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Teaching concerns

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
In the hands thread Nolo made a comment about not teaching a blocking pole plant anymore. Does this concern anyone else? Over the past few years I have become very concerned at the lack of versatility in skiers. To me what seperates a great skier from a good one is the great one can fake it better. (meaning as you watch skiers we all get out of balance, hold a turn to long, get tossed by terrain, but the difference is the great skiers can make the neccassary movement to get them back in balance and not distrupt their flow down the mountain. The good ones will miss a turn)We need to continue to teach blocking pole plants, stem turns, hop turns, counter-rotation turns, banking, full body rotations, avalement. It is the ability to have all the skills that allow you to be a great skier. In this age of grooming and short carving skis many have become one dimensional.

Look at golf to see the creative shot makers have it hands down over just the pure technique hitters on tour. Years ago Tiger starting putting off the green with a 3 wood, No one thought of using that club, now many on tour use it very effectively as well as the weekend hack! How about basketball? Jordon, Kobe?

As coaches and teachers we need to continue to teach skills that may not be desirable 90% of the time but do give people the ability to overcome inbalance, terrain change or what ever, by having the right tools to apply at that instance.

I was facilitating new BOE education staff and asked them to turn with full body rotation for 10 turns then with counter-rotation for 10 turns. I was shocked by the lack of some to be able to accomplish the task. Then as we skied terrain those were the same people that would get into trouble. So if you have not taught a blocking pole plant in a while, you need to! Also teach it's application.

[ October 04, 2002, 05:57 AM: Message edited by: Todo ]
post #2 of 30
Wise man say, "Never say never."

Like saying, "I never lie." Oops! Just did, didn't I?

(I think I should quit writing children's books...)

Seriously, Todo, you are correct: Defense is also a part of the game. However, I perceive that you are reading my comment in a different context than I was imagining in writing it. I was speaking rhetorically. I seldom teach blocking would be more correct. I NEVER teach blocking to someone who is already blocking each bump with great determination, which is what I see my real live students doing.

I have also said I *never* teach the Wedge Christy.

What I meant was, I never taught it to students, which is why it pained me to have to train instructors to do this demo to a "T" because, ironically, it seemed to be the demo that examiners were hardest in grading. You tell me, Todo: is our training connecting to students or satisfying some other agenda?

P.S. I quit examining a couple of years ago. It's become a young MAN'S game...Teaching the public seems to be the domain where women can excel. As I have said, I like to be where the food is.
post #3 of 30
As an Instructor/skibum for the last 30 years I share your concerns that the ski educational community often embraces new concepts at the expense of indispensable old ones. You can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I have always believed that a good skier is defined by his/her ability to ski any terrain in any snow condition. My passion as a skier is the off-piste and I like to share this passion with those students/friends who are able. Steep,narrow,and firm you better have a blocking pole plant and a hop turn at your disposal if you are to succeed in that environment.When all else fails you at least better have the ability to sideslip straight down the fall line. I'm appalled at how many so called ski pros can't even accomplish this simple task. Breakable crust comes in all different flavors. Sometimes the most effective way to ski it is a stem turn which allows one to change directions without overloading the skis and breaking through.You can't play the whole golf course with one club, nor can you enjoy the whole mountain playground with a one-dimensional set of skills. Enough said. Think snow-BIG
post #4 of 30
I'm curious that you say examining is a "man's game". My wife has the same opinion of the whole PSIA thing.
post #5 of 30
>>>We need to continue to teach blocking pole plants, stem turns, hop turns, counter-rotation turns, banking, full body rotations, avalement. It is the ability to have all the skills that allow you to be a great skier. In this age of grooming and short carving skis many have become one dimensional<<<

Todo, I have been preaching that very thing for years BUT, skiers who are new and are learning with the latest equipment on ballroom smooth slopes may not desire to ever ski anything else and with student centered teaching in now, that is all they will get.

We old-timers had to learn to cope with the shortcomings of the equipment, the ungroomed, chopped up breakable crust etc...

The folks these days don't have to drive cars without power steering and automatic shift and no aircondioning on gravel roads, neither do they want to put up with less than pristine conditions to ski on. Just look where people ski, maybe two percent ski on anything other than groomers.

post #6 of 30

Great points! 100% valid.

