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Happy blunderers

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
Sitzmark writes:
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>I suppose "happy blundering and
serious excellence" are pretty dependent upon
point of view. I successfully taught skiing at all levels for 15 years with no pin (yes,
I did take the clinics and even passed a level II exam once, but never accepted the pin). I was one of the most
requested instructors on the mountain. I just did not agree with the PSIA heiracrchy on a lot of things (and still don't).<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Since you bring this up Sitz, I thought I'd move it to its own thread.

I agree in theory that there are probably seriously excellent instructors without the Level III pin, just as there are probably some great physicians without the M.D.

Why bother to get the credential if you have patients beating down the door?

But for the rest of us, what we learn on the road to Level III is what enables us to treat any student coming in the door (this will take another 10 years post-Level III, to be honest). It's not the pin, it's the process.

If a person can master the process on their own, the pin is superfluous. The students lining up for lessons is all the validation anyone should ever need.

Would you grant me that our ski schools are staffed with a fair share of "happy blunderers" in addition to the seriously excellent?

The retention of people trying out skiing for the first time is 15%. 85% never come back. I would hazard to guess that that statistic correlates to the average ski school's staff composition of seriously excellent and happy blunderers.

Just a few points. I'd like to hear your views on the hierarchy that turned you off so much you refused to take the pin you earned. Maybe a private message?
post #2 of 49
I agree with Nolo (except I wouldn't go to a self taught doctor for anything more serious than psyicatric care).

The reallity is that most ski schools put their least experienced and minimumally trained (and paid) instructors out there with the newcommers to the sport because it is held that beginners are all they can teach, but can they really? No wonder the experience isn't encouraging first-dayers to come back for more. The paridox is that a newcommers first lesson should be taught by our most experienced and best instructors who can make this critical experience a rewarding (-vs discouraging) one. But then you say, who is left to teach the higher classes but the rookies? A case could be made that a rookie (trained first specifically for intermediate lessons) could do more for an intermediate previously taught by an highly skilled instructor than that same experienced pro will ever be able to (not) do with a one-timer that never comes back.

Here's a totally new concept: Train new instructors in the basics of teaching intermediates. Simple strategems, based on efficient primary skills and movements, for refining balance, turn shape for speed control, adapting to terrain and snow, etc. (like all the stuff near and dear to their own skiing experience and can relate to?). Then with experience they can "graduate" to being "allowed" to teach the most valuable students, beginners who may or may not become skiers based on the quality of first day experience. And then graduate them to the high end lessons. Oh, and pay them accordingly for return customers, aka entheusastic new skiers who have caught the passion from a real pro.

Just a thought from outside the box........

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 15, 2002 01:27 PM: Message edited 3 times, by Arcmeister ]</font>
post #3 of 49
That might work at a resort where the ratio of beginners to intermediates is that same as the ratio of experienced instructors to instructors starting out, but I'm not so sure it would work at my local resorts in Southern California. Something like 90% of the lessons are first timers lessons. Likewise at least 40% of the instructors are first-year instructors. If the best instructors were given to the beginerrs classes, the class sizes would be enormous.

Also, this may not be a great attitude, but most experienced instructors seem to enjoy advanced classes more than first-timers classes. This is probably because standing on the bunny hill picking up fat, out-of-shape people is a LOT less fun than tearing up the mountain with an advanced skier who wants to work on moguls. Yes, there are moments that make beginner's clases fun, but they do get a little boring if that's all you're doing.
post #4 of 49
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Arcmeister:
Oh, and pay them accordingly for return customers, aka entheusastic new skiers who have caught the passion from a real pro.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

At my hill all instructors have the same opportunity to earn incentive pay. It is a huge part of the SS makeup. Points are allocated for returns, requests and referals (from other instructors) The more points you earn the more your hourly pay.

The big disclaimer is although you may earn lots of points if you do not get excellent client reviews you may not have a job the next season. Two things at play here.

