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"An educated consumer your best customer?"

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Okay. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.. This time its going to be my fault. But recent topics posted by Ryel and others, as well as my own recent experiences, have inspired much thought about the problem with various levels of competency amongst ski instructors. Yes, its a problem, as it is in my industry. But perhaps...you guys have created some monsters.

Let me explain. In his masterpiece "The Encyclopedia of Skiing", Bob Barnes states
"Of course, like so many athletic but uninformed skiers who don't realize their techniques are fundamentally flawed, instructors whose teaching suffers from a lack of understanding, usually don't realize it either. Students lackin a technical background get confused- but they rarely know why. Students who have a technical background do not get confused- they quickly recognize the instructors flawed understanding, and then often distrust everything else he or she says, valid or not.

Here's a recipe for distaster: Dchan in a class with an incompetant instructor!

Because what has been created on this message board { and I must say for technical discussions , this is the best there is} is a sub culture of ski movement analysis hobbyists {hey, some people collect stamps} for lack of a better term. I'm talking about those of us who are not instructors, but are somehow fascinated by the physics and biomechanics of this wonderful thing we call skiing.

For myself, the study is an extension of what I do professionally. But the excitement {for me} comes from the fact that working on snow, with gravity as a factor, CHANGES some of the basic biomechanical truths that I deal with in my day to day work. This causes me to think "out of the box". BTW, my dad, who will be 93 in June, always tried to engage his mind in this manner.

But if quality in ski instruction is inconsistent, what happens when a student who has developed a decent technical understanding of some biomechanical principles, encounters an instructor whose information is not quite what we know to be correct. And in my own case, it does not matter that my actual skiing technique is, as yet,undeveloped, I still can recognize less than accurate information.
With my own students, I have a real problem. If I go on vacation, I have to plead with them not to contradict a substitute teacher, who just does not have the experience that I do.
Up until now, I have enjoyed the serendipity of taking classes with different instructors at different resorts. And I've usually been quite lucky, but recent events changed that.
Since the fact that people stop taking lessons at the intermediate level has been a much discussed topic, I wonder if as students, we are just becoming too knowledgable for our own good.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #2 of 22

I don't necessarily think this may be much of a problem, because you CAN tell the difference between a competent instructor or not. If you were to encounter a less than competant instructor, you would know it, and request someone else. The problem, which is real, is the person who does not know the difference, and gets an incompetant one. This happens all the time. It seems no different to me than a bad car mechanic. If you know nothing about cars, they can rip you off. But if you know how to ask a few questions, and can identify competance, then you may need to find a new mechanic. But at least you KNOW you need a new one.

Training instructors is up to the the ski school management and trainers. There is a general attitude that flows through any ski school. In some ski schools, it is an attitude of training to get better and to push each other to be good at what we do. In other ski schools, the general attitude is that of carelessness. I say that, meaning that ski school management doesn't care whether instructors are trained, doesn't push them towards learning, or show them the value in being educated and certified. Therefore, the instructors aren't educated and don't care how the lesson goes. Most of these types of ski schools are the types where instructors are there just to ski, and don't want to teach. Then there is another type of ski school. I think you find this mostly at destination resorts, where instructors are trying to make a living. They work as much as absolutely possible, and try to make sure the customer has a good time so that they request them again. However, they spend no time training and don't keep up with current training methods and technology as much as those who don't use teaching to pay the bills. It's a nasty dilemma. I saw this at Breckenridge when I was there. I couple of nice guys with loads of personality who haven't done any training since their schedule became full of rich request privates but are doing the exact same thing they were years ago. And for some strange reason (NOT) all oftheir students were the same level. gee... go figure. The sad fact about teaching skiing for a living is that it loses a lot of its fun for some people, and just becomes a paycheck (and a sad paycheck at that).

People don't know what they don't know. Or, as the Washington Post ad goes... If you don't get it, you don't get it.
post #3 of 22
Lisamarie, if you were aluding to having had an incompetent instructor in Bormio, that may not be so. They likely are very competent in the technique they teach which is different than the one taught over here, but that only makes them different, not incompetent.

Incompetency is when an instructor essentially is unsucessful in imparting to the student what he knows, or has too little knowledge himself.

post #4 of 22
>>Lisamarie, if you were aluding to having had an incompetent instructor in Bormio, that may not be so. They likely are very competent in the technique they teach which is different than the one taught over here, but that only makes them different, not incompetent.<<

I agree - they might be on outdated gear, teaching an ineffecient (comparitively) tecnique, but they might be doing that quite well given their shackles.
post #5 of 22
The fact remains that the instruction as described was needlessly arrogant and possibly, beacuse of that, information was not as effectively imparted as one might hope. From what we have heard, the instruction did at least as much to screw up previously learned skills as anything else. In this case, the recipient of the service was aware of that. In other cases where there is less overt arrogance, the recipient of the intended instruction, presumably knowing less than the instructor, probably wouldn't have any idea whether it was the instructor or the instructed who was the primary problem.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by oboe (edited February 19, 2001).]</FONT>
post #6 of 22
Oboe, that is why it is important to stick with instruction which is uniform from place to place. Assuming you will get the same instruction in France, Austria or Italy, etc. as you do in the USA leads you down the wrong path.

