I've taken ski lessons in Austria, where the instructors are strict and thorough, and in the U.S., where instructors seem to use shortcuts and gimmicks like, "Point your toes where you want to go." Do you think there is a quality-control problem with instructors in this country?
I do not. In the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, Austrian (and French) instructors dictated how skiing was taught here. But by the late Seventies, U.S. instructors had come into their own, developing an American Teaching Method that was far less regimented and more about teaching skiers to love the sport. By the mid-Eighties even the Austrians were learning from us.
The turnaround was in response to equipment and lifestyle changes. As new boots, skis and slope preparation made the sport easier, Americans were quick to recognize simpler techniques. New time constraints on U.S. skiers were such that they would no longer commit to seven-day Learn-to-Ski Weeks. They wanted more time for freeskiing and demanded instant gratification.
Today, American instructors continue to be some of the most creative and innovative anywhere. And many enlightened resorts encourage their teachers to tune into their guests' wishes and customize lessons to target them.
Studies show that U.S. skiers don't like being categorized by ability level, don't want to be lectured by a drill instructor and don't necessarily pursue technical perfection. Instead they say, "Recognize who I am as a skier, and show me what I need to know to have a better day on snow. Right now."
Next time you sign up for a lesson, tell the ski school what you want. If you want a taskmaster, request one. Engage a fully certified PSIA instructor with a good track record, and I believe you will have an experience of the very highest quality. ¿ The Professor
Have a question for The Professor? Write Stu Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.