lot. Faster kids aren’t necessarily better skiers - in fact they generally need the extra speed to overpower their skis making up for ineffective technique. Students with a wide speed difference might actually be reversed in skill level from what you’d expect.

I’ve had a very slow student in a moderately fast class where the slowest person was actually the best technical skier in the group. She skied round, accurate WC turns while the rest of the group made fast (poor) Wedge turns. Regrettably, the group complained a lot because they all thought she “wasn’t good enough” for the group. Speed matters a lot in group interaction and support.

Skier-Level difference matters a lot less in kids given a good instructor. We frequently see level 3, 4 & 5 all in one group. Speed, technical proficiency and attitude form the more important group dynamic. In such a group, the 3 is usually aggressive and the 5 somewhat timid. Here we focus on Level-4 lesson content with individual attention to the needs of the 3 and the 5. Works out just fine.

---
After class we get together with our Supervisor for Student-Comparison Poker. “I’ll see your Despondent Debbie and raise you an Ace of Disobedience.” “Oh Yeah? Well I had the Queen of Bathroom Breaks this morning” ... “Oh so what... I had a Pair of Sobbing Siblings, Betty Broken-Binding *AND* the King of Disappearances all day today!” Compassionate silence ensues.

We then devolve into bartering. Mostly it's a game of Give rather than Get. Sort of like Hearts. Negotiations start with the leftover candy in our pockets but quickly escalate to beers, Good beers, lunches, dinners, concert tickets, sexual favors, assassinations, et al.

Unfortunately, in the end we mostly find ourselves with the same students we had before. We try, we ply, we cry - Just doesn’t matter unless there’s a real Speed or Level difference. The best Super’s know how to say no, Dang it.

---
Our Exception Handling process involves Chair-Riders who continuously stalk the herds and remain generally available. Chair-Riders circle a given run and provide chair-sitting enforcement services. It’s a kind of 'Guaranteed Delivery' system making sure chairs don’t lose students on the way up.

On their run down they assist instructors with On-Hill exceptions. Things like fetching skis & poles lost from the chair, picking up fallen students higher up the hill than the instructor, or leading your whole group briefly while you deal with a damaged, dispersed or otherwise disrupted student. Sometimes they serve as Jailers until a Warden shows up.

Another On-Hill exception handler is our cadre of On-Hill Supervisors. Our school employs a Divide-and-Conquer scheme with one Super for each 8 to 12 instructors. A Super’s domain might be "Level 1-3, age 5-10" or "Level 4-6, age 7-12". This limits the range of exceptions each must manage in swaps and splits. Radios ensure Supers coordinate as needed.

Lagging Students can be picked off by stalking Supers and delivered to a more appropriate group. Students aren’t moved ‘up or down’ so much as ‘over-to’ a faster or slower group - one that is ‘more their speed’.

At the end of the day this kind of system seems to work pretty well for us. And you never know what you might get out of the barter system if you have a high degree of personal tolerance.

.ma
post #47 of 55
Oh, that was brilliant! Thank you!
post #48 of 55
Thread Starter 
Yes indeed--that was nothing short of beautiful, Michael! Thank you!

We will adopt every word of your system at Keystone.



Ant--how did you get a 2009 Join Date at EpicSki? I know there's a time difference between here and Australia, but I didn't realize you were that far ahead of us!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #49 of 55
ant, if that date is true, please PM me with stock tips ASAP. I'll share.

.ma
post #50 of 55
That post was absolutely wonderful. I loved it.
post #51 of 55
It was during one of the Great Epicski Crashes where the site periodically logs everyone off and refuses to talk to them any more. When they resurrected me, somehow I had this beaut new join date! I can't even remember when I joined, late 90s I think but 2009 is as good as any.
post #52 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
KevinF--[re: post #9]
Good to hear from you! How did your season go, after Big Sky?
I have to learn to pay more attention to the threads that I post in! Thanks for taking the time for the personalized replies -- you might have just set a record for "most consecutive posts in the same thread".

New England pretty much "went off" shortly after I returned -- late Feb. and March were some of the best conditions I've ever seen. Plus, after all that worrying at Big Sky that I was going to take a really long slide after a fall, I did just that up in New Hampshire. And as you predicted, I just bounced right back up. I'll be at ESA-Snowbird and Stowe -- if we draw each other again, maybe I'll listen this time that falling isn't necessarily something to worry about!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
I appreciate the unfortunate reality that, for an advanced skier like yourself, you may often be put into a group beneath your ability, just because many ski schools abhor (and do lose money on) classes of one.
As for expectations for advanced skiers in group lessons. I don't really mind being put into a group "beneath my ability", so long as the instructor doesn't simply watch me perform a drill and then say "uh, yeah, nice" and then move on to one of the other students. If the instructor essentially gets me to do the same exercise as the other students -- but to different expected levels of precision -- then actually I find a class-wide ability level split doesn't affect my perceptions of the worthiness of the class.

i.e., at last year's ETU you had me and one or two other students doing one footed balance drills on the flattest piece of real-estate in Vermont. I thought I was doing just fine, and you still managed to pull me apart. I actually learned a lot in those few minutes -- there was a level split, but I still managed to learn quite a bit in a short amount of time.
post #53 of 55
Hey Michael,

I didn't realize that sexual favors were only 1 step down from assassinations in the barter system!!!!!!
post #54 of 55
Back on track. when I was at Keystone, I have to say that most of the group lessons were very low level, and the rest were privates. Upper level group lessons were not hugely popular.

and the big need on the bunny hill was to somehow cater better for those inevitable situations where some of the group progressed faster than others. This is a perennial thing in ski lessons, but maybe it was that bunny hill being quite steep at the top that exacerbated it. You just couldn't fudge it and take them all up it if anyone was not ready. Even the carpet was tough! I lost someone at the top of that once and if it wasn't for the netting, they'd have ended up embedded in the Summit Stage (they did go through the netting though).

Some kind of mechanism to deal with splits that develop during lessons would be a big advantage to all the guests. It was even worse when you had some people ready to go up the mountain, and others who just weren't. Again, Keystone's green run was rather blue in parts, you couldn't fudge it.
post #55 of 55
that was the problem at Eldora as well, rather bluish greens. thank goodness for orange netting.
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