or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › Variation on the "not a troll" thread.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Variation on the "not a troll" thread.

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
While I'm not suggesting that any instructors would deliberately "withhold" teaching that would improve their students, I do have a very serious question about the results of long-term instruction.

I've been around skiing for a long time now. I know a fair number of people who have taken weekly ski instruction for years. These are pretty good skiers who are able to ski a lot of days every season. With one or two exceptions (out of perhaps 20 people), they don't *appear* to ski markedly better today than they did when they started the lessons.

The instructor(s) analyze what the students are doing, make suggestions, and the students try hard to incorporate what they're hearing. Despite all that, the skiers really don't seem to make very much visible improvement. The same ingrained patterns that existed before I met them still exist. (I fall in this category too, just for the record.)

I know that this same thing occurs in golf and tennis (and probably tons of other sports). Many people take lots of lessons and camps and still end up swinging essentially the same way they were.

My extreme example is a guy who spent entire seasons taking private lessons at Jackson Hole. Prior to coming to JH, he did the same thing for years at a major (unnamed) resort west of Denver. He's a very nice guy, takes skiing quite seriously, and probably didn't improve a bit in all the years he took lessons. We once calculated that he had likely spent between $50k and $100k on lessons over a several-year period. Like I say, he's the extreme, but I think a depressing number of students don't really improve like one would hope they might.

So my question to many of you longtime instructors is:

Being brutally honest, do you have a lot of regular clients who you could, in good conscience, point to that have made really significant improvement in their skiing skills? You might hedge by saying they've improved their confidence or are willing to tackle tougher runs or they're enjoying their skiing more. All of those are nice, but are you as a movement-analyzing technical examiner seeing them make *real* progress?

Just wondering.

post #2 of 46
If I hadn't done the Masters Programme, I would still be a heel pusher, ramming on the brakes each turn, unable to ski anything but easy snow, over muscling everything. My primary movement patterns are still there, as I've discovered, they pop out when I'm not paying attention, but my toolbag is much bigger now, with a range of things to make my skiing work.

Before that, I took the odd occasional lesson, and yes, nothing much happened. I guess regular instruction (in the programme I did) gave me a framework. Regular, over a period rather than crammed into a week. For me, frequency was the key.
post #3 of 46
I'm with Ant on this one.
I started with Masters a few years ago. I train with them a couple weekends a month, meet with a private coach for a couple hours weekly, train with the local juniors, and do the odd camp or clinic. Between those times I try to digest what I've learned. I can't match disski for number of days of instruction, but I can say that they're pretty far up there.

Three years ago I was a boot-banging, heel-lifting, straight-lining, backseat driver. I have the video to prove it. I have worked to completely change how I ski and how I approach skiing. It has cost a lot of money (for me at least) and a lot of time, but I consider it worth every penny.

After a certain point, the changes became less noticeable. Stuff I obsess on now isn't plainly obvious to people I ski with, but I see it every time on video and cringe. Each time I sucessfully change a negative pattern, no matter how minor, I consider it a victory and look for the next challenge.

The reason I can gauge my progress is that I'm in a more or less defined progression. I can see where I need to be and define (with some help) the steps required to get there. I think that the key to any long-term instruction is proper goal-setting. The instructor in any long-term situation really needs to foster goal setting, and unfortunately a lot of the traditional instructors I've had haven't done that, preferring a free-flowing lesson that I never really felt engaged in.

Show me the problem, give me the tools and a route to take towards the solution, and give me feedback. I, as the student, will take care of the rest.
post #4 of 46
Yep - don't think my instructors would have me as their ONLY markedly improved skier... but I sure am one of the standouts....
Improvements almost every season that are there for so many to see...
As a friend from the youth hostel explained to a 'new' YHA skier - 3 years ago I dragged her down that run(blue) kicking & screaming & she nearly killed me she was so stressed - now she flies down there worring about her technique

The trouble is these same instructors will also have to teach people who really DON'T want to put in the effort to improve - instructors problem or clients when they make little progress?
post #5 of 46
I have students whom never seem to improve. Some take lessons just to talk and ski with someone better. Some take lessons to show the instuctor just how good they are. Some try hard but don't listen. For whatever reason I cannot seem to connect with some students. Many of them ski instructors themselves.

I will say this much. I have made some major breakthroughs in recent years. Most of these breakthroughs came as a result of being in the right frame of mind at the right time. In virtually all of those breakthroughs I had heard the same information presented the same way many times over and it just didn't click. I will say that it was not necessarily the instructors fault. My mind was just open further on those breakthrough days and I had progressed or laterally learned all around the breakthroughs.

