Thoughts on teaching beginners slalom

aupatkingaupatking Posts: 1,750 Mega Baller
From ski selection, to the deep water start, what are some thoughts on teaching an adult to slalom?

1. Are there any thoughts about weaker boats being helpful, or a slow pull-up with the boat? I’ve seen adults blow out (strain/pull) their forearm muscles and had one skier blame the boat and driver for that (thankfully it wasn’t me driving or my boat). I’m more inclined to think it was a pretty good combination of the skiers extra 40 pounds, 20 years of not skiing, and being in overall horrible shape. No matter the cause, it appears common, and I’d prefer to avoid it with “students” in the future.
2. Front boot/rear toe only, or is there any benefit to trying with double boots? Besides the obvious PITA of putting both boots back on over and over, it seems the rear boot is a little helpful in lifting the tail of the ski.mive always taught with rear toe only, so will likely just stick with that.
3. Ski length. This is the big question for me. I’ve had more success teaching first timers on a 69 inch Radar Theory, than any other ski, ever. No matter their weight. If they can keep the ski under them, the bigger, the better. I’ve got a 65 Butter Knife, and a 65 Lyric that size/weight “fit” the skier, but to get them out of the water easiest, I really think the bigger ski is better.
4. Is the deep V handle a helper or a hindrance? I’ve seen it be a bit of a hindrance, and not had much experience with it being helpful. The skier only falls to one side when getting up anyway, so put the rope on that side and no need for the V, correct?
5. As for technique, I tell them to stay in a ball as long as possible, with arms as straight as possible, and all their weight/force on the front foot.

What have I left out? Remember, this is for teaching adults, not children, so strength-to-weight is “a factor”


  • UWSkierUWSkier Posts: 1,843 Mega Baller
    What's worked for everyone in my family mixed across adults and small kids:
    Start by dropping a ski. Once they have the feel for riding a slalom ski:
    Coach them on the "drag-a-leg" method of starting. Obviously relies on RTP.

    Bigger ski than necessary helps too as long as it's not too unmanageable.
    boats are like girlfriends you love them however there is another one around the corner - bananaron, July 21, 2020
  • andjulesandjules Posts: 873 Mega Baller
    edited April 2018
    I taught at a summer camp for several years, mostly teenagers; and have taught a lot of weekend adults as well. As for deep water starts:
    Re: #2, I found that some people did better with two-feet-in, some without. Generally speaking, I had a little more success with two-feet-in when it was women or stockier guys; and a little more success with one-foot-dragging for most guys and lanky/skinnier women.
    As for #5, yes to the first two things: stay in a ball and keep arms straight. As with two skis, if they fall forward it is almost always from standing up too early; if they fall back it is almost always from pulling their arms in (trying to pull themselves up, which works on land, but not when your feet are on slippery water). However, if you do teach two-feet-in, it's important to put some pressure on the back foot; you push on it, but don't actually want to succeed in straightening the leg. Also for two-feet-in: they shouldn't struggle as the rope tightens to keep the ski straight vertical; it's better to let the ski tilt 10º+ to the side — e.g. to the right for right-foot-forward skiers — but it's important that the skier's mass is directly behind the ski, obviously. It's really difficult with two feet in to balance in the water with the ski straight-up-and-down, and it's a waste of energy to try; the ski will straighten up naturally when it starts to track.
    As for #1, use some discretion. Neither gentle nor hard for the first second or two; you're plowing through a lot of water at 4-8mph, that part takes a lot of strength. Don't yank them but don't let them drown before their ski starts supporting their weight.

    As per @UWSkier's post, you should generally be teaching them to slalom initially by dropping a ski. Once they're comfortable, you can run them through a helpful drill for learning deep water starts by slowing the boat smoothly down to 15 or 10mph and then back up; it gets them ready for the instability and increased drag that comes with a deep water start.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 5,032 Mega Baller
    I try not to tell people that much stuff. Obviously the right ski, and binding size is important there ladies and kids will struggle in a men's large binding.

    I like to toss a ski on them sometime other than right before a pull, such as floating near the dock or while hanging out on the boat. Have them float around a bit wearing the ski, and just generally wait till they can just relax and be in the position that way when it comes time to pull them they aren't floundering and getting out of position.

    Then when it comes time to pull them I generally don't let them say hit it seems like the physical act of committing to that is when they flounder again, just watch them float and keep the rope taught with occasional throttle, once I see that they're lined up and most importantly that they're looking up at the boat I'll pull them out.

    Biggest thing is I want them to focus on keeping their eyes up at the mirror, while there does exist a group of people who get up by tucking their head and looking down the fetal position doesn't get skiers out of the water. If they keep their head up shoulders square and don't collapse they pop out of the water and are grooving.
  • braindamagebraindamage Posts: 264 Solid Baller
    I’ve taught alot of ppl to slalom for the first time.

