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Becoming better skiers

post #1 of 71
Thread Starter 
Good day all,
Those of us in the ski teaching biz know that the majority of "lesson takers" out there are beginners. We do offer higher level classes ( as they do at all areas ) both for groups and of course, privates, but the numbers drop drastically for upper level skiers taking lessons. I'd love to get some feedback on the reasons why you think people don't take upper level classes. I would like to hear especially from non-instructors, people who still ski a lot but get frustrated with their ability to improve. Some of the things that I've heard: Too expensive, Can ski better than the "instructor" already, Classes are boring, want just to ski with my friends, ummmmm...what would it take to get you excited about taking a ski class? I'm hoping to give some feedback to management at my area ( Purgatory - World Cup Mountain Biking this weekend!!! ) Thanks in advance!
post #2 of 71
Hi Snowdancer,

I'm one of the professional students out here. I think some of the things that would go a long way to bringing students at the higher levels are..

very short privates or teasers.
Example, I think it was Vail or Steamboat that had a free video evaluation, You ski up to a "phone" and call to the hut down the hill a ski pro or instructor would come out and video you skiing down. Then you would hope off your skis for a quick evaluation. and an explaination on what to work on and how a lesson at .x. level would help. They tell you about the specials as well as regular lessons. Maybe even offer a discount coupon.

inexpensive earlybird privates. Sugarbowl last year was offering 1 hour 9:00-10:00 private lessons. 1 on 1 for 35.00 I suspect they didn't push it enough but These are great because they don't take up a great deal of time so you can ski with your buddies after your lesson. A lot of my friends have a hard time getting up that early. They also had a level 3 cert avail for the lesson. It was great.. You have to advertise these though otherwise no one will know about them.

Offer and make sure guests know about "semi privates" where for say 170.00 (2 hrs) you can have 1 or 2 students, 185.00 3-5 students. As long as the students are about the same level, Offer multiple day discounts in this configuration. This can be marketed as a way to ski with your buddies and still get lessons. If multiple day lessons are guaranteed to be with the same instructor then even better. Make sure tne guests understand the benefit of having the same instructor for multiple days. There is much less evaluation time spent at the beginning of the class so more time is spent skiing and learning(better value)

Last, Make sure that the first thing a student sees from their instructor is a passionate skier that has a lot to offer the student. Not necessarily a "way better skier" but has lots to offer. The instructor needs to listen to the students and find out the motivations and desires. ask questions..
post #3 of 71
You think good!
post #4 of 71
I'll tell you, Snowdancer: Advertise.

I ski all day at my area in my ski school uniform, either while giving lessons or while working on my own skiing. I try to join others on the lifts and I try to talk with chairmates about the day, the conditions, their skiing, etc. Most of the folks I ride with, unless they already know me, aren't even aware my get-up is the ski school uniform.

Several times a week I've had folks say, "I've enjoyed watching you ski. How'd you learn to get so smooth." Or something like that. They don't know I'm a "professional" skier.

Every once in a while, people will note that there are several of us wearing the same outfit, and ask if we're a club or something.

My ski area puts tents on the cafeteria table advertising some beverage, but they don't ever do anything to promote lessons. They don't do anything to let customers know where they can sign up for a lesson or who to look for to get an idea of what an instructor looks like.

Put your ski school personnel on your promotions, Snowdancer. Use their pictures. In their uniforms. Have photos of clinics on the walls somewhere instead of advertisements for Budweiser.

Then offer some of the other programs that have been suggested here.
post #5 of 71
Wow! My coining of the phrase "Professional Student" has really taken off!

Snowdancer, believe it or not, I see the same problem at my level, 4/5. Quite often, what was supposed to be a group lesson ether ends up being a private or semi private.

I do have some insight about this situation, but I feel guilty about sharing it, because it involves "biting the hand that fed me".

But here goes. I believe that in a subtle way, many of the new ski teaching programs have conveyed the message that 3 lessons will make you a skier. Although I came out of such a program, this is not what I believed. My perception was that 3 lessons would make you enthusiastic enough to want to learn the really good stuff. But then, as its been often said, professional students like myself and d-chan are atypical. SO something in that message needs to change in a subtle way to convey the concept of ski lessons as a journey, as opposed to a day trip.

