Instructor tips from The Rusty

Rusty helps train new ski instructors. For each of the tips on the ski tips page, Rusty has tips for instructors on the same topics.

Instructor tip#72 - Goggles - Do you have different lenses for both bright and low light conditions? Do you have a source for spare lenses? Rusty can set you up with Sportstar pro form.

Instructor tip#71 - Edge Control - Being in a countered position prior to edge change is critical for high performance success. But do you teach this to beginners? Try focusing on this when doing wedge turns demos and see how much better they become. Teach your students to steer into counter with drills like picture frame turns (holding the pole in the middle to make a picture frame around an object at the bottom of a trail and make turns keeping that object in between the poles) and moving the inside hand forward through the turn (versus moving the outside hand forward to ready for the next pole touch).

Instructor tip#70 - Alignment - Can you recognize alignment problems on the snow? There are times when the reason a student can not perform a task is that their alignment prevents them from doing so. As a professional, you should at least alert your students to a possible problem. One thing you can do is perform some simple on snow tests yourself. The first thing you'll need is a relatively flat run with no double fall lines. Do you know a place at your mountain like this? If not, you better find one or have the groomers make you one. Check fore aft balance by having the skier ski straight down the run with you looking at the skier from the side. If the skier has trouble keeping their toes, knees and nose in a vertical line, they probably have a fore aft problem. Check lateral balance by having the skier try to ski on one foot. If they have to move the knee laterally to keep the ski tracking straight, they probably have a problem.

Instructor tip#69 - Falling leaf - Falling leaf is a great exercise for groups with mixed abilities because you can tailor the exercise differently for different group members. It may seem weird, but you can even circle ski with this drill. For advanced group members, you can add different foci (e.g. standing tall, playing with moving weight back and forth, speed control, track width, stepping or hopping at stall points. tip lead) in addition to the sliding. For less advanced students, you can simple it down to basic side slips.

Instructor tip#68 - Freestyle - 360s - The secret to coaching freestyle tricks is to make small steps. As with all jumps, use the Approach, Maneuver, Takeoff and Landing method to break the jump into components. Find safe spots for practice. Practice 180s first on the flats. Then practice backwards skiing. Then practice a forward to backward 180 over a tiny feature. Don't be afraid to hike back up to repeat the jump if you've found a good spot for practice. Then slowly work the speed up (bigger jumps) or switch to a backward to forward 180. For the 360s, review the windup move on the flats. Help your student with hands on assistance to get into the maximum windup position, but teach them not to use all of this prewind to start because this can cause an off axis take off. Find a spot with a gradual lip and a long landing ramp for the first 360 and make sure the snow is soft! Watch the position of the head during rotation. If the student is underspinning, try two 180s with the head (on take off look the first 180, when the body catches up, look the second 180/landing). Check that for a light edge set before take off, but look for the skis taking off straight off the ramp (off center take off can cause an off axis rotation) and watch the hand position (close to the body or out) to determine the impact on spin rate. Also check for the shoulders rotating all the way to the end of their range before takeoff. This can cause a stall in the rotation.

Instructor tip#67 - Balance - How can you tell if a fore/aft balance problem exists? Simple - just check to see if the hips are over the feet. How can you tell if the problem is due to poor alignment? Not so simple. You might get lucky by checking the student in a standing position from the side. The really bad folks can not align toes, knees and nose without moving into an uncomfortable position. In general though, most instructors recommend an alignment check only after they've gone through entire bag of tricks and nothing has worked. It's important that once you've identified alignment as the cause of a fore/aft balance problem, stop trying to fix it on the slopes. Just accept that the skier will pivot their turns and focus on developing a smooth finish instead. 

Instructor tip#66 - Socks -How often do you check your beginners to see that they have not stuffed their pants into their socks? Have you experimented with different socks? Do you know what to recommend to your guests and where they can buy special ski or snowboard socks? For quality ski socks you want to see material blends that offer insulating, wicking and padding features. Spandex also helps with keeping socks form to the foot so that they don't bunch up or wrinkle and create hot spots or blisters. You also want to see an over the calf design so that the sock will stay put at the top of the boot.

Instructor tip#65 - Turns - When teaching this exercise, if your students have trouble holding the ski tip down, have them start just by tapping their ski tips onto the snow. Tell them to think about picking their knees up and forward. If your students have good fore aft balance, then skip the uphill ski and start on the downhill ski or just directly try the leapers. Another variation of this exercise is to tip the downhill ski into the turn when holding the tail up through the turn.

