- NW Snowsports Instructor
- Tech Zone
- Who We Are
Safety, fun and learning is a phrase I’m sure we’re all familiar with, as it is the mantra of the snowsport instructor; a phrase listed in order of importance as well.
Safety: Obviously keeping our students safe is of the utmost importance and should be our number one concern. Understanding that snowboarding and skiing is an inherently dangerous sport, instructors try to create a safe learning environment so the next two components are achievable.
Fun: The reason most people come to the mountain is to try something they know or believe will be fun and exciting. As long as students are having fun during their lesson there is a good chance they will learn.
Learning: Guests show up to lessons with the intent of learning something new. As instructors we spend a lot of time, effort, and money in the pursuit of knowledge of the sport we teach. Our goal is to present accurate information to the students in ways that are easily understood.
I have noticed recently that of these three important ingredients, fun seems to be the most often forgotten, and fun is the word I want to focus on. It seems sometimes we don’t teach with the same enthusiasm we would have on a day of free-riding. As important as safety and learning are for a good lesson we must not forget why we enjoy snowsports. Because it’s fun!
I cannot speak for everyone but no one forces me to teach snowboarding. I snowboard for the pure joy that sliding sideways down a hill gives me and I teach with the hope I might be able to show and share that same feeling with others. I know I am not unique in this persuasion and realize most instructors feel the same way. What we need to strive for in each and every lesson is making sure this love for the sport we teach is conveyed to our students.
This information is not intended to give you games to play with your students, nor is it meant to inform you of new techniques to captivate your audience. It is merely a reminder as to why we started snowboarding or skiing in the first place.
You remember, that time before you got paid to slide on snow? How you would sacrifice money, food, better judgement and for some, even a place to live, just so you could afford a season pass to the local hill? All in the name of fun!
We all continue to make sacrifices in order to teach and be on the mountain, but the most important thing we can give of ourselves is the enthusiastic, good, old-fashioned fun lesson! Focus on keeping lessons moving and up-beat, with “less talk and more rock.”
This fun approach does not only apply to our interaction with students. We should be sharing our enthusiasm with every one we come in contact with. Every second we are on-and-off the hill. We need to present ourselves as approachable and inviting.
Keep your eyes open for guests with questions and approach them before they even have to ask you. Go out of your way to ask people how their day is going. Offer directions to runs that will be better suited to their abilities. Exude your love for your sport and job, and it will be contagious.
Sometimes even coworkers will have off-days, it’s up to us to help them turn it around. Take some time to talk to them or invite them to take a run with you or something similar.
The point is to remember how much fun snowboarding and skiing was, is and will always be and then pass it on![connections_list id=51 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]
by David Beckwith
In these troubling economic times people are becoming increasingly thrifty and are very selective as to where they are spending their disposable income. Expectations are rising. Whether it is money or time, people are seeking a higher return on their investment. Needless to say this will impact our sport, but the snow will fall and people will continue to look to escape to the mountains. Will you be ready to heed the call?
Whether you’ve identified it in the past or not, instructors can be a very influential force, effecting not only the guest experience but the bottom line of a resort. When you step onto the snow you’re not just selling a lesson you are selling a sport, a passion, and a lifestyle. Here are a few tips to help guide your selling success on the slopes:
The time spent with a guest on the snow is only a portion of the potential impact they can have on our sport. Understanding the total guest value can help broaden our scope and depth of understanding the impact our participants have on our industry as a whole. When you consider the impact of multiple visits, positive word of mouth referrals, and peripheral purchases (retail, rentals, food & beverage, travel planning, etc.) the ski school student has a value that reaches far past the ski school.
Know your products and amenities. This way you can speak from the heart when iterating on all your mountain has to offer. Carry your mountain brochures so you have info to reference. If you don’t know the answer to a guests’ question- find out. Speak confidently and competently on your sport. Be the consummate snow sports professional.
Whether you’re outgoing and energetic or laid back and reserve we all share a common passion for sliding on snow and connecting with people. Share your enthusiasm for what you do in a genuine manner and your guests will be sure to gravitate to you.
Positive words build opportunities; negative words can leave a trail of destruction. Commit yourself to operating with the highest degree of integrity each time you step on the snow. Respect your profession.
By continually expanding your outlook you’ll be able to connect with individuals on different levels. Whatever your interest maybe, you’ll be best served by continually expanding your knowledge. People want to relate to people. By being a student of the world you’ll have more opportunities to connect with guests no matter how diverse they may be.
Guests want to talk. Listen. Get a feel for their communication style and what inspired them to take a lesson. Ask them what they want out of the lesson. Ask open ended questions, put your ego and agenda on the back burner, and you’re sure to get to the root of what a guest is looking for in their lesson in no time.
Using personal judgment skills means trusting yourself to say the right thing in the right way. These skills come from doing an accurate assessment of your guest, knowing your stuff (programs, products, teaching skills) and then answering directly how your product can link the two. With guest focused selling you have to let go of the need for manipulation and trust the process of working with your guest.
When you step onto the snow you’re not just selling a lesson you,re selling a sport, a passion, and a lifestyle.
No, I’m not talking about a horticulture adventure into arms dealing. Plant “triggers” or reasons why people should take a lesson with you. Leaving footprints consists of favorable impressions. Make yourself easy to work with. Use the methods that are most appealing to your personality and style, whether it be phone calls, emails, social networking sites, etc.
