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Bormio Ski School/Killing the Spirit/Sad

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I've decided to do 2 separate posts about my Bormio Ski trip. Stuff about the skiing and area in general will be in the Resort Section.
There are many things that may have contributed to my disatisfaction. First, my husband's hypothesis's.
1. I was trained primarily by ASC's Perfect Turn system, which has been criticized as being an overly positive marketing ploy, designed to make people believe they are skiers by level 3, and thus be more inclined to buy ski condos, season passes, etc.
My counter argument: I NEVER felt that l was a true skier by level 3. Although my ASC instructors have for the most part, been very positive in their approach, no one has ever witheld correction in any attempt to create a "Pollyana" type learning environment. Since Bormio itself is not a purpose built resort {no one owns the mountain, a lift company owns the lifts} the ski school is not affliated with the mountain. In fact, there are 4 competing schools, which often train on the same hill. Their purpose is to not allow you to feel to confident, so that you will continue taking lessons. Unfortunately, the approach is far too negative for my tastes.
@. My husband accuses me of "engaging my charm" on my ski instructors, both male and female in attempt to disuade them from simply saying to me "Why the H***L can't you get this??!!! He also thinks that my relationships with both my students and teachers are often too personal. In Bormio, the instructors may be having a similar backlash to what we have in the aerobic industry. Understandable, since each was more gorgeous than the next, and the Italian ski instructor as sex object must get a bit old, as it does in the aerobic industry. But as a result, most seem a bit cold and removed. In all 4 schools, every instructor rode the lift by himself {although that could be a safety issue} And the Italians refer to the instructor as "Maestro". NOW, DON'T YOU GUYS GET ANY IDEAS!!! And as for the English translation of the word, NOT in a ski lesson!

Counter Argument : I don't think any of my instructors are so malleable that I could charm them into not being enraged at my slow progress. I'm just not THAT charming. My favorite students and instructors are also my most favcrite people in the world, aside from my husband. I am personal, but not to the point of being unprofessional Maybe its a "girl thing", but I just don't function well in a totally impersonal learning or teaching environment.
Although Bormio is the home mountain for many of the Italian racers, its odd to see a predominance of straight skis and rear entry boots: Even amongst the instructors. The teaching style reflects it. Boots locked together, shoulder leans into the downhill hip, and one I just could NOT understand, pushing the heels down the hill. HUH??!! WHY??!!ALso, very exaggerated UP!! DOWN!! movements, and you can hear the instructors of all 4 schools screaming this across th hill . It felt like some kind of retro time machine. Now here's the problem: They will humiliate you if you don't do it their way.And God help you if you ever get caught in a wedge. When our class came down the hill to regroup, 3 people had a yardsale in front of me. I automatically stopped in a wedge. BANG! Ski Pole on my boot. NO WEDGE! Parallel by intimidation. That'll work... I guess.
On the second day of class, he took us on this very narrow trail through the trees, that had what appeared to be these small "ice bumps. The only instruction we got was to keep distance between ourselves. But he does not tell us how to change our skiing style. Now, I may be a slow learner, but I'm not a complete idiot, so I realized there was NO way the ski style he was teaching would work on this trail. SO hung in the back, giving everybody in front of me lots of space, turned my skis parralel but not together and used whaterver I had learned elsewhere about short radius turns. But we still ended up having all these group wipeouts, Having been so disciplined, we all turned a bit giddy, laughing so hard we could'nt get up again. Finally, when he came back to see waht was up, I looked up and said "Wer'e having a party. I'm terribly sorry we didn't invite you". That got maybe a small smile. On the last day of lessons, he scouls at me and says "Maybe a little better, but still not good enough". Well why would I be taking lessons if I thought I was good enough? I came awy feeling depressed, unconfident and demoralized. Which lead to a dangerous experience the next day.
My husband wanted to ski mostly red trails. SInce Bormio is rated Blue, Red, Black, I assumed that red corresponded to an American Blue. Not true. Although ther is not much super challenging stuff in Bormio. there simply are no greens. SO Blue is Blue, and re is, well, harder. Unfortunately in most cases, too steep to keep my alignment and technique. We had gone to the top of the mountain, about 9700, and began to ski down a steep narrow trail. All of a sudden, everything around me turned dark. WHen I "came to" I was standing at hte edge of a trail, looking over a cliff. And I suddenly remembered that before I began skiing, I was so afraid of heights that I couldn't get up on a ladder to change a lightbulb. This hapened 3 more times on the way down, and then gradually turned to motion sickness. Somehow, I made it down alive. Gives the phrase "Survival Skiing" a whole new meaning.