Instructor tip#64 - Turns - When a student wants to solve the "my left (or right) turns suck" problem, look first for physical problems. Ask about injuries, eyeball their stance on the flats to check for leg length differences and check the bottoms of their skis for improper maintenance or uneven wear clues. If that does not identify anything, then focus on turn initiation. Look for upper body compensating moves for lack of lower body movements. Realize that problem "causes" are often "compensations" for the weaker nature of the leg. Once the cause of the problem is identified, you must come up with a movement change that does not take away the compensation. When working on developing the new move, make sure to move to easy terrain. Try to use garlands to repeat the turn over and over again to lock in the practiced move. If you have the opportunity to use video, having the student see themselves making their turns in the good direction as well as the problem one is a powerful tool for getting them to use the good moves in their weak turn.

Instructor tip#63 - Moguls - Most students need to be taking their intro to mogul lessons on groomed runs working on their short radius turns. But 99% of people taking mogul lessons want the lesson in the moguls. If they just don't have the short radius turning skills, your main priority should be speed control. Keep them going across the hill versus down. Start them out one bump at a time then stop, then 2 bumps etc. The traverse straight across and use your legs for shock absorbers is a great exercise to get your students tired and down the hill. Take them into a turn up the hill to stop and your ready to teach them the old man's way through the bumps.

Instructor tip#62 - Stance - Rusty's favorite exercise for helping to develop a wider stance has his group pair up. Each pair should be positioned standing sideways to the fall line and uphill/downhill from each other. The up hill person should remove his poles and hold them together at one end so that his or her partner can hold the other end of the poles. The downhill person tries to pull the uphill person down the hill, the uphill person tries to resist being pulled down the hill. When the uphill person has their feet close together, they are easily pulled down the hill. When the uphill person spreads their feet apart, flexes their knees and squares their shoulders to the fall line, they can not be pulled down the hill. They can really feel the difference in power that comes from the stance change. A common ski instructor exercise is called railroad tracks. You set your skis shoulder width apart and keep them there making turns only by tipping the skis on edge. The objective is to leave only parallel pencil thin lines in the snow (i.e. railroad tracks) because no skidding is occurring. A variation of this exercise is "cowboy turns". This is when you set your skis wider than shoulder width apart.

Instructor tip#61 - Carving - This tip works especially well for skiing in crud and heavy powder. But it is also a key factor in making great turns on groomed runs as well. It's a great tip for those new instructors who are teaching their first upper level lessons where the students are not really all that far behind them in ability. Use it combination with tip 60 and you've got a full lesson.

Instructor tip#60 - Carving - Rusty has seen many different variations of this tip including "long leg/ short leg" and "lead change". Although this is the most effective variation that Rusty has seen, it is important to note that some of your students just are not going to "get" one variation of this top or another. If you see a student not doing the movement you ask for, it is probably because they don't know how to command their body to make the move. The key thing here is that the objective is to get many body parts to move simultaneously through a conscious effort applied to a subset of those parts. It does not matter much which subset you can get working. Once you start getting some results, then you can fine tune the "how" this happens. Rusty has had the "force the lead change to happen" help his skiing at one point, but he never could get the "let the outside leg get long" tip work for him. He could feel the outside leg get long on good turns, but he could not make the outside leg get long to cause good turns. But he has seen this work for others. When you are teaching this tip, watch for the emotional reaction of your student to clue you in on what is going on in their head. Be prepared to change the focus. And be very aware that once the student relaxes, they will go right back to their old habits. It takes a lot of practice to bring this move into your unconscious skiing.

Instructor tip#59 - Carving - There are all sorts of possible things going on when your student is not finishing his or her turns. They may be addicted to speed. They could be solving a skidding issue by simply just initiating the next turn. Although it is helpful to discover the real root cause, it is fairly easy to get students to finish their turns by just telling them and then showing them. Although this alone won't produce a permanent change, you are not likely to have any success teaching good turn initiation without a good finish to the previous turn. When you're teaching finishes, watch out for the "park and ride" syndrome. Don't let your students extend the finish by just waiting for the skis to come around (and keeping the body static). Rusty uses a hand shake drill to teach continuous movement. Instead of just gripping and pumping the handshake, you should steadily increase the pressure of the grip (harder, harder, harder, harder harder), then decrease the pressure (softer, softer, softer, softer, softer). Use the continuous movement concept to apply to edge angle and foot pressure and you will avoid the park and ride syndrome and get better turn finishes.

