Burke Blog

News and information from the team at Burke.



The New Guy's Perspective: Learning, Revisited

January 9, 2014 1:40pm tngp home winter

One thing I've always enjoyed during my time in the ski industry is talking to ski and snowboard instructors - finding out how they get their students to relate to the concepts they are trying to teach, what works best, tips and tricks, etc. Instructors (and ski & snowboard schools in general) really are the lifeblood of this industry. It's their job to take people who are interested in the sport but have no idea how to do it, and turn them into skiers and riders. I've especially enjoyed talking to our Snow Sports Director, Rob Riedl, about the new concept we're using this year - Terrain Based Learning - and how that is changing things in the world of ski and snowboard instruction. Here's a little Q&A I did with Rob that talks about his background and what exactly Terrain Based Learning is.

AB: So Rob, introduce yourself to the people..... what exactly would you say, you do here?

RR: You're dropping Office Space quotes already? This is gonna be fun.... I'm the Director of Snow Sports, which means I oversee all the instructors and all our lesson programs.

AB: PC Load Letter?! I kid, I kid. Let's talk about your experience learning to snowboard. What was it like, did you take lessons at a mountain or did you just do your own thing?

RR: Well, my first experience on a snowboard was on the hills and golf courses in Cape Cod. You know, point it down a hill and try to hit a jump kind of stuff. The first time I went to a resort, I went to Sunday River and didn't take a lesson. It was a humbling experience to say the least, but I had a great time and I kept at it.  

AB: Looking back, do you wish you would have taken lessons?

RR: Oh, absolutely. I figured it out on my own, and by my late teens I was capable of riding every trail at just about any mountain on the East Coast. Unfortunately along the way I developed a ton of bad habits. It wasn't until I moved to Salt Lake City and got a job at Snowbird that I realized I wasn't quite as good as I thought I was. My mentor, Lane Clegg and the whole Snowbird Ski School really opened my eyes and helped me ride more efficiently. Now I'm hoping to take what I've learned and pass it on to the staff and guests here.

AB: So let's get into Terrain Based Learning. What is it, and could you talk about the history of it and why it's something we're doing here?

RR: The idea of Terrain Based Learning isn't really new. What I mean is that instructors have always looked for terrain features to help their students learn certain movements, whether it's a gentle slope or a winding trail. Terrain Based Learning is just taking that concept (using terrain features to help expedite or improve the learning process) and trying to create a system based on it. It's really the brain child of Chris Hargrave and the Burton Academy at Northstar. Hargrave saw amazing terrain parks being built to progress the sport at the elite level and thought that there had to be a way to build that terrain for beginners. What you see now is that concept becoming a reality. You're seeing traditional park features - things like a mini-pipe, rollers, banked turns and return walls - all being scaled back and used to allow people to learn more efficiently. We brought it here because it just flat out works - I really think that in 5 to 10 years you'll see almost every resort in the country doing this. Once you see how excited people get and how quickly they're able to pick up key concepts, there's no turning back.

AB: Is Terrain Based something that's just for kids who are looking to get into park skiing and riding? Or is it a better all around way to teach?

RR: It's definitely not just for people who want to get into the park scene. It's a great foundation of core movements that help people become life long lovers of the sport. The terrain we use gets students ready for wherever they want to go, whether that's park, trees, bumps or just cruising.

AB: Who else out there is using this concept?

RR: There are probably a couple dozen or so mountians using Terrain Based. The bigger ones I can think of would be Northstar, Jay, ourselves, Mountain Creek, Sun Valley, Vail, Whistler, and Snowshoe in West Virginia. There's plenty more but as you can tell, there are some pretty big names on that list I just tossed out.

AB: Ultimately, lessons are about helping new people develop an interest and love for the sport and become life long skiers and riders, right? So do you think Terrain Based Learning can help do a better job of that?

RR: Well, first off - yes, lessons are about turning beginners into lifelong skiers and riders, but they're also for the experienced skier or rider looking to break through plateaus. That's a piece that gets forgotten but is super important. I always use myself as an example there - just because you CAN ski or ride, doesn't mean you can't get better. A quick lesson can go a long way. Having said that, your question was can Terrain Based Learning help new skiers and riders become life long skiers and riders. I think it absolutely can. The Terrain Based approach helps eliminate that feeling of defeat and minimizes the amount of pain that often comes with the first few times on skis and boards and replaces it with a sense of fun and excitement. I think that's huge for getting people to come back and stay awhile.

AB: Well said. That's all I got, thanks for taking the time to talk about this and let people know what we're doing in the world of Ski School.

RR: No problem, I'm obviously exicted about Terrain Based and I really just want our School to help as many people as we can get out on the hill and enjoy themselves.

AB: Oh Rob, one more thing. Make sure to have those TPS reports ready first thing.

RR: .........**shakes head, walks away**.......

See ya on the hill,