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post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
There have been a few posts about the Bear Camp that have commented on the need to make sure that the groups have skiers of the same level. This has started me to wondering about the subject of splits. Split, is the term used to refer to having a group with different levels in it.

Some instructors seem to have a split that makes it "hard" to teach the group every day. Others never or seldom have a split that causes difficulity. A question for the instructors out there, which of these extremes do you lean toward? And if you prefer to have a group of closely skilled skiers, why? If you don't mind a split in the group, why?

For you lesson takers out there what are your experiences? Have you ever had a lesson that you felt was "ruined" because of a skills split? Have you ever experienced a lesson where you feel that the instructor was able to take advantage of a skill split to enhance the quality of the lesson?

I of course have my own views on this subject but will wait for a couple replies before stating them.

post #2 of 10
Ydnar, here is a somewhat relevant story - Last year, my daughter (at the time 8 y.o., a true level 5) was stuck in a group lesson with a bunch of supposedly level 5 & 6 adults.

It turned out that she was the only kid in the group, apparently outskied all the adults by a big margin, wound up always being called on to do the "demos" the instructor wanted, helped with stragglers, etc. According to her, there was a wide range of abilities among the adults as well.

When the lesson was over, her reactions to the situation were completely mixed and confused. On one hand, she obviously loved being better than the adults, being something of a teacher's pet, was proud to be asked to help out in the lesson. HOWEVER, on the other hand, simultaneously, she was extremely embarrassed by how much she stood out ("felt like a freak"), was the only kid in the group, "didn't learn anything because we were always standing around waiting for the adults", etc.

The bottom line was that in this case, the wide disparity in abilities and ages of the group made this lesson very unsatisfactory for her.

To return to Ydnar's original question, I think the instructor did as much as anyone could possibly have done to involve my daughter and give her a good lesson, but with the group he was handed, it was just too difficult. In this case, the "split" just didn't work.

Tom / PM

PS - Much to this instructor's credit, after the lesson, he came over, apologized to both of us for the bad lesson, and offered to give her a free hour-long private the next AM b4 lineup. We took him up on this, and indeed, it was an excellent lesson. He even refused to take a tip as a sincere expression of thanks from us!

PS#2 - I know that I've told this story once before on Epic in a different context, but without the search function working, I couldn't find it and link to it, so I apologize if you have heard it before.

[ August 19, 2002, 03:38 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #3 of 10
In the ideal world splits is a fairer way to set up a class. At least you can see just about what your student’s skills are prior to the class. Ski off a group of level 5’s and divide them up by strengths and not necessary levels. If a student doesn’t work out in your group, we stay about ten minutes within shouting distance of each group, the instructor can always “move” a student with we hope grace. Of course you may get an irate parent that says, “My Sammy is batter than Alice or Jimmy ever thought of skiing. What do you mean moving him down a level”. This can be really a lot of fun! I guess you can forget the tip you weren’t going to get anyway.

Unfortunately splits are not my real world unless it is the first day of group lessons that we call programs. Even then if we have a split there seems to always be a “friend” that will not join the other group. “I want to be with Sally or Joey!” The customer prevails unless during the ten minute get acquainted with your group program session you can politely have the student move. Sometime yes and most times no. Or you have a mother and two daughters for a private every weekend like I do. Mother wants the group to ski together, and it is very understandable, and of course she is willing to sacrifice her lesson for theirs. Well let’s assume I am willing to do the same, which I am not, you guessed it the daughters are at both ends of the spectrum. Well this is called class management and as the instructor I will manage to teach three lessons at once. This is what we do. This is the real world and the customer prevails upon us to do this until they see it doesn’t work. Then sometimes we are the bad people and a few times they understand like you did. I have given my share of “freebies” for the guest and I am glad to do so. This is what we do.

If you don’t like what happens in during your ski lesson politely ask/complain/explain and you will be amazed at the reaction you will get from the ski school. They will accommodate you I would almost golly darn guarantee it. Never walk away unhappy and tell your friends without first talking it over with your instructor, the ski school desk, or the supervisor. If you do you are wrong because you didn’t give us a chance to correct a situation we may have had little control of at the moment!

By the way I hate kids in groups of adults but sometimes we have no choice. More adults take lessons and if the child is to get the lesson this may be the only place they can go. Parents hate to wait for our next call and can get real stinky! That is why you should generally put children in private lessons. I know it is expensive BUT I have seen over the years children zoom to the top in skiing from the private sector while others linger; just my opinion. If you are wondering at my area I would make more money, if I really were teaching for money, teaching groups by far.

Have a GREAT day! :
post #4 of 10
Some thoughts on splits...

o Whenever possible in doing a split the instructor should stay with the lower level group. This gives the students being moved the impression of being promoted, rather than the lower ones being demoted.

o The absolutely worst scenario for the instructor is one in which he can not make a split. A private lesson. Several times a year at Vail I'd get a family of 4 with a father, an aggressive Level 7, the wife, maybe a level 4-5 and two kids, one a Level 3 wedge turner who hasn't learned to match his skis yet, and another kid who's all gung how.

