My hairdresser has a set of business cards sitting at her station, just in front of the mirror, offering the services of a registered clinical counselor. I laugh every time I see it—evidently I’m not the only person who gets into that chair and feels an urge to talk about my mother.
Ski pros often provide a kind of chair-(lift) therapy too, but at the outset of the lesson, when they’re trying to match people into compatible groups, there are only two things they want to know: how good you are now and how game you are to try something new. (Save the rest for the chair. Or the bar.)
Dave Hobson, the supervisor of Whistler Blackcomb’s MAX4 clinics on Whistler, talks to hundreds of people every winter to fit them into the right group with the right pro.
He’s discovered that the world is essentially divided into two types of people – those who talk themselves up and those who sell themselves short – so his team tend to ask quite specific questions aimed at eliciting the precise information they need as accurately, and painlessly, as possible.
- How many days have you skied this winter?
- Do you ski Blue runs, Black runs or Double Black?
- What would you like to work on?
- Do you have any health issues we should be aware of? A reconstructed knee, vertigo etc?
- Do you happen to know what kind of learner you are?
- What other sports do you currently practice?
They might feel like trick questions, but they’re really trying to get you in the right group with the right pro on the right terrain as smoothly as possible.
“First off,” says Hobson, “we’re trying to assess ability level. If you ski blue runs, I know the terrain you ski and I have a pretty good idea of the type of turns you do. I know where to start the day.
“If you want to ski moguls, that gives me a sense of where I can go with our day.
“If you just want lift line priority, I know that you don’t really want a traditional lesson, but I’m going to have to dish on the secret spots.
“A guest who’s very technically inclined will want lots of descriptions and prescriptive exercises.
“A beginner with an athletic background in a sliding sport will probably be able to progress a lot more quickly than someone without any winter sports history.”
Ultimately, says Hobson, they want to know what you want to get out of the lesson.
“Are you looking to cut the lines? Do you want to ski with more poise or more playfulness? Are you looking for a ski improvement session on short turns?
“Be honest about what you want. And don’t be afraid to speak up if at any stage it’s not going the way you’d hoped. The sooner you tell your instructor, the better.”
Of course, size matters. “The more students in a lesson, the harder it can be to achieve everyone’s goals, because the instructor needs to cater to everyone. We’ve found that we’ve hit the sweet spot with the MAX4 clinics. With no more than four people in the group, it’s the perfect balance between the personal and the social.”
And the top 7 things your pro doesn’t need to know? (At least not in the first 5 minutes of a lesson.)
- Every ski resort you’ve ever been to.
- How the red runs in Europe compare to here.
- How old you were when you first learned to ski.
- If you played high school football.
- Your personal best run ever.
- What your husband thinks you’re doing wrong with your skiing.
- Anything about your mother.