I certainly agree that all forms of self arrest (e.g., blocking and hop turns) are necessary skills for skiing steep narrow areas. I confess that I have taught few students at this level. I have taught instructors at this level, and, of course hop turns are on the menu, hockey slides to a stop, linked sideslips, and all that.

However, my students are already riding the brake (bracing, blocking, resisting). They are not not releasing and planning ahead (choosing a line). I use terrain and line to turn uphill more than I use blocking in either bumps or wider steeps.

But for the situation you described blocking/resisting is a necessity.


I don't know. Maybe someone should find out why women are opting out. The NRM division has a severe gender gap that starts at Level III. I wouldn't be surprised if this is reflected throughout PSIA.
post #7 of 30
Thread Starter 
Nolo- I know you more than that! Of course I took you out of context so I could get on my soap box for a moment! I am sorry if I implied in my writing that I thought you to mean what you said. The reason I took it out of context because unfourtanitly that is how many instructor learning take it. I am confident that you know when, how and why you teach what you do. I question the majority of coaches (including myself) at times. Your mention of the wedge christy is another perfect example. The wedge christy is a appearance the feet make that some devolping skiers will go thru. (some may not) It pains me as well that it is taught to the public. Or even the wedge. Teach people to balance, edge, turn their legs and manage pressure and let the feet fall where they may!

Nolo it is sad that your comment "is our training tied to the student" rings true. It is also discouraging to hear your expertise is not utilized teaching the teachers so that we are able to better tie training to the student, you have been a great voice in trying to accomplish that.

[ October 04, 2002, 01:00 PM: Message edited by: Todo ]
post #8 of 30
Thread Starter 
Ott- You bring up another concern. Student centered is a great idea and must be your driving factor as you work with any guest. HOWEVER you are also a professional and you need to give the student skills and abilities they don't even know they need yet. Sneak them in, hide them, make them think they asked for it but you must lead them to more things then one turn on groomed smooth snow. Lead them to the question they don't know enough to ask yet then give them the answer better yet let them learn the answer then you truly are student centered and not just giving them what the asked for thinking you delivered great student centered teaching.
post #9 of 30
Thread Starter 
donnyb- Good comments but I would argue that you can play a golf course with only 1 club and doing so will teach you alot about your game and may in fact increase your ability to think thru shots and be creative. SO don't limit your possibilty in anyway as you teach. There is value to be learned in almost anything we do even if it is just to NEVER DO THAT AGAIN! I am splitting hairs now. I'll stop
post #10 of 30
I agree with you that the very essence of good skiing is speed control through choice of line and turn shape/completion,not braking. Under most circumstances a blocking pole plant is dysfunctional in the context of modern skiing.This is certainly true in moguls where it,at best, will deprive the skier of good flow down the hill, and at worst, can push the skier into the back seat.

I deliberately chose two situations(steep,narrow,firm,and breakable crust) where "antiquated" skills are most effective.
You need a big bag of tricks, some old and some new, to succeed in all the situations one might encounter out on the big , white playground.

A confession. The closest I have ever come to a golf course is the kind that you play with just a putter(miniature golf). I chose the analogy between skiing and golf to illustrate a point.Perhaps,in retrospect, the analogy wasn't all that great.
Can you drive with a putter and putt with a driver?

Think snow.
post #11 of 30
Great discussion here all!

Todo--I've been trying to get ahold of you--tried to PM you, but apparently I'm on your "block" list (something I said? )

Please drop me a PM, at your convenience....

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #12 of 30

Thanks for the kind words. I love working with instructors, but there are only so many of them and the competition to clinic them is fierce. I try to help people out as I can.

On the subject of this thread, I tend to believe that the old things that have lasted are of highest quality. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, the Craftsman style, and Chris-Craft boats are three examples that come to mind. To stand the test of time is a pretty rigorous exercise.

In fact, I'll bet there will be more than a few requests to learn to wedeln at Solitude, and if Ott is there...well, I guess we know who'll be teaching us.

[ October 04, 2002, 06:52 PM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #13 of 30
Originally posted by donnyb:

Can you drive with a putter and putt with a driver?
Yes, and it's fun-just use somebody else's putter to drive. They really aren't made for that level of clubhead speed or impact.

Todo's comments on the value of playing a course with just one club are dead on. One of my favorite [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img] drills with junior golfers getting ready for high school tryouts is to walk down the range and pull all but three clubs out of their bag (leaving their weakest clubs of course) and send them out to play 9 holes.It is a great attention getter.

