Time to Get this Party Started!

Enough of this off season! Last Spring was chock full o’ news with Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL running amok with huge bags of cash buying up resorts. We’ll be keeping an eye on how that all shakes out.

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Aspen Nips the Catz Tail! Trump Saves the Ski Industry!

We have some product reviews coming your way that you won’t want to miss.

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You will likely finish reading this installment confused by the many twists and turns and incomplete directions. GOOD…You darned well should be! The ski industry is slowly killing itself and the reasons are as complex as they silly.

Trust me though, I’ll get you straightened out on it all by the end of this season 🙂

What finally shook me out of my summer doldrums were two articles from the same author and source. Both articles referenced “experts” who talked about why the ski industry isn’t growing. I am always interested in that subject and I read them both, several times.

What struck me was not the specific opinions of the two experts but how two experts could be looking at the same industry and come up with conclusions that are perfect opposites. Could it be that the industry is failing to grow because there simply isn’t anyone who knows what is really going on?

The first article I saw was posted by ISPO.com and you can read it here. READ ME. 

Basically it claims that skiing is too “elitist” and needs to find a way to get more people from lower income demographics to participate. The article didn’t say it in so many words but I had the distinct impression that the intent was to socialize or, at least, to have governments subsidize snow sport participation.

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China plans to grow snow sports in an unprecedented way. If they are successful they would nearly double the number of active participants in the world. I wrote about that last year in…

Senior Skiing To Grow 400% Worldwide. 

If the rest of the alpine world is to survive, they may well have to learn how to compete against government subsidized resorts in China and Russia.

From that perspective, I can sort of understand where this expert is coming from. BUT, it seems like “experts” in Japan, Korea, OZ, NZ, Canada, and the US are gearing up for what they believe will be a  Wave of affluent Chinese coming their way.

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Given that China has proved it can build a world class ski resort in less than a year, it is likely that millions of folks from Japan, Korea, OZ, NZ, Canada and the US will pass them in the air…on their way to China...to enjoy government subsidized, world class skiing…on a free seat on government owned Chinese Airliners.

What I am saying is that China would very easily take the decision to offer free everything from travel to lodging to meals and lifts. One or two seasons of that could absolutely trash the ski industry in most traditional alpine countries.

Sometimes I wonder if Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL understand that the 30 some resorts they own between them will be the only ones open in 15 years and are aligning themselves to serve only the wealthiest of the wealthy from around the globe. It’s already cheaper to take the annual ski vacation in Europe than it is to Colorado. How soon before it is even cheaper to enjoy world class powder in China?

The second article, from the same author and website… different expert.….posted in the same week contends exactly the opposite…Skiing is not “elite” enough. It needs the elite and not the “masses”!

First, I am curious to know who gets to decide if YOU are an “elite” or a member of  “the masses”. That decision almost never works out for you when you don’t get to make it.

This second article I didn’t spend a lot of time with. From the perspective of industry specific knowledge, the “expert” didn’t seem to have much. It was more like the standard Google/SEO – blast the world with “branding” thing that appears 400 times a day in my Facebook news feed.

From my view, it is really just a guy trying to sell some consulting time. I based that on the claim in the article that in a market populated by fairly affluent people he seems to think that dominating Google is the strategy of choice.

My thought is that the more easily you can define a target the easier it is to hit it. You go on LinkeIn, search keyword “ski” and bang – 1,000,000 affluent skiers that you can contact directly. His claim that “targeting” is dead is foolishly myopic and “tech-centric” and flies in the face of everything we know about how people in those “elite” classes make buying decisions.

Look, I am a free market guy and if you can get someone to spend $40 for a Cheeseburger by putting it on the menu as “Boeuf Haché avec du Fromage”…congratulations! PT Barnum told us many decades ago how that works.

I will make a prediction right now that $40 cheeseburgers and $300 lift tickets aren’t going to save the ski industry. Neither will socialized skiing. 

Again, the problems facing the industry in its traditional haunts has been the same problem for more than 20 years. The number of participants isn’t growing and neither is the number of times they go skiing each season. The industry has known for a long time that they need to do a much better job of hanging on to beginners.

The woeful statistic is that 82% of people who try it, don’t come back. NOTHING the industry has tried in the last 25 years has had any significant impact on that number.

