How to Teach
Pay close attention to the needs of your students to teach at pace that creates a fun experience without creating fear. Keep them safe and tell them where to ski after the lesson.
1- Demonstrate a move while giving a brief explanation (great teaching keeps people moving)
2- Provide specific feedback during or immediately after the performance Video
High Energy and Attention
People love to know when they are doing it right. Pay close attention and shape their performance with positive reinforcement; so as soon as they do it right say great, that is it, excellent! This gives them a clear path to success and makes learning fun. Assist them if they can't make a move on their own. Repeatedly ask if their boots hurt, or if they are cold.
It takes a lot of energy and attention to see what your students need during the entire lesson. Every time before they ski tell them to start in an athletic position and correct any problems. This is especially true for beginners on the carpet, and after getting off the rope. If they do not start off pointing downhill in a good stance they will have a hard time. When they can not make a wedge on their own assist them. It can be frustrating for you and the students if they can't do it, so if your skis are off you can help them.
Make skiing like a video game with clear targets and rewards when they are achieved with your positive feedback, so you really have to pay attention. They should be able to slide down the hill in an athletic stance before working on turning. This will take time so don't rush to turning.
Even if they are a beginner, evaluate your students right from the start. Do they walk and move easily with good coordination and balance? Have beginners ski down after exiting the carpet so you can help each one, and they are not falling while trying to stand on the hill. Plus they ski more and do not have to wait for others students. Load your weaker students on the carpet last so you have more time to help them.
Teaching formats for more advanced lessons are: follow the leader, verbally coaching from behind, and demonstrate then call down.
Go at a pace that is challenging without creating fear.
When teaching some group programs like student lessons, there is a lesson plan to cover for each level. But private lessons are different, some students can learn very fast and others struggle with very simple things, so do not teach the same private lesson every time. Some instructors spend the same time on flat work in every private lesson whether they have a very athletic student who gets it quickly or they have a fearful student who need much more time. So in the first lesson the student is bored and in the second lesson they are scared, but in neither case are they having fun.
We have feedback from some private lesson customers who feel like they were rushed. Students will not always speak up, so you have to encourage them to tell you what they want. Constantly evaluate them and ask how they are doing.
Too many instructors try to cover the same material in the first lesson even when the student is struggling. You do not have to go very far up the hill or use certain lifts if the student is not ready.
If you do, you end up teaching at too fast a pace which is the way most friends or family teach rather than the way an instructor should teach. The long carpet at Pine Knob is too high and steep for many beginner skiers and they can feel fear up there. If you have to try to catch students or start in a traverse, the slope is too steep.
Smile, be playful, keep it light, this is fun! Are you doing too much work on the flats while they are watching all the people come down the hill and want to join them? You don't have long to hook students, many people learn by doing so you have to get them skiing down the hill. You will have to give strong students different tasks than the slower ones in semi private and group lessons.
If you are going too slow or fast there will not be smiles and excitement. Look at their faces; are they smiling, does it seem like they are having fun. Are they asking "when is this lesson over", that is not a good sign. Ask yourself if you would be having fun in your lesson. If you don't talk too much and keep them moving on the proper terrain, learning is fun. If they have big smiles and are excited, congratulations you did a great job and may have made a new lifelong skier!!
When you understand something well, you can explain it more simple terms. To teach you need to understand skiing better than just doing it. Explaining what you want in a sentence or two is better than using ten sentences and a lot of terminology. Words can have different meanings, and using technical terms may sound authoritative, but it does not mean you are teaching or communicating effectively. Keep students moving do not give long discussions using technical language.
Poles should be used when the students are old enough to coordinate their arm and legs; this is usually age 7. Poles can help with walking, turning the skis downhill to make a gate before skiing, and taking skis off or putting them back on after a fall. But you can take them away if they get in the way, especially if they are a problem on the rope. So start with poles, and remove them if they are not helping.
Some instructors are taking poles away from all their adult beginners even when they are helping them walk and feel more secure. Do what the student needs not what fits your theory of teaching.
Tools for teaching
Tools can make teaching easier and more successful especially with young children ages 3-6. Video
The T-bar helps slow people down when conditions are fast, or speed them up when it is slow. Use the T-bar in front of the ankles or behind. When placed above the where the bindings are released and push down in the T-Bar you can slow down and turn children.
Young children ages 2-4 may not be able to make a wedge. The wedge making tool can be extremely effective to help them make a wedge. After using it for a few runs they can sometimes feel how to make a wedge on their own, and parents love to see the progress.