Now, how could we do the same thing on skis? Make turns on just one ski for an entire run, ski bumps without poles, ski with a regular ski on one foot and a snowblade on the other? Interesting learning opportunities abound .
post #14 of 30
Blocking pole plants are a TACTIC. The more of those (tactics) you have in your pocket, the better off you'll be. The good skiers use the appropriate tactic for each given situation. If a blocking pole plant will save your arse, then by all means use it!

Teaching a blocking pole plant? Yeah, sure. If that's what the student wants or needs. But if you are going to teach that, you might as well go into pole TOUCHES and pole SWINGS as well. It all adds up to good skiing.

Spag :
post #15 of 30
Nolo, I might agree that NRM exams have become a man's game (way too athletic), but tell that to Jen Metz or Deb Armstrong. They've both made me look like a fool more than once, and I learned a ton from each instance. Anyway, what does that comment have to do with blocking pole plants?

Spag :

[ October 04, 2002, 11:52 PM: Message edited by: Notorious Spag ]
post #16 of 30

I did not say, nor do I think, that women are not athletic. In fact, that is one of the stereotypes holding us back.

I felt there were some hairs to split concerning the populations being taught. Todo was talking about training examiners. I was talking about teaching level 8 students.

Now I'd like to know where you got the idea that athletic skiing (which I interpret to mean hopping and blocking) is a "man's game"?

[ October 05, 2002, 06:54 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #17 of 30
Jennifer Metz was my level II examiner. She is also featured here in Bob's mogul montage. She is certainly the epitome of athletic.
post #18 of 30
When I've had groups that wanted to learn stuff that did need pole planting skills, i'd give them a bit of an overview on stocks and what they're for; now and in the past. blocking plants were discussed and demonstrated, but I guess they were taught as an option. I never saw any of my people doing them, except when trying them out after we'd talked about them.

Counter rotation....I still do a lot of this! And boy does it feel good. 36 year muscle memories never die. I haven't taught it though. Honest!

Sometimes we'll be in weird conditions, and I'll teach a few things that are no longer in the official textbook, like hop turns, with specific reference to that day's challenges. I had some mega-nervous ladies at a very careful level 3, and on the 2nd day the fog socked in so you couldn't see 10 feet. So we did a variation of Bob's Pole Box thing, so they could use the stocks to help feel where the hill was. (We also ventured out onto an ungroomed bit in the trees where there was fresh "powder", yes at level 3!).
At the end of the week, they voted that lesson as their favourite, even though we stuck on teh easy lift the whole time.
post #19 of 30
I just want to say THANKS to all those, who support the teaching of versatility in everything we do on skis. Even though we have gone down a new path with shaped ski technology, custom orthotics, ramp angle adjustments, etc., and tipping skis on edge vs twisting skis as much as we did in the past, we must not lose sight of those "Tactics, Exercises, or Strategies, on How to move, When to move, and Where to move to. Less we give up on our real bag of tricks as high level skiers.

Back East here,there are a number of examiners, who are once again testing the movements of the "Stem Christie",(yes I said Stem Christie), Go-Figure? Why you ask? Because it does have a purpose in skiing and its movements can tell us alot about what skiers can do when other than straight forward parallel technique can't be used, as was previously stated.

So why not consider teaching the Blocking Pole Plant? What's so wrong with that? How about teaching a Wedge on steep terrain. Do you know what may happen in that instance? How about skiing on one ski with outriggers-have you folks ever tried that? How about a mono-ski or a bi-ski? Ever try it?

Keep this little phrase in mind the next time you think it's wrong to teach (limit) something that might not make sense to you because it may seem a little outdated: "It's not the Destination that Counts, It's the Journey that Counts!!!"

***** Think Snow ****
: Whtmt :
post #20 of 30
What if the request from the student is not to increase their survival skills but to learn tricks to impress their friends?

Have you ever been asked to teach a T-Royal Christie? Can you do the demo?

How about popping a heli? Can you do the demo?

How about wedeln and serpentine?

Fast forward: Some divisions are adding pipe and park tricks to the certification requirements for Level III snowboard...Will Alpine follow their lead?

Last question, looking into the future, do you think instructors will become more specialized as to their area of expertise or do you think the trend is for instructors to become more versatile?
post #21 of 30
I have a question I would like to add to nolo's list. This is partly inspired by Whtmt's post.

