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Good skiing is NOT easy

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Bob Barnes gave this insightful historical perspective in the thread "From wedge turns to dynamic parallel":

"The marketing of skiing and skis as being "easy" and "quick to learn" has proven to be a 2-edged sword. And this isn't the first time this has happened. Cliff Taylor's GLM (Graduated Length Method) promised a quick shortcut to "expert" skiing 25 years ago or so. It attracted hoards of new skiers eager for instant gratification--it was a huge success. But the shortcuts it involved proved to lead not to expert skiing at all, but to the world of mediocre intermediate skiing. And people dropped out. Mediocre skiing just isn't that much fun! And plateaus are truly frustrating."

And I would add that "those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them". There was an additional negative result of the marketing frenzy surrounding the GLM direct parallel programs of the 70s. While telling the general public that GLM produced "instant parallel", the industry was at the same time stating the ANYONE could learn to ski - that "if you can walk you can ski". And worse, the public was also being told that skiing was now "safe".

In the times immediately following "Sunday v Stratton", we were warned that all these wild promises and claims of instant, safe skiing constituted an implied warranty. The ski schools and the areas would have virtually no defense against a lawsuit in the event of an injury.

I was teaching in a school that had become a Headway GLM franchisee. The year that I became the ski school director, Clif Taylor paid a visit and I skied with him for an afternoon. He was hoping to sell us on HIS method and program, but our investment in the Headway program was substantial and binding. Both programs involved not only a teaching methodology but also all of the rental skis, in three sizes per student.

Bob is completely right. We saw hoards of new skiers. But they were attracted by a national advertising and press campaign that promised that skiing would be "easy". (Most of them could walk.) Many of them learned to ski, but I would submit that these are the ones who would have learned regardless of the method. Too many of them ultimately had a negative experience and eventually dropped out. Our ski school dropped GLM after about four years and went back to exclusively PSIA ATM.

As the ski industry longs to return to the "glory days" of growth in the 70s, I hope that it doesn't forget that that growth was accompanied by some unpleasant lawsuits and eventually legislation, lift ticket disclaimers, outrageously escalating insurance premiums, and prohibitive lift ticket prices.
post #2 of 17
I had similar experience with GLM in the '70-'80's and mostly agree with your assesment.

On the "title" of your post however, I'd have to suggest that good (efficient) skiing is much easier to learn than bad (inefficient) skiing (and really need not be hard at all). Additionally opportunities (due to advancements in equipment and knowledge) now exist for it to be much easier to learn to ski efficiently (good), and progress more quickly than ever before in the history of the sport. The industry as a whole is missing the boat if it fails to coordinate their efforts to develope and promote these opportunities. In '95-96 when the new shapes were hot new ticket, PSIA passed on a real opportunity to step up and take on a leadership role and as a result is playing catch-up from the me-too end of the learning curve. Their "everthing we've always done works even better on shape skis" position back then apears to have lost the organization a lot of respect in the industry (and among its members) that will take some time and additional changes to regain.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
You're right - I attached a "title" at the last moment just prior to posting. I probably could have been a little more creative. I agree with you that "good" skiing is a lot easier than "bad" skiing.

You no doubt also remember PSIA's reaction to GLM back in the 70s. When the "new" ATM came out is was described as a "GLM-type" method. This was, of course, a sorry attempt to jump on someone else's bandwagon without paying for a ticket. "GLM", although it stood for "Graduated Length Method", had a very specific conotation that also included "direct parallel", and everybody knew it. The ATM was never a direct parallel method, and still isn't.

At least, hopefully, direct parallel may eventually be recognized as a legitimate alternative path, or a teaching tool, that well-rounded instructors, Certified or otherwise, may legitimately use when appropriate. Many do now anyway, whether it is sanctioned by their ski school and their association or not.
post #4 of 17
This thread ties in with what nobolono was saying about other skiers being the most dangerous things on the mountain.

Being essentially a "product" of the Perfect Turn system, my interpretaion of the words "After the 3rd lesson you will be able to ski down from the top of the mountain" was, that I would be able to ski down on a trail that was within the range of my abilities.

But you would be amazed at how many people interpret that as meaning tht they can "Do black diamonds". However, if you were to watch them ski, it would look like the diamonds are doing them.

