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Calling All Instructors - Do You Ever Just Ski - Page 2

post #31 of 46
Skiers who need to "push their limits" everytime they ski are every bit as anal as skiers who need to improve every day.
post #32 of 46
I teach every day of the season, everyday I just ski. Me and another instructor make it our business just to ski from 7:30 to 10, straight, no eat breaks or anything, just to go out and have a good time, and to rip.
post #33 of 46
Just a student perspective here - but my instructors make all my lessons FUN! I'm the idiot who tries to get too absorbed in 'getting it right'. They are the ones who have to pull me back to reality!

One of the recent exhortations "Long turns to the bottom - GO FAST - HAVE FUN!"
By the end of the run I was back into it & as I pulled up I was asked "Now wasn't that FUN?" - stupid question - I was grinning ear to ear again!

I don't think any of the guys tolerate me being serious for too long - they are quite determined that my PASSION(instilled by them & other great instructors) will continue to GROW. That's WHY I can still find the passion required to continue with the amount of WORK I put into skiing - it is both work & PLAY - all at the same time! They expect from me what they themselves put in - work hard & enjoy it all.
post #34 of 46
I just got to this thread (can't believe the fast connection I have tonight!) and my answer is HELL YEAH!
I have a season pass at the neighbouring large resort, and on my weekly day off, I go there to ski some more terrain, and socialise with my friends. They all do Masters until 1.30pm, so after having coffee with them before they start, I go off and hunt moguls and treez and just cruise around. I'm not in uniform and only a few of the staff know that I instruct...then at 1.30pm, I ski with the crew, listening to what they've done in their lesson, marvelling at the different ways they interpret what they've been taught that day (as they teach it to each other!) and generally having fun.

even when teaching, I rarely stiffen up to do demos or lead the group. If I make a wrong move while demoing, I'll generally let out a squawk, wave my arms and legs around, and then get back into it! today, while leading my ladies through their 2nd day of learning to use their carve skis properly, I really cut loose and did some big super-carves, and they happily followed along, laughing at the silly noises I was making (Whoops and Weees, mainly).

skiing is always fun, I reckon. Um, except for 3 year old beginners. I can't find the fun in that!
post #35 of 46
I stand corrected by Oz and Bob. While I do not partake, I understand there is such a thing as exciting discipline. Bob's note about the skilled pilot rings true, so I accept that disciplined excitement is a possibility.

But let me ask you this: why are ski instructors dissed far and wide by "free skiers" as uptight, boring, anal retentive, and verbose? Why do so many instructors "free ski" by taking laps on cruisers doing perfect turns instead of challenging the ugly snow and perhaps making imperfect turns (and learning something new)?

Why do so many instructors fear failure? (As I interpret the root of their behavior.) I have to look no further than the Fall Fund kept by many ski schools to buy end-of-the-season potables for the employee party. (Whereby instructors who fall down with their ski school jacket on are charged a premium and those who fall without jacket on are charged a smaller fee.)

And since I'm on the topic, why do I see so many of my peers standing on the side of runs for long stretches at a time leading a discussion with their students? Why is it, to an observer, that they have the class doing exercise after exercise, in single file, punctuated by the long standing routine at the side of the run?

In exams, the greatest source of low risk management scores is choosing the wrong place to stand with your class.

Our ski school sponsors early morning clinics for instructors a couple of days a week. I generally don't get to the area early enough to join the groups, but I can get up the mountain early enough to see the groups out and observe from the chair. So often, the clinician has the group standing on the side of the run, doing exercises in single file, etc. It is not unsuual for me to make three runs while the group is still standing in the same place!

This is very bad for our image. That clinician must judge what's coming out his/her mouth as worth the wait, no doubt. I find it to be a graphic reminder to the public to scratch the idea of taking a lesson, if that's what they have to look forward to!
post #36 of 46
> ...And since I'm on the topic, why do I see so many of my peers standing on the side of runs for long stretches at a time leading a discussion with their students? ...

Hi Nolo -

There is an extremely obvious answer to your question. In fact, I strongly suspect that you already know it, so I'm not sure exactly why you are asking other than your usual, laudable goal of stimulating discussion.

With adults (not just instructors), there is an absolutely inescapable requirement that part of their instruction be directed to their intellectual faculties. Not all of their instruction can be of the "follow me", "move your leg this way", or "lets go out and rip" kind. Most adults in the process of learning any subject have at least a minimal need to know why something is important, why it works, how its going to fit into the intellectual framework that they are in the process of developing in their own minds.

