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The time crunch

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Let me start this by telling you of the environment from which I come.

I'm was a race coach for 30 years. Full time. I designed and oversaw the training for a program that many years had in the neighborhood of 200 racers. And i personally coached the upper tier of that group.

We trained and raced 6 days a week, all season long. Lights on our training slope allowed us to get 3 hours of training in every school day. It was a comprehensive and intense training program, and it consistently produced life long expert skiers, FIS level racers, a continuous supply of talent to academies around the country, and even a few world class athletes; Erik Schlopy might be a name you recognize.

That success was the result of a training program that went to great lengths to developed the entire skiing skill spectrum. Much time was dedicated to developing a wide range of skills in each technical area of the sport. The skill base we embedded in our racers was very broad, and their success was a direct consequence of that skill base.

So the topic of this thread is: How do you guys who teach recreational ski lessons cope with the lack of time you have to work with your students. Obviously, you can't focus on the development of a broad skill base for your students like I did with mine, because of the minimal time you have to work with each student. So where do you cut?

Do you work on the base, and sacrifice reaching for the top? Probably the better option for the long term development of your student, but doesn't provide the percieved bang for the buck, so I would think not the people pleasing choice.

Do you try to straight line to higher skill level skiing, and sacrifice some base development in the process? Probably the more popular option with the students, even though we know the foundation is still a bit weak.

So how do you guys structure your training, and arrange your priorities? It must be frustrating at times having to choose one over the other. I don't envy the challenges you face.
post #2 of 40
Good topic. Where I live time is against us especially the last 2 winters with warm weather. At our local hill coaching is divided into two categories, upper and lower level. Upper level practise 3 - 4 times a week and race or camp during weekends. They go to 2 summer skiing camps in the alps and 3 early season camps in the north before christmas. Racing starts after christmas. If you go beyond club coaching you can attend a skiing highschool and then be part of the national FIS and WC team. At lower level you basicly practisse 2 times a week and do not have to attend any camps or races. The parrents get to choose what to do.
post #3 of 40
I channel Curly in City Slickers: every one has their ONE thing. I do an assessment and key on what simple, singular change would have the highest leverage for overall improvement in the allotted time. Generally if the student appreciates the change(s) she made (or, rather, the distinctions she made, usually, between old and new movements), she will return for more and we're off and running on a lasting relationship.
post #4 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
Do you try to straight line to higher skill level skiing, and sacrifice some base development in the process? Probably the more popular option with the students, even though we know the foundation is still a bit weak.
I really don't think you can. The amount of time we have withe very student is different though and while a 2-hr lesson is really short, it's twice as long as a 1-hr! There are many vriations on that. I may have someone witha pack of lesson tickets that I know I (or some of my co-workers) will be seeing all week long. Sometimes you can't go as far into the fundamentals as you'd want to because you know you'd never get to the end. Ultimately I want to at least set them on the road to good skiing even if I know I'll never see them get to the end (is there one?) and I'll hope that they'll continue down that road.
post #5 of 40
Quote:
So where do you cut?
You don't cut, you focus and prioritize needs. Sometimes this may require you to backdoor your priorities so the student is getting what they want and you are delivering what you see they need. Group lessons bring in even greater need to focus and prioritize, as we now have multiple students whose desires need massaged and needs prioritized.

It's really no different than any thing else in life. Budget restraints force us to focus and prioritize. It's easy for a home builder to build the desired house with an unlimited budget, but it becomes a large challenge to build in the desired amenities and needs when the budget is restrained.

Which is one of the reasons why I like our program groups, because then we have five to ten weeks to work with our clients. We can budget time for all their needs and desires.
post #6 of 40
"I really don't think you can": Epic

Not an instructor, of skiing, but I would say that sometimes you almost have to. If a student doesn't learn a basic skill, does that mean that they can't learn something more advanced. Not all skills are cumulative. Sometimes an athlete can't grasp a simple concept, yet easily performs something more difficult.

