Skating Beginner Lesson Ideas

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Terry
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With the ski season rapidly approaching its time for instructors to start honing their skills. This discussion on using skating to teach beginners intrigued me.

How would you use skating to teach a beginner how to ski? Let’s look at student profile, equipment and terrain selection, and teaching progression.

Let’s also keep in mind the five fundamentals and how you would incorporate them.
  1. Control the relationship of the Center of Mass to the base of support to direct pressure along the length of the skis.
  2. Control pressure from ski to ski and direct pressure toward the outside ski.
  3. Control edge angles through a combination of inclination and angulation.
  4. Control the skis rotation (turning, pivoting, steering) with leg rotation, separate from the upper body.
  5. Regulate the magnitude of pressure created through ski/snow interaction.
 

LiquidFeet

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To make this work, the beginners will have to be able to glide forward on one ski in the direction the ski is pointed, with the other ski lifted. That comes first. My mountain's reference progression has never-evers try this but doesn't keep them at it until they are successful. Some get it, some don't. The group, in order to be able to ski the beginner lift, is usually taken to the lift after a few tries. The goal of having newbies try gliding forward on one ski is to get them centered over the sweet spot of the ski both fore-aft and lateral. It's not to teach them to skate.

Here's how I teach novices to skate.

With one ski on, one ski off, I have them push off and glide on the flats, and repeat until more-or-less proficient. This is not easy for never-evers, so it takes time. People with some experience are a little faster to get it. Then I have them do exactly the same thing with two skis on.

I show them how to propel the body forward on the gliding ski by positioning the propelling ski diagonally, edging it, and projecting self forward with some oomph. They repeat this multiple times, attempting to glide forward on the same ski, until they can get the propelling ski to grip well. Then they do the other ski. Once they can glide forward on the left ski over and over, then they try it on the right ski over and over.

After that they are ready to start working on alternating. I have them push with right ski and glide forward on left ski twice, then do same twice on the opposite ski. Repeat, goal being to grip well with the propelling ski and glide farther, farther, farther each time. Twice left, twice right, twice left, twice right.

Novices have difficulty gliding any distance. At this point I introduce flexing low and stretching long to help with the length of the glide. Get the belly button ahead of the glide foot. This usually helps them lengthen the glide. All of this needs to be taught on the flats. I eventually have them alternate, one push/glide on the left ski, one push/glide on the right ski. How far can you glide? Farther, farther!

If this were a never-ever progression, then it would now be time to take the group to a very very gentle pitch to try skating there. But that's not going to work, really, because they will need to know how to stop once on the gentle pitch, since they will get going too fast for comfort and need to abort when they get frightened by speed. I don't teach a braking wedge. I want them to be able to stop by turning to the side. So they will need some turning ability before I take them skating down a pitch.

This is why I don't teach skating in the first day short never-ever lesson. I do teach it on day two, or three, though, when terrain is available. Once they can turn left and right to a stop, I teach them to skate on the flats, then get them to skate downhill, aborting to the side when they feel like it. Just doing this usually takes up the whole lesson if it's a typical one hour lesson, so it doesn't leave much time to morph the skating into actual turns. I wish we sold all-day first-day-beginner lessons, but we don't.

I did use skating in a beginner lesson one day when the skis would not move due to extreme cold and inappropriate wax. The skis felt like they were trying to scrape forward over sandpaper. My group of never-evers did indeed learn to ski with a quickly put-together on-the-fly skating progression that day. Once they were skating down the fall line on the beginner hill, I asked them to hold onto each skate longer and see if they could make their skis travel in curves left and right, which worked just fine without any further talk. Once they stopped skating the sandpaper effect brought them to a fast stop, even with skis pointed downhill. I made sure they discovered that turning to the side also stopped them so they wouldn't be unprepared for their next ski day. I vaguely remember I had them reduce the lifting of the propelling ski so that by the end of the lesson it simply was lightened. The goal was to have them extending into the new turn, and my memory tells me it worked. I never saw them again, so I hope it stuck.

I look forward to hearing how others use skating in beginner and novice lessons. If someone has a way of teaching it in a 1.5hour never-ever lesson, I'll be ready to try it.
 
