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How do they teach in Europe?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
A friend and I were having a discussion on the various teaching techniques being used and he was telling me about the major debate over teaching beginners the parallel turn immediately vs. the progression of wedge, gliding wedge, etc. I told him I thought that the teaching method in Europe was to teach parallel skiing immediately too, but it was just something I heard somewhere. Can anyone give me the real story on this?
Thanks,
Bob
post #2 of 26
As far as I know we here in europe teach beginners by wedging. At least thats what we do in scandinavia and in austria. Note that the teaching industry is huge in the Alps and that there can be many schools within one resort and they are trying to be a little bit differnt in order to be better and make more money. The direct to parallel has been arround here at least since the 80 so there must be a lot of schools teaching that as well but if you look at ski school assosiations videos on the net you will find them all wedging.
post #3 of 26
The biggest difference is that in Europe ski instructors are highly trained
post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
tdk6,
Thanks for the reply. So direct to parallel has been used in Europe since the 80's? That's what I thought. I guess I'll have to buy a book with the progressions that might be used to do that. It seems like it would be much harder than the wedge progression. Thanks again.
Bob
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Volklskier1,
I don't have any knowledge of what European ski instructor requirements consist of, but I have a level 2 cert alpine and level 3 nordic from PSIA and I can assure you that PSIA certified instructors have undergone a good deal of training as well.
post #6 of 26
Generally agree with what is said here, but I'd expand on a few things...
Ski schools are not associated with resorts - there's a "free market" in instruction - although this does not completely mean it is wide open. To instruct in France you need to have passed the ESF exams. This includes the speed test, where you need to complete a GS course within a few seconds of the time laid down by a world cup skier.
...and if you want to be a snowboard instructor in France, part of the exam is focussed on skiing.

In terms of level of training, well, some European instructors may be better skiers than their US counterparts, but that does not necessarily make them better instructors. It's one thing to be able to race, or teach racing, it's anotehr thing to teach people who are on vacation, and aren't interested in beating everyone in a race.

(I should add - I was orginally taught to ski in Austria, but have also spent time learning in France and Switzerland)
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by thebobski View Post
Volklskier1,
I don't have any knowledge of what European ski instructor requirements consist of, but I have a level 2 cert alpine and level 3 nordic from PSIA and I can assure you that PSIA certified instructors have undergone a good deal of training as well.
Your lvl 2 and 3 are meaningless to what being French certified means
post #8 of 26
It is probably taught still like in the old days...........



I Ski.........

..........You Look.
post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by volklskier1 View Post
Your lvl 2 and 3 are meaningless to what being French certified means
True. Bobski can probably teach students.
French certified people can race (but few make good teachers, unless you stroke their egos)
post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
True. Bobski can probably teach students.
French certified people can race (but few make good teachers, unless you stroke their egos)
Thats a real BS sound bite. A stereotype that is simply untrue. I'm sure that hiding behind "they are trained and ski much better but they can't teach" makes all of you feel better but it's simply not true.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Wormer View Post
It is probably taught still like in the old days...........

I Ski.........

..........You Look.

Another stereotype.
If I had to choose I would certainly prefer that to "let's stand around and talk about it".


I've skied many times with french certified guides and these stereotypes are far from the truth.

PSIA doesn't even participate in Interski they're so far behind in skill level.
post #11 of 26
I am going for my level 2 teaching test next week, and I have some idea what our standards are, but I have to agree with those who propound that French certification is a much more thorough process. Clearly their program is like a full time junior college degree in ski teaching and mountaineering. Some of the skills they learn would be completely useless at the ski area I teach at, such as how to rescue someone from a crevasse. Nevertheless they must be much better skiers to pass their tests than we must be. PSIA has a teaching model and a skiing model which suit the market we serve. Our instructors are enthusiastic ambassadors for our areas, knowledgeable in techniques which would improve our students' skiing, and most of us are articulate communicators, often relying on skills which we acquired in other work experience. I have no doubt that the average French certified instructor skis better than I do, but so what? Maybe the French instructor has a better lesson plan for a student, maybe he doesn't, although again I would guess that the French instructor has a better lesson plan, but here but much less of a margin than the difference in skiing skill. Finally, I would put my money on the average PSIA instructor being a better communicator, because most of our instructors have more than twenty years of workplace experience in otehr endeavors, and have learned to communicate wwith a wide variety of people.

What is also obvious to me is that there is not enough of a market for ski instruction to support a cadre of full-time professional ski instructors trained to the level the French are. If we were to require that all instruction in the US be given by instructors at the French level of proficiency, then the number of instructors would decline dramatically, the price of lessons would skyrocket, and very few people would take the time or effort to get ski lessons. I believe that my lessons provide a substantial proportion of the benefit to my students that a lesson by an instructor qualified to French levels would provide, at a much more reasonable price.