I also have a lot of sucesses. Most of my real sucesses really wanted help when they had their breakthrough. By wanted help I mean they left their egos at home and genuinely believed I could help them. The student has a responsibility too other than money. As I said in the last paragraph, I an no exception.
post #6 of 46
I see a lot of skiers who have come out with a ski club every week of the season and a lesson is included in the deal, yet they do not improve. Some of them are casual friends and one is a relative.

We sit and drink together and I will ask them how they are doing and for the most part they are very happy with their skiing and just don't want to put any extra work in. The instructor who had my niece was socializing with us so I asked him why he didn't correct her banking in two years of weekly instruction and he said that he is harping on her every week to angulate, which she can do, but she says it is just too uncomfortable and doesn't do anything for her.

The instructor said that when he calls on her in the lesson she does fine but as soon as she is free skiing with friends she goes back to banking and is very happy sliding around and has no motivation to go on to more challenging terrain, she asks "What for?" all her friends ski this slope.

There is really no answer for that if the skier is happy doing what s/he does.

post #7 of 46
.....I want to add that there are skier who have reached their potential, mostly physical and no amount of lessons will get them past. There are some who can't jump, or even hop [img]smile.gif[/img]

post #8 of 46
When I look back on my life's educational experiences I'm a little appaled at the number of "teachers" I've had that delivered the material and showed no concern (much less responsiblity) for whether or not any learning actually took place.

While many students might not learn from ineffective instruction and many learn anyway in spite of it, I think there are a lot fewer that cannot learn from effective instruction, if they desire to learn.

So if there really are a lot of students out there not learning anything, what does that say for effectiveness of the instruction they are receiving?

One of the key abilities of a skilled instructor is to be able to discover and create ways to not just guide their students through meaningful learning experiences but to produce an ongoing learning process as well. As opposed to simply altering behavior on a short term basis without any actual learning having taking place.

A large part of that skill involves assessing and catering to the student's motivation to learn and enhancing their understanding of how they best learn. This is a key component of the learning partnership that they should be creating with their students.

Those who condescend that they led the horse to water but could not make him drink may not have bothered to discover that he was actually very hungry and could have easily been fed.

[ December 11, 2003, 07:58 PM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #9 of 46
Like I said, if there's no advancement, why continue with lessons? Some of my students have signed up for their 8th year of lessons with me. They also ski a lot. They have definitely gotten better. Those who've been in the program the longest ski better than those who've not been at it as long.

A number of my students are housewives. I know I've done a good job when they tell me that now they're scaring their husbands with their terrain selections, when earlier it was the opposite.

I get new students when they see my students ski. I've even picked up a husband or two.

You know what makes them good? Their desire to improve. I've been lucky in attracting that type of student.
post #10 of 46
As a coach I provide the oppertunity to learn. Some take advantage of it, some don't. Most seem to get something out of it. A few don't and go elsewhere seeking the "magic bullet". Not everyone responds to the same stimulus. I usually encourage them to try other approches.
Coaching is different than teaching lessons because you get the athlete for a period of time.
Many "terminal intermediates" have alignment problems that when fixed allow breakthroughs. The article by the "other" Bob Barnes in TPS (winter 2002 I belive)on the Daleboot system alluded to this. It seems to me that many times the instructors need to feel like they are the reason for improvement prevents them from seeing things like that. Joubert in most of his books made the case that instructors were not necessary to become a "virtuoso skier". His one book was titled "Teach Yourself to Ski".
post #11 of 46
Originally posted by Ott Gangl:
.....I want to add that there are skier who have reached their potential, mostly physical and no amount of lessons will get them past. There are some who can't jump, or even hop [img]smile.gif[/img]

Ott - just been having this talk with the FITBALL instructor - he says he has had people who can do the basics (sit on ball with feet off ground, kneel on all 4's, kneel on knees only) the first week BUT they never get to the harder stuff - eg kneel on all 4's & lift one leg & move it.... He said they seem UNABLE to do more.... we are having a discussion on whether this is truely a physical limitation - or a mental one .... I suggested perhaps they are unable to ENVISAGE themselves doing the harder stuff & so they are unable to learn.... We are wondering if they will be prone to alzheimers as they seem to have fairly fixed brain function & not much ability to face challenge...

My 50+ year old friend (female) just had her first surfing lesson & she stood up on the board [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #12 of 46
I don't want to ski the bunny hill all day. That's incentive enough to get 'em too improve. Plus the whole satisfaction of a job well done thing. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #13 of 46
Bob that's a good question, and others have given good examples, like Arc, Slatz, and Disski. What Arcmeister and Disski said tie in together well. Many don't progress because they don't see themselves, or "envision themselves" doing things differently. But that's our job isn't it? To help them see themselves doing something they've never done before, from a viewpoint they've never been to before. Maybe if we as instrructors don't see them doing it they never will either. It could be that we unconciously dictate to some degree our students progress by our own viewpoint.