SO, in one month, I go to Whistler, and even though I've been there before, I somehow feel as if I've lost everything I've gained in the last 3 months, and I'm filled with the kind of fear that i haven't felt for a long time. Sometimes, I just feel like giving up. I don't know. I just don't know....
post #2 of 22
Sorry to hear about your dissappointing trip, Lisamarie.

However, I believe, you made a couple of mistakes that contributed to your disaster.

1. Work on your skiing at your home mountain. Do it on familiar terrain, in familiar surroundings. Maybe you can find one instructor whose teaching style suits you the most. That way the distractions are minimal and you can concentrate on your technique.
When you go to a destination resort, just ski. Do not think about how to ski better - explore new terrain (skill permitting), enjoy the scenery. Take a lesson only when you feel that you know the mountain as your home one.

2. If your significant other and you ski at incompatible levels and/or one is not satisfied with the way another skis, DO NOT SKI TOGETHER. Loose each other in the morning and get together after skiing. You will have enough time to enjoy each other in the evening. When you aggrivate each other while skiing, I bet that evening is not enjoyable any more.


PS Just to bring your spirit back I can offer you a free all day private lesson (can not charge, since I have no instructor credentials, but I do know a thing or two about skiing and I like making others ski better) at a New England mountain of your choice.

Making a turn where you have to is different from making a turn where you want to...
post #3 of 22

Sorry to hear about your less than ideal trip to Italy. I think that VK has a point. Maybe, when you go to Whistler, you should focus on having fun a skiing. Not on improving. Save that for your home area. And while VK has a point about not skiing with your SO if he is a different ability level, I think that you can work around that one. There are lots of areas at Whistler/Blackcomb that skiers of different ability levels can use the same lift and meet up during, or at the end of, each run. My wife and I do that for a few runs, then I'll ski some groomed runs with her for a while. Then, usually just after lunch, I'll go off to areas where she can't go, for a couple of runs before meeting up again.

However, if you do decide to take lessons at Whistler, the culture and teaching styles are (obviously) the same as what you are used to, so you'll know what to expect. But I might suggest waiting until after you have skied a few days to decide. There is also the option of clinics geared toward sepcific terrain or groups, such as women's clinics and powder clinics (etc., etc.). I'm sure you already know that, but I wanted to remind you that those lessons can be taken when you are on vacation, not just at home, and they will probably be a little less intense, which is good for vacations.
post #4 of 22
Wow Lisamarie,
Sorry to hear about a disappointing experience. I guess the above posters have a point. Go enjoy yourself on a vacation trip and not work so much on "getting better" Any positive experience is getting better, not just ones with instruction. If you make it out to Tahoe sometime I would be happy to ski with you if I can get the time off. No lessons, just ski and enjoy. My wife and I ski at different levels also, I ski a few runs with her, work on my fundementals, enjoy her company, and then I take of for a few runs with a time set to catch up with her. I'm always looking for more terrain for her to ski on and scout out new areas for her. She is getting better and seems to just enjoy the getting out too.