When you go to an area that teaches another system than that in which you were trained, forget the lessons.

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Actually, for the most part, he did a good job teaching bad technique, although his attitude left much to be desired, and has left me with the effects that Oboe described. However, there was one caveat. Taking a low intermediate class through a narrow, icy, tree trail, without giving any explaination about what technique changes are needed, is IMHO, simply bad teaching.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #8 of 22
Here, here!
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Ott: But is instruction, even in the U.S., uniform from place to place? I once had an instructor tell me to "ski down the hill as if I was Marilyn Monroe in high heels singing Happy Birthday to J.F.K!" Humor aside, she was trying to get me to iniate turns using a very active foward hip thrust, which is, to my understanding, not quite correct.

A whole other issue is one that pertains to an instructor's personal style, even if their technical knowledge is reasonably accurate and proficient. Some of you know this story, but I once had an instructor who was a bit full of himself and kept telling me to "imagine that he was kissing the back of my knees" on each turn. The problem was, I found his sexual over confidence to be repulsive, and my knees reacted accordingly : By locking out! But here's the clincher; his method of teaching me to edge was to lie down on the snow and pull my ankles down the hill- And me down on top of him.
After that, I suddenly developed this really strange habit of edging my skis constantly UPHILL. This was so bad, that I could not do simple moves like a side slip.
And this happened at the resort where I learned to ski, and have loved the rest of the teachers. This used to be my favorite New England Resort.
This year, I keep finding excuses not to go back.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #10 of 22
Lisamarie, what can I say, you find them all

What I'm going to say is aimed at you just a little bit, but it includes most of the non-instructors here on this board, and if the teachers here find I'm wrong, pounce on me.

When I was teaching, the most difficult students I had were the analytical, well-read well intensioned and eager ones. Often, while trying to inch them to progess toward the next step, they would mistrust me and say "that is not what I read in so-and-so's book, I'm supposed to this-and-that this way".

Well, I am teaching you with a taylor made progression which I think will fit your body style, your confidence and your mental and emotional makeup, and believe me, having to talk a student out of a particular mindset eats up lots of time, and if the student is strong willed, may not allow us to accomplish anything.

Give me a willing, enthusiastic and TRUSTING student and we'll make progress by leaps and bounds.

Do I think you'se guys think too much while skiing? You bet. Whistle or sing a song, smile at the folks on the chair, anything but nitpicking every phase of your turn over and over.

Don't take the above too seriously 'cause I know you won't change since I think you enjoy analysing as much as skiing

post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
Good points Ott, and well taken. I try, for the most part, to keep the analysis off the slopes. The biomechanical breakdowns, I TRY to keep as a separate hobby. When I'm either with an instructor I trust, or skiing on a trail that I'm "in love" with, my left brain shuts the heck up, and the right brain just "goes for the ride".
But if I'm either with a teacher who's style is, for whatever reason , inappropriate for me, something else happens. I might be "wearing my heart on my sleeve" by saying this on a public message board, but what the heck, this relatively annonomous. Fact is, my first response to the above mentioned scenario will always be emotional {Damn! How typically female!}, and somehow I'll feel that its "my fault". In those situations, the analytical is a defense. {notice how much analysis I've been doing the past week}
Some women do that with their relationships.
I do this with my skiing.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #12 of 22

I could be very wrong here, but I am wondering if you are not focusing too much on instruction? According to the way you describe yourself, you already have many basic skills and a solid understanding of skiing mechanics to take you to the next level. Now you need many days on snow to practice, practice, practice. Even if you have great instructors, it is the time spent skiing that will ultimately allow you to improve. Instructors do give you the "right tools" and make sure that you take the "right path" to advanced/expert skiing, but they can never remove that all important "time factor".

One thing is certain: you will probably improve a lot faster and go a lot farther than your average skier who is not as passionate and as eager to learn as you are.
post #13 of 22
My wife (aerobics instructor) took a half-day lesson Monday from an instructor I didn't quite connect with. Conditions were pretty poor (rain, wet snow, poor visibility, big crowds...) and we were considering cutting the lesson short after an hour. However, when I saw my wife come off the lift with a big smile on her face, I knew she was having fun despite the conditions. She told me to go away, she was learning and didn't want to stop. That says a lot about the instructor who was able to make my wife's attitude do a quick 180 (neat trick!) and then improve her skiing by leaps and bounds. Even at the end of the day when her legs weren't quite under her, the stuff she learned and was applying was amazing.

My wife's reasoning for why she connected with the instructor was that the lessons centered around body movement and other sensations that weren't completely spelled out. When she came off the lift and said, "we've been doing tai-chi", I was kinda confused, but it worked for her. When the instructor had used the same lesson with me, I took the "look where you're going" too literally and jerked my head across the hill, instead of smoothly following my hand.