Bob you said "You might hedge by saying they've improved their confidence or are willing to tackle tougher runs or they're enjoying their skiing more. All of those are nice, but are you as a movement-analyzing technical examiner seeing them make *real* progress?"

I think we do limit our students if we are just using a "movement-analyzing technical examiner" mirror to gage their progress. The ability to improve ones skiing just through changing tactics can be huge to many skiers. This alone can change their view window, or how they envision themselves which can lead to a renewed hunger to learn "new technique", to go where they've never been before. Skiing isn't just about technique from where I sit, and please don't read this as meaning technique isn't important, it is, but we box our students in and sell them short when that's all we have to offer or that's the only way we see them. I don't think it is a hedge.

Then there is the whole other issue of skeletal alignment and muscle imbalance and dysfuntion. These are real issues that may need addressed.

I guess that's how I envision myself, slowly getting better and learning more in all these areas.
post #14 of 46
Bob... sometimes a story paints the best picture.

Last year I started working with a group of women to do the women's clinic at my mountain. We have assigned groups that we ski with for 8-12 weeks (once a week for 2 hours per session).

I am KNOWN for being the instructor who will pull people a bit out of their comfort zones, who will come up with wacky ideas, who will not take "I can't" for an answer (unless, of course, there is a LEGITIMATE reason... and then I wouldn't ask it anyway).

I had this older women - I guess she's late 50's to mid 60's. On the chair lift one day (I rotate chairs and try to do most of the talking while on the chair) we were talking about stuff and this older woman told me she couldn't do something - didn't work for her - then she glibbly added:

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

I smiled at her and replied:

I can teach an old dog new tricks, but only if she's willing to TRY.

IMHO (most humble this time!!)... THAT'S why people don't improve. They are not willing to try stuff that feels weird or uncomfortable.

Every new thing I have ever learned felt BAD at first - scary even. *shrugs shoulders*

post #15 of 46
As a instructor one of my challanges is being able to understand a students motivations then developing my lesson plan to compliment those. One of my biggest frustrations comes from students that place limitations on themselves, I'll never be able to ski the bumps or I'll never get that good. I hear it and see it at all levels from first timers to long time instructors in training clinics. If I can overcome this negative mindset I can then start to make progess on the physical side. Often it's our image of ourselves that sets up our own limitations. At the same time it's my responsibility as a instructor to enable, encourage, and motivate a student past their self imposed limitations so real learning can take place.
post #16 of 46
Yes Ric .... my current instructor was the one that would not accept that I would not ski like anyone else... He is the one that banned me from using the "c" word (I can't) & insisted I would STAND properly in lift lines etc - so I could LEARN how it felt to stand well....

I was stubborn & persistent enough to keep trying - but he was the one feed me the idea of skiing WELL...
post #17 of 46
All anecdotal evidence aside, people cannot progress beyond a certain level, because they don't have the genetic capability to do so. To reach that potential (or close to that maximum potential) lessons are far less important than determination and perseverance, in my opinion.

But skiing has a huge mental component compared to other sports (such as tennis, track, golf). The risk and fear associated with certain terrain is often the determining factor regarding your potential. You may be a good skier, but fear will prevent you from going in certain terrain. Instruction can help people overcome some fears and get them skiing in places that would otherwise be out of reach. This won't necessarily make them better skiers (technically or physically), but by virtue of being in such terrain, they have, in fact, improved. The better they handle such terrain, the more improvement is perceived.

I am not talking about intermediates skidding down some double diamond slope and conclude that they are advanced or even expert skiers. I am talking about generally strong skiers who seek to have little or no break in their form as the terrain becomes more difficult. As they learn to maintain form and composure, they are, in fact, improving, even though they may not necessarily be very different skiers to an external observer.
post #18 of 46

Your observations are basicly spot on. Far too often do I see skiers skiing the same at the end of their lesson as they did at the beginning, and hear the instructor spouting about how they have changed. Or hear about the student who just "didn't get it" and skied the same through the whole lesson. Too many times have I been on a chair with another instructor and had them point out someone on the hill they had skied with and say they are back to skiing just like they did before the lesson. If these were the regular outcomes of my lessons I would give up teaching. Fortunately for me this is not the case.

