|Originally posted by Bob.Peters:
I really enjoyed your responses. They seem to mirror very closely the qualities I judge good skiers by.
I was particularly interested in your comment about mentors, however. I guess I'm pretty convinced that all sorts of de-facto mentoring relationships occur. I know that in my own case, I've been very fortunate to have hooked up with people over the years who've had a great deal of influence in helping me develop certain skiing skills and backcountry snow sense. I think this sort of thing goes on all the time wherever there are people who ski often and approach learning the various facets of the sport with curiousity, humility, and an open mind.
Interestingly enough, in skiing those relationships tend *not* to be professional in the sense that the "student" is paying the "teacher". I think the process of sharing knowledge and helping develop skills goes on continuously, but not very often under a paid arrangement.
It's interesting that you mention martial arts and the relationship between student and teacher. That is an ongoing paid arrangement, is it not? Sometimes (often?) lasting years and years. It's interesting that there's really no corollary in the ski world, with the possible exception of ongoing instructor/patroller training. I'm not sure what that says.
Thanks Bob, and yes, I agree that the mentoring relationship in skiing is frequently not for pay. One example is from my early years. I skied with a group of very good skiers and racers who helped me learn and develop my skills. This relationship looked like that of Mentor and Telemachus, but was not for a couple of reasons: 1. The relationship was not intentional; neither party consciously chose their role. 2. The relationship was generic; it was not a personal role between one or a few mentors and one student. It was more a role generically between any better skier and any skier needing “training”. 3. It was not consistent and there was no stated goal or outcome.
I learned, but haphazardly. I also only worked on things that the “mentor” wanted to teach, not skills I needed to learn. But during high school, free was a very good price.
The martial arts relationship is different from the business mentor relationship. The reason I mentioned it is that I believe it has a better application to the ski world. It also would solve the single greatest problem in skiing, the large number of poorly trained and educated skiers who tend to ski for only a few days each year and who treat skiing as an outing and not a lifetime pursuit.
In MA the relationship between Sifu (or Sensei, or Guru) and student is hierarchal. It is also considered to be a lifetime relationship. The Sifu (teacher) is over all “students” regardless of rank. Below the Sifu are sifu’s (usually black belts) who are the primary teachers of all students. Below this are the colored belts and the higher-ranking colored belts teach the lower ranked colored belts (usually at the request of a sifu). Payment of money in the system is generally not remuneration for a service but a token of respect and acknowledgement that the Sifu must spend all his/her time teaching. The Sifu pays “Wages” to the lower level teachers also as a token of respect, not as wages for services (these services are expected by the system, so no remuneration is needed, but is frequently given). Once black belt is achieved the student’s relationship changes and he/she no longer “pays the Sifu for instruction,” he/she instead is a “peer” of (although still subservient to) the Sifu.
So, How does this apply to skiing? Bob Barnes starts the Wuen Hop Bob Barnes. He gathers 3 level 3’s, 9 level 2’s and 27 level 1’s as his black belts. He then opens shop, attracting skiers to what is both a ski school, and social activities group. The ski “lessons” are scheduled 2x each day for about 3 hours each. There are also all day workshops and multiday clinics. Tuition would be monthly or annual and would entitle the student to all regular scheduled courses and rights to take additional courses and clinics for low cost. The program would hit all the essentials in skiing from beginning skills to expert, backcountry and park and pipe skills. For annual paying students, there would be guarantees of progress, if the student attended a specific number of courses and clinics (i.e., the student would move from level 2 to level 6 in the year, if the student took twelve lessons during the year, including at least 4 hours of free skiing, one three day clinic at the beginning of the year and one three day clinic at the end of the year).
The benefit to the student is the ability to take a “lesson” every time he or she skis, and take special clinics and the like for either no additional cost or very low additional cost. For example, Bob may have another top ranked skier come and instruct for a three-day clinic on backcountry skiing. Costs would be low (airfare, lodging, food and a reasonable but small stipend for the Sifu and/or sifu’s teaching) because Bob would agree to do the same for that Sifu’s “school”. Also, large groups are able to negotiate reduced ticket, pass, food and lodging prices, which would be passed on to students. Another benefit would be the ability of each student to teach other lower rank students. It also provides a large social group from which students may develop friendships and ski groups. Young and older skiers may work on racing, jibbing, park, backcountry, steeps, beginning techniques, everything under the sun.
But what benefit to the resorts, and why would they go along with this type of relationship, or even create it themselves? First, they could, through incentives they could introduce many skiers to low season skiing, thus making these seasons more profitable to the resort. Second, the highly reduced lesson costs would encourage skiers, especially beginning skiers to ski more often, thus increasing skier days at the resorts.
The best analogy I can think of is the relationship between computers and paper use. During the 1960’s there was great debate whether computers would result in a paperless society. The argument was renewed in the 1980’s after the advent of the PC. To make a long story short, we use more paper now then ever before. Computers did not result in the paperless society. To the contrary they invented the information society, which needs all kinds of information in thousands of formats all the time. My point, other than the pointy thing on my shoulders? Resorts could radically change the way they do business and it would be good for skiers, the resorts, and the ski professionals. It would probably reduce the number of part time paid instructors but it would make the full timers more profitable and rewarding. Skiers looking for instruction would find a gentler and longer lasting instruction style. Many inveterate intermediates would finally be able to break the barrier since cost would not be the major hurdle.
This is not a cure, just an idea. It could not be implemented everywhere and would likely only work in some locations.
So, how did we get back on my hobbyhorse? Wind me up and off I go.
I am going to shut up so, maybe we can get back on topic.