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How to Give a Beginner Lesson

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'm a new instructor and I need advice and guidence.
What are the steps you use for a first lesson for an adult who's not very athletic? I really need to know exactly how to describe turning and stopping.
post #2 of 16
You are asking a question that takes about an hour to answer. Don't they have a training clinic on this where you work?

Best suggestion is to spend a few hours without pay learning the craft from a few of the senior instructors at your hill. Most won't mind and they will be glad to have someone else do the demos. More importantly, they are glad to have someone pick up the L-1 slack. It gives them a few more free runs.

[ February 03, 2003, 05:32 PM: Message edited by: yuki ]
post #3 of 16
I'm with Yuki. This is more involved than any short discussion can treat decently. Get help.

The majority of adult never-evers can probably be described as "not very athletic". Do you really want to be able to describe how to stop and turn or do you want to be able to teach these things? Not necessarily the same thing! How do you stop and turn? Do you do those things well? If you could do these things well and truly understood how you do them you would have part of the framework for what to teach but you also need to understand how people learn and what are reasonable progressions beginners can hope to accomplish. I haven't seen the new manuals but PSIA has developed a pretty good outline for teaching beginners. Try to find a mentor who is recently (last 10 years) certified and a compassionate teacher.
post #4 of 16

Until you get some pointers as the other posts said, try what we've been doing at Cooper Spur, a little place tucked away around the other side of Mt. Hood. I learned this from my ski director there, a level 2.

Here's the basic procedure: First show him/her how to get in and out of the skis. now, without poles for now, show the side step up and down the hill. Watch out for them wanting to point their toes first. [When we move in a direction, the brain says "Hey, I guess we're going this way," and it points the toes in that directions.] I tell them we are going up a flight of stairs sideways. Have him go up ten feet or so and then back down. Demonstrate first. Do it with him, then let him do it by himself. (herself)

Continue to side step downhill until he is level with the beginning of the rope tow. Now Let's walk over to the tow. Swing the arms and duck walk, and show him. [Notice I am not spending words on weight transfer and various motions?] The words 'duck walk' seem to be well understood. Notice we have NOT said anything about wedging or turning yet! This is important.

Let the tow master explain how to use the rope tow and how to get off the tow. If he doesn't, you do it. You go up the tow about 10 feet behind him/her. Two magic things here- straighten back (easier on the back... they always want to bend over, and point the toes ahead- toes are body parts, skis aren't. They can relate to toes better!

If it's a well groomed tow there is a flat area at the top. Tell him to leave the tow when you see him at that point by sayingg, "Now." See, few words. (You already talked about pointing toes side ways to get off.)

Duck walk away from the tow to a spot of your choice. Show him how to wedge around to point downhill. you get in front of him, pointing uphill. your 'herringbone' matches his wedge. here you can explain the basics of the wedge. Remind him how he is right now pointing downhill and not moving! "Neat, huh?!" I say. your student notices this and feels safer. (Remember, you are working against fear.)

Basics you talk about: Shins against the tongue of the boot, hands in front like you are driving a VW bus (it has a large flat steering wheel) or use any visual your student understands. (kids- a cafeteria tray) Point the toes, get big (heels out) usually if you say get wide, they push the whole ski out, toes and heels both! Now... you bend over and grab the tips and ski backwards down the hill, slowly, reminding him about hands forward and shins at the tongue of the boots.

Once you see fairly good balance you slowly let go of the tips (grab them again and straighten them out again if necessary) and ski backwards out of his way, or just backwards faster. When it is time to stop tell him to get big and hold, just those two words. "Bigger! Bigger! Big and hold, and he comes to a stop. Also try to keep him from bending over at the waist.

90% of the time this is instant success! This will take 1 to 3 times down the little hill. All this time the brain is learning its balance. Give it time to do so. Very soon you will be able to ski out of his way, and he will do this on his own.

At this point you remain about 1/2 way down the hill. You can be in front or to the side. You will see many things you are going to want to correct; DON'T! Too much input, too many words messes things up. Work on one thing, maybe two: "Get tall" -no bending over at the waits, and tongue of boots.

Watch for him bending sideways at the waist. If this happens, teach him to bounce or hop up and down just a bit, and show him how. (When both feet are off the ground the brain makes the body distribute the weight evenly and naturally on both feet when he comes back down to Earth!) Neat, huh?

Let him practice on his own now. You watch, saying little or nothing. As you see more stability and less fear in teh face, you can now work on some other things you had to to keep quiet about, i.e. hands in front, etc.

