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Ski Education Research

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
First question: Does anyone know of any research being done in the field of ski education (instruction)? Does PSIA conduct or sponsor such research? How about NSAA? Across the waters, how about the Alpine nations, Korea, Japan, Australia, NZ?

Second question: Is there a way the general population can access research information done on ski education?

Third question: What areas do you think are of research interest? (Thank you, Charlie.)

Fourth question: If you were so inclined, what study would you want to do in this area?
post #2 of 20
1. Currently? No.
2. Yes. It's called the Internet.
3. The effect of different teaching methods on skier retention/return visits. Determining the optimum lesson length. Determining the optimum group lesson size. Determine the impact of pro compensation on lesson quality. Determine when station teaching is more efficient than traditional group lessons for teaching first time lessons. Determine the optimum number of stations for station teaching. Determine the optimum length, width and slope for lift exit ramps for lifts servicing beginner terrain. Determing the optimum teaching methods for teaching successful lift exits (including use of teaching aids like practice chairs). Teaching aid evaluations. Evaluation of starting kids at younger than age 4.
4. Establishing quantifiable metrics for measuring lesson quality (e.g. distance of movement, frequency of movement, shape of tracks, average speed, volume, direction and distribution of communication, amount of body movement, group cohesiveness[average distance between group members], trend of stats over the length of the lesson).
post #3 of 20
Sept 11, 2008

Hi Bears:

(iii) May I change the question from "ripe for research" to "of research interest"? I remember when I first started skiing, I read in one of the ski magazines either Ski or Skiing where some expert (could it be our Stu?) talked about which level skiier should be and would benefit the most from being "coached/instructed" by the "BEST" instructors available (I don't know or remember how BEST was defined in the authors mind. But I do recall that "BEST" was not in terms of "BEST" skier but "BEST" instructor). The main point of the article was that beginners would benefit the most and should be coached by the BEST. One of his/her reason was that by being coached by the BEST, beginners are less likely to develop bad habits which if "learned" will take much effort to correct. They will start off skiing correctly and progress from a solid foundation. However, the author pointed out that in practice, it was usually the other way around, where beginners are coached by beginning instructors, while advanced skiiers are coached by better qualified instructors. Comments? Does any of this make sense, or am I getting senile and recollecting stuff I read in my youth incorrectly?

CP
post #4 of 20
Ray Allard did a project for PSIA and NSAA at Hunter Mountain to determine the best beginner lesson, and to develop ways to increase retention after the first lesson. His results might still be available to NSAA members.

BK
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'd like to see research done on the assistance that prepared beginner slopes give to new skiers. There was a study done decades ago in Austria where one group of beginners was taught by experienced instructors and another group was put into a prepared environment without instruction for the same period of time, and at the end of the study the progress of both groups was measured.

The progress of the group in the prepared environment greatly outpaced that of the group receiving instruction. This does not imply that instruction is no good, only that a prepared environment gives a critical boost to new skiers.

It seems to me that replicating that study would be a good idea, but I can understand why PSIA might be loath to do so, since the kneejerk reaction would be to fire the beginner instructors and hire a bunch of potato farmers to run the grooming equipment.
post #6 of 20
Nolo,

Don't you think that the ideal scenario would include both (the instructor and the prepared environment)?

Last winter, I had the chance to ski at Schweitzer for the first time. They have a beginner chair area specifically designed to allow a never-ever beginner to start at the top by the lodge and work their down a very gentle slope that allows the instructor to do the things you'd do in a first lesson without climbing up and down and eventually leads to a slope with just enough pitch at the bottom to allow linked wedge turns for the successful student and "survival" for the student not so gifted.

In my opinion, anyway, a student with a competent instructor would always do better than someone left alone in an environment like this...

Mike
post #7 of 20
I'd love to see how fast the group would advance in the prepared environment with instructors specifically trained to exploit and use the environment. (Posting at the same time as Mike!)

Do you have a link to the Austrian study. I'd like to see what was done to "prepare the environment." It seems to me that all ski areas should have something like this to encourage beginners. It might help them become life long skiers and improve our retention rate of first timers.

"If you build it they will come" (back!!)
post #8 of 20
Belleayre has some of the best purpose built learning terrain for beginners I have ever seen. And the beginner program to go with it.