I have noticed that advanced students seem to be attracted to theme clinics, such as moguls and off piste. Perhaps using those as a selling point would be an option.

There is one more factor to consider, and this one is tricky. I call it the SO Factor, for significant other, or, its like someone says to you "SO.... when are you going to stop taking so many lessons and ski with ME, because that is why I bought you the lesson package in the first place?"

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #6 of 71
like snowdancer I'm interested in why the intermediates and advanced skiers stay away.

post #7 of 71
The cost!

Think about the economics of skiing even with a pass. Last winter we were in fairly good economic times. I think this will be a tough winter.Forget about lift tickets, let's assume a family of four has shelled out for a pass someplace. Gas is $1.75 a gallon, burgers/fries/ and a coke cost as much as a tank of gas for the family SUV, and we ponder why folks aren't taking lessons!


SKI SCHOOL......I don't think so
post #8 of 71
As a terminally “advanced intermediate” I try to take a lesson a year. What keeps me from taking more is the cost. I do not mind paying 100.00 for a full day lesson, but do not want to be in a group of more than 3 people. There you are. I have been in classes with 7 students and following the leader does not seem to work. Honestly I’d like to hear how you can watch 7 students and give them all proper instruction?

Best deal around is a 2-hour private lesson at Ski Cooper. I think that with lift ticket it was under 50.00. The only problem there is the mountain is an intermediate mtn no real black or advanced runs. We worked on technique and it was valuable! I highly recommend any beginners or intermediates that find themselves in the area to try it.

My husband who is an advanced skier has not taken a lesson in years. The last one he took, level 9 really did not teach him anything. He liked it because he got to ski with good skiers but what a price to pay just to ski with someone as good as you.
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[This message has been edited by Kima (edited July 11, 2001).]</FONT>
post #9 of 71
I'm with you Rusty. I won't re-hash what I've already stated in another thread, but gouging the customer at every turn takes its toll. Skier numbers are going down, and ski areas are blaming everyone but themselves.

spag's quote of the day:
"Nada Finga!!!!"
-Ralphy's Dad in "A Christmas Story"-
post #10 of 71

You might try SolVista (Silver Creek)in Granby. It is about 20 past Winter Park. Besides some of the best green runs anywhere, there is blue/black and some good black runs. Moreover, we teach PMTS. As a terminal intermediate, you might be able to benefit from PMTS. You might find it is worth a try.

post #11 of 71

Tho I am an instructor...

Many intermediate and advanced skiers are happy doing what they do. How much there is to learn about skiing is not obvious without being exposed to it.

Skiing is all about fun and excitement. 'Ski School'(as most people refer to lessons) does not have a fun and exciting reputation. The skiing image ski instructors give is not as fun or exciting as ski competitors in any of the fields of competition, or ski-movie-skiers.

Most people who can 'get around' the slopes prefer to do that instead of stand around being told what to do--the common perception of what happens in ski lessons. Then there is the added cost to an already expensive outing.

In the NW where I work advanced skiers think they are better than most ski instructors they see skiing around. Most intermediates know an advanced skier or two and want to be like them.
post #12 of 71
An anecdote: while in Lech, Austria, in March, we stayed in an 8 room guesthouse and took breakfast together with the rest of the guests. At our table were two tanned boys/men in their twenties.

One was a heli guide from Whistler and the other one was a hot shot from Snowbird. Because they were unfamiliar with the mountains they took a guide for the week who was to show them the GOOD terain.

After four days they cancelled the guide, saying they just couldn't keep up with him and they couldn't ski the terrain he took them to, but they took full-day lessons for the rest of the three days.

At the end of the week they said they had never imagined that one could ski like they were skiing now. Granted, they were talented experts before they took a lesson and told me that they thought they skied better than anyone until they were shown otherwise.

When they asked their instructor if they now could consider themselves experts the instructor said that they were semi-experts.