I can't tell you how hard that is to deal with. But, hey, they feel like they just paid $450 for a day's lessons and they can do what they want.

About the only way to deal with it is to take the parents aside and ask them what they'd like to accomplish and set their expectations correctly about what you actually can accomplish in such a group.

o Overall, though, I'd try to set the split not only by how they ski, but by how aggresively they want to ski. I'd rather have four people all who wanted to ski fast and aggresively and have different skiing abilities than have the same abilities but some folks who are out to ski slowly and cruise and some who want to rip it up.

post #5 of 10
More adults take lessons and if the child is to get the lesson this may be the only place they can go.
What parallel universe do you live in, John? I reckon the ratio of under-18 students to over-18 students in every ski school I have ever worked for is 80-20.
post #6 of 10
From the other side of the fence... I've had a lot of ski school lessons and have never had consistent standards in them. To my mind, it doesn't matter if not everyone is exactly the same but some things make lessons less fun and more irritating:

Having a child in an adult's group without a carer/sibling/parent. They tend to need a lot more attention than everyone else.

Having a member of the group who is not confident enough to do things the others are. Leads to a lot of hanging about waiting for them to edge down sideways, or leads to never trying anything challenging (I like being challenged in ski school because I know the instructor is there to look after me if necessary).

I don't care if we are (say) practising short turns & someone can't get the hang of them & does wider turns to get down because that doesn't affect my learning experience.

I think as I improve a wide range of abilities in the group becomes less of an issue as everybody can get down in one way or another.

What becomes more relevant is people's fitness. When I first started I hated 3-hour ski school as I just couldn't cope. I was exhausted, everyone had to wait for me, I started falling over a lot at the end. Now I'm fitter (and better) & I can ski all day - but sometimes the people I ski with can't and you simply cannot make tired people ski quickly or well and they won't enjoy themselves.
post #7 of 10
Nolo – How about we make a deal. You don’t make condescending remarks to me and I won’t make them to you. You know absolutely nothing about my ski school universe and I surely know nothing about yours and wouldn’t dare to suppose I do. If you care to read on you may learn about my universe. Not all of us teach in the mountains we just send you customers!

Typically the vast majority of our lessons, except for pre set programs lasting four weeks, are lesson calls for beginners. The vast majority of those students are adults age fourteen and up. In our programs a fourteen year old must go into an adult program. We do have children and a lot of times very young children, all four year olds must take a private, that want lessons. Many times we have no choice but to put children with adults and a lot of times it is a child and parents(s), which makes it even worse. We have no assurance holding the child for another lesson call would improve their chances of being in a “kids” class. Sometimes, at my calls anyway, a few instructors will take a child or two out for a half lesson to keep them out of adult classes. Just for your information the instructor if a level III will receive $1.69/child. Our lessons typically run one hour and with a ticket cost $2.00 and otherwise run $6-8 for the hour. As a level III I receive 55% of the cost of all lessons. However non-certified instructors teach most group lessons because they receive 1/3. Our privates run $35/hr & semi privates are $25/hr, which is, were most level III’s teach.

Now that is my universe where 150-160 part timers teach, I would guess 20% are level III, about 35,000 students per year from Christmas to around March 15th on 454 feet of vertical and do a dam good job of it I might add! :

[ August 21, 2002, 04:10 AM: Message edited by: John Cole ]
post #8 of 10
Now that is my universe where 150-160 part timers teach, I would guess 20% are level III,

Wow, I am very impressed. You have 30+ Level IIIs at your ski school? My guess is that at most northeast ski schools the ratio is way less than 10%. Congratulations if you have that many.

post #9 of 10
Oh dear, Her Highness has recieved a serious rebuke! Heads will roll! :

Seriously John, I'm certain she didn't mean any harm. Her statement was just not worded properly.
Also, remember, she doesn't get out of the sticks much.

Uh, I think I better stop now...
post #10 of 10
Hello Bob -

Yep we sure do have that many. We have seven that are part of the division ed staff alone and then we have the president of our division.

We usually add at least one maybe two level III's each year, maybe 4-5 level II's and quite few level l's. Since the ski patrol at our area is a key part of the division NSP ski school in our state we have a boat load of level I & II's that are starting to work on both sides as cross dressers if you will. It can be a good problem to have!

How do we accomplish this? Honestly I think longevity. Probably in the future as tenure goes the other way our percentages will drop to a more normal level. The thing I have noticed though is the non certifieds seem to be the instructors that don't return. Maybe that tells us something?

Have a GREAT day! I am headed to California tomorrow on vacation. :
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