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Setting unrealistic expectations?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
Earlier in the season I took a 2-day clinic. The instructor kept referring to our group as “advanced skiers” I would have called my group upper intermediate. The past weekend I took another lesson that instructor kept referring to us (2) as experts. NO way am I an expert. Honestly advanced is stretching it.

Are instructors doing students a disservice by elevating their status? Why do this? Is this an attempt to boost confidence? Make me feel better? I do think this causes students to believe that their skills are of a higher level than they really are.


[ March 03, 2003, 01:36 PM: Message edited by: Kima ]
post #2 of 32
Recognizing that you are truly not an expert (even when others say that you are) is the bane of EpicSki members and others who spend a lot of time on the hill and know how good *real* experts are.

I agree with you and I think that artificially inflating one's expertise is misleading and doesn't do advanced skiers any good. However, its all in the numbers. Your ski school might only see a few advanced skiers per day looking for lessons. So, if they define the top 5% of all walk-up's as experts, then you're one! Similarly, if you can survive a black, there's no doubt that you will be considered a skiing expert to every one of your non-skiing neighbors.

OTOH, if you define "expert" as being in the top 5% of all skiers on the mtn (or all skiers in the USA, etc.), then you might not be one. Personally, I think this latter definition is most in line with common sense. Hum... I just realized we just went over this territory a few weeks ago in a different thread.

Tom / PM
post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 
In another thread people were pretty angry that some people were skiing terrain beyond their abilities. I wonder if an instructor tells a student that she/he is of a higher level than they are does not that instructor bear some culpability when that student goes off on a run that is over thier head?

BTW...The area that I took the lessons has many, many skiers that are better than I.
post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 
Back to my original question. Do instructors over state students abilities? To what end?
post #5 of 32
Yes, some instructors DO overstate their students abilities. This very conversation come up in the locker room this afternoon.

One of our Breakthrough Instrs had a Level 7-8 group. One of the women in the group announced that she had just been through the "Her Turn" program, and was informed by her instr that she was a "strong 7, low 8". As it turned out, she was a good 5-6, and unable to keep up with the group.

She was put into the correct group, but she was very dissappointed with her previous instr for building her up to be something she was not.

I don't think any student appreciates having smoke blown up their a$$#* about how good they are. They would much rather the instrs be honest about it. And if the over estimation was done to merely garner a larger tip, well, I would challenge that instrs ethics and integrity!

To be diplomatic is one thing, but to out and out lie, is quite another!

post #6 of 32
Maybe the instructor meant that you were able to ski terrain classified as expert, and made the common error of equating the terrain with the skiing. I wouldn't worry about it, Kima. It's not like PSIA sent a memo to the troops to inflate students' skier levels. I reckon it was just one instructor trying too hard.
post #7 of 32
.....or there are too many ski pros out there that just don't know the standard. No one in the ski school is on the same page when it comes to what level students are. VSP, we here in Aspen have the same discussions on what are the qualifications for the different levels. It makes it very hard to do splits when everybody has there own idea what a 1 through 9 is. PSIA has a guideline, but no one seems to read it or know what it is. : ---------Wigs
post #8 of 32
It seems there has always been a discrepancy between the 1-9 PSIA standard levels and the one we employ at ski schools, both internally and externally to our Guests. This occurs primarily at the 1-3 level status and is usually obfiscated further by the Rental Shop's Skier Type 1-3 ratings. I have had private slips to assign with "I" on them.....is it a Type I, Level I....naw, it's I for Intermediate....AAAGGG! It seems on the adult side of the "evaluate yourself" chart, we have all either gone to a simplified green thru black assessment or some have reverted to the good ol' A thru F designation.
On the issue of instructors overassessing....it happens way to often and is typically linked to their own egos as teachers and breakthrough artists, as well as the fact that with so few true experts taking lessons we all subconciously "grade on a curve" and dilute the true designations.
One area that I have noticed shift in is on Children's Center Progress cards. About 5 years ago, we(the industry) left
the prototypical,yet modified "SKIWee" card which had been expanded and created very simple report cards. The trouble became instructors simply checking off everything to satiate parents and promote their abilities....if the snow changed the next day, the kid was tired or uninterested....and the next instructor "truthfully" filled out the card (a reason an internal report is crucial), the parents thought the kid regressed and (as you Yanks say) were Pissed!
Now I see more elaborate and comprehensive progress cards to mitigate this problem and more specifically identify their skill based progress.....
What reasonable expectations, self-evaluation, the school's philosophy, snow conditions all skew percieved level status....it has always been an issue.
post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by nolo:
Maybe the instructor meant that you were able to ski terrain classified as expert, and made the common error of equating the terrain with the skiing.
That makes sense to me.

