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Splitting (forming classes)--How to? - Page 2

post #31 of 55
Originally posted by PhysicsMan:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Ski&Golf:
...I will TRUST what you tell me but I am going to VERIFY it in a way that gives me an out...
I bet you believe all the parents that tell you that junior is an "expert", too.

Tom / PM
</font>[/quote]And junior is a future olympian too!!!

How's life in my old home state?
post #32 of 55
Bob, Ski & Golf and Ydnar,

We spend a few moments chattingwith our guests at line-up. We get a feel of what they understand about skiing, their motivatin for taking a lesson and what their opinion is of their movements. Depending on the outcome of these mini-interviews, we will ski a run with them. the percieved good skiers will go on an easy blue, and the not-so-proficient will go on a green run. We just ski with no pressure. If everything is compatable, the lesson proceeds.

The interview does two things; it does a basic split and it gives the instructor an opportunity to explore the student's motivation for taking the lesson. If we can satisfy that motivation, we have a happy guest!
post #33 of 55
Originally posted by Ski&Golf:
...And junior is a future olympian too!!!
How's life in my old home state?
Neat - I didn't know you were from around here. What part, & when did you (wisely) abandon ship & head to greener pastures? Well, given the recent weather in Colo, maybe "greener" isn't quite the right word, but you know what I mean.

To answer your question, life is fine, but the weather has been miserably hot and humid for the last few weeks without a break. To give you an idea, tonight, the overnight low will get *all* the way down to 78F - woohooo! Why, just a few more degrees, & I'll be breaking out the polypro - .

Best regards,

Tom / PM
post #34 of 55
We're counting our pennies for some private lessons this year. At least will be split between 3 of us. As you say, gives us the chance to have a day's skiing before starting lessons.
post #35 of 55
I certainly would prefer to be split accurately based on interview alone because it gets us to the meat and potatoes of the lesson much quicker. But, I would sacrifice some lesson time, especially a full day lesson, if it meant everyone in my group was of similar ability with similar goals for the lesson.

Last year at Jackson Hole I took an all day group lesson with a great instructor. We were a group 3 and were pretty well matched. However, there were only 4 of us that showed up for the advanced lessons. Like many other ski schools the different ability levels met at different places on the mountain. The splitter asked each of us some questions and gave us the once over as Bob describes. We were then split into our 2 groups (3 students in my group and 1 in the other) and took a quick run to make sure that our skills were as advertised. We were lready at the top of a lift so we didn't waste too much time. It worked out pretty well but we were only 4 people total. I can't screw up too badly with only 4 students.

I think that for beginner and lower to mid level intermediates you can probably have a little wider range of ability levels in a group and still have everyone relatively satisfied with their grouping. However, in my experience, the higher skill levels seem to tolerate less of a difference in skills among the group. There seems to be quite a difference between a lower, mid and upper level advanced skiier. And, since there are less advanced skiers taking lessons, they probably get grouped together inappropriately more often than beginners or intermediates since there are is more limited number of instructors avaliable to teach advanced lessons per day (I admit, I have no evidence to back up this last claim). Either that, or I've been placed with others of different skill level a bit too often.

I like Bob's suggestion of having the free skiing assessment, but take it one step further. Have three different instructors set up at different parts of the mountain, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Then give people who have signed up for lessons the option of going and getting assessed at the appropriate place before the lesson. The student can take that assessment from the instructor back with them, either in written or verbal form, to the ski school meeting place to facilitate the split. If a student choses not to be assessed, he or she will then have to be split based on converstaion. The free assessment can also be used for those not already signed up for a lesson as marketing/advertising. This will save time, give instructors some on snow info about the students' skills, allow students the piece of mind that their skiing ability was evaluated before being split, and, hopefully sell more lessons to those who were assessed and not signed up for a lesson.

If there is a mistake in how the students have been grouped, there must be a way to get the students into the proper group. The only way I've seen this done is by taking the rest of the group and trying to find the other either lower or higher level group. Not the ideal situation. Just my thoughts on a very interesting topic.
post #36 of 55
>...However, in my experience, the higher skill levels seem to tolerate less of a difference in skills among the group. There seems to be quite a difference between a lower, mid and upper level advanced skiier. And, since there are less advanced skiers taking lessons, they probably get grouped together inappropriately more often than beginners or intermediates since there are is more limited number of instructors avaliable to teach advanced lessons...

Good observations.

In addition, even among a group of people with very similar (advanced) technical skills, there can be huge differences in conditioning. People at this level are experienced enough in the sport that they may have developed very specific interests (eg, bumps, steeps, etc.) that they would prefer to work on. There will also be huge differences in ego at this level - young bucks may think they are God's gift to skiing, but in reality, may need some work on fundamentals and resist.