For a relatively small fraction of skiers, one way to do this is to read books, join EpicSki discussions, chat with buds, etc. about vocabulary, equipment, technical and instructional issues, etc. when they are not on the hill. For these people, when they get to the hill and a suggestion or correction is necessary, the specialized vocabulary has already been learned, and much of the intellectual framework is already in place, so a few words suffice, and they are quickly off skiing again.

To get back to your question, the vast majority of skiers and instructors do not partake of this sort of dryland "training" to any degree at all. So, they wind up doing the rudiments of what we do so naturally here on EpicSki (in the comfort of our own living rooms) while standing around on the edge of trails, and if recreational skiers, paying handsomely for that time both in terms of lesson and lift ticket costs.

IMHO, I don't think there is any possibility of changing this in the foreseeable future, because for most recreational skiers, skiing is "just a hobby", and for the majority of instructors, they have to juggle the total amount of time they spend on skiing with their "real" jobs, their families, etc. This is why there are 3000 people registered on EpicSki, not 300,000.

Hope this was a bit more comprehensible than my usual posts. At least I'm not trying to write it on a handheld like some people I know - LOL.

Tom / PM
post #37 of 46

You are saying that adult lessons require that we stand on the side of the hill talking and doing a lot of exercises in single file? And that ski instructor training is a form of adult lesson, so the fact that ski instructors in particular have a tendency to stand on the side of runs talking, is actually excellent reinforcement for the "real deal"?

Well, no doubt you are a cognitive soft of guy, and certainly some of my students are cognitives, but not many, really. I find I can get the message across with relatively few verbal cues. If they want to go into technical depth, our area provides a nice long ride up the hill.

Most students I teach are more visual and kinesthetic in their learning preferences, and I find too much information hampers their performance. Like Harald says, pick the ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Of course, Harald got it from Aristotle, who liked to talk about the Prime Mover. What's the one thing we can change in your skiing in the next two hours that will yield the greatest benefit? That's how I frame the challenge. It's not skiing in the abstract, but skiing in the here-and-now.

For skiing in the abstract, as you have pointed out, there are wonderful books, plenty of videos, and the excellent conversation here on EpicSki. I reckon we all learn a bit about skiing in summer due to this influence...
post #38 of 46
>...You are saying that adult lessons require that we stand on the side of the hill talking and doing a lot of exercises in single file? ...

I'm saying that for even the most visual / imitative of adult students, less than a certain minimum amount of talk time has to vastly decrease the efficiency of your instruction, particularly, with multi-day students. This happens, if for no other reason than giving them a minimal vocabulary by which the student and instructor can chat about skiing with some reasonable degree of efficiency.

For example, with one level of students, you can give them the concept of corresponding edges by example, but unless you give it a name, each time you ever need to refer to it again, you will always be forced to say something long and tedious like, "...you remember that time when both of your knees moved in the same direction and so the left sides of both of your skis lifted up and you turned nicely? Well, you are doing it wonderfully, but yada, yada."

Would you prefer to get across the concept of inside and outside ski by investing a bit of time talking and defining the concept once, or trying to get across an inactive inside leg by saying something like, "in your turns to the left, your right leg was ok, but your left knee needed to be moved further left, whereas in your right turns, etc. blah etc. blah".

I'm not talking about any sort of deep discussions of technique (like we get into here) or obscure ski-instructor jargon, but just the most basic vocabulary. It may not seem like much, but getting across even that minimal amount of vocabulary will inevitably result in significant amounts of time spent standing around.

For students that you will only see for an hour or two, you can (as somebody mentioned a month or two ago) get away with grunting and mime, but a certain minimal vocabulary helps everyone, and getting this across takes time if they haven't learned it before the lesson and need to learn it during the lesson.

>...And that ski instructor training is a form of adult lesson, so the fact that ski instructors in particular have a tendency to stand on the side of runs talking...

If you are attempting to teach the instructors the differences between cognitive and imitative learners while they are out on the mountain, I would contend that its going to be pretty hard to do so without extensive use of language (and you can't very well do this while moving).

If, OTOH, you do this sort of work in an off-line classroom setting, and reserve the on-the-hill training to improving their own skiing, doing better demos, etc., then I would contend that the instructors are not that different from any other adult learner, just more advanced. The movements and movement blends are more subtle than at lower levels, the degree of perfection required is higher, and hence, I would contend that verbal explanations are even more needed at this advanced level than at lower levels.

