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Who's buying the Lessons?

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
I'm just wondering if PSIA or any of the larger
ski schools out there are seriously analyzing
student profile data? Seemed like when I was teaching that by far most lessons went to
"never-evers" -- first time folks wanting to learn
to ski. Next biggest group was the "terminal
intermediate" bunch wanting to "break thru". We had a few (paying) upper-level clients, but not
a lot. There seemed to also always be kids that got dropped off more for the "baby-sitting" aspect, than the ski instruction. Once while filling in as Christmas help at a major big-name
resort, I was given a private lesson where the guest told me up-front to not talk to him about
his skiing, just to "keep up" as he had bought the
lesson meerly so he could cut to the front of the
lift line.
post #2 of 40
Well, I can say that I share your observations, but I'm on the other side. I try to take several lessons per year. I do it for 3 main reasons:
1) Clean up my form/work on problem areas (that I may or may not have recognized). I find I ski better when in lessons because I'm really focusing on what I should be doing which helps build muscle memory.
2) Cut the line...I can get a lot more runs in that way .
3) Most ski instructors I've met are fun people to ski with. I gave up waiting for my friends to go skiing so I ski by myself a lot and sometimes the company is nice. Plus I'm usually the only one in the lesson (3 others is the most ever) and after the first run it usually just turns into skiing and having fun with the occasional pointer or drill.
post #3 of 40
Thread Starter 
Wow, Rodney, you sound like the kind of guest that
most of us ski-school slugs dream of!
post #4 of 40
I was given a private lesson where the guest told me up-front to not talk to him about
his skiing, just to "keep up" as he had bought the
lesson meerly so he could cut to the front of the
lift line.
I've had the same thing, Sitz. I've got to admit, sometimes it's a lot of fun, if the person really can ski!

But I remember one that created a real dilemma for me. He was a youngish guy, very athletic, and he said that he'd skied with his wife, and with his friends, until he couldn't stand it anymore. He didn't want a lesson--he just wanted to ski fast now, get air over big rolls, and cut lines, on smooth runs--no moguls.

And he DID ski fast--very fast. DANGEROUSLY fast! He leaped over blind rolls, totally oblivious to the fact that someone could have been down on the other side. He was NOT that skilled a skier, but he was athletic and fearless, and I wasn't convinced he was entirely "substance-free," if you know what I mean. He was reckless, he frightened others on the slopes, and ignored every common rule of courtesy and safety in the book. In my opinion, he was a very real hazard to himself and others. And to ME--I don't know how many times he barely missed me on that first run, at high speed.

I really didn't know what to do. If he wasn't my own student, I'd have surely approached him with the threat of losing his pass, and reported him to the ski patrol. But he had paid for a private "lesson" with me! So I did my best on the chairlift to explain that we'd have to find a less-crowded area of the mountain, so he could let it rip the way he wanted to. I warned him that "they" would pull both of our passes if we skied that fast on the front-side groomed runs. I took him to some ungroomed stuff, some very steep stuff, and some easy bumps ("oops--I thought they'd groomed this...") just to slow him down.

We lived through the lesson, and so did everyone else. He even said it was "great" and tipped me. But to this day, I'm not sure I handled it the best way, and I'm not sure what I'd do differently in the same situation.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #5 of 40
Originally posted by Sitzmark:
I'm just wondering if PSIA or any of the larger
ski schools out there are seriously analyzing
student profile data?
Well I am one of those buying lessons, but I am not your typical. . .

I started skiing 4 years ago at the age of 36 when my 12 year old daughter from Texas came to Michigan for the winter and wanted to learn to ski. Needless to say, I got bit by the bug. As a registered nurse, ski patrol interested me.

ROFL! As if I could ski well enough to patrol. However, I did function as an auxillary member, and received weekly lessons in return from a couple of the PSIA certified instructors in the patrol. Additionally, I take a couple lessons a month on my own. I am now a level 6-7 skier that still wants to look better, ski better, and ski more challenging terrain. I finish my toboggan training this year (I hope lol), but do not ever see myself being done taking lessons.
post #6 of 40
I am a self-taught and I admit that I am highly skeptical of the value of an occasional lesson. Even regular lessons don't seem to help some people. Over the years I see the same people take lessons at my local hill and they are still the same mediocre skiers as they were 3-4 years ago.

Another thing that scares me: if I take lessons from 3 different instructors, I will probably get 3 different evaluations and advices. Who is right? What advice should I follow?