To be real experts, they'll have to learn how to yodel. So there is always something more to be learned.

post #13 of 71
Thread Starter 
Hey, thanks for all the input-
maybe the best thing to do is to become a part time instructor...great training and you get to ski for free ( don't tell anyone I told you )
post #14 of 71
This is good.
I understand what a lot of what I hear. I also have mentioned that my motivation for lessons was after skiing with someone that just "floated through bumps" that I could never begin to think I could to..
Here's a thought, I've seen some resorts do this, Maybe more resorts should offer free guided runs into the "better areas" of the resort. after one evaluation run to verify any safety issues take your wards (not students yet) on a run of their life. Not necessarly pushed to the limit but show them what areas of the mountain would open up to them with more skills. Maybe offer a discount for lessons for those who participate in these tours. I think it was Vail that had this as an early bird. It actually cost 10.00 I think but included breakfast and a chance to hit the slopes 1 hour before the lifts opened.
post #15 of 71
Thanks for the idea Rick H.

Dchan I wonder in Vail still does the early bird? 10.00 sounds like a bargain, if only to get in an hour before everyone else.
post #16 of 71
I thought so too. I just couldn't get myself out of bed to be on the slopes every morning at 7:30!
post #17 of 71
Oh, come on people.
It is a new generation of people, and skis!
That is why number of lessons declines. People learn to ski much eathier with the new beginner parabolic skis, which are quite fun.
This was my first year skiing, I skied heck of a lot of times this year (although I never skied before), can't even count the number of days I've skied, and I never took a lesson, and did not even thought of taking one, you know why? Well, it is my friend. My friend went into 6th year, and he skis (beleive me) quite well. He told me that you don't need to take lessons, they are stupid and waste of time, because he never took them. When people saw me skiing later in the winter, they asked me how many years I've been skiing and how many lessons did I take, I told them that this is my first year skiing and I never took lessons and don't beleive in them. They did not beleive me at first, but eventually did. What I want to tell you, is
1) that these days it is very easy to learn even without taking lessons
2) it builds like a tree, you know, people encourage each other not take lessons.
So, what can you do to stop this? I don't think there is much that you can do. Lower the price? Sure that will help you a bit, demand might increase a bit, but supply will increase as well.
You might not beleive me, but trust me, that lessons will continue to decline over the next few years, and there is not much that can prevent this.
post #18 of 71
Now I think we're getting somewhere. The place I work has bus loads of folks who pile in from Nebraska on weekdays. The vast majority of these folks rent a pair of skis and head for the green runs to have fun.

Last year I went to line-up and was assigned a LTS class from a high school in Northeast Colorado. I had just walked over and one of the kids said in a very nice way, "Its our senior class trip....do we have to take a lesson?" I of course said you don't have to do anything and the whole group promptly grabbed their stuff and walked away.
post #19 of 71
scratch scratch scribble scribble EXPERT SKIER.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by ryan (edited July 16, 2001).]</FONT>
post #20 of 71
What's an expert skier, Ryan? I can guarantee you that if you think of other sports, and view the "experts" at those sports as the pros, semi-pros, college first-teamers and high school state-wide standouts, you'll never get to be an expert skier with 25 days a season on the slopes. Most of those guys play or practice their sport at least 100 days a year, and some get in more than 200 days a year. And they'll have a lot of teammates sweating away beside them that'll never get to be experts because they lack the drive or athleticism.

You may become a well-practiced skier getting in 25 days a year, fully competent to ski most terrain and most conditions with grace and comfort most of the time, especially if you're athletically gifted and practice appropriately.
post #21 of 71
You are so right Kneale, with "expert" being such a subjective label, it depends on where you ski and what your highest goal is.

For example: in my previous post in this thread I mentioned two young men who by most standards here would be labeled "expert-plus" one being a heli ski guide at Whistler and the other one working at Snowbird.

Here is a description of a run they did the fourth and last day with a 55-year-old mountain guide and before taking three days of lessons to learn what they needed to ski/survive the terrain of that run.

After making some nice turns on windpack they dove down into a narrow chute just wide enough to make nice rounded turns, except, with high rocks on both sides, the left half of the snow was in eternal shadow and the right side in blazing sunlight which had crusted that half with an inch of ice.

So they made their left turns on ice and their right turns in snow half way up their shins. If they didn't get the shovels of their skis to grab the top of the edge of the crust they would end up breaking inch-thick ice with their shin bones. The secret they learned was to hit the soft snow fast enough to sink gradually, absorbing the slowdown by lowering their body, rising during the turn and double poling with a down unweighting as they came toward the ice.

