As National Ski Patrol (NSP) rewrites many of the curricula for its educational disciplines, Outdoor Emergency Transportation (OET) receives the benefits of this modernization. An advantage for OET has been the transformation that our sister organization in the snowsports industry has lead while rethinking education and coaching techniques for skiers and snowboarders. That organization is the Professional Ski Instructor Association – American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA – AASI) which focuses its efforts on credentialing snowsports instructors and providing them with a unified curriculum for teaching and coaching ski and snowboarding techniques.

PSIA and their snowboarding affiliate organization AASI began their transformations at the start of the decade. By 2014 PSIA-AASI published its newest collection of “Technical Manuals” along with a rewrite of their “Teaching Handbooks.”

NSP has been working together with PSIA for the last two decades with the intent of developing common methods and a common language for teaching patrollers. It continues to benefit from the best practices of our sister organization’s efforts. In January 2017, Jay Zadek, NSP’s National OET Program Director introduced a great tool that was passed down from PSIA, referred to as the “Five Fundamentals:”

  1. Control the relationship of the CM (center of mass) to the BOS (base of support) to direct PRESSURE along the length of the skis.
  2. Control PRESSURE from ski to ski directing PRESSURE toward the outside ski.
  3. Control EDGE angles through a combination of inclination and angulation.
  4. Control the skis’ ROTATION (turning, pivoting, steering) using leg rotation, separate from the upper body.
  5. Regulate the magnitude of PRESSURE created through ski-snow interaction

So how can OET Instructors integrate these Fundamentals into their teaching?

Instructors can use these as a primary guide for error detection and the coaching provided to students when employing positive-immediate feedback. Think of it as a common language spoken by various instructors, OET Instructors, PSIA teachers, AASI snowboard Instructors.

Ultimately, when teaching skiing, snowboarding, patroller skills, and toboggan handling, we still employ PSIA’s primary teaching methods. We teach our students about Edge Control, Rotation Control, and Pressure Control. When blended effectively within skiing and snowboarding movements, and applying the various techniques and tactics available for the variety of snow and terrain conditions, we guide our students to experience and develop their skills. Therefore our teaching is still the same.

Nothing has changed here except I haven’t mentioned “balance.” Balance is not a skill that we teach. Instead, it’s an outcome of developing the blended elements of control. We no longer refer to Edging, Rotation, and Pressure, because as Instructors, our goal is to teach students to “Control Edging,” “Control Rotation,” a “Control Pressure,” to achieve balance throughout. Therefore remaining in balance around the arc or down the slope while linking turns becomes the goal or the outcome of good technique and effective choices of skiing tactics. Good balance becomes the result of the learning process.

Back to the Five Fundamentals — how do we use these in our teaching? One of the most powerful elements of teaching Patroller Skills and Toboggan Handling happens during the guided practice sessions that you create for your students. While your students dive into self-discovery, as the coach, it’s your responsibility to provide monitoring and error correction. The Five Fundamentals become your best guide for identifying errors and for communicating corrections.

You already use the positive-immediate feedback technique referred to as “PIS” (stands for start Positive, point out one necessary Improvement, be Specific with how the improvement can be implemented). Incorporate the Five Fundamentals with specific ways to make improvements, within the guided practice.

For Example, when you spot students who are struggling with balance issues – perhaps they are sideslipping in the backseat? Stop the student and use Fundamental One to realign their stance. While stationary, get them to feel how moving their BOS back under their COM develops a pressure feeling that extends over the full length of the skis. Point out that the pressure before (in the backseat it spreads across only the back half of the skis) versus after they pull their skis back under their body — spreads the pressure more forward (across the entire length of the skis). Put the student in motion and reinforce how the feeling of pressure building across the full length actually controls decent speed and improves balance — the desired outcome.

To enhance the experience and highlight the pressure control aspect of Fundamental One, consider adding Fundamental Two to the coaching. Improvements in control can be made in sideslipping performance by turning the student’s upper body to face downslope. Show them how their musculoskeletal system locks into a stable, athletic stance achieving improved balance. Such a locked-in body stance promotes effective fore-aft balance and also improves lateral balance. The resultant feeling delivers more efficient braking power to the snow as greater pressure is allowed to develop to the outside (or downhill facing) ski. Point out that feeling both stationary, and again after your student experiences it in motion while sideslipping.

Students can handle two Fundamentals put together, especially if you introduce them progressively. Let the student experience the movement benefits of one, then add a second when the student is ready. Progressive learning often leads to memorable breakthroughs. The feelings students experience as you guide them using the Fundamentals combine with the thinking process that goes on in their mind when learning – leads to moments of wow!

In conclusion, the Five Fundamentals provide all Instructors with a common language for coaching. The Fundamentals become a standard for judging student errors and provide the basis for correcting performance. Students who train with multiple OET Instructors, TE’s or even Ski School Instructors benefit when all their coaching comes to them in the form of a common language.

Share the Five with your students; it gives them something to think about as you guide their practice. Breakthroughs are made progressively by highlighting one, but no more than two fundamentals at a time. Prioritize your student’s learning and help them make the most significant changes first. Give them a feel for success and progressively build upon those experiences. Take it slow, don’t overload your students.

Ultimately, we still teach students to blend Edging Control, Rotational Control, and Pressure control, as the primary lesson. The language of the Five Fundamentals helps our students understand and experience how the three control mechanisms interrelate. Each fundamental is simple. Demonstrate for your students; ask them to try what you’re teaching and let them feel it work. Discuss the experience with your students, because as they are asked to think about their learning, you increase their chances of putting it to use on the snow, and hopefully provides them with a wow.