Happy Pants!

Why spend a lot of time describing to your pals what your day was like when you can just point to your Happy Pants?      …’nuff said Bro!

It wasn’t an “epic” powder day.

There was no chin deep Blower…. No thigh-high Cold Smoke.

It was just another day Out West.

We usually have some kind of fresh snow to ski on. For those who take the time to look, there is always some stash left somewhere.

We didn’t have to send out a search party for the Pow today. The 6 inches of light stuff fell after the groomers had finished their dastardly deeds for the night.

Fresh tracks were available everywhere.

It was a week day so not much trackage during the day. It was cold enough that the crud and harbor chop stayed light and bust-able all day.

Totally-like dreamy-creamy all day long 🙂

I always feel a little thankful at the end of a day like this.

It takes a village to create Happy Pants!

I thank Ullr for the snow, remembering to partake of his sacred elixir and to sacrifice the ribs of his sacred swine to the fires of Kingsford.

I thank the gazillions of people involved in keeping the mountain operating and safe.

I thank Lefty the Lifty who bitches all day that the chairs arrive from his right  but who always has a happy hello and a gentle seating for me.

I don’t take lessons any more but I thank the instructors. Been there, done that, wore holes in the t-shirt. It is a thankless job that doesn’t pay even half what is worth to our sport.

I even thank that pimply faced kid who operates that Ferris Wheel gizmo they keep the hot dogs on.

I thank Warren Miller for the stoke when I hit my late 30s and wasn’t skiing much. As he  said, “I never made anyone ski better but I made them ski more.

I thank folks like John Clendenin and Rick Schnellmann at Skier Village on Facebook for their ideas about making skiing easier and more fun. They took the pain-of-aging out of skiing.

I especially thank the men and women of the highway crew who do an AMAZING job of making the road up to the mountain safe for us to travel. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is 3 feet of January powder or, a half inch of March ice they make sure we can get there by staying up all night.

Even when my pants are clean, I always hoist my first glass of apres in thanks to the hundreds of people who made the day possible.

It takes a helluva lot of people to make Happy Pants! 🙂

A heartfelt handshake and a thank-you go a long way. If you saw their pay stub, a hefty tip at season’s end goes a fair distance. A beer, or a bowl, whatever suits your style of thanks-giving…..

DO IT!!!


Try to be demonstrably thankful to the Cru!


Senior Ski Lessons – When Hiking for Turns Was Life or Death

Army ski

There is no telling what the North American ski industry would be like today if American soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division had not been trained this way and seen service in Europe. Many senior skiers knew these heroes personally and their legacy will never be forgotten!

US Army Ski Training Film 1941

Here’s link to the Wikipedia on the history of military skiing 

Senior Ski Lessons – Purposeful Practice: by Derek Tate

For our poor and snow-deprived friends in the southern hemisphere, it is hard to imagine skiing whilst floating about a pool in 99 degree heat. OK..no…it isn’t that hard.


But, as every year before, I start wondering what that first run of the season will be like. It’s like that first tee shot in the spring. It might go down the middle of the fairway or it might well fly into the woods, ricochet off a gopher and roll into the men’s water closet. No doubt, some practice sessions will be required.


winter golf
I wonder where this one is going?

Here is an article from Derek Tate of the Irish Snowsports Instructors Assoc. on how to make your practice sessions more productive. Last winter I put up a series of articles on a few things I do to be more productive.

Your Skiing Sucks?

I know many of senior skiers prefer to teach themselves. Even if you do take lessons, remember..you are not with your coach every day. Most days, YOU are your own coach. Having the skills to structure your own learning sessions is absolutely essential to effortless, effective…FUN!

Horse Training Tips for D-I-Y Senior Ski Lessons

I did have to make a few small edits to Derek’s article to make it work on smart phone screen formats. The full article and many others are available on Derek’s website.


About the author, Derek Tate holds a postgraduate diploma in Sports Coaching and has completed the first year of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). He holds the BASI International Ski Teacher Diploma and the IASI Alpine Level 4 Euro Ski Pro. He is a former trainer of ski instructors for the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) and current Head of Education for the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI). He lives near Chamonix, in France where he is director of British Alpine Ski Schools (BASS) in Chamonix and Megeve.

The man knows what he is talking about. Here’s Derek…

Purposeful Practice

Statements such as ‘correct practice makes perfect’ and ‘practice makes permanent’ are commonly used in relation to improving skills and there is no doubt that without sufficient practice you cannot expect to develop your skills to a high level let alone achieve mastery.

But practice needs to be more sophisticated than simple repetition. It needs to be purposeful and if possible deliberate.

In this lesson I will look at what purposeful and deliberate practice are and how you can ensure that the time you spend developing your skiing skills is time well spent. I will also look at what ‘mastery’ is and how you can remain motivated to achieve such high skill levels.
What is purposeful practice? Anders Ericsson (2016) differentiates purposeful practice from ‘naive practice’ in that the latter is where you simply do something repeatedly expecting that the repetition alone will improve your performance.

Purposeful practice, on the other hand, is thoughtful, structured and focused.

There are several key aspects to purposeful practice;

Well defined specific goals, focus on the task in hand, ongoing and immediate feedback and getting outside of one’s comfort zone . Goal setting is vital in so many areas of life and the acronyms SMART and SMARTER (Lockerbie & Tate, 2012) are well established pathways to both setting and achieving your goals. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, broken down into chunks of time, create enthusiasm and have some kind of benefit or reward.

Focusing on the task in hand was covered in detail in the first lesson titled ‘Focus Your Attention’ (Tate, 2017) and by developing this skill you can ensure full engagement on skills that you are practicing.

Without feedback there is no way of measuring your progress or knowing how you are doing. Essentially, feedback can come from an extrinsic source, such as a teacher or watching video playback, or an intrinsic source i.e. from you, as you are doing the task. The latter is very important especially as the skill becomes more reflexive and ultimately is more likely to lead to optimal experience (flow).

