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Mentor programs at ski schools

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Does anyone have any experience with mentor programs at ski schools?
post #2 of 15
I'm going into one next week. Remind me and I'll let you know what its like [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #3 of 15
I have experience with mentoring, having been seriously mentored myself and serving as a mentor to others, but not with any program, though I tried valiantly to establish a national mentoring program and ski school training standards in my day. It seems to work spontaneously, as there must be some chemistry between the two in the mentoring relationship.

There appear to be two schools of thought about newbies among established staff in the ski school--one is "Why should I make time to give away my secrets to my competition?" and the other is "How may I be of help?"

The problem for the newbie is, often people in the second group have the inclination to help because they have the free time and the unrequited desire to teach upper levels, which no one in their right mind would assign them for pay, and the newbie represents a subject for their experiments. The people in the first group are harder to crack but may actually have something to offer you. One reason they are the way they are is because newbies have used them and taken their pearls and then represented it as their original work or moved on to the next mentor without a proper salutatory farewell and words of appreciation. The other reason they are the way they are is because they are booked solid with paying customers from their first to last day of work for the season.

At the end of last season, as I was gathering my gear to head home, a person whom I had never seen before came up and said, "Oh, you're leaving? I was hoping I would be able to ski with you this year. I hear you're the best," or some such.

His timing was poor. I smiled and said, "Maybe next year!" If he approaches me early enough this season so we're not contemplating a one hour quickie, I will do what I can. Who knows, it might turn into a mentoring thing. We shall see.
post #4 of 15
AAAHHH Nolo, your influence is far greater than you know. Save a chair ride for me, okay? PK is running now. Hope to see you soon in the locker room.

Nolo has very definetly put her skin in the mentoring game! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #5 of 15
You have put your finger right on the pulse of the situation! And your comment re: chemistry is absolutely true.

Over the years, like yourself, I have been mentored and have mentored others. Currently working with Vail Pilgrim, I find that often I am learning as much as he is! New perspectives, changes in focus, etc, all create a fantastic learning environment for both of us! The synergy of this process is an unbelievable high! Each afternoon, I'll ask him what happened that day. Our conversations may only last 10-15 minutes, but more often than not- they last the better part of an hour, usually ending with a new understanding of what might have seemed to be a very average, mundane issue.

But as you also suggested- there have been many "newbies" who I don't spend much time with. Very often at this beginning point in their careers, they don't understand or appreciate what a mentor could do for them. Or, as you suggested, they are listening to those instructors with the most time available. Unfortunately- this is also the group which seems to be the furthest off-base! Then I get frustrated with the task of clearing out the fog created by that group- intentional or not.

But I will also accept some responsibility for the situation-. I am often so busy, and therefore may seem unapproachable to the newbies. Not my intent, but I can certainly see where that impression might exist. But as my mentoring is done on MY time, not the company's, it is difficult for me to meet the demands that many would make on that time.

I have also found that different individuals want/ expect different outcomes. I am working with two pros just on tuning skis. So- anytime I am tuning (seems to be almost every day), they know that they are welcome to stay, watch, ask questions, practice, etc, to meet their goals. Others, when asking for assistance in preparing for an exam, only want me to train them for that specific task. Not the goal of becoming a better instructors. Those do not usually get much of my time. And the pro's who exhibit false sincerity or try to butter me up, are the first to get ignored.

Unfortunately, many of the pro's who would be credible mentors, have either been burnt out by the system or have elitist attitudes. Definitely a major roadblock to true transference of knowledge.