I wouldn't worry about it, Kima. It's not like PSIA sent a memo to the troops to inflate students' skier levels. I reckon it was just one instructor trying too hard. [/QB][/quote]

Nolo this is from a students perspective...I took only 2 lessons this year, in both cases I felt the instructor was lets say generous in the terms, advanced/expert. Is this a big deal? Perhaps not to the instructor but as a student being placed in the wrong group it can be. One it's demoralizing to be "put back" as in the case vail snopro mentioned. Two I feel it is a waste of my time and money to be placed in the wrong group. In the 2-day clinic I changed groups after the first morning. Because of that I missed the opportunity to be videod, something I wanted. I felt that if I were in the correct group from the beginning I would have gotten more from the clinic. 1/2 day of a 2-day clinic is a significant amount of time wasted. I am paying not only for the lesson but also for an honest assessment of my abilities.

[ March 04, 2003, 07:58 AM: Message edited by: Kima ]
post #10 of 32
Of course it's difficult to get everyone to agree on how many labels we need, what they will be called, what the label signifies in descriptive terms, and who will be qualified to hand them out to people. Try as we might, we find that people assign these labels with greater or lesser laxity or tightness from locale to locale. (Sometimes that is very localized, i.e. to each instructor.)

I have one question: Who cares? It's just a label. Means nothing in itself. The instructor is still going to go out and ski with that student and make decisions based on that student and achieve results with that student.

My point is that skiing is a sport that most people engage in for simple enjoyment. Work, school, church, society--they're too much about labels too. We start working to win the labels more than just playing to discover more about the universe and me in it.

Ski instructors take this to extremes with their labels and pins and judicial processes. (We might as easily transfer the conversation about which skiers qualify as experts to which instructors are certified--are Level Is really certified or is this label only truly correct with Level IIIs?)

This is why, as one former instructor recalls the ski school director saying at his hiring clinic: "So you want to be a ski instructor? Do you realize that if you do this, skiing will never be just for fun any more--that you'll never be satisfied with your skiing again?"

I say, let's just go out and play with some things, try some new movements, and evaluate results on the basis of fun and learning and where we are able to GO now--not some dopey checklist that demonstrates a social bias toward "work" and not "play" which is what learning and skiing are supposed to be, goddammit!
post #11 of 32
Thread Starter 
Nolo, I agree that the labels should not matter when skiing for "fun". In this context though I was talking about lessons. The levels are similar to grades in school. Yes I want to progress and the levels/labels are one way to assess progress. My concern is that if an instructor miss labels me then negative things may happen. Skiing terrain that I do not have the skills for. Or as I mentioned before being placed in a wrong class for a lesson that I have paid dearly for.

I seem to have touched a nerve here, for that I apologize. Many times here instructors have asked for feedback and ways to improve the experience of students, to increase participation in SS, especially the higher level of skier. Just my thoughts, for whatever they are worth.
post #12 of 32
That said, Kima, you raise a valid point. Can we get it right the first time?

The only time I have had groups that all belonged together from the get-go was when I was doing PSIA certification clinics. The registered members, Level Is, IIs, and IIIs all clearly belonged with their peers. This is obvious by contrast to clinics at general membership events, where groups are mixed level, and require teaching to a fairly large split.

There's a margin of error in any verbal split that can be corrected by reassigning students to more appropriate groups ASAP. It's easy enough to do if we assume that we'll have mismatches and create a process to correct this promptly, and difficult to do if we don't make arrangements for groups to reshuffle on the first day.

So, the short answer is NO, we can't get it right the first time and in fact we should assume that we won't and take measures for quick corrections, rather than investing in a system to get it right the first time. Account for the uncertainty, don't try to rule it out.
post #13 of 32
Also, an instructor who teaches to the label and not the student should be flogged with a ski pole. If you are assigned to an "expert" class and you are not an expert, then the clinic content needs to adjust to you, not the other way around.
post #14 of 32
Interesting! At the 2003 EpicSki Academy, nolo never once labeled my ability, except by stating areas where I'd improved - and that wasn't "labeling". She worked with what I had and helped me to make that better.

BUT. . . I still have no idea where, on the 1 through 9 scale, I would be put by a ski school . . . and I'm curious. [um, pm or e-mail would be ok, just to avoid embarrassment]

[ March 04, 2003, 10:39 AM: Message edited by: oboe ]
post #15 of 32
You are a high 7 by the ATS Skier Level system, Oboe.

However, according to the latest PSIA technical information, I would place you between Intermediate (gaining confidence on blue terrain) and Advanced (masters of black terrain).

The description for your level at the upper end of the Intermediate Zone is "comfortable on all blue and easy black terrain...These students can easily handle all blue terrain on the mountain and are venturing onto easy black runs. They can make long and short turns consistently and are carving more than skidding on comfortable terrain but revert to skidding when they get onto terrain that challenges them. They are fairly comfortable and competent in various snow conditions."

