Young guns Ben Darlow and Tim Cafe made a great team at Interski 2015. Here’s a wrap of their on snow presentation.

The ski team presented two on snow workshops while we were at Interski, as well as a number of indoor workshops and synchro/formation skiing on the demo hill.  Both the technical workshop (which you may have already read about in Garett’s post) and the kids’ workshop went out at the same time right after our demo skiing on the hill.  We hope we can give you not only an overview of the content of the workshop, but a bit of a feel as to what it was like to be there on the day.

organising the kids clinic

organising the kids clinic

The workshop had two main objectives: 1) Outline why we were shifting from the Safety, Fun, and Learning model, to the Safety, Fun, and Achievement model. 2) Explain how the FUNdamentals program produced by Snow Sports New Zealand works, and fits well with shift in outcome focus, and also with the longer term goal of attracting, retaining, and developing skiers; our overall theme at Interski.

After introducing ourselves and outlining the session, we rode up the chair and then started out with a bit of an overview of the New Zealand skiing/snow sports scene as most of the group had never skied here.  The purpose of this was to give them an idea of the typical varied terrain, changeable weather and snow conditions, short lesson times, and result based goals of most guests, all of which have directed us to the focus on achievement vs learning.

From there we rode another lift and asked everyone to think of the first memory they could, where they made a breakthrough or where they did something new in their skiing.  Most of them came up with something tangible like a carved turn, a 360, or a particular run they skied.  We then used this to illustrate how the things that stick in your mind are the things you have achieved, rather than the process of learning how to do it.

Learning is the overall process of deep understanding and abstracting ideas.  Learning is an ongoing thing.  We of course want all skiers to be learning, but in order to make the most of the New Zealand environment as instructors we want to provide achievements as goals for our students.

Achievements are tangible, clear, defined stepping stones.  Ticks in a box.  Milestones that we remember.  We use achievements for a few reasons:  They suit the short time-periods of our lessons well.  Our students want to feel something tangible and feel some success during their lesson.  They also tend to create more memorable experiences – we have a short time period to make a large impact on students.

From here we came back to the FUNdamentals booklets that we had handed out in the introduction and explained how it worked, with the different levels consisting of tasks from the different disciplines, to make sure kids are developing as well rounded skiers.

The fundamentals booklet

The fundamentals booklet

It was here that the group started to get a bit more involved and asked a few questions. The main one being who had created the booklets, so we explained how it had come from Snow Sports NZ as a way to try and drive young skiers and snowboarders onto a high performance pathway.  We also explained the ongoing review and change process with the adoption of the booklet by the NZSIA and the inclusion into the new format of the Children’s Certs.

We focused on a couple of aspects of the FUNdamentals booklet which are somewhat unique and tailored to our environment.  For those of you who haven’t had a chance to have a close look at the booklet at each different level (green, blue, black, bronze, silver, gold) there are a number of tasks which all have to be completed to move on.  Each task, though, has 3 check marks – trying it, getting it, mastered it.  In order to move up a colour/level the kids have to master every task.  Having these 3 different levels gives the kids more achievements to tick off so that they are always making at least some progress even in a short lesson or if the weather limits the terrain they can ski during the lesson.

the levels

the levels

From black level onwards the tasks are categorised into 3 areas – race, freestyle and freeride.  This is again quite unique at the lower levels  – we are trying to create diverse skiers, which suits the NZ skiing environment due to the variability of the terrain and snow.  It fits very well with the attract, retain and develop theme – giving kids a diverse set of skills and an introduction to many aspects of the sport gives them more reasons to love it (retain), and improves their skills (develop).  From a high performance perspective it also casts a wide net over our relatively small skiing population so that talent can be identified and developed.

We presented a couple of the tasks – one ski progression for technical/race, and the spin progression for freestyle.  Most workshops at Interski are fairly dry and not interactive, but that’s not really our style in NZ, so Ben and I presented in a leapfrog style commenting on each other and highlighting/demonstrating what trying it, getting it and mastering it looks like in the real world.  We were stoked that all the participants gave the tasks a crack without any prompting and a lot of smiles were seen!  The commentary allowed us to highlight what technical aspects we were looking for and what the real vs. ideal movements we would see for kids at different age groups.  To close out the section on the tasks we gave a demo of a gold-level graduate with skills in freestyle, freeride and race by skiing the different tasks linked together in one run without stopping.

We then finished up by explaining the issues faced by the programme and how we are attempting to deal with them.  A big part is the ongoing review by the NZSIA so that the tasks are aligned with the technical stepping stones we use for kids.  The book used to include terrain based goals which led to over-terraining kids; and also included some highly subjective measures.  The book instead now includes more skill-based tasks, and into next year will see tasks based on ski-snow interaction from green level onwards.  Other issues include the difficulty of making the programme consistent and making it realistic for instructors to administer it.  Proposed solutions are easier online-based systems and some more training for ski schools from the nzsia/ssnz.

Overall the workshop was well received.  We had lots of questions and discussions and felt that the messages were clear – how/why we use FUNdamentals, where it came from, and how it works with attract, retain, and develop; and safety, fun, and achievement.  It was encouraging for us to see that in the Slovenian, German, Italian and Swiss kids’ programmes also involve collaboration between their ski instructor alliances and high performance organisations, and more recently the USA has also announced a formalised agreement between these parties.  Into the future we hope that the FUNdamentals programme continues to grow and a follow-on programme for teenagers can exist.  Some of what we saw at Interski, particularly from Switzerland, will certainly be valuable if a follow on programme is created.




Ben and Tim