Let him practice! Very soon instead of just coming to a stop at the bottom of the hill you will see something amazing... you will see the beginnings of a turn. He knows he wants to get over to the tow. You will see a natural turn in that direction. When you do, it's class time again. Now we work on turning.
Pointing the toes, push (more weight) on one ski, not too many words. Watch out for bending sideways at the waist!

For turns, get tall at the ankles, keeping knees bent. This keeps him forward and automatically brings the skis a bit closer together... easier to turn with a narrower wedge! Too fast? Get big! Too slow? Get tall.

Remember to model this (demonstrate). Most important... Show... don't tell. Few words as possible. If someone asks you the time, don't tell them how to build a watch!

At Cooper we use this teaching model. We have had as many as 16 people and sometimes more a day who learned to ski and never had seen skis before, some of them never had seen snow before in their lives! We have gotten nothing but positive responses and accolades from every one of our students. They have even taken the time to go tell the main office this. And not one complaint at all. Every last student skied! many of them wanted to do the chair! of course here you gotta throttle them back a bit until YOU feel it is safe. Look for stability, smooth turns, different size turns, control of speed. Teach the side slip.

I am sure someone will say all this is wrong. All I can say is Don't mess with success. It works. Bob
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks jyarddog. I've talked to the experienced instructors and shadowed them, but they're a very small group and I wanted to know what people do at other mountains. I have several PSIA books, they explain the steps, but they tell me to teach a breaking wedge, but not HOW to teach a breaking wedge. I also want to make sure I'm not teaching movements that were neccessary for straight skis but are counterproductive for shapes. A couple of the things I was taught as a student a few years ago I've seen discussed in this forum as being "old school".

Before they put their skis on I've had people stand in a wedge shape, bend their knees and move their weight from left to right in small subtle movements. This seems to be real easy without skis. To turn, I've run to the bottom of the hill, told them to ski to a particular spot and then called them in the middle of the run. Most of them turn and ski towards me which is their first turn. I've then explained that they just made the same movement that we did without skis. The problem has been if they don't stand up and forward or can't stay that way. I can't wait to try the bouncing.

Also what is going on in the boot for a wedge turn? Do you you lead with your big toes, press with your little toes, weight the ball of your foot, or the middle (arch)....... Our rental shop doesn't have 140 cm skis that PSIA recommends for direct parallel and we don't have a large flat area either, so we teach a wedge to start. Kids pickup the turn right away but the adults want more and more explanation.
post #6 of 16
KOB- It sounds like you are on the right track! Tell the adults, "Let's work on this, and we'll talk about teh mechanics and what's going on later." Emphasize you aren't blowing them off... that we'll have chalk talk later.

My books compared to what I've learned this season seems a bit different. it seems we buy the books and they start changing stuff right off the bat! But the books are good, especially the work book.

Very important 4 basic factors 1. balance (fear factor), 2. rotary, 3. edge, 4. pressure. The bigger the base, the bigger and better house you can build. i.e. better stability = easier to add items to one's skiing.

Practice this on yourself. Do a wedge down the hill and spread the skis further and further apart. Notice how the skis, as they get wider apart, they tip more and more? This slows you down and can even stop you. When your students realize this their fear starts to abate, expecially when it works for them.

Now... we are 'big' and going slow. How the heck do we go faster? Answer: Get tall. Or stand up from the ankles. Maybe a good practice would be to have them kind of stand and sit -at a stand still BUT keeping the shins against the tongue of the boots. Their body will want to back away from the tongue each time. You can tell this by watching their butts shoot out the back, and they try bending at the waist.

The reason for this is they are trying to balance. Their legs feel the resistance of the boot, and their brains immediately tell the body to stop pushing against the boot (because it thinks the tongue of the boot is a wall)and it compensates by shooting the butt backwards and bending at the waist. They aren't used to a stiff 'shoe' like this. I tell the students that once the bee-hienie shoots back and you bend at the waist, all is lost... Der Krieg ist Vorbei! Alle ist Ferlosen!

The get tall movement is slight when standing still. Yes, it is up and forward. Get big is almost like sitting down.

Before the skis go on you can ask them to make a bow tie with their boot. Twist the boot in the snow so BOTH the toe and heel twist back and forth. This makes a bow tie in the snow. do it with the other boot. rotary movement!

Get tall, the skis get closer together! Get big and they wedge out! Go fast; go slow. Bounce to center the weight evenly between the skis.When you see them turning on their own (sort of)toward the tow, they are starting rotary movements! Now it's time to teach turns!