According to the 2017 global industry study by Luis Vanat, participation in snow sports has been, and still is, in steady decline in traditional alpine nations.

The only places where it is growing are in Russia and China. 

The only demographic data that tracks directly with the decline in alpine sports is the decline of the middle classes in traditional alpine countries.

This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that Russia and China enjoy rapidly growing middle class. It is also supported here in the US that of the 200 plus ski areas lost in the last 20 years  most are predominantly small, local, low cost ski areas.

The cost of a day of skiing has grown much faster than inflation during a period when fewer and fewer people could afford even the low end of the cost spectrum.

All that boils down to that the ski industry really cannot have any impact of political and economic models. If current political and economic policies are eating away at your sources of revenue then you have to do something.

There are two ways to make a million dollars. Sell one million people a one dollar item or sell one million dollar item to one person. Between those extremes there are any number of potential blends of strategy and tactics to reach that goal.

So far, all we see are companies inching their way up the ladder. The cost of participating in lift served snow sports has been rising at a rate much higher than wage growth.

At a time when part of your client base is rapidly disappearing to economic policies, driving prices in the opposite direction only exacerbates the problem. Given the shrinkage in youth participation, the industry may well be heading toward a bubble that will fundamentally alter it and leave it no means of recovery.

When I was a kid in the late 50s and early 60s there simply weren’t many ski areas around. There were mountains of surplus military ski equipment that could be used on whatever local bump kids used for sledding. Our family “ski vacation” consisted of driving up Thompson canyon west of Ft. Collins and skiing the roadside ditch. Mom would drive us up and Dad would ski down with the kids. Then Dad would drive and Mom would ski with the kids. I had been skiing 15 years before I experienced a mechanical lift at a ski area. The current growth in a return to those halcyon days of hiking for turns is a breath of fresh air

In many towns these days the local sledding hills are shut down due to legal liability concerns. Kids are less active generally. Thanks in part to the explosion of a million cliff hucking, drowning-in-an-avalanche, GOPro videos, millions of mothers are deciding that skiing is too dangerous for their children.

There seems to be a growing list of reasons to NOT participate. At least, that list is growing faster than the list of reasons to give it a go and stay with it. The high costs certainly make it easier to stay away.

There are a lot of reasons why people don’t stick with it. Costs are certainly a part of that equation. Costs won’t change until the industry feels that is the only way it can survive.

One of the reasons that shows up in the annual surveys is poor proficiency. People think their skiing sucks and who is going to spend their annual vacation money doing something they suck at?

The problem is that there is much the industry can and should do about proficiency but they simply don’t care to do them. Lessons are expensive and will remain expensive, period.

When ski resorts are operating a government granted monopoly, there will not be any competition for the monopoly ski schools. Until there is, instruction will remain as expensive as it is ineffective and customer losses to “poor proficiency” will continue. Collision accidents on the mountain due to poor proficiency and over-crowding will continue to climb.

Sure skiing is expensive. The interesting thing is that once you reach a point in your life where you have the time to go skiing and you can afford to go skiing, the industry isn’t interested in you anymore.

Have Senior Skiers Been Abandoned? The Wrinkled Irrelevants…

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The outlook for increasing average proficiency is pretty bleak. Instructors with a lot of experience are “aging-out” of the profession and not enough young people are taking it up.

Instructor shortages are so severe that resorts are offering $1000 bounties to any employee who helps them poach an instructor from a another resort.

 

The outlook is so bleak, in fact, that the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) have taken to designing instructional programs for companies who make teaching machines.

But hey, it’s almost December and the local mountain is open. So, we’ll just keep on skiing and riding and muddle through somehow.

Kowabunga!! Tips Up Folks!

 

 

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Senior Ski Lesson Myth Buster: “Standardized Ski Instruction”

A reader, obviously an instructor, posted this comment to an article last week. It raises a number of interesting dynamics within the profession of snow sports instructions so, I thought I would go through it piece by piece. We all see the world through the lens of our own experience but, when their are customers at stake we cannot afford the luxury of living inside that bubble. We must look beyond and take a cold hard look at the facts and make sound business decisions from them. So here goes….