Instructor tip#58 - Steep skiing - You don't want to scare your students on the steeps. They're already scared enough. But you absolutely want to make sure that they know the safety basics. Before their first steep run, they need to know how to self arrest and they need to know how to pick a safe line. You can make your students feel more comfortable by letting them listen to your planning at the top of the run. Something like, "Ok - The snow looks stable. I'm going to turn there, there and there. No rocks or trees to avoid. If I get in trouble, I can stop over there. When I get down to the bottom, I can move out of the way over there.". even though you may be totally comfortable with the run and not even consciously thinking those thoughts, voice them out loud so your students can learn by example. If you tell them they need to do all those things, they'll most certainly forget something.

Instructor tip#57 - Turns - progressive movement - Two of the most common problems instructors see in this area are "z turners" and the dreaded "park n ride" syndrome. Z turners use excessive steering rotation to abruptly change the direction of the skis. You need to give these students edge drill exercises and work on large radius turns to force the movements to be stretched out. Park n ride syndrome is commonly caused by lack of range of movement relative to the speed of the turn. The skier is late engaging the edge in the upper part of the turn, skids through the middle as huge angles are quickly created, then only slightly reduces the angle after the edges catch and the change of direction is accomplished. The skier then shoots across the hill in a "fixed" body position. Park n ride can also be caused by thinking about initiating the next turn. You need to give these students exercises to develop more range of motion and earlier turn initiation movements (e.g. finishing turns going up hill, skate moves to initiate turns and lifting and tipping the inside ski).

Instructor tip#56 - Travel - Can you give your students travel advice for taking trips? What should they pack? Will you remind them to pack clothing around their skis to protect them? Do they know about special places to pick up skis at baggage claim? Which airlines are skier friendly? Did you know that there are companies that will ship skis to resorts? What's the best way to get cheap fares from your town to popular ski destinations?

Instructor tip#55 - Turns - Short turns - When introducing your students to short turns, watch first for application of the fundamental movements. Can you see flexion and extension occurring? Can you see lower body steering? Is the body centered over the skis? Next check for equipment problems. Are the skis tuned? Is there a boot fit problem? Check the students body position  in a static position, then consciously watch leg position relative to feet and hips through a turn. Work on drills to emphasize steering, edging, then finally bending the ski.

Instructor tip#54 - Turns - The "move the hip to the inside tip" tip should  be used for all types of turns from wedge turns to parallel turns. Use the pole touch to help initiate timing of the movement. Although you can use the "reach way down the hill" pole touch to get your students to break through the fear of moving into a position where the inside edges may catch, this move promotes bending above the waist and actually moves the hip in the wrong direction. This tip is a follow on to the move to reduce "extreme counter" to a slight counter. Look for students to finish the previous turn with steering to create slight counter and for them to be in a flexed position. Watch out for students attempting the move from the back seat - they will have trouble. Work first on getting those students to stay in front of the ski all the way throughout the turn.

Instructor tip#53 - Health - Dry skin - What can you do to help your students combat dry skin? Face them with their backs to the wind when you stop the group. Carry extra moisturizer and offer to the extremely dry folks. Offer the parched a squeeze from your Camelbak. Teach them to about caffeinated beverages being bad and which beverages are good.

Instructor tip#52 - Powder - Work extra hard with powder newbies to watch for signs of fear and to build a positive enthusiastic tone. Keep telling them about the "nirvana" that lies ahead once they "Get it". If they are having trouble with speed control, work on going real fast on groomed runs by doing straight runs on the same pitch as where the powder is. Then, when they go straight in the powder, they will feel the powder holding them back and start to feel more comfortable. Make sure newbies do not overturn in powder to control speed. Use angles across slopes as a way to flatten the terrain to get just the right pitch angle for the snow conditions (i.e. depth and heaviness). In deeper powder and steeper slopes, never get more than 15 feet ahead of your student so you do not have to climb back uphill to assist with lost skis, etc. If you must ski in front, stop frequently to avoid getting too far ahead. A "ski in my tracks" exercise can help when the snow is deeper than optimal because you pack the snow down and make it easier for the newbie, but they will tend to ski faster because of the packed snow and find it difficult to follow tracks because of the different speeds. Always carry extra powder cords or string to loan to your students. Emphasize slow motion turns by talking through your demo turns (e.g. faaaasssstteer, fassster, faster, slower, ssslowwer, ssssssllllllooooowwwwerrrr; wait, wait, wait, release, release, release;. flowwwwwwwwwww from one turn to the next. If the students are unable to make smooth, continuous turns, force them to make just one turn to a stop; then return to only making very shallow turns. If this still does not work, go back to groomed terrain to fix the "z" turns.

Instructor tip#51 - Frostbite prevention - Rule#1 keep your classes moving! Watch out for white spots on exposed skin. Remember that most of your students will not be as well dressed as you are. On cold days, remember to ask your students how they are doing. Ask them what they do to stay warm.