Sometimes moving past a student's weakness to something harder will make it easier to learn the easy task. Left alone, most athletic skiers will move past the basics on their own.

There are plenty of great teachers who don't start at the beginning of the book.
post #7 of 40
It all starts with listening to and watching the student first. You compare what they say they want and need with what you see their wants and needs to be. Factor in their learning style if you've figured it out, the conditions du juor/terrain du jour, how much time is available, whether you want to build on a strength or work on a weakness, what the critical items are, what tricks you have in the bag to work on those options - throw that all together and you end up with a plan.

Where do I cut? It depends. Sometimes I will sacrifice the ability to make permanent change for the ability to simply introduce the concept. Sometimes I will sacrifice making a major breakthrough for simply taking a baby step. Sometimes I will sacrifice giving them what they want for giving them what they need.

I don't take a preconceived style of teaching to every lesson. Sometimes I take shortcuts to higher level skiing, other times I won't take that risk.

For most of my upper level lessons, I make sure to confirm that the student got what they came for before they leave. For first timers, I tell them whether they did it or not because 90% of the time they don't realize they actually did learn to ski.
post #8 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tdk6 View Post
Good topic. Where I live time is against us especially the last 2 winters with warm weather. At our local hill coaching is divided into two categories, upper and lower level. Upper level practise 3 - 4 times a week and race or camp during weekends. They go to 2 summer skiing camps in the alps and 3 early season camps in the north before christmas. Racing starts after christmas. If you go beyond club coaching you can attend a skiing highschool and then be part of the national FIS and WC team. At lower level you basicly practisse 2 times a week and do not have to attend any camps or races. The parrents get to choose what to do.
Sounds like good potential for training continuity, tdk6. Do you work within one of those structures?
post #9 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post
I channel Curly in City Slickers: every one has their ONE thing. I do an assessment and key on what simple, singular change would have the highest leverage for overall improvement in the allotted time. Generally if the student appreciates the change(s) she made (or, rather, the distinctions she made, usually, between old and new movements), she will return for more and we're off and running on a lasting relationship.
Sounds like a good strategy, Nolo.
post #10 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
Ultimately I want to at least set them on the road to good skiing even if I know I'll never see them get to the end (is there one?) and I'll hope that they'll continue down that road.
I like that way of thinking, Epic. At least you've done the best you can do,,, and set them on the right road, even if they don't realize it, and/or don't follow through. That's beyond your control.
post #11 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RicB View Post
Which is one of the reasons why I like our program groups, because then we have five to ten weeks to work with our clients. We can budget time for all their needs and desires.
Makes sense. The less time you have, the tighter the budget has to be.

When I see these houses going up with wafer board on the roof,,,, yikes. Give me a good builder, build the dang house right, then tell me what it's going to cost me. I'm going to live in it for the next ** years,,, I want quality. I'll figure out how to make up the difference to get it.
post #12 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
"I really don't think you can": Epic

Not an instructor, of skiing, but I would say that sometimes you almost have to. If a student doesn't learn a basic skill, does that mean that they can't learn something more advanced. Not all skills are cumulative. Sometimes an athlete can't grasp a simple concept, yet easily performs something more difficult.

Sometimes moving past a student's weakness to something harder will make it easier to learn the easy task. Left alone, most athletic skiers will move past the basics on their own.

There are plenty of great teachers who don't start at the beginning of the book.
Paul, I think there's some truth in that. But I also think that just as often those who "move past" with out developing the base skills get stuck in a pattern of compensatory skiing of lesser quality, and then embed those inefficient movement patterns. I've found a good way to help these people overcome their long practiced bad habits is to take them back to the fundamentals, and rebuild from scratch.
post #13 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post
It all starts with listening to and watching the student first. You compare what they say they want and need with what you see their wants and needs to be. Factor in their learning style if you've figured it out, the conditions du juor/terrain du jour, how much time is available, whether you want to build on a strength or work on a weakness, what the critical items are, what tricks you have in the bag to work on those options - throw that all together and you end up with a plan.