Getting outside of one’s comfort zone “ is perhaps the most important part of purposeful practice” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.17). It is too easy to stick with what is familiar and comfortable but in order to improve you need to challenge yourself beyond what you can already do.

There is a clear link here with the ‘challenge skills balance’ aspect of flow (Jackson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). What is important is that the challenge is just enough to stretch your performance rather than push beyond your limits.
Which areas of your performance do you need to practice most?

Can you allocate sufficient time to this practice?

Will you practice with others or alone?
What makes practice deliberate rather than just purposeful?

Deliberate practice includes all the components of purposeful practice plus the following; guidance from a teacher or coach, rigorous formal training methods, a well developed field with experts who have achieved mastery and effective mental representations

Guidance from a teacher or coach can not only help you to learn what and how to practice but also helps to ensure you learn the correct fundamental movement patterns from early on, reducing the need to unlearn bad habits.

For this reason finding a good teacher is important. One of the suggested defining outcomes of deliberate practice is, that because it demands rigorous formal training methods, it is not always fun! You are often required to work outside of your comfort zone and at “near maximal effort” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.99).
July, 2017 by Optimal Snowsports & Parallel Dreams Coaching 2

“The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016)

Deliberate practice also requires a well developed field with experts who have achieved mastery. A sport like Alpine skiing clearly has such a field with experts who perform to an exceptional level across a number of disciplines.

Finally, deliberate practice needs effective and sophisticated mental representations that are developed over time to correspond to external reality. In skiing this takes the form of mental imagery and forming these mental pictures comes from a combination of knowledge, understanding, seeing and feeling.

Higher level performers often use mental imagery as an integral part of their practice.

What is Mastery and where does talent fit into the equation?

It has been widely publicized that to reach mastery in any domain takes around 10,000 hours of quality practice (ideally deliberate practice). The actual number of hours required is difficult to nail down but suffice to say “nobody develops extraordinary abilities without putting in tremendous amounts of practice” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.96).

Mastery can be defined as comprehensive knowledge and/or skill in a particular domain.

For us, in skiing, this translates to ‘expert performance’. The are many examples of expert performers but one that springs to mind is the American slalom specialist, Mikaela Shiffrin who also epitomises the importance of deliberate practice. See 7 Keys to Drill Mastery https://youtu.be/96VN_Brmnz0.

The nature vs nurture debate often comes up when discussing ‘talent’. The best description that I have found on talent is by Scott Barry Kaufman who says, “Instead of treating talent as an ‘innate ability’, with all the knowledge and skills fully present at birth, I think talent is more accurately defined as a predisposition and passion to master the rules of a domain (2013, p. 247).

So, the good news is that no matter where you start you can get better with purposeful practice.

How do you maintain motivation?

It’s been established that to become an expert performer requires a great deal of quality practice, but how do you maintain motivation? Once again goal setting is all important here.

If you follow the SMARTER process then you are more likely to maintain interest and it is interest that shapes your motivation. Understanding your learning style will also have a positive impact on how you structure your practice and even better if you can build learning flexibility where you move through the learning cycle using all nine ways of learning (see Peterson & Kolb, 2017 for more information).

Developing ‘Grit’ can benefit your ability to keep practicing and pursuing your goals. The components of grit are passion and perseverance over the long term despite set backs and failure (Kaufman & Duckworth, 2015).

Ultimately falling in love with the activity will fuel your motivation and help give you grit. Remember: Learn it, Love it, Live it.


Kolb Learning Style Inventory 4.0 to find out more. http:// learningfromexperience.com

TRY THIS Use videos of skilful skiers to develop more sophisticated mental representations of expert performance. A great place for this is https://www.projectedproductions.com

Ericsson, A., & Pool, R. (2016). Peak, Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

London: The Bodley Head. Jackson, S. A., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). Flow in Sports, The keys to optimal experiences and performances.

Human Kinetics. Kaufman, S. B. (2013). Ungifted, Intelligence Redefined.

New York: Basic Books. Kaufman, S. B., & Duckworth, A. L. (2015). World-class expertise: a developmental model.

Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Lockerbie, A., & Tate, D. (2012). Ski Instructors Handbook, Teaching Tools & Techniques.

Edinburgh: Parallel Dreams Publishing. Peterson, K., & Kolb, D. A. (2017). How You Learn Is How You Live.

San Francisco: BerrettKoehler. Tate, D. (2017, June). Lesson 1 – Focus Your Attention. Optimal Snowsports.

Web links

British Alpine Ski School Chamonix http://www.basschamonix.com

Kolb’s Nine Ways of Learning http://www.learningfromexperience.com Learn it, Love it, Live it http://www.optimalexperience.co.uk

Ski Coaching & Mountain Life http://www.paralleldreams.co.uk

Ski Instructional Videos http://www.projectedproductions.com

About the author Derek Tate holds a postgraduate diploma in Sports Coaching and has completed the first year of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). He holds the BASI International Ski Teacher Diploma and the IASI Alpine Level 4 Euro Ski Pro. He is a former trainer of ski instructors for the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) and current Head of Education for the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI). He lives near Chamonix, in France where he is director of British Alpine Ski Schools (BASS) in Chamonix and Megeve.

Want to improve your performance this winter and learn how to practice more purposefully? Then book a lesson with Derek at BASS. To find out more go to http://basschamonix.com/ lessons2

All photographs © Parallel Dreams.
July, 2017 by Optimal Snowsports &

Senior Ski Lessons – Coming Attractions – Can PSIA Survive Consolidation?

Below is a reply I posted on the “Harb” thread. Over the coming months I will be tackling some of these questions one at a time and doing a deeper dive regarding the inconsistencies in ski school services.

going out od biz

Here is one question to get you thinking…Obviously according to the original comment, Aspen is doing things differently and they DO have a reputation of having a great school. SO, In light of the size of Vail Resorts and now, ASPEN/KSL, what happens to the relevancy of PSIA if either or both of those behemoths decides to create their own in-house certification programs and not require their instructors to become PSIA certified?