Whoever designed it must have had Horst Abraham in mind.
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
The Austrian study is something Horst Abraham told me about, and probably predates the Internet by a couple of decades. I believe his mentor Kruckenhauser designed the experiment, but my memory is not what it once was. I took Rusty's advice to do an Internet search and came up with nothing substantive. If anyone more search savvy would like to take on the task of finding substantive ski education research on the Web, I would be grateful.
post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post
....
The progress of the group in the prepared environment greatly outpaced that of the group receiving instruction. This does not imply that instruction is no good, only that a prepared environment gives a critical boost to new skiers.

It seems to me that replicating that study would be a good idea, but I can understand why PSIA might be loath to do so, ....

False. It strongly suggests that at least one of the highlighted statements is correct and is not inconsistent with both being correct. Without exploring the other two contingencies you can't draw further conclusions from this data.

While you're probably correct in your conclusion, it is drawn from world knowledge and your personal desires, not the presented data.

If someone does reproduce the earlier work, the contingency table should be more fully explored. Anything that systematically helps new skiers would be a blessing; our sport needs to grow to keep the slopes open and well-maintained.

If one should succeed, there's a second, equally serious barrier to study and overcome. How does one bring revolutionary improvement in skiing instruction to the mountain? PSIA, SSD's, and mountain management have rebuffed earlier reform attempts by ski coaches with significant international reputations and PSIA national credentials. You need to study how you will cross Geoffrey Moore's chasm to mainstream ski school acceptance -- it won't be easy.
post #11 of 20
I knew that was going to happen.

First off, current research is nearly impossible to find on the web because no one in their right mind publishes before they are done.

Secondly, finding results of old research on the Internet is an art form. It's always easier when you have a clue about what you are specifically looking for. For this kind of search, it has to be performed at at least two levels:
1) Searching for the right keywords to search on
2) Searching using those keywords
The bottom line here is that this is a ton of work.

My bet is that there is a lot of ski research that has relevancy to ski education but is not tagged with education and there is a lot of teaching research that is relevant that is not tagged with skiing. And I suspect that a fair percentage of any actual ski teaching research that has been published is going to be written in German.

Finally, there's a lot of research that's been done but not written up. For example, we have lots of information that people who take lessons do better than people who don't. How's that? We see it unfold every weekend. We just don't have counts and controls that make it "research". We also know that prepared slopes make a huge difference because we can see that after we can convince the groomers to do stuff for us during the season and we can see results after off season regrading of slopes. My bet here is that you'd get more info that is equivalent to research by networking with industry old timers. (Wait a minute - that's us!)
post #12 of 20
I don't know if anyone will be interested but I'm nearing the end of a multi-year experiment related to ideal teaching methods as applied to a beginner.

Several years ago I talked a non-athletic client into giving skiing a go. After much discussion we agreed that I'd teach him to ski if he would be a guinea pig for some pretty odd experiments in teaching/learning.

He's only gone up once a year until this last year, when he went up twice. I wont go into the Pattern details taught but will say that after a detailed explanation of each specific movement pattern he only gets one brief demo, and then gets only one try at it. If he's successful, we continue (briefly) with an opportunity to gain some comfort with that pattern. If not immediately successful (first try) we move on to a new movement pattern (hopefully one completely un-related with the last).

This lets me isolate exactly what movement pattern actually worked for him right out of the box and also lets me know exactly what wording actually produced the most transfer of understanding in a brief verbal exchange. Because he only skis once or twice a season, he doesn't get a chance to practice nor build up any familiarity with the terminology nor skiing itself - and thus remains a good "beginner" with only a newbies knowledge of skiing.

Last spring was his fifth (?) time skiing. After lunch we were on varied Blue terrain in soft spring snow - and he was making pretty good Open Parallel turns, hockey stops, short and medium radius turns. I hope to do some video of him this season, then move on to regular teaching progressions (as he's getting to know too much).

When this is complete, I'm hoping to take all the specific training segments that proved highly-effective to him and use them to quickly train another never-ever friend from scratch over a short period of several weeks. I also hope to have this second guinea pig skiing Dynamic Parallel down Upper International by the end of his first season...

.ma
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
sharpedges, your points are taken, however I am relating second-hand a study done in another country many years ago, which was related to me by someone who was not directly involved with the study but who was associated with the sponsor and privy to the details and the conclusions drawn from the study.

