From an Instructor: Mistakes Cause Accidents


Mistakes cause accidents.

I am so glad someone finally explained that to me!  I had to take a driver's license test recently, and the book they gave me to study let me in on that scoop.  It also included helpful information such as "Don't drive on sidewalks" and "Do not drive a vehicle so loaded that you can not control it".  I swear, all examples are verbatim!

Now it has been a long, long time since I've taken a test to get my driver's license so I'm a little foggy regarding what my first driver's license study guide included back then, but I'm pretty sure it didn't lay out the common sense in quite so much detail. 

Which, of course, leads me to think about teaching skiing. 

Watch two classes of beginner/intermediate skiers, one of adults and one of kids.  Who is doing more skiing?  Probably the kids. 

Kids are so in tune to the "here, do this" concept, that it is no big deal.  It's total acceptance:  here is what you do, now do it, okay, done!  A lot of teaching kids involves making skiing into a fun game that covertly directs the student to achieve a better level of skiing.  The theory is there, the instructors understand it, and have masked it so the kiddos can grasp it.  Most kidlets I've seen in lessons really don't care about side cut, angulation, slope angle or Bogner vs Obermeyer (unless they are kids from my home resort....where fashion knowledge begins early).  My son's primary concern about his ski experience seems to involve how well he can slide on his back like a turtle in his jacket, and discovering what size his "pizza" should be for the buffalo bumps.

At some point in our lifetimes, that changes.  We are taught how to question, experiment, doubt, test.  Since we started out with a natural trust to do as we were told, we follow through by responding to our teachers, family and friends when they begin to tell us to think for ourselves, question authority, examine options.  Our world becomes a little bigger, a little less concrete and a lot more complicated.

The adults in classes come armed with lots of questions.  They would like to know the theory behind what they are supposed to do, and most instructors I know strive to discover more about how this sport works, too.  Sometimes a relatively simple action becomes convoluted as we spend a large amount of time explaining how to make an S shaped turn, while our kids SSSSSnake by our class, making the appropriate hissing sounds and beautiful, round S turns.  Sometimes it just isn't necessary to explain every little detail-or maybe it is, especially when driving loaded on a sidewalk, making mistakes and causing accidents.  Back to skiing, though...

Watch that adult class a little closer.  Without a conscious awareness that they are doing it, first time skiers will mirror what they want their feet to do by doing it with their hands first.  Tell them to make a "wedge" or "snowplow" or any of the other terms we use for the first slow/turn maneuver, and before they do it with their feet, their hands do it.  It's the way kids do things the first time, too.  When adults regress to learning something new, they frequently revert to the long dormant pathways to learning: watch and do.

The great combination comes when adults can blend a little of the "kid" learning and the kids get a little technical knowledge in their lessons.

I have a lot of fun challenging my adult students to ski ONE run without thinking about their skiing ONE BIT at the end of a long technical day.  Turnabout comes with kids when they explain some cool game they played that developed their "upper/lower body separation"(or whatever tech jargon applies), and watch the parents figure out that this solution would work for their skiing, too.  Plus, new vocabulary words for school after vacation-we all win!

There is a time and place for detailed examination and also for just messing around.  I'm currently spending my lifetime trying to find the right balance.  The other day I think I came close when I rode a lift with a family of multiple ages and ski experience who were debating what the run below the chair was;  was it a green run?  a diamond run?  a black run?  aren't black runs and diamond runs the same?  On and on.  The dad leaned over to me and asked me to give the official answer, "What color is that run?"


"It's a white run"

And it was; the whole slope was covered with fluffy white snow.

Not satisfied with that answer, he asked, "I mean where are we going to ski?" as we got off the lift.  I answered over my shoulder as we started down, "On the snow".

Not as oversimplified as my driver's test, perhaps, but maybe the DMV is onto something....

Oh, and I did pass the drivers license test, and I promise I'll try to limit my sidewalk driving now that I understand a little better.

Operations Shots