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Fact or Fiction?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Does it always seem that at most ski Resorts, that the least experienced ski instructors always teach the least experienced skiers?

Shouldn't it be that those who are in need of the best instruction, the beginners, should have the most experienced instructors teach them?

Is this the way it is at your Resort?
post #2 of 28
Well, if you have the most experienced instructors teaching the least experienced skiers, that leads to two other questions:
  1. Who would you have teaching the better skiers? (i.e., PSIA level 7s, 8s)?
  2. How would the rookie instructors gain experience?
post #3 of 28
You wouldn't use your best to help people get off of a lift or learn to get up after a fall. Getting someone that likes working with beginners is a plus though...
post #4 of 28
It makes perfect sense to use new guys for beginner lessons. For one thing, it's important to show some enthusiasm to make beginners feel like it's worthwhile to learn to ski. Not many instructors could maintain enthusiasm for more than a few beginner lessons each week. For another, beginner lessons can follow a pre-planned progression much more than advanced lessons can. That's perfect for a beginning instructor. The fact that most beginner instructors don't completely understand advanced skill development (or sometimes don't even have advanced skills) is hardly a disadvantage in a beginner lesson, but that's fatal in an advanced lesson.
In a perfect world, there would be PhD's teaching in my kid's elementary school, but it's just not realistic.

post #5 of 28
Lars, you make a good argument for the best instructors should be teaching the beginners. Since skiing has such a lousy percentage of beginners returning and staying with the sport, we could argue that the better instructors would give first time customers a better experience.

This happened to me about 15 years ago, when I had been teaching full time for 3 seasons and had my PSIA level 2, and the director kept giving me beginner lessons while handing the intermediate lessons to less experienced non-certified high school kids. When he saw my frustration, he explained (as above) why it was important to give me beginner lessons as often as possible.

But, following Bode's post, a beginner lesson is not difficult to teach, and doesn't really require much experience or creativity to conduct. The outcome of customer return may not be much different because of the instructor teaching the lesson.

Teaching beginner lessons, over and over, year after year is draining and does lead to burnout. It's tiring to stand, shuffle, duckwalk, and sidestep for an hour lesson, done over and over again.

And, of course, some of the more experienced, higher skiing ability instructors may teach a very boring beginner lesson, while a less experienced, weaker skiing ability instructor may have the personality to teach a great beginner lesson, in terms of both entertainment and basic skills instruction.

This is an interesting topic of discussion.
post #6 of 28
Why waste time with this?

The hills will continue to churn & burn pumping out instructors from the ITC's who shouldn't be teaching.

The hill will continue to also make assignments of upper level lessons based on time in the jacket and personality ... versus the ability to actuall perform much less teach the lesson requested.

Sorry Lars ... like banging your head against the wall .. on this issue, it feels sooooooooo good when you stop.

A beginner lesson is very difficult to teach well! I loved the challenge of using the whole bag some days in a class where the "stock" language didn't fit.

PS ... there should be mandatory shadows for all instructors with senior staff on a rotating basis. The knowledge could flow both ways and in some cases ... the junior instructor would probably also learn some things ... not to do . .. just as important!
post #7 of 28
At our hill, almost all of the beginner lessons (adult) are taught by Level 3 instructors. Just guessing, but I'd say that less than 10% are taught by Level 1s or non-certs, and NONE are taught by new hires. Now obviously, the new-hires can't teach advanced skiers, that would be a joke. The new hires do start on kids lessons and they do start on the beginner side of kids they wouldn't know what to do with higher level kids.
post #8 of 28
I don't think there is any particular type of student that deserves the best or highest level instructors more than any other type of student. There is no way you can argue that one group needs the finest instructors more than another. They will all benefit the most from the finest instructors and will be equally wronged by an unqualified one.