One immediate answer is clear. Between the two corporations they employ many thousands of instructors.  At the moment, PSIA’s long term survival is more dependent on how well they serve  those two companies than it is on its membership.

_____________________The Reply___________________________________________

On discussions of bio-mechanics…I have spent enough time on EpicSKi (R.I.P) and many other online forums to know that there is no such thing as consensus amongst instructors.

On generalizations…mine, based on observed behavior at 17 resorts are no less valid than yours based on observations at one resort. There are some very real studies that indicate something is deeply wrong.

1) Only 10% of visit-days result in the sale of a school “product”
2) 70% of people just finishing a lesson either were “not likely to” or “would not” recommend lessons to friends or family
3) Membership surveys show that older instructors are accepting of the role PSIA plays but not necessarily enthusiastic or engaged. The younger the instructor, the more dissatisfied they are, on some questions, 2.5 out of a max of 5.

These aren’t good numbers. The problem is there are many studies asking “what” is happening but they don’t get to the bottom of “why” it is happening.

Surely, some of the customer’s dissatisfaction comes from some expectations based on the price. There is no reason to conclude that an L2 at Vail gives a better lesson than an L2 at Snowbowl, but the difference in price of those identical products is $900 versus $180.

I am also intrigued by the information that PSIA has been involved in the development of software based Do-It-Yourself lessons. For the long term health of the industry, I think it’s a good thing. Proficiency surely plays a role when a customer is making the decision to continue skiing or quit and take up knitting. DIY learning tools offer proficiency at a MUCH lower price point than even the cheapest school lesson.

Compare these two messages…

1) “Take multiple PSIA lessons over 4 years at $300 each to reach level A proficiency”
2) “Buy this combination of hardware/software with PSIA lessons embedded and have the same 4 years worth of lessons for $250.

One has to be curious why an organization, that has resisted codifying a concrete progression for it’s members, would do that for the open consumer market first.

This is “personal” only in an indirect way. I have a ton of friends and acquaintances who pay their dues and teach and do a great job. they are getting the shaft but are afraid to speak out. So, I do what I can for them.

There are many questions and very few answers and THAT combination always piques my interest.

Later this summer I will be putting up an article on the astonishing new thing the OSV in Austria has done with their program. IN a nutshell, they went out and ASKED the public what THEY wanted to learn. That simple step triggered a brand new 528 page manual and the statement that “carving is out and elegance is in”

For many decades, a relative handful of “experts” have decided what the customer SHOULD learn without ever once asking the public what they wanted. It took some courage for the OSV to do that.

Nationalist snow sport organizations have a long history in reacting to market changes at a very glacial pace. How many years between the introduction of snow boards and the first certification of a snowboard instructor? How many decades passed between the first freestyle world championship and the first certification of a freestyle instructor?

In part, the poor market penetration and high levels of customer dissatisfaction can be blamed on an ongoing, major chasm between what the skiing public wants and what experts are willing to offer.

While I find the embedding of PSIA teaching in a software product as a step in the right direction, the Austrian market study may prove that the “carving lessons in a can” may still not be what the public wants.

In the end the long term value of that effort may accrue to the PSIA brand and to the resorts but not to the membership. What happens to how a customer sees YOU, the instructor, when they show up with this PSIA branded technology and ask “I am stuck on Lesson 4.2 and need some help” ..and you have NO IDEA what they are talking about?

Senior Skiing DIY Instruction – The Harbist …

If I have learned anything after a couple months of blogging it is this…Writing about controversial subjects is a bit like being the mole in the Wack-a-mole game at CHuckie Cheese. Stick your head out of the hole on some subjects and by-golly someone is bound to take a poke at it!

whack a mole.gif
The Establishment Kitty Offers an Opinion.

There is likely not a single person in all the world of American ski instruction more controversial nor more loved and hated, than Harald Harb and his “PMTS” system of learning. The western style range-wars over PMTS on the EPIC forums are, well, …epic. The posts and comments about PMTS there are at one turn excoriating and the next, adoration. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground in how people feel about him and his method.

Part of my duties as the Senior Skiing Crash-Test-Dummy is to go out into the ether online and track down useful Do-It_Yourself learning tools. I actually work at using the learning tools exactly as described by their authors and evaluate whether or not a person can actually improve their performance using them.

crash test dummy

Part of the disconnect between the skiing public and the standard ski school fare is that customers expect that after all these decades, learning to ski should be formulaic. I tend to agree with them.

Making competent parallel turns really isn’t very difficult…unless…you started out learning in a snowplow and then “moved up” to stemmed turns. To make a decent parallel turn you really have to “unlearn” all the stuff you were taught as a beginner.

When Harb introduced his “direct-to-parallel” methods back in the 90s he was immediately set upon by the instructional establishment. He was branded a heretic for parting with the accepted establishment pedagogy and considered by some to be a traitor to his US Demo Team roots. Perhaps,the worst thing about PMTS was that it worked. It worked then and it still does today.

witch dunking

With several hundred instructors certified in his methods and some ski schools accredited to teach it, his persistence has paid off. You don’t have to like the guy, but you have to admit his “direct-to-parallel” methods are effective.

His methods may not jibe with traditional ski school dogma, but who cares about that? Let’s all pretend like the customer is the most important person in the equation.

If a particular method gets beginners making competent parallel turns during the first lesson, we need to embrace them for the customer’s sake..and our own. It delivers to that customer expectation that learning should be formulaic.

The point is to simply things and not make them seem impossibly complicated..if for no other reason than…they are NOT all that complicated from the perspective of the average recreational skier. You know? Those people who PAY for lessons?

With the stage set, let’s begin…I started with this video on YouTube…If you have the athleticism and the persistence, eventually your skiing will look like this…


But, you have to start somewhere….


I watched that video several times about his “phantom move” with the inside ski and then watched the one about the “Super Phantom” a dozen times. Then I took it to the snow.

I got off the chair and there at the top is a 200 yard long section that is almost flat. I was cruising along on flat skis, intending to just ride down to the steeper part of the run before I started. Typical of me, I was ready to get started with this new stuff so, I figured, what the heck, let’s just try that Super-Phantom thing.