    1) it sounds stupid, but THE most effective thing: tell the skier to keep about 8” of ski out of the water and in front of them. I know it sounds crazy, but given this simple instruction, the person can focus on ONE thing and can use the body’s innate balance capabilities to get up. When I started adding this ONE thing to the instruction my success rate went to almost 100pct. The only exception is when they are severely lacking in strength or balance.

    Other comments:
    2) the driver needs to pull them out as fast as possible, but not faster. The more athletic and in shape, generally the faster you can do the hole shot.
    3) some like 2 feet in, others drag. If one doesn’t work try the other.
    4) I pull them up off the floor a couple times with the rope to get the feeling.
    5) after 3 attempts pull them into the boat and try another day. They will be too tired to get up and will just end up more frustrated.
  • h2onhkh2onhk Posts: 355 Crazy Baller
    What has worked for us.

    1. Make sure they are comfortable on combos first. (getting up every time, cutting back and forth, and even picking one ski up out of the water slightly)

    2. when they are ready for their first time dropping I would ride on combos right beside them and hold onto their life jacket. This helped in several ways. I was right their next to them so coaching them through the process was simple and much easier than yelling from the boat. It also allowed me stabilized them while they slowly dropped the ski and found their balance. This boosted their confidence. I always reminded them don't drop and quickly try to find the RTP. Just drop and get your balance, then slowly move your rear foot to find the back of the ski. Then slowly slip into the RTP. Once they were balanced and looked comfortable I would slowly let go of their life jacket and drift away.

    3. The boat driver is the most important part of the deep water start. He/she has to be in tune with the skier in the water. Proper rope tension and how long the boat driver provides the rope tension will help them achieve the correct "tuck" position. Everyone is a little different on how long you provide tension and how hard/soft of a hole shot they require. Foot in or foot out is a skiers preference, but both produce a similar pull from the water. Tell them to let the boat do the work and hold that tuck position tight with your chest slightly proud. Keeping your chest proud will help resist the urge to lean too far forward or too far backward. Balance balance balance and fight fight fight to keep that ski right in line with the boat.

    4. Make sure they are having fun and don't get discouraged!
  • UWSkierUWSkier Posts: 1,843 Mega Baller
    On point number 2, when we're coaching newbies to find the back of the ski, our instruction is to take your big toe and touch the calf of your front leg, then slide foot straight down. Prevents people from invariably sticking their foot off to the side.
    boats are like girlfriends you love them however there is another one around the corner - bananaron, July 21, 2020
  • MuskokaKyMuskokaKy Posts: 457 Crazy Baller
    agree with @UWSkier !!
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    @BraceMaker I have taught way more people to drop than just to get up on one. With my two kids I did have one who just learned to get up but he was small and couldn’t control the pair of skis without the bar attached. Both of my kids tried both feet and one foot and both wound up one foot. Of the people that have learned on our lake however most are both feet in (I have always been a dragger).

    Lots of good advice a few of my thoughts:
    I believe the V rope helps beginners.
    The driver is as important as the skier. I believe in gradual application of power so you don’t rip the rope out of the hands but you don’t drag too much.
    The skier needs the tip out of the water a fair amount but it needs to be on an angle it can’t be straight up and down.
    Ride the ski out of the water and has it planes pretend their is a rope pulling your head straight up out of the water.
    Mark Shaffer
  • strickmdstrickmd Posts: 13 Baller
    Great thread. We've had people have success with all these methods.
    My cousins and I all learned by lifting a ski while on doubles, then dropping after we were comfortable.
    When my dad was in high school, he and his buddies broke a ski, and had to learn 1 just to keep the day going.
    Was teaching a buddy a few years ago, (skinny, but strong) and 2nd try he was up on one.
    I really think a lot of it is on the individual and how much do they really want to get up. Biggest thing we've learned is keep to the basics - keep yourself bunched until the boat pulls you up - keep some pressure on the back leg
  • pregompregom Posts: 355 Solid Baller
    When I was learning to do deep water starts on a single ski, I struggled a lot. I remember that I found this website very helpful.
  • MuskokaKyMuskokaKy Posts: 457 Crazy Baller
    @BraceMaker not only did i learn slalom by the drop i also learned to barefoot that way too HAHA. I go up on one or two skis ( started as 2) and then drop one foot in kick off the other ski and barefoot....its neat hearing all the different methods.
  • JmoskiJmoski Posts: 425 Crazy Baller
    IMHO teaching someone to deep water start is more art than science.

    One useful pointer Mike @skiacapulco gave my wife was to hold the handle down by the front binding and hold it there until the ski planes.
  • GarnGarn Posts: 593 Crazy Baller
    There is nothing better or easier then teaching them off a boom. It decreases the learning curve tenfold. Holding on to the boom the person gets up immediately on the first try. Once they get the feel of being on top of the water and getting control of the ski, you can move to a three foot long rope. There is no better way to teach someone to slalom.
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    One thing I forgot was to tell the beginner not to worry about getting the back foot in the rear binding if dropping or getting up with one foot in. For the kids we always just put a piece of non skid on the surface of one of the skis and had them use that so they could just put their foot down. Once they were comfortable riding on one ski they could try for the RTP.