1. Customer service
2. Skill and commitment.

post #5 of 49

>>The reallity is that most ski schools put their least experienced and minimumally trained (and paid) instructors out there with the newcommers to the sport because it is held that beginners are all they can teach, but can they really? <<

That may be the reality, that most SS do this. But not all. We have teams that rotate through beginners weekly. These teams have a number of long time, full cert Pros on them. So we have our best teachers every week with the first timers.

But I hear you, Alcester. It use to be that only our least experienced teachers worked the bottom. So we gave that a real good look, and came to realize that we should put our top Pros to work down there, because that was our future. If the new skiers got a sub par lesson on their first exposure to the sport, then we would probably never see them again.

I have to say though, that there are a lot of first time ski teachers out there that put out a great lesson and experience for those new skiers. And they get them back day after day. The only handicap they have is that their bag of tricks isn't as big as the experienced Pro. But their heart is just as big. [img]smile.gif[/img] ----Wigs
post #6 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by nolobolono:
[QB]Sitzmark writes:

The retention of people trying out skiing for the first time is 15%. 85% never come back.

I never had a lesson, and I'm thinking of taking lessons, a clinic or going to a camp, I'm 30. I went skiing for the first timewhen I was 19, skied a couple of more times in my low 20's. Then when I was 25 and 26 I was skiing 6 times a year,then when I was 27 I was skied about 18 times including trip to New England, season pass when I was 28, 29 I started ski racing, and skied 26 times, this winter I've skied 16 times with a very bad winter, and still skiing. I'm not an instructor..I know my brother quit after his first time and he took a lesson. I think faulty rental equipment played a part in his decision. But I love skiing, I used to be scared of heights, but now I love skiing black diamonds. I love the challenge of a new trail, changing conditions, trying to run gates(I suck at racing but improving), and the scenery and the people I have met skiing have been really good bonuses. I don't know I'm rambling..that figure just seams to me should be reversed!
post #7 of 49
Thread Starter 
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>I know my brother quit after his first time and he took a lesson. I think faulty rental equipment played a part in his decision. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

You have hit on what probably is the true "weakest link" in the first time experience. If rental fleets were updated and regularly maintained, that experience would be infinitely better for the guest and 100% easier for the instructor to add value to.
post #8 of 49

1) why so quick to assume that if a never-ever doesn't ski again after an intro lesson, it's because of the instructor?

are you folks making no allowances for "I didn't like it"? I quit whitewater kayaking after 2 years because it didn't provide non-stop fun like skiing and mtb riding do for me. some folks find snow skiing the same. what's the problem?

2) why is everyone so persistent in trying to "convert" every newbie?

it's the newbie studen'ts choice whether to continue skiing. if they don't want to, so what? big deal. this issue has come up numerous times before under the guise of needing "growth" in the number of skiers. HOGWASH. we don't need growth in the raw number of skiers. where we need growth is in the number of current skiers that take skiing more seriously. FOCUS ON THOSE WHO ALREADY SKI.

grrrrr.... :
post #9 of 49
Hi Nolo,

I've always had a tough time understanding exactly what it is that PSIA is "certifying"?

Does having a certified instructor guarantee
a student a better lesson? If so, is that lesson proportionately better as the cert level increases? What's the proof?

If cerification is a verification of a certain "skill level", how do you know that the things really important to the customer are those things being measured?

If cerification really does accurately single out the non-blunderers, why does a person only have to pass once in their lifetime? I know "teaching" level IIIs that can no longer ski double blacks, much less crud, bumps and ice.

I also think that PSIA is pretty much out of
touch with providing a true "value" to the
lesson taking public. It's just like manufacturing -- a company can build an absolutly perfect product, but if nobody wants to buy it, so what? PSIA needs to
step back and take a hard look at their product.
post #10 of 49
Thread Starter 

Part of the problem with those who already ski is that they are, sadly, getting old. After a while they will stop skiing and if we have no new skiers coming in to take their place, there will be less skiers. Less skiers means less ski areas. In the past 10 years many ski areas have gone out of business. In 1985 there were 727 ski areas. Counting the next several years the number of ski areas has gone from 727 to 709 to 674 to 622 to 611 to 591 to 589 to 546 to 529 to 516 to 524 (bump) to 519 to 507 to 521 to 509 to 503 to 490 in 2001. Scary, huh?


