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Recovery from a fall - when its not you but your lesson

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I write this still pretty shook up over what happened in my lesson today. Kinda of looking for support now.

Today I was reminded just how dangerous this sport is. Teaching a group of Level 7-9 kids 13-15 year olds. skiing a steep off piste section of trail I had a girls skis prerelease, she tried to dig her other ski in which then came off. She then tried to dig her boots in which just sent her head over heels tumbling a long way down a slope. Didnt stop till she hit a cat track.

In the end she was taken off by a sled as a precautionary measure and was in good spirits and smiling when I got down to her. Sprained knee is the WORST case scenario right now. It was heaps scarier than the actually outcome. This was the worst fall I have ever seen in person even worse than tracy slide into 2 trees at solitude during the maggot mini. I never want to see something like this again.

My confidence as a ski coach is just about shattered right now. I couldn't of done anything to stop this except not being on that slope. which we skied fine the previous day in nearly the same conditions.

So the question is have the people who are more experienced me had anything like this happen them? if so how did you get back in the groove of things?
post #2 of 21
Wow, Josh, that's got to be rough on you as the instructor.

Sh!t happens, it is a dangerous sport. People get better by pushing their limits, and bad falls can happen as a result of that. It's hard to say when it's a kid who takes the fall, but it happens. Call me if you need to.
post #3 of 21
First year I taught, I had a little girl in a school group lesson break her leg when she fell in the ruts of the rope tow on the beginner slope. She cried a lot but was quite "brave" about it and that helped me get over the fact someone got hurt. She accepted the injury, so I figured I should too.

As DD notes, it IS a dangerous sport. You cannot improve your skiing without exposing yourself to some additional risks. You're probably still her favorite ski instructor.
post #4 of 21
First off, I assume that every injury in one of my lessons is my fault. True, there are times it might have taken a miracle on my part to prevent the injury. But we get paid to perform miracles, so I do post mortems to see what I did well and what I could have done better. That process can help alleviate the "shock" factor, but it's basically something you have to just get "through".

There are some pros who "under terrain" their students for exactly this reason. I like to take a risk on "over terrain"ing a student now and then to help get a breakthrough to happen. When you take risks, over the long term you are going to get burned, sooner or later. If you manage risks well enough, you won't get burned often or badly. YMMV

There are lots of things you can manage on steep terrain, from reviewing and practicing self arrest techniques to managing lines, speed, stopping points and stopping frequency, to pointing out hazards and discussing tactics for avoiding them. Having a kid slide to cat track is a lot better than having a kid slide into the woods or a rock. Count your blessings.

I once had a lady of much experience for a private lesson who told me up front that she was pretty much just looking for someone to ski with. We were half way down a blue bump run when she told me that her doctor had told her that if she fell while skiing she would (not might - would) break her hip and die on the spot. As I was trying to hold back the incredulous "NOW, you're telling me this!?", another lady fell right in front of us and was having trouble getting up. As I reached her to give her a hand, I heard a quiet "help ..... help" from uphill. I turned to see a young gentleman sitting back trying not to fall. Of course, that just caused him to accelerate and just pummel the poor lady in front of me. After I made sure she was ok, I turned to scold the man for being an idiot. Fortunately I saw that he had a ski boot split wide open down the back seam. Since he had made a $15,000 mistake (the going rate for knee operations those days), I saw no need to add insult to injury. After patrol carted him away, I continued my lesson thinking about how close that guy had come to killing my student (about 10 feet) and what the heck I was going to do to get my student down safely. It's hard enough to "teach" when you're "just skiing" with someone. It's a lot harder when you've got seven sets of emotions running hot through your mind at the same time. But basically, I just hopped back on the horse and simply finished the "lesson". Except for having to fill out the witness paperwork, things worked out just fine.
post #5 of 21
I pre released in a couloir one time and had a similar fall. I could have been killed, because it ended in a rock pile, which I was lucky enough to bounce clear over, just nicking a leg and tearing a small artery.

My friends said the amazing thing was that once I started to cartwheel I accelerated like I had just pointed the skis straight down the fall line.

I don't know what I can say to make you feel any better, except that falls like that do happen, and a tumbling body really takes off. Glad to hear she is ok.
post #6 of 21
That's tough, Josh. I've had two students get injured while in my care, so I know how you feel. Terrible. As therusty said, you should carefully examine what you might have done differently, but don't beat yourself up, you cannot prevent every possible injury that may happen. You probably HAVE prevented many injuries by equipping your students with the skills they need to ski safely.

Therusty mentioned self-arrest, which I learned from a telemark video (thanks Dickie Hall). I had never been exposed to the concept although I had been instructing and PSIA member for years. I don't know why this isn't a bigger part of a program whose emphasis is on "Safety, Fun and Learning".

Hopefully self-arrest is taught more on the big hills where it is needed (as oppsed to the small hills where most of my training took place). So many of us have the skills to ski steep terrain but NO idea about how to stop after falling on a steep slope.