Where do I cut? It depends. Sometimes I will sacrifice the ability to make permanent change for the ability to simply introduce the concept. Sometimes I will sacrifice making a major breakthrough for simply taking a baby step. Sometimes I will sacrifice giving them what they want for giving them what they need.

I don't take a preconceived style of teaching to every lesson. Sometimes I take shortcuts to higher level skiing, other times I won't take that risk.

For most of my upper level lessons, I make sure to confirm that the student got what they came for before they leave. For first timers, I tell them whether they did it or not because 90% of the time they don't realize they actually did learn to ski.
Wow, Rusty,,, you're all over the map. Guess you really need to be when working with such diverse types of students. On the times you take shortcuts, do you also try to sneak in some education as to the realities?

Like I said,,, I hand it to you guys. You have a tough task at times.


Thanks, everyone, for the well thought out responses.
post #14 of 40
Rick,

As a "teacher" I have a bias towards sneaking education in. Even when I student just requests someone to ride with, I'll try to subtly sneak some stuff in out of pure guilt. In general, I may do this via "follow the leader" or giving little tips to get students out of trouble on snow, or steering the conversation while on the lift. Practically, because my mountain has pronounced differences in pitch between areas, a lot of my shortcuts to higher level skiing involve "over terraining". So I could also be accused of bashing realities onto my students heads versus sneaking them in. However, in my mind, when I'm doing the over terrain shortcut thing, it's a very carefully "guided discovery" experience. Although I don't "teach" on over terrain, I do conisder crowds and snow conditions and carefully manage line/intensity and duration. The goal is to introduce forces and speeds that are student prevented on under terrain by competence induced laziness and then teach movements to develop those forces and speeds upon return to the under terrain (i.e. the realities of higher level skiing). Most times I get a "whole" lesson in. Some times I don't (i.e. the realities get left out). I usually don't feel a pressing need to communicate "reality" unless the student already knows it all or I know the student really well and they are ready for an "evil Rusty" lesson.

To me, a student centered lesson means that I have a grab bag of lesson formulas (how I execute the lesson) that I choose from based on the students desires and needs and the conditions du jour. This keeps the day interesting because you never know what could happen next, even when it's the third first timer lesson in a row. I don't always get it right. That's how I learn. Some times I get extremely good results. That's how I measure the success of this teaching approach - measuring the quality of the approach times the quantity.
post #15 of 40
As Nolo said, find the ONE thing that will help that student breakthrough into better skiing. If they get a handle on that one thing, look for the next most important they need to work on. If they have their weight back on their heels, nothing will work right. Get them centered, then, if time permits, look for the next thing they can do right that will let the skis work for them. Even at higher levels, there is usually something basic they can improve on to allow things to work better for them. Or, as therusty said, work them in new-to-them snow conditions or terrain. Get them performing the basics right in that challenging snow or pitch.

Above all, don't try to do too much. The student benefits more if they get their one most important thing right rather than failing to get eight things right.
post #16 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post
As Nolo said, find the ONE thing that will help that student breakthrough into better skiing. ... Or, as therusty said, work them in new-to-them snow conditions or terrain. Get them performing the basics right in that challenging snow or pitch.

Above all, don't try to do too much. The student benefits more if they get their one most important thing right rather than failing to get eight things right.
Our private lessons are one hour long. A group lesson is 90 minutes. Although sometimes I can introduce breakthroughs in 5 minutes, there are plenty of times when the one thing for a breakthrough will take longer than 90 minutes.

Often "new to them" conditions does more to identify weaknesses than give me the more opportunity to get them performing the basics right.