On the other hand I am currently getting zero feedback on my skiing technique which means that I could ski like a complete moron and never know it. Hence my dilema ... :

I know, I should come to the Beras gathering and get properly schooled. Right now I don't know if I can make that happen. [img]smile.gif[/img]

[ August 31, 2002, 07:01 AM: Message edited by: TomB ]
post #7 of 40

Anyone who skis as much as you do, 25 or 30 days a year (I took that from your profile), owes it to themselves to seek out a pro, for some training.

If you come to Colorado, I could recommend two people, that if you spend two days with them, would change your skiing.

HH and Barnes.

If you're in California, Eski.

You'll pay these fine folks good money for their time, but it's money well spent. You should do it.

The less expensive route are camps. Eski has camps, so does HH. Barnes should have camps (c'mon Barnes, get with it!).

Or, come to the Bears Gathering. Eski and HH aren't going to be there, but Barnes will be. Plus, a handful of other top pros, like Your Highness.

Then, you'll have peers to talk about technique with as well.


The reason why I recommend who I do is that I feel they all teach, the same movements. Each has their own way about teaching them, but I think all three of them are on the "same page" if you know what I mean.

[ August 31, 2002, 08:09 AM: Message edited by: SCSA ]
post #8 of 40
Originally posted by TomB:

Another thing that scares me: if I take lessons from 3 different instructors, I will probably get 3 different evaluations and advices. Who is right? What advice should I follow?
Tom B.

As someone who has taken many lessons I can say with confidence it's well worth it (and usually a lot of fun). At the upper levels you almost always get a really good instructor. Obviously it's better to work with the same guy, but it's amazing the continuity you can get among different instructors. That's one of the nice things about PSIA, the goals and techniques (evaluation and teaching) are very simmilar. So in theory 3 different instructors should identify pretty much the same issues with your skiing. Their approaches to improving your skiing may vary, but I like that, the variety helps me find what works best for me (ie. instructor A's drill helps a little bit, but instructor B's drill/pointer just clicks with me and bam I can really feel the difference). Also, upper level lessons are usually semi-private to private because few people show up for them. So there's a lot of customization that can happen. I find instructors want to know what I want to work on. Sometimes I have something specific (ie. edge control), other times I say just take a look at me the first run and tell me what you think needs work. Both usually work out great and I leave the lesson not only skiing better, but with things to focus on when I free ski to keep challenging myself.

And for the rare lesson where the instructor doesn't seem able to deliver the goods...hey I still get to cut the lift line.

Some advice:
-As always, remember to have fun.
-Speak up, if something isn't working for you or sounds like the opposite of what you thought or had heard from someone else, say so.
-Give it a chance, especially if it starts off on easier terain...there's a reason for it.
-Have fun!

Sheesh was that long enough?
post #9 of 40
"Who's buying the lessons?"

To be honest, not me anymore. It's not that I've evolved past them- far from it. The more I learn, the more I find out how much I don't know. The problem I have is continuity. I've gotten to the point that I really need a coach to develop and modify a program for me rather than an instructor. I tried for some time to do that within the traditional ski school system with private lessons with the same instructor, but availability and cost (ouch!) really put an end to that. Often once I found an instructor that really understood how to communicate concepts with me, they would be gone to greener pastures within a season. Bouncing from instructor to instructor wasted more time than it was worth to me, and I often received conflicting information that I had to sort out for myself.

To put this in perspective, the last time I asked an examiner what level I was at, he replied I was a solid 6-7. That was the lowest appraisal I'd ever gotten from an instructor, and probably the one closest to the truth. My off-piste technique needs a lot of work and my stance is just short of boot-banging.

I joined the Masters Program at Alyeska to get coaching for a reasonable price. In addition to the race coaching, they offered a free-skiing coach that was just a lot of fun to ski with and loosened me up quite a bit.

If the ski school would have offered a discounted punch pass for about 5-10 private lessons with the same instructor, I probably would have jumped all over it and never even considered Masters. Might have even kept a few of those instructors I liked so much around for more than one season.
Just a thought
post #10 of 40
Just a thought for those that take lesson and seem to never improve, practice! I see many students have a break through in a lesson and then come back for the next lesson no more improved than when they left the last lesson. I am sorry but it is very easy to blame the instructor and not yourself. This is probably not good for an instructor to say but we can only give so much of our knowledge and ourselves to a student and after that it is up to the student. We are your coach, your confidant, and your guide but we cannot make you a better skier if you are not willing to work at it. We just simply can’t do it in the time allotted. You need your effort after class! If we are bad instructors for your learning style fire us and ask for a new lesson, we will understand. If you do not like the direction we are going tell us and we will change the map. However if you think we will make you a brand new skier in a single lesson you have expectations beyond what we can do. We can give you a lot to work on and or with but only you can work on improving yourself. Sorry but that is the way it is. It took many students years to get where they are and we cannot shizam a student without their effort.