Instructor tip#50 - Conditions du jour - breakable crust - The theme for a breakable crust day is BALANCE, BALANCE, BALANCE. Work as many balance exercises as you can into the lesson. Work on focusing on patience throughout the turns. Stress a more even weighting of the skis. Turns must be continuous and progressive. Introduce breakable crust with straight runs through it. Be conscious of the different weights of your students forcing to ride at different depths through the snowpack. Flatten steeper lines with garlands across the  slope.

Instructor tip#49 - Steeps - Rule#1 - you can not teach someone who is experiencing brain lock. If you can't teach steep skiing on steeper sections of an easier trail, teach the the techniques first, then save the "apply" part of the lesson till the last run. Always have plenty of extra time to take the first steep run in case brain lock slows you down (you can always use hop turns to slow down a student who's going too fast. Rule #2 - you never be sure which of your students will experience brain lock. Some will do great on easy slopes then freeze and freak on the steeps. Some students that have poor technique on easy slopes actually do better on the steeps (something about survival motivation?). Rule #3 - if they can't ski straight down the fall line, they are not ready for the steeps. Rule #4 - make sure you are not forced to introduce steeps and bumps at the same time.  Rule#5 - keep an eye out for signs of fear - jump all over fear issues early, but don't describe them as fear avoidance techniques if you don't have to - do follow me exercises, extreme short segments (1-2 turns at a time), introduce distractions, etc. Rule#6 - Celebrate the end of the run!

Instructor tip#48 - Gear - Powder cords (Powder skiing). Do you carry extra gear when you are teaching and when you are on vacation? Extra meaning  stuff you can loan out to people in need. Picture this scene: you ski up to some helpless chump whose been struggling to find his ski for 30 minutes. As you smoothly come to a stop above him you hear the reassuring clunk of your ski bumping into his buried one. He offers to buy you a beer in appreciation for saving him, but then he spots your powder cords with a jealous eye. You pull out a couple of pieces of season pass string you stole from the ticket office and them  over. He ups the ante to a pitcher and nachos.

Instructor tip#47 - Goggles - Bolle sends a catalog to all PSIA members (? or just level 2 and up?). You can order replacement lenses from this catalog at a professional discount.

Instructor tip#46 - Tuning - Carry a plastic scraper and a pocket stone with you on the slopes for every lesson. If a student takes a hit, you can use the scraper to file off any loose ptex and use the stone to clean up major edge dings. The best thing about a plastic scraper is that it won't break a rib if you fall on it and it won't rip your pockets out like a metal scraper would. Carry an edge file in your gear bag/locker so that you can clean up any minor damage that you picked up during the day..

Instructor tip# 45 - Frostbite - Avoid situations where your students will experience frostbite while in the lesson by doing a clothing check during the lesson introduction. Look for poor quality gloves, wet clothing and lack of head gear. Carry a spare chemical heat pack on cold days. If you spot shivering, then start by providing more vigorous exercises until you can get the student to a place where they can get indoors.

Instructor tip# 44 - Technical knowledge - How much time do you spend building your technical knowledge. Stop in the local ski shops in the summer to find out what's new. Set a goal each season for areas to become more proficient in. Save some old equipment to practice tuning on (e.g. rock skis). Can you spot unsafe equipment on the slopes?

Instructor tip# 43 - Tactics - don't forget to teach your students about tactics. Show them how to find the flattest line down a slope. Teach them how to avoid ice and find soft snow by reading snow texture.

Instructor tip# 42 - Fitness - Quick, what are the two most important elements of fitness for the slopes? Balance and aerobics? Well, at least these are the two easiest for the general public to work on. So recommend these kinds of exercises to your students first. If your students complain that their quads are out of shape, try focusing on improving their technique to reduce the effort expended instead. Did you know that people tend to lose balance skills as they age? If you've got older students in your class, do some extra balance drills.

Instructor tip# 41 - Psychology - Instructors are pretty good at spotting fear or scoping out "significant other" peer pressure. Can you name 2 other psychological problems commonly seen in lessons? Rusty sees "collision fear" and "I'm only here because my parents made me" a lot. Do you have a bag of tricks for psychology problems?

Instructor tip# 40 - Equipment - Teach your students the advantage of having their own or better equipment by showing them how much faster your stuff is than their stuff is. Also, tell them how much less effort is required to turn better equipment. Let them know that there all kinds of equipments to match all kinds of needs.

Instructor tip# 39 - Environment - Know what the weather forecast is every day you teach. When you're really good, you'll make your own forecast when you think the weatherman is wrong or the weather on your mountain will be different from the "town" weather. Make a mental note of the weather and slope conditions when you are planning your lesson. In your mind, build a "watch out for..." list at the beginning of the lesson.