"Don't try too much" is a great mantra for lesson planning. But when dealing with short time frames, this often means focusing on other things besides the "one most important thing". Sometimes it may be faster to build on a strength instead of fixing a weakness. Working on other things can sometimes "enable" the student to either fix the weakness on their own or be more "ready" to fix the weakness in the next lesson.
post #17 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post
"Don't try too much" is a great mantra for lesson planning. But when dealing with short time frames, this often means focusing on other things besides the "one most important thing". Sometimes it may be faster to build on a strength instead of fixing a weakness. Working on other things can sometimes "enable" the student to either fix the weakness on their own or be more "ready" to fix the weakness in the next lesson.

This is profound. Often the visual shortcoming is a byproduct of the lacking base skills less apparent.
post #18 of 40
I was at ESA with a demo team member once. We were watching other skiers go by and observing how all of them were in the back seat during the moment of edge change. The conclusion was that skidding was an inevitable result. I asked "why can't you just fix that?". The answer was a shoulder shrug. How does one explain that you can not build a house by putting the roof on first before the walls have been raised? That's not very profound.

What is profound is that there is no simple formula for planning a successful ski lesson. There are lots of variables to be factored into the equation. When you add in a time constraint, the result is an unlimited number of suboptimal solutions instead of a small number of optimal ones.
post #19 of 40
Another related issue is time on snow.

This has proved a little frustrating with me watching my daughter learn to ski. She just seems to make it to the point that she is skiing well, and then doesn't ski for quite a while, and regresses. She never quite makes it to the stage where a layoff has little effect. It always seems that if she would just get in a couple more days, then all would progress so much better next time. People who only ski several times a year, must have to go through the same plateaus quite often.
post #20 of 40

Teaching

Rick, good topic. I have to go with NOLO's emphasis on one thing.

Here in No.Idaho (silver Mt.) my classes were usually small (1-4 students) and many of them privates or 2 person classes. My methods were to:

#1 Connect with the student on a personal basis. Since I am a level I instructor. I would emphasis TRUST as my #1 priority. My feeling and experience was that if a new student trusted me they would overcome their fears much more quickly.

#2 Connect with the student on what they WANT to accomplish.

The mechanics etc. are/were not earthshattering but found that choosing that one accomplishment most often worked for the student. Some were quick and we could move to #2 and maybe even #3 in a 1 or 2 hour lesson. These goals/accomplishments were what the student wanted to accomplish.

My feeling was to leave the student with a positive attitude to skiing (so they'd keep going) and to leave them with one positive change in their skiing was better than leaving them with 6 technical things to do which they wouldn't remember in one hour let alone the next time they skied.
post #21 of 40
I think the best skill an instructor can have is to select priorities.

"Here's one or two things to work on....in a couple a weeks we'll add another" Finding the right one or two things is the trick.

Try changing three things at once...not possible.
post #22 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post

"Don't try too much" is a great mantra for lesson planning. But when dealing with short time frames, this often means focusing on other things besides the "one most important thing". Sometimes it may be faster to build on a strength instead of fixing a weakness. Working on other things can sometimes "enable" the student to either fix the weakness on their own or be more "ready" to fix the weakness in the next lesson.
Been following this thread and I agree, this is profound.

Since 90% of skiing is half mental - a lesson could be good just working on approach, confidence, speed acceptance, flow. With no focus on technique - and be effective. (Not that I'm proposing this.)
post #23 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz View Post
Since 90% of skiing is half mental - -----
A true Yogi(berra)ism if I ever heard one!
post #24 of 40
The one hour private beginner lesson or novice lesson is my biggest challenge.

Give them something they can use and work on while providing value to the customer.

For never -evers it usually takes me an hour and some to get them ready for the lift. An hour makes this nearly impossible for most
post #25 of 40
A one hour private never ever beginner for one person, that I can do 99% of the time. For 2-3 people in such a lesson we either don't get up the lift or I run late. I'm lucky that I can usually eat going over. "Eat" means that someone else gets my next scheduled lesson and I don't get paid. Fortunately, I'm usually so busy I'd rather have the break than the work.

