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Teaching advice sought

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I've been reading these forums for a while, but this is the first time I have posted. I'm a level 8 skier, and mostly learned from friends and and from books, with not much formal instruction. This winter is really my first opportunity to ski nearly every weekend and friends are now asking me to help improve their skiing. Flattering though this is, I'm uncertain about the best approach, so I'd like some advice.

Last weekend I skied with a friend whose technique is not very much worse than mine, but who nonetheless wanted my advice. I noticed that the lower part of her turns in particular was largely skidded, and she was having trouble controlling her speed in linked turns, which I guessed was largely due to the skid. So I showed her two exercises that helped me to start mostly-carving (rather than mostly skidding) my turns - traversing on the uphill edge, and javelin turns. This did help a bit, and it looked as if she was carving the bottom half of the javelin turns, but when she returned to regular skiing there was still a lot of skidding going on.

Watching more carefully, I noticed that her weight was dropping back around the middle of the turn, presumably because she's trying to hurry the skis back across the fall-line (I know that when I do this, that's what I'm trying to do!). I wasn't sure what to do about this, but I encouraged her to try skiing with her poles held out between her hands and concentrate on keeping them facing down the mountain, on the basis that that would make it difficult for her to drop her weight back. I know this isn't what this exercise is usually used for, but it did seem to acheive the desired effect and she was pleased with the result. I'm likely to ski with this person again, and she'd like to get more comfortable tackling steeper terrain. Are there other exercises she can use to avoid that backwards weight shift and skid less?

On a slightly different note, I'm going skiing next weekend with another friend who has only skied for a week. I know he was taught (in Austria) using a wedge-first progression, and that they found a week of this rather frustrating (he is a very athletic person generally). I suspect he got himself to the point of making some kind of mostly-parallel turn, probably a stem turn, and I know he'd like some help in developing a more elegant parallel technique. I only have 1.5-2 days. Can you suggest what I should show him?
post #2 of 27
Welcome to epic Simon.

Quote:
Can you suggest what I should show him?
You could show where the Ski School Lesson desk is.

My guess with your friend you were skiing with, she is in the back seat, and holding her arms forward is like trying to reach the steering wheel from the back seat. It is treating a sysmpton and not the cure of a root problem. She needs to learn to stay balanced over her skis, and finish her turns. These can be a little complex for a non-professional to tackle. One further note-javelen turns are an exercise for skiing into a countered position, or aka a strong inside half. If she isn't balanced over her outside ski to begin with, that exercise won't help her that much.

RW
post #3 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Kinahan
Can you suggest what I should show him?

Show both your friends the door to the ski school desk.

Then get yourself some ski instruction training if you want to help.

The very worst bad habits I've had students ask me to address were those developed by following the advice of "good" skiers who really didn't know what they were talking about.
post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 

On the obvious point ...

Can we take the "get your friends professional help" thing as read, please? I've said as much to both of my friends. They know I'm not an instructor, and so do I. Both think they'll have more fun if they ski with me. That's their decision.
post #5 of 27
Simon, that inner motivation to help others improve their skiing might be your subconscious dragging you into the instructor realm. Consider locating a -good- ski school in your area and asking to participate in an instructor clinic.

While it's likley too late to join up this season, they might let you participate in a clinic or two as a recruiting tool and give you a chance to see the wherefor and whyfor of typical teaching.

Pretty hard for us to analyze and perscribe solutions for second-party descriptions of third-party activities. Especially when the second-party is not immersed in key patterns to look for and note.

Still, being 'too far' back is such a common ailment that there are generic ideas posted all around the EpicSki forums. Search on 'Fore/aft Balance' to find many of them.

My most generic suggestion is to explain acceleration to the person while on the lift. Explain how the skis accelerate from under the body and how we need to stand against that acceleration. Once the basic idea is in place, show them how to extend (or 'pull') the feet backward to brace them against acceleration. Simple steep traverses with the downhill foot held far back will clearly demonstrate the idea.

Each turn goes from level (transition) to steep (apex) and back to level again. Going into 'steep' we need to be properly braced against the expected acceleration - an ever-changing Fore/Aft stance.

As to drills... Shuffling both feet back and forth continuously while continuing to make turns is a good one. Make sure the person is 'feeling' their feet and their sense of balance as they do it to gain insights into proper relationship of body and skis during all phases of each turn.

If you were to contact your local PSIA office you might be able to pick up some teaching manuals to get you started.


