Best ski course for older skiers – how would they differ from other skiing courses?
This marvelous picture comes courtesy of Senior Skiing
I have been coaching over 50s skiers for over 25 years. I have had a great deal of success with it and VERY few failures – maybe three in all that time. Older, indeed old, skiers can achieve far more than many of them realise.
I’m not talking about suddenly becoming a top-rate back-country skier, but I’m certainly talking about becoming a flowing, low-effort, confident and skilful one. That is perfectly do-able even for skiers who were given a bad start, and have spent years less good than they want to be.
It’s not true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Furthermore it’s not true that you need to be a “one-trick pony” either – you can develop all kinds of different ways to ski.
Best ski course for older skiers ? What should it be like?
We older folk have learnt a thing or two. So we don’t take kindly to “command style” instructing. Having before us some ace skier aged 26 who says “Do this. I will ski down and demonstrate how to do it perfectly so you can watch and copy.” Doesn’t work.
It is supposed to give you high levels of motivation, but in my experience – even when I was struggling to learn – it doesn’t do that. What it does is lead everyone in the skiing group to moan in unison – “Oh Lord, I’ll never be able to do that”.
After all, we’re not paying the teacher or “instructor” for how well they can ski. We are paying them to find ways of helping us to change our skiing. That is a very different thing. It involves them being highly skilled at watching us, not the other way round. It’s about coaching, not instructing.
So what would be some of the characteristics of a “Best ski course for older skiers”?
Here are some of the course and teaching elements that I have identified as being effective for older skiers.
- Do not over-face your pupil. Even if they have skied for years – perhaps especially so – they will have come to me because they want to change their skiing. Change is not easy. So –
- a ski course for older skiers should take into account that we learn faster when we ski slower.
- In addition, our learning curve is steeper when the slope isn’t.
- Plus, I have found that in order to avoid pushing folk along too quickly, I need to continually ask my pupils, do they want to move on the “next thing”, or the next slope yet, or do they want to continue embedding whatever we’re working on at the time. The answer nine times out of ten is – “I want to stick at this until I’ve really ‘got’ it.”
- I need to continually update that information – every now and then folk want to go and do a bit of “skiing”; have a bit of an adventure. The key thing then is to stress that when we go for a cruise, do not try to improve. Just ski.
- A lot of my pupils, both men and women, admit (sometimes it takes a while) that they are still a bit apprehensive about it all. What’s wrong with that – if you never get cautious about it you’re probably dangerous to be around. So any good teacher needs to tune-in to how their pupils are feeling. Do away with thinking you need to “push” them. Older skiers don’t like being pushed.
Perhaps more than anything, what makes the difference in the rate of learning or of changing our skiing, is understanding it.
I have found over many years that while mature skiers can certainly ski – in so far as they can successfully negotiate all kinds of slopes – very few after they’ve done it are quite sure of how they did it. When seeking the best ski course for older skiers they need something different from the norm.
A disappointingly small number have been able to divine either from ski school lessons or from years of “getting the miles in” quite what it was they did that facilitated that safe descent. This is a problem psychologically because it means that one has no confidence that it was you who controlled things, nor how you controlled things.
So, there is a continued undermining of confidence about the likelihood of success on the next slope: especially if the snow is less easy, the slope steeper, the visibility worse, or for whatever other reason your confidence level lowers.
Confidence is crucial for enjoyment of a risk sport.
But you can’t just “magic up” confidence. It’s no good someone like me just say “Be Confident”. It doesn’t work like, especially for older folk who have come to know a thing or two. We can’t rick ourselves. Our confidence has to be based on something real.
And so what works is to find a course, or a teacher, who will help you understand what underlies skilful skiing; what makes control inevitable and repeatable; and who allows you sufficient practice time on slopes which you don’t find too challenging to embed those understandings and practice.
Before long (I’m working on it!) I’ll be opening a YouTube channel replete with such teachings. The videos will NOT be “demonstrations”. They will enhance your understandings and give you things to practise, not watching me, or anyone else. In any one else’s case that might be because their skiing is too good for you to comprehend what they’re doing: or in my case probably because it wouldn’t be good enough! Remember, it’s not my skiing I get paid for!
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