It's interesting that the direct line management instructions are to complete the lesson in one hour. However, the corporate policy is have satisfied guests. So junior level instructors get told to deal with it (and we scramble when they don't get back in time for the next lesson), but I get away with telling the private desk that "this isn't going to work, reassign the next one". Last year we experimented with scheduled breaks in between privates so that pros either had time to run over or go to the bathroom. Yet another aspect of the time crunch -> fitting all the lessons into the day also has an impact on how the lessons get taught. Sometimes you can "make" more time for a lesson.
post #26 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post
A one hour private never ever beginner for one person, that I can do 99% of the time. For 2-3 people in such a lesson we either don't get up the lift or I run late. I'm lucky that I can usually eat going over. "Eat" means that someone else gets my next scheduled lesson and I don't get paid. Fortunately, I'm usually so busy I'd rather have the break than the work.

It's interesting that the direct line management instructions are to complete the lesson in one hour. However, the corporate policy is have satisfied guests. So junior level instructors get told to deal with it (and we scramble when they don't get back in time for the next lesson), but I get away with telling the private desk that "this isn't going to work, reassign the next one". Last year we experimented with scheduled breaks in between privates so that pros either had time to run over or go to the bathroom. Yet another aspect of the time crunch -> fitting all the lessons into the day also has an impact on how the lessons get taught. Sometimes you can "make" more time for a lesson.
When I don't think they've had enough time to make the big step onto the lift I'll often blow the next slot by giving them extra time at my expense to get them on that lift. It means so much to them . I like to leave them with that victory smile.
I'm a chump maybe but they'll be looking for me for their next lesson and that is what makes our world spin .Private requests are a measuring device for my SSD.
post #27 of 40
I guess it depends on the layout of your mountain, but I don't think that "getting them on the lift" is that important. I go by the theory that an extra hour on the magic carpet never hurt anyone and they have the rest of thier life to ski. With few exceptions I will not touch my clients, meaning I won't do things like skiing backwards in a wedge to keep them from flying down the hill. I want them ready to do it al on thier own. I want hem to ski offensively from day one and if I rush them, that may not happen.
post #28 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
I guess it depends on the layout of your mountain, but I don't think that "getting them on the lift" is that important. I go by the theory that an extra hour on the magic carpet never hurt anyone and they have the rest of thier life to ski. With few exceptions I will not touch my clients, meaning I won't do things like skiing backwards in a wedge to keep them from flying down the hill. I want them ready to do it al on their own. I want hem to ski offensively from day one and if I rush them, that may not happen.
I don't have a magic carpet and the goals are not mine but theirs. We work with what we have and do our best. It's the side stepping and herringbone up that burns them out. That is why I help them learn to control their path and speed then get them onto the lift where we have more space. They feel it is a big step getting on that lift.What makes them happy makes me the same as long as it's the right time to step up.
post #29 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by GarryZ View Post
I don't have a magic carpet and the goals are not mine but theirs. We work with what we have and do our best. It's the side stepping and herringbone up that burns them out. That is why I help them learn to control their path and speed then get them onto the lift where we have more space. They feel it is a big step getting on that lift.What makes them happy makes me the same as long as it's the right time to step up.
That's why I say it depends onyour hill. I see instructors all the time though that feel like they've failed if they don't get thier student on the lift. I'd feel like I failed if I got them on the lift and they needed help (physical assistance) to get down.
post #30 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
That's why I say it depends onyour hill. I see instructors all the time though that feel like they've failed if they don't get thier student on the lift. I'd feel like I failed if I got them on the lift and they needed help (physical assistance) to get down.
Being ready is a safety concern and safety overrides any desires . If they can't turn to a stop or hold a braking wedge I don't take them up. It just takes some a bit longer than an hour and an extra half hour usually gets it done. The two hour window works the best. They get a trip or two on the beginner lift before lunch and if they are all day classes we build on that later.

One hour lessons demand more of the instructor to provide value in the time allotted. I don't prefer them but see them as a challenge to present an effective lesson.
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