You get a private assignment and walk out to the private lesson meeting area and there stands a student with one leg. Do you teach the lesson on two skis or do you ditch one ski and teach the lesson on one ski?


Instructors should become as versatile as possible so as to be able to teach anyone who walks through the door. That's the ideal as far as I am concerned. But the reality,I think, will go the other way towards specialization.

post #22 of 30
Having a big bag of tricks is important, but I feel that one needs to be careful not to confuse students.

Most of you know me/think of me as a PMTS "convert" or disciple... which is partly true, because I've been learning a lot from them, both teaching and skiing...

That being said, my personal skiing viewpoint is much wider than any "system". For instance, one of my favorite "yodas" had a clinic I attended one day, with a bunch of very strong instructors. We spent the day on one foot, diverging turns, converging turns (high speed GS wedges), starting turns on the "wrong" foot, etc. It was enlightening, and a lot of fun!

All the things I learned before are useful, (maybe NOT GLM [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img] ) but I probably wouldn't teach them, until I'm sure the student is advanced enough to play outside the box. Most folks want a lot of "bang for their buck" in a lesson. Most students get confused enough learning better movement patterns and unlearning their habits.

nolo brings up extremes in versatility. While maybe I can ski better than some on one ski (favorite warm up), and might be able to do some tricks from the old days (well, maybe if I did more yoga), specialization is what's called for there.

We have folks at Breckenridge that work with adaptive skiing (including one-legged) or park and pipe. That's their "bag". Specialization is just that. It should not be a part of any regular certification process.

But on the other hand, a certification process for specializations could be a very good thing. Park and Pipe is one that is very viable in the "here and now". Telemark/Nordic skiing is a specialization credential that comes to mind! It's a good thing!
post #23 of 30

I am actually VERY suspicious of having a TOTALLY seperate disabled ski school. I can see NO advantage to someone like myself of that sort of system.
Over here we attend regular ski school - just like anyone else. Some of my instructors have quiet a bit of experience teaching disabled skiers - others less.
I think more than anything teaching a person with an obvious disability teaches instructors to be more tolerant of the RANGE of normal abilities they will come across. Not everyone is a sporty type with decent balance & co-ordination.

Also one of my regular Thredbo instructors has Nordic qualifications - so when he wants to teach me certain stuff(for alpine) WE TELEMARK for a lesson or two.
post #24 of 30
Nolo, I would like to know where you got the idea that I think athletic skiing is a man's game. Never once have I ever meant to even imply that. You said that you quit examining because it had become a "young man's game." I asked you what that comment had to do with pole plants. No agenda here. I assume you are talking about my comment regarding NRM Exams being "way too athletic" and tagging the "man's game" to it. By that I meant that I see a group of young, strong men deciding what exam maneuvers candidates must execute. Some of these have nothing to do with solid, technical skiing and everything to do with how much muscle you can throw at them. There are women out there that can do them just as well as the men, but most that I talk to and train would rather not do hop turns or Charlestons. (I agree! I think a hop turn belongs in free skiing and the Charleston belongs in a museum.)

Sorry if I put words in the wrong order. You can lay down the quills now. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Spag :
post #25 of 30
I'd like to share some views in response to some thoughts that both Ydnar and Disski mentioned in their posts.

First to answer the question possed by Ydnar about how would you teach an amputee to ski, "Would you teach on one ski or two???"

Well, in most instances we require our adaptive instructors to teach on one ski and be able to perform and demo the required movement patterns, exercises, tasks, etc., which are being taught in the specific lesson at hand. Keep in mind that a picture is a thousand words and unless the student's learning style is more on the thinker side of things, the demo is where it's at along with all the other things we would normally do in a lesson. Remember skiing is still skiing.

In fact skiing three track (one ski and two outriggers), is great fun and will teach you alot about how a ski turns when there is little or no other platform to push against. Most amputees ski with outriggers not poles, unless they are a very advanced upper level skier. The most famous being former Olympian Dianna Goden, who died of cancer at 38 in August of 2001.

In response to Disski's post on wondering why it's necessary to have a separate disabled (now termed "Adaptive"), ski school to teach skiers, who have some type of disability.

First, not all ski schools in the USA separate able bodied and disabled athletes into two different schools. It's somewhat circumstantial due to mountain management's concerns and somewhat driven by who knows anything about the requirements and special needs, including medical concerns, that the disabled population the ski area is willing to serve.