I would also argue that some of the more arduous requirements placed on French instructors originated out of nationalistic efforts to exclude other particiants fromt their ski instruction market and represent little more than creative barriers to entry. This may have started immediately post WWII as an effort to excluded German and Austrian ski instructors, although now it serves to exclude a wide range of international ski instructors, even from within the EU.
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by volklskier1 View Post
Thats a real BS sound bite. A stereotype that is simply untrue. I'm sure that hiding behind "they are trained and ski much better but they can't teach" makes all of you feel better but it's simply not true.

Volklskier, can you tell me what experience you have of skiing under the insruction of the ESF in France?

My "BS sound bite" is my personal experience of going to France on several occassions and paying for standard group lessons. What's your BS based on?
post #13 of 26
post #14 of 26
There is not really one single European ski method.

Countries have their own ski school associations which used to dominate their own domestic markets; though more recently independent schools have offered competition.

Straight to parallel was the French 'ski evolutif' method - starting on one metre skis and increasing the ski length over time. That was popular in Les Arcs and La Plagne.

Austrians used to start with snow plough, stem christie etc.

As for cost, my experience is that if I want to take a lesson from a French ski school it will be cheaper than a lesson from an American ski school.
post #15 of 26
I don't know how they teach now, but back when Austrians ran American ski schools, they wanted you to practice fundamentals until you could do them perfectly. First you had to side step up the hill. When you could do that perfectly, you had to side slip down and set your edges. Then you yu had to learn to traverse perfectly, then traverse with an edge set to check your speed. When you could do all that perfectly (after a day or two of stepping, slipping and traversing), you could try your first turn downhill.
Americans would never stand for that, so PSIA developed differently, but that Austrian way probably gets you to high quality skiing faster, regardless of whether you use a wedge based progression or direct to parallel.

BK
post #16 of 26
Well the bronze base looks awful by todays' standards. The entire body turns as one unit as if you made a doll out of stiff wire and taught it to ski. The wedge is way too wide to be efficient. There's a straight up-and-down knee motion that totally superfluous to the task at hand.

The advanced bronze is slightly better. It's more of a brushed stem christie than a wedge christie. The match is more by pulling in the ski than steering the tip into the turn. The thing looks less artificial than the wedge though.

The silver basic shows some nice simultaneous edge change but there's a pronounced up extension in some turns.

What's with the huge upward pop in the silver advanced?
post #17 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
My "BS sound bite" is my personal experience of going to France on several occassions and paying for standard group lessons.
I'm with WTFH on this one. The standard group lessons the ESF sells to British tourists appear to be motivated by a desire for revenge on "les Anglo-Saxonnes". There's no structure, no consistency between instructors, and often very little actual teaching. What technique did get taught when I last did this had not really gotten into the age of shaped skis. I'm not sure the days I've spent skiing around behind French instructors did anything for my skiing other than make me deeply suspicious of resort ski instruction in general.

How they teach when they're teaching French people, I can't say. No doubt there are good French ski instructors. I've just never met them.
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by learn2turn View Post
What's with the huge upward pop in the silver advanced?
I was also looking at this and I am guessing that they want to kill speed at the TOP of the turn rather than skidding at the bottom.

It looks like they pop to release the edges, then skid the top part of the turn, and THEN lock in a carve.

This was one of Bode's tips on skiskool for skiing steep terrain i think.
post #19 of 26
My experiences with French ESF groups were always very good. I note many people who come away dissatisfied have a chip on their shoulder about the French anyway.

I had one bizarre private snowboard lesson with the ESF. I used my ski boots and both feet were left in the bindings to ride the poma. Ski poles were also used for balance.
post #20 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the post on how the Italians teach, SSG. Though the progressions look similar to ours, I would hope we don't appear as stiff and marionette-like in our demos. I had thought the Europeans taught much as Bode described in his post. I can't imagine being able to get away with that in this country. The resorts would be empty of skiers.
Volklskier1, It sounds like you had a bad experience with PSIA ski instruction, and I'm sure that happens even though most of us try our best to give our students the information they need to progress from their current level of preformance. Also, IMO you don't have to be a Herman Maier to be an excellent ski coach. You just need to know what you're talking about, and be able to demonstrate it in a way that the student gets it.
post #21 of 26
I took lessons at the ESF in Val Thorens for 3 weeks (2 hours a day). There can be big differences in the quality of the instructor. It can be anything from "follow me"- without explaining what to do and an instructur that will actually make you a better skier.

Also the English of the instructors can be kind of strange (I'm Dutch so my English is also far from flawless...). One year it took me a couple of days to understand that "you must wait for the turn" actually meant "you must put your weight on your downhill ski"

You can take lessons at levels 0 to 4, 0 is for beginners who never have skied before. My first year I skipped level 0 because I did some cross-country skiing, so I was allready familiar with the wedge.

