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by Linda Cowan, Spring 2010
A few weeks ago when skiing with a group of students, I was struck by the notion that although I knew these students had been taught movement patterns necessary for effective and efficient skiing, I saw little execution of these movements when we were warming up. At first I thought, well, it’s just our first run, perhaps they were still waking up and I should just move on, but this led me to evaluate my role as their instructor. I can teach movement patterns all day long, but how can I get these students to own this information? These students can do movement patterns when asked, but how can I get them to voluntarily choose these movements on their own? My role as an instructor is not only to teach, model, guide and give specific feedback but to also lead my students to the ownership of information so that they will know when, where and why they should apply different movement patterns. I then determined that today’s lesson would focus on the ownership of a movement pattern we’d been working on for the past 3 weeks.
This led me to think about how to spend our time together that day. How could I better ensure their application of movements essential to good skiing? Now granted, these students are experienced. They can ski the entire mountain, and they’re motivated to learn because they ski race, but that doesn’t change a necessary outcome for all students-ownership of information.
First, I knew that we could walk through a lesson on alignment. For example, we could spend the morning focusing on our upper and lower body alignment through turn transition, and spend time applying this skill in different environments/terrain, but my goal was broader than these experiences themselves, my goal was a deeper understanding of why and a conviction for their movements given the desired outcome, terrain and snow conditions. I wanted them to own what to do, when, where and why.
So, I decided to use science to help us build our efficient skiing convictions. Since I teach fifth grade, we tackle the topic of Variables. We take a scenario, change one variable and study the outcome. Then, we change a different variable, and compare the two experiments. These simple experiments help students to see how scientists can study problems and learn from the outcome of different experiments. Sure, I could have chosen to run the group through a battery of drills, terrain challenges, and talked through the sensations and feedback they were receiving from their skis and movements, but they need to own this information for themselves. So, we became scientists.
To get buy-in, we talked as a group about what we’d been working on the past few weeks. We agreed to study the alignment of our hips through turn transition. So, as a group, we decided to fi nish each turn by squaring up our hips to our skis before starting our next turn. We wanted to see what outcome was achieved with this movement. Our conversations went as follows:
”I felt my tails wash out at the finish of each turn.”
“I found it hard to start the next turn because I wasn’t facing the right direction.”
So, we then agreed that on our next lap (same terrain so that we were careful to change only one variable) we would be mindful of our legs turning in our hip sockets, and through turn transition, work to keep our hips more aligned to our intended direction of travel through turn transition instead of squaring up to our skis. Our next conversation went as follows:
“I felt better prepared for the upcoming turn because of the discipline of my hips and upper body.”
“I was surprised how this focus helped me to move my weight to my outside ski through turn completion.”
This conversation was directed and led by the students, not by me. If ever they seemed to get stuck, we’d extend the distance or add varied terrain to help feel sensations that they could then put to words. These students ranged from 8 -13 years of age, yet, they were talking like both scientists AND skiers. They now had a reason to focus on the alignment of their hips through turn transition, because they better understood the outcome of not doing so.
When we came out after lunch our lesson changed gears. At the top of each run, students were asked to state the movements they wanted to focus on, where in each turn and why. As a result, the skiing from the group began to change. Each student started skiing with conviction, purpose and intention. They were making the decisions, and learning about the outcomes and beginning to own the information from our morning ‘sciencing lesson’ for themselves.
Of course, our first role as instructors is to teach, model, guide, and give specific feedback to help all of our students learn, but eventually, our students need guidance towards owning the information we’ve been teaching, modeling and guiding them through all season.
Whether teaching two-hour classes, one-day or multi-week programs, it is our responsibility to help our students own the information we’ve taught, modeled and given them feedback on, and perhaps in the future, a “sciencing lesson” might provide the vehicle for students to take on and own the information you worked so hard to communicate to them.
by Jeremy Riss, originally printed in the Winter 2009 Issue of the NW Snowsports Instructor
I often hear the comment from instructors that they don’t have time to train for exams because they are too busy teaching lessons. Going out and clinicing with your coach is a crucial part of training but so is experience teaching lessons of all ages and abilities. Some of the biggest breakthroughs I have had in my teaching and skiing have happened while I was teaching lessons.
Whatever feedback you are getting from your coach during clinics, applying that feedback during low speed maneuvers all day while you are teaching students is ideal. This will allow you to dial in the change you are trying to make at slow speeds and will be a benefit to your students since the accuracy of your demos will improve.
The movements you are trying to change in your dynamic skiing are generally the same movements you want to change in lower speed maneuvers. At the beginning of last season I was really focused on trying to get my outside leg to soften through the second half of the turn in order to flatten my outside ski and move smoothly into the next turn. I was able to make some progress on this in my dynamic skiing but I struggled with getting the timing right consistently. It wasn’t until I practiced it over and over again in slow speed wedge turns that I could really make the movement consistent every time.
There are different dynamics in play while you are doing a teaching segment in an exam vs. teaching a real lesson, but the same fundamentals apply in both and you are likely to have the same strong areas in your regular teaching that you do during exam teaching. You need to make safety a priority, use the teaching cycle, stay focused on building one skill at a time, work on each step until your students are successful at it, keep your descriptions simple and to the point, give accurate demonstration, and keep the atmosphere productive and fun for those you are teaching. Take the feedback that you get from your trainers during your mock-exam teaching segments and try to improve on those same things when you are teaching lessons.
