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A Hypothetical Situation

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
You have a morning lesson (2-3 hours) with a beginner. This young man or woman is very athletic, has participated in a variety of sports their whole lives, and he/she is very confident of their athletic ability. He/she has always wanted to ski and is committed to taking up skiiing as his/her main winter sport and recreational activity now that he/she has moved from Florida to within driving range of the mountains. He/she has worked with the noted local shop and bootfitter to select (what you consider to be excellent) equipment, fit the boots with custom molded footbeds, and get properly aligned.

Now for the big caveat - this person has always learned for themselves in every sport he/she has participated in and been extremely successful. He/she firmly believes he/she can teach themselves to ski and want you to just set them off on the right path. He/she has never taken lessons in any sport regularly and past experience has convinced him/her that he/she can learn for themself most effectively.

What do you do with them?
post #2 of 15
Come on, Si. This is a no-brainer!

You set the guy the challenge of seeing just how far he can progress in 3 hours. Use the chair rides for feedback, explanation, and pre-learning for the next run. Ski, ski, ski.

This is a doer. Let the doer do. The teacher's role is to help the doer process what happened and why and to guide him to the next challenge.
post #3 of 15

very interesting scenario. thanks for the attention to detail. very curious about the responses you get. Nolo, i like your response. anything specific you'd begin with. your own starting point to bounce off this student?
post #4 of 15
My first thing would be make sure he/she is familiar with the equipment and talk about cross over skills and sports. Find out what other sports this person is active in and relate some of the cross over movement patterns. start with a few glides and balance exercises (all this would probably take about 10-15 minutes and some of it could be done on chair rides like Nolo said) and go do it. Put as many runs in as possible.
post #5 of 15
I would start by finding the closest sport in his background to use for transfer.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by nolo:
Come on, Si. This is a no-brainer!
OK Nolo, I'll challenge you on that. Your initial comments are well taken but I am hoping that people will think both inside and outside the box in their comments. In this case perhaps verbal advice and guidance for the future is as or more important than what happens on the slope? I am also hoping people will provide some hypotheticals on where to start and progressions from there. I suspect this would be a no-brainer for you but I would still be interested in hearing (and learning from) the details of what you would do.
post #7 of 15
Sorry, Si. I was being flip. But this student is not a challenge in the sense most students are a challenge. This is a wellness consult, not healing the halt and the lame.

Just as a doctor might approach a well patient, I would want to use the three hours to impart some advice for life/wellness support, point him to available resources, and confirm that he is following a good course.

I have had students like this. Hockey players have the best transfer to skiing imaginable. Let's say this guy played hockey in college. How far can he go in 3 hours? He can be skiing groomed blue runs with confidence and high fidelity between intent and action. We might even introduce handling variable terrain and conditions.

The challenge would be to keep this student. The way to do that would be to find the guy's failure point to create an incentive for continuing under your guidance. See the discussion about Mermer Blakeslee and the Europa Cup skier for more on finding the point of failure in an accomplished skier.
post #8 of 15
I agree with Nolo, Si. This is what we deal with ALL THE TIME! We have a student who comes from some background, bringing a unique combination of athleticism, perception, experience, anxiety, training, interests, information, misinformation, goals--both reasonable and unreasonable, both conscious and subconscious, expectations, psyche, learning preferences and aptitudes, mood, and equipment. He's had some particular amount and quality of sleep, eaten some particular breakfast that may or may not agree with him, may or may not have gotten that promotion at work on Friday, may or may not own a bunch of WorldCom stock, and may or may not have had a fight with his girlfriend the night before--all these things, and an infinite number more, will affect his lesson on any given day. Your hypothesis, detailed as it is, hardly scratches the surface of what we'll need to know to develop a lesson plan for your student. All you can be sure of is that an effective instructor will do his/her best to identify and address this individual's needs, and to facilitate his/her progress as well as possible, given all these things.

What you have described is probably the easiest possible scenario for an instructor! As Nolo said, it's all but a "no-brainer."

But I suspect that you are trying to seed a discussion with the notion that this student is UNIQUE, in being far more capable than the "average" student, and that therefore we might proceed somehow "differently" than usual. That might be the case if our teaching model was based on a standard progression designed for the average student.

But it definitely is NOT! Most modern teaching models today--certainly PSIA's--are "student-focused," not "progression-based." The underlying, over-riding ASSUMPTION is that every student has unique needs and capabilities, and that every successful lesson must therefore be custom-designed.

So with this student, we custom-design the lesson, just like we do with everyone else. You have identified a particular understanding need--the need to be convinced of the value of lessons so that his natural learning ability doesn't just lead him to learn all the "wrong stuff" on his own (which it very likely would). But this is just one of many needs that we must address.

Perhaps the clearest visual representation of the process is PSIA's new "Stepping Stones" model, outlined in the new ALPINE TECHNICAL MANUAL. It describes a beginning point--where the student IS--and an endpoint--where the student wants to go--and emphasizes that there are usually many different routes between the points, and that it is the job of the instructor and student to work together to determine the optimal route, based on who the student IS. We must identify the beginning and endpoints, as well as the preferences and capabilities of the student, to be successful.

