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How much do you expect your instructor to know?

post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 
This comes out of a difference of opnion I had in another thread.

Ski instructors teach skiing. If the student has psychological problems that hold him/her back the instructor is trained to instill confidence, if there are physical limitations, the instructor is trained to work around them and look for strength to overcome them, if the problem is equipment related, the instructor is trained to recognize that and refer the skier to an equipment specialist.

My question is, do you expect your instructor to exactly diagnose and recommend specific fixes for your boots and skis?

If you were to take a lesson tomorrow and your instructor would tell you that you need 2 degrees inside canting on your left boot and 1.5 degree inside canting on your right boot and you need a 1 cm heel lift and your boot shaft needs to be 4 degrees more upright, your skis are the wrong kind and make, they should be Rossi and also need to be six inches shorter with more sidecut and your poles have the wrong grip and need to be two 2 inches longer.

Would you go and have those things corrected? How much do you trust your instructor to know exactly what is wrong with your equipment.

Would you be very disapointed if you were given the wrong specifics and they didn't work?

Or would you rather he told you that your alignment is wrong and the cause may be your boots and you should go to an alignment/bootfitter shop and let them do the job.

So what do you expect, would you consider your instructor ignorant if didn't give you specifics?

post #2 of 67
i would expect that instructor to know the difference between an equipment and a technical problem. It is not necessary for them to diagnose the problem specifically. But they do need to have enough of an understanding about how equipment effects performance.
post #3 of 67
I would expect my instructor to know that a specific difficulty (for instance, gaining an early edge) may be caused by either technical problems, or equipment problems, or even psychological (fear) problems. I'd be thrilled if my instructor was able to isolate which type of problem caused the difficulty. I'd expect my instructor to work with me if the difficulty was due to problem in technique and even if the difficulty was due to my fear. I'm thinking that those types of problems can be dealt with on-snow. I wouldn't expect my instructor to offer specific solutions for equipment problems, but rather I'd want him/her to make me aware of the possible limitations imposed by my equipment and to point me in directions for possible solutions.

I'm not saying that my expectations are, in any absolute way, correct; they're just my own expectations. Actually, I think these are quite lofty expectations.
post #4 of 67
I don't expect my instructor to know a hell of a lot about psychology, or physical problems, or equipment problems.

I do expect that they know enough to realise there may be problems in many areas that relate to ski instruction.
I certainly expect them to admit when they don't know enough.
At that point I would hope that they would either recommend me to a specialist in that area or talk to those that may know more about these issues.
Eg asa pharmacist I have a particular interest in wound care, geriatrics & family planning areas - not really interested in chemotherapy, compression chambers, etc. So if I want more info on chemo I ring my friend & chat to her - she is REALLY into chemo stuff...
I also know a collegue who is a world expert on wound care - so if some wound issue is beyond me I will of course consult with or refer a patient to him.
post #5 of 67
I expect my instructor to know a lot more than me, and be right about it.

[ November 26, 2002, 06:19 AM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #6 of 67
Ott, isn't ones abillity to diagnose directly tied to ones depth of understanding?

A partial quote from my division president, who is also my supervisor: Let's take our game to the next level this year. It doesn't matter what you do, just commit to bettering yourself and your home snowsports school. We'll all benefit from that.

To me taking my game to the next level doesn't just happen on the snow, and it doesn't go on vacation when the hill closes. If I want to continue to give my students a better lesson each time, I've got to look in every direction I can. It's not linear.

An instructor who feels they know enough already, just commited themselves to not learning anything more. That's good for the ego, not so good for the student. Isn't a good teacher also a good student?

I'm really at a loss here to put anykind of a good face on any kind of resistance to learning anything, in any direction, that might benefit a student. :
post #7 of 67
Thread Starter 
Ric, we are all learning all the time, as you know just by reading this forum. That was not my point. As general practitioners of ski teaching, should we know when to send a student to a specialist?

