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Station Teaching Results?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
In my neverending pursuit of open-mindedness, I am interested in how foray's into the rehash of "station teaching" fared this season. In particular I know that Jonathan L. in Breck implemented a new hybrid system this year, and I have discussed it with a couple of pros there. I too, sent "secret shoppers" to Bear Mtn. in SoCal to test the system there.
There are lots of pros and cons, and I feel a new SAM initiative coming at a lot of resorts to revist this "tactic" in introducing the masses to to snowsports.
Obviously, this takes significant "buy-in" from management in terms of facilities, rentals, transport, GROOMING, lifts, tickets, etc....but mostly from the pros. Are we taking our connection to the guests away, is there a learning dynamic, do they fall through the cracks, are we turning into automatrons?
I refer to this as a tactic rather than teaching methodology, as it appears to be in response to (in some cases) limited training, lack of staff or inability to steer people to traditional meeting times effectively.
Just trying to see if this go-at-it is working, where and how, or whether we have had mixed results just like in the 80'...the last time it was in vogue.
post #2 of 17
Hi Robin,
Can't speak to the "station teaching" results as I'm not aware of any "numbers or results" but maybe you should give a quick summary for all our new members so we are all on the same page.
post #3 of 17
Maybe you can give a synopsis of what station teaching is too. I have an idea of what it is. Is it aimed just at never-evers?
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Ok, briefly, Station teaching was in vogue in the 80's for children's programs. It is a system wherein students are moved from station to station in a self-paced linear teaching format. Most originate at the rental facility, with program, equipt. and safety orientation, fitting, maybe an inspirational video. Some programs shuttle or use lifts immediately to access the top of the learning pod. Skills and movements are introduced linearly, by different learning zone "experts". Most programs use Smart Terrain TM type grooming features, some use conveyor lifts.
Pros...learn at your own pace, show up flexibilty, less labour intensive (theoritically), rudimentary staff training, gee whiz appeal....
Cons...you need a ringmaster and problem solvers...roving "eyes", lack of buy-in by staff, limited connection with guests/learning partnership/group dynamics, some folks fall through the cracks, employee incentives ie. returns, incentive pay etc/compared with tradional formats (which will still be available creating an us and them team), instructors relegated to automatron status, limited feedback opportunities, checking for understanding etc.
ASC has done this well where there are purpose-built learning centers and it is being pushed at Booth Creek resorts. Jonathan L. at Breck, I know implemented a hybrid system this season...I have talked to a few pros about it (your views JL) and I even sent secret shoppers to Bear with mixed reviews.
Anybody? Any students who have experienced this approach this year? BTW, I did give this a go at AF in the late 80's for kids....also they tried it again for adults this season....lasted until just before Xmas.
I believe station teaching has potential if all the elements needed are in place....but if they are, what advantages over traditional?
Again, I am trying to be openminded...honest...I mean it!
post #5 of 17
Our pros have rejected it several times, and really like to get into the small groups asap. They move people around from class to class as they progress differently.

Our guys don't like it because of all the cons you mention. We won't be trying it again soon.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Weems, our guys in AF hated too. We all tend to use problem solvers in the yard anyway and train to empathetically reconfigure classes. I think it passively eliminates the accountability each pro should hold for his charges. Even in traditional classes we monitor for "student dumping" It is a point of honour in most well trained and enlightened schools to take the low end of a split you called.
Station teaching smacks of "no child shall fail" mainstreaming where mediocrity and half-baked skill development is homogeniously mass produced. Who cares what your learning style is, your goals, your trasferable skills....your name!
post #7 of 17
post #8 of 17
AT WC we have tried it at Spring break the past couple of years. It is the only way we could handle the volume of beginners. I was really against it. But when I heard the comments from the guest and instructors that did it alst year I changed my mind.

They used a hybrid system. Stations were used until a group was ready to go up the second lift at which point groups were formed. The instructors were allowed to rotate stations and the ones who did the boot drills picked up the first classes going up. In addition to the instructors teaching the stations experienced lower level instructors worked as romers.