When they start doing all this..... pay attention to what you are feeling inside! THIS is your real paycheck! .... ain't it?! Bob
post #7 of 16
KOB- Don't worry.. all new instructors have first lesson anxieyts but once you teach enough "never-evers" it becomes second nature. The one thing that Jyyarddog said that I am a bit wary of is skiing backwards and holding your students' tips together. This works well with young children and if you are in good shape, but it is not a very good idea if your student is a lot larger than you. Many people's first time on skis is nerve-wracking and EVERYTHING that seems so common to you is completely new to them. So it is your job to make them as comfortable and happy as you can. A simple acronym is helpful in teaching beginner lessons: "KISS": Keep It Simple, Stupid!!! Hood luck and have fun!
post #8 of 16
Understandable concerns from the last two posts. We can pick apart any procedure based on fear. Having done this procedure I can only say it works! You are doing it only about two or three times down a short, little hill. The only disadvantage is you tend to ski backwards into others. Everything has its drawbacks. consequently we do our best to see that the coast is clear. By the 2nd or 3rd time down the skier is on his own.

The skier's concerns? Believe me - all he is worried about is trying to get and keep his balance!

other styles- traverse first. They instantly learn, due to fear, to lean into the hill. Eventually it works but takes so much longer. Ski with the student in between your legs. Ha! This never works. They learn nothing. They just lean against you and go along for the ride. Time and time again you see this and the kid never learns to ski. Never. Whereas there are few 'nevers' in the world, suffice it to say that this technique works so rarely it is at least a 'hardly ever' (HMS Pinafore?}Ski beside the student- I tried this once and my ski director informed me this doesn't work. It didn't! Ski beside with both hanging onto two poles like a bar across both skiers- I saw someone do this. It seemed to work but not very well at all. Their skis kept running into each other sideways.

Yes- it is rough skiing backwards if you are not in shape (like me) but this is all about the student, not the teacher.

How can someone argue (btw- argue, here, means a meaningful discussion to an ends or goal, not a shouting match [img]smile.gif[/img] ) this point when we have had 100% results at our area, doing this? 100%, no failures, no complaints, positive comments and feedback from every last one of our students, young and old alike.

Another point to consider- we do $10 group lessons. They join the group on the hour. If late, they wait. After awhile they can take a break, go in and get warm, etc, come back out and join up again. We help them throughout the day.

We use 'stations' concept. Station A, B, and C. A is getting into the skis, side step up and down, duck walk over to the tow. Station B, one of us is at the top waiting for the student. Here is where we teach the wedge, skiing backwards. Within 1 to 3 trips down they've got it! "By George I think she's got it!" (My Fair Lady) They now practice on their own. Each trip down it gets better and better. This is the discovery period. You interfere only when you see an obvious problem occurring often enough to hinder progress; a reminder here or there. This is called independant practice.
When we see the slight turn to the tow, the rotary starting to happen, we shift them over to station C to start learning turns.
This is very close to a good teaching format (since I am a teacher in public schools) Input, model, guided practice, independant practice, evaluation, review. This is called the 6 point lesson plan format. Another one very close to this is the ITIP- Instructional Teaching into Practice. All good lesson plan formats have these basics in common.

Kids younger than 6 years old are not allowd to join group lessons. They get private lessons. 1) they hold up the group progress, 2) they need the one on one attention, 3) they deserve it.

Drawbacks to this system? ...... You don't get as many tips. Awwwww! Too bad! Again... What's it all about, Alfie? [img]smile.gif[/img] You or the student? This is giving back to the mountain a little bit of what the mountain has given you.

Please don't be concerned about the backward skiing. It's tough at first. I coudn't do it the first weekend, being out of shape and the balls of your feet burning in your boots, but it works, and you are there only for a short time. Bob
post #9 of 16
I would like to add that skiing backwards is an effective way to teach kids or adults who are fearful,but it is very dangerous. I have taught for 19 years and have done this when needed. Last spring I had a women who was scared and we were holding a ski pole between us her forward me backwards. I told her husband who could turn well to go around me and ski to the lift. He went behind me and stopped, I ran on to his ski and when he took off to get out of the way it dislocated my right knee. If you are going to do this be sure the student is looking down for you but don't trust this look yourself.
post #10 of 16
I too am worried about the ski tips bit - mostly because if THE person I was relying on was DOWN there you can guarantee where I would look....