“So I’m wondering why the assertion that traditional ski schools still use a wedge and focus on the outside foot?
In all three schools (at Aspen now) I have taught for in CO the direct parallel/inside foot initiated turn has been the move of choice in beginner instruction. My teaching career started 15 years ago. I will use a mild gliding wedge for people who struggle to balance in a parallel stance. The turn is still initiated one of two ways, inside foot steering and/or simply pressing the little toe side of the inside foot flatter.
Also I recall way before I taught skiing, in the 70’s in Aspen they used the GLM combo of a very short (120cm if I recall) ski and a direct parallel progression to ski parallel the first hour let alone the first day!
I have no doubt there is a small area or two somewhere and a few out of touch instructors who may be what you say. Let’s not take that as dogma industry wide as it assuredly is not!!
Clendenin Method has a mogul skiing focus to some extent. Moguls are a skill blend reuiring a lower edge angle and skidded turn shape.
Harb is more focused on carving so an edge biased method is an obvious result.
All mountain skiing requires a varying blend of both edging and rotational movements along with varying blends of the three pressure skills: fore/aft, foot to foot, and magnitude.
5 skills, quite simple actually and that is current PSIA tech. A rigid “cookie cutter” approach to beginners would totally ignore the guests fitness level, coordination, learning style, fears, level of self esteem, age and expectations. You are a good example prefering as you say above to go out and be shown and try vs the wordy explanations in the Harb materials. There are those out there that love and need that stuff too.
I have never had a guest ask for a formulaic lesson. If that happened I would point out that progressions can be regarded as an outline that is then customized to guest movement needs, level of skill, desired outcome, daily snow conditions, age, fitness and reachable expectations. Custom on the spot for the person in front of me or a formula? The choice is obvious.”

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The Meat

Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) is the organization that is tasked by the National Ski Area Association (NSSA) to create and promulgate industry standard practices that pertain to the teaching of snow sports.

What most people don’t know is that “PSIA” is actually 10 separate organizations. A ‘national” organization and nine regional divisions. The national organization creates manuals and defines the testing and certification of instructors in all the various disciplines.

The nine divisions may or may not adopt all of the national standards. Many have their own tweaks to the processes of training, education, testing and certification. Further, every resort ski school has it’s own in-house training program that may further change the standard practices defined at the division level.

In the case of corporations, they may have their own policies and practices that may or may not be tweaked by individual resort schools.

It’s like that game “post office” we played as kids. PSIA (national) whispers into the ear of the divisions … the divisions whisper into the ears of the corporations … the corporations whisper into the ears of the resort schools … the resort schools whisper into the ears of instructors….and the instructors have their own individual implementations of the standards.

By the time the “standard” reaches the ears of a customer, it may or may not reflect the original intent of the standard…any built-in efficacy may be lost.

“So I’m wondering why the assertion that traditional ski schools still use a wedge and focus on the outside foot?”

Below is a screen shot of a Bing search on the terms “PSIA Required Tasks”.

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“Required Tasks” are those movements a candidate must perform correctly to be considered qualified for certification” If you open and read these documents, it is readily apparent that everyone has their own take on the subject of testing and certification.

It is also readily apparent that Alpine instruction candidates at all three levels must demonstrate proficiency in wedge and wedge-christie skiing. There are no required tasks that would indicate that the instructional organizations, as a whole, require proficiency in teaching “Direct-to-Parallel” methods.

To buy into the commentator’s notion that wedge based learning is NOT pervasive would mean you also have to believe that all ten of the various PSIA entities are wasting a lot of time and money publishing, distributing, testing and certifying methods that no one uses.

I applaud Aspen and any other resort who is adopting Direct to Parallel (DTP) methods. If there were broad, top-down efforts across the PSIA-driven instructional industry to adopt DTP methods, guys like Harald Harb and his PMTS methods wouldn’t be out there accrediting ski schools.

As far as the outside foot thing goes…find me a video by any of the experts that says anything at all about the inside foot and I will show you 100 that do not.

To make sound business decisions we must take the facts as they are rather than what we believe them to be. 

Fact 1: The wedge and wedge-christie are still the beating heart of ski instruction decades after Direct-to-Parallel methods were first developed.

Fact 2: We know from the reader’s comment that not all resort schools are created equal and that “standards” are more like “guidelines” and subject to a significant degree of modification. 

 

As a customer, it behooves you to ask a lot of questions before you plunk down a large pile of dead-presidents when deciding on where to take a lesson.

