Interski Day 5: Lost in the Woods + Future of Free-Heel

PSIA-AASI is heading to the slopes of Pamporovo, Bulgaria to lead interactive clinics based on the People, Technical, and Teaching Skills that comprise the Learning Connection.

Eight separate U.S. presentations will take place indoors, covering topics that include the American Teaching System, the Adaptive Alpine Technical Manual, the Kids Can Snowboard initiative, and Telemark Skiing Fundamentals. If there’s a method to the accumulated storyline of Interski 2019 in Bulgaria, it would appear that organizers decided to give the #snowpro contingent the curtain call. 

Which means that the team has had an entire week to glean information from the rest of the world’s top snowsport educators, and take the time to sift through what may – or may not – work to help develop the skills of PSIA-AASI members back home.

Using the Term 'Experiential' with Caution
PSIA Alpine Team Coach Michael Rogan observed that there’s been a shift away from focusing solely on technique and technical skills, towards teaching and people skills.

“If you look at the lineup of workshops that were offered this week compared to past Interskis, you can see the increase of presentations based on teaching and building relationships, and improving your people skills,” said Rogan.

“But not all of it’s good,” he cautions. Especially when it relates to any potential breakthrough tied to ski and snowboard instruction’s most amorphous term, “Experiential.”

Using an especially apt metaphor, Rogan said “You hear a lot of countries saying ‘Experiential,’ and inviting students to come out and ‘experience’ the woods. But they get lost in the woods. And keep going deeper into the woods, because they don’t tie that experience to an outcome. They don’t know where it is they are trying to go.”

A Technique, Not a Term
Incorporating experiential learning and, more specifically, “learning through reflection on doing,” has been the snowy grail of ski and snowboard teaching since before U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame instructor Horst Abraham first published Skiing Right back in 1982.

But in recent years – and especially here in Bulgaria – it’s apparent that defining, and correctly applying this theory to lessons, is something more snowsports instructors are trying to do. For his part, as an educator and lifelong student of instruction, Rogan said the key to any potential success is tying it an actual outcome so that both the instructors and the students are clear about the end goal.

That thought process has certainly been a key driver in PSIA-AASI’s evolution of the Learning Connection. And according to Rogan, it will continue to drive what U.S. instructors, as well as many instructors around the world, are working to perfect.

“I think all of us need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize we haven’t even really broken the epidermis of this thing – what it means to be experiential,” said Rogan. “We have to continue to look at how we are teaching it, and how continued improvement will bring understanding.”

Cross Country Looks to the Future
PSIA-AASI's Cross Country Team skate-skied onto the slopes of Pamporovo with its own complete package of skills to share. Coach David Lawrence was especially proud of the work the team put into its presentation, and how it will continue to impact instructors at home and around the world.

“Being here helped us define ourselves and what we value,” said Lawrence. “We gave a high-quality performance; it was almost as if we over-prepared.”

One highlight was the “Teaching for Transfer” presentation, which, according to team member Emily Lovett, focused on “Skill acquisition through agility drills in a changing environment to allow students to bring their skills into everyday skiing.”

Going forward, especially in light of the announcement that Interski 2023 will be held in Levi, Finland, the Cross Country Team is going to begin working on a campaign to invite more free-heel teams to send a delegation, with the understanding that it will help benefit the sport as a whole.

The Cross Country Team agreed that more attendees from other countries, quality presentations, new schools of thought, and a menu of drills and progressions for beginning instructors would strengthen the event, and the sport.

“For now,” said Cross Country Team member Greg Rhodes, “It feels really good to be ‘fit’ with our techniques and standards. The breadth of knowledge we gained from training for Interski will definitely help our membership and divisions at home.”

For more insights on Interski, including reflections from Cross Country Team members talk about presenting at Interski, listen to First Chair podcast (available on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or Soundcloud). 

Get daily Interski 2019 updates here – with more news, photos, podcasts, and videos posted every day this week. 

You can also follow PSIA-AASI’s official social media channels for real-time updates, daily news, videos, and pictures. Follow FacebookTwitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

- Peter Kray

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  • Interski Day 5: Lost in the Woods + Future of Free-Heel

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