Even if you are teaching kids the things that will make you successful in exam teaching will also get those kids making turns and heading off to the chair lift. One common error I see during exam teaching is people moving from one focus to another before students have mastered the original focus. I often see the same thing when people are teaching first-time 4 year-olds. They will work with the kids on side stepping to climb up the hill but not all the kids will be able to do it right away. The instructor will move all the kids to the next step of riding up the magic carpet even if they weren’t able to do the first step successfully. The lesson suffers because the kids that can’t side step up the hill have to rely on the instructor to pull them up the hill every time. The same thing happens in exams where candidates move to the next step in their progression even if the group did not perform the first step accurately.
To make the best use of all your time when preparing for exams, get accurate feedback from your coach and use every opportunity, especially when you are teaching everyday lessons, to apply that feedback and improve. Remember the ultimate goal in training for certification is to improve your ability to instruct your students.
Focusing on the areas in your teaching and skiing you need to improve on while you are working will make you a better instructor for your students and help prepare you for your exam.[connections_list id=16 template_name=”div_staff”]
It is April and the Senior Program at Anthony Lakes is on the grow. The foundation for this program began with three instructors, Bill Peal, George Roach, and John Spencer, taking the Senior Specialist training at Spring Symposium 2008 at Mt. Bachelor. Since then the program has been slowly taking roots with recruitment activities promoting the concept of a special offering for our adult skiers fifty and over. Networking with ski clubs, friends, and the skiing public has provided a strong client base for the program. We have built an email and address database for announcements of special event offerings designed for seniors. We have stressed the desired outcome of getting more seniors skiing for improved health via winter activities, building fitness and strength via a fun sport and the camaraderie and circle of friends to connect with at Anthony Lakes.
It is not all work and no play. Ski trips provide opportunities for social contact and building a circle of friends inside and outside of skiing. The Star Bottle Ski Club traveled to Big Sky, Montana, for fun on the slopes of Lone Peak to learn to apply some of the techniques of modern skiing led by Bill and John. In 2010 we have a trip planned to Sun Peaks, Canada which is sure to be a big hit with our group.
Our first official activity at Anthony Lakes was to conduct a free clinic to introduce and initiate the senior program. At this time our three Senior Specialist instructors were introduced, and the program objectives and operating structure was explained. The participants were divided into ability groups and we took to the mountain for fresh powder skiing with ten inches of new snow on a 20 degree day.
When asked what he saw as the strength of the senior program at Anthony Lakes, Ed Shaul replied, “I am excited about our new senior skiing program as it allows for certified instructors, specifically trained in issues challenging today’s skiing seniors, help me enjoy the sport with greater safety. Skiing with fellow seniors provides me with social contact and keeps me more physically active. The senior-specific instruction has been great in improving my understanding of new ski technology and age-specific techniques.”
Bill Peal led the more aggressive skiers most of whom wanted to learn something new or tune up their powder skiing. Many runs had great powder adjacent to the groomers so it was an ideal situation for introducing technique for skiing the fluffy stuff.
“Wow, this is fun!” was the unanimous comment from the group. Marie Whitaker added, “This program has tremendous value to get seniors together and teach them ways to prevent injuries while learning techniques enabling us to ski longer with more runs and less fatigue.”
A very important consideration to the development of your senior program is highlighted in the Senior Specialist Manual which is part of the Senior Specialist Program available from PSIA-NW. It is the Tailoring the Learning Process (Section 3) one must pay particular attention to in order to be successful when working with senior skiers. The 3 basic principles are:
“Hey, this really is easier!” is a typical comment we hear when we follow this learning process. It is my experience that seniors really light-up when you show them how to be more efficient in their movement patterns and consume less energy, which equates to more runs and more fun.
The senior skiing program is being designed with several factors in mind. People are staying active longer than ever before. Information in our new Senior Specialist Manual points out that “skiers between age 45 and 74 increased from about 1.1 million in 2002 to 1.3 million in 2003 alone.” Seniors are coming to the mountain and getting little or no direct, specific attention. A larger group of seniors is looking for programs that cater to their needs like an indoor place to socialize and boot-up before heading outside. If we provide this needed attention, more senior clients will choose skiing as their preferred activity and recreational outlet. Senior groups forming at resorts all over the world are finding new friends and new challenges. Anthony Lakes is eager to help pioneer this new movement.
In the coming years, as instructors, we are likely to have more senior students whether we operate a program for seniors or not. The new PSIA-NW Senior Specialist training will give you information and tactics that will help you be able to better meet the needs of this growing population of guests at our resorts. As many of the ski schools within our region consider the implementation of a program for Seniors it is good to know that the Senior Specialist Program is available. The training it provides is a tremendous resource answering the questions that are sure to arise.
Take the opportunity to connect with other instructors at the Senior Specialist training program to exchange ideas, share personal experiences and develop the “this works for me” exchange that is sure to enhance your lessons and programs at your home mountain. If you have ideas or questions or want to get more details about the successes at Anthony Lakes, please contact me.
Bill Peal is a Level II alpine instructor and trainer at Anthony Lakes Resort, in North Eastern Oregon. He also teaches cross-country skiing and leads snow shoeing trips combining his love of snowsports and photography. He has been teaching for 10 years at Anthony Lakes following 30 years at Pendleton High School as an Agri-Science instructor. When not skiing he is taking photos or teaching digital photography at the Pendleton Center for the Arts. [email href=”email@example.com”] Email Bill Peal[/email].