Tip ties can help to keep the tips together for kids who can not point their toes.
The Ski Ring helps to keep the hands in the right position so students are more forward. They are also something many kids think are fun.
Boot wedges in back of boot for ankle flex
The athletic stance tools help put students in an athletic stance. There is a version for young kids and one for adults.
Brush courses help kids turn and they are fun. Pine Knob will use for student lessons.
Students are very different in their abilities which makes teaching beginner groups especially challenging. Some can hardly walk or stand up and others can do everything right away. Team teaching uses two instructors to teach beginners in programs like Superstars, Kindersparks, and at Pine Knob the beginner student patch lessons and Discover Michigan. Slower students can get extra help without feeling like they are holding up the group and that they are not good at skiing.
Summary of Instructor's tasks-
You have to work fast-
At the bottom of Wonder Carpet
1- Help students load carpet
2- Maintain spacing
3- Emergency stop if needed
4- Provide feedback
5- Show how to get up
On top of Wonder Carpet
1- Help students exit
2- Help them get set up
3- Give a push if needed
4- Support at hips if unstable
5- Demo stance and give verbal feedback
On the bottom of rope
1- Stand behind them
2- Position next to rope skis pointing uphill
3- Catch if they grab too fast
4- Push if needed
5- Support rope to prevent sitting or leaning
On top of rope
1- Be out of skis below exit point
2- Help exit support at hip
3- Help turn downhill and set up
4- Give task
5- Provide feedback
Team teaching requires very active participation by visually showing, verbally coaching, and when necessary physically guiding students to success. It reduces frustration, fear, and falling. One instructors will be in boots (this can be snow boots in many cases) to assist students before using the carpet, and then when loading carpet and rope tow. The other instructor will also remove skis at times to help with weak groups, unloading the carpet or rope tow, and to respond to falls on the carpet or slope. There are stop buttons on top and bottom of the carpets. At Pine Knob it is usually better for both instructors to just be in boots to assist with setting students up, slowing them if the snow is fast, giving them a push if it is slow, responding faster to dangerous falls, as well as loading and unloading the lifts.
Great teaching requires a lot of attention; the top instructor provides instruction and the bottom one helps students up and on the carpet. It is critical for the bottom instructor to also maintain spacing on the carpet and rope so the person on top has time to help students exit and get going as soon as they get to the top, especially the first time up and until students become independent. The bottom instructor helps students walk with support behind the hips if necessary, get up, and provides verbal feedback while they are skiing.
Keep students moving in a nonstop loop when using the the carpet rather than have the group line up. This provides more practice time and keeps it fun. When necessary gather the group for instructions, this should be at the bottom to avoid congestion on top and and problems standing on the hill. On busy days when there are a lot of beginner groups, the instructor at the bottom can gather the class and keep them together to load the carpet. If you are unsure if someone is in your group ask them.
Loading a rope well makes a huge difference in the student's success. It is a hands on job that requires a lot of attention to details. The person loading the rope stands behind the student to make sure they are next to the rope, both skis pointing uphill, gripping slowly with two hands, providing a push if necessary or supporting a student who grabs too fast, and lifting the rope up or to the side to keep the students up. Students will loop so spacing is important; the top instructor needs time to get students off and skiing downhill.
The instructor on top will be in boots and provide any necessary support on the side or back of their hip so the student can exit and get set up in a wedge to ski downhill. Holding the tips of the skis can also be helpful. You have to pay a lot of attention, and know how to set them up and support them so their momentum helps them head straight down the hill. Some will need support for a few feet to get their balance, and reduce fear. If the snow is slow some will need a slow push on their hips to accelerate them. Watch for ice on the ski bottoms if they are not sliding.
Key verbal feedback includes: hands up, look downhill, forward. If they are bent forward at the waist or look like they are sitting in a chair say: stand up, stand on your toes, chest over toes. It may also be helpful especially for adults to say: hips above feet, shins to boot, less knee more ankle. When the waist is bent slightly forward into the proper position, the knees will often bend more putting the weight back, this is a natural move. Then if the knees return to the proper bend the waist will lean back.
When evaluating, watch for these four problems when turning: leaning back, turning too soon before there is speed, turning too far across the hill, trying to rush from one turn to the other. These will usually reinforce the natural movement of turning the shoulders and hips (rotation) rather than the feet.