Are group lessons effective for advanced skiers?

Discussion in 'Ski School' started by Chris V., Jan 8, 2019.

  1. Chris V.

    Chris V. Getting on the lift Skier

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    I ask for opinions on this, because I have my doubts, based even on the theoretically superior format of instructor training programs. Sure, group lessons will get beginners sliding, and can address the needs that intermediate skiers commonly have, to give them the fundamental building blocks of good parallel turns. (Individual instructors' abilities to achieve these ends will vary, of course.) But at a certain point, it seems like skiers will have different issues, as well as different directions that they may want to go with their skiing. So how useful is it for an advanced skier to walk up and request a one-off group lesson? Does the format allow enough time to address a student's individual areas of weakness, and instill new good movement patterns?
     
  2. Ulmerhutte

    Ulmerhutte Putting on skis Skier

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    IMHO, I think it really depends on the format and what you want to achieve.

    If it is to get a skills-check and hence do some drills to work on the weak areas, then I cannot see much value in one-off group lessons. You just will not get the focused attention and the individual drills.

    My local hill runs week-long programs for men and women, combining tuition, some fun skiing, and some social events. I have not done them, but I have heard positive feedback from those who have.

    If you are new to a ski area, it might be a nice way to get a feel for it, and maybe meet some ski buddies, if you are there by yourself.
     
  3. oldschoolskier

    oldschoolskier Out on the slopes Skier

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    I have had group lessons only at advanced levels and enjoyed them, 4 or 5 day fully day packages on 3 occasions (twice in Sutton QC, once in Banff). While expensive are worth it because you get the same instructor/coach and if you are willing to learn will benefit from both the slope time and learning from others mistakes as they learn.

    One or two hour lesson, well not so sure, as it does take a group (individuals) that long to warm up before performing at which point it’s over.
     
  4. geepers

    geepers Getting off the lift Skier

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    My experience as a public student is that good instructors can run an effective lesson for several skiers. They will ask each student their objective for the lesson, assess each student's skiing, come up with a drill (or other ski improvement idea) that benefits all, give each student an individual focus for drill (with the reason why) and interact individually with the student - appropriate questioning and feedback - on how they are implementing the drill. They'll then work through some variations on the drill - for skiing mileage and to broaden skills before bringing those skills back into normal skiing.

    The one criteria is that students need to be in roughly the correct level group.They don't all have to have the same skiing issues but they have to be able to at least stay with the group. Good instructors know the questions to ask about prospective students' skiing to have a reasonable go at getting them in the right group.

    Don't know about other systems but in CSIA if you can't do all this for an advanced level group then you won't pass the L3 teaching assessment. :)()

    The really good instructors find ways to add value to individuals throughout the lesson with small side tips. And of course they can spot the fundamental issues for ever more advanced skiers.

    A single 2 hour lesson is a very short time to make an improvement and it may take some ongoing individual practice to lock it in. (Again a good instructor should provide some internal and external cues that the student can use to assess their practice.) Lessons with the same instructor/group over a number of days as part of program is better as the instructor already knows what's what in everyone's skiing. Of course not so good if there's a pita in the group.

    One on one lessons can be great for the individual attention - I've scored a few just by turning up to clinics (e.g. bumps) and being the only student! But there's only so much we can absorb in one lesson and we need practice and ski mileage to consolidate.

    That's been my experience.
     
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  5. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    ^ That post nails it.

    Nothing comes close to an all-day private with a great instructor who can identify your greatest weakness and attack it all day long until it has not a breath of life left in it.
     
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  6. Josh Matta

    Josh Matta Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    the other thing to note is top level group lesson mid week, typically have almost no one else in them, and typically is the slowest time for privates. So the majority of good private instructors(most who are L2 and up, with many L3s, and Education staff member) are the ones who staffing those mid week advanced lessons.
     
  7. Coach13

    Coach13 Out on the slopes Skier

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    Agreed, about half of my private lesson occurred after I signed up for a non-holiday group lesson.