I picked up the tail of my left ski and tipped it to the left…BAM! I turned left so fast it almost threw me over the handlebars to the right. I was only going 3-4 mph. If you have been having trouble with short radius quick turns..This is a move that will help you past that plateau.

If any of you had been following me on a another on-line magazine, you would know that in the 2014-15 season I had donated my body to science and went chest deep into learning Clendenin Method Skiing. I recently revisited that experiment on this blog (read more).

That effort woke me up to the tremendous value of the inside ski in controlling speed and shaping turns. Once I knew what I was looking for, you can see the beginning of this concept in the skiing of Jean Claude Killy inthe late 1960s. Ingmar Stenmark used the inside ski to dominate World Cup racingi the 70s and become the winning-est racer in history.

Even my school director in 1978 had us teaching students in a wedge to turn left, not by leaning on the right ski but, by picking up the left ski. Seems like a small differentiation, but it is monstrously important in your progress toward advanced skiing.

The only thing that changes more slowly than a glacier is “ski instruction”. Stenmark made clear use of his inside ski in the 70s. Only recently,  has the instructional establishment made grudging references to the inside ski…after 40 years of chanting a mantra ..”outside ski…ommm…outside ski…ommmm…outside ski”.

After 20 years of the shaped-ski driven carving craze, the OSV, the organization that develops the standards for ski instructors in Austria, has declared “carving” to be a niche skill rather than the be-all-end-all of skiing. (More on that here)

They came to that conclusion by actually going out and ASKING recreational skiers what they wanted to learn. Go figure…imagine actually asking a customer what they want…but…I digress.

My personal battle-cry is “Two Feet – Four Edges”. Basically I am a cheapskate. I PAID for two boots, and two skis with four edges so by-gum, I am determined to use them all at anytime, anywhere, in any conditions to execute my intention for any turn.

I am sure they would both say they are entirely different, but my feet tell me otherwise. The basic difference between Harb and Clendenin is a matter of edge angle and WHEN you use the Little-Toe-Edge of the inside ski.

Clendenin Method leads to a steered-smeared “drifted” turn at low edge angles and Harb Systems leads to a high edge angle turn. Clendenin Method is a “go-slow” method and Harb Systems is a “go-fast” method. Both are useful and both lead to a level of control over turn shape that a singular focus on the outside ski simply cannot provide…ever…period.

In general terms, the free Youtube (here)videos on the Harb System are not effectively serialized so you may have to study them all and decide when each one is appropriate to tackle next..or just buy the organized materials here. Harb Ski Systems

The product values are ho-hum. I don’t care for long explanations about why it’s better than someone else’s method nor why what is being taught is going to be really hard to master. I am that “Just shut up and show me person”

So, if you want to amp up your performance of high speed, high edge angle, carved turns, you owe it to yourself to study Harb System skiing. Even if it doesn’t fix everything, it gives you a kit full of new tools and that is ALWAYS a good thing.

Don’t worry about the high-angst declarations of “experts” on either side of the public argument. By studying methods outside the establishment dogma you are educating your feet and body to do things other skiers can’t for no better reason than they haven’t been exposed to it.

That, too, is ALWAYS a good thing. Especially when it’s free (or less than a day’s lesson fees).

Remember to structure your learning and focus on the sensations in your feet and learn to sue them to guide your every move! (D-I-Y Senior Ski Lessons – Your Skiing Sucks?)




D-I-Y Self-Coaching for Senior Skiers – Clendenin Method

So Geezer Guys & Gals, senior skiers aren’t any different than our younger counterparts. We want to be in control, have fun and look good doing it! To accomplish these goals, it might be a good idea to schlep off for a specialized senior skiing lesson lesson once in awhile or, apply ourselves the process of self-coaching. It isn’t as difficult as some folks think to teach old dogs, new tricks.

But whoa Nelly! Not every ski school out there has certified Senior Specialists. PSIA-AASI is the organization that develops standards for instructors and administers proficiency testing. Actually, PSIA-AASI is 10 separate companies, one “national” company and nine regional divisions.

Each has its own tweaks to the standards and to top that off, on-resort training staff may add to or modify some aspects of the training process. The idea of “standards” in that environment has to be loosely interpreted.

Only the Western and Northwestern divisions have programs that certify “Senior Specialists”.

The Northern Rocky Mountains division has been using examiners from the Northwestern division to certify people in their division.

If you don’t know what division you will be in click here for a map. The manuals used by Senior Specialists in the Western and Northwestern divisions are available on their respective websites.

I have attempted to make contact with clinicians and education staff members at division levels and the national organization in regard to senior-focused programs, with no response.

Whatever it is they offer to senior skiers seems to be a closely guarded secret. If you want to know what it is, you have to pay for the lessons. I recommend you call ahead to the snow sport school where you will being skiing and ask them what they have.

The manuals can be summarized this way; “Senior skiers are risk averse, mentally and physically challenged and tend to get cold easily” There is almost nothing in the manuals about how to modify movement patterns for someone who experiences joint or back pain when they ski.

Some ski areas have instructors who operate clinics especially for senior skiers but these clinics aren’t standardized. It is not clear if they offer anything new or different, in terms of movement patterns, from the usual ski school fare. Many of these clinics are simply social in nature, a chance to ski and learn with people your own age. 

The problem is this, many of us have sore parts. Skiing can be hard on your back, hips, knees, and ankles.

It is important to have an instructor who knows how to modify standard ski school methods to alleviate the aches and pains.

Back in 2015, I was fortunate to chat with some folks from The Over the Hill Gang (OTHG) at Steamboat Springs in Colorado.. In 24 hours, 35 of them had snapped up all the slots in two camps put on by the coaches from the Clendenin Method ™  organization. After the camps were completed, they were uniformly giddy about the transformation in their skiing. So, what sets CM ™ apart from any other method out there? John Clendenin.

