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Great Debate # 8 - Mentioning How to Fall - Yes or No?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Not to steal your Thunder, Rusty, but this subject just sort of popped into my head while reading through the loosened strap thread. I seem to remember this subject being discussed on the AASI forum a year or two ago, but not as much (if at all) on Epic.

When teaching an intro lesson, do you guys mention the correct way to fall, i.e., not onto outstretched palms/hands? Or do you lean towards the school of thought that says teaching how to fall implants a negative thought in the student's mind from the get-go?

When teaching beginner skiers, I tend not to mention falling at all. Beginner spills on skis are (generally) much easier on the body than the equivalent snowboard falls, so in the ski instance I do try to keep the negative thought of falling out of their heads. On a snowboard, however, falling is a different animal altogether.

I've yet to come to a final decision on this topic. I'm interested in hearing your opinions.
post #2 of 13
is2f4u,

By all means - steal away. This is a free thunder zone!

Rusty teaches "the secret sound" to his first timers (I'd tell you what it is, but then it wouldn't be a secret any more now would it?). I explain that the number one injury to beginner riders is a wrist injury and that these happen from falling and putting your hands out to break the fall. I also explain that putting your hands out is "automatic". You can't stop yourself from doing it unless you practice falling differently. I teach making a fist, crossing your arms, falling face first and making the secret sound on contact. The sound helps to force breathing out on contact to relax the muscles and reinforces the learning for falling this way vs hands out. I then make sure to control speeds in the lesson until skidding flat boards are fixed and nag everyone who falls hands out until they are making the secret sound when they fall.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post
is2f4u,

By all means - steal away. This is a free thunder zone!

Rusty teaches "the secret sound" to his first timers (I'd tell you what it is, but then it wouldn't be a secret any more now would it?). I explain that the number one injury to beginner riders is a wrist injury and that these happen from falling and putting your hands out to break the fall. I also explain that putting your hands out is "automatic". You can't stop yourself from doing it unless you practice falling differently. I teach making a fist, crossing your arms, falling face first and making the secret sound on contact. The sound helps to force breathing out on contact to relax the muscles and reinforces the learning for falling this way vs hands out. I then make sure to control speeds in the lesson until skidding flat boards are fixed and nag everyone who falls hands out until they are making the secret sound when they fall.

The automatic part is what has me torn. It's instinctive to shoot your hands out as soon as the "mousetrap" fall begins - just like it's instinctive to duck the instant one hears gunshots ring out. Both riders and soldiers must be "re-programmed" to act against their instinct when put in these situations. Obviously, we (instructors) are not going to re-program someone in the span of a few hours! To be honest, I'm not sure I'm entirely re-programmed - I think the majority of my "mousetraps" are at such high speeds, however, that I literally don't have time to shoot my hands out.

What are your thoughts, Rusty, on the psychological effects of discussing falling and how to fall in an intro lesson? Do you think the discussion "plants the seed" of negativity, so to speak? Or do you think falling is pretty much inevitable, so you might as well teach 'em how to do it properly?
post #4 of 13
When I first started to teach riding, everyone slammed at least once. Now that we teach board performance based lessons only about one in 10 students slam. The confidence that the BP approach instills makes a big difference in the lessons. In my lessons the way that I present falling and the potential for injury works well for my students. I don't see a lot of negativity planting. This is certainly a concern, but I think most students are aware that most people fall a lot when learning to ride. I think I see people less worried about it after I talk about it because I'm giving them the details of why it happens and how to avoid the injury. When I tell people "Look, you are going to do this. We'll be going slow enough that you probably will not get hurt. But if I see you falling with your hands out, I'm going to nag you. Because after the lesson, when you are going faster, if you keep doing it you will likely get hurt.", they tend to believe that I'm not sugar coating the issue. You have to earn the trust of your students by being honest and up front with them. Trust trumps negativity every time.
post #5 of 13
I will mention a safety stop when we get to the top of the tow for the first time. I tell them to just sit down to the side if they panic and forget how to turn and are heading for something ugly.
post #6 of 13
The very first thing I learned before heading up the mountain was how to fall. This lesson came from the shop owner who rented us the gear. He took us outside and said "you guys are going to spend a lot of time in the snow so might as well learn how fall without getting hurt". He taught us to keep our hands in and tuck our head in with our chin touching our chest and do a front roll on our shoulders getting the board down hill.

