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Beginner Progressions

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Having had my first experience teaching in a ski school this past December I would be very interested and grateful to have people describe or outline the "standard" beginner progressions they use. I hope that this won't digress into the need for flexibility and variety in teaching (at any level). I certainly understand this. What I'm looking for is the standard progressions that would be used in training new instructors so that they have a basis to work from that has consistency with what everyone else at the same school is teaching. In asking for this I also understand the common practice of interactively moving between a wedge based and direct to parallel approach and realize that this might be more difficult to describe. So, if that is the case, perhaps you can describe each as separate entities to some extent.

Thanks! Si
post #2 of 10

Welcome to the party. It's a lot more interesting with the boot on the other foot isn't it? Didn't you get this kind of training at your school? I can't cram four + days worth of training into a post, aside from it being proprietary info. But at a general level it goes like this:
Boot drills
1 foot drills
2 foot drills
Straight runs
Lift intro
Turns to a stop
Linked turns
Lesson summary

Boot, 1 foot and 2 foot drills are designed to develop balance, edging, rotary and pressure skills. The same or similar drills should be used when progressing from boot to 1 to 2. A pro may select from a variety of drills for each skill and should vary the duration, intensity and timing based on the skills of the group. A pro may choose a wedge based progression or a direct to parallel or a mixed approach depending on the skills of the group and the availability of terrain.

Here's an excerpt from one of clinic notes pages that you might find interesting:
In the afternoon we hopped on some Elan 130 cm demo skis. These puppies have the same sidecut as the old SCX (clown feet) skis, but are just shorter so they don’t look as funny. Waterville Valley uses these skis in their Direct to Parallel lessons. Mick walked us through how they teach DTP. First, it only works for people in 130cm long skis or shorter. A new drill Rusty had not seen before was a one ski drill where you dragged the heel of the boot on the snow while turning with the ski on the outside foot. This seemed like it would promote weight in the back seat, but actually worked pretty good at promoting inside foot steering and driving the inside knee forward. The guts of the Waterville Valley DTP lesson involved a fan progression on two skis. You start the progression doing a shallow traverse, then step up the hill to stop (initiate the step with the uphill/inside ski). The second step is to shuffle the feet instead of stepping. Finally, turn the skis by tipping slightly instead of shuffling. This is unbelievably easy to do on the 130cm skis. The transition to linked turns is done with 1 or 2 steps to get started into the new direction, then tipping to finish the next turn.
Have you seen arcmeisters pathways to parallel? That might also be of interest to you (send PM to arcmeister).
post #3 of 10
The boot heel drag turn works well because the dragged foot has to be ahead of the one with a ski attached. This promotes a proper forward stance on the ski foot because the bringing the nonski foot forward moves the pelvis ahead.

You can see the same effect with almost any shaped ski.
post #4 of 10
Si, everyone needs a wedging skill if only to use in the lift line.

If you have gradual enough terrain, so you can emphasize a gliding rather than a braking wedge, you won't be contributing to any serious future problems for the students.

The transition to using corresponding edges can come quite quickly if you can teach ski sidecut use with the uphill christy drill Rusty describes. You can fan that exercise from a shallow traverse to a complete turn if your terrain permits, or you can use it as part of turn finishes where you initiate turning from a gliding wedge with emphasis on flattening the inside ski.

The best thing you can do for new skiers is spend some time in boot drills designed to develop sensitivity to pressures in their feet and legs. Besides the typical rocking forward and backward to feel how their weight moved along the bottoms of their feet and rolling to each side to feel weight applied to edges of their feet, I like to spend a couple minutes duckwalking up a grade to be sure they recognize pressure on the arches. This also is a good time to point out how the pelvis moves ahead of the feet and suggest they want the same pelvic positioning when they slide downhill. When you put on one ski and start sidestepping uphill, they have a better understanding of engaging the arch edge.
post #5 of 10
Here's one of the better books on the subject:


It is PSIA-Central's Alpine Level 1 Study Guide. It covers Wedge Progression, Direct to Parallel Progression, and a Hybrid Progression. It starts from "Here's the parts of a Ski" to Boot Drills and onto skiing. It is a great resource that I recommend.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks Kneale, theRusty, and Tsquare. I received lots of training (over 40 hours) before I started teaching. I also had a pretty well defined "standard progression" to work with. Obviously, I discovered clients/students where I needed to depart a little from this progression when they weren't getting it. I felt very lucky to have enough background and experience to make it work for these people. There was also back up help (an extra instructor on call) for students who were struggling a bit who needed some extra individual attention.

The reason from my post is that I was searching to learn and understand as many alternative approaches as possible to broaden my approach and serve my clients better. Also, as a rookie I feel somewhat constrained to stay close to my ski school's approach which, by the way, is somewhat different than what I have used when I have worked with people on my own. So, I am specifically looking for those that fit well withing the progression I have been asked to work with.

BTW, I do have Arc's pathways to parallel somewhere. I'll have to go search for it - thanks for the reminder.

post #7 of 10
Arcmeister was one of the developers of the PSIA-C manual so a lot of the Pathways to Parallel is incorporated in it.
post #8 of 10
Welcome Si,
Are you currently involved in a cert 1 class? That will go a long way in giving you an understanding of the current thinking on building a lesson plan. The teaching portions of that will give you a basic framework that is a little wider than the rote progressions most areas give to newbies. With your experience it should be more of a review than new thinking but it leads to cert 2 and 3 which are all about expanding your lesson planning skills. The most important thing to do is pick a skill that you feel is needed, use an easy uncomplicated exercise / activity to introduce that skill focus. Follow that with an activity that is a little more complex but closely related to the first drill. Finish up with another related activity that will focus on incorporating these changes in their free skiing.

The hardest part is getting to know how these activities are related. The stepping stones idea in the current manual is a good resource for getting to know how activities relate to each other.
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Hi Jasp,

Some of the Level I Cert training was included in my training. It was with an RM examiner (a good guy) so I would expect it was in line with standards. Like you suggest I didn't hear or see anything I haven't previously encountered but it also wasn't a full "course."

Unfortunately, as I am traveling out west to work peak times, there is really no time this season to go for certification. In terms of working at a big resort out west there is no doubt of the advantages of working through PSIA certifications (in terms of getting work, teaching experience, and pay - although pay is not an issue I am worrying about at this point).

It was a great experience over Christmas to be able to integrate a few of the things that I have learned and used over the years with individuals and see them work with a group of people in a class. (Of course I was only doing this while still working hard to stick with the resorts basic approach). Mostly I think I learned that patience, good client interaction, willing learners, and a reasonable approach leads to pretty exciting advancement and results. I'm just looking to expand my horizons as quickly I can to do the best that can be done for my clients.
post #10 of 10
Si, How far out west? If possible come by and visit me @ keystone. I'm running a cert 1/2 clinic every Sunday through mid Feb.
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