Some skiers with similar technical ability at the advanced level will take a lesson mostly to get a guide around a new mountain, some want to stop and smell the roses, whereas others will get antsy if any stop is longer than a minute.

There are probably as many ways to break down a group of advanced skiers as there are people in the group, hence my earlier comment in this thread to the effect that people at this level may well be past the point of diminishing returns in a group lesson format. Put differently, trying to do splits for advanced groups that will make everyone happy may be virtually impossible. "Tolerable" seems like a more reasonable goal.

This obviously touches on the issue of client satisfaction among advanced skiers. If most skiers in traditional walk-in advanced group lessons feel that they didn't (or won't) get a good lesson because of such inhomogeniety, they will not tend to come back. I can imagine ways to get around this, but I'm not sure they would have a good effect on the everpresent "bottom line".

At least with a bunch of low level skiers (of a similar age), most will probably be satisified if they get back to the lodge safely, get to try out some new terrain and pick up what they will probably refer to as "a few pointers". At least you won't run into too many never-evers who claim they can rip.

Tom / PM

[ August 23, 2002, 09:18 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #37 of 55
A common theme popped up in the last couple of post, that make the individuals like me, highly skeptical of the verbal splits. I have a 11 year old daughter who skis very good. No expert but we ski 20-25 days a year for the last three years. She is very petite, giggly, cute and always wants to wear pink. It is impossible to get her placed correctly because they see her think cute and little and don't believe a word I say that she can ski. Same problem when trying to get her new equipment. Everyone thinks that the parent overstates their childs ability. Therefore she gets put in a class with kids who are way!!! below her and she is bored to death. Only with private lessons has she ever improved at the end of the day. I know others are reading this going another case of overstated ability but our long standing views keep us from seeing the real result until you have seen it. Seeing is believeing not listening is believing
post #38 of 55
This weekend I participated in 2-day women’s clinic at Keystone. At the orientation they explained the schedule for the 2 days and said that we would all meet at lunch on day one. If anyone needing to be moved within the groups it would be done then. At the split/sort an instructor asked a woman what she wanted to learn. “ I am comfortable on blues and most blacks, would like to work on crud and bumps” Me too I said and others chimed in our group was formed on this information. We did a short ski down to the lift and onto the lesson. The morning consisted of 5 drills, no skiing. About the third drill I was bored. I was considering skipping the following day. I began to think that I was in the wrong group but since the instructor said nothing and I have no idea how I look skiing I was not sure. At lunch nothing was said. I finally got the courage to tell the instructor that I did not think I was getting much out of the lesson. She said well you are better than everyone, they want to get to where you already are. They then put me with another group. My question is why she did not make the change without me asking?

An observation, while all the women in my first group said they were comfortable on blue and black terrain, Their skills were not of that level. So maybe they were not afraid of that terrain, thus being “comfortable”. ?

In the end my day and half was a success! Thanks to Karen Z. at Keystone. I had fun and I am a better skier today. Good yes?
post #39 of 55
Fantastic topic. Most of what I was going to say has already been said, but I want to emphasize one point: Being in the correct split (especially for a multi-day program) will make or break the sessions, because you learn from the things that others in your group are doing.

On one set of multi-sessions last year (this was when I was still struggling on steeper greens and had a horrendous ski boot fitting problem), I (adult skier, on skis for days 6-10) was split with a 13-year old boy who liked to tackle black runs with his aggressive, back-sitting wedge turns and a 15-year old girl who hadn't been on skis for 3 or 4 years and wanted a refresher. This group was a disaster for me. I kept feeling I was holding everyone up, trying to ski faster, and was not absorbing any of the information -- which was hardly communicated well, as the 13-year old was crazy with a need to move more and talk less.

That session was split with a call-down on an easy green slope, and then our instructor got goals from each of us after we were split. Based on those criteria, I clearly belonged with the 2 I ended up skiing with, but our goals couldn't have been more different, and our instructor struggled to keep the group in balance. In retrospect, I could have gotten so more more out of the week with 2 hour privates, and some quiet practice myself. But hindsight is 20/20.

In contrast, a month later I was split for a 4-day session at Whistler slightly differently. People grouped around their self-assessed levels, and the instructors verbally asked what our goals were. We went up to a slope, and had a call-down (I had no problem with this), and as our group was large we were split into 2 smaller groups, based on our ability and stated goals.