For example, how does the coach handle the racer who asks why shouldn't I push my tails out (ie, versus turning tips IN). Sure, the coach can demonstrate the difference, but if there isn't an intellectual framework, its an instruction given in isolation - likely to be misinterpreted or forgotten. Don't forget, it has taken Bob Barnes hundreds of messages to get across concepts like the above or "skiing the slow line fast".

>...Well, no doubt you are a cognitive sort of guy, ...

Guilty as charged, Judge.

>...If they want to go into technical depth, our area provides a nice long ride up the hill....

As I mentioned above, I'm not talking about getting across matters of any great technical depth, just the basics.

>... I find I can get the message across with relatively few verbal cues. ... Most students I teach are more visual and kinesthetic ... What's the one thing we can change in your skiing in the next two hours that will yield the greatest benefit? That's how I frame the challenge. ...

I really like your "What's the one thing" approach, particularly with students you will only see for a short period of time. However, I must ask if you modify that approach with the group of women students that you once mentioned that you see for the entire season. Do you not find it at all adventageous to get across the appropriate pieces of framework and vocabulary as you are progressing through the season (ie, tasks requiring significant amounts verbal communication)?

Basically, all that I am trying to say is that IMHO, if you try to reduce the amount of standing-around listening time by too large a factor, the students will suffer in the long term, just as they will suffer in a different way if you yack at them too much.

All the best,

Tom / PM

[ August 28, 2002, 10:21 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #39 of 46
Great points, Tom, and it's refreshing to hear this point of view, for a change! I'm with Nolo in observing usually WAY TOO MUCH time spent preaching, rather than teaching and skiing. But you are right that, to meet the needs of some students especially, we need to explain things to them--as much as they want or need. The explanation may have little to do with actually performing an exercise, or making a turn, but it may be necessary for their intellectual curiosity. Not everyone, for sure, but LOTS of people do take lessons to get their questions answered. For these people, refusing to "stand around and talk" would actually short change them!

Brevity, nevertheless, is gold. Communication of all the necessary ideas is what we owe to our students. Given that, fewer words that accomplish the same thing are almost ALWAYS preferable to more words. Many instructors do tend to become excessively verbose, and often repetitive, and this is where we get the bad reputation. Quite often, these long explanations take place because the instructor does not know the material well enough to make it simple and brief. He can't distill the important stuff from all the details--so he explains the details.

On the snow I will admit that I am usually a DOER, and an experimenter. I prefer an instructor who can get an idea across VERY quickly, give me a simple idea of what to DO, and then let me do it! I get annoyed and impatient when an instructor has made his/her point, then continues to elaborate, or repeat it, again, and again...when I'm ready to go TRY it!

But you're absolutely right that we must not take this too far. Some students need to let an idea sink in a little more, or they need to understand the principle behind the movement, or they want justification for why they should practice a particular thing. These can be real needs, and in our intent to meet the needs of our students, we must be ready to accommodate this! In a perfect world (all right, MY perfect world) we would do all this necessary discussion here at EpicSki during the off-season or non-skiing hours, or at least on the chairlift. When on the snow, we'd ski!

Still, I'm reluctant to endorse the idea that it's all right to stand around on the hill and "discuss skiing"--even sometimes. It is, of course--you're right, but the message most instructors need is the opposite. It's VERY rare to hear someone complain about a lesson where they skied too much, and talked too little! Especially with groups--too many of those "discussions" are the instructor answering the question of one individual student, while the rest of the group stands around with glazed eyes, poking holes in the snow with their poles. Or it's the instructor rambling because he doesn't understand it himself. If it's just a movement that needs describing, or an exercise, I can't think of very many that can't be communicated simply, in just a few seconds. "Here's what we're gonna do...move like this...got it? Let's try it!"

I observed a lesson quite a few years ago, in which the instructor expounded on virtually everything he knew about skiing, and quite a bit that he (unfortunately) did NOT know, too. It was obvious from watching the group that, to a person, they were completely overwhelmed, bored, and confused. And yet he droned on. When they finally "moved" it would be one turn, then more preaching. It was agonizing, and I believe that these students learned absolutely NOTHING in that lesson, except that they sure didn't want another one! I discussed the lesson with the instructor afterward, and he explained that he was employing the "spaghetti theory"--throw enough spaghetti at the wall and something's bound to stick. I wanted to cry....

Even if something DOES need a longer explanation (and I'll reluctantly concede that there ARE times), when it is finally time to SKI, it should be a proportionately longer ski session too--maybe even an entire long run, or several shorter runs. I go ballistic when I see endless drawn out explanations (especially of something very simple) followed by one or two turns, then more explanation....