Learn what you can from this experience. It will make you a better ski teacher. Hang in there kid.`
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
we do teach self arrest here at snowbird, in fact I taught this to the kids on steep groomer the day before. They had fun but actually were able to learn something. The girl did try to self arrest when she fell.

today i had same class today. and checked the DIN on everyones skis and couldnt believe how low the DIN were. I know they are kids but they are more aggresive than most adults and as any kids instructor can tell you, kids like "fun" terrain trees,bumps, gullies, steeps, so and so.

The everyones DIN was around 4.5 mine is set at 10.5 on my PE. That scared me. 4.5 seems super low on a 120lb teenager.

Good news is today lessons could of been the best one so far this year, I am actually liking teaching more than freeskiing now.
post #8 of 21
Wow, 4.5 does seem low for 120 lbs. I'm 130 with a 24 boot, type III skier - by the chart I'm 6.5. I set my DIN at 8 or 8.5 and it's about right. Shorter boot generally means higher DIN. Are those kids DINs correct? By my chart 4.5 is between a type I and II for a skier of that weight, depending on boot length. Sounds low to me for aggressive skiing. They do tend to worry about tender soft tissue and weaker bones of kids...
post #9 of 21
4.5 does sound low -- if they are type III's then I would expect DINS 5.25-6.
post #10 of 21
Glad she's okay.

When I was adjusting my daughter's skis to new boots, I ran the DIN chart and found out that she was just this side of a positive bump in three areas -- 1 pound shy of the next higher weight group, 3mm over the next shorter BSL, and 2 months shy of 10 years, when they stop telling you to drop it a notch. I ended up choosing a DIN in between what the chart said she should be and what she would've been with all three positive bumps.
post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post
we do teach self arrest here at snowbird, in fact I taught this to the kids on steep groomer the day before. They had fun but actually were able to learn something. The girl did try to self arrest when she fell...

Good news is today lessons could have been the best one so far this year, I am actually liking teaching more than freeskiing now.
post #12 of 21
I can only relay my recent personal experiance even though it's not from a teaching point of view.

I, while caught up in how good the skiing was, skied right off a cliff at top speed that had to be 20 meters tall. When I went off it I seriously thought life was going to end.

Thanks to some previous reading I knew how I had to land and have any chance of walking away. When I did I began to cartwheel about 8 - 12 times a very long way downhill.

That night I wondered if I was going to be able to continue charging the hill as I always had. I thought perhaps I would be held back forever more.

The next day I decided it just wasnt' my time to go and that I had to get back on the horse and charge off into life.

Crappy things happen, perhaps this poor girl needed a wake up call to not exceed her own limits, or perhaps simply as her own lesson in crappy things can happen when skiing or living life.

Can't tell you what to do, only you can decide and control that.

Click here to watch Zermatt-Xwing-Rally
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marmot mb View Post
I, while caught up in how good the skiing was, skied right off a cliff at top speed that had to be 20 meters tall. When I went off it I seriously thought life was going to end.
I must misunderstand this part of your post. It looks to me like what you are saying is that after going off of this cliff and surviving you thought about it for an evening and decided not to change any of your behavior.

Skiing all out in an area where you can't see what you're getting into and obviously don't know the layout seems to me like very poor judgement. You not only endanger yourself but possibly others as well. Please don't come to Mt. Baker if you want to ski like that. You'll very possibly be dead by lunchtime.
post #14 of 21
A few different thoughts.
We participate in a sport where the extremes get pushed. In the past season, I put myself in some terrain where the adverse consequenses of an error could be very severe. The same is probably true of driving my car. We can all dial it back.

I would like to commend you for the sensibility contained in your reaction to the event. At the end of the day, you are accountable for the terrain you take a group into, be they young, old, skilled or novice. My work career involves high voltage electrical systems. We always stress that the first order of business is to bring everyone back at the end of the day in the same physical condition as they started at. Groups are easily dominated by the vocal and the skilled. Part of your job is to protect everyone.

Last, let's all take a second to think of the persons in the military on the other side of the world who, on a daily basis have to go into harm's way. They make and live forever with decisions that can result in loss of limbs and life.
post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
I must misunderstand this part of your post. It looks to me like what you are saying is that after going off of this cliff and surviving you thought about it for an evening and decided not to change any of your behavior.

Skiing all out in an area where you can't see what you're getting into and obviously don't know the layout seems to me like very poor judgement. You not only endanger yourself but possibly others as well. Please don't come to Mt. Baker if you want to ski like that. You'll very possibly be dead by lunchtime.
I am sorry for not properly explaining my realizations that evening. Certainly I realized my severe error and poor judgement in getting lost up in the moment, not looking ahead at the terrain I was getting into and not respecting the mountains I was skiing in.

In the future I wil certainly look ahead, not let myself get caught up in the moment and certainly I have a new respect for the alps.