Clendenin Method offers a way for seniors to ski smoothly and comfortably. Credit: ClendeninMethod.comClendenin Method offers a way for seniors to ski smoothly and comfortably.
Credit: ClendeninMethod.com

John Clendenin is not your ordinary senior skiing instructor. He is a two-time World Freestyle Champion, winning back-to-back in 1973 and 1974. In April of last year, he was inducted into the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. John knows a thing or two about skiing.

The mogul competitions in those days were wild, edge of insanity affairs. The body takes a lot of abuse skiing that way. John told me, “I realized that if I was going to keep skiing later into life, I had to find a way to take the THUMP out of skiing. We all have a finite number of THUMPS and mine were all used up.”

John studied the masters, Killy, Stenmark, Brooksbanks, Mosely, Plake and many others and distilled the essence of their styles into his trademarked CM. He opened his own school in 1994, and is still headquartered in Aspen. He now offers camps in Aspen, Steamboat, Park City, Beaver Creek, Portillo, Chile and Val d’Isere..

Four simple concepts provide context and structure for the Nine Keys to the Kingdom (c)

The skiing method he created is totally, visually unique.

In an industry full of gorilla-shaped images carving arcs with knees crooked and hips dragging through the snow at breakneck speed, CM stands out.

It is controlled, graceful, upright, and effortless, exactly what we senior skiers are looking for!

His method has been distilled and simplified into a formulaic progression comprised of four key words and 9 drills. If you master them you will master the method. No more mysteries or millions of moving parts that require endless, pricey trips to school.

It can take you anywhere on the mountain, on-piste or off and in any kind of conditions.

Most mogul clinics focus on tactics, but without the unique skiing method, moguls will still wear you out.

According to Tom Saddlemire of the OTHG, “What amazed me is how easy it is to learn. There are 4 Words ™ and 9 Keys-to-the-Kingdom™ and you don’t need an doctorate in anatomy to understand it. In over 1000 days of skiing, I have taken 50 days of instruction and none of them transformed (he used that word a lot) my skiing the way that 3 day camp has.” That is a pretty strong recommendation, and it is echoed by every CM graduate I have spoken with. Their 50 percent return rate speaks for itself.

I can make a high recommendation that you get the book and DVD and give it a try. As part of my role as your Crash-Test-Dummy, I spent the whole of the 2014-15 season focused on learning this method.

Over the previous two seasons I had begun to develop pain in my knees by mid day. I am happy to report that CM ™ has put an end to that pain AND made more of the mountain available to me.

Clendenin Method is unique in DIY senior ski lesson arena in that he has a book, a DVD, multiple ski camps you can attend, and he also offers remote video coaching. Send in a short video of your skiing and he will analyze it using the latest in movement analysis software, overlay his voice recommendations and send it back to you.

Since 1994, the CM success story has spawned a lot of copy cats but there is only one CM. If you want to enhance your longevity in the sport, check it out at ClendeninMethod.com. They also offer DVDs (click here)  and ebooks are available to download by email contact at  info@skimethod.com . Happy, powdery trails to you…

Start Your Own Senior Ski Lesson Business

PIRATES! A Boot Full o’ Pirates to be exact!

So, a few days ago I posted this sample ad on several ski industry groups on LinkedIn

“Instructors Wanted : Wages are $80 to $240 per hour.”

Immediately and predictably someone commented with the usual stuff about Forest Service leases and monopolies and getting arrested…yada yada blah bla blah. PIRATES! POACHERS!! That is just so very inside-the-box. Inside-the-box for so many decades that few are even aware the box HAS an outside. SO Cap’n Mike is going to shoot the locks off the treasure chest for you  Yo HO!

jack 1

So, what is in the treasure chest?


Just another piece of technology?

Or, a Genie-in-a-Bottle with the ability to render borders and monopolies and insular, national organizations asunder? I contend it is the later.

Imagine! The PSIA D team and USSA racers in your boots, on your phone and in your ears!

With 3D accelerometers, 3D gyro-sensors and an insole that maps pressure changes on the bottom of your foot, we can now see what is going on inside your boots. If you couple that with an inexpensive phone app that has a full progression of video lessons, drill videos AND, a voice that coaches you WHILE YOU ARE SKIING!!! ..if you are doing it right or not…well…live ski instruction has a very serious competitor.

Why? Live instructors cannot see inside your boot/ This gizmo can. So why is this something you need to take seriously? Read on dear Reader..Read on…

What does a ski instructor do? They watch you ski and try to pick out that one thing they can work on that might give you a break through. It might be a flat-light day and the snow is blowing. Seeing exactly what is up with your skiing can be tough sometimes.


Good skiing starts with the feet. The one thing NO instructor can do on the snow is look inside your boot and see what is happening…UNTIL NOW..and the fun part is that this technology separates you from the need to be in the presence of the client.

Your coach can be on the other side of the world and look into your boots. You send them a video and they can do a much better analysis OFF the mountain than they could ever do in the snow.

How?? So glad you asked!

The skiing modeled in the Carv app is PSIA style skiing. According to their CEO, the skiing modeled in their software is the direct result of joint development with PSIA and USSA. This includes Freestyle skiing and being able to evaluation your best jumps, grabs…everything including the height in the air.

carv tools

The voice their users will hear in their ear is, for all practical purposes, the voice of the PSIA Demonstration Team..shhhhh! It’s sort of a secret.

So what, you say?

Because…the app and hard-technology can be in ANYONE’S boots. From ANY country, at ANY time, from ANY where in the world the client is having issues, to where YOU, their favorite instructor, happens to be.

From Chile to Canada. From the Alps to Australia. From Vail Resorts to Aspen. There are senior skiers everywhere, year-round..Artificial barriers that have locked customers into the ski school at the resort they are currently skiing..NO…Longer…Exist.

A French ski coach in Megeve can now reach out and work EFFECTIVELY with a client anywhere in the world.

A lot of people are skeptical on the value of technology and remote coaching, but it has already started and products like this are the kind of techno that seniors love to load up on and they have the do-re-mi..

