PSIA Alpine Team Member Robin Barnes Is a Fan of Family Lessons

PSIA Alpine Team member Robin Barnes loves to teach family lessons. “Family lessons are beautiful in that this group chose to spend the day together and enjoy it as a family,” says Barnes. “That’s pretty awesome.”

Here are her top tips for making sure your next family lesson is a success.

  1. Communicate expectations early and often. If you get a group of all first timers that includes a couple of very young children who need hands-on instruction, collaborate with the parents on the approach that is most comfortable for everyone.
  2. Employ the adults in the group for help. If they are the parents, they are raising the kids. They understand that you cannot be everything to everyone all the time, and that you have one set of hands.
  3. Communicate how you see the lesson being the most successful for everyone, based on your experience. Come up with a game plan with the parents.
  4. Be prepared to be flexible with your plan, and to be proven wrong on any assumption you bring to the lesson.  Some three-year-olds CAN ski all day! You can have students all over a beginner area and not skiing one by one and still maintain total control over what’s going on. Not getting it right isn’t going to ruin their day.
  5. Most importantly, get ready to work your butt off.  This family came to enjoy themselves and learn to ski together. Being “together” has huge value. Choose an attitude that will allow them to fulfill this and want to come back for more.
  6. You’ll be tired at the end, but you’ll get over that. Maybe you’ll even be extra grateful that you got some extra exercise.
  7. Manage your own expectations, too. Sometimes we think that we have to teach everyone to ski their best and DO as much as possible.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves that everyone learns and skis or snowboards to their own potential.
  8. Taking a break and sitting in the snow to look at the views together and breathe in clean air can be just what is needed sometimes. Be their guide to those simple things just as much as you are their guide to skiing.
  9. Communicate constantly about how the day is going. Do they need more? Less? Want to do something different?  More of the same?  Is everyone getting the attention from you that they need?  Ask them!
  10. We are pretty good at reading minds, but not infallible. Asking them makes it crystal clear. This is true in any lesson, but perhaps especially in a family lesson because there is so much going on and so many personalities, energy levels, an expectations going on at the same time.

For more on family lessons, read these tips from AASI Assistant Snowboard Team Coach Tony Macri and PSIA Cross Country Team Coach Emily Lovett, and listen to this First Chair Podcast series with PSIA Alpine Team member Brian Smith.