How often have we exchanged tales of our escapades on the slopes at the end of the day? Consider the power and the impact that some of these stories may have had on your snow sports experiences. Referrals and word of mouth can be very powerful. We’ll often recommend a good mechanic, restaurant, or movie, or we’ll advise our friends to steer clear if we’ve had negative experiences. Consider the impact a good story tied to a positive referral has had on you in the past. Take your guest beyond an experience and help them create a memorable story.
Always summarize the status of your guest at the end of a lesson and create a statement of what your guest will do the next time you are together. By creating an “aspirational” value guests will be intrinsically driven to return and it creates a pathway of opportunity and success for their snow sport experiences.
This just scratches the surface. For more info check out Streetwise – Customer Focused Selling by Nancy J. Stephens with Bob Adams. What’s the driver behind all of this you may wonder? It’s not to create a snow sports sales force with the tenacity of a door to door salesperson. The bean counters at our respective resorts would appreciate this, but it runs much deeper than the seasonal bottom line. These efforts will create memorable connections with our participants that reach beyond the slopes.
By creating these types of experiences we keep people engaged. Most importantly, this perpetuates our sport keeping us on the snow doing what we love to do. I encourage you all to employ some of these tactics when teaching this winter. Help sustain your industry; I’m sure you’ll create some new stories of your own along the way.
Dave Beckwith was the Snowsports Director for the Summit at Snoqualmie and past Alpine DCL for PSIA-NW. A former Tech Team member and examiner for PSIA-W, Dave got his start teaching skiing and snowboarding with PSIA-E over 20 years ago. David has recently returned to the east as the Snowsports School Director at Killington, VT.
A group of hearty souls braved single digit temperatures at Mission Ridge the first weekend of January 2009 to experience PSIA-NW’s inaugural event: Immersion: You Looking at You. What an event! The experience was fabulous and highly recommended to anyone who values good technique, slowing things down to understand fundamental movements, is interested in improving their skill development and willing to devote lots of practice time.
This event is not for those looking to bag multiple high-speed ripping runs. Save that for when you go to Symposium at Sun Valley’s Rip and Tip clinics. The design of this clinic is to slow down, and I mean slow down, the movement patterns into individual pieces for complete assessment of how the skills blend together turn by turn. A key component of the two days on the hill was how the coaches stationed themselves on the side of the run for them to watch, assess, and give feedback to the participants cycling by on green terrain (day 1) and blue terrain (day 2) with extreme focus on specific movement patterns. We began to understand how we each move and individually what we needed to do to change or adapt our ingrained movement patterns to show more accurate technique. Then we had to implement. The implementation of feedback is another unique part of this clinic; you work on your own. The group may begin the day cycling the same run together but you are given the choice of riding the chair alone, with a partner, talking about your feedback, not talking at all, stopping at a coach for feedback, or not stopping at a coach even when they flag you for feedback. This clinic is as much about you understanding how you process and implement feedback as it is working on the fundamentals.
The concept was simple but different than any clinic offering and the coaches made sure to bring us into the process
The concept was simple but different than any clinic offering and the coaches made sure to bring us into the process early to understand what to expect so we would be set-up for success. We met indoors the Friday night before the first day on snow with coaches Nick McDonald, Rick Lyons, Chris Thompson and guest coach Eric Ward. Eric brought with him his knowledge of having participated and coached this program before as well as his background as the Founder of The Foot Foundation™ and trainer for the Ski Schools of Aspen. We went through a presentation of the skills concept and how it is meaningful to us. This included lengthy technical discussions regarding center of mass (COM) and subsequent point of contact (POC). These key elements became the focus for the rest of the weekend. Saturday was spent on the hill with intensive movement pattern assessments and lots of practice exploring the potential range of these movements. Saturday night was another indoor session with a focus on your foot, how it functions and how it fits in your boot, however, not in the traditional boot fitting sense. As our awareness was expanded and was consistently coached it became very clear that the goal was “it’s all about you” meaning “me”. With consistent coaching and practice it became clear that is still up to me to make the changes and with the support of the coaches I had time to really explore and play with how to make integrated movement pattern changes.
In the end it’s still me working to maintain contact with the front of my boot, remaining aligned, etc. Throughout our discussions and the time on snow, the group had clearly learned by this point that Eric is a renaissance man and our conversations also covered among other things: fear issues, anatomy and physiology, pregnancy induced stance changes and an invigorating discussion about rebound.
Sunday was another full day on the hill with continued focus on skill development. We did get to switch runs and, if we were good, speed up a little. Some participants had adapted their boot fit by this point and experimentation with boots and implementation of feedback was in full motion.
Kirsten Huotte, despite the very cold conditions, video-taped both days on the hill so all participants had a good idea of what the coaches were seeing. The video was played for us to see and understand for ourselves. After both our evening presentations Friday and Saturday night the entire group dined out together to continue the conversations and enjoy each other’s company.
Highlights Discussed and Skied: Dynamic equilibrium of the center of mass, movements allow flow and change, and the point of contact, where the skis touch the snow. Goals: COM over POC. Consistency of platform is critical.
When do you know a turn is finished? Where is the neutral zone? How do you enter a turn? Goals: tripod for balancing over the whole foot. Lower leg cuff contact by tripod
De-inclination and Re-inclination. Goals: adjusting angulation while sustaining balance in movement.
Are you interested in what a tripod position is? Can you really manage the forces of a turn by the neutral zone? If your interest is piqued and you have the desire for great skiing then this is the event for you.[connections_list id=37 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]