I found being with skiers who were much closer to my level and goals (and age) almost as helpful as the level of coaching, which was definitely at a higher standard than at the previous ski area. For one thing, when your instructor says to *you* "Don't stick your downhill leg out straight" you don't know what on earth he means. Then you're waiting a bit down the slope, and you see two other people in your class skiing down with their downhill leg stuck out straight as a board, and their weight distributed in the wrong place, and.... Suddenly, you can map that incorrect image onto your body, and you *get it*.

In any group, you have to deal with the collective energy. Even in that last group, each of us had different issues to deal with. I found it difficult to learn on steeper slopes; one woman had an extreme fear of heights, which made narrow ski-outs a nightmare for her; another disliked skiing in wooded areas. So this meant our instructor had to choose runs rather carefully, but he did a great job with this. And I think most of us had a good time overcoming our individual fears.

Anyway, for a multi-day course, I would be happy to spend even *half an hour* to get split correctly, because if I'm in the wrong group (or if there is no correct group for me) it just wastes my learning time, of which I have precious little in a year!
post #40 of 55
We first group people at lineup according to their stated abilities and goals, by asking questions about their experience, and by observing them standing or walking around in their ski boots.

If it looks like there may be a split, or there is a large enough group at the same level for two classes, we send two instructors out with the whole group on the first run and do a "rolling split." Calling it a warm-up, the first instructor skis down a ways making some easy, medium-sized turns, and the class follows one after the other (with a reasonable and safe distance between)--not as a "call down." The instructor behind, and the lead instructor once he/she has stopped, can assess the split by watching the group ski. A reasonable division, if one is necessary, is almost always transparently obvious at this point. We usually do a little more skiing before making the split, maybe with an exercise thrown in, just so it doesn't seem so obvious and in case some of them really did need a warm-up first.

We are careful to explain the division to the group based on a similarity of styles or common needs for improvement, not on a difference of skiing level or ability.

As a backup, our SSD takes a run down the trails where the novice-intermediate lessons typically start out and brings along instructors who were not assigned a group at lineup. If there's an unexpected split it is usually clear after 10 minutes or so and we can assign another instructor to assist or to take the split right there.
post #41 of 55
I haven't tried this, but another timesaving idea would be to have all students taking lessons meet at the top of the school hill and ski down en masse on a predetermined signal. On an observation platform midway down the slope are stationed three instructors specially trained in movement assessment and marksmanship and armed with paintball rifles. The instructors fire a green, blue, or black paintball at each skier according to his or her ability, and the students can be quickly herded into the appropriate group as they finish the run and head on up the lift.
post #42 of 55
Might work well in SoCal
post #43 of 55

I like that, but who's going to pay the laundry bill?

When I worked at a major colorado resort, all of the non-beginner lessons met at the top of the hill. As soon as people arrived, they were sent down in a call-down fashion. This kept the flow of traffic pretty even, and by the time the lesson was posted to start, everyone had been split by ability. Then, within the ability groupings, splits would be done based on goals or any other factors that may come up (age, gender, etc.)
post #44 of 55
I am enjoying reading all of the great points listed here. And, like most instructors - I want to add my 2 cents.

Surely for safety and efficiency (typically we only have 1-1.5 hours). And, if we're honest, to make the instruction easier. IMHO, many instructors split to make their jobs easier - because it's a lot easier to teach a group that is all at the same level.

For the sake of my post, I ask you to accept: It's their class, not ours.

Why not use the commonly accepted ranges "never-ever, novice, intermediate, advanced, expert" as categories instead of the PSI 1-9 ranking system when composing groups. It's easier for them to understand and I think the ranges are an adequate split, especially if we just accept that there is a spectrum of more accomplished and less accomplished skiers in every group.

As it turns out, my response goes deeper than splitting...
I think it's our job to analyze movement and then offer instruction that is exercise-based to help folks "feel" something new - to coin Mister Barnes - a "positive movement". This works in groups that have been split by ranges because a lot of people share the same bad habits regardless of specific level of ability. (lucky us!! )

So, my technique is to just watch everyone ski for one run. I then try to find a common element for everyone: stance, edging, balance, etc. I pick an exercise that we can all do to "feel" that thing we are lacking. Meanwhile, I move through the group and give each person something more to think about - something just for them. I have many a PSIA Clinician to thank for the great modelling of this approach!!!

post #45 of 55
Thread Starter 
Hi Kiersten--warmest welcome to EpicSki!

You make good points about the essence of the job of teaching skiing, and the essence of all effective lessons.

