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PMTS Wacko, redux

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I think it's time to revisit some stuff.

For those of you who don't know who PMTS Wacko is, that's me, in another form and on different drugs.

I first came to this forum with a militant view, that skiing was defined. I was pissed off at the world, angry as hell, and ready to take on anyone, who did not agree with me. I was sure, that there was only one way to ski and that there was only one man on the planet who really understood ski instruction, my buddy, Harald Harb.

I was also convinced, that the PSIA is/was the root of all evil. That, they were the ones solely responsible for what I perceived as lousy ski instruction. Finally, I was convinced that anyone who taught wedge turns should be tarred and feathered.

How much of the aforementioned statements/accusations hold any water?

Eh, none of them.

First, let's throw out any notion that skiing is the same, for everybody. How could it be? No two people are the same and some learn different than others. What works for me may not work for the next skier. So, to say that there's only one way to learn, is nutzo.

Then, let's be clear. No one person, company, thang, has all the answers. Myself, I have a business. I seek advice from many others, and often ask the same question to different advisors, just to get different points of view. No different than getting a second opinion on a medical issue. I think the same strategy, applies to skiing, but in a limited way.

Everyone agrees that there are movements, that are central to skiing and skiing success. For example the word "tipping." Barnes says "Left tip to go left, right tip to go right." Harb says, "Tip to the little toe side." What's the difference? I don't think there is any. Both ideas are the same and it's a classic example of learning. One person may not understand "Little toe", but they do understand, "Left tip to go left."

So I think the best way to say it now is that yes, there are movements that we all need to learn, in order to be successful skiers. I think the industry still has work to do, to define those movements and adhere to them – a standard, so to speak. But how we learn them is based entirely on us, not by some who claim their way is the only way.

Next, is the PSIA the root of all evil? No. No way. Any organization has it's problems, PSIA included. But to say they're the ones to blame for terminal intermediates, or anything else, is nutzo.

For one, it's simply a fact. Most skiers goals are to show up, have a good time for a few hours, and to go home in their car, not in a cast. So if these are the facts, and they are, then it only makes sense to tailor a product (ski lesson) that meets their needs. Put another way, a terminal intermediate is happy where they are – there’s no blame involved. These are skiers who ski 10, maybe, 15 times a year. Skiing to them, is a sport that they can take or leave. To tailor a lesson around them that more resembles how elite athletes practice, is simply not the thing to do. Skiers do need to be taught what “experts do”, but in a way that’s fun and easy to learn. Doing so opens the door for intermediates to progress to the next level, to simply enjoy their few days of skiing each year that much more. .

So don’t pigeon hole them. Just because they only ski a few times a year, does not give anyone the right to teach them skills that are limiting or that will inhibit their progress. Do not take the easy way out and skiers should be taught correct movements, from day 1. The idea should always be to groom them for “expert skiing.”

Are skiers being taught correct movements, across the board? I don’t know. But I do know there’s a few instructors here who “get it” and if you take a few lessons from them you will get better.

Now, for those who do want to get to that next level, I still feel that it’s way harder than it needs to be. Ski instruction is way too fractious and it’s difficult to get professionals to agree on what is or what isn’t the pathway to “expert skiing.” I have come to learn that ski instructors have been arguing for years, over technique. Again, is the PSIA’s fault? No. PSIA is responsible for certifying ski instructors, not for watching over them at each and every lesson they teach. Could the PSIA do a better job of implementing standards, that all instructors work off of? Well, I’m not an instructor and I have zero knowledge of the inner workings of the PSIA. But I’ve come to learn a little about ski instruction and from my keyboard, I do think some standards need to be in place. I think more studies should be done. In this business, I see tons of personal feelings, but very little data to back up those feelings. Not good.