Maybe we don't feel qualified to teach park, jumps or even icy mogul skiing but we do have specialists on the staff who can teach this. If you aspire to learn and become such a specialist, fine, but should a student expect an instructor to be able to teach everything?

On the other hand, I agree that instructors should have enough knowledge in the psychological, phyical and equipment areas to be able to diagnose that help is needed in that area which they may not be able to provide. General practitioners in other fields do that all the time.

Even in 1962 when I first got certified the examiners leading the pre-courses showed us how to recognize equipment problems. For instance, on a very gentle hill they sideslipped about twenty feet to smooth the snow and asked us to do a straight run down the fall line.

By reading the impression of the tracks they showed us how to tell when canting is needed, as when the impression of the outside or inside edges were deeper, etc.

So please learn all you can to help you diagnose a problem a student has, but unless you are a bonafied specialist in an area, I would hope that you ("you" meaning in instructors in general) would refer a student to said specialist.

post #8 of 67
We're in agreement here Ott. I believe in specialists. I'm not a boot fitter, but I can't dagnose a students need of a boot fitter without knowing as deep as I can what relationship exists between the boot and the body.

I can't teach park tricks or jumps, my knees can't take jumps, but do teach bumps and just about anything else that comes my way or a students progresses into. I can't and wouldn't teach ziperline or competition style bump skiing. That would go to the specialist also, along with park tricks, big air ect.

My nephew wants to learn 360's, he does them on inlines. I made a deal with him, if and when he learns he should pay attention to what he's doing so he can teach uncle Ric to do 360's. I commited to trying them if he can tell me how. Hopefully it's a soft snow day when this happens. :

Most of my attidudes about this didn't come from ski instruction, they came from being self employed most of my life. Meeting expectations is where it starts, not where it finishes.
post #9 of 67
I find the best teachers are those who can tell which things can be changed and which things need not be changed , and wise enough to work effectively with me.

I am very disinclined to celebrate academic knowledge if there is no transfer where the rubber meets the road.

I would be skeptical of any "teacher" who professed knowledge in too many areas, and trys to press them on me all at once.

I would hate it if I left a lesson with more baggage than I came with.

post #10 of 67
I return again and again to Horst's pronouncement that a teacher removes the obstacles to learning. This doesn't mean the teacher has to do it himself. If I were a classroom teacher and I saw a child squinting at the blackboard, complaining of headaches, etc., I would inform the school nurse, schedule an eye exam, confirm my suspicions, and inform the parents that their child has a vision problem. Ditto with obstacles in learning to ski: if I am qualified to intervene, I will; otherwise, I will make a referral to someone qualified to make the adjustment.

Having been an examiner for many years at Level III, my "bottom line" was, can this person do a creditable job with any customer who walks into the ski school? Since that time pipe and park tricks have come on the scene. This "new school" stuff has opened the debate in PSIA whether we should now require Level III's to have the ability to teach pipe and park tricks.

I would hazard a guess that PSIA is more likely to add pipe and park tricks to the requirements than biomechanics re equipment customization. But what I have learned from DavidM makes me think we should be going deeper instead of wider in our skills development, which, of course, is driven by what's required to pass the exam.

How many PSIA divisions offer specific clinics on the boot interface and human alignment? NRM has offered training in boot alignment for several years now. They're bringing in a specialist who will be taking appointments at the examiner's and general ed event at Big Sky next month. Just curious to know if this is happening elsewhere.

Is your division also offering pipe and park clinics for alpine instructors and examiners?
post #11 of 67
Thread Starter 
nolo, wasn't Harb heavily criticized for making alignment part of his total approach to his teaching? It was put forward that this is workable only for a small percentage of skiers who own their own equipment and are taking speciality classes, workshops or clinics.

The central and eastern areas found that the hordes of day skiers who either meet their instructors on the snow after a few runs or are novices on rental equipment taking a one or two hour lesson could not be asked to go to alignment/bootfitting shops.

But the more we know the better it is. You, as an examiner, must have seen a wide variety of knowledge in the level III candidates, from ones barely qualifying to ones over the top.

post #12 of 67

Wouldn't it be helpful to move the child to the front of the room?