The "stepping stones" analogy alludes to crossing a shallow rocky stream. You know where you are--on this side. You know where you want to go--to a point on the other shore. There are all kinds of routes between here and there. One person might make a few enormous, athletic leaps, possibly getting his feet wet along the way, arriving quickly at the other side. Someone else might wander up and down the shore, before finally finding a safe, conservative route of closely-spaced, tiny little steps that meander all over the place. It's a nice, very applicable analogy to the learning process!

What I REALLY suspect you're doing, Si, is beating around the bushes, trying again to rouse that tired "wedge vs. parallel" monster. Because your student is unusually gifted, would we skip the "wedge step" of the progression and go for "direct parallel"? Please forgive me if I'm wrong here. But if that's the real question, it represents a misunderstanding of what effective instructors do. There IS no "wedge step"--because our teaching is not based on a progression in the first place!

The uninformed eye might observe the lesson with this student and say--"yep--they went 'direct parallel'" But that would not represent any change whatsoever from standard procedure!

So NO--I would not change a thing in this regard with your "ideal" student. Remember that the wedge turn--wedge christie--basic parallel--dynamic parallel "progression" is not something we TEACH. It is merely a recognition of several representative milestones that pretty much every student passes through as they progress from beginner through expert. Even if we never mention, demonstrate, or suggest a wedge, if the students develop appropriate skills, they'll make one, in the right situations--as you and I do.

Your hypothetical student is likely to pass the initial milestones very quickly--neither you nor he might even notice them as they whiz by. His comfort level with speed and athletic movement will probably enable him to make parallel turns and beyond very quickly. If he's a hockey player, he may skate all over the hill from the start. He may leap across the stream in a single bound! Our teaching models certainly won't hold him back.

We DO NOT TEACH WEDGE TURNS, or parallel turns (broken record here). We teach skills, movements, and tactics, to help individual students achieve their goals. That's what we do with everyone. That's what we'll do with your student.

Point him my way!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ July 03, 2002, 07:58 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:

What I REALLY suspect you're doing, Si, is beating around the bushes, trying again to rouse that tired "wedge vs. parallel" monster. Because your student is unusually gifted, would we skip the "wedge step" of the progression and go for "direct parallel"? Please forgive me if I'm wrong here. But if that's the real question, it represents a misunderstanding of what effective instructors do. There IS no "wedge step"--because our teaching is not based on a progression in the first place!
OK Bob, I'll forgive you. While you and I may disagree on some of the potential "hazards" of the wedge, my post had nothing to do with this issue. It was actually based on an instructional approach to tennis that I recently read about that has a very different focus that one normally finds. It led me to think that some people might change their approach in a situation such as the one proposed and that maybe some of those changes would be good for others. My point was to discover what people would do in this end of the spectrum of teaching situations. I only want to encourage more responses so that I can learn more.

[ July 03, 2002, 09:11 PM: Message edited by: Si ]
post #10 of 15

You are describing the way I was when I started skiing at the age of 29 (save for the boot fitting/alignment, which is somewhat useless to a beginner, despite PMTS claims to the contrary - but I will get to that soon). I am sure that you know already that a lesson (almost any lesson) is infinitely better than being brought to the top of the mountain and let go. My friends who brought me skiing assumed that my athletic background will take care of everything. It took me almost 1/2 hour to come down 1800 vertical feet and I was on a green run! (if one knows the 4 km run from the top of Mont Orford, you know that never-evers should not start there).

But somebody did eventually tell me about the wedge. That alone kept me on my feet for longer periods, not to mention the safety factor on the upper part of the run, which is very narrow. But I do not mean to bring the wedge into this. All I want to say is that with a never-ever, any lesson from a competent instructor will make a world of difference.

As for the boot fitting & alignment for a never-ever - I think it is overrated (other than to provide comfort out of the box or to correct gross physical issues). Even with a perfect boot fit, it takes time to learn to balance on your skis. It takes time to get the courage to commit to a new turn and to lighten that inside foot. Parallel skiing will be infinitely more threatening than the gliding wedge to most people. So the idea is to use your judgment (as others have mentioned) and guide him/her through the lesson, but keep him/her in the comfort zone. Nothing worse than getting an injury that first time!
post #11 of 15
I am not an instructer but I believe that a good job boot of fitting is very important for the first time skier. Painfully tight boots or those that someone's feet swim in depriving them of any meaningful control are two of the biggest reasons that first timers never become second timers.

