Kindersparks is a program for kids ages 5-10 offered on weekends. Students can just do it one time or multiple times. At Pine Knob Kindersparks is six week program hour and fifteen minute lesson starting in January, and instructors teach the same group for the entire program.
Super Stars is the same group of kids coming each weekend to ski with the same instructors, so you teach the programs different than a one hour program. More time can be spent playing games before using the lifts because you have the kids for so many lessons. With Kindersparks the parents are often there watching with the expectation the kids are going to ski a lot in the relatively short time they are in the lesson.
It is critical to know how many kids are in your group and keep track of them so none wander off and get lost. If kids need to change groups, or go inside for a bathroom break communicate clearly with the other leaders so everyone knows what is happening.
Both instructors must be very attentive and play a major role working with the children. You have to communicate well with each other and the children. Anticipate what all the children around you may need, not just the one you are looking at. Each instructor will have an assignment. If you are loading the carpets or rope tow, you should be in boots (snow boots may be best) and wearing insulated leather work gloves or using glove guards. If some of the children are progressing faster than the others, assign different tasks to keep the lesson fun. Each group will have a number, color, and/or name, so it is easy to move a child up or down.
Know how many are in your group, and tell them not to leave the group. Call them by their names and ask them if they are cold or if their boots hurt. Children often don't realize their hands, feet, or face are cold, so check them if you think there is a problem. If one instructor has to take a child to the bathroom, tell the other instructor or supervisor.
Using the carpet
Help children walk on and off the wonder carpets if necessary. Know where the emergency stop button is, and keep the proper spacing, especially the first time up so the instructor on top can help each one exit and get set up to ski down the hill. You have to work quickly and help students exit the carpet and head straight downhill. It may be slow or fast, so you may have to add speed or slow them down.
Be aware of what the other students near you need. Support them at their hips part of the way down the hill if it is slow or use a T-bar Position them in a wedge if they can not make one. You have to interact with the students physically and help them to move, get into position, and not fall; this is a hands on job! Every minute you are looking for how you can help one of the kids.
Provide a gradual push on the back of their hips if the snow is slow, and be sure to aim them in the right direction. If necessary stand behind them holding their hips and use your feet to put them in a wedge. Use the wedge making tool, T- bars, tip ties, Ski Rings, and turning disks when necessary. Check the bottom of the skis if they are not sliding; there may be ice forming that needs to be scraped off. Use the other ski as a scraper; this may have to be done several times until the skis get cold.
If you are having trouble keeping your group organized, the instructor at the bottom can organize the group and load them all together rather than keeping them looping.
The top of the long wonder carpet at Pine Knob is steep, high, and slopes into the carpet. Like in student patch lessons, go to the rope after the small carpets. If they can't use the rope, send them up the long carpet with skis off and the instructor up the hill will help them walk off and get going. Organize the group at the bottom and send them up together with space between each one so there is time for them to exit. Ask the public to wait for your group. Each instructor will have a position, and if you execute it well, the lesson will go more smoothly.
Using the rope
Some days the rope can be too hard to grip, but it can also just be a case of loading the students better. One instructor will load the rope and the other will help them exit. Have your skis off and support each child and the rope as necessary to get them going. This means standing behind them as
1- They get next to the rope and point both skis uphill
2- Slowly grip the rope
3- Catch them if they grip too fast
4- Push them on the back of their hips if necessary
5- Lift the rope up or to the side to keep them up if they try to sit down or lean on the rope
Heavy leather work gloves will save your ski gloves. If you are working with the beginners, one instructor should be in snow boots to move better.
Have a set of tasks or games for the kids to do. It is boring for the kids and you after a few trips down the carpet without a focus. Break the lessons into sessions to make it more interesting, 2 or 3 runs per task. Stop the group at the bottom after so they can watch a demonstration and statically practice their next task. These are very young kids who ski very little.
Games and task: kids use natural moves and they can lack enough awareness to easily focus on ski moves. So some key points for you to look for and create games for include: chest over toes, stand on toes, bounce like a bunny, point the toes to turn, push on one big toe then the next. Start with speed in a small wedge. After a slight turn go straight and then turn the other way.
1- Ski Under T- bars, or this can be the tall and small game without using T bars
2- Jump over T-bars or brushes laid on the snow, or hop like a bunny without an aid
3- Do combinations of the above, under and over
4- Ski with one leg on either side of brush
5- Stop at each brush, or hop at each brush, or touch boots at each brush
6- See who can stop the fastest with a side by side competition, Simon says game
7- Turn at each brush, guide them through by having them point their toes at you
8- Lay brushes parallel to the fall line in very slightly off set corridors
9- Red light green light game
10- Side by side see who can stop the fastest, or make the most turns.
