|Originally posted by gonzostrike:
...Why does a ski school (or the PSIA) insist that instructors first learn the wedge and its affiliated movements?
Why cannot an advanced skier simply start teaching intermediates, without doing the "never-ever" routine? Is there a real danger that the teacher wouldn't know proper movements, would not have good MA skills, would not have good communication skills?
The thought that's creeping up is, if instruction is to help learn better technique, why the focus on wedges if it's clearly possible to do direct parallel movements?
Gonz – My area (Whitetail, PA) has a pretty progressive view on this. There is a great couple of paragraphs on Direct To Parallel in our Instructor’s Manual:“One of the important aspects of Stepping Stones is the ability to teach a Direct To Parallel Level I progression. It is ideal to teach Level I students the DTP lesson. The problem is that you will need good snow conditions, athletic students, short skis (130’s are the longest), terrain suitable to the lesson, and enough open space to allow traversing the slope for learning to occur. Sometimes at Whitetail these conditions exist and the lesson should be taught. More often than not, these conditions do not exist. large crowds on the beginner hills, skis longer than 130 cm to learn on, difficult snow conditions, and non-athletic students do not allow the DTP lesson to be taught effectively. The decision of which lesson to teach is a very tough one to make. On days when any of these elements are missing, the DTP lesson should not be taught to Whitetail guest, and the wedge lesson should be used instead...
Trying to force a DTP lesson may disgruntle guests, and most likely will frustrate you.
A Level I lesson may start as DTP and quickly change to a Wedge Lesson. As soon as you determine that the class is not learning as quickly as necessary to accomplish reasonable student goals, you will have to switch stepping stones being used and go to a wedge lesson. This does not mean starting over, but means taking the skills learned so far and applying them to the wedge and not the parallel turn. From many discussions with many other instructors, I feel this decision is the toughest one for an instructor to make as the lesson progresses. ...”
Basically, it’s up to us. My “default” start to a beginner lesson is to see how well the gliding wedge goes over. I’ve had a few groups that I started out with a gliding wedge, saw they were doing well and seamlessly went over to parallel just by changing my demos subtly. In a couple of other cases, I overestimated some members of the group and started off with DTP, but they clearly couldn’t handle it. There were obvious balance problems, fear, upper torso flailing, spin-outs without upper torso flailing, etc. Again, without a whole lot of ado, I just started opening up to a small wedge in my demos, and most of the problems subsided. In a very few (other) cases, even a gliding wedge wasn’t enough, and I went all the way back to a braking wedge, just to get these individuals used to moving over the snow on the bottom (ie walk-up part) of our bunny hill. I always tell these people in no uncertain terms that “This technique is just to get started and isn’t going to work up on the big hill so don’t even think of going up there until, blah, blah.”.
IMHO, I don’t think any good recreational skier contemplating being an instructor has a real appreciation for the incredibly poor abilities of some students that instructors regularly encounter until they have taught at least a couple of hundred students. After you deal with some of these rubber-legged individuals (that nevertheless really want to learn to ski), you’ll really appreciate having methods other than DTP available to you.
Tom / PM
PS #1 – Speaking of rubber-legged, don’t even get me started talking about the family of three individuals that I had yesterday that completely disrupted an otherwise “normal” group of Level 1’s. At the end of the 1.5 hour group lesson, while I gave the other students some independent practice time, I simply walked downhill backwards in front of each of these people, holding their hands, and guiding them down a 5 foot vertical rise. After much frustration and previous cry-baby, I-want-the-world-handed-to-me, squeaky-wheel behavior, they were all tickled pink that “They SKIED”. ( I then suggested bowling.
PS #2 – Steve: I agree with you totally about doing a slow speed gliding wedge. To your list of flaws that it exposes, I’ll add that it also exposes any tendency to excessive tip lead, appropriate softening of the inside leg, flat skis & parallel shins (ie, no A-framing), etc.[ February 17, 2004, 02:21 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]