I think that the new soft boots from Kneissl, Rossi, Saloman, etc. are a good idea at least for renters. They allow the rental shop staff a better way to get a pretty fair fit quickly. Cantable soles make sense for the same reason. A decent fix for major canting issues can be quickly achieved making the learning experience more productive without being compromised by equipment/physical characteristic issues. As for teaching the wedge, it has a number of virtues not the least of which is to help new skiers to avoid crashing into others waiting in the lift line.
post #12 of 15

To begin with I would start out just as I would with any other student. Here are my reasons why. There is no sport where the equipment used is so extreme. By this I mean the boots and skis, and to a lesser extent, the clothing restrict the natural movement patterns that we have learned over the years. Just the radical restriction of the normal range of flexion in the ankle requires that we remind the beginner that balance begins with small movements of the feet, ankles, and lower legs rather than grosser movements of the upper body. It can take just as long for an athletic student to adjust to this as it takes a less athletic student. Also the sensations that a new student experiences, sliding on the feet rather than taking steps, has few parallels in other sports except for skating. The student has to become comfortable with these sensations before they can really advance. We are performing in a low friction environment on a playground that is tilted. Every other sport I can think of off hand takes place in a high friction environment on a level playground. Until the new student adjusts to these different factors all beginners are equal and strong backgrounds in other sports can sometimes even be a hindrance to making this adjustment. For example, tennis players are very good at changing direction and then accelerating in that new direction. The movement pattern that they have learned to do this can interfere with their being able to learn the new movement pattern needed to become a proficient skier. How long it takes a new skier to adjust to these factors seems to be independent of their athletic background. Of course all of this sort of goes out the window if one of the sports that the student participated in involved skating. Skating skills seem to transfer almost directly to skiing.

Now having said all that I do expect that the athletically inclined student will progress fairly quickly through all the introductory stuff and we will quickly arrive at what I think is your point.
This is someone who might never take another lesson but expects to become proficient at the sport in short order. They not only expect to have friends take them into challenging situations but are looking forward to it, and if their friends don't take them there then they are quite capable of following the signs with the black diamonds on them by themselves. So, I would not only teach them simple physical cues to allow them to go where they want to go and use the tool on their feet as it is meant to be used in what Bob refers to as a positive manner but I would also spend a good deal of time equipping them with "survival skills". Most of these survival skills involve a less than positive use of the skis and include things like vertical and forward sideslips,
breaking wedges, wedge entry to turns, hop turns, pushing on the tails and other "negatives" that don't occur to me right now. I wish I didn't have to teach these things but this student is going to need them because one way or another they are going to be skiing terrain that is beyond their skill level. I would also deliberately take this student into terrain they aren't ready for so that they could practice the survival skills under my watchful eye. In the end, I wouldn't be really happy with the lesson I was forced to teach but the student would.

One other thing, I wouldn't expect this student to become a "good" skier. They will probably start by using their strength, stamina and survival skills to become a "ski anywhere hacker" of a very high order. If they stay in the sport long enough, ski enough each season and have the opportunity to ski with really "good" skiers they will eventually reach higher skill levels themselves. But if they spend their time skiing with hackers then they will just become the best of the hackers.

This may not be the answer that you were looking for but it is an answer based on a number of years of experience teaching in the real world and actually having taught the student you describe not just once but several times both in group lessons and in privates. The best outcome for this student is if they become convinced that skiing is different enough from every other sport that they need to continue their formal learning process and do return for more lessons. Along this line, my favorite beginner student is the long time, high level athlete who has been coached throughout their careers and expects on going coaching to be a part of becoming a good skier. These are the ones who ski blacks after six days on skis and handle varied conditions well on their first exposure to them.

Hope this makes sense,

post #13 of 15
Originally posted by Ydnar:

One other thing, I wouldn't expect this student to become a "good" skier. They will probably start by using their strength, stamina and survival skills to become a "ski anywhere hacker" of a very high order. If they stay in the sport long enough, ski enough each season and have the opportunity to ski with really "good" skiers they will eventually reach higher skill levels themselves. But if they spend their time skiing with hackers then they will just become the best of the hackers.
Good post, Yd! I would expect the above paragraph, in one form or another, to actually become part of the lesson for Si's hypothetical (but so common) student. Helping the skier to understand the point you have described so well may be all that is needed to circumvent the problem!

Few good athletes relish the idea of becoming "hacks." Fewer still enjoy encountering the inevitable barriers that their "hackness" will eventually erect!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
Nice post Yd, thanks. Your post gives me a lot to think about. One of the things I wonder about is whether it would be possible to effectively demonstrate at the very beginner level some component of the difference between a "hack" skiing movement and a "proficient" skiing movement to help convince them to change their approach to skiing. I recognize that this might be futile in some instances of this sort but perhaps if we can just save a few!
post #15 of 15
Si and Bob,

I would definitely include the thoughts in the paragraph Bob quoted in the lesson. I would point out skiers on the hill and ask which looked smoother and which seemed to be working harder. I would go as far as to demo to the student the way a hacker would ski a slope and the way a skilled skier would ski the slope then ask them which way they would rather ski. And yes Si, I could demo the difference between “hack” movement patterns and proficient movement patterns on the beginner hill using a wedge stance an open parallel stance or anything in between.

This brings an interesting thought to mind. Most skiers work on becoming “better”, increasing their skill level so that they can ski “right” more of the time. Instructors have to be able to not only demonstrate great skiing but at times we must demonstrate some pretty poor skiing. I have to show that I can lock my feet together and push my heels around to show a student the limits of that style of skiing (and show them that I could ski that way if I wanted but I don’t because there are better ways to ski). Guess it’s just one of those strange things in life. As a instructor I not only have to be able to ski really well but I occasionally have to ski really badly and do that really well.

Think I’ve confused myself enough now, later,

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