“Also I recall way before I taught skiing, in the 70’s in Aspen they used the GLM combo of a very short (120cm if I recall) ski and a direct parallel progression to ski parallel the first hour let alone the first day!”

I was there. Been there. Done that. The t-shirt is worn out. But, this is my point, DTP methods have been around a long time. They were, for a short time, pervasive but were dropped and are now..40 years later, slowly coming back into vogue.

“GLM” stands for “Graduated Length Method”. It was created by Clif Taylor, a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division in WWII. You would start off on really short skis and as your skills improved you moved up in length. Back then the Spademan binding and matching boots allowed you to switch skis with out having to adjust the spacing of the heel and toe pieces. During a lesson, if you felt your student was ready for a longer ski, you could just go grab a pair and set them to the right DIN with a pocket screwdriver.without having to take a lot of time away from the lesson. Really handy!

 

Spademan

Not only did GLM get people skiing in parallel very quickly, the associated Spademan binding saved a lot of labor in the rental shop. One has to wonder why something that was so effective came and went so quickly and why, today, the instruction industry is still not committed to Direct to Parallel methods. There seems to be a persistent willingness to resist anything that makes learning easier.

“I have no doubt there is a small area or two somewhere and a few out of touch instructors who may be what you say. Let’s not take that as dogma industry wide as it assuredly is not!!”

I first want to pick the bone that “small area” is a bad thing. Small schools are usually family or community owned so they tend to be much more client-focused than the massive corporate areas. They know their customers intimately and have the freedom to work with new ideas that corporate school directors may not. So, could we please drop the ridiculous idea that big and glitzy is always better?    I’m OK now…let’s move on…

Let’s ask Merriam-Webster…

Definition of dogma

1a :  something held as an established opinion; especially :  a definite authoritative tenet b :  a code of such tenets pedagogical dogma

Definition of Pedagogy

  1. the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept:

     

Wedge and wedge-christie movements are still the documented and pervasive required tasks across the instructional industry. Movement patterns that suggest a Direct to Parallel methodology are conspicuously absent from lists of “Required Tasks”. I would contend that the industry’s commitment to snowplow teaching methods are still dogmatic in nature. There has been some progress in the 40 years since “GLM” but it has been glacial in nature.

 

“A rigid “cookie cutter” approach to beginners would totally ignore the guests fitness level, coordination, learning style, fears, level of self esteem, age and expectations.”

This is exactly why the snowplow teaching method is still pervasive. Assessing whether or not a beginner is ready for Direct to Parallel methods is beyond the skill set of many Level 1 instructors. The snowplow IS the cookie cutter. I suspect that if you asked a few “risk-management” folks they would tell you they would prefer that the school sticks with the snowplow, less liability.

“I have never had a guest ask for a formulaic lesson.”

Many customer expectations, across many vertical industries are never articulated. By “formulaic” I mean that the process of how to learn and what to learn should be consistent from school to school, instructor to instructor and it isn’t.

I keep going back to facts…

Fact 3) According to a study conducted by NSAA, roughly 70% of people just leaving a lesson said they “would not” or “were not likely to” recommend the experience to a friend or relative.

Fact 4) According to an NSAA study, roughly 10% of skier “participation days” result in a visitor taking a lesson. Many of those students may not have volunteered for school but were put there so their parents can ski alone for a few hours.

Translate these numbers to other industries.

Municipal Water Service – 70% of the people who drink it once won’t drink it again

General Motors – Only 30% of the people who buy their cars from GM, like their cars. The                                 other 70% tell their friends and relatives that GM cars suck.

Con-Edison – Your lights and the refrigerator work 7 hours and 12 minutes per day.

Are there good, fully committed professionals teaching snow sports? Abso-frickin-lutely there are! LOTS OF THEM…However, looking at the facts that define the quality of the ski instruction “product” in the US one can only conclude that, on the whole, the facts represent an astounding customer service failure.

A book by Theodore Leavitt, “The Marketing Imagination”, a business has only two functions, to GET and KEEP new customers. The snow sports industry in the US has struggled with both tasks for decades.

Proficient skiing..or lack of it..is part of the problem. Poor technique is tiring and as people age the athleticism that poor skiing requires has many people quitting in their 30s and 40s. A frustrating lesson for a beginner sends them packing never to return.

People don’t plan their vacations and spend thousands of dollars to do things they suck at.