Most ski areas have chosen to separate the two, due to the unique populations,which are typically served including both mentally and physically challenged athletes. In each category the instructors must have a clear understanding of limitations place on the student either mentally or physically or "BOTH AT THE SAME TIME" in varying degrees of complexity.

For instance two seasons ago I had a lesson with a bi-lateral below the knee amputee, who could have had the following choices. He could either sit down and ski in either a mono-ski or a bi-ski, however he had been a skier before his accident and wore athletic prosthetic devices to ski. So out we went and tuned him up on the beginners' hill since it was his first day back on skiis for that season, but was still a solid based advanced skier. He was so quick to pick it back up I got his permission to film him for my other coaches to see. Due to being a double amputee he had an especially difficult time with canting and ramp angle adjustments, which we played around with.
Later that day I saw him off by himself skiing upper level blue terrain in solid parallel form. "Bravo".

In this instance, since he actually skied on two skis I did also. Had he had one functional leg I would have skied on one ski in a three track set up to make demos clear and to provide confidence in his view of my ability to ski the same equipment the way he does.

Finally, I'd like to say that many if not most Adaptive ski schools have many volunters, who are professionals in a variety of medical specialties. Regular Alpine ski schools are not equipped to handle the medical concerns we deal with every day of the season. We also have to be very knowlegeable about the latest specially designed equipment for many disabled athletes, which is rarely encountered in regular ski schools.

Do you think a regular ski school would know where to begin with an athlete who just wheeled through the door in his wheel chair and said he lost his legs to circulation problems associated with the results of childhood diabetes. And that this was his fourth year skiing since losing his legs and his mono-ski is in the back of his truck. And also, that he needed some assistance with the alignment in getting the pin in his binding's heel piece into place?????

Now do you think it makes sense to split the groups and create specialists, who focus on the nuances and requirements I have outlined in this cursory format????? Or Not???

Lastly, I require that all of my coaches take their Alpine certifications first before any Adaptive certifications, so that they understand clearly the fundamentals of alpine skiing movement patterns. Then they are encouraged to pursue their Adaptive certifications. I realize that this post has been long, but I hope I have answered some of your questions and have provided somewhat of an overview of teaching our enthusiastic disabled athletes.

Thanks for you patience and interest in asking your question.

: Whtmt :
post #26 of 30

Sorry for making you feel defensive, but you did read more into my barb than was there. I think women can be fine athletes, given half a chance. In fact, I think that women represent the largest untapped market in skiing. Other experts in sport and recreation think that married women with children are the most time-impoverished group in our society, and to hope to convert them to skiing is futile. All we need is for them to give permission to their family members to ski (while they stay home and catch up on their chores, presumably).

Yeah, I'm bitter because Cinderella can't go skiing, and the ski industry is happy to ignore her in favor of her husband and kids. When the family goes on vacation, the resorts supply her with shopping and a spa so she won't be lonely when the rest of the family hits the slopes.

Frankly, I don't know why women aren't competing for Level III or to be a division clinician/examiner. As I said, perhaps someone should ask why the girls are refusing to play. Maybe they don't have the time?
post #27 of 30
A refreshingly honest topic with some refreshingly honest admissions from the tip and turn short ski advocates.

IMHO we should start off all new skiers with "all mountain" skiing as the goal. Sure start em short and tipping BUT grow them from there!

Excellent surf today!


Some of my best clients are families where the mum is by far the best skier ... the girls do not compete they just DO!

Oz :

[ October 07, 2002, 01:19 AM: Message edited by: man from oz ]
post #28 of 30
Thread Starter 
Bob B- If it makes you feel any better you were also on my "buddy list" guess I just could not make up my mind on you I have since fixed the block, Thanks
post #29 of 30
Gotcha Nolo. And I'm in total agreement with you. I was hoping that was just a barb, but it's hard to catch the sarcasm on the screen! Just covering all the bases I guess. The only reason I posted my original question was because after last year's DCE training in Big Sky, I got the impression that you would shoot straight with the answer... and you did.

Must back to work!
Spag :
post #30 of 30

It wasn't sarcasm, it was centuries of oppression.

I got a note from SCSA. He says that he board is getting too bland. Real friends argue, he says.

He has a point! This board needs to be both civilized and challenging--where it's okay to say things experimentally and to (God forbid!) be WRONG.
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