But I can't let that stop me from skiing, I can't go on just taking it easy in fear of what may happen on every slope.

A moment must always be taken to ascertain the risk and terrain but then life must go on.

BushwackerinPA I don't think could have done anything to prevent the girls fall, I could have prevented mine or at least minimized the risk.

But at the end of the day life must go on, you can't let it stop or paralyze you.
post #16 of 21
Josh- An injury to a student is probably the greatest fear to an instr, next to personal injury. And the longer you teach, the greater the chances of either happening.
It is always a sad and difficult time to have a student injured while under your care. If you go through the normal process of evaluation, "What could I have done differently?", and you can honestly say that you did everything within reason, then accept that accidents do happen.
I know that does not necessarily make you feel any better, but some things are just not your fault. $h1t happens, sometimes....
post #17 of 21
DINs for kids are a bit weird. I had the upper blues yesterday (but we ended up on many evil blacks and cliffs and things) and the most aggressive of them was on a DIN of 2. I kept an eye on him to see if any pre-releases happened, but they didn't, so I guess it was appropriate. I'm on 7.
post #18 of 21

Don't be too hard on yourself

Bushwacker, As a parent whom has had a child go through ski lesson to competitive skiing, this is not your fault. Number one you did not set the DIN on her binding, nor is it your duty as an instructor to make sure that kids have the proper DIN settings. It is our job as parents to have those things taken care of before turning them over to your care. Number two as a parent you must accept the risk that your child may get injured skiing. In my opinion, unles the instructor does something completely malicious like pushes a kid over cliff, it is not their fault. People get hurt skiing, it is part of the sport and the same thing could have happened in or out of a lesson. You are simply not to blame. Keep up the good work it is evident from your posts that you enjoy your job and certainly your students will benefit from your enthusiasm. And from time to time some will get hurt it's just part of life.
post #19 of 21
Josh

that really sucks. I know you asked for advice from instuctors with more experience. We're more like peers, with, I think, about the same experience level.

I've been through it 4 times in 4 years, each time (knock on wood) just minor ankle twists and the like. Each time I spend an inordinate amount of time second guessing myself, and trying to figure out how to prevent it from happening again. Unless you're also one of those pros that underterrains all your students, it's pretty much impossible to prevent. For me, the hard part is getting back on the horse, but that is my advice. Perhaps her fall would have been much worse if you hadn't given her self-arrest training.

Unless you're certified on the particular binding, for the sake of keeping yourself from potential lawsuits, don't make field changes to the DIN's.
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys for the advice it does help.

The crazy part about teaching at snowbird, is that you get kids and other people good enough that they will be underterrained and yet be in a no fall zone at the sametime. The past couple days have been great though although I have been much more mindful of exposures issues untill the snow slushes up. The early morning ice here is downright deadly.

Actually for me personal injury comes second to my students, I have jumped on kids before to stop slides, usually on something like upper emma where the slide doesnt carry as much merit but still would be scary for the little one. Id rather keep them safe, and I know I am lot more durable than most people.

today was great though I had some kids come back in to my class at halfday cause ski school was way more fun than skiing with their parents. The parents said they have never had thier kids ask to come back.
post #21 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post
Actually for me personal injury comes second to my students, I have jumped on kids before to stop slides, usually on something like upper emma where the slide doesnt carry as much merit but still would be scary for the little one. Id rather keep them safe, and I know I am lot more durable than most people.
I know what you mean. A few years ago I was skiing with this level 7-8 14 or 15 y.o. and we were getting on Collins. It was our first chair ride and I pointed out high rustler and asked her if she'd ever skied anything like that? She said, "Dad and I were looking at if from the Rustler (lodge) last night and he said I'd never be able to ski that in 1,000,000 years.". My reply was, "Do you want to prove Dad wrong?", and what 15 year old doesn't want to do that....

Anyway, we made a bunch of runs, worked on some things, skied my few "test pitches" to make sure things were going to work and it all checked out OK (no falls, check!). So for our last run, out the High Traverse we went. We got to the top of High Rustler and I'm giving my special safety speech, where to go, where I'm going to go, what to do if you happen to fall etc. So I start down and stop in my "safe zone" and wave to her to start down. Down she comes and shes doing great, until she goes to stop 1 turn above me. Her skis hit the bump above us funny, and she kicks off the downhill ski. I'm kind of on top of a bump and she slides right into me with enough force to knock me (with her tangled in my legs) off the top of the bump. I'm thinking Uh Oh, here we go, the tandem slide for life. I braced as hard as I could with my downhill leg (I never fell) and managed to get us stopped. We both caught our breath, I recovered the lost ski and finished the run without incident. It was awesome, because we were supposed to meet Dad at the Rustler chair lift for lunch. We all arrived at the same point at the same time. The first words out of her mouth were "Guess what I just skied" as she pointed up hill. I was compensated nicely for that one....
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