As to your friend who has only skied a week... I'm not sure they'd really be working on a 'more elegant parallel technique' just yet. There are far too many things to talk about than would be reasonable to post here. The PSIA manual(s) would be a place to start.

.ma
post #6 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson
Show both your friends the door to the ski school desk.

Then get yourself some ski instruction training if you want to help.

The very worst bad habits I've had students ask me to address were those developed by following the advice of "good" skiers who really didn't know what they were talking about.
and...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White
You could show where the Ski School Lesson desk is.
post #7 of 27
Simon,

Where are you skiing? Maybe there are some instructor Bears nearby who can help. Your friends don't realize how much more fun a good lesson can be when they don't realize how hard it is for a friend to provide effective instruction.

It's also hard to diagnose the root cause of problems over the Internet. Per the posts above, the suggestions you get (like mine) are liable to be pure garbage).

That said, 3 tricks you can try for your lady friend are:
1) Follow me
2) Thousand steps/Shuffle steps
3) Hands behind the back

Follow me means you have to tone down your skiing so you are easier to follow. She has to follow directly in your tracks as close as she can.

Thousand steps is taking tiny little steps picking a ski up off the snow, alternating feet, all the way through a turn. Shuffle steps is the same thing except shuffling your feet back and forth instead of picking them up.

You can't ski comfortably with your hands behind your back if your weight is back, you'll get caught letting go and bringing your hands forward to maintain balance.


For your other friend, the possibilities for where he could be at are endless. The primary thing is not to push him beyond his ability. Generic things to work on are developing a tall stance, a quiet upper body and some rhythm to his turns. But you should really just focus on having fun.
post #8 of 27
first- ladies, having a lower CG, tend to sit back much of the time. don't attempt to homogenize form across genders, for starters.
Rusty's advice re: thousand steppers is excellent. there are precious few upper level ski issues which can't be remedied through thousand steppers and hop turns. Hop turns, executed down a piste until the executioner is so tired that the skis no longer leave the snow, effect beautiful, centred body position.
I like teaching thousand steppers a little differently from run to run, practicing a divergent uphill skate at the completion of one turn while entering the next...in fact i like to train upper level students to skate back uphill, strictly as an exercise, after each turn, until, again, they grow exhausted of this maneuver and find themselves completing their turns in rounded carves.;
stay away from much upper-body positioning work, allow upper body positioning to evolve as an effect of good, centered lower body position.
of course, you wanna avoid any over-rotation and /or over counter-rotation, but by exhausting the pupil with one or two dynamic drills (thousand steps, uphill skated turns), rotational anomalies melt away quickly.
I have seen countless skiers, long stuck in that upper-intermediate/upper level rut, find new appreciation for completed carving by spending a week or so on an alpine snowboard, in their ski boots, and then going back to their skis.
radical though it might sound, i've broken many upper-level skiers of some bad habits, involving extranneous upper body movement and skidding, by putting them on an alpine snowboard for a week.
changes everything in their skiing for the better.
one of the great things about running your own little program in a foreign country is the latitude one can avail oneself by thinking and working outside the PSIA box... not that there's much really wrong with much of PSIA methodology, just that there is far, far more to great teaching than what's stored in their collective hard-drive
post #9 of 27
Simon your friends are asking a bit much don't you think? Go train and give me free lessons.
Tips are one thing but to ask for a full lesson is asking you to make them the focus of your ski day. If you choose to do that great but what are you getting in return? That is much more than a "favor" they are asking for.
post #10 of 27
Simon, it is difficult to understand especially in the second person what problems a new skiier is having via the feelings and descriptions of another skiier.

Being "wedge trained in Austria" probably has nothing or everything to do with where he is with his skiing. If he spent a solid week on skis and still wants to come back for more .... there is hope ... he has the quality of endurance.

Many athletic guys are stiff as mechanical robots at that stage and are using muscle instead of technique. But, you need to see them ski for five minutes or less to know where to start.

Yes, a private is expensive. perhaps a semi-private for your two friends though they sound a bit too far apart unless on compatible easy blue terrain working on body mechanics.
post #11 of 27
I have no suggestions as far as tips go, but I will say that 'ask them to take a lesson', while well-intentioned and undoubetdly the right thing to do, is not always feasible. For many people, skiing is an expensive sport to begin with, and most of them take the 'learn to ski' package the first few times. After that, lessons (either group or, god forbid, privates) are ~$40 or so, which is enough of a barrier. At this stage, the prospective student has 2 choices -
1) learn by watching or trial and error
2) ask friends for free advice

and then its a question of choosing the lesser of 2 evils. The best of course is option 3) buy a book, post on forums and practice diligently; but that requires a level of commitment and self awareness that is not very common.