I had that problem in school, my grades flourished when I was in the front.

post #13 of 67
I can understand Ott's commends given current state of the art in ski equipment. Expert customization of boot fit and lower leg/foot alignment are available to those who seek it but certainly not readily so (it can take a lot of searching and is expensive). It seems to me, though, that we have the technology to change things.

Instead of having rows of the same kind of rental boots we could have a selection (perhaps a limited selection is all that is practical but that is probably all that is needed given options for custom molding) based on different lasts and fit. It is also more than feasible to built custom molding boots with "flow" or other self molding materials (and perhaps even allow for removal or addition of fill material). Just like there are demo bindings that move forward and backward we could expand the genre to include boot sole length, fore/aft position, and side to side canting adjustments (while canting isn't available on any commercial bndings this is not at all a dificult thing to engineer). With these kind of tools we could give our beginners and others a more comfortable beginning and an instructor and/or equipment fitter the option to "remove the obstacles to learning." In this scenario instructor expertise is much more heavily obligated to include an understanding of alignment and equipment issues.

Some may scoff at these ideas because of prohibitive costs. But I believe that building a fleet of rental equipment like this would not be so expensive that it didn't far outweigh the gains made in bringing people into the sport and retaining them. Additionally the spinoffs for higher level skiers would be hot tickets. Interesting to think that a revolution in rental equipment could lead to needed and valued improvements for intermedidate and advanced skiers.

In all this I have not mentioned skis. This is mostly because I think that the availability of reasonable ski technology for beginners to experts is way ahead of that for boots and alignment.
post #14 of 67
Thread Starter 
>>> In this scenario instructor expertise is much more heavily obligated to include an understanding of alignment and equipment issues<<<

Wouldn't that task fall to the rental department and the setup folks there who rent the boots and adjust the bindings?

Si, great idea and great post, BTW... ...Ott
post #15 of 67
Good question, Ott, and I think it touches on the most important issue in EFFECTIVELY bringing this kind of change into play. It seems to me that the rental group would have to develop some simple rules of thumb for initial fitting (I expect they can't afford a lot of time and effort here). Here's a completely hypotheitcal set, but something along this line would be needed:

Boot fit: A few simple foot measurements and a chart to select the boot. Then a fixed pressure injenction/release of "flow" material into/out-of the liner while the person has the boot on.

Binding fore/aft position: Adjust for ball of foot at the center of running surface (appropriately marked on all rental skis).

Binding canting: A simple measurement with person in boots at hip width distance against a wall. Set binding canting based on distance from center of flexed knee touching the wall to center of boot toe.

From here it would be up to an instructor to recommend further specific changes or if available (which might be the case in a high end program) a consultation with an alignemnt expert. But as Nolo has pointed out, an instructor under this scenario should at least be able to identify possible limitations imposed by improper alignment/equipment set up.
post #16 of 67
And none of this hypothetical helps us out on the snow this season unless it's actually implemented. The rental shop is quite often a wink link, but I agree Ott, for rental gear that's where it should start. What about when our students ask us about their boots and fit? I feel I should have a deep enough knowledge about fit and performance in relation to the foot and leg to have an educated simple discussion with them? Right now it's pretty much left up to the individual instructor to seek that knowledge for themselves.

I talk equipment with my students all the time at their request. I don't pretend to know it all and don't think they expect that, but they expect me to know way more than they do, and trust that I know what I'm talking about. Funny thing is, I get the same feeling from the rental shop personel. Personaly I would like to see the rental shop step up and be more knowledgable and creative about serving our customers, but I'm not gonna hold my breath. I can't afford to wait for someone else to get a handle on this, and neither can my students. And I guess that's whats driving this for me. My students need someone to have this knowledge right now. And I'm not in disagreement with any of you either, but it's the real time of my students that stands to get waisted. [img]smile.gif[/img] I've probably said to much about rental shops already. Oh well. :
post #17 of 67
Thread Starter 
Ric, I think progress is going to come from independent rental shops in town. Once they provide markedly better equipment service, area rental shops will have to compete.