My point in starting this thread was 1) to check my assumption that there is a serious lack of research into ski instruction and 2) to see if we can brainstorm a few research projects to perhaps undertake ourselves. I am connected with a university that might take an interest as well.
post #14 of 20
Nolo,

This idea of an idealized training area where people can learn to ski using guided discovery is something that has merit. Perhaps we can gin up a group of interested people to put together some ideas as to what it should entail and how to make it work.
post #15 of 20
Lots of things can be scripted for experiments in skiing but research into Teaching Effectiveness of specific mechanisms is pretty difficult to set up fairly. Everything I've learned from the fellow described above has to be interpreted based on my own knowledge of his inherent capabilities vs what I expect to see in others.

For any results to be valid we'd need to know ahead of time the learning potential and learning interest in each participant. It wouldn't be fair to select 'more gifted' people to test something against nor to select people with more interest in learning something new.

There is also the "I'm First!" bump. I find it helpful with dis-interested students to ask them if they would "Try something I'm experimenting with that nobody else is doing." Their interest level (and effort level) jumps and they generally try harder than otherwise. People seem to like being the First to do something new or to be a part of something 'different'.

Perhaps if each participating instructor were to take two separate small groups of equivalently capable students and teach each group the same exact things using different methods? Each instructor would also need to specify their own beliefs first to help correct any skewing that results from them unconsciously trying to prove their own opinions are right.

.ma
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelA View Post
Lots of things can be scripted for experiments in skiing but research into Teaching Effectiveness of specific mechanisms is pretty difficult to set up fairly. Everything I've learned from the fellow described above has to be interpreted based on my own knowledge of his inherent capabilities vs what I expect to see in others.

For any results to be valid we'd need to know ahead of time the learning potential and learning interest in each participant. It wouldn't be fair to select 'more gifted' people to test something against nor to select people with more interest in learning something new.

There is also the "I'm First!" bump. I find it helpful with dis-interested students to ask them if they would "Try something I'm experimenting with that nobody else is doing." Their interest level (and effort level) jumps and they generally try harder than otherwise. People seem to like being the First to do something new or to be a part of something 'different'.

Perhaps if each participating instructor were to take two separate small groups of equivalently capable students and teach each group the same exact things using different methods? Each instructor would also need to specify their own beliefs first to help correct any skewing that results from them unconsciously trying to prove their own opinions are right.

.ma
Sept 13, 2008

Hi MA:

Good points. That is why in medical research reliance is on experiments based on "randomized trials" i.e. each individual participant (after satisfying certain protocol restrictions) is assigned to one of two methods by a flip of a "fair coin". Heads assigns one to method 1 and tails gets assigned to method 2. Randomization ensures unbiasness of results so that the two groups of skiers being taught by each method are more or less comparable and therefore it is the method that is being compared and not the quality and/or makeup of each skier group. One caveat is the more participants the more "believable" the conclusions. Another important quality is "repeatability" i.e. similar conclusions are drawn for the same two methods whether the experiment is done at Aspen or at Vail.

CP
post #17 of 20
I was thinking along those same lines CharlieP.

Since we'd likely be stuck with a very small sample size each, I think a pre-classification of talent might be done first to segregate students into classified groups. Once done each subgroup could do coin-flips to assign them to a test group. Who gets into which group is still random, but each test group is assured of getting at least some 'Naturals', some 'Thinkers', some 'X', 'Y' or 'Z' types.

This would help prevent happenstance from lumping a disproportionate ratio of high achievers or other 'type' into one test group vs. the other.

.ma
post #18 of 20
Nolo

Have you looked into the proceedings of the four International Congresses on Science and Skiing, the last held in St. Christoph a. Arlberg, Austria, in 2007? These are held every four years. I've read the proceedings of the first and third, couldn't find the second, and don't know if the fourth has been published. I think I remember a paper or two that had been presented that might be of value in your quest.
http://www.icss2007.at/index.htm

And, they'll want papers presented at the fifth in 2011...time for you and your associates to do the research that is so badly needed.

A couple of examples from 2007:
--Schöllhorn Wolfgang, Hurth Peter, Kortmann Thorsten, Müller Erich
"Biomechanical basis for differential learning in alpine skiing"
--Haag Herbert
"System theory-based model building for a theory of the practice “alpine skiing”
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
Excellent lead, thank you, SSG.
post #20 of 20
SoftSnowGuy,

I looked all over that site and didn't find any of those papers - just their titles. Any idea where the actual papers are?

.ma
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