I had a couple of senior skiers, a guy and his wife from New Zealand, in a lesson a few years ago and was able to do them some good…It rolled like this…..

Mr And Mrs NZ : “…(praise) yada yada..wish we could take you home with us..blah..blah”

Me: “Yes well so do I. It has been a pleasure spending the day with you.”

M& M NZ: “Why don’t we send you some video once in a while and you can look at it and see what you can do with it….”

Me : “Umm….sure..OK…”

So, we trade email addresses and phone numbers (something you should do with every client) and I thought that was the end of it… until a week later when I got an email from them with an attachment. It was a video of their skiing…with the Matterhorn in the background! I was frying eggs in Montana 5,072 nautical miles away.

M&M NZ: “We are having fits with the heavy deep crud here..HELP!”

My thought was that without being able to show them what was wrong it would be hard to help. A simple voice-over would not be much help. So, I went a-Googling and found a cheap phone app called Coach’s Eye that allowed me to do the voice over plus slow motion, stop action, montage. draw lines and circles and boxes and more. So, I loaded their video into the tool and did the analysis. It took about 15 minutes. I sent them the Movement Analysis and a link to an old Youtube video of a drill that would help.

coach's eye2

They were beyond happy. They sent me an email asking for my snail mail address and I didn’t think much of that so, I sent it to them. I was thinking I was going to get a postcard from Switzerland or maybe a box of Toberlone..To my surprise, I got a small box with …a postcard, two sticks of Toberlone and a check for $200.00. 15 minutes…$200 you do the math. That was late March of 2014

Over the course of the summer, I got videos, postcards, candy and money from them in Australia, NZ and Chile. I also got requests from them to help a friend here, a friend there. Friends Here and There sent me postcards, candy and checks.

I now have Paypal and Hubspot and 3 dozen happy seniors skiing all over the planet. At $20 a pop for five minutes work,it can add up fast. A session can take 5 to 15 minutes. That’s $80 to $240 an hour.


Some might view the Carv product as a direct competitor but I don’t believe that is the case. They will be going to market with the consumer model in November 2017 to be followed in the Spring of 2018 with a “coaches version” that will hopefully include an embedded Movement Analysis tool and a rudimentary Customer Relationship Management app (CRM). AT least that’s what I suggested to them. If they don’t, other tools are readily available and very affordable

This suite of tools would give you everything you need to help your clients no matter where in the world they are. You will stop being just an “instructor”. You become their ski consultant. A collaborator conspiring with them to take on any mountain, anywhere.

About 90% of the folks out there either use DVDs, books or free Youtube videos to teach themselves.

Even if they don’t buy the boot hardware, the phone app provides a set of tools and a common progression of lessons that can be used to structure their practice and your relationship with a client. Maintain contact, direct their progress, get them through hard times and you have a customer for life.

When they are away they can send you a 30 second video and a note like “Having trouble with Exercise 21.b #crap” (or whatever) and you will know immediately and exactly what they are talking about and how to approach the Movement Analysis of the video clip.

If your senior skier does have the boot product then you are home free. The data from the boot sensors give you a highly detailed look at what is going on over there half way around the world. Sync the video with the data and BAM!

Carv could be a threat to on-snow coaching or it could be the best thing that ever happened to your wallet. You might as well get on the band wagon or, some more enterprising snow coach in Chile or Oz or NZ just might be poaching your regular client from you with these tools!

Technology like Carv give you the opportunity to maintain contact with your clients when they aren’t with you. It will help you to CONSPIRE with them to take their game through the roof! And, when you both feel it is time for some in-person work, you guide them to make that decision together with you. That’s a world away from saying good bye and hope they come back someday. 

No,Carv isn’t a competitive product. It can be the best thing that ever happened to your coaching career. It can mean the difference in struggling with cash through each season to

Living large Coaching-from-Your-Couch

If that sounds like a good deal to you, SUBSCRIBE to this blog and Share it with other instructors. There will be a series of articles over the summer showing you exactly how to build your client base, and use software tools, and social media marketing.

 Also Read from the DIY Series:

Horse Training Tips for Skiers   What the @$!# are You Looking At?   Your Skiing Sucks



Senior Ski Lessons – Grow your skills from Instructor – Coach – Consultant – Collaborator

Drop the Scoop and Step Away from the French Fry Machine!

I was speaking with a friend recently who owns a very successful restaurant…..

High end stuff. Everyone in the kitchen wears a white mushroom hat, a blur of perfectly choreographed, artistic synergy. She told me a story about how she went from washing dishes, to waiting tables to vegetable chopper, to Sous Chef, to Head Chef to opening her own highly exclusive restaurant.

kitchen staff

So, I have a question in that vein. Which are you? Instructor, Captain Fun, Consultant, Collaborator, or Co-Conspirator? Can you guess which of these makes more money? Well, good. Continue reading if the idea of more money appeals to you.

The “waitstaff” at her place spend time detailing the “possibilities” with you and your party. There are no menus. I put “waitstaff” in quotations because every person waiting tables is a qualified Sous Chef and they all rotate through the kitchen preparing the meals they designed together with you and they personally supervise the serving of the meal.

The Sous Chefs each develop their own following and schedule their own clients. They are essentially their own restaurant within the restaurant. They have a common building and common prep staff. A common mission and a common goal. Everything in between is all completely customized to each diner’s desires.

perfect meal

.There is no rush to “turn you over”. They get inside your head and help you PLAN a meal that doesn’t just taste good and look good. The meal they design with you SAYS something about YOU.

It makes you feel good about yourself because you were involved in a conspiracy with your personal chef to create the perfect dining experience. It is not just a nice dinner. It is a night in the jet-set life.

Raise your hand if this looks good

It is a universe apart from a lukewarm, pre-prepped burger and cold fries dropped into a bag—without a napkin or a straw— and heaved at you through a window.

Does it cost a lot more? Of course it does. You don’t mind spending the money on the meal, because it is more like spending money ON yourself, spoiling yourself. It is NOT the mere intake of sustenance. It is pampering yourself.