I was taught by a specialist disabled instructor who taught a lot of visually impaired people...don't know how it goes for normals...

after the 'flat bit' prelims when we jumped on the baby lift he had me ski down by having me hold my poles up(he had none) - he was in a backwards snowplough & I was facing forwards - he had hold of end of poles... Hey presto - hands are OUT there & I am looking .... at HIS FACE... - not DOWN HILL there(terror) - not around... simply AT HIM - with a quick hint that I spot for 'danger from skiers' to keep me aware of downhill - but close in... when we ditched the poles he skied in front of me FORWARDS -but close so I could put my hands onto his back if I went too fast - guess where that puts your hands????
& guess what happens when you are just following a person along - you TURN - you have no idea how - but you TURN
post #11 of 16

I just have to respond to this thread, especially if new instructors are following it.
Take some time to think over the advice being offered here.

Think about what you are teaching and ask yourself if you are really launching these students on a path that will lead to their skiing the way you do or will you be giving them bad habits that will make it difficult for them to progress.

Before teaching beginners the braking wedge as their first means of speed control ask yourself if that is how you control your speed while skiing. Why not teach them turning instead? Ask yourself how easy is it to turn a braking wedge? After you've tried it perhaps you will consider teadhing them to turn a flat gliding wedge instead.

Before you consider teaching your students to make a wedge by pushing their heels apart ask yourself: do I ski that way, standing on my heels? Do you really turn your skis by pushing your heels out? Remember you are teaching them to SKI, not some oddities peculiar to level one classes.

If you teach your students instead to make a wedge by turning their feet you will be teaching them a skill that is a part of skiing at all levels. Just by learning to make a wedge this way your students will have been introduced to guiding their skis with rotary movements that all accomplished skiers use. In order to turn the skis well this way the student will have to be in a balanced stance. If he/she is back. a pretty common ocurrence, if will probably not be possible to turn the skis this way. A balanced stance is something you want to encourage from the beginning. You will also be setting them up for the ability to change direction and control speed by using turns. It may not be terribly important to do this with a wedge though. Some beginners may feel comfortable turning their skis in more or less parallel orientation. The point is to introduce and encourage correct and functional movements, not achieve particular forms.

Before you consider teaching beginners to turn by pushing on the ski, ask yourself if this is how you actually turn your skis. Sure you experince pressure when you turn but isn't the pressure developed as a reult of turning? Why not allow your students to develop the same sensations of pressure as you do as their turning ability develops and speed increases? Pressing on the ski doesn't really turn it anyway does it, unless you've somehow gotten the ski out to the side? Do you, in your skiing, achieve this by pushing your ski out or do you move your body to the inside of the turn? One of the beauties of the wedge position is that it provides a relatively stable position to experiment with moving the body to the inside of the turn.

The idea is to teach your students to ski the way accomplished skiers do if only at a junior level. This way their movements are correct, in the context of advanced skiing, and their progress is largely a matter of improving these skills you have introduced them to in their very first lesson. If you pay attention to those skills, correcting them when they get out of a functional stance, for example, bring them along slowly on appropriate terrain, their progress may astound you.

I know some will take issue with the wedge. I happen to find it a useful tool but I also have to acknowledge that it is often possible to accomplish the same important skill development and movement pastterns with skis which are more or less parallel. If your students find that easier the more power to them. The point is to develop skills and correct movements, not to acheive some kind of forms. The worst thing about the wedge and wedge turn is that they are misunderstood to be important forms to acheive and instructors often get their students to acheive a facsimile of these forms with movement patterns and skill development which are incorrect and counter productive.

Teaching level one lessons well is not particularly easy but learning to do it well can teach you a lot about teaching and about skiing. Don't beleive for a minute the person who tells you that its just a matter of picking up a set of exercises that you crank out to whoever comes along. That's a formula for a really bad lesson and you will be doing your students a major disservice.
post #12 of 16
Very much agreed. You really must be careful when skiing backwards like this. Notice we are at the rope tow, gentle hill, few people. If it gets crowded we always have someone spot for us.

What I have described above has worked with incredible success. We hold no one to a set procedure. When and if I see something occurring in a student's skiing I go with it rather than holding that student back. One might notice the student's skis wanting to parallel. When you see this, go with it. Don't hold them back.
post #13 of 16
Darn gremlins, just lost the first version of this post. The second is never as precise as the first but here is my best try.

Arcadie, well said.

While holding a students ski tips can be benificial it does put the instructor in a dangerous position. Try holding the students knees or hips instead, it provides the same amount of control with several benefits. First they can learn to control the twisting of the ski without fear of speed, further it allows the instructor to maintain eye contact and aids in both verbal and non-verbal communication. From this position it is easy to see if, and remind, the student to be the eyes of the team.