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surfsnowgirl

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I usually do one ski on, one off and skating from point to another and back and forth a couple times with never evers. My lessons are usually an hour and 45 minutes. We do a few back and forths of this with one ski on and one off, then we rotate the ski and do it again on the other foot. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn't. It's here where I can tell who has balance and who might need some more practice. Then we'll put both skis on and so some shuffling to walk a bit and maybe try a little skating with both skis on depending on how much time we have. I don't like to spend too long doing this but I like doing it for a few. Then I'll teach them to side step up the hill a bit and I'll have them skate a little bit towards me on a slight downhill angle. If all goes well we'l go up on the carpet and work on more of this stuff up on the hill.
 

karlo

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How would you use skating to teach a beginner how to ski? Let’s look at student profile, equipment and terrain selection, and teaching progression.
Hockey player
Use short skis
Flat. Flatter the better
First, discuss the elements of skating on skates
Ask the student to use the same elements to skate on skis.
Progession , very gentle slope
Skate downhill
Skate at angle to fall line
Discuss edges of skis engaging up the hill.
Discuss placement of ski that glides forward. What part of ski makes contact first; where is the pressure? Where does the pressure go as the glide progresses?
Discuss where body is relative to where skis are.
Discuss how skating on a slope is different than skating on ice.
Progression: understand what a transition is, the moment between turns. Discuss it in skating. Where are the feet where is COM. what if, when skating, COM is not over feet? What is the analogy of transition in skiing?
Progression: let’s go make some turns.
Here, the skater will, I think, progress very nicely.
 
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Terry
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I like where we are starting to go with this. I prefer to teach through doing with the student. First for a beginner I try to get them on as short a ski as possible. This is more comfortable for them and easier to control.

Then, with only one ski on, sidestep up a slope. (Ski on the downhill foot. Pole in each hand for balance and comfort.) While doing this I’ll comment on how the edge holds them in place and play with rolling the foot/knee into the hill for better grip. Then I’ll show them how to roll the foot to release and slide sideways down the slope. (We’re talking a few inches to a foot at a time.) This hits points 1, 2, and 3. Do this with both skis.

The one foot gliding is the next place I’d go. As @LiquidFeet described, push off and slide on the flats. Lather, rinse, and repeat as needed to start getting to a glide. While doing this I’d lead them into a circle to get some pivoting and rotation going. (With right ski on make the circle to the left and vice versa.) This introduces point 4.

Then on with both skis on the flats and start walking with short steps with some easy push offs. Walk turns in both directions. While doing this I’ll move the group towards an uphill super gentle slope and go up it a bit. Then push and slide down and step/sort of skate a turn to a stop. (All 5 points.) The step/skate to a stop is very important. It gives the student confidence in knowing that they can stop by using the hill.

We’ll do this a bit in both directions while going up the hill, maybe with even a few sidesteps, for more distance in the slide. I like to get a figure 8 going so we alternate directions constantly.

While leading I’ll help/coach individuals, but I still keep the group in motion. Also, I constantly look to catch people doing something right and comment on it. Wedges will spontaneously start to happen. I’ll point those out as good things since they help you turn, which then controls speed.

OK, now where do you take it from here?
 

karlo

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Then push and slide down and step/sort of skate a turn to a stop. (All 5 points.) The step/skate to a stop is very important. It gives the student confidence in knowing that they can stop by using the hill.
OK, now where do you take it from here?
Make shorter and shorter steps, resulting in the student spending more time with the outside ski pressured. Challenge student with game. How small can the steps be; how many can be gotten into a turn uphill. Then challenge the student to be on the outside ski the entire turn.

Herring bone, or skate, back up the gentle hill. Point skis to the woods. Push off uphill ski, outside ski, to start turning downhill. Keep stepping as before. smaller and smaller steps, relying more and more on the outside ski. Then, again, challenge to only glide on the outside ski, from top of turn to a finish up the hill
 

LiquidFeet

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I'm kind of interested in checking out how it will work to follow up my beginners' first wedge turns with having them skate down the beginner hill in a wedge. Usually I take them in the other direction before the lesson ends, teaching them to let go of the old outside ski to start the turn. Teaching wedge skating would be the exact opposite.

A skating progression will teach them to propel themselves down the hill off the new outside ski. I know this is PSIA's preferred initiation (at least in the 2014 Alpine Manual it is) but I usually choose to not teach it to beginners. When they take their wedge turns to blue terrain, that extension morphs too, too easily into pushing the new outside ski's tail out at the top of the turn. So maybe I won't.

Comments? I know I'm opening a can of worms here, but if people are interested in talking about it let's go ahead and talk it out.
 
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karlo

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interested in checking out how it will work to follow up my beginners' first wedge turns with having them skate down the beginner hill in a wedge. Usually I take them in the other direction before the lesson ends, teaching them to let go of the old outside ski to start the turn. Teaching wedge skating would be the exact opposite.
I don’t understand. Wedge is tips closer together than tails, right? How does one skate in a wedge?

Why is letting go of the old outside ski the other direction?
 

