A trainer’s perspective on technical instructor training
Written by Alessandro Cambon – New Generation Ski Instructor Training Centre Coach
During the ski season I often have to swap hats between teaching lessons to holidaymakers and training aspiring ski instructors for their exams. The two jobs and the way I prepare for them are very different. Ok, they may look the same from the outside – an instructor leading a bunch of skiers around the mountain ensuring they have a good time and improve. Yes, there are definitely similarities but the challenges are very different and this is why.
Here and now or planning the journey?
Ski lessons offer the challenge of planning before hand, this can be difficult especially if the lessons are last minute or you have little information about the clients. Having the ability to react quickly and creatively is an everyday challenge of a ski instructor. Ski lessons generally have short term goals which are not necessarily technical and need to be achievable with in short time frame; e.g. a two hours private or 1 week group lesson.
At the other end of the spectrum is ski instructor training – Goals here tend to be long term. The length of the journey depends on each individual and it is not the same for every skier. More talented, young fitter skiers may have a shorter journey whereas for others it may take a bit longer.
My job as trainer is to listen to each skier, identify the areas that need work and together make a plan of action to reach those goals. The programme needs to be set using periodization and personalisation. Some times these programmes may be monthly, seasonal and or even year round.
Ski and fitness periodization
During the season I am based in Villars (Switzerland) and run a seasonal ISIA training programme. The objective for students is to take the ISIA exam typically in March or April and this is how I generally structure the training.
December is the toughest month for training; the team is new and has to bond (normally that doesn’t take long a few evening at the mythic Moonboot lounge!). Most trainees have not skied all summer so the first few days up on the Diablerets glacier can be quite hard on the body. In December we also start the fitness programme which is a mix of indoor session in the super cool Villars Sport Centre and ski touring.
Speed and mechanic of movement
We start to ski slowly, very slow, we take the time to work on precise movements and construct a solid movement pattern and ability to feel the body on top of the skis in every segment of the turn. Depending on how the team does we may spend quite a bit of time on this, at least a couple of weeks. We also mix it with some fast “let loose” runs but the main focus remains slow and precise!
We then move onto building correct movement patter for each strand still working on refined movements at fairly slow speed, this normally happens from mid December all the way through to January. I then start to personalise the ski training for each skiers some may move onto more dynamic, final form skiing and some may need a bit more time on refining. For the end of the story you need to come and find out yourselves 😉
Fitness is another key area, finding the right balance with skiing almost every day is important, too much is dangerous and may cause injuries or fatigue and too little is just too little! Setting up exercise and circuit training that is recordable and measurable helps me and the students to see progress. Generally we spend December building a strong ski fitness (legs strength, core and general fitness) and then as the skiing intensifies throughout the season we work more on speed, agility and fast movements. We use ski touring too, mostly as recovery session and general fitness. Our Wednesday evening touring challenge has now become a tradition in Villars.
When everything comes together
If the periodization is set correctly and students have achieved the goals of each phase set throughout the season (technical and fitness), they should arrive to the exam at the peak of their ability.
Patience is a virtue
Seasonal ski training may at times be frustrating, especially as the level of performance grows, students will feel that nothing works and the exit from the tunnel seems very far or even unachievable. These moments are key, if we can stay in there and still force ourselves to get out of bed to go training we will succeed no doubt about it. In my experience I always worry more for students that do not struggle at some point during training, it is a natural healthy proces indispensable to improve. The beauty of this is that when skiers start to improve the gratification is huge, because they finally ski better. Not giving up helps with growing self confidence and determination – essential requirements for any sport related career.
Are we still having fun?
Yes! We do all we can to enjoy every day. Just being on skis in the open air every day is a luxury – being part of a selected team of cool people who are ready to laugh and share the same passion is a true gift.
Ski training does not need to be boring and too serious, in fact having fun in training is very important and leads to better results. If we are happy and enjoying it we normally ski better, I can’t remember ever being impressed by a sad, bored, grumpy skier – having a positive upbeat team is super important for improvement – part of my job is to manage the fun energy of the group and channel it into good performance.