Instructor tip# 38 - Tuning - Instructors have to be on snow in early season when conditions are sketchy. We're bound to pick some dings when traveling over thin snow. It's expensive to get those dings repaired in a shop every time. Most ski schools have an area set aside where instructors can do their own tuning. If there is not a special area, the die hards will set up shop wherever they can, but Rusty recommends taking your gear home in this case. If you're doing PTEX repair at the mountain, please remember that there's one big difference between tuning and base repair. FIRE! Before you start, you should check out if is ok because the boss might get pissed if you start lighting matches indoors. If you have troubles doing your tuning, make a little noise. Instructors have a hard time watching people struggle on their own.

Instructor tip#37 - Helmets again - Set a good example and wear a helmet while you teach. The newer helmets do not interfere with hearing at all (eh?). Rusty's personal observation of beginner's reaction to helmet wearing instructors has been positive. The jokes about "dangerous" sports have been far outweighed by "that's smart" observations and (after one full season of experience) no one has been scared off by the helmet.

Instructor tip#36 - Taking care of equipment - Most instructors equipment care tips amount to little more than telling first timers to take their skis off before they walk on concrete or telling the little kids to put their skis on the rack instead of just leaving them on the snow. Sneaking equipment care tips in to your lessons puts you in to the upper echelons of instructors. How often do we tell our students to wax their equipment regularly? Have you ever told students with rental equipment to get wax to rub on their rentals for improved performance? Their are lots of opportunities to pass this wisdom on. Work 'em into your lessons and your students will be grateful.

Instructor tip#35 - Most instructors seek such tight fitting boots that a full 100 plus day season is enough to wear them out either through packing the liner or stress on the frame of the boot. So sell them at a ski swap to some guy who has bigger feet and skis 5 days a year, then move on to the next pair. Or at least get a new pair of liners.
Recognize poor fit symptoms:
cold feet can be caused by several things
pain on either side of the forefoot, cramping of the ball of the foot, ankle or arch pain = wide forefoot
heel lifts, foot slides within the boot, black toes, clenched toes during a turn = narrow forefoot
heel moves sideways, heel lifts, pain over the instep, cramping at the ball of the foot = narrow heel
pain at the top of the instep, burning ball of foot, numbness in toes = high instep
heel lifts, foot slides forward, black toe, clenched toes = low instep
leg and foot cramps, calf or thigh fatigue, heel lifted when boot is buckled = large calf
skis hesitate to turn/lack of control over ski tips, shin pain, boots seem to stiff = skinny calf
You can recognize large and skinny calf people - so watch out for the symptoms. If your students are having problems doing exercises start asking about their feet (e.g. do you have a high instep?) or asking if they are experiencing the symptoms. Some boots are better fits for the special problems mentioned above. Recommend that people either invest in their own boots, get a pair that better matches their needs.

Instructor tip#34 - If you want to get certified, you better start practicing skiing on one ski. And be able to do it with BOTH feet (one at a time).  You've seen the racers do it. Why? (good question) For extra credit, try one ski in the bumps (it can be done - Rusty's seen it).

Instructor tip#33 - One benefit of a composite pole is you can use it safely between your legs to draw a line in the snow for students to follow.   Composite poles let you confidently use your poles as teaching aides (e.g. objects to hop over, slalom gates) without fear of getting unsightly bent poles.

Instructor tip#32 - How often do you check the size of your students poles as part of the lesson introduction? If you're a normal instructor, not very often. Why? Because most of the time, having the wrong size pole doesn't make much of difference until students are making parallel turns and by then they have the right size poles 99% of the time. But do you check your students pole for baskets and point out how poles without baskets are unsafe? Do you know where people can "borrow" poles for the day if they need them?

Instructor tip#31 - Even if you don't need a boot heater, some of your students are going to need a recommendation. Do you know much boot heaters cost ($80-$150). Can you name three different brands of boot heaters? (e.g. Superfeet, Hot Tronics). Can you suggest criteria for choosing boot heaters? How hot they can get. How long the battery lasts. How sturdy and reliable they are. How easy they are to adjust. How compatible they are with custom footbeds.

Instructor tip#30 - In addition to normal dressing concerns, instructors also need to dress for a professional appearance. Duct tape to fix patches is a no no. Follow your resort's standards for dress. Just do it. Keep your uniform clean. Have spare stuff handy for those rare occasions when a kid throws up all over you.