The way we were tought to make turns was to slow down before making the turn by skidding, then planting your pole and "stand up" to get some of the weight from your ski's. Then slide into the turn and bend your knees to put pressure on your downhill ski. Allmost all the pressure should be on the downhill ski.

When you take lessons at a higher level classes are smaller and the teachers are better (my experience). Last time I took lessons we hade a class of only six people. we did everything from high-speed carving to off-piste, small jumps etc...At the end of the week were skiing very steep moguls, something I thougth I would never even try.

Next week I go to Val Thorens, when there is enoug fresh snow we will take some lessons in powder skiing...I'm looking forward to it!
post #22 of 26
Thread Starter 
Your lesson sounds like it was pretty rudimentary, Jeroen, but it also sounds like they got you making parallel turns. Congratulations! Powder skiing technique is quite different and you'll need to learn some new skill sets that are unique to powder. Good luck and have fun.
Bob
post #23 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Latchigo View Post
My experiences with French ESF groups were always very good. I note many people who come away dissatisfied have a chip on their shoulder about the French anyway.
No chip on my shoulder. I like the French. I even liked some of the ski instructors I took lessons with. They just did very little for my skiing. On one occasion I had a whole week of half day lessons in which I learned nothing at all, except that I ski much better when not skiing behind a line of other intermediates making random braking manouvres. When I compare that accomplisment with, say, reading "Ski the Whole Mountain" the latter was roughly 550% cheaper and much more effective.

I do think some of the comments above are correct. Its very dependent on the instructor you get. I know some other ability levels in the same week of lessons had much better experiences.
post #24 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Latchigo View Post
I note many people who come away dissatisfied have a chip on their shoulder about the French anyway.

No chip at all - I live in France!
post #25 of 26

I see

Quote:
Originally Posted by learn2turn View Post
Well the bronze base looks awful by todays' standards. The entire body turns as one unit as if you made a doll out of stiff wire and taught it to ski. The wedge is way too wide to be efficient. There's a straight up-and-down knee motion that totally superfluous to the task at hand.

The advanced bronze is slightly better. It's more of a brushed stem christie than a wedge christie. The match is more by pulling in the ski than steering the tip into the turn. The thing looks less artificial than the wedge though.

The silver basic shows some nice simultaneous edge change but there's a pronounced up extension in some turns.

What's with the huge upward pop in the silver advanced?

I see that that series of video is still around...
I see that you ignore the Oro Base and Avanzato, and the freeride.
Tipical.
I see that we all miss the point here, at base level the moves need to be exaggerated so to allow students to see them.
As training progress and the eye to the moves refines, then things improve.
As our technique progresses, like in every sport, we learn how to tend
toward a "maximum results with the minimum effort" status.
Things would be more meaningful for a "normal" skier to demonstrate what they are capable of, when a given level has been reached, say after a week's instruction.
And, I still vote for a school where the wedge is taught.
I remember a long time ago, when I was a good skier, skiing acting as a demonstrator for a friend of mine who was teaching his GF...
His comments were "see how he does this, that"
Her comments, invariably were "I can't see a thing"
So, why he was seeing what she couldn't?
The answer appears obvious to me.
So, In a video whose target are untrained eyes, the demonstrators need to exaggerate the moves, else the value of that video will be near to nil.
To us, to our intelligence and curiosity as students, is left to understand that the "real" moves are quite smaller that what we see. That once we apprehend the basic, our work will be to refine, to smooth things down to near "perfection".
post #26 of 26
There are huge differences in training and qualifications; I've met many PSIA instructors since starting work at Park City who I would happily spend money to learn from - and too many who I would happily pay money not to learn from.

I strongly disagree with the French stranglehold on teaching requirements - I'm sorry, but you don't need to be able to ski a GS course to World Cup standard to teach. Nonetheless, a ski instructor should at least be able to ski.

I passed my Level II skiing assessment yesterday and frankly the standard required was below BASI III, the British entry-level qualification. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, basically a doddle ... which too many people nonetheless managed to fail. This may be an outgrowth of the PSIA's urge to get warm bodies on the mountain, which saw the Level I exam at Snowbasin recently descend into two days of riding powder, after which, in the words of one candidate, "We were waved through and given our pins". Encouraging, yes?

I hasten to add that I expect the teaching element of the Level II to be considerably harder. However, the politics that make my BASI III the apparent equivalent of PSIA I are a little hard to swallow sometimes ...

Back to the main point, there are good French instructors. Too few of them work for the ESF. Since the monopoly was broken, independent ski schools have managed to poach most of the good ones. Lessons with the ESF are cheaper than most, but you get what you pay for.
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