About your knowledge of boot problems as an instructor: you are in Montana and I presume that when you detect and verify that a student indeed has a boot fit problem you have a qualified bootfitter handy to send him to, as they do at Breckenridge, Copper and Taos, but what about the instructor at small places in Michigan? They can send them to the ski shop where the highschool kid who works after school is going to try to fix them up.

Not every area has alignment/bootfitter shops handy. Harald Harb's idea was to have an alignment expert at the bottom of every hill where his method is taught, I presume it didn't work out since I have not heard much about that. Or maybe it did?.

post #18 of 67
Do any of you think this is news? Why do you suppose nothing is done?

I have three letters for you: R O I

Until the decision-makers see the ROI, we cannot expect to see changes. Is it our job to make the economic case in favor of better quality from the rental department? The instructor is the employee most likely to know the size and nature of the problem with local rentals. Seems like action is unlikely to come from any other source.

Just a thought...
post #19 of 67
Thread Starter 
nolo, so what do you propose? The rental department in our area kind of looks askew at instructors, their reasoning is that most of the rentals go to customers who will not take lessons, they'll just ski, so why do instructors bud in.

But the rental department is real nice to instructors, they give a fifty percent discount for binding mounting and tuning to instructors :

post #20 of 67
Ski instructors are (potentially) the consumers' best friend. I think instructors should advocate for them, join them, rally them into a force to be reckoned with!
post #21 of 67

Our rental department won't even wax the skis much less sharpen them. I sometimes even carry my own Swix paste for those temprature changes that make the skis stick and form ice clods.

Savy folks stop at "that shop in town" and pay a few extra dollars for the "premium" gear. The hill knows they have lost a bit of business but do they care?
post #22 of 67
Let me make it clear that what I was talking about was a hypothetical. It included gear that isn't available and rental shop managment that doesn't exist. I think the root of the problem includes equipment manufacuterers as well. they have to be a partner in this.

For the time being, I think Rick B's response is the right approach. Now if only he was armed with adjustable equipment for his clients he could do so much more.

Let me say that as a knowledgable consumer I still am looking for the "right" opportunity to work on and lock in my own boot fitting and alignment. I have lots of experience seeing how much improvement small changes can make (canting, heel lift, ramp angle, binding position). Trouble is that I find shortcomings in most of the programs or individuals I talk to or investigate (not sure if I know too much or too little). At this point I want to make a concerted effort to solve this problem for good. Unfortunately, I think that neither the equipment, science, or art is there to guarantee the outcome I am looking for. This is a major stumbling block when the size of the investment to do this may be significant.
post #23 of 67
Wow! Great thread.....

I agree that instructor should know as much as they can, but also should know the limits of their expertise. Example, I am good at doing indoor initial alignment assesment with my Cant Co. rolling protractors and at doing alignment diagnosis on snow to support rough or fine tuning to where I can make good recommendations. However, while I can recognise when lack of a foot bed, or an maybe an over posted footbed is causing issues, I would not alter, much less build, anyones footbed. That is outside my arena of expertise, so I send them to a reputable shop where I know there is an expert in that arena.

On the reality Ott mentioned that the masses that are not candidates for better gear, much less footbeds or cants. I have to accept and work around that fact, doing what I can. But I do suggest what I feel is appropriate, based on the motivation/means of the student. As for dealing with it when gear changes are not an option, I use recognition of alignment issues to guide my decisions as to what are the most appropriate compensating movements to teach that particular student, and to adjust my expetations of what success should be and what the student should expect to feel. If I don't at the very least recognise alignment or gear issues I might be asking, and expecting, a student to do something they simply can not do. Frustration ensues for all.