I will say, that putting say a WC caliber race coach to teaching first time beginners is a waste of talent. On the other hand there are some high level instructors that really enjoy teaching beginners and they are quite skilled at it and that is exactly who should be teaching beginners. I also think that its not that difficult to teach beginning instructors how to teach beginning students, following standard procedures that will give a perfectly acceptable ski lesson to beginners. If that is not the case, then lower level instructors should not be teaching ANYBODY.

On the other hand, its not really feasible for higher level students to learn much from a beginning instructor.
post #9 of 28
Originally Posted by Lars View Post
Does it always seem that at most ski Resorts, that the least experienced ski instructors always teach the least experienced skiers?

Shouldn't it be that those who are in need of the best instruction, the beginners, should have the most experienced instructors teach them?

Is this the way it is at your Resort?
Where I'm at we have our best ski instructors work with our beginner groups along side our new hires. We mostly teach under 12 years old ( 70-80% of the time). As guests are able to progress from new skiers to ones who can control themselves they go to the lift. The L3 instructors who are running the groups parcel out the groups to other instructors some who are new hires. All our new hires will be in a team teach mode for the 1st few lessons. The L3's stay with the guests who are struggling the most and work with them on a more individual basis.

Basically they are last up the hill to the lift, they are doing the hardest work but we feel the guest has the best chance of learning the sport correctly, then it is just a case of mileage. Our adult lessons only get seasoned instructors which tend to be adults themselves. That is kind of too bad because sometimes having younger instructors could infuse a sense of play and fun that some of the older instructors are lacking.

We very rarely get skiers who would really need the advanced lessons that L2-L3 instructors would tend to get. It would be nice to get that guest who is looking to rip a bump line or want some tree skiing, but the ones who say they want to do that can barely make linked parrallel turns on groomed terrain.
post #10 of 28
Another perspective is demonstrated at the end of the day when Older, well-Experienced Instructors all come in from advanced classes all bright-eyed & bushy-tailed ready to go out again... but the Young less-Experienced Instructors working with beginners come in exhausted and ready to collapse.

Teaching beginners can be much more physical work than teaching more advanced students so maybe we older types have just learned to push all that hard work on to newbies.

Like most ski schools we pair up less-experienced instructors with students who simply don't need advanced knowledge and advanced techniques in skiing. In pre-season training we prepare them for the level of classes they're likely to see. In daily clinics throughout the season newer instructors share what they're seeing in their own classes and ask for input on solutions. We also provide continued training getting them ready for their next likely level of class. Instructors not ready for the next level continue to get classes they are ready for.

One of the best methods of gaging their readiness for higher-level classes is when instructors manage to take their own existing lower level classes to (and past) the next level.

post #11 of 28
Unlike physicians who complete an internship to train alongside more experienced piers, this is not feasible for instructors. The ski schools who have any kind of training budget will focus on offering new hires lots of clinic time on beginner progressions, error detection and correction, class handling, safety, terrain selection, shadowing, etc. Then hopefully the enthusiasm makes up for the lack of experience which is gained by the hour. Enticing the new hires to attend PSIA level I clinics and certification is another great training path. This is the time when new instructors are like sponges and soak all this stuff up and look for more, if they don't perhaps this is not the job for them.

Personally I love beginner classes, just not twenty or more at a time like we used to do at Mammoth in the eighties. That era was crazy as we would literally do over 5 to 6 hundred beginners on any given Saturday. The challenge there was to remember everyone's name by lunch time.

Ever wonder if the doctor performing your surgery has done the procedure before? Has he/she done it once, twice, twenty,....
post #12 of 28
Its Fact. And rightfully so, from a professional instructors point of view. Its much nicer to give private lessons and teach advanced groups and ski offpist than it is to sweat and freeze in 10min cycles "down" on the bunny hill with crying and wining 4y olds all winter.

