Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Ski lesson ROE - Return On Enjoyment

Last year was my 24th year of skiing.  For the past 5 years Elaine and I have skied most days each week of the Northern Winter. 

Like a lot of older folks we took ESF French ski school lessons when the clear and loud ….possibly only guidance to those at the back of the class was to BEND ZE KNEES TO TURN ZEE SKIS.   The madness of continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome became clear and I drifted away from ski lessons for a long time and became self taught or “DIY” obsessed.

However you eventually realize that you reach a plateau of what you can do with self help books and ideas from mates. My own reservations about feeling short changed from past experience on lessons drove me towards investment in tangible things like new boots or new skis to drive improvement.  In hindsight the best kit in the hands of an average skier was not the best idea.

Winding the clock forward and today living in a village where a fair proportion of neighbours and friends earn their living from ski instructing it very quickly became apparent just from watching how they go about things that my skiing lacked much of what they did,  seemingly unconsciously.   I was in short:

  •         Clock-work in motion rather than flowing and natural
  •         Quite quick in my own mind but often not completely in control on steep, narrow or icy pitches
  •         Somewhat prone to close scrapes with others on the slopes
  •         Recognizable by others on the slope for my somewhat interesting style

Getting more from my skiing was becoming really important.  We live in the biggest and arguably the best ski resort in the world.   I somewhat reluctantly chose to take my first step in becoming a better skier by organizing private lessons.  My going in thinking was that I might get a few decent tips but overall my skiing needed a bit of tuning that’s allJ

How wrong I was! My skiing was technique needed to be reworked, not quite back to basics but definitely not just tuning.   I’ll never be a great skier but by golly the improvements from a small annual investment in lessons has transformed my skiing -  relative to the thousands spent on latest gear – yes I am a gear freak. I’m much more confident and get a real buzz out of big turns, bumps and floating through fields of powder.  

On reflection I have spent the preceding twenty odd years of my ski life thinking I had the skills to do this but without the coaching that a lot of us accept is part of our right in the workplace you just can’t break through barriers imposed by poor technique, which you are nearly always blind to yourself.

 So why say all of this you may ask.  Well it’s a call to action for lots of people like me who still spend lots on gear and expensive holidays but don’t take the necessary steps to get so much more out of their skiing.  This is what worked for me so far:

  •       A pre vacation recommendation from your chalet or hotel proprietor on a named ski instructor who might fit in with your personality comes in handy. 
  •       Finding a ski coach with whom I have been able to establish a strong rapport – someone who sees my strengths and my shortcomings as a skier
  •         Set up a private lesson(s) to get an honest assessment of your level, your strengths and a plan for improvement, which they can guide you towards.  The plan must be based around realistic objectives of what you both agree can be achieved.
  •         Ask the instructor for details of the drills that they practice to become better and find out why these drills make such a difference
  •        Practice these drills on the easier slopes, where it is less crowded or on the way home.   An hour or so in a busy ski day as part of what you are doing pay’s dividends for me.   
  •       Decide together how you will measure progress to becoming a better skier.  This might include technical video analysis, feeling much more controlled, having the time to look 3 steps ahead whatever the terrain.
  •        When you feel you have reached an objective get back together for more lessons – change the terrain, find more difficult snow pack etc. 
  •         Don’t let bad old habits slip back in – repeat the lessons to avoid reverting to type

Still not convinced then think about it differently:
  •          The best ski instructors get lessons from each other.  You are never too good to learn.
  •         In your own walk of life ongoing professional development may well be important to your career.  It’s the same for skiing!
  •         How much better does a craftsman / artisan made piece of furniture look compared to DIY attempts at producing the same.  You might get there eventually with DIY but it is a much slower process

I hope my journey to improvement inspires one or two of the people who read our blog to take heart and invest in the ski tuition / training necessary to make a breakthrough in skiing technique and increase their ROE (Return on Enjoyment) in the ski fields this winter.