    Also keep the eyes up and focused on the boat or pylon. If you look at the fishes you swim with the fishes.
    Mark Shaffer
  • OldboyIIOldboyII Posts: 710 Crazy Baller
    It may be interesting to question freshman slalom students who succesfuly finished first season - which tips were more useful and which not.
    Teachers may hear a lot of interesting stuff )))
  • mbabiashmbabiash Posts: 631 Crazy Baller
    My six year just tried deep water slalom on an O’Brien vortex. He’s almost getting up but when he’s starts planing the ski wobbles left and right. My thought is more weight on the front foot but I don’t want to tell him wrong. Not sure how to load the video.
  • ScottScottScottScott Posts: 1,296 Mega Baller
    My thought is acceleration. A nice easy pullup for anyone learning (especially a youngin' of his weight) is important, but once up on top of the water I think getting on up to speed may be helpful.
  • vernonreevevernonreeve Posts: 94 Baller
    edited May 2018
    More weight on back foot is what give you the stability. The ski is narrower, and the fin is back there, which both help give you stability. A good example, is when you drop a ski, it feels really unstable, but when you get your back foot in, and place your weight on it, it becomes very stable. I usually tell beginners to pretend like they're popping a wheelie.
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    edited May 2018
    @ScottScott you don’t want to give beginning slalomers too much speed once up on the water. Just enough speed to get the ski planing but if it sits a little low while they are starting it is better than too fast.
    Mark Shaffer
  • ScottScottScottScott Posts: 1,296 Mega Baller
    edited May 2018
    @Chef23 I agree, there is fine line. A slow start to the pull up is good, I still like a slow pull up. Sometimes in giving a slow pull up, the acceleration can continue too slow as they start to plane, and they sink a little and start wobbling. Part of that is them learning, and being instructed, to not stand up too soon also.

    @vernonreeve I had to give a disagree above to weight on the back foot. I'm not sure there is ever a time in slalom, even learning to get up, that more weight on the back foot is a good thing.
  • jjackkrashjjackkrash Posts: 1,080 Mega Baller
    My boy made it to plane and has skied a few yards or so on one but is a bit stuck. He's pretty solid on two. I am wondering if he is using the best foot forward; and I am still not convinced there is really a definitive way to tell which one is the best foot forward.
  • ScottScottScottScott Posts: 1,296 Mega Baller
    I just saw a video from April Coble, they have people experiment while on 2 skis lifting each foot getting used to balancing on one foot. At the same time noticing which foot they were more comfortable on, that foot would be the front. Or, have them stand with feet even, get behind them but don't tell them what you're doing. Give them a little push from behind and see which foot goes forward.
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    @jjackrash what is happening when he falls. There are a couple of ways that you can determine which foot is forward. @ScottScott hit on the two ways I have used with success. You could also have your son try dropping the other foot.

    Two issues people tend to have when dropping are looking at the water instead of keeping eyes focused up and on the boat and looking down to find the rear toe. When beginning I just have people put there foot down on top of the RTP or I put non-skid on top of the ski without the RTP and used that alone until the learner gets comfortable on one ski.
    Mark Shaffer
  • vernonreevevernonreeve Posts: 94 Baller
    Having them intentionally put more weight on the back foot is for after they get up and the ski starts going side to side under them. It does this because they have too much weight on the front. I've told them to put more weight on the back, but they really didn't get it until I told them to try to pop a wheelie. This caused them to put more weight on the back, and their ski immediately stabilized under them. Remember, we're talking about first timers, not how to ski with proper weight distribution. Telling them something to exaggerate the point your trying to make is very useful in making them understand. And this has proven to be helpful many times for beginners getting up for the first time. So you might disagree, but I've had really good results telling them this. After the ski stabilizes under them, they naturally tend to find a good weight distribution between front and back.
  • vernonreevevernonreeve Posts: 94 Baller
    edited May 2018
    I haven't seen the video from April Coble, but for the last 30 years, we've always used those exact same two methods of determining which foot goes forward. Other tricks are to have them put their feet together and have them stand on one foot. Another is to have their feet together in front of a bench and have them step up onto the bench.
  • Southside_MikeSouthside_Mike Posts: 19 Baller
    Another vote for learning to drop first. Never really found "lifting" helpful but shifting weight so that the ski is directly under the pelvis and sliding the trailing foot back worked for me. They need to think of a triangle with the ski at the bottom, rather than a rectangle supported by two skis.

    For the deep water start, if the boat has a tower - use it, helps a lot
  • jjackkrashjjackkrash Posts: 1,080 Mega Baller
    I have tried the sneaky push from behind, step up on bench, watch which foot forward when he coasts on his bike, and a few others, and the results have been inconsistent. He has been trying right foot forward; I think I am going to have him try two skis again and make him lift each foot a few times and then just have him pick and stick with whatever he picks.
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    @jjackkrash my son is pretty much ambidextrous and had the same issue. Finally I picked one that he looked a little better on and we stuck with it.
    Mark Shaffer
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