We do need to look at our "product." What is our "product?" I believe it is professional development, NOT certification.

What do others see as THE product of PSIA?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 23, 2002 11:53 AM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #11 of 49
It's all a matter of percentages:

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> Does having a certified instructor guarantee
a student a better lesson? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

No, of course not, but neither does smoking three packs of cigarettes GUARANTEE that you'll get lung cancer. It only means that it is more likely that you'll get a good lesson.

I can tell you that as a result of the process of attaining Level III this year I am a far better instructor now that I was a year ago.

Some instructors popularity has more to do with their personality than anything. And, frankly, that's real important because people rarely will remember the lessson, but will remember they had a good time. But, the key is to both give them a good time AND give them a great lesson.

post #12 of 49
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by WVSkier:
the key is to both give them a good time AND give them a great lesson.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I could not agree more.

The PSIA certification process is a process of dedication and commitment. During this process technical, teaching and skiing skills are developed. Is the end product at LvIII the same .... with the exception of the taught doctrine no. The big differnce in the end product (a full cert instructor) comes down to individual personality and human interaction skills.

As far as older LvIII instructors not being able to ski as physically as when they where first certified this is true BUT the wealth of human interaction skills and lesson delivery skills SHOULD overcome any physical decline.

There are many resort guests that take lessons that want to feel safe and "loved". They take some technical input but only gently and at thier own pace.

The beginner crew at V\BC is rotated and contains some of our most experienced teachers. Not our hottest skiers but rather our real "people, people". The majority are LvIII qualified with many 20 yr pins amongst them.

Finally there are many aspects of coaching and instruction in any sport that do not come from a manual BUT without the manual the basic end product is not complete.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 24, 2002 08:49 AM: Message edited 1 time, by man from oz ]</font>
post #13 of 49
Thread Starter 
I agree with you, WV Bob and Oz, but the analogy could be a bit more positive than correlating cigarette smoking with lung cancer. We may not be able to define what the product of certification is, in the sense of a quality guarantee, but we are convinced that instructors who go through the process are better than those that do not.

The trend is our friend.

As a wise man said, "We aren't making sausages here."

Perhaps a better analogy would involve wellness: eating more fruits and vegetables doesn't guarantee good health, but it makes good health more likely.
post #14 of 49
All great replys. I certainly agree with most of what is being said. This focus of always wanting to get better and genuinely please the customer is right on. Unfortunately, that's not always the face we show. Many times there is an open arrogance and very condescending attitude associated with upper level certification that really turns people off. Part of that, I think, comes from the fact that certification dwells so intently upon an instructor's ability to precisely mimic "the chosen" progression skills. So little emphasis is put on teaching or people skills.....or even the exploration of other valid skiing theories (Harb, Witherall, Reid).
post #15 of 49
Thread Starter 

C'mon, Sitz! I realize DR believes he taught Hermann Maier to ski. Sorry, Dunc, but when you start comparing yourself to God, I just gotta wonder....

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 25, 2002 08:08 AM: Message edited 2 times, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #16 of 49
Quoth Nolobolono: "We may not be able to define what the product of certification is, in the sense of a quality guarantee, but we are convinced that instructors who go through the process are better than those that do not."

Are the instructors better because they went through certification? Or did they go through certification because the are better?

How do you know?

For the sake of discussion, I would suggest that the product of certification is...certification. No more, no less.
post #17 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quoth? Last I heard that word was restricted to critics of Poe.

The product of certification is certification? The tautology is the oldest trick in the book, David. It usually scores points because it makes the opponent feel simple-minded, but it's reductionism is simplistic to a fault.

It is hard to separate the nature from the nurture, as you have noted. There is, however, the fact that approximately 40% of the instructors nationwide are NOT members of AASI/PSIA. I have only to look around my school and see who is requested and note that these people all wear pins. The 40%? Well, some will join, some will never join, but the most-requested still wear the pin.
post #18 of 49
Nolobolono, there was no attempt to "score points". Inferring malicious intent where none exists seems to be common here on EpicSki and is what often leads to the legendary "flame wars" that aren't usually a part of the discourse on some of the more "esoteric" sites.