The truth hurts but this is the real truth to learning. Learning and changing takes personal strength and effort.

Have a great day and please before you throw these thoughts away, think about it! I believe these thoughts will improve your next lesson.

post #11 of 40
Just like he said -
Go the practice - really does help - practice does not mean running off to the knarliest piece of terrain & throwing yourself down the hill 'thinking about what he said' It means PRACTICE! Even off season....

Re the different opinions from different instructors - I ski regularly with 3-4 instructors. What seems TOTALLY different - maybe even contradictory - usually sorts itself out to being THE SAME END RESULT WANTED. Partly it is working at it from differnet angles - partly my poor understanding of the REAL intentions etc etc. Nearly always though as I start to do what is required by one - it turns out to be what they all were trying to achieve. The variety actually helps - but the consistency is useful too. Perhaps have lessons with 1 regularly - but if you are struggling with something try another view point.
post #12 of 40
John Cole,

I actually agree 100% with you. Instruction will point you in the right direction, but practice, awareness of what you are doing and time on snow are going to make the real difference.

I am actually thinking about taking my Level I instructor certification this winter. It will be purely for the experience, because I don't intend to teach.
post #13 of 40
Originally posted by TomB:
John Cole,

I am actually thinking about taking my Level I instructor certification this winter. It will be purely for the experience, because I don't intend to teach.
Go for it! The experience will be worth the effort I will assure you and by the way you just may find yourself standing on the "dark side" of the lesson call some day!

Have a Great Day!
post #14 of 40
As a relatively recent skier who started at a (very) mature age, I find it strange that so many skiers don't want to improve and recognise that the best way to do this is with regular lessons.

When I started about 6 years ago, I commenced with private lessons and then graduated to group lessons. About 5 years ago I started with the Mountain Masters program at Blue Cow. This is a 4 1/2 hour program every Sunday from early July to early September. The coaches are all Level 4 (APSI) equivalent (I think) to PSIA Level 3. Many are international instructors so the background is varied, and the drills and teaching often fresh.

In addition, many of us do an extra week of instruction in mid August. We were talking on the drive home from the mountain last night regarding the degree of improvement we have seen in everyone this year. Most of us would be solid Levels 7-8 with the balance at lower levels but with all showing steady improvement.

In my view this is due to the continuity of teaching plus plenty of practice. We were skiing with my daughter in law and my son last Saturday on easy greens and blues and got some strange looks from them and others as we practiced "Charleston turns" (balancing on one ski and turning on the outside edge)

Bottom line for me is I will continue to spend a fair amount of time and money on lessons because I (and others) can see the benefit that results.
post #15 of 40
I don't think APSI has a level 4 - just 3 then trainers & examiners
post #16 of 40
I've had instructors, all Level II or above (even examiners), give outright contradictory lessons. Counter. Don't counter. Scissor. Don't scissor. One foot stance. Two foot stance... it goes on and on, and this was all on similar terrain. What it boils down to is how current they've stayed with changing technique and what works for them. Each one of them probably would have made me an excellent skier given the chance, but the combination of them often slowed my progress while I tried to conform to their concept of good skiing. It was the fault of the individual instructor (for not staying current), PSIA (for not requiring them to), the ski school (for pushing quantity over quality and not developing a cohesive approach), and me (for letting them get away with it). Even after all of that, I'd still say everyone should try to take as many lessons as possible from whatever outlet is available to them. Not taking lessons is the biggest mistake you can make. Period.

I agree that the quickest path to improvement is continued practice of core movements with regular observation/feeback by a trained professional. Unfortunately, the classic ski school does not provide an affordable method to achieve this.

Two years ago I spent almost $2000 on a series of private lessons to try to get some continuity, but my efforts were hampered by the availability of my preferred instructors.

Ski camps have been a great way for me to get concentrated instruction, but the limited time for absorption of concepts can limit the impact. I still love the atmosphere, and they always give me a lot to work on. Unfortunately, once I think I've got it down there's nobody there to provide feedback.

