No Two Alike
Tuesday, 10 August 2010 22:00
No Two Alike
The saying "You seen one you seen them all" does not apply to ski instructors. There seems to be a public perception that all ski instructors are young, blond, male and speak with a European accent. In my thirteen years of instructing the only instructor with an accent was bald, not young, but definitely male.
The mountain were I work has a lot of part time instructors so folks from every walk of life can participate. They run the gambit from architects to horse trainers (not race horses). Young to not so young, and the really not so young, male, female, teachers, students, even lawyers (once you get to know them some of them are not so bad). Just about every type you can think of can be found in uniform, and the only thing they may have in common, is the desire for a season's pass. You don't find too many instructors who are in it for the money. The really young ones are, the high school kids, for them the money and a season pass are not a bad deal. We, not so young instructors, are very glad to see these kids there because most of them work in the children's program. Which means they get the really young students, the ones that are 4(or less) to 8 years old. When I say "4 (or less)" it's because often when a very young looking child is asked how old he/she is they will hold up the appropriate number of fingers, which are enclosed in their mitten hand, and say "I'm three, but for today my mommy told me I'm 4. It makes things interesting. Now I'm not some crotchety old man that doesn't like little kids. It's just that wrangling a small herd of very short skiers up and down the hill for 6 hours scheduling potty brakes and wiping noses is something best left to the young of heart and body.(especially young of body).
One thing nice about working with folks from so many different backgrounds, is hearing different approaches to teaching, all their different tricks for getting a particular skill or technique across to a student. You can usually tell an instructors full time profession from there teaching technique. The very analytical instructor will be referencing angles and measuring pressure is more likely to be an engineer or architect, the ones describing the feelings involved in floating down the hill are the artists and musicians the former Hippies. The CPA's (accountants) are all about the numbers, the beginning, middle and end of the turn as in 1, 2, 3. The easiest profession to recognize is the teacher, they just take command of the students like they do every day and off they all go. I'm kind of in the middle here and I'll use anything to get the message across and I'm not above stealing the best ideas. One thing I have noticed is that it's easy to get wrapped up in the skiing mentality, the jargon and the exercises. You start assuming that everybody understands what you're saying just because you have said it so many times during the season. You find yourself slipping into a routine instead of trying to tailor your lesson you meet the needs of the student(s) especially. One of the quickest ways to snap you out of that is to work with folks for whom English is a second language. Where I instruct this can happen often. We are within a 3 hour drive from New York City so we can and do get people from all over the world. Most of these folks do very will with their second language, much better then I would (I can have problems with my one and only language), however the same word can have a slightly different meaning just because of the cultural background, and of course American slang can make things even more complicated. This is when slowing things down a notch and doing a lot of listening can help. This can get even more complicated if you have a group and the second language folks have different first languages. However we are all there to ski, so we all have something in common so with little patients, a lot of talking with your hands and some demonstrations, everybody can have fun.
I guess what I'm saying here is that everybody on the mountain, student, instructor, skier and even boards, (especially boarders) have their own approach to skiing/riding. From hard charging to easy gliding, whatever feels good, it's all up to you. That's one of the things I like most about the sport. You can be who you are just like everybody else.