Ski Instructoring – Day 1

Last year my family decided to try the ski instructor thing, and spent the year as cadets for Olympic Ski School. We’d taken lessons from Oly for a long time, and after topping out in their classes got asked to try teaching.

This year, we all have classes on our own. I have a class of level 1.5 kids – 4 and 5 year olds.

PSIA (Professional ski instructors of america) uses a 9-level scale to classify skier ability. Level 1 skiers have never skied before (or, perhaps, have only been on skis a few times).

The kids in my class have been on skis a bit but aren’t quite up to a level 2 class. This isn’t surprising – 3 and 4 year olds don’t have a lot of coordination and may not be able to progress too much in their first year.

I have 5 kids scheduled in my class, and a cadet (who I’ll call Rosemary) to help me. Four of the kids show up, we put on our skis and shuffle out to the beginner area.

This will be the first test of the 4 days of clinics that I did in early December. I worked with a great instructor last year, and after a lot of experience teaching other things, I don’t tend to get very nervous.

My first task is to assess the class. I talked with all the parents before hand and from my discussion with them, all the kids should be at a roughly compatible level, but parents often don’t do a good job of matching their kids to the description in the ski school pamphlet. All the instructors will do this and determine whether we can shuffle students around to better equalize the skill level in classes.

I watch the four kids shuffle over to the beginner area. This is the first evaluation step – you can tell a lot about how comfortable the kids look with these weird heavy things attached to their feet.

We start with a straight parallel run down a slope that is just steep enough for them to go forward. They look fine doing this. Next we send them down and ask them to do a few turns. E, J, and A do these turns well, but K says that he doesn’t know how to turn. We talk with him a bit (hard because he’s not very talkative right now), so Rosemary says she will work with K while I take the rest up the magic carpet (aka “conveyer belt”). If they do well enough on this we’ll head up the chair lift. They do nice wedge turns coming down the steeper part of the magic carpet, and my evaluation is that they’re good enough to do daisy. As the last one comes down, one of our level III instructors comes over and says, “take them up Daisy”. We talk a bit about K and he goes over to give Rosemary a hand (it’s a bit hard to start that way as a cadet).

We end up taking two trips on daisy during the remainder of the lesson. We’re working on linking turns, and we start moving into the next part of the progression – doing straight runs (“french fries”) across the hill, and then wedge (“pizza”) for the turn.

Next week, we’ll spend some time working on vertical motion, and starting that vertical motion by standing tall on the uphill ski. This will help the uphill ski start carving around the turn *and* unweight the inside ski, so that the kids will start being able to match the inside ski to the outside ski as part of the turn.

It was a lot of fun and a nice challenge to do this – I stopped coaching soccer when my daughter entered high school, and I’ve been missing that sort of interactions. The kids are a kick and I enjoy being silly with them.

Late in the lesson we had to stop for a bathroom break (not uncommon in this age group), and then headed in for lunch. I was originally scheduled to have the afternoon off, but I ended up getting a second gig – I’m assisting with my wife in the afternoon of her 4-hour level 1 class. We spent a couple of hours working with kids on the magic carpet – a lot of running around in ski boots and picking kids up.

Then we spent an hour or so at a preparation clinic for our upcoming level 1 instructor test in February.

We skied a few hours Sunday morning, but didn’t last long. We are really tired.

So, what do you think ?