The great part about having a government granted monopoly is that responding effectively to these kinds of problems isn’t as much of a priority when the competitive element is removed from the equation.

All ski schools are not created equal. Part and parcel of the King’s Wardrobe of standards is that there are, in fact, resorts with schools with very progressive methods and deliver a high quality product. There are also resorts whose schools process customers through like cattle. Employees are disengaged by poor wages and poorer treatment.

W. Edward Demming is considered the father of modern quality assurance. He defined “quality” as the adherence to defined standards. In as much as standards are subject to change at several levels of the hierarchy, and the adherence to standards of any kind are highly localized, we have to conclude that the value to the client of an over-arching “standards”   organization is limited.

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Ski School finds a customer

Unfortunately, like choosing a doctor, it’s nice when you finally find one you like and want to go back to. You just pray the search process doesn’t kill you first…

Unless and until, the instructional side of the industry adopts a customer driven business model and a commitment to consistent standards, I am certain the 70% failure rate and 10% attendance will continue to be facts of life. Poor proficiency will still be a limiting growth factor in lift-served snow sports.

The problem with all these industry studies is they only ask “what” is going on. The questions and methodology never delve into “why” something is happening. Until they do, it leaves business managers and industry organizations to stumble around a darkened room fumbling along the wall for the light switch.

But, being a monopoly means you don’t have to be customer driven. When business drops off, just raise the prices. ….(read more about the monopoly effect here)

Stay Tuned to Senior Skiers’ Network. This summer we will see if we can discover why only TWO of the ten PISA organizations have a certification program that focuses on senior skiers…

 

 

 

 

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!

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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?

Carv.

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.

Carv1.gif

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.

hubspot

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.

burger
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.

 

snowman
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?

th-40
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.

th-30
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.

Congratulations!

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

                                                 .th-52

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!

kotke-demographics
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.

cropped-th-72.jpg

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….

Small Muscle Conditioning for Senior Skiers

Devil is in the Details (so think small)

If you love snow sports, this is always the time of year you start thinking about other stuff. Still, in the back of your mind is that voice, “If I had just been in a bit better shape….”. Perhaps All Things are not possible anymore, but Better Things are. So, at this age, the question becomes, “How do I wring that last little bit of fitness out of the old carcass?”

Three things come to mind: strength, flexibility, small muscle control.

exercis2

Something like yoga or Tai Chi or old fashioned gym-class stretching handles the flexibility issue.

For you men new to yoga…unlike women, no one really wants to see you in your yoga pants at the grocery store. OK? It’s  that whole Speedo-smuggling olives to the beach thing…don’t do it.

Strength? Most gym exercises and machines focus on building those big attractive muscle groups. The big muscles are important to senior skiing. They hold us up. They help us resist the forces that build at the bottom of the turn. Hit the slopes with weak quads or abs, and you will suffer.

exercise

What machine designers and exercise gurus often miss is that it’s the small muscles and the minute adjustments they make that keep us feeling balanced, comfortable, confident and in control. If you want to control your edges like a surgeon wields a scalpel you are going to have to target the small muscles around the joints.

There’s also fun.

 

Gym routines and running and biking will hit these small muscles by default but not always in a focused way that will benefit your skiing or riding. So, Mike, oh postulator of unscientific theory, you ask, “Whatever shall we do?” So glad you asked…

My own personal off-season regimen is to simply keep doing what I was doing.

Skiing effectively involves blending the skills of Pressure, Edge Control, and Rotational Movements (PER), lots of small movements in feet, ankles, knees, and hips. While the big muscles hold us up. The tiny ones are constantly making all the micro-adjustments that keep us feeling stable, and happy, and avoiding solid objects.

Many exercise regimes don’t really provide enough focus on small muscles to do you much good on the hill. Additionally, sitting in a machine, or on one, doesn’t fine tune your subconscious reactions to minute changes in balance that are so important to skiing effectively.

Start thinking NOW about your fitness program for the non-snow season.

Personally, I detest organized exercise. Classes and machines and routines leave me cold. But, fear not, Where There is a Hill There is a Way. It is no harder than going for a walk. What?!

Really, it’s easy. Walk backwards up a hill.

Walk in circles on a side-hill. Vary the width and depth of your stride.

Hop from foot to foot as you walk backwards or forwards while widening your landing zone.