Which brings me to my last topic, the wedge. I have been the biggest anti-wedge dude on earth. But I’m just as guilty as those I criticize. Just look at what I just wrote – it’s all personal and there’s no data to back up what I say. It could very well be that the wedge needs to be eliminated from ski instruction. But, what we don’t need are knee jerk actions. If, studies of skiers show that they learn faster, better, cheaper, sans the wedge, then get rid of it. If the studies are inconclusive, no changes should be made. But do the studies, dang it, don’t make knee jerk reactions.

So where does this bring us to? Can we make any conclusions, almost 2 years later from Wacko? Eh, I think so.

We all now agree that movements are really important, but I think there’s still too much to sift thru, to discover those movements. Make it easier, for crying out loud! It still is bothersome to me that a simple question can get posted here and not get answered, just as easily. The stance issue is the classic example. I’m not sure we’ll ever, quit arguing over the stance. There’s still some confusion over terminology, but I think most agree that fewer terms, not more, are what’s needed.

Finally, does one person or system have it all? No. But, I think there’s been some break through’s regarding learning, that everyone, should follow. I firmly believe that every skier who pays for a lesson should go home with a video or materials to support what they were taught that day. And, I firmly believe that if that same skier goes to a different area, to take a lesson, that lesson should build upon what they learned at the previous area. It’s a slap in the face of ski instruction for one instructor to cancel out what the other did, and it is my belief that it will hinder, if not ruin, instructors livelihoods. Hey man, I have friends now who are ski instructors. I want to see them succeed.

So in conclusion, Wacko was wacko, but I hope the silver lining in the message shines thru and lives on.

Cheers to all,

PS –
I’ll be watching this thread, but I may drop out.

I’ve been waiting for a business transaction to close and it looks like it’ll be this week. Once it does, time to get to work! But I’ll be around.


[ August 18, 2002, 12:02 PM: Message edited by: SCSA ]
post #2 of 29
SCSA - It took a hell of a lot of heart to write that post. 99.9% of people would never admit they have changed their position, even if its just in a most minor way. Instead, they just wiggle and squirm. Forget the old 97% number - you have now graduated to the "better than 99.9%" category. Good on ya!

Don't short-change yourself either. Your advocacy of Harb has opened the eyes of many to the alternative teaching focii and progressions he uses. Thanks to you, I, for one, have bought an assortment of his books and have certainly picked up some good ideas from them.

If work calls, and you aren't as active as usual, don't worry. This sort of thing happens to all of us. Right now, for me, everybody on vacation so work is in an end-of-summer lull, and the wife & kid are out of town, so I'm more active on Epic than normal. I'm sure I'll go back to work-frenzy mode soon.

Besides, come the first snows, we'll all stop yappin' and start skiing and nobody will have time for 2 page messages any more.

The best to you & stay around!

Tom / PM
post #3 of 29
Bravo, SCSA, you've come a long way from WACKO and your insight floors me.

Congratualtion... ....Ott
post #4 of 29
An excellent post. I've only read your work for about 9 months now, but this does provide a good summary of someone willing to move out of their trench.
One thing I would comment on is your final summary. I agree there should be consistency, but that consistency needs to be global, not just in the US.
If I take a lesson in France, I should be getting a similar level of quality, and similar, not conflicting information to a lesson taken in Australia, or one in Canada or the US.
I'm not sure how that would be achieved, but if it was, I believe we would see a marked improvement in skier ability.
Tied in with global instruction levels should be global piste ratings, but that's another story, and we've discussed it many times before.

SCSA, keep questioning your own opinions as well as everyone else's, and you'll be more of a man than most who post here.

post #5 of 29
consistency needs to be global
I think EpicSki is about as global as it's gonna get.
Your new meds are really working well. (just kidding)Great post
post #6 of 29
I'd be one of the first to admit that there is some bad instruction out there, but there is also plenty of really good instuction going on. I think that for most of the people you see on the slopes, skiing is not a high enough priority that they are willing to spend the time or money to "get better". They are nowhere near as committed to the sport as you or I, and they seem pretty happy just doing what they do. Perhaps skiing for them is more of a social outing in the mountains with family and friends than it is an athletic activity. Unless their circle of friends includes avid skiers they probably won't have much incentive to put the time, effort, and dollars into a serious program of ski instruction. Except for beginners, I think that a lot of people simply don't see a personal benefit to ski lessons, be they PSIA, PMTS or whatever.