Masters provided me with the continuous coaching I sought. Even though it's race-oriented for the most part (although there is some free ski coaching ), good racing is good skiing from what I can tell. Besides, I really like running gates. It's amazing how much progress I've made in a relatively short amount of time with a cohesive coaching program.

Whatever path it takes, formal instruction is a must. I wish I had've started sooner so I could have created good habits without having to break bad ones first. So much easier that way.
post #17 of 40
TomB has figured something out: the most economical way to afford lessons is to pay annual dues to a ski instructor org. which allows you admission to their clinics, cert training, etc.

You will be told you have to have a ski school job to pass Level I, but you don't have to have a job to take Level I or to attend general membership clinics.

More of that valuable inside info. Oh, forgot the codicil: wear comfortable boots, the Level I is a high content clinic.
post #18 of 40
PSIA-E requires 50 hrs of teaching experience verified by SSD to take the LVL 1 exam.
web page

[ September 02, 2002, 07:41 AM: Message edited by: BillA ]
post #19 of 40
Or you can be a bull "fluffer" in exchange for free coaching.
post #20 of 40
Nolo is on to something. The 4 day ski school hiring clinic I took helped my skiing more than anything else I did in the previous 20 years, and it only cost $75 (although I was pi$$ed about paying for a job interview). The best deal could be volunteering to teach adaptive skiing. You get lots of free skiing and training, you can take PSIA clinics and deduct the travel costs as charitable donations. For anybody with a real job the tax deductions could be worth more than most instructors earn. The bonus part is that once you ski with a paralyzed guy or a one-legged guy, you tend not to be too much of a whiner.
post #21 of 40
Originally posted by BillA:
PSIA-E requires 50 hrs of teaching experience verified by SSD to take the LVL 1 exam.
web page
Central has the same requirement so don't take the exam take only clinics. We have several area guests that have done this.

Have a Great Day!

post #22 of 40
Originally posted by disski:
I don't think APSI has a level 4 - just 3 then trainers & examiners
You're absolutely right! was confusing Canadian level 4s with APSI who are of course level 3s. Most of the Masters are trainers as well.
post #23 of 40
Thread Starter 
The story Bob Barnes tells earlier in this thread
about the out of control guy just wanting to ski
fast is an all too familiar thing at nearly every
ski hill. I'm always amazed at how some people
have perfected the art of balancing on a totally
run-away ski. For some folks, this kind of "on the edge" survival trip down the mountain must be
a sort of adrenalin high. I find it amuzing that
people boast of skiing certain black or double black runs when they have not come close to skiing those runs (better description would be
survived the run). I used to like to take these
hot-shots (who were totally bored with the mountain) and have them ski behind me (try to
stay in my tracks). Very few could make more than
three turns on the steeps before blowing out.

I totally agree with Nolo. The absolute best and
least expensive way to really get good at skiing
is to take the ski school clinics.

If that is not possible or won't work for you, I'd
suggest finding an instructor that you connect with on a personal level, then request them on a
continuing basis. This can be a great deal. Both
you and the instructor know on an on-going basis
where you are at with your skiing and how you are
progressing. Also, most ski teachers take a lot
of pride in and are committed to seeing their
repeat students grow and succeed.
post #24 of 40
Excuse my poor phrasing: I did mean that a civilian could get the pre-exam clinics at Level I without having to be employed. PSIA divisions like the new blood, regardless if your original intent was to scam a few lessons on the cheap.

Some are converted...
post #25 of 40
Yeah, the coaches we got (and still get) in Masters made such a difference. A talented, skilled bunch, bursting with info and experience.
You might get told 4 different approaches to one movement, but they were all good, valid approaches. Many of these guys have race coaching quals as well as the usual instructor quals from their various countries, and that helped. plus the cross fertilisation of instructors who teach all over the world.

I still use heaps of their stuff in my teaching! I found from day one, my bag of tricks was much larger than those of my new colleagues.
post #26 of 40
Mike –

It is great to hear you take ownership of insisting the ski school improve or you won’t come back. Don’t we wish everyone would do the same thing and walk with your feet, right to the SSD’s office if you are not happy. It would make all the instructors that are staying current and working hard at their professions happy campers.