The Canyons in UT was one of those places JohnH eluded to that has lots of lifts that serve all different types of terrain so it is very easy to ski different terrain and still stay with a group. I think only one easy chair that didn't access more than green and maybe 1 blue and one chair that only hit blacks. The rest all had green to blacks and double blacks. Whistler has a lot of hills like this too.
post #5 of 22
As was said, I think it's helpful to remember there are ups and downs along the way, and that those "bad" days (a bad WEEK is probably harder) can be made helpful if you're willing to accept that all it means is that there's still plenty to learn about skiing, as well as how YOU are experiencing the whole ski experience.
Go to Whistler, head to Blackcomb, get on 7th HEAVEN, or wherever you'll feel comfortable and confident getting your ski legs back under you. Remember what those good turns feel like, remind yourself how much better you're skiing with your hands in front. Ask yourself throughout the day, Am I relaxed? Am I centered? Am I having a good time? If not, start there.
Every new ski day is a chance at redemption and rediscovery. Assimilate the Italian experience as another lesson. Remind yourself what you DID learn, even if it seems silly or negative-associated. Get SOMEthing from it (you paid the bucks, might as well) and move on to the next thing that removes the bad taste. And never forget that all this, too, is easier said than done.
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for being so supportive. Gee, I must have been pretty grim if I rendered Bob Barnes almost speechless!
A few points: I have taken Whistler's Ski Espirit, and I find it an excellent way to ski the mountain without too much emphasis on technique. I will also cop to the fact that not having to wait on a 2 hour gondola line while listening to a performance by a Neil DIamond sound alike {this really happened}. And the instructors know when the best time of the day is to do a specific run.
Often, at "destination resorts" I end up taking classes simply for my 1. MY Safety, and 2. A chance to practice real ski skills, as opposed to survival ski skills. As you may have guessed, my husband and I are WAY out of kilter in terms of our skiing levels. He thinks that when I get down a very difficult trail {for me} without wiping out or hurting anyone else, it should be considered an accomplishment. But if I use bad form, I am not at all proud.
Still, perhaps I do see some validity in the idea of doing the main portion of my learning at mountains close to home. Especially since I can now narrow my instructor/mentor choices to a few who are most appropriate for me, and most importantly, whose ideas are pretty much in sync, rather than in conflict, with each other. Because what I have learned from this experience is that intellectual promiscuity can be damaging to the mind and spirit. For better, and most probably for the worse, my approach to skiing is technical and academic. And the irony, I found in Bormio an instructor whose technical approach is the antitheis to that of perhaps the only one who I would call a "Ski Maestro". { I still will NOT use that term in person!} Its one thing to be challenged and taken out of your comfort zone. Its another, to be asked to use technique that you have been taught to believe is dated, and incorrect for your equipment and body type. I tried really hard, but just could not ski the way he asked me to. And complaining to the ski school director would not have helped, because as I mentioned, all 4 ski schools taught pretty much the same way.
DB and Matteo: You both bring up some excellent points about language and communication. Ironically, when I spent a summer studying Italian in Perugia, the approach was a bit more mellow.
Perhaps, some of the humor and communication nuances do not translate well, even amongst people who are bi-lingual. I had an experience of this sort in the village of Bormio. Someone was walking this big cuddly Airdale, and I wanted to snuggle. When i put my hand out for the dog to sniff, the owner said something about being caeful, this dog likes to eat the arms of people who are wearing the color jacket I had on. I took him seriously. Turns out he was kidding. Luckily, he called me back. And I got a big doggie kiss on my forehead!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #7 of 22
Lisamarie, sorry to hear about your lessons, but may have been predictable. Different countries teach different techniques, and sometimes even the same countries teach different techniques, it is best to stick with one teaching technique so nothing has to be unlearned.

Luckily, my wife and I, both having PSIA certification, ski all terrain together, so I can't comment on that.

But let me tell you how it was when I was teaching, privates from the past brought their children a couple decades later to the same instructor, and as with Franz, my best friend who is in his 37th year of teaching, grandchildren of his early privates are being taught by him. Skier can be loyal if they find the right teacher and to the teacher they are family.

Another thing, when I was riding the chairlift I always kept an eye out for my private students from the past to see how they skied and when I would detect an error creeping in, I would catch up with them and ride the chair or just corner them and remind them gently of what they needed to do to get back on track. "Don't do that" was never in my vocabulary while teaching in person, it is a negative expression and doesn't help anybody.