Personally, I think that we need to give away some free samples of our instruction product to help develop more demand at the intermediate and more advanced levels. Something like a daily free (and fun) 45 minute clinic open to the first x number of people who sign up. Unfortunately, it seems to me that a number of ski resorts consider the ski school to be a cost center rather than a profit center, and an unproven idea that increases cost is not likely to be embraced by management.

Hope your deal goes well.

post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the kind words.

If we're talking about moving intermediate skiers from where they are now, to the next level, here's an idea.

I think if someone was to go out and study the movements of expert skiers, they'd find many similarities. I watch great skiers and guess what? Most of them, look the same to me.

The problem with some of these "systems", that I've learned, is that they come off as being proprietary. Ski professionals everywhere will revolt against anything, that's proprietary, or perceived to be same.

So if someone was to study expert skiers and then come out with training and exercises built from those studies, I think they'd win. Something like, "We studied a thousand expert skiers and here is what they do - we'll teach you, what they do."

This way, there's no "proprietary" message. You're taking information that's in the public domain, then packaging it in a way that all can learn from. I think it's the recipe, for success.

Intermediate skiers who want to improve are educated. They know better than to practice one person's "system". I think they want a system, but a system that's built from many an expert skier. You know the old line, "Somebody already knows what I'm trying to learn."

Keep in mind that we're still very early in a movement (technique tailored for shapers), that's bound to be here for years to come.

There's been nothing but dust stirred up in the past few years and now it's starting to settle. Unfortunately, the early ones will end up with arrows in their backs. I think, who'll really be successful are the ones who've waited, but who've learned a lot by observing.


[ August 18, 2002, 02:29 PM: Message edited by: SCSA ]
post #8 of 29

Way to go!!! Great to see you've come to the middle of the road. Much easier to see all the options from there. I must agree that after many of the heated discussions on here it took humility to make that post, BRAVO.

I'd like to respond to your call for more consistency in teaching. This is a must if we are to survive. One of the challenges is that it takes many seasons to really own the movements and gain a true understanding of cause and effect relationships as it pertains to skiing movements. Among the core of top expereienced teaching pros in the USA I believe there is great consistency. That is because they have all been doing this for a very long time.

The challenge is that in todays economy it is difficult for younger instructors to spend more than 3-5 years teaching full time. That is not enough time to master the movments and understanding and then learn how guide students to the same changes.

Don't get me wrong most instructors are capable of giving good lessons to most customers early in their career. However it takes time to be able to give great, unique lessons all the time.
post #9 of 29
SCSA, that did take an incredible amount of courage. In the final analysis, I believe it all comes down to this:

[ August 19, 2002, 06:15 AM: Message edited by: Lisamarie ]
post #10 of 29
I kinda liked the old okay?
post #11 of 29
Thanks for that SCSA, Good job.
Now lets just see if we can all make some great turns..
post #12 of 29

Passion for skiing and compassion for others!!

Keep both.
post #13 of 29
Originally posted by SCSA:
I firmly believe that every skier who pays for a lesson should go home with a video or materials to support what they were taught that day. And, I firmly believe that if that same skier goes to a different area, to take a lesson, that lesson should build upon what they learned at the previous area. It’s a slap in the face of ski instruction for one instructor to cancel out what the other did,
I would like to comment from the perspective of one of those infrequent intermediate skiers that SCSA speaks of. Now that I have discovered skiing, it is a sport I love. But a variety of circumstances means that I will always be one of those that show up for 4 or 5 days once or twice a year. I do not really expect to ever become an "expert" skier at that pace. But I do want to get better each time I go out. During a week of skiing I'll take a lesson or two. When skiing I want to have fun, not get hurt, and have a feeling of accomplishment. The accomplishment comes from skiing well/better. And it does not necessarily have to be a difficult slope. I feel much better about skiing well down an average slope than I do about "getting down" a more difficult slope. And although I am obviously a tourist (or gaper or whatever) I want to be treated just as well as you would treat a local you see every week. You give me a good enough experience and I'll be back. A great ski lesson could be instrumental in that. Especially if it does not blow the vacation budget.