Then, after about a thousand foot vertical powder run on the shadow side of the mountain they came to a hundred foot rock cliff over which the only way down was over a rippely creek/waterfall which they sideslipped at 20 mph. after which they had some more great poweder skiing until they got to the lower montain which is grazing land for the farmer's cattle and has fences across which stick out 2-3 feet above the snow.

The guide did agracefull glaendesprung over the first fence which totally stumped my two breakfast companions ( a glaendesprung=terrain jump is done without the help of any bumps or moguls. Skiing directly toward the fence or fallen tree which obstructs the path, both poles are cuppend and planted just short of the obstruction and legs are retracted as the skier pole vaults stiff armed between his planted poles and over the obstruction.)

The electric fences are easy since all the skier has to do is drop down and go under them, as they have only one wire.

At the end of the run the guide did a tip roll which turned him around to look up the mountain to see where they have been.

Is it any wonder that these young men took three days of lessons to learn the glaendi and the tip roll and some such?

So, Ryan, if you ever ski with someone who does things you'd like to do, elegantly and easily, a lesson is in order.

BTW, when the instructor told those guys they'd have to learn how to yodel to be real experts, in the local colloquialism it meant for them not to get a swelled head with their skiing prowess because there is always much more to learn.

post #22 of 71
Thread Starter 
Some really good stuff here- maybe the #1 problem is the cost, or maybe I should say- The perceived value - It seems like most people don't believe spending hundreds of dollars for a few hours of lessons is worth the cost. And in many cases, they may be right. I have taught 'free' beginner lessons. These are worthless because the customer believes that 'free' is without value so they don't expect much. They also don't have an 'investment' so if they don't get anything out of the lesson, they don't feel as cheated. In either case, people can leave the lesson with a feeling of frustration.
The second thing ( stated very clearly by orkhan ) is that people don't think they need 'lessons' and that they probably ski better than the instructor anyway. I felt this way before I started teaching. In fact, my ego was so inflated that I considered myself one of the best skiers on the mountain
( boy, was I wrong!!). I did take lessons when I was a kid ( not the PSIA kind - my 'instructors' were Austrian guys named Helmet or Luigi that screamed at you all day ) and did some racing, but I had no idea what the sport was all about until I got involved in teaching it.
A third point made by Ryan is the time it takes to really practice and improve. Unless you work on the mountain, it's pretty difficult for most people to get even 25 days a season on the snow. So when you do get a chance, you want to have fun, not be stuck in a boring 'ski class'.
There are many other factors brought up here, including the cost of equipment, lift tickets, food, etc. and the fact that lessons are just not considered "fun". Some excellent points made in this thread.
Based on some of the suggestions made here, I have some ideas to throw out there. Feedback please!
#1- All group lessons, no matter what level, are the same price. At my resort that would be $40. for 3 hours. There would have to be a minimum of 3 people per group to make this work. Maximum number of 5.
#2- Group 'clinics' ( above the beginner level) would have a specific focus: beginning moguls, advanced moguls, skiing steeps, learning to ski on 'shapes, skiboard skiing, ideas needed here......
#3- Free ( I know, but this is different) "Quick Tips". An instructor would be posted at the top of the lift and you get to ski one run, being observed, then ride back up and get some feedback from the instructor. Obviously, the plan here would be to talk you into a lesson, but no pressure if you didn't want to. This would also help to give us 'instructors' some credibility - maybe we do have something to offer.
#4- Lower the cost of private lessons considerably. Half of something is better than all of nothing.
#5- This has been discussed in another thread and it seems like a good idea- Give the students some free( there's that word again..) material ( CD -Rom , booklet?) they can take home and study. The material could also be sent to them before they make their trip so they could study in advance. Could even be downloaded from the ski area's website. Plenty of room here for blatant advertising !
#6- More locals programs (ideas needed here)
These are some things that I think would work-thanks again for all the great input!
post #23 of 71
Snowdancer, while I agree with your "prescription for change", there are certain engrained industry conditions at work here. Ever since the first MBA shingle was hung on a industries CFO office wall, the NSAA standard has demanded a 45% net on ski school op's. After 13 seasons of preparing budgets, trust me, it is a tightrope act.
The courage to envision growth based upon learning is for the most part lost on SAM, they would prefer to safely tread the myopic path of tradition.
Eventually, an organization will adopt the bold strategy you, I and many others espouse, but it will take courage and patience. Frequently in this industry, a new practice will be launched, poorly marketed, barely supported and usually sabotaged internally before it has a chance to work. It takes guts to refine, re-tool and grow new business strategies in any industry. Woe to those who fail in the first season.
Many areas have, as you suggested, offered free tips...some have been successful. But as was pointed out in another thread Bear Mtn. had free intermediate "quick lessons" but discontinued for lack of takers.
This industry moves toward "the obvious" at a laborious, glacial speed and rewards conformity while killing innovation. I sometimes wish "the suits" would read these threads and posts by the more optimistic and "free thinking" members such as yourself.
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[This message has been edited by Robin (edited July 14, 2001).]</FONT>
post #24 of 71
Robin, the free Bear Mtn. lessons were not quickies, they were 2 hours long. And they were level 6-9. I don't know why they were discontinued. Or are you saying that you know why?
post #25 of 71
It always bothered me that the "Introductory Package" included the price of a lift ticket, but after that, there was no discount. If you take in to account the lift, lodging, food, lessons, doggie day care, the extra price that lodging charges dog owners, while not charging an extra fee to snowboarders (kidding, kidding!} ...YIKES! Often, I have not taken lessons because I would have nothing left to tip the instructor, and that would be sort of rude.