Bottom line, my usual instructor and this one are both highly competent and gifted teachers with different styles. I think that at a certain skiing level (don't ask me which one), when the small, technical stuff becomes the whole lesson, people respond differently to different styles of instruction. Some people need an english professor, some a mathemetician.

I'm just glad I know where to find teachers for me AND my wife.

post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Tom B: Okay, how much is my husband paying m you to post this??
Kidding aside, he's been bugging me about that a great deal lately.
Some facts: He started as a kid, I started in my 40s. He's a fast twitch fiber type who rips down the hill. I'm an endurance athlete who takes my time. The only time I can experience "The Joy of Ripping", is when I'm on terrain which he considers "boring".
Reality Check: I am slowly begining to realize that all the lessons in the world will never put me at his level. So be it.

But there's something else that goes on.
You mention my passion for skiing. But with any kind of passion, there is also fear.
And there are certain instructors who have the ability to make me feel very safe. Keep in mind, this is not a male/female thing , or an age thing, or even a certification level thing.
Its something untangible{sp?}, perhaps even spiritual. This could be a whole other topic.

Alaska Mike: I would love it if your wife were to post on this forum. It would be great to have the perspective of someone in my industry. What she can probably tell you, is that the same thing occurs regarding people's tastes in aerobic instructors.
If she enjoyed the instructor you described, she should read Denise McCluggage"s The Centered Skier.
Thank you both for your feed back!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #15 of 22
two quick points as this is about all i feel qualified to make in this discussion.
You can always learn something from somebody that is more skilled at an endeaver than you, it just takes subtle observation. The single most important thing in improving your skiing is attitude, either you like to go fast and rip or you don't, you are either content to stay an intermediate or willing to take the next step, fitness and body types don't play as much of a role in skiing.
post #16 of 22
Hey JoCanadian,

I agree that getting better is mostly a function of attitude, but I disagree with your implication that the right attitude means liking "to go fast and rip." I guess that hinges on what our respective definitions of an expert skier are. To me, an expert skier can ski all terrain, all conditions under control and with efficient technique. Speed isn't as much of a criterion for me. Good skiers CAN go fast, but then again there are lots of terrible skiers who go fast too. That's the problem with skiing at these overcrowded mountains close to NYC. Typically only a minority of the people who are skiing really fast at Hunter, say, are good skiers. The rest are out of control and only think that they are "ripping" when actually they are a menace to others.
post #17 of 22
Thread Starter 
Good points Andrew_tai. My husband is a very good skier, but his speed , quite often cause him to wipe out. And the injuries he incurs, usually force him to require physical therapy. This would be career suicide for me. Improvement for me means perfecting and refining skills. Often, that means that I do in fact end up skiing faster, on terrain that is somewhat more challenging, but still within my abilities.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #18 of 22
I think JoCanadian's point was that learning is more of a result of a positive attitude than physical conditioning. I agree.

My wife's goal is to be comfortable skiing. She doesn't want to go fast or steep, but she wants to be efficient on greens and blues. Her motivation stops after that. If the instructor had've pushed her to go far beyond her comfort zone, she would have shut down and would have regressed. Skiing is MY thing- she just enjoys spending time with me while I'm doing it.

I'm more competitive. I want my instructor to (safely) push me down trails that I wouldn't do otherwise. My goal is to keep improving my technique on all terrain. I'm constantly trying to fix little problems with my skiing and tweak here and there. On the lift I'm always watching other skiers and analyzing their style.

I want to "rip". My wife doesn't. Isn't it great we have the choice?
post #19 of 22
You missed my point, but thanks for clarifying it Alaska_Mike. I was not implying expert skiing is associated with speed. But the next step if you are comfortable with skiing a certain type of terrain is to go a little faster, and still be comfortable. As Alaska_Mike has pointed out if you do not wish to improve or expand your skiing than it can result in stagnation.
post #20 of 22
OK, my bad, thanks for clarifying what you meant.
post #21 of 22
Why would my being in a class with an incompetant instructor be a disaster?

I would probably just leave and complain to the managment! but then again I am probably a bad example. I hate bad service in all forms and am very willing to complain about it. or maybe that's what you meant?

By the way, after reading several articles by Scott Mathers at Alta and realized I was going to be there I decided I had to try to get a lesson with him. Only thing I could arrange was an afternoon with him in the Black Diamond Challenge clinic. I took my opportunity and the rest will be posted in a day or two when I get a chance to put my thoughts together.

Good post LisaMarie
I guess the receipe for disaster was kind of a compliment. Thanks.
post #22 of 22
Thread Starter 
Yes dchan! The recipe for disaster was meant to be a compliment, precisely because of the way you described what would be your reaction to an incompetant teacher. And since your ability to understand and describe skiing skills is so exceptional, an incompetant instructor may almost feel "threatened" by you. Heck, I once made a teacher nervous by telling her I have a problem with my fore /aft alignment and balance. {"Why do you know about that??!}

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
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