You'll find a lot more to read as you peruse the archives here. Happy reading, and I look forward to hearing more from you!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #46 of 55
(Bob, thank you for the warm welcome. I tried to send you an individual reply and discovered your mail box is full and my words were lost in cyberspace. :

I learned about this site from a fellow instructor who sent me a link to read your post about "perfect turns". I admit it took me 2-3 reads to really GET IT, but well worth it.)

I responded to this topic of "splitting" because I felt the discussion had gotten bogged down with "how to split". In traditional teaching models "what" and "why" come before "how", so I asked "why".

I then digressed into aspects of being an instructor and teaching. I'd like to build on this point and I'd appreciate your feedback. I can post as a new topic, if folks feel it's warranted.

I believe in the "learning food chain" OR "you're a product of your instruction". So, I think there is a large responsibility within ski schools to do a better job of teaching instructors.

WOW, that's a bold statement. Allow me to explain:

As instructors we have an empty toolbox and through clinics we fill our toolbox.
Clinicians show us:
- what a tool is
- how to use the tool
- when to use the tool
- why to use the tool (theoretically)

Some instructors are true craftsmen - in addition to knowing exactly what to do with their tools, they also know some "tricks" and workarounds. They can adapt a tool to a situation or they can think of a new use for a tool. These folks keep an open mind and are flexible, therefore finding creative solutions.

I spent my first 3 years as an instructor at Waterville Valley, which is lucky enough to have 3 PSIA-E examiners on staff to run clinics. My favorite is a guy named Dutch. He is a craftsman.

BUT, instructors aren't taught how to be a "Dutch".

Therefore, I wish there were more clinics that focused on instructional skills:
- What is the "perfect instructor" and how do they (use):
+ Questioning Techniques
+ Movement Analysis
+ Adapt "exercises"
+ Delivery Models
+ etc...

to restate:
So, I think there is a large responsibility within ski schools to do a better job of teaching instructors.

Why? (ah my favorite question [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] )
- New instructors are developed by the ski school that hires them.
- The concentration is to fill the new instructor's tool box quickly and to get them working.
- Who does the new instructor typically teach?
- A lot of never-ever and novices (the people we need to seduce into the sport of skiing).

And, what is the potential risk?

I leave you all with that thought/question...
have a great day,
post #47 of 55
For long term instruction (multiple days) I would make the process very precise. I would use both a verbal evaluation as well as a visual evaluation. The verbal evaluation should be standard.

For example in the verbal evaluation one could ask standard questions such as:

1) What are your goals (primary/secondary or high/low priority)
2) What type(s) of terrain do you like to ski most
3) What terrain do you avoid and why
4) How many days a year do you ski
5) What level skier do you consider yourself (use whatever standard scale you have available, but example videos of skiers at levels 1-9 work best).
6) Do you have any specific fears
7) Do you have any specific disabilities/injuries

For the visual evaluation (call-down) I would look for standard clues:

1) General ability of the skier while walking, in the lift line, loading, skiing down an easy slope and skiing intermediate terrain (does it all match the skier's self image).
2) Level of the skier in terrain they claim they like (or want to conquer)
3) Level of the skier in terrain they generally avoid (if possible to find out).

All this could be determined in the first 2-3 hours of the class. This may be a little time consuming and intimidating to some, but it will certainly ensure that skiers end-up in the right group. For multi-day lessons, it is worth the pain, since students pay good money and expect effective, bang-on lessons.
post #48 of 55
Thorough! I wish all multi-days worked this well.

Out of curiosity, how were splits at the Academy handled? This was generally described, and from the sound of it, worked out really well.

post #49 of 55
At the Academy the selection was somewhat left to the students. Basically certain instructors were selected for teaching a target level of students and then students were allowed to select their group based on their ability and terrain preference. The problem with this approach is that it is left largely up to the student to determine where he/she fits.

I don't think this is the ideal way, but it worked out remarkably well for everyone at the Academy. Those that felt that they were in the wrong group could switch to another group.

In the future, I would hope to see a stronger input from the coaches regarding student placement or re-assignment. But this is a always a difficult issue for everyone since coaches do not want to upset or demoralize students.
post #50 of 55
Keep in mind, at the Academy, we had a benefit over traditional ski clinics. We all read each others posts. It was pretty easy to figure out who we should be skiing with!

