Sunday, January 26, 2014

What Makes an Epic Ski Lesson Part ll

I had a chance to ski with Damien Oliphant yesterday and continue our conversation on what he does to facilitate his student's development and make his lessons special. One thing we discussed was his take on what a skier needs to be successful. "You have to have two basic big box items. I call them your 'Skier Toolbox', all the things you know how to do on and with your skis, and your 'Skier's Sense', knowing the places and situations to use the different things in your toolbox. Together those things things keep you safe, help you be as efficient as possible and have the most fun. My goal as an instructor is to help you hone your skills with the tools you already have, add the tools I see you are lacking and train you to recognize which of your tools are best suited for different situations you may face." Doc for Jocks: Do you use the thousand steps drill in your lessons? I've been a big fan of it and I know it is one of Bill Deitrich's (Adaptive Ski School Director at Whitetail) go to drills. Damien: I have used Thousand Steps. My focus though is always on skill development vs drill execution. Most important for me are the specific movements or actions I'm trying to foster with any given drill. If I don't see movements I'm looking for, how can I help the student take small steps, toward proficiency? With that discussion on the lift, we took it to the snow. During our run, Damien noticed I was rushing through my leg steering. I was using up all my available movement at once at the top of each turn which caused skidding through the bottom half. Damien: Ben, when you're skiing the tree line, hunting the best kept snow, you have to trust that moving with your very well designed skis. Progressively steering your legs through a smooth arc will keep you in the zone and is the most efficient way to go. Let the skis do what they are designed to do . If you rush through the movements, you end up doing a LOT more work, talking a much more bumpy, skiddy ride AND missing out on the most fun part of each turn. Some situations require you be more tactical. In some of those cases, throwing your boards sideways to get out of trouble is totally acceptable. I just want my default to be moving as silky smoothly as possible. I want to be skiing when I'm 90. My legs and joints probably won't make it that long if i'm throwing them sideways and jamming the brakes in every turn for the next 50 years. With that I took a shadow run with Damien so I could follow his tracks. He cued me by telling me to enjoy the falling sensation in the fall line that makes skiing fun. He also had me focus on more progressive, continuous motion. Damien: Think about when you take a clover leaf to exit a highway. If you spun your steering wheel to the side all at once, you would roll your car. Instead you steer the wheel a little at a time progressively around the turn. Use the same thinking when steering your legs though each turn. Within the run on Limelight I actually had a couple of turns that felt just right and I thought in that moment "So this is what it must be like to be Damien" -if only for a couple of turns! In between turns Damien shared with me his thoughts on lesson groups and clinics. Damien: I like to deliver the highest quality learning and recreation experience I can for my guests. For me that is most successfully achieved in private lessons, 1 on 1 and small group settings(3-5 students max). I feel much the same about my own skiing and teaching development. I learn best in 1 on 1 or small group settings. I seek out learning environments that best suit my needs and make the most of my invested time. When I need information, I reach out to a small circle of people I trust for input and feedback. I take every opportunity to ski and spend time with PSIA National Team members. Small things I have picked up from Eric Lipton, Matt and Jeb Boyd have been great for me as a skier and teacher. My friend, Stan Wilkes (PSIA Eastern Dev. Team) has always offered good insights . My first ski teaching mentor, Tom Riford (PSIA Eastern Examiner), who took a chance and hired me at Whitetail 19 seasons ago, has been very gracious to allow me to shadow some of his PSIA event and ITC groups. His mentorship, encouragement and willingness to share his vast knowledge base have been invaluable to me throughout my time as a ski pro . The road from 18 year old fresh faced hack to seasoned professional skier has been long. The spirit, passion and hard work that started in 1994, shadowing my mentors , watching video, absorbing technical information, training all night after teaching 4 and 5 year olds in SkiWee all day, inline skating to cross train in the summer, is still a big part of what drives me today. I think sharing that with my students is what has made the Ski with D experience success

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