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Alternative organizational models for ski instruction.

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
In a recent thread I started there was some discussion about peer feedback and "distributed" coaching. A couple of people responded pretty favorably to some of these ideas and so after thinking about it for a short while, I thought I would propose an actual model of a continuing ski "acadamy." (One of the fun things about this forum is that I can propose an idea that is not all that well thought out and be sure to get feedback!). From my way of thinking this idea is something that in some form could potentially be initiated relatively easily. In my wildest dreams, perhaps I might even spark some interest from a subgroup of participants on this forum with buy-in from a resort as a sponsor. I know some of you have experience in the organization of programs at your resorts so I would love to hear whether you think this would have any chance in hell of working. I feel that I am stepping out on a limb a bit with this idea so don't slam me too hard. OK, here's one idea of a ski acadamy, please feel free to critique, propose alternative organizational models, etc. Please note that this particular idea of an acadamy is geared towards relatively advanced level skiers.

The hardest part of the plan is probably that it starts out with a really "world class" head instructor/coach who, almost without fail, is able to help people to achieve improved levels of skiing over relatively short periods of time and has a generally prescribed approach for doing so. I suspect that such people are relatively rare but I would be very interested to hear just how rare or common you think such talent is. Next, there needs to be a small group of coaches under this head coach who are trained in and prescribe to this GENERAL (but flexible) model of learning and ski improvement. The idea of the model is that it gives touchstones for anyone involved with it that allows them to readily understand, accept, and believe in guidance given by coaches within this framework.

In this model, participants in the academy would first come to a multiple day (2-4?), all-day camp where they would meet the coaches and become pretty familiar with the systematic approach to be used. Following that, people (either individuals or small groups of 2-4 people) would be free to buy days of acadamy training where they would get an hour with an acadamy coach in the morning (most usefully after a short warm-up on their own). Here they would be given a very few or even a singular type of exercise, movement, or task to work on (maybe different for different people) based on the coach's (or better yet the head coach's) evaluation and as explicit as possible outcome expectations to base peer and self evaluation of progress on. If desired, there could also be an hour in the early afternoon for "recheck runs" to be sure that all tasks and evaluation criteria were properly understood and that appropriate progress was being made.

The majority of muti-day, all-day camps would generally be run early season (attracting people to the resort when they normally might not come) but there might a few run throughout the season to allow any and all newcomers to join in. In early season, a limited number of open runs would probably not necessarily inhibit the initation process to a great extent.

Participants would be able to sign up for the daily (distributed coaching) academy for as many or few days at a time as they wish. Also, academy coaches would be available for half-day or full-day privates, semi-privates, and small groups for those who feel the need. Participants would not have to retake the initial camp season after season (unless they so desired), as the approach should not drastically change from season to season (although changes and improvements might surely be expected).

Marketing: To me this idea seems like it would have a lot of appeal to a resort. First it would attract people in the early season. Second it would give people very good reason to frequently return to the resort (both locals and "destination" skiers). Third, it could potentially get a lot of people who normally don't feel like they will get much out of lessons ("advanced skiers") an opportunity to purchase adadamy "membership" (daily, weekly, unlimited season rates?) as a way to cost-effectively work on continued improvement in their skiing. If a well defined approach was established this could also be "franchised" to other sister resorts or even broader (here competition and market pressures probably start to limit just how broadly any one particular version of this idea might be able to be franchised).

This is certainly a model that would strongly appeal to my family. My main question would be the ability to adequately specifiy the general (or perhaps a bit more specific) nature of an approach and the skill and expertise of the coaches. My experiences with PMTS, however, tells me that at least one such approach does exist and that there are coaches who fit the bill. I think the need for a defined approach in this academy model is very important as that is the only way I can see short sessions with a coach providing feedback and working with a variety of coaches in the prescribed environment to be successful.

I have some further thoughts on details in terms of charges, how to be sure coaches are kept busy, etc. Some situations might require modifications of the approach (one idea might be having an academy coach who hangs out at the bottom or top of a lift when he/she is available for hire). Whatever the detail of the organization, basically I'm trying to propose a concept here through a pretty specific example. So don't sweat the details if you can help it but let's have some discussion about the general concept.
post #2 of 4
Hi Si,
I like your thinking! I just posted this on the skiing movements thread and thought I'd forward it to save typing. (lazy keyboard boy)

posted November 19, 2001 10:07 PM *** * ** ** **
boy, has this thread wandered around like a druken sailor. SCSA is right, ski movements to what is proper to "black ski schools" and instructors getting paid what their passion and training say they are worth.
Amazing transitions. I think things are starting to head in the more euro direction oz eluded to. Here in tahoe, we have a couple of new ski teaching/guiding systems that are organizationally independent of the resort operations. Nastic (north american ski training center, is run by national demo team member chris fellows), and All Mountain Professionals (Run by Eric Delauriers and utilizing his RSD teaching method). Both of these companies work with the upper level skier: the skier that traditional resort schools have lost due to the inconsistencies of quality. (One day you get a great lesson with a seasoned and passionate veteran, the next you get some kid with 5 days training and one season of practice.) These two offshoots are bright lights on the horizon for ski instructors looking for options. Can I do this and make a better wage? Do I have to teach huge beginner classes to make money? Anyway, I type way to slow to be able to probe any deeper into this idea here, but out here in the west, we may be creating the template for that format SCSA spoke of.

