The Journey of a New Ski Instructor archive part 4

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Yesterday another lesson worth describing. 9 year old kind of overweight girl who I'm told can ski Outback and Roundabout (the from the top trails that wind down the back of the mountain. Green, narrow, with a few slightly steeper drops on them.)

She is bright on the lift and seems like it will be a good lesson. She gets off the lift fine, looks pretty balanced and glides to a stop in a wedge. I ask her to ski ahead of me and watch while thinking of a lesson plan. I decide based on what I see that working on tactics, turning more, will be good - as she is skiing comfortably in a wedge, but pretty much straight.

2 minutes later she totally freezes up. Almost crying. Wants to climb back up to the lift. "I can't do this!" "I hate man-made snow!" "It's so icy." (It really wasn't.) She's afraid of the steeper drops. I explain that if she does what I say and goes across the hill at those points that it's not steep. She wants nothing of it. Doesn't want me to try to help her. She's really afraid.

So the entire lesson is spent on convincing her to at least try, that we had to make it down, then we could go to the real bunny slope. Working on her self-confidence. Talking about challenging fear. When she skied, she was absolutely fine, could stay behind me and make turns. But when she stopped she just wanted to get to the mid station lift and download. I told her I'd ask if she could. (They won't let you do that.)

So we made it down all the way, she had fun, I kept telling her how much better she was then she thought she was, and reinforcing the issue of how there will be a lot of things in her life she'll be afraid of and that it will be really good for her to try to face her fears. I even mentioned at one point that I bet Hillary Clinton was afraid many times, and she faced her fears and could even be President possibly!

At the bottom we then took about 5 runs on the small bunny slope, turning around cones, etc. easy skiing, she enjoyed it.

Lots more to teach then skiing in this job! In this case it was really all about self esteem and self confidence. The mother later told me that she has these problems in other areas of her life too (and also said she appreciated me using the Hillary Clinton example.)

All in all a success, but boy up there at the top I was worried. Worst part is the two Supervisors skied past us at just that moment and asked "how's it going?" I stupidly replied "a little hard."


Today I had what I can only think of as a deeply spiritual experience teaching.

I was given a private lesson with a 38 year old African American woman from Brooklyn. Had skied once before 15 years ago. She was very upbeat and friendly. However she really couldn't ski. Her first sliding down towards the bunny slope was pretty scary (for her and me.) She was overweight, about 200lbs, but seemed pretty balanced. Right away she was complaining about foot pain, something I know all too well from my first years of skiing. Cramping arches. She was so sorry about this, as was I, as I thought she could learn to ski, and that pain really holds you back. I of course expressed my sympathy and empathy. She was so grateful to me (throughout the lesson) for my attitude and support. The first time off the little lift she fell (not uncommon.) We worked our way down the little slope, and she fell more then once, and being overweight had a hard time getting up.

She really wanted to learn, she was so determined, but so frustrated. I felt like I was her angel. At one point we skied with me next to her, my arm around her shoulder skis touching, holding her up. The second time off the lift she made it without falling and tears came to her eyes. She was so happy! So was I! After an hour she was coming down on her own without falling and making turns and was just so pleased, but scared at times. I talked to her about fear and conquering it, told her how I understood exactly how she felt, having started skiing at 35 myself. I encouraged her, praised her - really gave her so much of myself, my philosophy. She was so nice and so much fun to be with that I wanted her to succeed so badly. I told her (and this is true) that this was the highlight of my week, and the best lesson I'd every had.

At the end of the lesson we gave each other a big hug and I left her with her friend to keep practicing. Later in the day in front of the lodge I was about to go out freeskiing on my own when she saw me and came over to me. I asked her how she had done, she said she did well, hadn't fallen again. She wanted her friend to take her picture with me. I took off my helmet and she said "my you are a sexy man!" (I guess it's the shaved head!) She put her head on my shoulder and we both smiled for the camera.

I got on the lift alone after this and started to cry, not get teary, but cry. I was talking to god and saying things like "thank you for this lesson this morning. Thank you for giving me the freedom to be able to do this." and much more.

I will never forget Robin and what I was able to give to her and what she gave to me.


Back from vacation and two good lessons. Both adult women beginners, not first timers. Seems to be becoming a specialty of mine, either by coincidence, by a preponderance of adult women students, or my Supervisor thinking I'm good at it. Both went well. Two things to comment on.

First off I realized that I'm using at least three corners of weem's sports diamond - intuitively. I will commonly say "there are two ways to control your speed when skiing; one is to use your wedge and the other is to use the shape of the hill, to turn across the slope and even uphill"

It clicked today in my mind that this is Technique and Tactics. (Power and Purpose.)

The third is how I so often have to deal with and talk about fear. About pushing yourself a little into (as Mermer Blakeslee calls it) the Yikes Zone. Not too much, but enough to make progress and to see that you CAN do it. This of course is the Will corner. Power, Purpose and Will.

The second student said at the end of the lesson, "thank you so much, you taught me how to trust myself." My god what a great compliment that was!

Perhaps I do involve the Feel corner of the diamond as well. I have Steve's "O's" of skiing (my nickname is Steveo.) An awareness of what you're feeling; Oh Wow, Oh No!, O K, Oh S**t, and so on. I'll ask the student how much Oh S**t they felt. Did they have any Oh Wow? "Let's go a little faster so you can feel the Oh Wow!" I'll point out that an "Oh No!" or an "Oh s**t!" if calmly dealt with will usually progress to an "O K" and even "Oh Yeah." So this awareness of how the student is feeling is a good way for them to focus on their feelings, their fear level, etc.

I love this job!

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