The instructors thought that this sytem really kept people from standing around and the guests weren't upset. But then what did they have to compare it to?
post #9 of 17
We almost had to resort to this in March when we had huge first timer groups in the various Spring Break weeks (I had groups of 25, aged from 8 to 60!). But we never quite made the leap...people preferred to take the large groups. Although I'm thinking with such big age ranges, and different rates of progression, station teaching might have worked better. Few of these people wanted to return for lessons anyway, they wanted to "git up there" with their friends!
post #10 of 17
I've never worked in a station teaching program. The mountain where I work has a huge group of new instructors every season (about 50% of staff is new anually) and we teach way too many beginner lessons each weekend. I have often wondered whether or not station teaching would be the best approach for our resort.

Many of the "trainers" on our staff don't even understand the importance of balance in teaching a beginner lesson. You can see that belief in their skiing and in the way their trainees teach a beginner lesson. Thus, we tend to turn out people who would almost have been better off without the lesson.

It is my belief that station teaching would at least ensure our customers follow an effective progression during their lesson time. Does anybody have comments on the effectiveness of station teaching programs with very inexperienced staff?

Thank you,
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
You know Aar, I will try to keep you posted on what I learn...hopefully Jonathan and others with experience will respond on the methodolgy they employ and their challenges and successes...we do need a greater sharing of "best practices".
In terms of your situation, station teaching is worth investigating for at least the reasons you state....but you still need a common methological philosophy even to establish a simple linear introductory "progression". The best part would be that you would have your best eyes, ears and knowledge floating/training/mentoring with real time solutions and the professional development of your newbies.
I will update you by PM when I get more info.
post #12 of 17
This year I spent about 150 hours teaching stations at Bear Mountain, CA. Although I disapprove of the content and organization of some of the stations at our resort, I must concede that this method of instruction certainly has some clear advantages. We can handle up to around 850 adult never-ever students (ski and snowboard) in a day with a staff of roughly 45 instructors. We don't use stations for children. The stations concept is sort of like a pipeline, which allows large groups of students to begin their lesson at any time of the day and proceed at their own pace. In contrast, a regular group lesson usually involves some kind of "split" process where a larger group of students are evaluated, then separated into smaller groups of those with like abilities, goals and experience. These groups are then taught on regular ski terrain where they must interract with other resort guests -- some of whom are not altogether courteous to rank beginners. In stations, on the other hand, the "split" occurs naturally and continuously -- skiers or boarders who are getting the hang of things can move on to the next station, while those who need more practice on a basic skill can return to any earlier station and practice more. Also, the instruction area is segregated from the regular ski area traffic, and the terrain is contoured to provide counter-grade runout areas so that students can build skills with confidence, knowing that they cannot go out of control. Instructors are not confined to a single station either, but rotate through the stations with the majority of their students, and so build a rapport with them. At the final station, groups of (six or eight) students who have mastered the fundamentals leave with an instructor to complete their lesson in the traditional format. Stations are only intended to address fundamentals such as orientation to skiing and equipment, basic turning and stopping techniques, maneuvering on flat terrain, use of lifts, etc. The final phase of the lesson, after leaving the stations area, puts it all together for the students on regular ski terrain where they will mix in with the general public. Nominally, this process takes about an hour and a half, but students can spend as much time as they wish to complete the stations -- all day, in fact, if that's what it takes for them. The proof of the concept is that a higher percentage of students come back for a second lesson at Bear Mountain than at resorts that do not employ station teaching for beginners.
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hey, thanks a lot Bear! And welcome to Epic! We needed more representation from our "peculiar" neck of the woods.
I have indeed talked to Steve frequently about your system and your mountain definitely does lend itself well. And return rates are impressive. I appreciate you taking the time to give your impressions on the system!!
post #14 of 17
I worked a number of times with the station teaching that Jonathan setup at Breck, AKA the Learn to Ski or LTS setup. It worked OK, but had some limitations.

First we would have the students gather up inside, get their boots setup, and watch a video. Then the students would go outside, and ride the chairlift up the first time without skis, which was really great. Skis would be hauled up on a trailer behind a snowmobile, so they would be waiting when we got to the LTS area.

Starting in a very flat area, we would get the folks moving, and the folks that "got it" quickly would move on down the hill, slower students would stay till ready.

The LTS area is fenced off, and had a series of rollers groomed into the hill, like gentle wave crests. The pattern was run so folks would go down a crest at an angle (traverse) and then coast to a stop on the uphill of the next one.