I think if ski areas started offering free lessons, perhaps in exchange for buying a lift ticket for the future, it would go a long way towards fixing the problem, and the resort wouldn't lose much money either. But then I realise that expecting SAM to be that forward thinking is ridiculous
post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks to Vlad, therusty and michaelA for your help. I shall put your advice into effect if it seems appropriate at the time. This really is more a matter of trying to help friends with some tips rather than a formal lesson program. I just figure if I'm asked for help I'd better try to make sure its good help, which is why I asked here. Look at it this way - if you help me you won't have to sort out my friends skiing when they come to you for lessons

On my friend who is the beginner - I've not even seen him ski yet, so I have no idea of his level. I curious about what to watch out for in his skiing though and how I might help him. It took me ages to get past the stem-turn stage in my own skiing.

Oh, and michaelA - You may be right that my semi-concious is dragging me towards instructordom, although it would have to be a part-time hobby kind of thing. I have ordered the PSIA materials you suggested, though.
post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 
Oh, and therusty, I'm skiing in the Lake Tahoe area. I would be interesting in instructor recommendations if anyone has any, for myself as well as my friends. I've suffered from some utterly awful ski tuition in the past, but I'm open to the idea of private or semi-private lessons with someone good
post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Defcon
I think if ski areas started offering free lessons, perhaps in exchange for buying a lift ticket for the future, it would go a long way towards fixing the problem, and the resort wouldn't lose much money either. But then I realise that expecting SAM to be that forward thinking is ridiculous
Defcon,

Whitetail, Liberty and Roundtop (PA) offer free lessons from opening date through 12/23. This was the second season of this program. The "exchange" is that this early in the season only a limited number of trails are open.
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Kinahan
I just figure if I'm asked for help I'd better try to make sure its good help, which is why I asked here. Look at it this way - if you help me you won't have to sort out my friends skiing when they come to you for lessons ...
Oh, and michaelA - You may be right that my semi-concious is dragging me towards instructordom, although it would have to be a part-time hobby kind of thing. I have ordered the PSIA materials you suggested, though.
Simon,

Sometimes we have to work twice as hard to fix people that have been "helped" by their friends. It's like the sign in the barbershop that says "We fix $5 hair cuts".

On the other hand, before I started teaching I had started giving out "good samaritan" tips to people on the hill in trouble. I used to ski out West for most of December. That early, one often was alone on the bump runs. Every now and then I'd come across people who had taken a wrong turn and were pretty miserable. At first, I'd just notice that a lot of people I passed were cussing about MY skiing. After that I'd stop to just chat "Are you ok?". Invariably, they'd ask "How do you DO THAT?" and I'd give them a tip. One trip I was going down a cruiser run and some people on the chair lift 200 yards away were yelling at me. I worked my way closer, but still could not recognize them. They were trying to thank me for helping them. I had helped some folks 4 days earlier, but had totally forgotten. I was impressed that they had recognized me from that far off. They had to have been quite impressed to have looked for me that hard. That put the thought in my head that maybe teaching was possible. Little did I know then that a quick 2 minute survival tip for someone who is in way over their head is far far easier than professionally teaching a one hour lesson. But the "Hey, that works!" and the resulting smiles are just as rewarding.
post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Kinahan
Oh, and therusty, I'm skiing in the Lake Tahoe area. I would be interesting in instructor recommendations if anyone has any, for myself as well as my friends. I've suffered from some utterly awful ski tuition in the past, but I'm open to the idea of private or semi-private lessons with someone good
Do believe there are some posters here who teach in the Tahoe area. You can check out the instructor part of the site. Also, Allmountainskipros.com at sugarbowl for advanced lessons for you.
post #17 of 27
Simon,

That's how I got into ski teaching. I love to ski and I love to teach. I put the two together and WOW what a great combination. Then I got into adaptive ski teaching and a whole new constellation of experiences opened up to me.

If you have the time and the inclination, then look into becoming a ski instructor. You will gain much more than you give.
post #18 of 27

A mid-life career reorientation...