I do NOT think the price of lessons is too high, its the price of everything else. Out of all the resorts. Okemo handles this the best. Their 3 day Woman's Spree includes lift tickets, breakfast, lunch, day basket, overnight ski storage, hot cocoa, for a pretty good price. Why not extend that privlege to all skiers taking a workshop?

In terms of specialty classes, here's something that's starting to happen, but I'd like to see more of. There comes a point when every skier realizes that they need a footbed and some alignment work done on their boots. Chances are that like me, they live near one of the best bootfitters in their region, but he does not get a chance to see me "on snow". A private lesson with an instructor, who can then take you into the ski shop and tell the bootfitter what you need done can be a good idea.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #26 of 71
As my previous posts illustrates, no matter how well one skis, or doesn't, the incentive to take a lesson comes when the skier wants to ski/do something he can't achieve on his own.

It used to be that weather conditions would junk up the runs and the skier had to learn how to ski it. Nowadays he can always find that groomed run, no matter what the weather.

As for books or CDs, my experience is that would-be students want to skip a lot of crucial steps and jump to their desired skill right away. If they skip the sideslip exercises, which seem stupid on their own, they will not acquire the edge release and fine edge control needed for higher maneuvers.

I see many so-called good parallel skiers who can't even hold a good traverse.

post #27 of 71
Thread Starter 
Robin- You were at Angel Fire ( or still are ?) anyway.... 45% net?? I think management needs a reality check !!! We were told last season about the "dire" need to increase skier visits and how we are the " frontline" blah, blah, blah. But I really think they are starting to listen because what they've been doing hasn't worked for ten years( are you listening VERN G.? ) Anyway , I haven't given up hope just yet. Give me one more year.
post #28 of 71
Milesb, you are right! I may have confused the resort/program...but as I understand it from S.F., the Director there, there just wasn't the participation. It is hard to justify 3, one person groups for free, with first time classes of 12-15.
Lisamarie, check out the allignment/private/fitting/sale program at T-ride with Bob Gleason...something like $400+ for a few hours.
Orkhan, intuitive, untaught skiing, well intentioned friends and impatient husbands have produced enough chronic intermediates to have kept me busy for many seasons.
Snowdancer, AF, yup, now in SoCal. It isn't that they don't get it...they are not cut from an entrepreneurial, risk taking fabric. They exist almost bureaucratically. I am sure Bob M. buys into what you saying, but it takes a resort wide commitment to empower the ski school to grow the biz...and we are still misunderstood posers, right? The poodle parade to the rescue!
Bob B, once again you have succinctly defined the public perception.
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[This message has been edited by Robin (edited July 14, 2001).]</FONT>
post #29 of 71
Wow, I am getting kind of popular here...
May be I'll take a lesson next season, I don't know yet, I'll see how will it help.
But, my point is that, like I said, my friend has been skiing for 6 years, and he never took a lesson. There wasn't even one hill where he said, My tecnique does not allow me to get down this hill. And beleive me, I've compared him to some other good skiers out on the hill on double diamond runs, and trust me he was and is one of the best, whether you'll beleive me or not he is a very good skier, and I would call him an expert, and again my main point is that he never took a lesson, and he beleives that you learn by looking at experts.
I know that each part of the mountain requires it is own tecnique. Moguls, steeps, half-pipe... they all require different tecniques and I've seen that on some video tapes (like "Learn to Ski Better 2").
You know, I think, that nothing will really help you unless you have a commitment, lessons can give you an idea and might put you on the right way, but nothing, but commitmnet will really improve your skiing.
But you guys got me, I think I'll take one lesson next year, but if it will be a waste of time, then I'll be really pis*ed.
post #30 of 71
Something I've mentioned before, and others have similarly brought up, is that the "class" concept doesn't really fit many people's view of a fun way to spend time. Of course to many it does, but as I've said to my SO Lisamarie, "skiing is not a group exercise activity". To me it's an individual activity, with challenges and rewards that are primarily individual, though it may be done with others in the same time and place.