Instructor tip#29 -New instructors quickly learn to invest in a great pair of gloves. The extra handling of student skis and the extra on and off of your own skis quickly wear through "normal" gloves. Rain gear is a good investment. At least invest in a Gore-Tex treatment renewal for your uniform every year.   Instructors need to be thinking about investing in a helmet. A Camelbak is a great investment for staying hydrated when you have limited break time. For instructors who teach nights or who have prescription sunglasses, try a a pair of goggles with a clear lens (Bolle has clear lenses for their goggles).

Instructor tip#28 - Runaway beginners happen. Be prepared to chase them down and use physical control to catch them. This means PRACTICE Grabs. Catches. Take downs (a last resort move). Cut offs (my favorite - ski up next to them and use your skis and body to turn theirs). Use humor to defuse the situation (hey - the sale in the ski shop does not start until tomorrow). Then remind your whole class that there are 3 ways to stop: wedge, turn and fall over to the side.

Instructor tip#27 - When you hear a student say that they are doing something wrong, tell them that there are no right or wrong ways to ski. You want to turn the "wrong" comment (i.e. negative attitude) into a positive focus. Tell your students that there are easier and harder ways to ski, safer or not as safe ways to ski, efficient or less efficient ways to ski, fun and less fun ways to ski, etc. This helps takes the pressure off. It also helps your students set more realistic goals (e.g. they don't have to be perfect - they just have to get down the hill in one piece) and shows them that there are multiple ways to accomplish the basic goals. When you avoid using right and wrong in your feedback to your students, you create a more positive atmosphere and open a world of opportunity to them.

Instructor tip#26 - Winter driving - As snow sports pros, we are expected to be on the road getting to work in the worst weather when common sense says to stay off the road. Thus we have an obligation to get our vehicles in top condition for winter driving and make a special effort to learn to drive in winter conditions. Steamboat has an ice driving school. Try their half day program - it's fun. The toughest thing to learn? Accelerate out of a skid. It's also nice to be prepared to help our guests in need. Do you have a medical kit, jumper cable, spare scraper, shovel, tow cable, lockout kit (for helping people who've locked their keys in their car)?

Instructor tip#25 - How to give value in a private lesson. Be early or at least on time. Manage the runs so that you can end your lesson on time and start the next on time. Be "wired" for the introduction - it's Show Time. Be happy, be enthusiastic, bounce, and start building a personal relationship. Determine the goals ASAP. Manage expectations throughout the lesson. Keep the lesson simple. Focus, build and reinforce the positives. Build from small successes. Don't expect to make miracles happen every time, but make sure that you achieve the goal of the lesson. Strive to deliver whatever the student wants (e.g. if they want help getting their boots on - it's a perfect opportunity to check equipment, or if they are just lazy and don't care - that's ok too). Have a fun time. Give your card at the end of the lesson and offer to answer any follow up questions.

Instructor tip#24 - How to give value in a group lesson. Always check equipment before starting out. It's your first clue to the student's ability. Ask "check" questions to verify "ability" answers. Spend time teaching one on one to everyone in the group at least some time during the lesson. Adapt the lesson to the conditions (snow, weather and crowds), the ability level and equipment, the group dynamics, etc.  Use every minute of the lesson to be doing something. Use time on the lift to establish rapport. Use time waiting for stragglers to cover extra credit material. Focus on positive comments. Ask a lot of questions. Always remember safety first. Do something fun in every lesson (e.g. jokes, games, 360s). Use the PSIA lesson model - it works. Practice the PSIA service model - it's an attitude.

Instructor tip#23 - When you go on a ski vacation, take notes (even mental ones) about the resorts you go to so that you can provide recommendations to your students. Check out the beginner runs, look for other availability of other activities (shopping, snowmobiling, etc.). Check out lodging alternatives for high, medium and low budgets. Find any secret stashes on the mountain? What about great places to eat or drink. How about unusual spots (e.g. the hot springs in Glenwood Springs, CO.). Grab extra brochures.

Instructor tip#22 - The service model is more than just being nice, it's a reminder that you need to work hard to make your guest's experiences pleasant. Little things can help. Practice smiling, a lot. When you are walking around the base lodge, spend some time thinking about smiling (mantra - show more enamel!). Look at people and smile. While you are looking, be on the look out for onlookers who are just checking things out (say hi and ask if they would like a quick tour around), look for puzzled faces (find one? then ask if they have a question), look for non-participants and make sure they know where the fireplaces and great views are. Practice giving directions. Know what the retail shop carries in the way of logistical supplies (e.g. aspirin, sun tan lotion) or carry some and be ready to offer them (you may want to hold back on the aspirin for legal reasons though). Make a habit of bringing items to the lost and found. Set a goal for doing at least one good deed every day on the mountain.