Now back on topic. It was quite frustrating that during my last lesson for much of my time to be spent "correcting" things I had been taught in previous lessons. Now I was skiing much better after the lesson. But was it because it was such a good lesson or because the technique I had been using was faulty or was it because of a combination of more experience skiing and just getting some instruction and feedback? (I am going with the first two because most of the things she was correcting were things I have heard y'all discuss at some point with the same answers.) But it would be much better from my perspective if the lesson I get could always build on top of one another and if I could have something to carry away that would remind me of what I learned so I could review before the next time I ski. I think a before and after video with a voice over saying what was wrong in the before and what we did to get to the after would be great. And maybe some written advice I could carry to the slopes with some drills or something I could spend time on everyday. You can give me drills during the lesson to practice later but do you think I will really remember them next season?

Anyhow, thanks for the post. I hope that this is one rant that others can learn from. But I think you may be preaching to the choir here.
post #14 of 29
How to remember from one lesson to the next?

I have been carrying around a small notepad for years. During clinics, lift rides, standing around, and at the end of the day, I write down some "key" words to review before the next ski day.

I review pre and post season. SOme of the words change as I build on them, and what is neat if something isn't working (gosh darn), I open the book...and sure enough, I go back one or two steps to rebuild.

Sorry for hijacking the thread, but hope this helps.
post #15 of 29
SCSA--great post! You are worthy of all the "kind words" others have already posted, and I'd especially like to reiterate PhysicsMan's 99.9%!

That was a great summary, too, of many of the discussions we've had here. Your recognition that only a very small percentage of skiers are nearly as dedicated and passionate and willing to work at it as you are is right on. And that fact does weigh heavily on what makes an effective lesson for these people--their wants are different from yours (and mine).

But your other suggestion--that ski lessons as a whole, as an industry, have a LONG way to go, is one I couldn't agree MORE with! I believe that lousy ski lessons are one of the biggest reasons why so few skiers become dedicated and passionate about the sport. In another current thread-- Calling All Instructors - Do you give your students PASSION--we've been discussing the ability to turn casual skiers into passionate devotees. Great lessons all do this, to some extent--they inspire the desire to go farther. Great lessons satisfy the wants and needs the students showed up with, but inspire NEW goals too, leaving the students both satisfied, and hungry for more!

Unfortunately, far too many lessons neither satisfy NOR inspire. Over the years--and often prodded by your "PMTS WAcko" posts (you deserve credit for this, SCSA)--we have discussed some of the reasons for the typical and widespread mediocrity of ski lessons. There are a few things most of us agree on, and a few that we argue about, but I think we all agree that there IS a problem.

Just for the record, I'll reiterate where I think the ROOT of the problem lies. Ski schools have the potential to be direct, short-term cash cows, a potential which conflicts with their role as creators of passionate skiers. Combine this with the "exclusive use" contracts of US ski schools with the Forest Service, that result in a non-competitive environment--if you want to take a lesson at a resort, you have to take it from the resort's own ski school--and we have the perfect recipe for mediocrity!

Short-sighted resort management sees increased profits from cutting costs, minimizing expensive training, and paying unqualified instructors starvation wages. Being the only game in town, they see little reason to improve the product.

Farsighted management--an unfortunate rarity in the ski industry--would recognize the LONG-term benefits of raising the standard. They would realize that dollars spent on training and hiring real pros pay dividends in the form of life-long devotees of the sport. The money these skiers will pour into the industry over their skiing careers dwarfs the pittance the resort "earned" for that first lesson!