Advice to instructors: SKI! Explain concepts as needed, but practice explaining them in as few words as possible, and keep 'em moving! If you must stand for two minutes, then SKI for two minutes. There is NOTHING in skiing that needs 10 uninterrupted minutes to explain. The longest of posts here at EpicSki does not take 5 minutes to read--and that's when there are NOT turns waiting to be made! Use lift rides to explain when you can, especially if it's something of interest to only one or two people.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #40 of 46
That's the very thing I'm working on right now. I CAN expound at length in response to a question from a student, but have to learn to distill it, and maybe ride the lift with that person so I can elaborate for their benefit. today teaching in utterly vile weather (rain, gales, wet snow, mist, you name it) I really concentrated on this: plan the next step, a few sentences on what and why, a demo, and straight into it.

trouble is, quite often at the top of the chair, looking out on the rooftop (literally) of Australia, everyone wants to stand and natter!
post #41 of 46
Okay, let's go deeper into the topic of NATTERING in the learning environment. (Thanks, Ant, for that spritz of new vocabulary.)

Tom asks if I use the One Most Important Thing rule with my 10-week classes. Yes, but the time frame is more generous than the "retail" lesson (in-speak for the unitary purchase), so we begin at the first most important thing and go from there. If anything, I talk less as time goes on.

But let me bolster Tom's point. Last year I added an afternoon option to my women's group to increase flexibility and find space for new students. I allowed them to decide which session they would attend. I didn't set up a process for controlling group sizes in the a.m. or p.m., all I said was the a.m. group was going to focus on attitude and the p.m. group was going to focus on technique.

I also did a Weds. co-ed class, and some of the women were taking that class too. So I had some signed up for two 10-week classes and some for one and people coming to the classes that fit their desires for being there or were just more convenient that week.

All the classes were on the same stuff: good fundamental skiing. What made them different was the terrain we skied, the pace we went, and the amount of Q&A. (My verbal teaching style is more ask than tell...)

So, I agree with you, PhysicsMan! There are students who, once they understand why, move effortlessly to the what and the how.

But you have to understand, most of my students have been skiing for a very long time. The women especially are lesson-takers, lesson connoisseurs perhaps. One of my most faithful students took lessons from Junior Bounous. Their heads are packed to bursting with concepts. What they need is organization! Enter the instructor, who helps sort the beans from the fruit, or, as my friend says, "simplify the complexity" for them. This allows them to examine what's there, decide if it's relevant, keep what works, and throw away the excess. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Pare it down to what is necessary and sufficient.

I've had a lot of my students for many years. They know that the object of our study is to achieve the Patagonia aesthetic: all that is necessary and nothing more. Tread softly and leave the least trace. Technology is good. Try before you buy. Boot fitting is essential. When in doubt, go for the two-piece outfit. Mittens beat gloves. Helmets are fine, but are not a substitute for sound decision-making.

The new students need to be brought up to speed, but I would bore the experienced students by delivering the same content over and over, so often I ask experienced students to explain a fundamental concept to the class as a review and check for understanding. If I use a different metaphor to communicate "which ski changes direction first," for instance, I often have a student bring up the metaphor I used previously, offering it up to the new students as additional "spaghetti" in case the (perhaps not) improved version doesn't stick. In other words, the class is encouraged to take the lesson into their own hands. Often I will meet the class and their spokesperson says, "we've taken a poll and we've decided we want to do X today." Oookay!

It's easy work. Like I said, I have taken to talking less, and they have taken to talking more. If you see us standing on the side of the run talking, it's probably a personal topic that's getting a workover, not ski technique.

Nevertheless, we ski hard in my classes. I may only ski on class days, depending on the week, so I don't want to stand around either!
post #42 of 46
Have the long discussions on the chair or at lunch. Keep to the most important point while on the snow. I tell my students that I can only think of one thing at a time so that is all that I will ask them to do.
post #43 of 46
It's interesting, I always have private lessons v. group lessons so I'm the only student with the instructor. Yet I don't recall ever discussing anything to do with the lesson during the lift times unless I'm asking a question. It's like the lesson stops once we get on the lift and begins again once we get off. I'd love to say this was an isolated instance, has anyone else experienced this? The conversation is normally about where I'm from, where I'm staying, my job, blah blah blah. Seems like a total waste of valuable time that I'm paying for!
post #44 of 46
Interesting observation, Pete--hard to say whether it was an "isolated instance" or not. I suspect that many instructors are often reluctant to INITIATE technical discussions on the lift--but they are usually very happy to discuss them if YOU open the door with a question.