Usually when the relevance and value of PSIA certification is seriously questioned, the discussion ends with a loyalist simply stating something that amounts to "everybody knows that certified instructors are better than non-certified instructors." We need to believe that. And polite requests for empirical evidence are treated as heresy and sacrilege. Sorry, but anecdotal evidence such as the observation that the most requested instructors at one isolated ski school coincidentally all have pins is not statistcally credible.

Why are we so afraid to objectively look at certification? The obvious answer is that anything that we would spend so much time, effort, money and emotion to obtain must be inherently valuable. That it is a great ego trip to pass a certification exam is not enough, so we indulge in glorifying it and attributing values to it that we HOPE are real. But can we prove them?

This is what I DO know about certification: It is a more or less universally recognized credential that could be of great value if I were applying for a full-time instructor, supervisor, or director position at a ski school. In most places it would probably gain me a slightly higher pay grade. Certification is an indication that the instructor has a great deal of perseverance, dedication, and discipline. It is evidence of successful in-depth training in at least ONE teaching methodology (and the curriculum is admittedly getting more "liberal" and comprehensive).

It is also evidence of both an ability and a willingness to devote a fairly significant amount of time and money to the process. A question that I am frequently asked is whether there is a reasonable return on this investment. How long would it take a dedicated part-timer to pay himself back? Has anyone ever calculated the total expense of certification? Including not only the fees for clinics and exams all the way up the ladder, but for travel, lodging, PLUS earnings lost by not being at home teaching or working at the "day job"?

Nolobolono, you know that I was certified back when it was called "full", that my membership lapsed when I got out of full-time teaching and directing a number of years ago, and that I am in the process of working back up to Level 3. Back then I needed it for my job. Now I need it for myself. In many ways, but different ways, it's more important now than it was then.

I also have a 17-year old son who got his Level 1 last season. I saw the quality of his teaching go up noticeably when he came back with that pin on his jacket. But I also see him benefit from good clinics from our ski school director (and even from clinics that I conduct, though he might not admit it.) So I find myself in the position of attempting to justify the concept and the process of certification to both of us.

I haven't even gotten into the issue of whether certification provides real, measurable, verifiable value to either the public or the industry.

When I say that the product of certification is certification, that's not meant to be a "tautology". It's meant to be a discussion starter.
post #19 of 49
Sorry folks.

The most requested ski instructors in this country and probably the world DON'T wear pins and haven't for years.

Who are they?

Harald and Lito. Their books are the top two sellers for ski instruction, respectively. Have been for about 3 years now.
post #20 of 49

I will agree with you there but in at least Haralds case he wore a pin for a long time and attained the highest levels of Certification in that program. Heck even his program has its own level of certification. Don't know about Lito.

The main question is not one of certification but continued education. Anyone can get certified but the true good instructors continue to educate themselves so they stay good instructors and educators of skiers.

That's were many instructors fall down. Once certified they stop learning.


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 27, 2002 04:35 AM: Message edited 1 time, by PowDigger ]</font>
post #21 of 49
Thread Starter 
Sorry, David, but a tautology is a tautology. I apologize for inferring intent from your post, which actually delivers quite a nice "justification" for certification as for ME, MYSELF, and I.

The thing I wonder is, where do our future students figure into certification? Is it for them too?

It's true SCSA, that Harold and Lito do a business. So do Kim and Dan and John and Eric and Doug, etc. Let's say they are in the celebrity class, and not try to make ski school instructors compete in that class, but instead consider the hierarchy within most ski schools. There I would contend that the pin denotes a quality difference that is substantiated by the instructor's sales record.

I haven't tested this statistically, but I agree we should.
post #22 of 49
nolo and Ed,


I guess what I was trying to say is that if Harald and Lito are really examples, the public has spoken - pins, at least defined as traditional ski instruction certification, don't carry near the weight they used to.
post #23 of 49

I would have to agree with you that the success of Lito's and Haralds commercially available materials certainly give the public a choice of self taught instruction through video and book reading. There is no PSIA or other certifing body that I know of that offers written materials to the public.