With the ideas about skiing that I share with my students I expect to see a definate change in their skiing in the first lesson and if I see them skiing the next day I expect that change to have stuck with them. If the student keeps coming back I expect to see steady progress over time as I keep adding ingredents to the mix. Even when I am working with people who can out ski me I expect that I'm going to give them something new to think about or a new sensation to play with even if there isn't a visible change in their skiing. Only once every few seasons does a student disappoint me by not changing or not getting it.

I guess that the above might make you think that I have a pretty high opinion of myself and what I do, and you'd be right. If I didn't have that opinion of myself I couldn't do what I do. And neither could my students.

post #19 of 46
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the thoughtful and interesting responses.

It would seem that most of you have at least *observed* the phenomenon that I'm describing, even though most of you feel that your own students are getting better results. I actually wouldn't be surprised at that given the dedication, thoughtfulness, and commitment that seems to exist with so many of you on this board.


I may not have stated clearly enough at the beginning that the people I'm describing are pretty good skiers. Perhaps level 7-maybe-8 using the standard I've read on this board previously. They ski quite a bit, take a weekly lesson, may have for years, but really, really truly don't seem to change basic movement patterns all that much.

So here's the follow-up (two-part) question:

Do you think that what I'm describing is fairly common (with "other" instructors' students, of course), and if it is, does this directly relate to the mystery of why so few advanced skiers take lessons?

Thanks again,

post #20 of 46
It's true, Bob. There is not an abundance of master ski teachers in the U.S. Neither is radical change at levels 8-9 a common phenomenon, as it is at levels 1-7. Though it takes only a season or two to get to Level 7, we spend the rest of our lives between 8-9 (depending on terrain, attitude that day, conditions, etc.) Those are probably two reasons people don't take advanced lessons.

The difficulty of learning at levels 8-9 is that it is work (practice is work; free skiing is play) and can be frustrating (progress is slow) and boring (all that repetition!). No wonder so many settle for the false summit and disbelieve that the true summit is high above the clouds.

This happens with ski instructors, whom I consider to be a subset of advanced skiers, who "settle" for their current level of achievement. I don't buy the line that they are more interested/more adept in teaching--if ya ain't learning, ya ain't much of a teacher.
post #21 of 46
Bob, I think that when you get to a certain level, conditioning and funtioning of the body becomes more relevant as the movements become more dynamic, more so than it is at say level 7 and below. What a person does off the snow becomes one of the determining factors in their ability to advance more or less. I'm not trying to let my teaching off the hook but skiing at level 8 and beyond does take some athletisism. The skiing curve and physical fitness curve come together here at this level, and work hand in hand.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that for a level 8-9 skier to permently change movement patterns skiing, it may require more than just technique, it may require a change of off the snow conditioning as well. Yes, I do talk and try to educate in this direction but many people feel their lifestyle just doesn't have room for this commitment. I even have pre season contact with a few returning students and try pushing in this direction, but,,,

I'm sure LM would have much to say on this subject. I'd like to hear others thoughts on this and how you approach conditioning as it relates to skiing with your students, or if you even go there at all in your teaching.
post #22 of 46
When I was teaching the only times I had real advanced skier take a lesson with me was when they approached me to ask how to ski a particular maneuver they have seen me ski from the chair or somewhere.

It would always be concentrated on that particular move, they already were very good all-around skiers and not interested in a lecture.

post #23 of 46
Ott, lecturing aside , and in the context of Bob's question of higher level skiers not permantly improving, do you think a skiers fitness plays a role or do you feel it is irrelevant? I really am interested.
post #24 of 46
fitness is relevant only to the extent the person taught is fit enough to ski for a few hours. some of the best skiers I've known are not athletes in any way other than skiing.

IMHO blaming genetics is a pure cop-out. the "natural" athlete is an overemployed mythological creature. the only thing that makes anyone a "natural" athlete is COMFORT and BODY AWARENESS. comfort is important to mental fitness for new challenges. body awareness is fundamental to athleticism.

I think it's a 50-50 split between teacher and student. teacher can't rely on "same old methods" for anyone other than the person for whom the method first originated. all of us are individualized, and only a poor teacher fails to know this.

the student also must be willing to try to break old patterns and movements. if the student's not diligent, progress is doomed.

lastly, the small improvements aren't observable to anyone but a technique-minded watcher. my biggest improvements in the past 3 seasons have been from changing a head tilt of about 10deg to neutral, from watching where my hip goes in the middle of a turn, to learning precise edge control. none of these things ever was mentioned by any teacher other than Yoda.

no quick and easy answer, Bob. but lots of thoughts! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #25 of 46
Yeah Gonz - my instructor wants my hands stretched just maybe 2 inches further forward in my long turns.... aaaarrrrgggghhhhh it is soooo hard to remember although easier after the first turn when it feels a bit 'hmmmmmm whats wrong'.....