However, a lot of experiance does not mean that you are automaticly a good instructor; a young instructor might be the best instructor on the hill. A good instructor does not allways have to be a wizzard on skis; a jr racer might be the worst intructor on the hill. Kids, especially girls, like young feemale teenage instructors while adults usually like to have someone they can talk to. Basic rule is that if you dont like kids and you dont want to start att the bottom and you are not willing to work your ass off the ski instructor profession most certainly is not for you.
post #13 of 28
Originally Posted by Lars View Post
Is this the way it is at your Resort?
At my resort, the least experienced instructors teach the least experienced skiers.

But you should also consider this. At my resort everyone (including the SSD) teaches the least experienced skiers. My stats from a typical year showed that 2 out of 3 of my students were first time skiers. Because advanced lessons have fewer students than beginner lessons, the breakdown by number of lessons is far less. Does this factor into the point you're trying to make?

Shouldn't it be that those who are in need of the best instruction, the beginners, should have the most experienced instructors teach them?
Ideally, we'd have the best instructor teach every lesson. Anything less than that is just a compromise, but it is obvious that that is not possible. We could have the least experienced pros teaching the most experienced skiers. That's probably not possible over the long term either. Ideally we'd like to have new instructors train and shadow experienced instructors (say for like 10 years) before they ever teach on their own, but there is a practical upper limit for that (even a full season is pretty rough to pull off).

So if you're an SSD, your range of options for teaching assignments for new instructors is fairly limited. Day resorts are going to have a different customer mix than destination resorts. Different resorts are going to have a different instructor pool to draw from. Resorts can somewhat manage both their customer mix and their instructor pool over the long term. But over the short term, it's mostly getting "x" groups of students assigned to "y" pros and making sure that x is not greater than y. Resorts like Stowe and Aspen are going to have a wider range of options than resorts like Whitetail or Boston Mills.

If you'd like a definitive answer to your questions, get a job in ski area management and you can find out for yourself. Personally, after performing a few sessions as a line up supervisor, I am convinced it's impossible to make a "right" decision when assigning pros to students.
post #14 of 28
A beginner instructor should still have a lot to offer a beginning skier. They may be limited by not having the repertoire of drills, games, and 20 different tactical ways to teach skiing skills, but the right attitude (think "enthusiasm" and "empathy") will go a long ways.

And of course any decent ski school will also be providing guidance to the new instructors, maybe by having an experienced floater monitoring the magic carpet area, maybe by pairing up new & experienced instructors. Sessioning for new instructors would be a (mandatory) given too, right?
post #15 of 28
As a grad of an ITC, my feeling is that too much time is spent on improving the ski ability of the candidate and too little time spent on how to teach, what to teach, what not to teach, class management, different student needs, etc.

Yes, improving the skiing of the new hire instructors is important, but not as important as teaching them to teach. Of course, get the instructors off their heels and correct other significant errors right away.

I like to see large classes of first time skiers taught by two instructors, one experienced and one inexperienced. This works well for both the students and the new instructor.
post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the responses and the honesty guys. Basically, I was looking for the Pros point of view on the importance of taking care of the beginner and lower intermediate skiers who are the future of the sport. How well they are treated and the quality of their learning experience is usually the deciding factor for the repeat lesson.
post #17 of 28
Originally Posted by Lars View Post
How well they are treated and the quality of their learning experience is usually the deciding factor for the repeat lesson.
Either that or how cold it is and how much their feet hurt.
post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by epic View Post
Either that or how cold it is and how much their feet hurt.
Nothings going to change that is it?

Which was another discussion we had a while back.
post #19 of 28
Originally Posted by Lars View Post
Thanks for all the responses and the honesty guys. Basically, I was looking for the Pros point of view on the importance of taking care of the beginner and lower intermediate skiers who are the future of the sport. How well they are treated and the quality of their learning experience is usually the deciding factor for the repeat lesson.
Originally Posted by epic View Post
Either that or how cold it is and how much their feet hurt.
Originally Posted by Lars View Post
Nothings going to change that is it?.

Did someone call for a boot fitter? If resorts really cared about creating life long skiers, what would they do differently? Hey that sounds like a new thread.....
post #20 of 28

Not where I'm from

Originally Posted by Lars View Post
Does it always seem that at most ski Resorts, that the least experienced ski instructors always teach the least experienced skiers?