    I may be biased due to my experience coaching other sports but I think the most important factor to real improvemen, beyond the private vs group debate, is a consistent, ongoing lesson plan from the same, experienced instructor. I know this isn’t always easy for recreational skiers but for those really serious about improving their skiing (or any other sport) this is the optimum way imo.
     
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  8. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    My best advice is to find a single instructor you like, a mentor, and stick with taking lessons from that person until you can hear their words in your head and predict what they will see and say when you return to ski with them. At that point taking lessons from various people won't confuse the heck out of you. You'll be able to incorporate what other instructors tell you into the consistent model of skiing that you've absorbed from your mentor, or identify direct contradictions and make a decision yourself about the value of each side of the contested issue.

    At some point, diverging from the views of your mentor and building your own way of thinking about skiing becomes necessary and pleasurable.

    I think what I'm saying is that getting "ski tips" in group lessons, experiencing seemingly contradictory instruction from different teachers over time, and figuring out things on your own while maybe following other "better" skiers around all do some good. This is how most people end up learning.

    But absorbing a holistic view of how good skiing works from one very good skier who teaches well is better. This takes time. And obviously, you do have to find this person. That's not easy.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
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  9. Nancy Hummel

    Nancy Hummel Ski more, talk less. Instructor

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    There are many factors most importantly, the instructor assigned to the lesson. Crapshoot at most resorts.

    The other is the length of the lesson. I have only taught at 2 resorts, Breck and Snowmass.
    Group lessons are 5 hours at each place.
    There is ample time for instruction and mileage (under observation by the instructor). The mileage/observed practice is extremely important. Instructors can tell/show/explain something but the student must learn the new movement pattern and get feedback about it.
    The shorter lessons do not allow time for this.

    I also think it is important for students to come with an open mind of trying new things and to participate in the process. I write down notes after every clinic about the information presented and how I can use it in my own skiing or teaching.

    Bob Barnes says something like try everything, believe nothing and decide yourself.
     
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  10. Wilhelmson

    Wilhelmson Out on the slopes Skier

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    Some places have an adult weekend group lesson timed around kids' race training. At some of these you get a better chance of being grouped with people near your skill level, and possibly only a couple other students will show up.

    For anyone in the northeast, at Cannon you have a chance to get a 2 hour semiprivate lesson for under $40 with a L3 instructor.
     
  11. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    It's not only the instructor, but also the group. It's likely that not all of the members of the group have the same objective. There are many reasons for taking a or several lessons, and not all of them are to get better. The fitness of those in the group also matters, as does the age.

    At the advanced level, many students have fundamental movement patterns that have elements of a dead-end in them such as upper or whole body rotation, fore/aft balance problems, inclination without angulation, etc. If the objective is to advance to an expert level of skiing, changing those movement patterns may require lots of work that the student may find boring. But the problem of nixing the old movement patterns with those that are more efficient and result in greater ski performance takes lots of practice to move through the cognitive and associative phases to the autonomous stage. The path to improvement is likely quite individual and, frankly, will be best addressed by private lessons with a personal coach. Not cheap, and for someone who has deeply ingrained movement patterns, not quick either. I say this as someone who has been rebuilding his skiing and it has taken ten years, with most of the effort coming over the past 3. As a result of a lot of work (100 days per year over the past 5), I'm now close to passing the Level 3 skiing standard (or so my coach -- a 2 time demo team member -- and several examiners tell me).

    The number of folk who really are looking to put that kind of work or time into their skiing is pretty small. If you find yourself in that camp, then you should definitely follow @LiquidFeet's advice and find a coach -- interview them, take an initial lesson and see about their compatibility, and discuss what the plan might be.

    On the other hand, if what you want, and have time for, is some quick hits, then group lessons can be a good option. As others have said, the quality of the instructor matters. The lesson club product at the Vail Resorts (at least Breckenridge and Keystone) are a great way to get a coach in a group setting to meet this objective. Otherwise, its a bit of roulette -- depending on who is assigned to your group.