LiquidFeet

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Just try holding a wedge and skating. You'll be surprised. I don't know why it works with tips converging, but it does.
I discovered this bit of unexpectedness in my Level I exam. Our fearless leader had us doing drag racing, staying in a wedge, skiing to a target.
I won ogwink.
 
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Terry
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Just try holding a wedge and skating. You'll be surprised. I don't know why it works with tips converging, but it does.
I discovered this bit of unexpectedness in my Level I exam. Our fearless leader had us doing drag racing, staying in a wedge, skiing to a target.
I won ogwink.
Thats one I need to try myself.
 

LiquidFeet

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Skating in a wedge means the skis don't skid. Grip, propel, glide!
Your tips are converging, oddly, yet you go forward.
Just try it.
 
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pliny the elder

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I think learning to skate and progressing to "skate to turn" makes for an extremely effective beginner teaching progression. Assuming the equipment is well suited. Somewhere Clif Taylor is nodding along, but with sidecut.

For one, skating is a forward moving, assertive motion.

Wedging is a defensive posture.

Skate to turn develops edging and rewards using the ski as a tool.

Wedging creates excessive internal leg rotation and encourages twisting of the skis.

People who know a lot more than me about this tell me that this is the concept with terrain based learning. I get that the consumer wants to slide downhill and probably wouldn't sign up to skate across a barely sloped football field on the first day, but I think they would learn faster and end up better skiers as a result.

Your results will, of course, vary.

pliny the elder
 

Fuller

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I had been skiing (badly) for a while before I had my first lesson. The first thing I asked my instructor to teach me was how to skate on skis. My request was purely a pragmatic one as it's a really useful skill to have. He showed me the basics and made a point of letting me know that skiing was essentially a one footed sport. I didn't quite get the significance of it but he was right.
 

dbostedo

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Skating in a wedge means the skis don't skid. Grip, propel, glide!
Your tips are converging, oddly, yet you go forward.
Just try it.
I won't have a chance to try it for a while yet. But thinking about it confuses me. If I'm going to skate forward on my left ski, i need to push with my right ski. But in a wedge, if i push with my right ski, I'm pushing toward the tail of my left ski. Sounds like it would be easier to move backwards.
 

Tony S

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I won't have a chance to try it for a while yet. But thinking about it confuses me. If I'm going to skate forward on my left ski, i need to push with my right ski. But in a wedge, if i push with my right ski, I'm pushing toward the tail of my left ski. Sounds like it would be easier to move backwards.
Yeah, I need video of this!
 

James

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Hah. I've definitely skated backwards in a wedge. Now I'll have to try forward. Very, very, weird!
 

LiquidFeet

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@James, have you tried skating in a wedge yet? Anyone else tried it? I did it yesterday to remind myself how it works.

1. The propelling ski does propel one forward, even though the tips are converging and one would not think it possible since it is pointed in the wrong direction.
2. The gliding is done on that propelling ski, so this is different from a regular skate. One glides in the direction that ski is pointed on the engaged edge.
3. The other ski can be picked up as in a regular skate and as in a backwards wedge-skate, but also it can be left on the snow lightly skidding forward.
4. This skating wedge feels like a regular skate but it feels unfamiliar because the feet/skis are pointed in the wrong configuration for skating. It needs the skater to propel self forward as in regular skating.
 

dbostedo

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@James, have you tried skating in a wedge yet? Anyone else tried it? I did it yesterday to remind myself how it works.

1. The propelling ski does propel one forward, even though the tips are converging and one would not think it possible since it is pointed in the wrong direction.
2. The gliding is done on that propelling ski, so this is different from a regular skate. One glides in the direction that ski is pointed on the engaged edge.
3. The other ski can be picked up as in a regular skate and as in a backwards wedge-skate, but also it can be left on the snow lightly skidding forward.
4. This skating wedge feels like a regular skate but it feels unfamiliar because the feet/skis are pointed in the wrong configuration for skating. It needs the skater to propel self forward as in regular skating.
I took a crack at it, but couldn't even begin to figure out what I was pushing off from and gliding on... I need diagrams or video. Your description still has me flummoxed.
 

Tony S

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@James, have you tried skating in a wedge yet? Anyone else tried it? I did it yesterday to remind myself how it works.

1. The propelling ski does propel one forward, even though the tips are converging and one would not think it possible since it is pointed in the wrong direction.
2. The gliding is done on that propelling ski, so this is different from a regular skate. One glides in the direction that ski is pointed on the engaged edge.
3. The other ski can be picked up as in a regular skate and as in a backwards wedge-skate, but also it can be left on the snow lightly skidding forward.
4. This skating wedge feels like a regular skate but it feels unfamiliar because the feet/skis are pointed in the wrong configuration for skating. It needs the skater to propel self forward as in regular skating.
Remind me why?
 
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