Improving technology in the ski market is what makes skiing such a fun and enjoyable sport. Each and every year, skiers find themselves with a host of new products to make their sport easier to learn and advance in their ability. One of the most significant achievements in ski technology is the advent of “shaped skis” or “super-sidecut skis”. These skis, unlike traditional skis, require little effort to turn them and since their introduction on the market in 1996, shaped ski technology has become an industry requirement for any new ski that is designed (SKI Magazine). A major problem that occurs is that ski instructors that were taught on traditional skis, might not know how to teach on these new skis. Ski areas and resorts should require their instructors to maintain a certain level of knowledge about new ideas and technologies emerging in the ski industry.
Using old skiing methods and trying to force a shaped ski to turn, rather than letting the ski do the turning for you will leave you with a sore back and knees (SKI Magazine). Shaped skis were designed to allow the skier to turn with a minimal amount of effort, so that by the end of the day, they wouldn’t be tired, and would possibly want to ski another day (Skiing). So the old tricks don’t work? No. Good skiers will use new and old techniques where they are appropriate (SKI Magazine). What ski instructors need to know is when and where to apply those methods.
Ski instructors can sometimes have a problem with improving their own skiing or changing anything that can effect their ability, such as new, different equipment. Instructors see themselves as the “gods of the mountain” – and at certain levels that is possibly an appropriate statement, but I believe that we all can learn something new and get even better. The Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) even require its members to attend training at least once every two years. During this training, members are taught new methodologies for teaching, new and emerging ski technology, and focus on their own personal skiing skills (PSIA Newsletter).
Instructors who are not members of PSIA, do not receive this training, and are not informed about the new techniques and methods for teaching how to ski, and the new technology of how to ski on the new shaped skis. This could lead to bad skiing form or habits, which could impede the skier’s advancement to the next level of skiing. Some mountains do not require PSIA certification of their instructors, and at some resorts over 95% of the instructors are not currently certified (SKI Magazine)
A fellow ski instructor and I were having lunch at the base lodge and discussing common things between all of our students over the past month. I was heading off to a PSIA training session and wanted to ask some questions about children’s programs and specifically, children’s skiing from levels one through four. The biggest problem that we both encountered were that kids and adults tended to “sit” or lean back on their skis. This prevents the skis from being able to be turned at all, yet it tends to feel very “safe”. Students that come to the mountain with traditional skis, can usually get away with “sitting back”, but those students with the shaped skis would end up falling down, due to the much shorter length of a shaped ski. After I came back from the training session, I got back together with that instructor and showed him a new teaching technique that will have students leaning more forward instead of backwards. The next lessons that we each taught, we used this new method, and to each of our surprise, it worked. Thanks to learning and development, every ski instructor can become better, yet those mountains and ski resorts that do not require certification of any kind, could have a real problem when new technology and new techniques to use that technology are developed and the instructors are left uninformed.
As it stands today, skiing is easier to learn than ever before (SKI Magazine) – it used to be that skiing was reserved for only the most athletic. Yet, instruction is still required at all phases of the learning process – even for those of us who teach the art and science of how to ski. Why is it then that old techniques are still being taught, even at the beginning levels of skiing where the majority of instructors teach and development in instruction occurs? Outdated methods and an uninformed instructor can lead to a failure of the ski school (SKI Magazine). Instructors should strive to try out the latest and greatest things – if only to try them out. Another instructor told me that she wouldn’t ski on the new shaped skis because they made it “too easy”. But for a beginning skier – that is exactly what we as instructors want! We want the customer to have fun and enjoy their time at our mountain, by being able to learn to ski quickly, and progress to the next level of their skiing ability. It is quite sad to see a senior instructor coaching a junior instructor on how to teach using an old method that is no longer applicable with the technology, both in skiing skills and biomechanics / teaching theory that we have today.
The one thing that I have learned from being a teacher is that I can always learn more – and that I should always strive to do so. As ski instructors, we should always try to understand the students, and learn new ways to help them learn. We should try and sometimes embrace new ideas that become available to us, especially if they advance our students learning. We should also always remember to have fun.
John Fogarty has been skiing for over 20 years and snowboarding for 10 years. He is a member of PSIA and is currently teaching all levels of skiing and snowboarding at New Hermon Mountain in Hermon, ME.
Johnson, P. “New Tricks for Old Dogs.” SKI Magazine December 2000: 57+.
Daniels, H. “Why Ski Schools Fail.” SKI Magazine December 2000: 31-33.
Mackey, S. “Are You Getting Bad Advice?” Skiing January 2001: 23-29.
Ross, A. “The 5 W’s of Exam Preparation.” PSIA-E Newsletter Winter 2001: 2.
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