The short-term profits of ski schools may well be the root of the long-term decline of the industry!

Most ski resort management THINKS they are farsighted. They give lip service to training. They beseach their ski school directors--and PSIA--to develop a "better product" that brings skiers back. They add a few dollars to the training budget here and there. They don't have a clue!

The changes the ski industry asks for require a whole new paradigm for what ski schools are, and what their best role can be. Stop bleeding the cash cow, and allow it to create the future!

If PSIA shares any responsibility for the problem, it may lie in catering too much to the demands of the above-mentioned short-sighted management. While the needs of skiers and the needs of resorts should NOT conflict--what's good for one should be good for the other--in some cases they seem to. What's best for the short-term profits of the resort is RARELY best for either the guests, or for the long-term outlook of the industry! Wherever there is a conflict, PSIA MUST remember that our customers are the students who buy our lessons--NOT the resorts that sign our paychecks. The moment we forget this--and perhaps some of us have--students will write us off--and certainly many of them have!

"But so few skiers even TAKE lessons," the industry might argue, "so ski schools CAN'T have that big an impact." Any manager who believes that isn't getting enough oxygen. When the product is lousy, why WOULD anyone buy it? As I see it, ski schools have reached their potential for producing cash. Management slaves over spreadsheets, looking for nickels and dimes of added profit. Ski school directors are rewarded for improving the numbers by fractions of a percent.

I think there's a thousand dollars to be made tomorrow for every nickel they're willing to sacrifice today!

All right, stepping off my soapbox now....


I had intended to get to your "consistency" gripe, SCSA, but I've said enough already, for the moment. Suffice it to say that, like others above, I agree....

Best regards--and with a great deal of respect!
Bob Barnes
post #16 of 29
SCSA, excellent post and I really agree that more needs to be done with intermediates. Too many of them drop out at that point. You're scaring me though. Is the sun going to rise in the West tomorrow?
post #17 of 29

That took a LOT of maturity dude.

Now, If I can just force myself to spend some time in a much needed lesson this season after 3 seasons on shapers, I'll have an idea of what you're talking about from a modern perspective.

[ August 19, 2002, 03:08 PM: Message edited by: TomK ]
post #18 of 29

Your well managed discussion over the past year or so has been helpful for many of us. Sometimes it is the "outsider" that supplies the "balls" to get the discussions flowing so that the "real" issues can come to light.

Ya played hard and done good!

On another positive note I believe that Epic Ski is read anonymously by many on the "resort side" of SS operations. I have seen some positive SS operations proposals for the coming season that parallel some of conclusions of the Epic discussions.

post #19 of 29

SCSA bearing his soul and flexing his integrity muscles and BOB BARNES laying it down on the resort based equation for mediocre ski instruction in America!! Right on!

Great posts.

[ August 19, 2002, 10:58 PM: Message edited by: ESki ]
post #20 of 29
The ski industry has been focused on improving the beginner experience for several years now. Are you saying that it's time to turn our collective attention to the next broad category of skiers, the intermediates?
post #21 of 29
Maybe it's just cause I'm an intermediate, but YES!
(rant ahead)
Advanced skiers have their heli-skiing, and extreme camps, etc. Beginners have the nursery slopes. Us in between - we have the whole mountain, but what pushes us on?

If you look at it financially, to get to intermediate level, most skiers will have been skiing a few years, and certainly spent $$$ on lessons up to now, so they are used to paying that bit extra on their ski trips.
They can go on 70% of the mountain, without having to ski with the mad ones, the boy racers, etc. They are not driven to doing only the steepest runs possible - they're not looking for near-death experiences, they are looking for fun.

(quick gramatic change to first person)

I want to enjoy my skiing more.
I want to make fewer mistakes.
I want to be more relaxed when skiing (OK, maybe not the best word, but I'm sure you understand)
I want to build up my confidence.
...but I'm not wanting to try out for the British Men's Olympic Downhill Team.

