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From Lift and Tip to Ski the Whole Mountain

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I just spent a three day weekend at Solitude teaching my girlfriend to ski. For some perspective - she took a group of lessons once for 4 days about 20 years ago in Sun Valley and said she never got beyond a snow plow on the bunny hill. I am 55 and she is a 47 years old.

The bottom line is that she did extremely well, really enjoyed the skiing, and is ready for the next time. This was in spite of some apparent alignment issues (using rental boots) that I could only partially compensate for using canting shims (only on the second and third days). My approach was focused on a progression starting from stepping turns on very shallow terrain to an emphasis on lifting and tipping. We didn't cover a wedge stop or wedge turn at all but both appeared a little bit (but not too much).

One of the best and most interesting outcomes of the weekend occurred on the plane trip back. I was looking over Eric and Rob DesLauriers' book, Ski the Whole Mountain, which I had recently bought. As my girlfriend looked over she repeatedly could identify the movements we had worked on in the books photo's (which are numerous and demonstrate the book's concepts extremely well). Even in the pictures of the skiers in the steeps she was able to identify the ideas we had focused on. Even more interesting was the ability to show her sentences or paragraphs throughout the book that she could closely identify with. Here's an example from the chapter on Steeps:

The mental problem in skiing steeps [obviously what my girlfriend considered steep - going from the bunny hill to a green run - was different that what was intended in the book] often appears right after the pole plant [which we hadn't even used], during the instant when your skis flow underneath you and onto their new turning edges. This requires a brief moment of confidence and patience - confidence that your skis will, in fact, flow onto edge and make the turn, and the patience to allow it to happen. If you pass through this moment with good balance, you will make a beautiful carved turn and have good control. But if you rush it by over-steering your skis into the turn, or if you delay it by shying away from the fall line, then you will skid [or more importantly in my girlfriend's case perhaps cross her tips] and lose control. This is true in all skiing, but the problem is amplified on the steeps
How great is it that with modern equipment (even with far less than optimal alignment), some pretty simplistic approaches (I am not an instructor and don't have any special training), and a trusting relationship, a first time skier (we both discount her first experience 20 years ago) can come away able to identify with a variety of perceptions and concepts of pretty advance skiing? I for one, and my girlfriend for two, think it's pretty fantastic.
post #2 of 8
very good! and pretty fantastic that you were able to do such a great job with your girlfriend. The added psychological pressure teaching or being taught by a spouse or love interest is many times a lethal mix. You apparently did an outstanding job and should be commended!

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
very good! and pretty fantastic that you were able to do such a great job with your girlfriend. The added psychological pressure teaching or being taught by a spouse or love interest is many times a lethal mix. You apparently did an outstanding job and should be commended!

(Warning, social commentary)
Bud, I know this is a commonly accepted perception but it's just one I have never been willing to buy into. In contrast to this thought it has always seemed to me that a trusting relationship can potentially provide added value to a learning situation. I am a firm believer in 'belief."
post #4 of 8
I hear ya. I too taught my fiancee (now wife of 12 years) to ski when we were dating. Fortunately I knew of the pitfalls and was very careful to navigate around the potential problems. She really enjoyed skiing and I thought she would continue to enjoy it the rest of her life. Well, since having children we are into the next phase of many women's skiing career. The part where she doesn't ski much until the kids are sixteen or so and hopefully she will renew her interest again. I have talked to many women when teaching or in my shop who say "I haven't skied in 15 years" and I say, "ahhh you had kids right".....they say, "how did you know"?

post #5 of 8
The problems may not be on the teacher's side other than dealing with the frustrations of desiring a good outcome. Only recently (we've been married since 1972) has my wife actually asked for any guidance from me about skiing. Our first winter together, I was teaching with some French guys with whom she could converse because of her family background, and she learned the basics from them because she just couldn't listen to me. Last season she asked me for a pointer on edge use and the other day she asked me about smoothing out her transitions. Previously, any suggestions I made meant nothing until she heard the same thing from someone else. I think there sometimes is a communication block that just doesn't exist between strangers.
post #6 of 8
You can't be married for thirty years and not learn to tune much of the daily chatter out. For me, tuning in just doesn't click back on quickly so I have trouble learning things from my wife in a formal manner. I love her dearly but the brain tunes out a lot after thirty years.

