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Ski School !Is Ski Coaching different from Ski Instruction?

Yes! Bear with me, this really is about learning skiing to a higher level.

I would argue that most people conflate 'school' with 'education'. Certainly governments do.

But they are not the same thing, and indeed they are mutually exclusive: the one actually precludes the other.

What do I mean by this, and what does it have to do with skiing, ski learning, or ski school?

Well, take my own case; it wasn't until I left school that I began to acquire an education, and I went to a decent state grammar school. Others were less fortunate.

Prior to that I got a schooling. Schooling is a state imposed 'product'. It is defined at state level, and codified in the form of a syllabus, and distributed throughout the nationalised school system. School teachers have to deliver that syllabus, exactly, and in stipulated time frames whether they like it or not. If they don't they get sacked. If they don't they undermine their pupils, because the examination process that follows is structured such that it tests only the syllabus.

The pupils, in turn, have to behave in certain ways, conform to a strict set of norms. If they don't then they get sacked. It is a rigid system. And yet the vast majority of parents, and the school teachers themselves have come to believe that this system facilitates education. It doesn't. It does the opposite.

Even more regrettably many of the students' parents, having been drilled in the same way, actually approve. And of course that applies to the teachers, who are no different; they're just doing a job. Finding an exception is exactly that, exceptional.

State schooling

Of course the system imbued me with a certain amount of (regrettably rather forgettable) putative facts, but many of which were just plain wrong, but the accumulation of which some seem to imagine is education (Henry VIII lived from 1491 to 1547, but I've just had to look that up! And anyway who cares, he's dead and I don't want to be an historian. An honourable occupation, just not the one I want.)

What it did not do was teach me how to think, how to investigate conundra, or how to modify what I do in line with researched information.

There is a huge difference between schooling and educating ourselves. In addition, state schooling is used to propagandise and control us – it attempts, and all too often succeeds in its conformity efforts, to persuade us that we must stand up when the national anthem is played. I have no fixed objection to standing up, but what on earth difference does it make to anything, if we don't?

We must obey instructions and not require explanations. It proposes that asking awkward questions is not acceptable behaviour. Above all it demands that we must “fit in”. You must wear your school uniform to maintain uniformity, and you may only walk across the quadrangle, with one hand in your pocket, if it's a wet Thursday and an uneven date.

It teaches us that “teacher knows best”. Well, that might be true, or it might not be true, but unfortunately even if she does it makes no difference because she has to teach what the curriculum tells her to teach. She is no freer than anyone else.

In short, school and schooling, benefits the state not the student. Education benefits the student and threatens the state. Hence the state's intolerance.

Now let's look at Ski Schools

Are they any different? No.

Few skiers know that what ski schools teach was originally developed by the national governments of the main skiing nations (and in the vast majority of cases still is).

Those governments, and now regrettably most even of the independent ski schools since the government monopolies were banned, developed sets of curriculae that were designed to deliver a government-mandated national “product”. A step-by-step sequence of things the instructors must follow.

So much money is at stake that it was necessary to find ways to differentiate, say, French Skiing from Austrian skiing; or Swiss skiing from Italian skiing. Never mind the fact that the underlying physics does not, indeed cannot be different. Remember that the “Ecole de Ski Francais” does not mean what most non-French folk think it means (The French Ski School), it means “The School of French Skiing”. It's a very recogniseable “style”.

Just like state schools, these are state systems, subject to a curriculum which the employees of the ski schools must deliver. Like the state schools if they don't they get sacked. I'm not picking on France, it applies all over. They must not teach anything other than the curriculum, and even that not in an “unapproved” way.

I got to know this from a European ski school instructor of the highest ability and qualification, worthy of my great respect, of whom I enquired why he was teaching his recreational skiing pupils something I thought was inappropriate. He said he knew it was inappropriate, and it was not what he himself did when skiing, but if he taught anything other than that, he would lose his job.

The ski schools get away with it because the vast number of skiers comprises recreational holiday makers, who simply accept that “teacher knows best”. (See above.) He might do, and he might not. He will certainly be at least an adequate skier himself, but that's irrelevant, it isn't how he skies that matters, it's how he teaches. How he educates- and mostly he doesn't: partially because he doesn't himself, know.

And that is where ski coaching diverges from 'ski instruction'.

Only one person in the world can turn you into an expert skier, and that is you. To do do it, you need to educate yourself about the “Six Honest Serving Men”. You are the one person who can do it.

I keep six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew, Their names are what, and why, and when, And how and where and who”. Rudyard Kipling.

What a good coach will do, or indeed a good 'instructor' – there are some but you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince ( and indeed there are some not very good coaches) - is to help guide you to understanding, not just doing as you're told, or trying to copy what you think you see.

You cannot learn by watching which is what the ski schools by and large think you can. I can watch a skilled cabinet maker all day but I'll still make a pile of firewood instead of a fine cabinet.

Best Wishes


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