It is immersing yourself in a soul-satisfying, sensory swirl of sights, sounds, flavors and aromas created just for you by your personal Chef. We senior skiers like that idea 🙂

It’s the difference between a two minute morning shower and a weekend at the spa in Napa. It is the difference between a candle lit bath for two with champagne and rose petals in wonderfully hot water..versus washing your hands at a gas station.

tub  bathroom sink

The business of delivering snow sport instruction has this same range of customer experiences.

How do I know? I have seen the instructional version of french fries hurled through a window too many times. I have also seen instructors who are delivering that hot bubble bath.

I have seen the industry studies that say just shy of 70% of people surveyed immediately after a lesson either “would not” or, were “not likely to” recommend taking a lesson to family or friends.

I know there are instructors out there CONSPIRING with their CLIENTS to conquer the mountain together, to not merely ski better than their friends, but to embarrass them 😉

I know there are instructors who suck. I know many who actually know what they are doing but don’t really care. I know a LOT who know what they are doing and work hard to help clients improve but that is just Prep Cook stuff.

People don’t come back to your restaurant because you do a good job slicing their vegetables. I would know this even if I had not seen it. All human behavior operates on a bell shaped curve. Some suck. Some excel. Most fall in between the extremes.

The only question that means anything is, “What can be done to skew the curve in a positive direction. What is the six sigma strategy?”

The attributes and quality of relationships with customers run along a continuum that transcends vertical industries. Snow sport instruction is no different than selling software or food.

used car sales

Some people you deal with will sell you software over the phone and really don’t know much about it. Other sellers of software spend time with you and your company. They know your business almost as well as you do.

They know your problems and might even recommend someone else’s product if they think it is the solution to your business problem.

They have invested themselves in your enterprise.

YOUR success is THEIR success.

The relationship transcends mere seller-buyer. They are co-conspirators. It’s you and them against the world and they are going to help you sneak up on your competitors and club them over the head. It’s tag team , Baby! You and your client vs the Hulk and Al’s Run.

tag team

Most sales people you deal with are there in front of you to solve THEIR problem, their quota. If your next student EVER gets the feeling that you are there with them to “deliver a lesson”, you are toast. Senior skiers are VERY discerning. They have many decades of experience with people trying to bullshit them. Don’t even bother to try!

What IS the product we are selling? Lessons? Nope, selling lessons isn’t any different than the kid who spends the day getting your hot dog off that little Ferris Wheel machine and dropping it in an over-steamed soggy bun.

Is it “proficiency”? Not really, lots of people are insanely proficient at doing things they hate to do.

Is it “fun”? There are too many things that are more fun than ski lessons. DOn’t invite comparisons. Seems like that word, “FUN” is in every other paragraph, in every instructors manual on the planet. Probably Mars & Venus, too.

Lots of people who have fun skiing quit when they start having families. It might be fun but they can’t or won’t spend the money on it. Even if they do, they don’t go often.


from The Falcon & The Snowman

If you are thinking like a drug dealer, you may be on the path to professional perfection. It ain’t about lessons. It ain’t about “proficiency”. It is about giving your clients “a taste”.

Give them that first needle full of snow and you’ll own them. Get them hooked on snow and they will be hanging around the street lamp outside your door at 3am waiting to score another dime.

You aren’t there to “teach” them. You are there to INJECT them with a craving that can never be satisfied. So, stop schlepping around the locker room and go build your own little Psychedelic Shack.

In the next installment we will examine the attributes and behaviors involved in the various levels of relationships and open the discussion of how to move up the snow sport instruction food chain.

We’ll examine why the PGA requires their pros to pass their business curriculum and ask why most bodies who govern snow sports instruction around the globe do not. So, let’s go! Darwin is a busy man so let’s not waste his time…..


D-I-Y Instruction Support Plan for Senior Skiing!


Here’s a sound track while you read!

Get yourself some Building Blocks

I’ve said it before. It doesn’t matter if lessons on the snow are better than DIY Instruction.

Millions of senior skiers try to learn from books and video and phone apps.

For the good of our sport and our own wallets, we had better find ways to both support and leverage alternate means of delivering proficient skiing and riding to a much larger audience.

There are only enough instructors to hit about 10% of the participants out there every season. Technology can be a “force multiplier” AND you can use it to make a lot more money….you DO like money don’t you?

Just try managing the “split” on this bunny hill!

For many seniors’ skiing techniques are habits ingrained over decades. Breaking those habits is tough so you need a plan. To read more about plans go to – Your Skiing Sucks?

If you don’t really know how to create a learning plan for senior ski lessons I found this six DVD set that has the plan and all the drills presented in the proper order. For a lousy $175.00 you can put a professional coach in your pocket. So, why wouldn’t you?

bb One Foot Skiing Montage (1)

The problem with trying to teach your old-dog-self some new tricks using videos is that you tend to adopt “positions” when mimicking the skiing on the video.

Just because you wound up in a similar position doesn’t mean you moved things in the right order to get there. Remember, all good skiing starts with the feet. If you move them first, you will always be on the right track.

BB Hip angulation2

If the video you are using doesn’t explain the bio-mechanical details, STOP..and find a video that does. A great source of reading on mechanics is the PSIA Alpine Technical Manual available at, http://www.thesnowpros.org/

Senior Ski lessons can be like a religious event. You either believe the instructor is a demigod or you don’t. If you don’t want to ski exactly the way they do, you are a fool…Enter our hero de jure, Rick Schnellmann, and his “Building Blocks” DVD set.

The fun part, the relaxing part, is that it is entirely secular. No matter what you believe constitutes “good skiing”, Building Blocks will make you better at it. You can go to his store here

Building Blocks comes in the box with the learning plan built-in. It takes you from Basic Balance to Basic Edging, on to Advanced Balance to Advanced Edging then, to Transitions and Angulation.

If you follow the progression and really give it a shot, I guarantee that you that you will become a better skier.