It worked pretty well. As I am used a lot for "special help" (finding the struggling ones in a group and pull them aside for a little one-on-one) in regular group lessons, I personally worked a lot with the slower students. Once folks got through the LTS area, groups would form, and regular lessons would begin.

I enjoy special help duty, it's good to get the struggling ones going. Interesting challenges.

The biggest problems I saw was the area was too small at times for the number of students, and the groomed rollers needed a different profile to the "wave". The down hill side of the waves were a bit too steep, and the uphill side was too shallow. I think that profile should be inverted.

A number of our instructors didn't like it very much, and it was not used as much by the end of the season. Which was too bad. Too much skepticism. A lot of the instructors rebelled, which was kinda dumb. In general, I liked a lot of it, especially the indoor session to get the boots, clothing and video done. Riding the lift the first time wihtout skis really helped!

If a student really struggled, you had to ski or get transported down the hill. It would be nice to have a transport to the top of the LTS area to "repeat as needed".

Jonathan will be around here again, eventually, I'm sure he'll have his take on what happened, It's a good idea, and if we have a chance to evolve it a bit, it will work even better.

We also have a beginners snowboarding area fenced off, with a "magic carpet" lift to stay in the beginners area. That would really help the LTS situation. The Ten Mile Station restaurant, bathrooms, etc are at the top of the LTS area, another good reason for transport back to the top.

Years ago, I worked stations at a small area in MN, and we did more advanced stations. bumps and racing, etc.. That was a lot of fun.

Breck used to have a "skills course" setup for intermediates and up a few years ago, which ROCKED! I really miss that one. And the trainer who set it up, J.R. Nolan. I miss his wisdom and talent a lot, a favorite trainer of mine.

But you have to get the instructors to "buy into" these station methods, or it won't happen. Felt kinda bad for Jonathan, he fought an uphill battle with a lot of the staff.

[ April 24, 2002, 11:01 PM: Message edited by: SnoKarver ]
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks Snowkarver! I talked to David O. abit at the edwin clinic and he said pretty much the same...consistant pros and cons.
Staff "buy in", consistant feature upkeep, sufficient space and uphill (carpet use) all seem to be critical elements. The rental/fitting, indoctrination, briefing/video/intro/static to scooters etc. all seem like obvious winners.
Ideally if you had each critical station with a carpet, that would give movement practice and grooving enhancement...and also delay some bottlenecking, allowing flow from stations to be adjusted. You seemed a natural choice as the fixer!
Did you have a "start window"...ie. come any time to start between 9 and 11am or how was the program set up? AM and PM? Did you do as BigBear shared, take a group and move through the stations with them or preassign stations and rotate on a timeline?
Terrain always seems to be the greatest issue (think we can arm wrestle some of that flat stuff back from the Realtors and condo owners?).
I can "buy in" if the program is designed to introduce students in a non-pressured, down-the-hill, holistic experience and instructors have a motivating payscale and can develop a connection with a group coming out of the backend. I dislike the idea when it is in reaction to poor facilities, training (talent), staffing or systems management where there is no controlling the influx of the masses of asses! In some cases I believe SAM thinks (mistakenly) that station teaching will create a brighter labour/revenue picture.
Thanks again for you insights Dave...even more would be great! Robin
post #16 of 17
At the end of February I had an opportunity to ski at Brian Head, Utah, for a few days, and I met with the ski school director there, Tom "Hap" Hazard. I really liked their version of stations. Essentially, they have a large flat area (at least a couple of acres) adjacent to the beginners lift that is groomed into a kind of bowl with a big flat run out area in the middle. Beginning students are fed into the bowl next to the lift, and the stations occur as students and instructors work their way around the bowl. When the groups arrive back at the starting point, the students are ready for their first chair ride. Interestingly, Brian Head uses a kind of direct-to-parallel approach, with students starting on short (roughly 130 cm) skis. For example, students begin with a straight run that is actually a traverse across the side of the bowl. Students are introduced to turns by being encouraged to balance on corresponding edges and tip their knees into the slope to turn up the bowl, and away from the slope to turn down into the bowl. Wedge turns and stops are saved for the last stations before students get onto the chair lift. I was very impressed with their reported success rate. The terrain grooming was ultra simple, and an otherwise unskiable flat area was put to good use.
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks BigBear, I had no idea Tom and Henry were doing station teaching...I will give them a call to find out even more!
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