However, I still believe, personally, that pin means something. At least that person has taken the time to train and pass the exam. They also have to maintain their pin with sanctioned clinic events. I'll leave it at that.

post #24 of 49
I'll also add that in Vail/BC (oz, am I right about this?), instructors are rated by return customers and referrals. I think, Vail/BC considers this to be of more importance than certification.

So I think this is what nolo is driving at -it's the customer that should be in the drivers seat.

Here's what I'd do if ran a ski school.

First, the job interview would take place on the hill - I'd watch them ski.

Then, I'd make sure they were trained in the teaching system I wanted the customers to be taught.

Then, I'd monitor customer feedback. I'd have someone call each student to get their feedback on the lesson they received. Like, if a great skier never had any return business, they're out the door. If a pretty good skier had lots of return business, I'd invest in them. Give them bonuses, pay for more training, motivate them to become better skiers/teachers.
post #25 of 49

Oh yes, don't get me wrong. The last thing I want to do is insult instructors who've invested so much time and energy in their training.

See my last post. My two cents is that ski schools should be driven by the customer. Listen to the customer, listen to the market, follow the customer needs and the market demands.
post #26 of 49

I could not agree with you more.

post #27 of 49
I think that if we are going to have a Cert process, it's testing criteria should be structured, and communicated, so as to motivate and drive training/prep activities that result in value added quality improvement of the end product provided to the ski school customer as a first priority. That it should also result in obtaining the cert is a second priority.

It should be a process of learning something valuable to our students, not something irrelivant.

I question as to whether or not the current process adequitly fullfils either outcome.
post #28 of 49
The whole cert issue is an interesting one. I am currently only a member in the PSIA, altho I did do certs years ago. But I quit paying dues, and it's actually less expensive for me to restart the process, rather than pay back dues.

So, I'll start at the bottom, and get my Cert I. It's O.K. I've accepted my fate. But it does seem like a waste of money. At least it's less expensive than paying back dues!

Best training/cert I ever received was the from the University of Breckenridge. This internal training program
WAS based on the PSIA/ATS/Centerline model, but also used trainers and methods from the ISIA and a lot of Aussie influence as well.

Unfortunately, it's defunct. When Vail Resorts purchased Breckenridge a few seasons ago (from RalCorp) the decision was made that internal training programs were too expensive.

We still have training here, but it's not nearly as extensive as the UofB was.

So this year, I need to decide where my training/cert $$$ are going. My personal priorities are more with the PMTS folks, because I feel the training and information gained is more valuable.

I wonder how folks who work at mountains that have their own strong internal programs (like Taos) deal with this issue?

However, the PSIA certifications are still more widely accepted. Some supervisors here have even made comments about me being "brainwashed" by Harald Harb. There is a great amount of negativity surrounding the "alternative certification" which is really sad. I am not the type to be easily brainwashed. Not at all.

I just shrug my shoulders, and figure it's their loss.

So, I'm gonna get my act together this spring and pass at least one exam, but I would sure like to pass two. Ideally, I feel that a PSIA and PMTS cert will be the best thing.

Even if others don't.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 27, 2002 11:06 AM: Message edited 2 times, by SnoKarver ]</font>
post #29 of 49
Hey look, it's SnoKarver!

SnoKarver. Wanna go ski Highland Bowl with Pinhed and I next week?
post #30 of 49
Highland would be fun if they have any snow. Summit and Vail/BC are in better shape I think. I have Fridays and Saturdays off, but I might be able to trade. PinHed and I are already talking about swapping tickets...

Enjoyed the Fernie reports. Damn proud of ya for SKIING IN THE RAIN! I certainly would have too.

Umm, I'm probably gonna be at BC this Friday with most of the same gang we were skiing with at Loveland last spring... you know, the FUN instructors from Breck...

Any other Bears interested in BC on Friday?

Guess we should move that question elswhere...
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