[ January 04, 2003, 09:09 PM: Message edited by: vail snopro ]
post #6 of 15
Good stuff on how the world works.
Tough, ain't it.
post #7 of 15
Kudos to pros like VSP who take time out of their busy schedules to make our locker room sparkle at the end of the day amid all those smelly socks. Mentoring's roots lie in medieval guilds and Socratic debates so it is nice to feel part of an historic tradition.
If I might add a couple cents to this great topic, Winter Park's Skier and Rider Improvement Center, my former employer (while I miss Mary Jane's bumps, I've died and gone to instructor heaven now in Vail's back bowls) has had a very successful formal mentor program in place for four years now. Kudos to people like the Metzes and Bob Barnes of WP for furthering it.
The GCT evaluation grid (see VSP's post in the recent PSIA/cert thread) is used as an observational lens through which instructors shadow each other and provide positive and constructive feedback (they get trainer pay! obviously a big implication for the training budget but the payoffs are huge). Everyone gets at least one mentor session a year.
This process has furthered individual instructor development AND created and solidified a great organizational learning culture. It has helped overcome the issue of burned out or elitist pros: while still getting their measure of respect they no longer dominate the culture.
I have seen both formal and informal mentoring as incredibly powerful processes for educators' growth.
And thanks to Epicski, I now get to watch it online.
post #8 of 15
I thought I'd bring this thread back up for discussion.

I'd really like to hear more participants thoughts of how the MENTORING process can be formalized, as per "Vera's" experiences at WP. From both pro's and non-pro's- have you experienced a formal mentoring process?

post #9 of 15
We tried a formal structured mentoring program about 7 years ago. It didn’t quite work as well as hoped. As stated before there must be chemistry between the two individuals involved. The Mentors were recruited but it wasn’t a forced situation. Each of the “new” instructors was assigned a mentor from the pool. The agenda of the mentor and student need to match. People teach skiing for different reasons. These issues are being discussed in other threads.

An instructor that truly wants to better him or herself will find the person or people to help guide them. An instructor that teaches for “selfish” reasons usually doesn’t last long in the business. A good mentor is willing to spend the time and energy to help the student even if they aren’t getting paid. I read into this as a teacher that is the consummate student. The more you teach the more you learn, the ultimate sponge. I will teach you what I know while learning from you. A great teacher is willing to help the student by guiding them to other teachers with equal or greater knowledge. They know their limits on a topic and will refer the student to someone more knowledgeable.

post #10 of 15
Jim O'D,

You are a very wise teacher.
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the feedback. So am I to understand the consensus is that a mentor program only works when the student seeks out his/her own mentor.

I have been working with another instructor at my mountain for years and it has been very valuable. I found it even more valuable when focusing on my teaching.

This brings me to what maybe should be another thread, but there is so much information on how to ski, but little on how to teach. I have found it a lot easier to learn how to ski well than to be a good instructor.
post #12 of 15
The other evening I had dinner with Vail Pilgrim and Vera. This topic came up during the course of conversation, and we began to wonder whether it had, in fact, been fully explored.

So, we thought we might bring this back up, for further discussion.

Regarding mentoring itself-.
What is the definition of mentoring?
What is the goal of mentoring?
Can multiple individuals be mentored together?
How long can mentoring last?
How is the relationship between the mentor and student created, and sustained?

These are a few of the questions that must be answered before a mentoring relationship can be productive.

Again, I am quite curious as to how others view the mentoring process.

post #13 of 15
My "career" was as a cop. At almost every large department the learning process begins at some sort of academy. Officers graduate and then are trained in the field. In many cases an FTO (field training officer) becomes a mentor for life.

Chemistry is the key. A new employee has to feel comfortable going to someone with more experience in order to get advice. I think it usually does not happen until the new person realizes they don't have all the answers or that the learning curve can be sped up by relying upon the experience of someone who has walked the path before.

I had wondeful mentors. I constantly sought the advice of individuals who had forgotten more about law enforcement than I would ever know.

I do remember the advice I was given by one of my first FTO's. I was fresh out of college, equipped with 16 weeks of wisdom garnered from a police academy, and full of enthusiasm. I was summarily told to keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut. The guy had spent 30 years in a radio car. He never was a mentor, however, he was and is one of my hero's. He had begun his career in 1946 after a stint in the pacific. On the "street" he was addressed as "Mr. Whitfield" by everyone. All heck could be breaking loose and he was unflappable.

Not bad advice in a police car, however, doesn't work too well for a ski instructor.

Or does it?
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
Rusty Guy,

Did you seek out your mentor for the police force or were you assigned to them?

One question is whether it is better to work with just one person or is it better to obtain different views and ideas by working with multiple so called mentors?
post #15 of 15
There was no formal relationship and certainly no formal assignment. I sought the advice of individuals whom I believed had their heads screwed on fairly tight.
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