On a similar note holding the students hands can put an instructor at risk (yes I do hold hands or put poles between us often, but only when considering the students physical and emotional state). If the arms collapse the student can end up beneath the instructor wrenching a ski away. Generally an instructors bindings, set for when he/she is free skiing will not release under such a slow pressure build up.

If as instructors we teach only positive movements, those movements which are common at all levels of skiing the wedge- direct to parallel debate is mute. If we teach skills that never have to be untaught and that build on what went before a return clientele is the result.
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Use a wedge, make it a small one
Breaking wedge is to stop only (big, not wide)
Shins against the boot, knees bent
Bounce to find balanced stance (can people really bounce at a first lesson?)
No pushing heels out - For a breaking wedge, is the whole foot piviting rather then just the heels pushing out?
Turn by turning feet, not pressing down with the foot...toes in the direction you want to go. (wish I heard that 10 years ago)

What about the point the knees in the direction you want to go? Where does that lead you astray later?

Don't ski next to someone ....I assume real small kids are an exception
Take care in skiing backwards (Note, need to learn to ski backwards)
Can also ski forward with student putting their hands on my back (will put them more forward & I'm better at skiing forward also)

Wish we had a ropetow or magic carpet.
post #15 of 16
Yes they can bounce, or hop is a good word too. My director has been using the backward ski thig for about 10 years. No mishaps. We're going about 3 mph. You are doing it 1 to 3 times, usually once or twice down the little hill, then they are on their own. it's just untilthey get their balance. in short while, boy are they having fun! Some have never skied before, some had lessons before and said it didn't work out, and they are giving it one last try. Boy are they surprised!

We can argue and pick apart everyone's teaching methods here, how dangerous tis is, how one learns and unlearns skills, and beat it to death how this is wrong and that is right. it doesn't matter. What I ahve learned very quickly this season and last that skiing with the kid between your legs does not work. Skiing beside them doesn't work very well. Being in front is good because I can quickly see where their hips and legs are going. I correct quickly.

The incredible number of new skiers we taught and their positive responses to us and to the management of teh organization speaks for itself.

The one and only thing that is important, which I am sure we all agree on is They get started skiing, quickly, with the least effort, shortest possible time, and above all.... having fun! And that's what it's all about. Bob Now, someone send Mt. Hood more snow please! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #16 of 16
Originally posted by arcadie:

I just have to respond to this thread, especially if new instructors are following it.
Take some time to think over the advice being offered here.

Think about what you are teaching and ask yourself if you are really launching these students on a path that will lead to their skiing the way you do or will you be giving them bad habits that will make it difficult for them to progress.

Teaching level one lessons well is not particularly easy but learning to do it well can teach you a lot about teaching and about skiing. Don't beleive for a minute the person who tells you that its just a matter of picking up a set of exercises that you crank out to whoever comes along. That's a formula for a really bad lesson and you will be doing your students a major disservice.
arcadie, you are so right!

I never sought certification, or wanted to be a professional instructor. But I have taught all of my friends and their kids. I never even allowed them to think of a wedge until they graduated from green runs, and they are fine. Some of them are now skiing better than me; some are teaching their friends along the same lines as I had taught them. None of them decided to quit skiing. None of them has been stuck in the green runs for longer than a couple of days - even in the times of straight skis. A typical grownup is strong enough to make a hockey stop on groomed snow, and keeping toes pointing in the same direction is easier than having the ski tips near crossing. They just do not go to a hill where they are afraid, and that eliminates the need for a braking wedge.

The first thing I teach them is making the stairs up and sideslipping down, controlling the countered position of the body and hands.

Then we gradually start pointing the tips down, each run a little further, but still staying in control, at the same time increasing the steepness of the hill and maybe alternating ice vs. packed powder.

This way, by the time they are ready for a turn, they already know how to dose their edging.

Then comes the point of truth, and it's best to go back to a gentle shallow hill with a hardpack. We make our first pivoted parallel turn and sideslip to a stop. This is where I try to introduce pole plant as an up-unloading mechanism.

Then we make 2 linked (Parallel) turns, and after that I take them to the next level in steepness (make sure it's packed powder, no ice). Two runs down the green runs making parallel turns and playing with the edges. After that they are on their own. It takes a full beginner approximately 3-5 hours to get to that point.

If my student is not a beginner, then we learn wedge turns, and weight distribution, and edge rolling - as one part of skiing, but not as the entire purpose of it,- and start from there. I try to avoid stem turns unless we are going to a place that is too steep for them with the technique they have. Then I teach them stem turns, but before we go there.

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but at least they will rely on their skills and not on technology in their skiing.

[ February 14, 2003, 06:20 PM: Message edited by: AlexG ]
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