Break things up with flat work that include games like:
1- One ski races
2- Two ski races
3- Static exercises with skis on
4- Herringbone walk
5- Side step on the flat
7- Practice putting skis on and off
8- Practice getting up
9- Boot work for stopping and turning, and sit down if needed
Work just in boots, sitting down to make pizza moves, then standing up, put just one ski on, practice walking, side stepping, and static games like Simon says of races. Flat work can be done at any time to add variety, competition, or to warm them up.
Instructors can switch positions from top and bottom. watch for kids who will need some more personal help using a tool like the wedge maker.
Know key points to verbally give them: hands up, look downhill, stand up on your toes, point your toes at each other and push your heels out. Show them and position them if necessary; you have to be very active physically and verbally. Concentrate on their performance and shape their performance by saying, "Yes, that is it, great job" as soon as they get it.
Slightly more advanced
Do straight runs going down and touch the top of their boots, faster bunny bouncing, march from foot to foot, leaning forward and back; use a ski ring to keep their hands up, do gliding wedges, wedge change ups, straight run to a stop.
Do a specific number of turns. If they can do 6, have them do 3 bigger ones. Then do 3 small turns, then 3 big in the same run. Reverse it and do the big turns first before the small ones. Have them turn to a stop in both directions. Can they point their toes to turn? Then try pushing on one big toe, then the other. If they still struggle, combine the two methods, point their toes and push on the big toe.
Stop and play on the flats when kids have trouble skiing across the hill when exiting the lifts, standing on the hill, or walking across the hill.
Progress at the proper pace so the children can stay in control. This means not going to the top of the second wonder carpet at Pine Knob, the steeper top of the rope tows, or the first chair until the children can link turns and turn to a stop in both directions.
Brush courses can help them turn better and if there are two set next to each other the kids can have races. Slower kids get a head start. Or follow the leader switching leaders. They can ski one brush in each course, or every two brushes for bigger turns, or in the in the middle of the brushes.
Be sure to show and tell the children how to use the chair, making sure they hold on during the ride up and sit back.
Coordination and behavior depend on a child's age, but this can vary greatly in individual cases. Use a lot of imagination and create games to make learning more fun. Take time to talk with parents so they know what you worked on and how their child did.
Connect- Get down on their level, look them in the eyes, smile, and say their name. Some kids have a hard time relating to adults or strangers, and some may not want to take a lesson, so be excited and let them know how much fun they will have. Ask them questions so they get comfortable talking to you. You might ask how old they are, what games/sports they like, do they have brothers or sisters, do their friends ski, do they have any pets, and what is their favorite game, show, or book. Your energy and personality are important. Be playful and have fun!
Problems- Take breaks when necessary especially in the cold weather to use the bathroom, get a hot chocolate, or play in the snow. You can’t fix every problem, but sometimes a break helps.
Props- Cone, brush gates, turn disks, and stuffed animals are used for setting a slalom course. Use t-bars to help kids stay in control on steeper terrain or to help them walk or get up, but have them do most of the work if there is time. A Ski Ring will help kids keep their hands in the proper position.
Games- Walking and gliding on the flat with one ski, switch feet, and turn around poles. Walk with both skis. Statically, pretend to jump on a trampoline or diving board to develop a good stance. Side step, step in a circle, herringbone, exercises for all four movements (fore/aft, side to side, up/down and rotary). Create progressions: lean way back, then way forward, then just a little fore/aft, shuffle feet back and forth a small distance then large, slow then fast, big climbing steps, then run in place, step into a wedge, hop into a wedge, make them different sizes, go down and up, then do it so much you leap off the ground, hop fast small bounces, lift one ski and turn it, step around in a circle.
Straight run- Do the trampoline bounce in a straight run or bounce like a bunny. Draw a line in the snow to jump over. Put hands on knees or hips. Make grape juice with their shins by crushing an imaginary grape in front of their shins.
Stopping- Show them what to do so they see it first. If necessary position them in a wedge, have them go from French fries (parallel) to pizza slice. Make three slices in a row. Then make one stop half way down. Finally ski French fries all the way to the bottom (on the small wonder carpet hill).
Turns- start by skiing straight down the hill and make a very slight turn one way; then point the skis downhill, and then make a slight turn the other way. If necessary you can ski backwards and have them look at you. When they turn their body to look at you, their feet will turn too. Add speed and turn a bit more across the hill with each turn.
Make grape juice to turn - ski downhill in a small pizza slice; then pretend to crush a grape in front of one shin, go straight, then try on the other side. Or point the toes both one way then the other.
Do bunny rabbit turns- make a pizza slice; have everyone raise the same hand and hop on that foot. Ski downhill in a pizza, raise that hand and bounce on the outside ski, go straight, then hop on the other side.
Try playing follow the leader; you can ski backwards if necessary to coach them. Change the leader if the kids are getting it. One at a time, have the kids make a certain number of turns and count as they turn. Then change the number so they have to make either larger or smaller turns in a given distance.
Make three big turns then three small turns.
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