|Beginners won't know if the technical skills that they are being taught or the drills they are doing are correct. However, bad teaching and communications skills are apparant immediately.
... as is "fun."
Great post, NE Skier. This point, and the "power of the jacket," are the two main reasons why instructors have an ethical obligation to become technically knowledgeable and competent. More and more it has become the trend for ski resort and ski school management--and many instructors--to suggest that the ONLY thing that matters in a ski lesson is that the students have "fun." Communication skills, personality, "teaching skills," empathy--these are critical attributes of great instructors. But they are not sufficient!
As you've suggested, beginning skiers, especially, trust their instructors to teach them good skiing. Few have any choice--how would they know if their instructor was a fraud? They know if they're having fun. They know if they're "connecting" with their instructor, and they know if they're learning what the instructor teaches. But they have no way to judge whether what the instructor teaches is good ski technique, or merely shortcuts to mediocrity. For that, they must put their faith in their instructor.
And for that reason, instructors have an ethical obligation above all else to understand and be able to teach good skiing. How you teach is important, but not more important than WHAT you teach. Frankly, if someone is teaching bad technique, I'd prefer that they NOT teach it well! The students may have fun today, and they may even think their instructor is the greatest, and that he or she really cares for them. But the bad habits that incompetent instructor has introduced them to will haunt them for the rest of their skiing careers. And they'll have no way of knowing until it is too late.
Nothing raises my ire more than a professional instructor who teaches shortcuts to mediocrity, under the guise of doing something good for students. "Direct to parallel" lessons, more often than not, fall into this category. I recall a particular instructor at a resort I used to work at. He would take his group of never-ever beginners and teach them to make hockey stops, suggesting that they were "parallel turns." Twisting their skis into braking skids with gross upper body movements, they developed about every bad habit in the book. And they had a blast! While most of the groups around them were practicing real skiing skills, learning the offensive and subtle movement patterns of great turns, his group was doing laps off the beginner-hill lift. He was sure to point out to them how much more quickly they progressed, under his tutelage, than all the other groups, how they were "turning parallel" like experts, while all the others were merely "snowplowing." They thought he was god on skis, and he had a high return rate.
And he was, pardon the expression, screwing them. A smooth-talking charlatan selling snake oil, he made off with obscene amounts of their money and their precious vacation time before they realized they'd been had. But realize it they would! With a big, friendly smile, he opened the door for them directly to the trap of the intermediate plateau. They trusted him to teach good skiing, and by the time they would find themselves mired in the rut of terminal intermediacy, he would be long gone. The "power of the jacket" and a little charisma allowed him to line his pockets while being the pied piper of frustration--the worst kind of fraud.
It is true that the instructors teaching sound movement patterns and tactics, but boring their students, or failing to connect at all, aren't doing any favors either. It matters little that you've learned good skills if you also learn to hate the learning process. Sound lessons that turn people off from skiing and learning are no better than the fraudulent lesson described above. Maybe worse, because at the least the fraud's students had fun for moment!
It is not an either/or thing. Great lessons are both! They are fun, fascinating, rewarding--AND technically sound (and, of course, safe). Ski instructors have long recognized the trilogy "safety, fun, and learning" as the goal of good ski lessons. Most instructors seem to think that this represents a prioritized list--safety first, then fun, then learning. I do not. Every great lesson embraces all three of these qualities fully. It's not a question of proportions either--the ideal lesson is not "one-third safety, one-third fun, one-third learning." In great lessons, the three multiply each other! The measure of a great lesson is Safety TIMES Fun TIMES Learning.
If any is zero, the lesson is a zero--a complete failure. Two out of three IS bad! Only a lesson that maximizes all three can be called a complete success.
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives --
Followed the Piper for their lives.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
(from "The Pied Piper of Hamelin")