Just like there are people at the gym who do not want to take *any* kind of group exercise class, there are people who don't want to be instructed jointly. Or even feel like they are being "instructed" at all - they just want to "do my thing". They may want to "do their thing" with a buddy or spouse or a bunch of co-workers on a trip, but they don't want to "go to class".

Now for some, privates would be the way to go, but many people consider that only "experts" in a field want/can afford/are entitled to private lessons, a personal trainer, or whatever each particular sport's term is. Yeah that's not really the case, but I believe it is a common perception, even if somewhat an unconscious one.

I think the key for making group ski lessons more widely used, is not to make them "lessons" at all. I've personally found that the only type of "lesson" program I like is the multi-day "guided ski adventure" type of program such as Whistler's "Ski Esprit", where for 3 or 4 days you ski with the same instructor, and small group of people. And she (or he) takes you all over the mountain, based on your ability and potential, including dragging your butt out onto terrain that you *almost* could do but don't *believe* you can do - and then at that point, teaches you how you really can do it.

By presenting the reward (the tasty, challenging terrain you didn't think you could do) at the same time as the teaching for the last bit of skills you need for it, the instruction is eagerly absorbed, albeit sometimes with a bit of "you sure I can do this?" trepidation.

Meanwhile all of this is within the context of a lot of fun skiing all over the hill, with bits and pieces of instruction including various drills. But you're never just standing around for long in "class" - you're spending all day skiing.

I know for me, it was the only real way I felt that worked for me getting over the "intermediate hump" or at least getting a bit past that high intermediate threshold to "low advanced" on a good day, able to ski most fairly smooth steeps, or not-too-steep bumps.

That's not much yet by the typical Epicski standards, but it was a big leap for me. I never would have considered going out onto bumps deliberately - I was scared stiff of them from doing yahd sales all over a bump run years ago I got onto by accident. And never in a million years would I have signed up for an "intermediate bump skiing" class even though I've seen them offered. But in the context of a "guided skiing learning adventure" program I got at least a taste of why they are fun, and I also got enough skills to begin to enjoy ungroomed trails and bowls in general. Because I got real skill and confidence improvement from it, it's a definite part of any multiday trip to Whistler for me from then on. Because learning is *part of the fun* there, I don't consider it time taken away from the ski vacation.

At Whistler, they get huge numbers of people signing up for this, at all levels up through 9+, and it seems to be the primary way they market their ski school. They do have traditional group lessons, but they are downplayed. And they do have privates, but they are either half or full day, and priced prohibitively high for the average skiier. Perhaps Whistler's approach to privates is closer to what I said that many people perceive privates to be - something special for the higher end skiier.

I don't know if this concept works as well for smaller resorts, or weekend and day packages rather than multi-day, but I think it could be adapted. I know that in a day at Sunday River, I'm not really ever tempted to take out 2 hours for a group lesson, but I might well be interested in a full day's guided ski learning group.
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