Whenever I watch someone while riding the lift, I have to wonder if they could see how horrendous and ridiculous they look, would they still make fools of themselves by skiing trails that are way beyond their ability.

The mountain experience should be one esthetics. Watching people who can't even stand up straight on a lift line, slobber their way down a black diamond is an eyesore. I have been in ski classes where a guy will go down a trail at top speed, knocks over the rest of the class when he hits the bottom, and the instructor, in all seriousness says, "Nice Turns!"

Do we value the rat race, more than our sense of grace, elegance and refinement of skill?

But the more serious issue is the fact that they endanger others.

I guess its part of the instant gratification society.
Better buns in 5 days! :
post #5 of 17
I have very fond memories of being on the dark side (NEW SCHOOL) in the 70's. Wayne Wong move over. With my Olin Mark IV's and Burt bindings I could clean anybodies windshield in no time. ahhh geez, the beer consumed on the ski hill in those days eh, but what the heck. Wudda yah expect when living in the UP of Michigan eh! : :

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 21, 2001 04:53 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Pierre eh! ]</font>
post #6 of 17
The real issue for me is the "marketing" goal to fool folks into thinking they can get something for little or no effort. The customer is led to believe there's a "pill" to take all the work out of the achievement.

You don't get to be a star in the NBA without putting in literally thousands of hours of practice time on the basketball court. You won't learn to ski moguls like Nelson Carmichael without making millions of turns in the bumps.

The marketing focus should be on the healthy joy of accomplishment available IF one takes the time to work long and hard on the basics. Those who don't wish to make the effort should be guided to the tubing runs.
post #7 of 17
Actually good skiing IS easy. If you stay on groomed green slopes with soft snow. And don't go too slow.
post #8 of 17
FYI: I've seen PSIA's new Alpine Technical Manual (avaliable soon in a PSIA office near you). It includes a wedgeless direct parallel stepping stones (pathway) for use when the opportunity presents itself (student, equipment, terrain, etc). While this endorses DP as a legitimate pathway (like it needed it?) I've heard it suggested by some to be lacking depth of the what to do how and why. Maybe this is to avoid "freezing" the contents to a point in time, in times of change? But then development of substancial depth has already been done and is readily avaliable from other fore-runner sources (PMTS, Pathway to Parallel, etc). Strike up the band or jump on the bandwagon? You decide..... [img]tongue.gif[/img]

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 21, 2001 10:04 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Arcmeister ]</font>
post #9 of 17
Many schools have long felt that moving students directly to a parallel is one of many choices that instructors should have in their toolbag. The last week this is one of the subjects I've been working with our instructors on in fact. Whether to include a wedge as part of the initial progression, or not too - depends on the needs of each student. And even the 'dream' beginner (athletic, rollerblader and/or ice skater, balanced, etc.) who can quickly succeed using a direct to parallel progression - still needs to have a wedge introduced before going up the lift, even if it is as casual as: "oh, by the way - if you need it, here is another way to stop . . . "
post #10 of 17
Today as I was riding up the lift, I saw a lady skiing down the hill in more or less a straight line. Even from a distance, I could see her repeating the same words over and over. Eventually, the sound drifted up to me: "I can't turn. I can't turn. I can't turn..." Fortunately, she didn't hit anyone and was able to cut a very long arc to avoid the parking lot, and she finished her run with a slow plop in the snow. When I reached the top of the lift I tried to catch up with her to offer her a free lesson (for the safety of us all), but by the time I reached the lodge she had turned in her skis and left the area. Shame- it will probably take an act of God to get her back on the hill after the experience.

By no means am I a professional (or competent) instructor, but I've managed to teach a few friends that otherwise wouldn't ski or take lessons to enjoy sliding down snowy hills on sticks. Hopefully, I've presented the information in a manner that won't lead to dead-ends and would impress upon them the need to seek further instruction.