Also, don't underestimate how much important information an experienced instructor learns about you from seemingly meaningless "small talk." Questions like "what other sports do you play," "what do you do for a living," "what hobbies interest you," "what was your favorite subject in school," and so on, can yield many clues that can help the instructor better meet your goals, needs, expectations, and desires--even if you didn't even recognize them yourself!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #45 of 46
I would say pretty much every lesson we spend stacks of lift time discussing what I need to do & am currently doing in my skiing. Also what we are going to do etc. The only time this wasn't the case was in Canada(my only attempt at group lessons ever). I HATED THAT - how am I to know what you want when you just won't TELL ME?

I confess to being absolutely hung up on at least UNDERSTANDING what it is that is required. I can refuse to start skiing until I am given an adequate explanation. So I find the lift discussions pretty much a necessity if we are to get some skiing done. Our lift companions often seem to find the conversations amusing/interesting. We have managed to provide 'advertisements' for instructor/ski school quite a few times - when someone just gets too into the discussion & decides lessons don't seem so bad after all.

On the 'move more talk less'front. One of my instrcutors is an examiner & as we watched the candidates doing exams with some examiners he told me that one of them was in trouble(we were on the chair overhead). It all seemed fine to me - regular class set up with instructor below & students skiing down one at a time & being spoken to by instructor on arrival. My instructor informed me that it is NOT Ok to have a class standing around so much - hence his assessment of trouble for this candidate(from his ski school & someone he had been helping with study for a written component) It seems this has CHANGED - newer instructors are expected to keep the class moving over here.

Also I'm with Physics Man - it is MUCH simpler when I ahve skied with an instructor for a while. Then a simple "More rotary" or "More inside leg" or "arms" will suffice. With a new instructor though we need to build a common understanding of the vocabulary we are using. This would seem to be a given - but is seldom the case - as it alwasy seems to take time.
post #46 of 46
Thread Starter 
I will let you the student be the judge. As a student you can help us be better instructors!

I teach at a small ski area so the time from top to bottom is short. Therefore it is very important to maximize hill time and lift/line time. It seems I always start my lessons with of course a friendly introduction, a visual review of my student, questions concerning what the student would like to gain from their lesson (usually I am told whatever I think. Of course I hate that answer but I have learned to manipulate it.), I ask the student to contemplate how they might think they best learn and give the student some food for thought on how students learn but ask them not to answer until the next run, and then if I feel the student is comfortable (I believe these are a little more personal questions and I want the student comfortable before I delve in. Most of the time the student will expand on the true questions such as where they live, their career expectations etc.) I ask what they do for a living and or what school they go to and their major etc. We will then take a fun run but I don’t disguise the purpose of the run. I usually will say lets take a run back to the lift and please smile and ski your own style/turns etc. so I can get a visual of your skiing that will allow us to chat about what our goal might be for today’s lesson. Now I know they are still thinking about how they learn and that is good! The student will then at least half concentrate on something other than making perfect turns allowing their skiing to be somewhat autonomous. Then from the lift line to the top of the lift we will of course discuss pleasantries, I will ask if they felt in their what I might have seen –explaining that I could have seen something that was not actually there allowing them to understand I am human as an instructor so now we are bonding closer as a team for our lesson period- always asking never telling, we discuss how they might what to receive informational i.e. technical discussion, visual etc.-the student seems to always be aware they have several ways they learn- and if time permits we agree on one goal for our next run. If not we exit the lift and chitchat for a moment then establish one goal we have for our next free run and off we go to the bottom. The next ride is critical because this is where and when the student and I will agree on a preliminary course of action for our lesson and a few ways we will interact with each other to accomplish our agreed to goal such as how technical, we agree it is their lesson and at any point together we can agree to change the direction we are going and I want a commitment from them they will tell me if they want a redirection and they will definitely ask questions etc. –I have asked for permission to change a lesson focus many times- and of course I assure them the purpose of this lesson is to give them something they can work with later after the lesson and if they do the next time we meet or have a lesson together we will both be proud of their accomplishment and they will have the biggest smile ever seen! At the end of our lesson I repeat while they should practice what we have worked on during the lesson I also explain they must take time out to play too. Work for a while play for a while etc. Suddenly they will find their working has changed to playing because their break through is now something they own! The little package I have given to them during our lesson is now theirs forever.

This in general is how my lessons start and end. In generalities only because students are not cookie cut so as an instructor I must have flexibility. You are the students you be the judge. What am I missing that would help you to be a better student? I believe a student’s opportunity for success starts when I say, “Hello I am…and we are about to have a great day!”

Have a Great Day!
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