So what everybody said, VK and Bob Barnes and the others is to please don't get discouraged and stay with us and I wish the same.

post #8 of 22
Wow, Lisamarie, I never guessed you wound up in an Italian boot camp. DB had a great point about looking for good instructors in one's native tongue and the flexibility to dump someone after one less than great lesson. Sometimes, though, it is hard to tell what to expect in said lesson. If all the instructors of that school were alike, maybe another school, but it could have been the ski culture of that particular mountain was uniform in this area.

Les Deux Alpes was nothing like this for me. I thought the Tier 2 group lesson given by the Mt's own instructor was lame, because I was with relatively new skiers, to whom a stem turn was just fine (but it kept me in my bad habit of being back too far on the skis to turn better). This is why I went for a private lesson and chose to try the St Christophe school, which also taught there. While the instructor was French, his English was perfectly fine, owing to him having an English (yes, British) girlfriend. Felt he knew my issues from the start. We stayed on Blue trails. I didn't see a Red trail all week. The instructor actually complimented me at the end for being a willing pupil. I think that was because (after losing my glasses) I kept wanting to ski, even in a snowstorm where I was tired enough that my contacts had me seeing two of him. (Anyone else ever have that happen? Altitude?)

Best to take anything useful you got out of it (what little that might be) and furgetaboutit. Easier said than done, eh?

xxLisa<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by lisakaz (edited February 14, 2001).]</FONT>
post #9 of 22
Hi Lisamarie
I'm new to this forum (but not new to skiing) and this is my first post.
It sure sounds like you had a tough week. I have seen some of your past posts on your lessons and you sounded so enthusiastic!

It seems to me that your being awfully hard on yourself! Your trying to force yourself to become a better skier no matter what. Relax, enjoy yourself, it'll happen in time and in very subtle ways. Learning how to ski well is a combination of lessons and many hours of just skiing. There is no substitute for time on your boards! Eventually you'll laugh at the trails you used to think were impossible steep and difficult.

I began skiing when I was 35. I've been at it for 17 years now and can feel myself still getting better every year. With the new super carving skiies, I'm having more fun than ever before. What a blast carving incredibly deep trenches in the snow!

Don't give up. All that counts it that you can snap off your skies at the end off the day and walk away with a big smile on your face!
post #10 of 22
Welcome aboard HarryO,
Good first post. Looking forward to your on going input.
post #11 of 22

Nice to have you here. Great post. I look forward to more input from you. I'm glad you decided to join us.

post #12 of 22
Thanks Folks.
It's a great forum with excellent advice and views. I happened to stumble onto it in my ski browsing this past Dec. and have been following it since then.I've been silently lurking in the background. But,when Lisamarie described her saga and seemed so dejected, I had to sign up and put in my .02 cents!

And yes, you can count on my input from time to time.
post #13 of 22
Hey - find us an email address for those instructors or the ski school, and we'll exact some vengance! <g>

Actually I'd just like to know why in spite of the fact that their own greatest skiers don't ski that way - they are trying to teach you such retro style!<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Gravity (edited February 14, 2001).]</FONT>
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Gravity: Funny you should say that. My DH told me to try to get him onto epic so that I could sic my friends on him!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #15 of 22
Thread Starter 
Harry; I'm flattered that I inspired your first post. Thank you.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 
Interesting thing happened today. While I was in Italy, a few of my Pilates students went to New York and took a classic and traditional Pilates class. I myself have been trained by a "renegade technique" of Pilates. Since Joseph Pilates developed his Method in the 1920s in Germany, we enhance and alter the technique based on modern principles of biomechanics. We are highly opposed to contrived, pseudo balletic alignment, and we believe in altering and modifying the technique to suit different body types. We have also added other types of equipment such as the stability ball. Our teaching philosophy involves helping our students develop first develop a non judgmental awareness of how they are moving, and then proceed to teach them tools for change, development, and enhancement.
The "New York Style" {implies a certain arrogance right there, eh?} demands that the Method stays exactly as it was in Germany in the 1920s. Since this is a ski board, I won't bore you with technical nuances. The teaching style is harsh and critical.
My students were extremely demoralized, and upset.Needless to say, we spent some time commiserating.