I teach wedges not as a brake (as most beginners seem to see them), but as a turning method. I try to get them to understand that turning is speed control and smooth, linked turns are their goal. Turning IS skiing. The key word each student seems to understand is "gliding". Otherwise, they seem to want to brake before each turn, which I could see leading to skidding at each turn. Depending on the student, I might have them focus on shifting their belly button laterally left or right to get them aware of weight shift and its effect on turning. I also focus on keeping their hands in front of them, explaining about keeping centered on the skis. Finally, I show them basic slope navigation (how to pick their own path) and the rules of the hill. Other than that, I allow the person to explore for themselves the sensation of gliding and what does what. Any dead-ends there? Anything left out? If a person won't shell out the cash for a lesson from a professional (and more and more people don't seem to want to), I'd rather give them a few pointers than to be on the receiving end of a ski while they teach themselves.
post #11 of 17
I realize that this is a thread for the professional instructors, and I hope my intrusion will be accepted. As a truly average skier, sixty years old, who is a so so skier but still loves the sport and always hopes to improve, I want to offer my own point of view: If someone has the ability to ski green trails slowly, really loves that, hates speed, and really is not likely to reach the top rungs of the sport, can professional instruction accept that skier "as is" and meet the particular instructional needs of that skier? What about the mainly blue trail guy who nevertheless feels like a giant when he can negotiate a mogul field and survive? I'll not list all of the very mediocre types of skier, but if you're professional instructors, you've seen 'em all. So after all that, here is my question, from a paying customer to the providers: If go to an instructor and say, "I'm only a level 6 skier, maybe level 7 when the sun is shining and I had a good nights's sleep, but . . . I really want to learn what to do when I come to a mogul field and can't avoid it. I'm willing to pay you good money and listen to you with respect and attention. Can you help me, please?" What do you say? and yes, I SHALL relate this to the intial thoughts on this thread, later.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 22, 2001 03:32 PM: Message edited 1 time, by oboe ]</font>
post #12 of 17
great question. An instructor should be to take a student and help them identify with the sport in anyway the student wants to be identified with it.

An example, last year I had a student that was given a private lesson. She said, she was forced to take it, but would rather sit in the lodge and drink coffee. After about 5 seconds of thought, I told her, "The mountain has many fine places to drink coffee. Some with pretty fine views too. How about we go and find these spots via comfortable slopes!" After a few questions to determine the slopes that she found comfortable, we were off. Great Lesson. We didn't do much verbal teaching, but we used the Mountain to teach us between Hot Chocolate, Coffee, and an espresso.

Regarding your desire for a lesson. We, as individual instructors, have this request often. Moguls are intimidating. It may take one lesson or a series of lessons to help you get to the level which you describe. And a good instructor will be able to get you there much sooner that if you were to try on your own. A blend of technique a tactics can help a skier comfortably make it down most blue mogul fields. A refinement of technique and additional tactics will assist you in more difficult black diamond bump runs.

I would love to assist you in your desires to improve your progress. Unfortunately, we are about 1500 miles apart (nothing a plane flight can't fix). I would be willing to bet that a Fully Certified Instructor in your area can assist you. Just call a mountain in your area and ask for a Certified instructor that can help you achieve what you want. They should be able to help you, but if they can't call another mountain. Either way, ask a professional to help you.

Best Regards,
post #13 of 17
IMHO, the first thing one does as a pro Instructor is to establish the goals, motivations and expectations of one's student. Some instructors, when confronted by your example, might make the decision that the student is not capable of skiing the bumps, and suggest short turn exercises on groomed slopes.
My feeling is that the student and the instructor have a tacit contract-the student, in exchange for a payment, sets the basic parameters for the lesson. The Instructor, in return for the payment, is responsible for creating a safe environment, communicating his/her expertise, and, as much as is possible, meeting the student's goals.
A knowledgable Instructor will quickly assess the student's skills, and select appropriate terrain. If a student (private lesson) shows up, says they are Level 7, and wants to ski the bumps-one does not immediately take them to Goat or The Plunge, but to a Blue bump run. If they are comfortable there, one can always intensify the lesson by increasing the pitch of the slope.
As a student I would find it very presumptuous and patronising if an Instructor refused my request to work on specific skills.
As an Instructor, I am confident enough in my ability, that I would take even a Level 4 down a Blue bump run, and make it fun and exciting.
Safety is, of course, the first priority, but, I would feel that I was totally inadequate as an Instructor if I could not guide a reasonable skier down a gentle bump run.
post #14 of 17
Ski Resort Management plays a very big part in the quality of lessons at a resort by training, auditing and most importantly supporting their instructors. There are many resorts that do little for the moral of their biggest profit centre by believing in the adage that good ski instructors are an expendable and easily renewed resource.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #15 of 17
I don't think it's learning that's the problem. It's that there's no standard instruction.

