Cause-and-Effect Correction: Alpine Tips

PSIA Alpine Coach Michael Rogan mixes up his turn shape and skill blends to keep his skiing fresh... and you should too. Photo credit: Grant Nakamura

Avoid Ruts in Technique & Teaching; Getting Stuck Is No One’s Idea of a Good Time

We humans are creatures of habit. But if you’re not careful, those habits can turn into ruts – in which you can get woefully stuck. There are lots of ways to get stuck – whether in your skiing technique or the teaching tactics you use – and you might not even know it’s happening.

Here are some common examples of how instructors can get stuck… and how to avoid or get out of the rut.  

SKI TECHNIQUE

Like Alpine Team member Brenna Kelleher, make sure the only ruts you're in are the trenches you carve when you're flying down the mountain. Photo credit: Linda Guerrette

Here are some ways we get stuck – and unstuck – with ski technique:

Making the same turn shape and size. There’s no doubt that we all have a preferred turn shape and size with which we feel most comfortable. During early morning hot laps or when we get some time off, those are often the first type of turns we make… and sometimes they are the only type of turn we make. Deliberately making lane changes – and hourglass, funnel, and acceleration/deceleration turns –are great ways to change up your routine.

Skiing the same runs the same way. We all have our favorite runs, even our favorite sections of a run or combinations of runs. If you’re not paying attention, you might find that you ski them the same way… all the time. Make sure you mix it up and discover new ways to ski your favorite runs differently.

Always using the same skill blend. When you get stuck using the same skill blend or movement pattern, you might get good at that way of doing it, but it’s hard to get good at anything else. If all you know is extending to start a turn, be sure you experiment with flexing too.

TEACHING TACTICS

Like PSIA Alpine Team member Jonathan Ballou, focus on the person - not strictly the technique - to make sure your teaching tactics are student-centered. Photo credit: Linda Guerrette

Teaching a movement instead of teaching a person. It’s important to understand that we have to teach both, but when we get caught putting the technical part before connecting with the person, we run the risk of getting caught “playing a tape” rather than teaching in the moment. Remember to always focus on the student first.

Focusing only on the science or art of teaching. Great lessons are part science and part art. As we develop as instructors, it’s critical that we build an understanding of both. The tendency is to devote more time to the science rather than the art. When you lose sight of being artistic in your approach to lessons, you’ll likely get caught spending too much time focusing on your teaching and not addressing your student’s learning.

Using the same progressions. Using the same progression – the same way and in the same places – can have its benefits when you make a conscious decision to do so for the sake of consistent repetition. However, if it happens as a default because you’re missing creativity or the desire to try something different, you’re definitely stuck. This can be a big trap if you teach a lot of the same-level lessons.

No one is immune to getting “stuck.” Train yourself to recognize when it has happened or, better yet, become self-aware enough to do your best to prevent it from happening. This is something that we have to be vigilant about to become the skiers and teachers our students will appreciate and trust.

This article, by Michael Rogan, originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of 32 Degrees. Log in now to the online version to access other great content that will up your instructor game

Michael Rogan is a six-term member of the PSIA Alpine Team and currently serves as its coach.

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