Lisakaz, thank you for your comments. I wonder, does having the name "Lisa" doom us both to perpetual cerebralism? A thought; I understand your sadness at not being involved with anyone at the moment. Its been my experience that the best things happen when I am not trying so hard. Is it okay if I gently take the advice that others have given me about working to hard at my skiing, and lend it to you as food for thought about relationships? Please believe I am not trying to be cruel or beliitle you in any way.

I still promise everyone I will post a report about the general skiing in Bormio, which was actually quite beautiful.
post #17 of 22
Thread Starter 
Okay, I finally got the description of the skiing and the general area in the Resort section, if anyone is interested. Keep in mind there was alot of positive stuff there. But as a movement activity instructor myself, I am interested in how any other instructor would teach. Similar perhaps, to how a vineyard owner would rate the local wines. Hopefully, i can figure out a way to post some pictures!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #18 of 22
You offered: My husband accuses me of "engaging my charm" on my ski instructors, and I'll just bet that you charm the socks off every person that has the pleasure of meeting you.
post #19 of 22
Thread Starter 
Ryel, I bet you do the same!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #20 of 22
Lisa Marie,

Sorry for your experience in Italy.

I have a suggestion for you: go to Taos and do a ski week, it's a great experience. You ski with the same group and instructor everyday for six days. ( If you really want to go nuts you can do a super ski week which is morning and afternoon classes).
I did a ski week two years ago and it was fantastic. Taos is a small mountain with a very loyal following of people who deep coming back there because it's a special place. It's really about skiing and learning to ski, there's not a lot of nightlife.

The director of the ski school, Jean Mayer, has been there for many years (40?) and the director of the ski week, Alain Veth has also been there long time. They both are serious about your learning to ski and have a good time.

When I went there I really made a lot of progress and was introduced to concepts that I'm just now really nailing down.(The diagonal movement into the new turn.) I also found skiing with a group really pushed me to ski better. I remember the top of one chute looking down and thinking "That's too narrow for my skis!", but I knew the guy who just went down was on 204cm straight skis and I've got 193's. So I try it and it works out. You will be gently pushed, not humiliated and made to feel you can't ski.

The advantage also is you get to know a group of skiers who are on your level, so you have skiing partners for the rest of the day if you want. This helps tremendously I think in learning. It's good to ski with people who are better, but not way better(for too long anyway) because it takes the focus off your own learning/improving. If you ski with someone who's way better it just looks too easy,(you don't see the things they need to work on), and it can be very frustrating.
Skiing with people of similar level you can question each other and maybe one gets something others don't and you learn much quicker. Plus you can bring problems back to the instructor the next day. (And ask to work on them as opposed to being told by some drill sargent).

Anyway, I highly recommend a Taos ski week and if you go late season (end of March) or early, it's cheaper. If you do go I'd recommend staying in Taos ski valley as opposed to Taos which is a good 45-60 minutes away.

Alora, tutta e va bene
post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
Tog: Grazie! I hope to take a week at Taos, in the future. Presently, I don't think I'm skilled enough. Maybe in a few years.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #22 of 22
Lisa Marie,

You certainly don't have to worry about being skilled enough! A common misconception is that Taos is only for experts. This is not true. They have instruction at all levels.
If you go, just don't be terrified by the sight at the bottom. The chair goes up a very steep expert run and it seems as if the entire mountain will be that steep but it's not the case. The really steep stuff one needs to hike up to. It's pretty obvious where to go for the appropriate level. Besides, in a ski week you have an instructor who will take you where it's appropriate.

Taos also has a different feel to it because snowboarding is not allowed.

Oh, and D.H. Lawerence certainly liked it out there.


-ciao<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Tog (edited March 05, 2001).]</FONT>
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