“PIZZA” is not PSIA

I will turn a few of these rants on what they should be used to convey. The improvement of instruction. What are the movements promoted by PSIA?

Articles such as the one below are what I originally intended for the RANT section of this blog. The improvement of instruction. I have been reading the EPICSKI technique forum. In one very long thread (read Bob Barnes (#7) post for a great summary of the debate) it was talking about the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) and PMTS (Primary Movements Teaching System/method). The intention of the rant is not to promote either side (the debate of which is moronic at best), but rather to speak of a Pink Elephant in the room in new skier instruction.
What are the movements promoted by PSIA? When one poster spoke of PSIA and his children, he thought of what a well meaning instructor told his student make a slice “PIZZA”. Yes, many of us have heard it. Make a “PIZZA”. Instructors, let’s get original. Whenever I get a young student who says, “You want to see my Pizza”. I tell them, “No, I want to see you ski like a big kid.” Let’s skate, Let’s traverse while sidestepping up the hill. “Let’s glide over the snow, Keep your hips over your feet and have the tips closer than the tails. Let’s go.”
I do use a combination of direct to parallel and wedge-based approaches in my teaching. It is student, equipment, and conditions dependent. Don’t get caught in the dogma of an approach. Change at least one thing in your lesson EVERYDAY. A phrase, an exercise, etc.
If you as an instructor want to use a pocket coaching phrase such as, Pizza. Change it up! Use, the front of a boat (gliding through water), etc. Think of gliding and resistance to make your metaphors and analogies. We are balancing friction and gravity when we ski. Be original.
The second phrase to get rid of is, “Snowplow”. We do not plow snow, we ski! Usually our students come with the phrase and image ingrained. They do it because they want to stop. Although they did not come to “STOP skiing”, they came to “GO” skiing. A major thrill of skiing is about gliding and going, not braking and stopping.
You may say, “Now wait a minute Jon. My students need to feel they can stop. And the braking wedge is the best way.” I will agree with you on two points. Our students do need to know how to stop in a number of different situations. And sometimes the braking wedge is the best way. What I will argue is that the braking wedge does not need to be the first way we control speed. In fact, I would say it may be third or fourth on the list. A) Stepping across and up the hill. B) variety of “Gliding Wedge” sizes to increase friction. C) turning across the hill (J-turn). These are all better ways than pushing out and away from the body to stop.
And for the PSIA detractors, the SnowPlow is not a "PSIA" taught move. It is a variation on what is possible. And that is ok, because as I mentioned earlier, it can come in handy. One of the many things I have taken from PSIA is that we teach from a system that allows for latitude in our instruction. Not GOOD vs BAD, rather many options which interact together to give us different results.
The PSIA clinics I have attended talk about the glide. How to provide instruction which promotes gliding movements. In some situations how to integrate braking type movements too.
I hope this helps,

2 thoughts on ““PIZZA” is not PSIA”

  1. What is PMTS? You mention it but don’t talk about it in this article. I’ve never heard of it. Is it another theory of teaching that some instructors in America have adopted?
    Good article. I agree, that to rely on certain methods, ideas, and words 100% of the time is a bad idea. The best thing you said in this article is: “Change something in the way you teach every day.” That’s great advice.
    If the instructor is having fun, and is not bored, the students have a WAY BETTER chance of having fun too.

  2. The very last photo is excellent. By the end of the day working with a first timer, I was already breaking him of his “pizza”, but simply teaching him to J turn by lifting his leg. Simple.
    The object of a “learn to ski” class is simply to teach getting on and off the lifts, in and out of bindings” and how to slow down and balance sufficiently to get down the hill. The pizza needs to disappear as quickly as possible to progress. I watch people on their fifth-sixth-tenth day still using it as their primary technique (and I was one of them when I first got back on skis several years ago). An hour with an expert and it was gone from my technique in all but very low speed and cramped situations.
    Matter of fact, the pizza is how I gauge when to call it a day. When my trailing foot starts dragging and my skis stop staying parallel in turns, it means my quads are tired. I notice the drag first and if I take more than one or two more runs, I risk injury because I don’t have the leg strength to perform at my usual low to mediocre level. =) That trail foot is critical to get parallel and the easiest way to do it is to exaggerate the change in pressure by showing them how lifting one leg edges your skis. From there, progress to carving with both edges.

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