Until I learn to type faster,

With both of these companies, the basic format you proposed seems to hold true. They are both geared toward advanced skiers, both led by "world class" directors (Eric is well recognized as one the finest all mountain skiers around and has appeared in twenty some ski films. He comes to coaching from the high end, off piste focus. Chris is a PSIA national demo team member.)

Some of the other steps to your idea are also present in both of these systems. They both have a small group of pros working for them, bringing in years of experience and trained in the directors focus. For All Mountain Professionals, that focus is the teaching model designed by the Delauriers. It works with a simplified group of core moves and is taylor made to make advanced skiers ski off piste more effortlessly and easily. At the risk of ruffling some feathers, I will say that there are many similarities to pmts and Eric's method. They were developed in a parrallel nature and are even placed in ski magazine as accents.(HH does a piece labeled Blue square, then Eric does a piece called Black diamond.) Nastic is basically the highest end of the PSIA philosophy. Chris's main coaches are either nat. demo teamers or regional demo teamers.

You can check out the program offerings of both by checking the websites. You may find some of your other program ideas there. (allmountainskipros.com, and I'm not sure of nastic, but I think it is spelled out, northamericanskitrainingcenter.com ?)

Anyway, maybe this will help move your idea forward, or better yet, maybe we'll meet in a clinic. Treading lightly, because both of these gentlemen are my friends, I have to say that all mountain professionals is my favorite program, especially if you like pmts. It may also have something to do with the fact that I work for Eric.


"just back from a" Holiday
post #3 of 4

I like what you are proposing. After reading Holiday's post, I would suggest that a close look at these two programs would be in order. I would also look at the Maher brothers program at Keystone. Bob Barnes could probably fill that niche.

I would suggest that the acadamy be open to high intermediate skiers. Most have plateaued and are in need of a nudge to get them going again.

I wish that I had more experience in organizational issues, so that I could be of more help.
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks Holiday and Rick for the positive feedback. Holiday, I definitely agree that Eric's All Mountain Pros/Rapid Skier Development program provides a strong basis for the model we are discussing. I find Eric (and Rob's) program to be especially interesting and unique. As far as I know they are the only ones who's program and expertise span the range from backcountry to steeps/off piste to technique. There are a number of programs who combine backcountry and steeps but I don't think they have anywhere near the technical framework that Eric has developed (although most do tend to address psychological and motivational issues). Because of this I have been in contact with Eric and will hopefully get a chance to meet him, perhaps in mid January when I will be in the Tahoe area (Kirkwood). It would be a pleasure to meet you as well if I get a chance to spend a day at Sugar Bowl.

In terms of the model I'm talking about, I don't think it is much of a further step to provide an organized "continuation" of the camps you offer through ongoing access to coaches on a "short term" basis. I see from your profile you also coach tennis. (I coach both my high school kids who are both quite capable players). Here the other part of the model we are talking about is the norm. Take a lesson on a regular basis and in between work on the skills on your own (or with other partners).

As I tried to explain in the first post, I can only see positive outcomes from this approach with some people coming more regularly to the mountain, paying for professional coaching on a more regular basis, and most importantly making signifcant improvements in their skiing and getting more satisfaction and enjoyment from the sport. I also think it would lead to more enrollment in camps and clinics as people who are hooked into a learning environment usually show interest in spending longer periods of focus working on further development of their skills.

I think that a "learning environment" may be the key concept here. This forum is just such an environemnt and it draws people in (at least those who can benefit from the verbal format). It is my belief that our ski resorts and the sport itself could greatly benefit from an enhancement of the on-slope learning environment. This will be especially true if we can provide cost-effective formats that encourage people to participate on a regular ongoing basis.

Let me add that I think that quality and effectiveness of both the "approach" and coaches are critical for success. What I am trying to do is get beyond total reliance on the skill and expertise of an individual coach or instructor using the strength of a common approach. From my experience in attended the fall PMTS instructor camps the past couple of years there is certainly a range of skill and expertise (and match between student learning and teaching styles) displayed by the coaches. However, in almost all cases people make advancement from each session due to the continuity and (from my perspective) validity of the approach.

Again, thanks for your insights.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ November 25, 2001 07:21 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Si ]</font>
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