Expertise under-utilized to help wherever it can is still better than none at all.
post #24 of 67
Ott we have our bootfitters. Every shop in town has their "bootfitter". There is one in town that everyone says is the best, but I've watched too many instructors spend way too many trips to him only to find out they bought the wrong boot from him, and start the process over again. so I would say it's stil not an accessable science for everyone yet, even in our little ski mecca here in Bozeman. And I'm not a bootfitter, don't want to be one, and I try very hard to know my limitations, I don't like guess work, in fact I feel like I'm just scratchng the surface in this direction. Sometimes I'm not sure this industry can even see the surface let alone have the desire to start scratching on it.

Arcmiester put it better than me in his last paragraph. the last thing I want is any student walking away frustrated because of something I should've done or should've recognized. These issues aren't gonna go away. So then the question becomes, what am I going to do about it? :
post #25 of 67
Ott asks "How much do you expect your instructor to know?"

I'd like to rephrase the question: Does an instructor's knowledge of biomechanics and the role of equipment obligate him/her to share what he knows with the student? What if the student is in rentals? What if the student just bought the equipment? Is it ethical to withhold information about the equipment's role in weakening the system and teach adaptive movements to compensate for it?
post #26 of 67
Well I don't think I want to say, your boots suck, on the other hand if a student asks you about equipment, do I want to conciously evade the truth as I understrand it? If I see a connection between their skiing and their equipment, don't I owe them that feedback? Most students understand that they aren't going to get the same performance out of rental gear as they would something purchased spcificaly for them, don't you think? But I would much rather bring up equipment issues rather than have a student go away frustated. They may just blame themselves and just quit. As Ott said way up above, we can help them find work arounds, but we might also want to open the door to equipment changes and how that can affect their ability to move and ski. Equipment does make a difference, and there's a whole lotta gray area here that requires good judgement and solid understanding. Sensitivity and diplomacy go along way here also. I don't have the answers for everyone, but I need to have a plan for myself as a ski pro to deal with these issues. I can't ignore them. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #27 of 67
My guess is its a bit hard when instructors are expected to push the ski packages that the resort is sponsoring. When I learned in the perfect turn program, there was a ski/boot binding package featuring Rossi cut 10 4s.

Well I happened to be at Black Mountain, a small NH resort with minimal grooming. Decided to demo the Rossis. The darn thing s would not stop chattering!
post #28 of 67
All this talk about equipment and biomechanics has me wondering.

I think it was you Nolo, who stated "you can tell how well a person may ski by the way they walk across the parking lot."
These "individual differences" could really put a damper on the effectiveness of knowledge based assessment and advice. All the correct mechanics and equipment may not make a significant difference to those who are not "tuned" themselves. Ott indicated the emotional factor as well. If there are bigger fish to fry, the "instructor" needs to know how to work effectively AROUND those limitations in order to facilitate a positive experience.

I have the attitude that those who choose to use "rental equipment" (read second rate, and not necessarily equipment from a rental facility) usually "don't care" and typically "can't tell" if something is right or wrong with themselves or the equipment.. All people will respond to the care expressed if the instructor provides knowledgable suggestions, but, for some, the transfer may not result in effective change, and may result in "analysis paralysis".

So I guess I would expect an instructor to know how to "know his/her students".

post #29 of 67
CalG says "So I guess I would expect an instructor to know how to "know his/her students".

That is so right Cal. Coming from a local area. We get many people taking lessons who can't afford anything other than what they are on. Only by knowing our students can we determine where they want to go, and what will help them get there, and what will simply frustrate them. How much I know helps my students whether I share it with my students or not. There is no point in telling a student that better equipment would help them ski better if there is no way for them to get better equipment. As you point out "knowig your student" is as important as knowing technique and equipment. Any of these without the others leaves the student short. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #30 of 67
Sounds like you're saying, "The job of the instructor is to make assumptions about their motives and means."

I'd be pretty ticked off if my dentist decided that my tattered, shit-bepeckled jeans were proof positive of my impoverished condition and instead of sending me to a periodontist for gum work, does a good job cleaning and sends me on my way, never mentioning that without surgery I'm going to lose a few teeth.

I'd call that unethical.
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