Where you are en route to:

"The skier is linking turns on steeper terrain; able to handle all blue and black terrain; venturing into big moguls and double black diamond terrain; competent in most snow conditions."

For purposes of this discussion, "At the upper end of the advanced zone are ski racers, extreme skiers, freeskiers, aerialists, bumpers, extreme carvers, and terrain park specialists. For these skiers, your job as a teacher is to...

Try to keep up with them!
Provide a learned eye. In some cases, you may not ski at quite the same level, but you can offer your experience in movement analysis, overall understanding of the sport, and ability to coach. (Carl Lewis' coach could not run like Carl, but he understood how to make Carl faster.)
Work on subtle balance issues that may cause fatigue or inconsistencies.
Put them on lots of different toys."
Provide lots of time for repetition and practice.
post #16 of 32
Well, OK, thanks. I guess my level of confidence is lower than my level of competence . . . so maybe I should try getting to or just over the edge of my comfort zone, just for practice. Maybe that will increase both my confidence and my competence.
post #17 of 32
Oboe - you may recall that when you wanted me to fill out a form with details one question was my skiing ability....
When I asked my instructor his answer was simply that people should watch me ski & decide for themselves...

Kima - agree that 'over rating' is annoying...

I would rather carry a 'written report' type card than be given a rating as such...
Something with a more descriptive assessment of how I ski.... even then this would suffer a little - as I ski differently for MY instructors whom I know & trust than with a new instructor who is an unknown quantity...

It would help a bit though - I know that friends that come & share my private lessons would all fall in the same 'higher level' group... However we ALL have different strengths & weaknesses...
post #18 of 32
I offer the description from the PSIA Alpine Technical Manual (2002) as a way for YOU to decide where you fit, Oboe--and Kima, and anyone else who is interested. Levels 1-9 is old school. No more levels, but Zones. Zones suggest that in some situations you might ski at the lower end of the zone and in others at the high end of the zone. It's more dynamic. As you move to the high end of the zone more consistently, you begin to slide back and forth between it and the next higher zone. Progress is seen as more oscillating upward and less linear, straight-line progress. "You are here" is not possible to say, because where you are on the continuum is a moving average, though it tends to trend forward as long as you want it to.
post #19 of 32
Nolo - that sounds better.... more realistic

However makes it harder when people want to measure their progress...
Originally posted by Kima:
Nolo, I agree that the labels should not matter when skiing for "fun". In this context though I was talking about lessons. The levels are similar to grades in school. Yes I want to progress and the levels/labels are one way to assess progress. .
that is why I would like a little written report - that is pretty much how my instructors measure my success for me
if they are telling other instructor friends they don't state a level they say
'Yep she was skiing the fall line on xxxx today'
or 'Got her to go in the 1/2pipe today'
'Guess what - she jumped!'
'Lost that stem on initiation at the top of xxxx'
'Pure carved shorties this morning on xxx'
'took her on xxx & she got left behind' - (to me -'what where you doing back there?')

etc etc etc...
same when they talk to me.... "that is the most agressively I have EVER seen you ski off-piste"

Or back to my instructors comment when I said that we work on the same things over & over - just at higher levels
"when you have good stance & balance on a black run you can start REALLY learning to ski" - yet there is little definition over this level in ski school ratings
post #20 of 32
Thread Starter 
Disski, I like your idea.

Nolo about splits. I can only imagine how difficult that can be.
I have posted this before. Last year I was in a lesson at Copper. After the initial verbal split the intermediates took to the hill in one large group with 2 instructors. As soon as we got off the lift one instructor very casually said lets ski down a bit and get out of the way. No pressure, no performing. After that short ski down they split us into 2 groups. No wasted time, no awkwardness taking someone from one group to another. It seemed to work very well from my perspective.
post #21 of 32
This is why, as one former instructor recalls the ski school director saying at his hiring clinic: "So you want to be a ski instructor? Do you realize that if you do this, skiing will never be just for fun any more--that you'll never be satisfied with your skiing again?"
I guess I was meant to be a ski instructor!
post #22 of 32

You describe the best way to do the split with larger groups. No doubt about it.

Lurking Bear,

Maybe you should give it a try. Joining a ski school is still the best bang for your training buck out there.
post #23 of 32
All these numbers....
In some ways, o.k. they have their use but really they're not at all important. We've gotten rid of every numbered class above 4. At first I thought this was a bad idea but really, people become so obsessed with their "level" that it gets out of hand. I really could care less what "level" the group is as long as they're compatible. You just teach to the level of the students.

