The U.S. has been down this road before as well. According to
Kipp, George Capaul, a former U.S. team coach, enlisted the
help of an Austrian instructor in the late 1990s to work on
top racers’ fundamental skills.
The rationale behind that decision was based on the premise
that coaching and teaching are not the same. (“Everyone
knows our coaches can’t ski!” joked Cook). The on-hill focus
of elite-level coaches tends to be more tactical than technical,
and White concedes that when it comes to the latter, PSIA is
really in its element. “Because of the broader spectrum—the
That’s really one of the main takeaways for both the Ski
Team and PSIA at the Mammoth camp—that better skills
make you a better skier, which in turn should lead to better
results. At the same time, elite athletes are very goal-oriented.
While paying clients can come to lessons with mixed
motivations, racers are clear about their expectations: they
want to go faster.
That might be a lesson for instructors working with paying
clients: If you can help a client establish a goal to shoot for—
to ski a certain trail, say, or to beat a spouse in a NASTAR
race—that client might be more receptive to putting in the
“BECAUSE OF THE BROADER SPECTRUM—THE MORE DIVERSE AND WIDER RANGE OF
ABILITY LEVELS—THAT PSIA DEALS WITH, THEY KNOW HOW TO TEACH,” —Stacey Cook
CYSTACEY COOK THRILLS A FAN
LEANNE SMITH GETS EDGY
more diverse and wider range of ability levels—that PSIA
deals with, they know how to teach,” he said.
Just ask Daron Rahlves. The former U.S. speed team star—
who was one of the athletes who benefited from Capaul’s
willingness to seek instructional help to fine-tune technical
basics—said, “I credit him for sure with keeping me in the
game and my making the U.S. team.” What Rahlves worked on
in the ’90s was very similar to what the current U.S. Ski Team
athletes worked on more than a decade later at Mammoth:
“simple balance, going really slow, and fine-tuning technique,”
as Rahlves remembers it.
Rahlves, who continues to make a name for himself as a big-
mountain skier in ski movies, is coming full circle as he pursues
certification as a member of the PSIA-AASI family. For him,
whether it’s on a race course, a powder slope in Alaska, or in a
lesson within resort boundaries, effective skiing comes from the
same fundamentals: “edge control, pressure on the front of the
boot, keeping shoulders down the mountain.”
hard work to get there. Having goals motivates elite racers,
so why not other skiers, too?
Peter Oliver is a regular contributor to 32 Degrees, and lives in
Warren, Vermont. He is a PSIA-certified Level II nordic instructor,
as well as a prolific writer about outdoor sports.