Shouldn't it be that those who are in need of the best instruction, the beginners, should have the most experienced instructors teach them?

Is this the way it is at your Resort?
There were many days last year at Mammoth where the two instructors teaching the first timers and novices had a combined experience of over fifty years.
post #21 of 28
As usual we are all over the board when it comes to class assignments.
Lars here's a few insider points of view that many here haven't mentioned yet.
  1. The role of the assigning pro is to match the pro to the guests demands as best as they can. Attitude and aptitude being the primary considerations but in some cases the guest requests a female/male/young/older/racer/freestyler/bumper/etc... Which means a lot more than cert level and experience goes into matching the guest to the most appropriate pro.
  2. Beginners are the life's blood in any sport. They are also the best source of long term teaching relationships (long term clients). So treat them well, teach them well, treat them like you want to see them again and again, year after year. I can't tell you how many of my ski clients / new instructor trainees have become lifelong friends.
  3. Rote, scripted lessons are such a bad idea. That's not the most effective way of helping the guest learn, or helping the pro grow into a better coach. Yes there are parameters the coach needs to stay within but that shouldn't lead them into the rut of redundancy. Those newbies that burn out are the ones who took this short cut and found out that it's a dead end...
post #22 of 28
That the lease exp. skiers need the most help is not my take on it. I am finding the seasoned skiers need as much help, it is just a different kind of help...

Are we making an assumption that if the beginner gets a "better" product from a more exp./cert/ pro that they are more likely to come back for more lessons, or for more ski days? It is logical that this would happen, do we have stats to show it? I'm not sure. Not that I don't think it is likely.

I will say that I can probably take a never ever skier farther faster that a less experienced pro, and that is valuable to that client for sure.

post #23 of 28
Our hill-----on Saturday and Sunday from 9-3 90% of the lessons are never-ever. Really. SO EVERY INSTRUCTOR teaches beginners.

My 2cents: As an aspiring L3, I volunteer for beginner lessons for both selfish reasons and to see how I am doing as a teacher. I can honestly say what used to be a scripted lesson 6 yrs ago has moved into x lessons. ( x is the number of students in my class) Because everyone is different in they way they learn, their strengths and skills. On reflection, its fun.

Reality....I also watch L2 and L3 instructors teaching Never Evers....I feel sorry for the students because some instructors who are compelled to teach this level, simply dial it in....sad. In these cases, I would rather have a fully uncertified brand new instructor who is out to help.

We also have many 55-65+ yo instructors L1 or L2, who LOVE teaching new students. They are a blast to watch. Think of a grand parent with kids. I envy those students.
post #24 of 28
At the resorts where I've been privileged enough to teach, the least experienced teachers are always paired with the least experienced students.
It seems to me the cause for this is an industry issue. It was the topic of the letter from the editor in Snow Pro last week. The glamor, fame and earning potential have faded from the Instructor's benefit package. Left, only free skiing and barely enough wages to cover gas to get to the mountain. While each mountain employee plays a part in return business, it is the instructor who is burdened with the task making skiers and riders of our patrons. It is the one true factor that virtually guarantees a conversion.
Safety, fun, learning, arcs, steering, pressure, rotation, what to wear... they all pale in the shadow of MY overall objective. Make the client come back! Make the client a winter mountain client for life.
Are the best instructors; likely, those the most seasoned and most active; best suited to make lifelong snowsports enthusiasts out of beginners? I vote yes! But the pool of "best" instructors has dwindled. Look at the opportunities available to get a job as a ski or snowboard instructor. It is not a closed community.
Were more operations willing and/or able to afford to keep a "best" staff, those high-demand beginner lessons could be spread among the best coaches. The ability to afford that staff, by my estimation, is a direct result of customer retention.
On a personal note, I work much harder, more often tapping the pool of everything I know, when teaching beginner groups. That task tests my highest level skills in personal interaction/rapport building, communications, patience, education/learning theory and physical endurance. By comparison, a private lesson of two is much more often the "breeze".
Somewhere along my way I heard "You don't need to be able to play to coach." The physical skiing/boarding skills required to teach a beginner can be quickly acquired. The teaching skills necessary to help a student to learn are much more difficult to attain.
post #25 of 28
Shadowing also only works if the shadower is actually interested. Last season I had a woman shadowing me who made it clear that she felt it was beneath her ("I've been doing this for years ... I just forgot to renew my certification").