Contradictory lesson will occur and that is OK if the mechanics are still there. In fact I hope other instructors teach different approach’s than I do so there is a place for my students to go if I can’t get through to them. The fact is I have and will take them there myself. What all of us need to understand is there is more than one way to the same end result and possibly a few of your instructors felt a different direction would help you! Fortunately or unfortunately you are more knowledgeable than the average student and the direction, which appeared to be contradictory and may have been for all I know since I wasn’t there, was more confusing than helpful. Sometimes students need to be more vocal so we as instructors can understand the depth of our students’ knowledge and help the student better understand why we may want to move in a particular direction. In addition there are several “camps” instructors will fall into. The camp of counter versus less counter, one or two foot skiing, wedge or no wedge, big toe little toe, wide track versus one track, etc. I can show you some mighty fine skiers that fall into each camp. The more lessons you take the more you might make the same discovery and then decide what is “correct” for you. Unfortunately sometimes instructors like real people become “campers” rather than coaches and don’t explore enough of the other camps! I for one fall into my own camp but I refuse to say right and wrong but I do have an opinion on what I believe is efficient skiing. (Nope won’t tell, no way no how!)

When it comes to quality control of instructors at the present students must look to the ski school. PSIA controls the quality of instructor exams and certifications but does not control the quality of ski schools in the least bit or the instructor AFTER they have passed their certifications. Yes there is a continuing education requirement but PSIA does not reexamine instructors to determine if the instructor has maintained their certification level and I am not sure they really should. That control is left to the ski school and “walking feet”.

Finally, I am not noted for brevity unfortunately, ask your local ski school for a “package” program for lessons and then preseason register with your favorite instructor. Hopefully both are available. I know our area has 5-10 lesson only packages and I have students pre-registered every year prior to opening. Both are good for the student and the instructor. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #27 of 40
Unfortunately, Alyeska is not known for its happy employees. They're there for Alaska, not Alyeska, and a lot of them move on after a year or so of the "Alaska experience". Management is another problem, from what I've heard from every employee I've talked to. Cost of living is high, and since Alyeska is not really a destination resort (just a resort that happens to be located at a destination), demand for upper-level instructors isn't as high. Less students means less cash, and a few seasons are all that most instructors can take without an alternate source of income. At any rate, this is not an environment that breeds innovative ideas or empowered employees.

That said, they do have some excellent instructors there- I just don't connect with all of them. Once I find one that does, half of the season is usually gone by and so has half of my instruction budget. I have a 50% chance they will move on before the next season.

I still set my wife up with private lessons, although her preferred instructor (one of those I didn't connect with) broke her arm learning to snowboard and sat the season out.

After all of that, I'm still one of the biggest proponents of ski instruction I know. My wife makes great strides in ability and confidence after every lesson, and for that matter, so do I. I have yet to take what I would consider a "bad" lesson, one where I felt like I hadn't learned anything of use- I've just taken ones that are better than others.

As for some people never getting better no matter how many lessons they take, either they are extremely uncoordinated, have a problem processing the information presented (usually the instructor's fault), or are taking lessons simply to have someone to ski with. If your goal isn't to improve, chances are you're never going to improve.

Want to know exactly how good you are? Get videoed following a world-class skier down any hill. Not one of those hackers who just jump off of cliffs and barely escape death, but a truly great skier. Try to match them, turn for turn, move for move... Watch the video and then have someone else rate you (preferrably someone objective). Nobody that good got there without some form of instruction. It's amazing the difference between what we think we're doing and what we're actually doing.

I got videoed running a training slalom course after Megan Gerety, and compared to her I was completely uncoordinated and very, very slow. Same thing as I followed Tommy Moe freeskiing. I will never reach the level of those guys, but it served as a concrete example of what expert skiing looks like. Nothing deflates an ego (especially mine) better than a well-critiqued video.

Wow- was that long-winded enough? [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #28 of 40
Originally posted by Alaska Mike:
As for some people never getting better no matter how many lessons they take, either they are extremely uncoordinated, have a problem processing the information presented (usually the instructor's fault), or are taking lessons simply to have someone to ski with. If your goal isn't to improve, chances are you're never going to improve.

Well I'm a walking example that even being extremely uncoordinated is just NO EXCUSE - I am still improving from the lessons - so if youwant to learn & take the lessons you CAN improve even when you just ARE NOT coordinated
post #29 of 40
I have found that in the early morning clinics with other instructors I am given a topic of the day which is very helpfull throughout the day of skiing. I think alot of instructors,like myself tend to give students too much information which only confuses them. Clinics should also help instructors get on the same page so that we are not giving out misguided or countering information. Finding a good instructor, and getting a good lesson, is a good thing!
post #30 of 40
I agree- desire to achieve can pretty much overcome anything. A given person may make slower progress than another for any number of reasons, but I think in skiing any progress is a really good thing and should be celebrated.
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