I feel like a pilot with a check list in those turns...

Hands - check
Hip - check... ummmm check... ummm check.....

etc etc etc
post #26 of 46
Great topic here, Bob!

In furthering the spirit of Ric B's post above, ski teaching needs to embrace far more than technique tinkering to engender lasting change. It has to, for those changes to stick.

A successful partnership, whether with an advanced beginner, a "terminal intermediate" or a highly skilled guest or peer seeking a breakthrough, involves information exchange on how to be in the learning process both short- and long-term.

Many of us can architect an experience which will create movement or tactical change in the here and now. But in the long run the learner may be unable to hang onto their discoveries. They experience great frustration when they're unable to independently recreate the movement sequences, feelings and sensations associated with the changes they experienced while in a learning or training situation.

This is particularly true for those who've experienced injuries or events impeding their skiing; don't have background in structured motor learning situations; are excessively process or outcome-oriented; are under pressure for an upcoming exam...the list goes on...

As Ric B stated, part of our job is to help our learners not just move in a new way but envision themselves differently. They can enlarge their "view window" (thanks again Ric) by understanding the choices they can make to further their growth.

Quite simply, we can help them learn how to learn. We can offer our guests or fellow instructors tools, and below are just a few, to:
-set appropriate goals and objectives to reach their dreams
-form and maintain a learning partnership
-identify as "skiers", "performance athletes", "Level II skier and teacher", etc.
-understand practice's role in anchoring new movement and how to structure practice
-work with one or a variety of focuses
-minimize, let go of or replace entrenched movement patterns
-understand the learning curve as it applies to them
-reframe "success" and "failure" in learning situations as simple diagnostic information
-stretch the comfort zone appropriately
-de-marginalize themselves and their movement or tactical issues
-create verbal cues to replicate movements associated with the change they were so excited about when they skied with us
-understand how "training" is different from "performance" and what strategies are appropriate to each

While the above sounds like an exceedingly verbose interchange, it doesn't have to be. Competent instructors do this and more, clearly and simply, at apropos moments.

This begs the question: fitness and motivational issues aside, are those who never seem to improve receiving this?
post #27 of 46
Rick B, there are several kind of fitness. The fitness a soccer player or dancer has is of huge advantage to a skier while body builders or linebackers have a much harder time since brute strength is no what's required in skiing, the agility of the soccer player and dancer combined with stamina and their easy of handling off-balance movement is to their advantage.

Personally, at our age of over 70 we have lost over half the strength we had at half our age, about 30% every decade after age 50 I'm told, and I haven't been fit and don't excercize beyong a walk every day, yet it doesn't prevent me from skiing everything I want, but for only about four hours a day, stamina suffers.

Except in crappy conditions, I find skiing to be more of a matter of finesse than fitness, fitness only helping in stamina or blasting through crud. The skiers who ski with finess look effortless, that's because the way they ski it IS effortless.

>>>the student also must be willing to try to break old patterns and movements. if the student's not diligent, progress is doomed<<<

Gonz, That's not really the case with advanced skiers, they are not looking for mistake correction, they probably ski correctly, they just want to learn to do something tht they can't at the moment.

post #28 of 46
Hi Ott,

I guess my view of "mistake" is pretty generous. I would say that an advanced skier of Levels 7, 8 or 9 still is imperfect in that he/she can't ski everything in every way with full control.

The advanced skier you reference probably doesn't think "mistake" regarding his inability to do a certain "move," but to me, the fact that he can't do the "move" is an indication of a technique flaw, and it's what I would consider in my broad term "mistake."

I think you and I are describing the same thing, but with different terms.

I presented myself to Yoda with the statement that I'd like to learn to get more out of my skis. I didn't have a particular flaw or problem in mind. He pointed out the 3 minor issues that I discussed above. He pointed out other issues, but said they were very minor and needed to wait until my correction of the 3 noted above.

My project for this season: quick feet and short radius turns. both need improvement.
post #29 of 46
Gonz, I can't accept that things not yet learned by an advanced skier constitute mistakes. On his way to become an expert he has to just learn more, not necessarily change anything he already knows.

post #30 of 46
aaaaahhhh... I never thought of it that way, Ott. excellent point. I guess my "mistake" meant deviation from utter perfection.

your point emphasizes that it's not an error unless one knows the proper way and doesn't follow it. that's a VERY important point. thanks for clarifying and teaching me something in the process.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Instruction & Coaching
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › Variation on the "not a troll" thread.