Take a lesson from instructor Joe, then take one from instructor Mary. You'll probably find that Joe and Mary completely contradict each other.
post #16 of 17
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>If I go to an instructor and say, "I'm only a level 6 skier, maybe level 7 when the sun is shining and I had a good nights's sleep, but . . . I really want to learn what to do when I come to a mogul field and can't avoid it. I'm willing to pay you good money and listen to you with respect and attention. Can you help me, please?" What do you say? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Wow, Oboe--great question! I say "you bet"! "Thanks for coming out--I'd love to show you some ways you can can ski moguls smoothly and painlessly--and maybe even enjoyably!"

And I mean it. Without having seen you ski, I'll still bet I can help you enjoy those bumps. And I'm sure there are some things you haven't thought of that will allow you to survive them with style and grace. I, for one, would love the opportunity to ski bumps with you!

I won't even give you the advice Phil Mahre gave a women who asked the same question at Keystone some years ago. "What do I do when I'm just skiing along and suddenly I find myself in a great big mogul field?" she asked. "Get off it," Phil replied. Of course, he had a twinkle in his eye, and then he continued on with some good practical skiing advice.

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>If someone has the ability to ski green trails slowly, really loves that, hates speed, and really is not likely to reach the top rungs of the sport, can professional instruction accept that skier "as is" and meet the particular instructional needs of that skier? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

The answer is YES! At least, it certainly ought to be. The "particular instructional needs of that skier" are the ONLY things an instructor should focus on in a lesson (except that in a GROUP lesson, the particular needs of ALL the skiers must be considered, sometimes at the expense of SOME of the needs of any one participant).

Oboe--your post hints at a very common problem with all "progression-focused" or "technique-focused" instructors and teaching systems. The only way instructors can meet YOUR needs is if the lesson is truly "student-focused." Any system that requires all students to fit into the same progression, or to learn a certain "move" and avoid others, is destined to succeed only for those students for whom that progression or move fits! (Or for those students who can be convinced that they "need" those things, even if they didn't at first realize it--a real possibility.)

The reason I would love to ski with you, Oboe, is that you have been quite clear about exactly what you want. That makes my job much easier! A big part of any successful lesson is to find out just what the student wants and needs. If you come right out and tell me, it certainly saves us both a good amount of time!

You want to be able to ski bumps competently. You may not know what you NEED, technically, tactically, or mentally, in order to attain your goal. That's where I come in! Together, we'll identify just exactly what will make you successful, and at the very least take the first concrete steps toward your ultimate goal.

I promise!

"We must have many christies in our pockets...." I can still clearly hear these words--and the important message they state--spoken by the late Professor Franz Hoppichler, director of the Bundesportheim in St. Christoph, Austria, in 1988. (The Bundesportheim is the official training school for Austrian instructors, and Professor Hoppichler was the esteemed leader of this institute of highest learning for ski instructors for many years.) He openly criticized instructors and systems that only taught one kind of turn. He was adamantly opposed to instructors who could--or would--only teach people "high-performance" race-type turns. He coined the term "comfort christie"--an efficient, easy, minimally stressful, elegant type of turn that would allow less-athletic skiers to enjoy the sport.

All instructors should hear--and listen to--these words! If we can't teach people what they want, then why would they want to take lessons from us?

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #17 of 17
You Know Bob what you wrote to oboe Just about made me pack up my pick up truck and drive to Colorado and take a lession from you.I might just do that once these Olympic games are over.I use to work with a vary good instrutor here in Utah. Mark had away to push you out of your comfort zone.It was more like skiing with a good friend then taking a lession.Oh he was teaching all the time.But the day was spent learning and laughing.Mark has moved on he is now Teaching in a private High School and teaching the kids from his class how to ski.
I admire your dedication to teaching and your obvious love of skiing.
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