To this day I still use his tecnique and am grateful for his advice.
post #7 of 13
In 1967 or so, we taught students to just simply sit down with their body up the hill and skis below and slide it out slowing with one ski. If there was an object (tree), use the knees as shock absorbers when the ski contacted the tree, instructor, hapless other victim etc. Protect the head.

These days we are not allowed to mention falling or even how to get up .... just tell em' to protect the head and to get up, take off the skis.

Lawyers .... the minute you tell them "how to" and they get hurt you are just a slice in the toaster of the legal machine.
post #8 of 13
First thing, I practice it about 20 minutes with first timers. First start falling uphill. then downhill. Most students do fear falling downhill, however I've had some who thought they have to jump a frontloop forwards - Ouch!

Also tell em a zillion times to make a fist when falling. Many handrelated injuries come from people not forming a fist while falling.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post
In 1967 or so, we taught students to just simply sit down with their body up the hill and skis below and slide it out slowing with one ski. If there was an object (tree), use the knees as shock absorbers when the ski contacted the tree, instructor, hapless other victim etc. Protect the head.
That technique was probably safe in 1967 due to the equipment being used. Advising someone to do what you've described today (especially a beginner on shaped skis) seems to be a recipe for disaster - sitting down with the body up the hill and skis below, attempting to slow down with one ski sounds like a great start to the "phantom foot" (NOT the PTMS version, but the ACL Awareness video version!) position that so often leads to ACL injuries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post
These days we are not allowed to mention falling or even how to get up .... just tell em' to protect the head and to get up, take off the skis.
When you say "we", Yuki, are you referring to ski instructors in general, or the specific resort you worked at?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post
Lawyers .... the minute you tell them "how to" and they get hurt you are just a slice in the toaster of the legal machine.
The above statement is a bit of a half-truth, although it drips with the cynicism I've come to know and love from you...

If you told a student how to "safely" manage an early departure (i.e., jumping) from a chairlift - yes, you're about to get toasted. On the other hand, telling them how to safely do something that is well within the scope of your professional knowledge is probably acceptable. I say probably because, as you and I (and every other American over the age of 8) knows, our legal system is sometimes nothing more than a legalized version of craps.

Can I see certain S.S.'s prohibiting their instructors from teaching students how to fall? Definitely. Do I agree with it? Not at all. I'd imagine you don't, either. Do I feel comfortable, as both an instructor and an attorney, advising student's how to properly fall? Yes.
post #10 of 13
Sorry ... still a relative newb @ this.

So, exactly what is the best way to fall for a snowboarder? I already got the concept of making fists. Do I try to roll into it and out of it?
post #11 of 13
The way I teach it is to make fists, cross your arms over your chest and make an oomph sound on impact. Falls tend to happen so fast that you can not think "I'm falling", "do this" and then actually do it quick enough. Practicing falling from your knees and making the sound helps to make the moves automatic.
post #12 of 13
Yeah, but its good to practice to fall to the knees nevertheless. When falling it goes to quick to react with your brain. But if you trained to make fists and stay with your arms close enough to your body (don't try to take too much of the fall with the arms, injury can on body parts can anyhow not be prevented much by doing this) in order not to have shoulder injuries. Try falling as if you were first landing on the knees, then laying over the upper body and touching the snow with your whole forearm, not fisting into the snow. I'm teaching without crossing of arms, but keeping them close to the chest. Dunno if crossing is safer?
Crossing may be better for beginners as they will remember it better.
post #13 of 13
"But the instructor said..." Ladies and gentleman at almost every resort I have worked a this particualr topic has been a can of worms. Pretty much the un-mentioned gray area. "Well we don't necessarily want to teach people how to fall because" (insert your favorite ambulance chasing lawyer jingle here).Or...just lightly touching on the subject with little or now specifics to overall outcome & safety of your student.

People..I'm with those of you that teach a proper and suggest falling technique. Most certainly a good one for me is to let the parts of your body which are close to the ground lessen the impact of the fall. A relaxed rider hitting the ground rather a tense box of rocks reaps less of a disaster as we all know.

There are many excellent suggestions in the above threads as well...my only soap box pitch...to not teach falling to a guest I believe is a dis-service.

Jonah D.
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