Instructor tip#21 - If rhythm looks good on the slopes, imagine what it can do for your lessons. As you develop your teaching experience, you will learn how to fit the different elements of the teaching model into each lesson so that the student gets a smooth sense of flow between the introduction, the body of the lesson and the lesson summary. In the body of the lesson, students should sense a progression of the exercises toward the lesson goal and feel the fit between explanation, demonstration, practice and feedback. By listening well and watching well, you can adjust your timing to make sure that each student "gets" each piece of the lesson. When a lesson has an even balance "from the student's perspective" you have achieved rhythm and a great lesson.

So how do you develop rhythm in your students skiing? Here's an exercise progression. Start by having your group shake hands with each other. Call simple contact a "0" and "not yet bone crushing" pressure a "5", then have them practice changing the grip pressure from 0 to 5 to 0. Next introduce the 0 to 5 concept applied to the movement you want to focus on. If it's edge control movements, then use "0" to represent a flat ski. In a standing exercise, let the students discover five distinctly different edge angles (look carefully). Next do a small uphill garland starting with 0 to 2 to 0 with the 2 occurring at the belly of the garland. Next increase the size of the garland to allow enough time for a 0 to 5 to 0 movement. Next introduce the 0 to 5 to 0 in a big fall line turn. Finally, starting linking turns while counting 0 - 5 - 0.

Instructor tip#20 - When you are planning your lesson, take the student's skis into account, then factor in their experience with the equipment they are on. Student's with old equipment may have read the shape ski hype and not realized it applied to shape skis. If they are happy with their old equipment, their steering skills instruction will be a lot different from student's with shape skis. When you focus on keeping the weight centered (or more forward), students with old equipment will get a lot less feedback from their skis then those with shape skis. Students with shape skis and no shape ski experience need a "intro to shape" lesson. Those with experience need a different lesson. Find a way to take advantage of the opportunity of mixed equipment to show the advantages of skill blending instead of being challenged to make your group lesson a series of mini lessons teaching to only part of your group at a time.

Instructor tip#19 - Have you ever wondered about some of those weird looks on your student's faces? If you teach long enough, you will have a sick student in your class. Some will just have the sniffles and will want to tough it out. Others may really be getting sick and should be encouraged to depart the class for their own safety  and the safety of other skiers. Don't hesitate to offer a sick student their lesson ticket back. Make sure that they know where the first aid office is. If they can't decide what they want to do, you can tell them the story of the skier who threw up on the slopes. Would you want to ski through that?

Instructor tip#18 - Teaching your significant other? DON'T DO IT. Get one of your ski pro buddies to cover for you. Sign them up for freebie at a regular line up while you're working. Make it an informal lesson (ski with George for a while - I need a potty break) and disappear. Make it a group ski and redirect all land mine teaching subjects to your buddies (say George how do you make those perfect Christy turns?). Nice weather today, huh?

Instructor tip#17 - Teaching kids. Talk less, do more. pay more attention to symptoms: feeling well, need to go to bathroom, getting tired, clothing problems, equipment problems (boots too loose.) Learn a lot of games. Learn the "in" TV characters - if you can't watch - then ask! Some skills to build to become a better children's instructor: Magic, Balloonology, Funny voices, juggling, funny movements/falling, holding hands and using silence to just listen.

Instructor tip#16 - Do you know how to teach people to ski in powder? The easy method is just start them on fat skis and tell them to ski like they always have. With regular skis it helps to start students doing straight runs on relatively flat terrain. Use traverses as a way to flatten steep pitches and build speed through steeper traverses. Make sure you tell your students who are sitting back to "lift their toes" up. Try to get your students to make easy little shallow turns, then turn to the side and stop when they get going too fast. But get them to make 3-4 turns so they avoid the "too slow speed - can't turn" syndrome. Start students in shallower snow (find a run that was groomed while it was snowing or that naturally gets less snow from wind, etc.). Look for runs off the groomed where you can dive in to the powder then return to the groomed. But do not teach powder skiing on the edges near the trees, unless you start at the edge then angle back out to the trail. Don't forget to mentions the extra hazards of off piste skiing that powder hounds face (e.g. avalanche, hidden objects like stumps and rocks, lost skis, tree wells, etc.)