I'm thinking about a career change and teaching skiing. I'm currently an attorney, however, I have three years of teaching experience (late 70's) and would be hoping to get an instructors job in the Tahoe area next fall. First, what guidance can anyone offer. Any training clinics that I should attend? Any publications that are must reads (I have a bunch on ski racing from USSA and teaching from PSIA already). In general, how's the compensation for a diligent middle age guy with good communication skills and an eager desire to learn?
Thanks!

Mike
:
post #19 of 27
Mike,

The compensation sucks, but the rewards are great. Figure out what resort(s) you'd like to work at, then call their ski schools and ask for info about their fall hiring programs. This usually involves indoor and an on snow training. You don't need to do any clinics ahead of time. The resort will train you how to teach.
post #20 of 27

Well it is for the snow not the dough

Rusty, Thanks for the insight and advice. What does Warren Miller say--do it now or next year you'll be a year older. Something like that, you get the drift.

Keep em pointed downhill,

Mike
post #21 of 27
Mike,
Don't turn in your attorney cloths, but give ski instruction a go. It is as hard and easy way of life you will ever encounter (both hate and love). The rewards are "priceless".

RW
post #22 of 27
The actor Cliff Robertson once said that while he was happy with his career, he would have been equally happy had he been a fulltime ski instructor instead.
Robert redford once said that ski instructing would have been his own next career choice after acting...
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Kinahan
...I noticed that the lower part of her turns in particular was largely skidded, and she was having trouble controlling her speed in linked turns, which I guessed was largely due to the skid.

...Watching more carefully, I noticed that her weight was dropping back around the middle of the turn, presumably because she's trying to hurry the skis back across the fall-line (I know that when I do this, that's what I'm trying to do!)...
It's perfectly possible to control speed with a skidded turn. In order to do this, the turn needs to be round, and finish uphill to some extent. I don't think you should focus on getting your friend to carve the whole turn. Instead, I'd suggest two related areas of focus: 1) a strong initial commitment of the CM into the new turn, and 2) completing the turn with tails following tips to make a round turn ending a little uphill. If she can do both of these things, her turn shape will control her speed, rather than the braking skid that she's using now. As far as exercises to help with these issues, I'd suggest having her do turns with the uphill ski tail lifted off the snow and the tip touching the snow. Practice on easy terrain. Good Luck!
post #24 of 27
recreational skiers tend to label skidding as a bad practice.
racers, on the other hand, utilize skidding intentionally for speed-scrubbing, when such is indicated.
learning controlled skidding, indeed, skiing or snowboarding in
c o n s t a n t l y skidded, round turns, with no sustained edgehold, is a priceless exercise for the serious competitive boarder/skier.
skidding , when executed correctly, is an absolutely essential skill for the elite-level snow-athlete...
practice totally skidded arcs as a matter of course, and improve exponentially as a skier and competitor.
think well outside the recreational stinkbox
post #25 of 27

Northstar-At-Tahoe

Hey, you and your friends should come on over to Northstar. We offer free lessons, every day but Saturday (I think), for people who are Levels 6 and up (making parallel turns on blues or better). Free lessons meet at the top of the Comstock chairlift at 1:15pm and 2:45pm and last one hour and fifteen minutes. Generally, five instructors are available to split the students into manageable groups (max size of 7) based on skill level and interests. I've worked the free lesson program a few times and have seen some people make some pretty major breakthroughs in just a short amount of time.

We also have a pretty kick ass training program for ski instructors. I know a number of instructors, myself included, who recently made the move to Northstar because the training program is better here than it was at their old mountain. We send out training clinics at least twice a week (including a Sunday clinic for the weekend-warrior instructors). Perks of the job include free massages, accupuncture, physcal therapy and chiropractor treatments, and personal fitness trainers. And as a bonus, the managers all seem genuinely grateful for you being there. I think it's a great place to work.

Garrett
post #26 of 27
they still keep employee housing at "Hilltop"? i loved living there in '91.....
post #27 of 27

Sounds great...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gwmccull
Hey, you and your friends should come on over to Northstar. We also have a pretty kick ass training program for ski instructors. I know a number of instructors, myself included, who recently made the move to Northstar because the training program is better here than it was at their old mountain. We send out training clinics at least twice a week (including a Sunday clinic for the weekend-warrior instructors). The managers all seem genuinely grateful for you being there. I think it's a great place to work.
Garrett
Sounds great, Garrett, I haven't skied there (yet) but heard good things. When does your fall program generally kick off? How many instructors work at Northstar?

Mike
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