Take a run up and down a dry stream bed from rock to rock. Feel how angulation and inclination come into play.

stream bed

Walk the top of a curb on your street.

Do some slack-line work

When you have all that mastered, add some weight to your ruck and start over.

What I am saying is get out and PLAY! Make getting fit all about having fun out of doors.

You don’t need a mat or stretchy pants or a membership.

Just go PLAY.

Give some thought to the things that give you trouble in the snow (remember the PER model—Pressure, Edge Control, Rotation) and devise some form of play that incorporates those same movements.

Play isn’t just about physical fitness. It’s FUN and FUN is good for the mind and spirit, too!

Being ready for the 2015-16 season doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, nor dull. . So, while you twiddle your thumbs waiting for the next snow season, go have some fun, would ya?!  Just Sayin…

Skiing on the Cheap

 

So, my erstwhile editor forwards an email to me from one or another of Montana’s legion of “tourist” promoting organizations…Do you want to write a story about one of these dude ranches/senior ski resorts? That was the proposition…entirely up to you, old boy…stiff upper lip, what?

A smart person once said one ought to write about things with which one is familiar..as if “one” ain’t the same guy as “me”… any-who… recognizing the social importance of being earnest/ine, I sally forth..

Etymology: “Ski Resort” – A Proto-Norse phrase for “Costs Many Furs”

If you prefer its more modern root, “Ski Resort” means, “If you want to Ski, you must Resort to paying a lot of money.”

stick-up

Way, way….waaaaay back in the day, in a time when snowflakes outnumbered resort employees and there was a difference, it became popular for sick city folks from..let’s say..Moscow.. to travel to Switzerland, or elsewhere equally upscale, to “take the waters”.

This implies, of course, that if you live in the city and you don’t feel well, try drinking water from someplace far removed from the place where folks empty their chamber pots. Everyone knows that the more you pay for water, the better it is for you.

Then it became about the air. Don’t feel well? Go someplace where the air isn’t laden with the drifting, sulfurous detritus of coal-powered living. Still today, living in cities makes people ill in one way or another. The evidence to support such a conclusion might be present in either stool or ballot box. Keep faith. There is a cure. Step into my office. Dr. Mike is in..

doctor

Eventually, man’s never-ending search for places healthier than cities led to a social movement (as opposed to the aforementioned movements) we know as “camping”, a craze where humans celebrated their dwindling dependence on outdoor skills by going off in the outdoors and starting fires.

Some were successfully extinguished, many, sadly, were not. The “camping” fad reached it’s zenith in 1945 when nearly 12 million Americans were out camping in all kinds of countries.

Then came the infatuation with the healthy and romantic life of the “American Cowboy”, an occupation whose romance is embraced by sleeping in mud, eating beans, breathing dust, and separating boy-cows from their boy-parts.

Then, decades later, a movie, ”City Slickers” marks that point in American economics when ranchers realized that selling cattle was for chumps. You can make ten times more money letting city folk come play with your cows for a few days...the modern “dude” ranch was born.

dude-ranch

Now, keep in mind, “dude” isn’t the sort of “dude”, as in, “Doooood” that was a gnarly Cork, STOMP!”. No, today’s “Dude Ranch” has a split personality. In the summer, these are Dude Ranches where you get to play with cows.

In the winter they become ”Dooood Ranches” where you get to play the be-dreaded, tie-dyed, senior skiing snow-hippie you know you were or wanted to be. They are that filmy, haze-ridden, Vaseline-thumb-on-the-lense, reality-enhanced world of Ski-Jacoooz-Booze-Snooze where all that mattered is that you may recount the days but cannot recall the nights…at least in the presence of your mate.

jacuzzi

The bottom line is that the more closely you remain allied to your youth, the fewer furs you will have to trap in Central Park to go skiing. Sometimes going “down-market” can be “Up Lifting” ..spirit-wise AND chair-wise and if, when you get home, you still want to buy a mink or a diamond or a $200 sirloin dinner..you will have the cash.

So, saddle up Buckaroos and ride with me as I explore the best-cheap ways for senior skiers to roll out your bedroll, grab ya some grub, and ride some Montana Coldsmoke next winter. We’ll meet some snow-freak characters who are livin’ it for real and for-cheap.

th-52

Try not to forget who STARTED all this skiing hippie business in the first place..hmmm?