My parents have been married near sixty years and are living on my small trawler while circumnavigating the eastern U.S. If the engine quits 30 miles from shore, no problem but let one of them try to teach the other something about what they are doing and each is threatening to make the other walk the plank.

I suppose each is different and with Si's background in skiing, teaching the right girlfriend might just bring them together.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
While the issues surrounding the teaching of a love interest to ski are clearly of interest that was not my focus in starting this thread. Suffice it to say that I feel it is very special to have a relationship where two people can work together on something like skiing and achieve very positive results for both.

To reiterate and further discuss the main point of my post - I find it fascinating that a first time skier can recognize and identify with descriptions and movements of very advanced skiing. I say this especially in light of all of the statistics on low rates of retention. Maybe one thing that could help is more opportunity for situations where skiing can be discussed, read about, viewed, and/or studied a bit before someone ever goes out, some basic movements approached on snow, and then a review of those movements and the perceptions of the new skier in terms of how they apply to all level of skiing. Seems to me that this is what happened in our case and what made things work for us.

I have always thought that learning situations for all levels of skiing would be well served by this approach when possible. I remember skiing in a Taos ski week a couple of years after I started skiing (about 15 years ago) and that they provided everyone with a book at the end of the week entitled something like Ski the Taos Way. I think it would have even been better if they had sent that book out before the week and then reviewed our progress in reference to the book. With the advancements in the internet, especially online video and the ability to animate photo sequences, there obviously is greatly enhanced opportunity for such approaches.

Now I'm not saying that this is practical in most situations, but I'm kind of surprised it doesn't seem to happen much at all. It seems to me that perhaps Harb, with his books, videos, and website, is the best example of allowing for this kind of approach? Of course, based on my original post I think you can see that the DesLaurier's book provides good opportunity for this as well. I wonder whether there are those who might disagree with my thoughts on this based on the concept that ski teaching/coaching is too dynamic and requires too much flexibility to give people an outline of concepts and approaches that they will be exposed to in a lesson or camp. In such a case my answer would be that I think that concepts and approaches about an upcoming experience, based on simple pre-assessment of a skiers abilities, can pretty easily be presented without limiting flexibility.

BTW, in the case of my girlfriend, we reviewed a PMTS tape, discussed concepts and approaches, and went through some dry-land practice of movements before ever heading to Utah. I think my preference would have been to use an old Breakthrough on Skis tape from Lito that I used to have but couldn't find. After skiing, in addition to discussion and continued dry-land movement demonstration, I obviously used the DesLaurier's book for review, although that happened a bit surreptitiously.
post #8 of 8
Recently My Wife expressed an interest in me giving her some ski coaching to help her improve, this is quite a momentous change in our skiing relationship--we've skied together for years --but I ski a heck of a lot more and consequently am quite a bit ahead of her in our skills. Anyway-we've always had a 'no coaching' pact and just skied for fun as I've tried to always keep her and guide her on terrain she'll enjoy--Once years ago, early in her skiing career, a day at Kirkwood ended with her laying down in frustration and throwing her poles at me in anger--we all learn the hard way. since then, I've been extra careful and she's grown to love skiing.

But since she has now expressed a desire to get better-and she trusts me-so I've invested some time in finding the right model to help her along--Got Books by HH, Lito, and a few others with videos--Long story short-I've gone with Lito's last iteration of Breakthrough on skis-we've worked through the book and a video and honestly-we're both skiing a whole lot better. We spent a weekend up at old Gore Mountain in NY and did a little drilling and work-but the rest of the time had a lot of fun-she skied some great bumps and a few trees as well better than she ever thought she would.

I think Lito's whole Relax and Have Fun paradigm works wonders for learners and would be Husband instructors as well!

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