Instructor tip#15 - How do you recognize fear? Negativity is your first clue (i.e. "I can't do it). Body language is your second (look for stiffness and back seat driving). The first step in helping student's to overcome their fears is to make sure you have not skipped steps in increasing the difficulty of tasks. When you sense fear in your students, don't hesitate to go back an exercise or two. Make you sure that when you give those positive words of encouragement (i.e. you can do it), that you've got something real to base the comment on and use it. For example, if a student sits on their butt when getting off the lift, compare getting off the lift to "straight runs to a stop" exercises that you have done then say "If you can do those, you can get off the lift without falling.". Another thing to help students overcome fear is to acknowledge fear as a healthy and "right" thing. Tell them that the conscious and unconscious minds need to make a compromise. When the conscious mind can explain to the unconscious mind that you've already done all the little things necessary to make the big leap and put them altogether, it becomes easier to overcome fear.

Instructor tip#14 - Look around. Do you see more injuries happening to instructors who aren't in shape? Teaching is a mental and physical drain. You need to be in top physical shape to combat injury causing fatigue. Rusty recommends rollerblading as the best combination of fun, aerobic, endurance and strength cross training for skiing. Please remember to ALWAYS warm up and THEN stretch before exercising. Finally, Rusty has a sure fire remedy for instructors in his clinics who are not in shape: HOP TURNS!

Instructor tip#13 - The web is great place to research what's up with new equipment. Can you recommend equipment for ladies vs. men, kids vs. adults, bumps vs. powder, new vs. old etc. Pick one or more manufacturers and get to know their product lines. Cruise the web for reviews. Surf the links on Rusty's ski page

Instructor tip#12 - Do you know where the ski shops are? Your guests will ask you for recommendations. Visit all of the shops in the areas where your guests come from. Find out something about each shop, like if they have an experienced bootfitter on staff or what kind of deals they have (e.g. tickets) or services (e.g. travel). And don't forget to leave them your skiing business card - just in case they need to recommend an instructor to one of their customers.

Instructor tip#11 - Ski instructors get to buy new equipment from manufacturer's reps (who are usually other ski instructors or mountain ski shop personnel). Get to know who your reps are so that you can get your orders for new equipment in BEFORE the mountain opens for the season. A lot of manufacturer equipment reserved for ski instructors is sold out by December.

Instructor tip#10 - The web is still new ground as an instructor resource. The forum on PSIA (the AASI forum is the same forum as PSIA) is not heavily used, but can be helpful. The PSIA-E web site is new. However, we still do not have course schedules posted, the ability to sign up or free online copies of educational resources. You can help by lobbying for these improvements!

Instructor tip#9 - How the heck are we supposed to drink water and teach lessons? If there is no way you can control yourself to drink and pee within your teaching schedule, try loading (and unloading) in the morning before you get started or at the end of day. Force yourself to drink a huge amount to make up for what you've missed. Another trick to try is to drink small amounts (that you can hold). A little is better than nothing. The optimum thing to do is to carry water with you, sip gently when you can and then empty it 15 minutes before your next break.

Instructor tip#8 - Sure we don't really need a helmet, but we are supposed to be role models. It's easier to get the kids to wear them if they see you wearing one. Rusty bought

Instructor tip#7 - On a bright sunny day, use a nice weather comment as a lead in to remind skiers that using sun screen is important.

Instructor tip #6 - Take advantage of your PSIA membership. Use the PSIA ATS manuals to build your bag of tracks. The new "Alpine References" video gives you incredible visuals of demo team skiers at their best. If you can see it, you can ski it.

Instructor tip #5 - If a first time skier is having terrible trouble making turns, double check their boot fit for boots that are too loose. Do a quick check by trying to stick your finger inside the front of the boot between the foot and the boot tongue or hold their boot and ask them to turn their leg.

Instructor tip #4 - How often do you notice a student is much slower than you are even in a straight run? Their skis probably need waxing more than they need help learning how to turn better.

Instructor tip #3 - Do you carry a stone with you when you teach? A good time to use it is when you are waiting for the last person to catch up to the group. Pick the skier that is having the second most amount of trouble and show the rest of the group how to run a quick stone over their skis, pointing out an obvious burr before and after.

Instructor tip #2 - Riding the lift is a good time to talk equipment. Get to know your local ski shops so that you are able to recommend places for people to buy equipment. Recommend skiers to get their skis, bindings and boots adjusted by a good boot fitter.

Instructor tip #1 - A good exercise for a first time on shape skis lesson is a fan traverse progression. The students focus should be on keeping the feet wider apart than normal and turning the traverse up into the hill by only using edging. By rolling the shape skis on edge, they will turn themselves up hill and slowly bring the skier to a stop. Get your students to try to keep their feet an even distance apart throughout the whole traverse. Once your group has the hang of it on a shallow traverse, slowly increase the starting angle of the traverse down the hill to build up speed and carving pressure.

Copyright 2000 Rusty Carr All Rights Reserved