[ February 05, 2003, 07:17 PM: Message edited by: Lisamarie ]
post #51 of 55
Originally posted by Lisamarie:
Keep in ind, at the Academy, we had a benefit over traditional ski clinics. We all read each others posts. It was pretty easy to figure out who we should be skiing with!
I'm not so sure I agree with this one. I'm not sure that self-evaluation is the best way to assess skiing levels. Maybe instructors can chime in here, but isn't there a common tendency for lower level skiers to inflate their abilities and higher level skiers to diminish their abilities when asked about how well they ski? I'm not even sure that you can figure out skiing levels from reading posts about what types of terrain skiers feel "comfortable with." One skier's definition of bumps or steeps may be different than another's. Just because two skiers like bumps or trees doesn't necessarily mean they both ski that terrain with nearly the same level of skill. With the small groups we had at the Academy, I think it was pretty easy to sort out groups, but I like TomB's idea of helping this process along with both a written and on-snow evaluation.


stmbtres (which I thought represented "steamboat resident", but which I now find out is actually a shortened form of either "stumblebum" or "stumbletrees". Both of those meanings work for me!)

[ February 05, 2003, 09:08 PM: Message edited by: stmbtres ]
post #52 of 55
How about finding out which type of skis people like and splitting up the groups that way? -j/k

I think we somewhat lucked out at the Academy with the splits since certain groups were preformed and the total size was not all that big. Also, some of the groups were so small that it didn't really matter if there was some variation in level. If the "top" group had really been hell bent on skiing radical terrain that might have caused some reforming but apparently more basic movements needed to be worked on. (Plus the snow wasn't there)

The thing about just doing a ski-off is what about someone like Ganjala who made great strides and had the motivation to be in the "top" group but wouldn't necessarily have been put there from a ski-off. I suppose you just move people on up if they really outpace others.

It seems like an "interview" process coupled with some visual observation might be the way to go.
post #53 of 55
Interesting comments. My experience is that people who believe that they do not need ski instruction are the ones that actually need it the most.

In contrast, people who either take a good deal of lessons, or participate actively in the technique session of the forum have raised their standard of what "good skiing" is so high, that they may be overly self critical.

I think that the type of person who would commit to a 4 day ski academy has a pretty realistic view of their proficiency. Our group seemed to be pretty well matched, except for the fact that Bonni is a speed demon!

What were other people's experiences? THe problem for me with a ski off, is that the first run of the day usually sucks big time!

I did notice something interesting. I'm one of these people who has been blessed/cursed with a good eye for movement that somehow does not match up to my technique.

but in observing the other groups, I saw some wicked awesome skiing! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #54 of 55
Originally posted by Lisamarie:

What were other people's experiences? THe problem for me with a ski off, is that the first run of the day usually sucks big time!

I'm wondering how much it matters how much you or I suck on that first run of the day if that first run is in a ski off. Isn't it the case that good instructors evaluating a ski off don't really look to see if we slip on any particular turn? Don't they look for movement patterns that are pretty good indicators of your level of skiing? I know Nolo once wrote that mastery as a ski instructor was reached when the instructor could watch someone walk across a parking lot and then determine what level skier he/she was watching. Maybe that was said partly tongue-in-cheek (was it?), but maybe there's some truth to it. I'm kind of curious what instructors do and don't look for in a ski off that provide them with reliable indicators of ability. I imagine that one thing you can't judge on a ski off on groomed is comfort level on different terrain. Or can you?

On another note, World Cup freestyle comps are in Steamboat this weekend. Aerials today and moguls tomorrow. That's the good news. The bad news... it's -11F outside and I'm waiting around for it to warm up a bit before I even try to go skiing.

post #55 of 55
Let me give you an example Lisamarie that involves myself (this way I will not upset anyone ).

I probably have enough skills to end up in an advanced group if there is a ski-off on any groomed terrain. From that point of view, I think I belonged to Arcmeister's group. In other words, I was more or less compatible with stmbtres and Si in non-expert terrain. However, when the terrain was more challenging, my experience and comfort level were a definite liability. By challenging terrain I mean Scree Slope on Mount Millicent or the Rein's-Run & Endless Winter area near Great Western chair. While Si almost threw himself at these runs, I had to think long and hard about dropping in. The patience and help from stmbtres, Si, Tog and Arcmeister helped me through these moments. But there is no doubt in my mind that I was marginal on these runs and could easily have been regarded as holding the group back (or at least slowing them down).

Another example are big/steep bumps. From the first day I skied with stmbtres, it was obvious that his bump skills are in a different category. I can confidently say that I should not be in the same bump clinic as he would be. On the other hand, I felt very comfortable with nolo/Bob Barnes' group when they welcomed me for some bump runs at the end of the day, Thursday.

Although I have never taken a lesson (until this Academy), I tend to be very self critical and I am very aware of my limitations. This comes from years of competition in other sports, where I learned quickly that the difference between an expert and just another athlete can be astronomical. That is why I advocate well defined & clear instructor evaluations. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

[ February 07, 2003, 09:00 AM: Message edited by: TomB ]
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