The Grand Daddy Grab

Too many times I have seen people trying to go straight from the wedge to carved turns, completely skipping over steered turns.

Ever since the parabolic ski came out, we have been promised that all you have to do is tip the ski on edge and it will turn. Of course, you can produce a turn by tipping the ski and putting some pressure on it but, that type of  turn is not appropriate for all combinations of terrain & conditions.

Carving turns is a go-fast method! If it wasn’t, racers wouldn’t do it.

WC racer

If you want to slow down you had better learn to back off those edges and steer your turns.The first four DVDs on Balance and Edging focus on just that, building a high level of finesse at blending edge angles with pressure and steering movements to shape turns and control speed…like this

The Transitions DVD is especially good. Sometimes ski school lessons can be a little too  dogmatic about pushing one kind of turn. On this DVD he tells you about 3 types of turn initiations and 9 types of transitions. You learn a matrix of 27 different turn-types!

There are dozens of different ways to turn on skis and each is appropriate for a certain combination of terrain & conditions. The more you combinations you know the more effectively you will ski, on more of the mountain. Who can’t love THAT?!

I first stumbled over a website called SkierVillage.com about 6 years ago. Rick also hosts a Facebook page by the same name and that is darned handy!

If you are having issues, help is only a couple clicks away.

I hadn’t been able to ski much in the previous decade and wanted to learn more about new technique. What I found at Skier Village was a lot of non-ego-driven help in sorting out my game and getting on a fast track to better skiing.

If you log into online forums about ski instruction, you will quickly get the impression that if that dude hadn’t shot the Arch Duke, WW One would have been started between ski instructors in the Alps.

Everyone wants to be THE ONE who figured all out and made skiing easier. Truth to tell, if you really want to improve, it is time to learn some of the details about the bio-mechanics of skiing for yourself and learn HOW to be your own coach.

Rick breaks it down into some simple steps. If you engage in exercises that improve the basic skills of balance, edging, pressure management and transitions, you get better and you don’t have to even KNOW you have a First Metatarsal let alone worry about it while you ski. These aren’t just a bunch of quick tips. It is a complete system of education.

BB transitions

If you are a ski instructor just starting out, there really aren’t many manuals available that tell you exactly what to teach people or how to put a client on a lesson plan so they will come back to you. You pick it up as you go along from clinics and in-house training staff.

In this DVD set, the lesson plan is all laid out along with all the drills. If you turn your clients on to this, they will REMEMBER you and sing your praises every time they use it.

If you have their contact information, you can email them once in a while (don’t over do this) to check on their progress and if need be invite them back for another session on the snow, without having to reassess what kind of skier they are. They just tell you where they got stuck in the DVDs and you go to work helping them.


chef on skis

You have just gone from being just another lowly L1 “instructor” to being a Senior Skiing Improvement CONSULTANT, a collaborator, a partner in a conspiracy with your customer. You are no longer a pimple-faced french fry cook.

You just became Le Chef Cordon Bleu du Ski!

Rick Schnellmann is a former FIS racer and has been coaching racers for 30 years.

Nurture Your Inner Skiing Geezer….



Growing older is a goal we ALL share.

Wouldn’t it be nice that when you reach 40..50…60…70…80…90 , the snow sport industry would still be interested in you senior skiers as an active participant? You may not consider yourself a senior skier now but you WILL be one day. Why wait until the last minute to insist the industry will want you around?

In the 1940s and 50s, from coast to coast an idea sprang from the mountains. My father’s generation returned from WW II in Europe with a notion and built the American ski areas. My generation, baby, our generation, built the industry as we know it today. Yet, if you pick up nearly any ski-related periodical or surf the web, you might get the notion that skiing is illegal for anyone over the age of 25


According to the AARP, seniors control 70 percent of the world’s wealth. That makes seniors the third largest economy behind the US and China. In the US alone, the 100 million seniors represent $200 billion dollars in disposable income. They spend 20 percent—that’s $40-billion—of that on their kids and grand kids. Seniors who ski or board spend a lot of money on their families!

We take our families on winter vacations, pay for their lodging, buy the lift tickets and often, rent or buy their equipment. In the immortal words of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, “We are going to be spending an obscene amount of money in here. So, we’re going to need a lot more help sucking up to us…’cause that’s what we really like.”

It turns out the seniors skiing is worth a lot to the industry!

Which demographic is trending up? Yep…Seniors          Credit:NSAA

( for more analysis, go to: The Wrinkled Irrelevants?

As an age group, we spend 27 percent more time on the mountain each season than any other group. By 2030, there will be 34 percent more people in the 50-plus age group than there are now. Nielson calls us, “the most valuable generation in the history of marketing” but also say less than five percent of all advertising targets our age group. HEY! Ski industry! Time to get in a little practice on seniors skiing, maybe?


Ever since the unfortunate industry report that the senior skiers who built and supported the  industry for the last four decades would be dying off in large numbers, the industry has treated the senior skiing segment as a lost cause. As if we are the last seniors to walk the Earth.


Their focus on the 24-40 year-old segment may appear to make sense from an economic perspective, but the industry is being more than a bit short-sighted.

Barring an Extinction Level Event, those young whippersnappers are aging, too. Time for the industry to gain some valuable experience in hanging on to the one demographic that will always control the bulk of disposable income. Yep, you would think so, wouldn’t ya? You would be wrong

(for more on skiing for cheap, go to: Skiing on the Cheap

hippy sit in

Take heart, active, sporting Boomer skiing souls! All is not lost. If you could take over the Student Union in 1968, you can handle a few ski bums. In the upcoming series of articles, we’ll take a look at resorts with successful senior-focused operations in “Right This Way Ma’am, Happy to See You Again”. We’ll show you how to handle a resort deaf and blind to the needs of seniors with “A Girl Scout Could Handle this Outfit”. Once you have your mountain under control, we’ll show how to wring the last ounce of joy from the slopes with “How to Shred for the Nearly Dead”. See ya up the road a piece. Talkin ’bout my generation…Peace….