    Just realize that what you'll get out of the group lesson is less personalized and less of a long-term development option than what will come from private coaching.

    Mike
     
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  12. KevinF

    KevinF Gathermeister-Stowe Team Gathermeister

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    Others have mentioned this above, but I believe that having the same instructor multiple times is a big bonus. There's no confusion over "well, my last instructor said 'X', are you saying the same thing differently, do you disagree, etc."? There's no time spent doing ski-offs, etc. You can get comparisons to how you were skiing previously. You're just "go" from the minute you meet up.

    I haven't done group lessons in forever, but my experience is that who you get is a crap-shoot with no real ability to choose which instructor you work with, etc.

    Note, none of this applies to multi-day clinics such as the defunct ESA, Taos ski weeks, etc. where you get multiple days with the same students, instructors, etc. That's an entirely different dynamic then the standard walk-up group lesson.
     
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  13. martyg

    martyg Getting off the lift Industry Insider

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    My best classes have occurred when I have 2 - 3 students, all of the same ability level. There is a lot of learning that tales place from student to student if the instructor takes a guided discovery approach, which is what I tend to rock.

    You get into trouble when most students are of the same ability, and one or two are just learning to walk. Some ski school managements are effective and accommodating at splitting classes if that occurs. Some managers could care less.

    As others have said, if you find that instructor that you vibe with, stick with them. Also looks for someone who skis with video analysis gear.
     
  14. mdf

    mdf entering the Big Couloir Skier

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    I've had good luck with group lessons, but it has been luck, and they were just barely groups.
    I've done several multi-day format lessons (Taos and Jackson S&D), but only a few single-session walk ups as an advanced student.
    a) Crested Butte. My son and I were the only ones in the group, although at one point we had as many as 5 instructors skiing iwth us (only one instructing, though). I think they may have been using us as a clinic on teaching upper level lessons.
    b) Taos. Several years ago was having problems with my skiing getting worse. I took a walk-up lesson, and it wound up being just me and one other student. He diagnosed and fixed my issues. I was very happy.
    c) Aspen Highlands. My group wound up being a private. In fact, I was the ONLY student, period, at the advanced lesson meeting place. It was a slow weekday. (The lower level lessons meet at a different place, so I don't know how many were there.) Weems assigned me my instructor.
     
  15. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Working on my technique all the time Skier

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    It also depends on how the student learns best. For my low-intermediate son I recently got him a 2 hour private because he doesn't thrive in group lessons. Well worth the money because I saw an immediate improvement in his skiing that afternoon.

    As for me, I've had one lesson in my life, when I was 12, and after 37 years from that first day I still keep telling myself one of these days I'll take another. I can get down most trails pretty well but my mogul skiing is barely adequate and I'm sure I have flaws all over my technique. It will definitely be a private multi-hour lesson so I can get focused attention.
     
  16. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    Seriously, go to the gathering at Taos and take a ski week. Sun- Thurs. Every morning lessons, then ski with whoever in the afternoon. It's cheap compared to just about anywhere. Bumps galore. You want to learn to ski low impact bumps, it's the easiest way. Ask @KingGrump. He and his wife will basically ski bumps till the sun sets.
     
  17. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Working on my technique all the time Skier

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    The Taos Gathering this year? I'm already heading out to JH and then driving to the BS Gathering next month. I can't go to Taos this year. It's on my bucket list, though.

    As for low impact, I love skiing bumps out west. Soft, big bumps at Alta on Alf's High Rustler made me feel like a superstar. Then I had to go back home and it was back to reality. :crash:
     
  18. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    Steep and deep camp at Jackson. Ski with Ursula at Big Sky.

    Mike
     
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  19. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    I'm doing this too. Best of luck Mike.
     
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  20. John Nedzel

    John Nedzel Booting up Skier

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    This is the most important thing an advanced skier can do to improve, work their a** off! Good for you Mike.
     

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