Aspen, CO ColoradoA long time ago, I taught alpine skiing. I was not a good instructor. Regardless of my student’s goals, I wanted to improve their skiing as fast as possible. I was not concerned about them coming back to me season after season.Have you ever noticed how fast mountain-town kids improve their skiing? The ski coaches push them with all of these crazy drills. They run gates, they ski on one ski, and they ski black-diamond and double-black terrain. When they ski on one ski, it’s really on one ski. They leave one behind, and then they switch feet and do gates and bumps. I started doing all of the same drills with my students. When the three middle-aged Midwestern moms said to another instructor after being with me, “Oh, wonderful, we get a new instructor, we’ve been with Adolf the last the last three days,” I knew I had crossed the line. I did not change right away. I wanted everyone to improve their skiing my way. I had one student who came back a number of times, Peter from Australia. He loved skiing with me. He had never been with an instructor in America that had such little regard for his goals. He found it completely fascinating, simply because most American instructors did not teach like this. He said, “You should be teaching in Austria. They would love you there.”I almost lost Peter’s loyalty one day when we were doing one-ski drills. We were skiing very fast on one ski with only a boot on the other foot. For some unexplained reason, Peter decided to put his boot down on the snow. Just as his boot hit the snow, it dawned on Peter that doing so at his current rate of speed might not be in his best interest. It was too late. He shifted enough of his body weight to the booted foot that he never recovered. I was below Peter, looking up. He would smash his boot into the snow, then pick it up for 10 to 20 feet, then smash it back into the snow. This was not going to end well. He finally spun around a couple of times and landed in a terrible heap.After making sure he was OK, I had to look away so he could not see how hard it was for me to control my emotions. He noticed anyway and said, ” I hope you find this amusing.” The bad thing is, to the chagrin of my therapist, I did.I don’t teach skiing anymore, so now I can endorse all those drills to help skiers improve or, as they say, to get out of the intermediate rut. Such as: Go out with friends that are better skiers and try to keep up, ski terrain that is increasingly harder; when you get bored or they get bored of you, ski on one ski; ski the entire run that way, then switch feet and do it again.Instructors are taught balance is number one and edge control, steering and pressure control all interact with balance. What better way to improve your balance and work on the other disciplines than by skiing on one ski?I finally had to make a change in my ski teaching. I had a couple that did not buy into my one-ski teaching technique. They started out with me, and then decided it would be better to walk back up to the Merry-Go-Around, the restaurant. The ski school director was riding the chairlift as this couple, both of whom are in their seventies, is walking back up the ski run. The director strongly suggested I rethink my teaching techniques if I ever wanted to work in this valley, in any capacity.I finally got my dream students. I had them two seasons in a row for seven to 10 days each season. They were the security guards to the Prince. I could do anything with them. They truly didn’t care; they had one goal: to improve their skiing as quickly as possible, to keep up with the royal family.Their level of improvement surpassed any previous students I ever worked with. They loved the drills and understood the madness of being pushed so hard. Yes, they all went out on one ski, they all ran endless gates, and everyday we skied progressively harder terrain and in the end they could ski any terrain at Aspen Highlands.Ron Rash is a local mountain guide and senior instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To really improve your skiing, contact a real ski professional – just ask for Andy, Tim or Tory at Highlands.
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