I've been wanting to jump in on this post for a few days and just haven't had the time....
Whenever I get a REALLY challenged beginner, in whatever population group, I usually take a step back and re-evaluate what I'm using as my criteria for success. Remember this from our level one certification, "Safety, Fun, Learning"? I try to always put my students in a "safe" situation, and I always try to have fun (But you can only do what you can do on this one (You folks know what I mean)). In this lesson, I could care less if they aren't technically the best skier, just that they are sliding. I usually work with them until I see they are having a little trouble and slow down what I'm doing at that point to get more practice. Most of the stuff at the very beginning of the lesson can be rather dry (just how exciting can you make putting on your skis or side stepping
I have a student that is really struggling with say the straight run, we do a lot of straight runs. All kinds of straight runs. In my book, if we can balance on our skis and make them go in a straight line, we're a skier. Maybe not a very good one, but a skier none-the-less. Generally at the end of a two hour first time lesson, I want my students to have a good gliding wedge, a braking wedge to stop, and a few wedge turns under their belts. 99% of the time I get this outcome. But for some people, a Straight Run without falling down IS SUCCESS. (I know we've all had that one student that couldn't even do that.) You MUST let them know that. Yes they will be frustrated when they see all of the other students in the class wiz by them, but you must let them know or keep them for comparing themselves to other students in the group. Why? For all of the reasons pointed out above. You never know what someone's life experiences are and how they are going to relate/transfer them to skiing. Success for a particular student should be defined as where were our skills when we started and where were they when we finished. Then ask the question, "Did we improve?" Hopefully the answer will be yes (no matter how slight), and we will have had fun doing it. The hardest part about working with a student in this situation is keeping their attitude good. Letting them know they ARE improving helps, as well as spending the extra time with them to show your dedication to them (don't let them quit!!!). It means so much more the folks that strugle when they finally "Get it".
With skier visits declining every year, one of the biggest challenges facing our industry is 1). Getting folks to try skiing in the first place, & 2). Getting them to come back after they have tried it. There is only so much we can do about #1, but we can have a HUGE influence on #2. If folks have an awful first time lesson (boring, too many people in the lesson, no real instruction given, etc.) why would we expect them to come back. I don't know if I would. I know at Alta we treat the "first time on skis" lesson as one of the most important lessons our ski school offers. You could have an examiner or full cert teaching you at level 1. (One reason we can do this is we have a 100% certified staff) New skiers are our future. Get them locked into the ski school mentality early and often. If not we are letting the sport down. Personally I LOVE teaching level 1. Crazy ? Not really. As a ski teacher, my satisfaction comes from watching my student "get it" and seeing the joy on their faces when they do. I just go to share something REALLY cool with them. Most folks make more improvement on their first day, than any other single day in their skiing career. That equals Max Satisfaction in my book. Plus I've taught so many over the years, I've just about got it hard wired. I don't want to teach level 1 every day (variety is the spice of life), but when I pull that duty I don't bitch (Not even on powder days....) In fact I was thinking about volunteering for Level 1 this coming Sunday. The daughters of one of my wife's co-workers are going to be up and I want to make sure they have a good lesson.
1 more thing. A few years ago, Alta started a program "ski free after 3" on one of our beginner lifts. It has been a huge success. One thing that I've noticed is that Asian skier make up a significant part of the population group that utilizes that option when compared to the demographics of the state of Utah as a whole. I have no doubt as to their desire to learn. Quite often I've seen them really struggle on the hill. More than once I've pulled over, offered 2 mins. worth of help and been on my way (I've done this with other population groups as well). If we take the time to show the value of instruction to these folks maybe they'll ski with us in the future.[ January 07, 2004, 08:29 AM: Message edited by: Lonnie ]