So, there's me (and probably 97% of the world's skiers ), and I'm not looking for a "3 day, Level 6 Lesson". But I would take some half day lessons (if they were reasonably priced) in smaller groups which would help me reach my targets listed above.
1. Can I afford it? Well, I ought to be able to, as an Intermediate, I'm spending a lot on equipment, etc.
2. Do I want to take this sort of lesson? I guess so, but it depends on the last one...
3. Can you (i.e. an instructior, ski school, PSIA/PMTS/etc) market it in such a way that it appeals to me and deliver it so that it and I reach my goals?

(rant off)


post #22 of 29
Every season I go somewhere different (in Europe). I have lessons. They always seem to say different things to the previous set of lessons (pole plants are vital; don't worry about pole plants; face down the hill; don't worry about facing down the hill it looks odd; etc etc). Consistency would be great. But the chance of getting the French, Swiss & Austrian ski schools to agree on a common approach? ZERO.

I also agree with WTFH.
post #23 of 29
SCSA, SCSA, SCSA!!! What will we do without those live hand gernades thrown into the forms???

I know that I use a blend of various process and choose the best for me. I usually arrive a the slop with at least one training goal in mind. My core is PMTS, because I found it works for me. But I just don't get Harold for bumps and powder. I go to others for that.

post #24 of 29
Thread Starter 

Not so fast, little sisters skis breath!
post #25 of 29
Thread Starter 
If anyone would ever like to put together a round table discussion, I'd be happy to attend, at my own expense.

There's a certain culture that exists in this sport, that's magical. The untrained eye can't see it, but it's there. Kinda like looking at life with a polarized lens.

I for one, will do whatever I can to see that it lives on forever.

post #26 of 29
The intermdiate skier! The "average skier"! YES!
post #27 of 29
OK - just a LITTLE defence for those seemingly 'conflicting' instructions from different instructors...

I ski with somewhere between 2 & 4 instructors regularly each season. There have been times when they seem to be contradicting each other - when I feel frustration setting in because each seems to be correcting movements that another has taught me.

HOWEVER - over the years I have often found that with a bit of persistence there is often a 'LIGHTBULB' moment when all the seemingly diverse information falls into place & I suddenly realise that all that 'contrary' advice was really TRYING to achieve the smae change in my movement patterns.

Also quite often in following one persons instructions I take the change TOO far & then need to 'unchange' - hence the different advice.
OR - the change produces 'strange' side effects in my skiing - ie I DON'T REALLY understand EXACTLY what 'xxxx' meant - only what I THINK it meant - so I produce an 'interesting' movement pattern when I try to incorporate it into my skiing.

Also - second the notebook as suggested above - good way to keep a record of what works.
post #28 of 29
The notebook is a good idea. I do not know why I did not think of it myself. I have been carrying a notebook around for dance lessons for a while. I still like the video idea. A picture is worth a thousand words.

I am just going to agree with WTFH.

Let me give an example of what I considered conflicting instructions. With the knowledge you have you might could give me a good explanation. The first introduction to parallel lesson I took the instructor was rally stressing just digging away with the front tip of the ski by pushing with the big toe as hard as we could. Now the last lesson I took she had us take a more balanced approach using our whole foot ... sort of like having the weight more on the balls of our feet. Results. I do way too much skidding in my turns, pushing the tails out. I try to work on letting the skis turn and not skidding as much. I never could get much control with the technique of pushing the tips with the toes. But after I took the other lesson I started experimenting with shifting the weight around a bit. Every once in a while I would get this amazing feeling like my skis were just cutting through the snow and it felt like I was riding a pair of rails. I never once had that feeling before. I want it again. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #29 of 29
Brandon's hooked.


I agree that there's something magical and maybe even holy about the "culture," but I worry that fueling a bunch of talking heads will trivialize it, reduce it to arcane formulae, and entice the marketers to move in for mass mediocritization.

It's sort of like talking about a powder day: the only sensible expressions are stuff like, "Hoot" and "Holler" and wearing a bulletproof grin.
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