There really can be such a wide range in 7,8 that it's somewhat misleading. Then you can get lower level skiers who technically aren't up to level but mentally can ski beyond others in the same group. Ganjala apparently would not have been technically in the most advanced group, but mentally the advanced terrain and speed didn't bother him so he was able to keep up and improve rapidly. I had a girl who was technically a three, sometimes a four, but could handle black terrain and go much faster than many level 6's.
post #24 of 32
Parents are obsessed with levels. I missed out on a tip once because I would not grade their kid higher than where he was. his skills just weren't "there", yet.
post #25 of 32
Yep - & all sorts of other stuff....

Had a woman at Thredbo YHA last season who was about to tear ski school apart because her young son couldn't tell her what he had 'learnt' for the day... I had to try to convince her that kids don't really go for the 'Lets do xxxx exercise to work on our yyyy' scene & the fact that he ENJOYED the lesson & wanted to go back was probably enough.... Later in the week she discovered he WAS skiing much better...
post #26 of 32
Ah, Parents. Yes, that one. First, they demand of the kid DID YOU HAVE FUN?! and then SO, WHAT DID YOU WORK ON TODAY?!

For a kid, the two concepts are mutually exclusive. EITHER it had fun, OR it worked on technical stuff.

A constant problem with teaching kids: dealing with the parents.
post #27 of 32
Oh boy do we have it bad at our ski area.

This past Saturday evening, at our 7:30pm line-up, we had a group of three adults (mid 20s) show up and claim they were Level 10s!!! Suuure! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] I didn't bother to mention that THERE IS NO SUCH THING!

I was so cynical, that I gave the lesson away because I was afraid I would try to prove them wrong (plus, I had worked every line-up that day, since 9:00am). Next weekend, I'll have to ask what level they really were. If I had to guess, just from watching the way they moved toward the lift, they were level 7.

In a lesson that I had Saturday afternoon, I got a 10 year old kid who swore up and own (as did his father), that last time he took a lesson, he was a level 5, and that the instructor told him so. When asked to traverse a slightly tough beginner (green) hill, he could not keep his skis in a parallel relationship, and did not make one skidded turn throughout the entire lesson. Any exercise I asked the kid to do, he immediately blew off, and just straightlined the hill, with his skis in a wedge, occasionally pushing one ski or the other out a bit, with the impression that he was turning and impressing the crap out of everyone within sight. The problem with this kid, was that he was a typical spoiled brat that has never been told a painful truth in his entire life. I feel sorry for him, because one day, he'll get his ego handed to him on a silver platter.
post #28 of 32
Could all of this simply be a subtle, almost unconscious response to our current societal need to promote people who have not earned the promotion?
I'm speaking of promotion in the broader sense of the word. In MA., some people are suing our local government. It seems that their kids did not pass the MCAS and will not be allowed to graduate high school. The fact that 9,000 HS seniors, did, does not seem to make a difference.

In the world of skiing, we have the Perfect Turn slogan telling us that after3 lessons, we willbe able to ski down from the top of the mountain.
Would it have been so politically incorrect to clarify, by saying "any GREEN trail from the top of the mountain"?

I do not believe any of this sort of attitude would apply to Kima, at all. But have educators been subtley brainwashed by the political correctedness of the idea of giving promotion without achievment?
post #29 of 32
Worse - it's 'promotion without effort or attempt'... :

In fact it seems those who apply the effort are often penalised & the work ethic is the subject of scorn.

re the 'level 10's' ... we had a female turn up at one of my ski schools - top is level 1...

This woman was LOUDLY requesting the Level 1 class (couldn't read it seems as there are instructions on the meeting point everywhere)... I looked at my instructor & my thoughts must have shown because as we hopped on the lift he said 'Yeah by the STRICT definition I'm not a Level 1 REALLY'...
post #30 of 32
I don't think a single pro in this discussion is (nor should be) upset by your bringing this topic up! It is a fact that so many pro's have so many different definitions of the various levels. And it IS confusing to the consumer. But don't ever be afraid to bring up any topic regarding how you have been treated in a lesson.

I believe one of the reasons so many people opt for pvt lessons, is to avoid the exact scenario you have described. Rather than being labeled, and taught some canned lesson for that label, they want results.

But even in a group lesson, the mark of a skilled instr is the ability to provide multiple lessons within the same format. So if there is a split of ability levels in a single group, a good instr can deal with each individual, provide appropriate feed back, and get results. Certainly, it is more challenging to the instr, but still should be expected by the student, and delivered by the pro.

But most importantly- you have rights as a student.
You have the right to a professional instr
You have the right to be treated with respect and diginity
You have the right to have your needs/ wants met
You have the right to receive value for the money spent
You have the right to compliment, or complain, depending on how your lesson went

And remember- as an EpicSki member-
You have the right to attend next season's Academy!

Sorry- a little advertising....


[ March 05, 2003, 10:09 AM: Message edited by: vail snopro ]
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