But I tried, and two hours into a lesson where I had been carefully getting a young lad to stand up - he was nicely balanced on his skis for a level 2/3, but didn't trust himself and crouched over - I asked my shadower to give some input to see how she was following the class.

First thing she said (to him, no reference to me): "I want you to ski down this run with your hands on your knees."

Arrgghhh. I stepped in quickly and adapted the exercise (to a twist on midget/giant - hands on knees, hands in air) without saying in front of the student that she was wrong.

But I later made it clear to her she would not be shadowing me again, and clear to the SSD that she needed to do a lot of work and get a change in attitude.

Give me a young, inexperienced instructor who wants to learn and is open to ideas any day.
post #26 of 28
Beginner lessons , usually children's lessons, will always be staffed primarily by rookie instructors. Who else are you going to get them to teach?

They have no knowledge on teaching skiing when they arrive to work on day 1. They will usually complete an intensive week of training. This will provide a basic framework that will allow them to teach a beginner lesson. So what else could you assign them to????

As the season progresses rookie instructors are provided with more training and constant feedback on their skiing and teaching. Rookies that look to train and develop themselves are provided with opportunities to teach a 'learn to turn class'. This works also to inspire instructors to train and produce quality lessons. Only then will they be given the opportunity to teach a chair riding class.

In saying all this, as a supervisor and trainer at Mammoth, rookie instructors quite often outshine their more experienced co-workers. After only a month of teaching!
post #27 of 28
Welcome to EpicSki, Simon!

I read in this thread that in the '80s, Mammoth had hundreds of beginners, classes of up to 20 students, and later that last year only two instructors were needed to handle the beginners.

If that's true, we have a bigger problem than beginners who don't take a second lesson; it seems we have a serious drop in the number of beginners!

Are entry numbers in this sport falling off precipitously or is this just at Mammoth or is this just a reporting error?
post #28 of 28
One doesn't send a neclear engineer to repair your broken light bulb as he's above it and you really don't need that caliber of electrical knowledge and you will suffer an extreme cost for having the same job the 2 year apprentice electrician could have performed, likely in less time, as he'd do it that more often. The young 18 year new eager instructor that LOVES 3 years olds and has had 4 years of babysitting and camp instruction will probably do much better then the 32 year old that is trying to stay single and sits beside a kid in the restaurant until he hears them screaming and asks the waitor to move them.

That aside, the resorts i taught it at had a few beginner areas. The ski director who was Rob Butler at one,(he was the ski area manager actualy and ran a race program and did the ski blurbs on the weekly ski show in Canada), used to peruse the hill while the beginners were being taught and any one having trouble, he pulled out of groups and gave individual instruction to. I once watched him chat to a scared 8 year old boy while slowly walking him back and fourth across a hill higher each turn until they reached the top and the he slowly walked beside the boy as he came down. Good instruction for the child that needed the extra care, and by the time they were done, the level 1 instructor had the other 8 children in the group skiing and using the lift at the baby hill. Other resorts i've taught at worked similar. One or two experiences instructors, not teaching at the time, hung out and helped as needed.

These young/new instructors passed certification, they have other life skills, they session with instructors twice a day and have tons of input from higher level instructors when they need it. They don't get handed a group on day one and they will be good with your children and paitent and know how to teach basic skills needed to get your child skiing, or you, as a new adult skier.
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