Friday, January 9, 2015

Portable Ski Instructor

Darren Turner, Insight Ski
Students of skiing often say they wish they could take their instructor out with them all the time. Just like golfers, skiers perform better under class situations and when left to their own devices often revert to old bad habits. But now, with ski instruction apps, it is possible to have that familiar trusted voice reinforcing lessons, encouraging skiers down difficult slopes and guiding them into new techniques.

Lovely links from Ski School App
One of the pioneers of the instructional ski app is Darren Turner, a ski instructor from Serre Chevalier in France. Turner started skiing on artificial slopes in Britain and progressed to racing by the age of 14. At 16 he began instructor training and later worked in France. Transferring to the British BASI system, he went on to get the highest level 4 ISTD qualifications which enable him to work anywhere in the world, including France.

Now in his 20th season teaching and skiing the 102 pistes of Serre Chevalier Vallée, Turner says he actually ended up living there by accident. He had visited at the age of 15 when competing in the British Ski Championships but his first work experience in the mountains was at Alpe d’Huez where he worked as a barman for a winter season: “The dream job for a young ski enthusiast as it gave me all day every day to spend up the mountain,” he says. He was transferred by his employers to their hotel bar in Serre Chevalier. “I loved the down-to-earth feel of the place and made friendship bonds with people whom I still call my best friends,” Turner recounts. “It’s a close knit community where everyone has a common bond i.e. a love of the mountains.”

From groomers to glades at Serre Chevalier 
(Courtesy of Sindy Thomas/AGENCE ZOOM)
Like many itinerant ski fans, he followed this experience with seasonal travel and work, taking in South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and Egypt before returning to settle in Serre Chevalier to work as an independent instructor. “Originally my client base was mainly British but it has evolved into a truly international spectrum with people coming from as far as Australia and America,” he says. He teaches all age and ability levels but finds that many long-term skiers reach a plateau. In order to help with this, Turner teamed up with Elate Media run by New Zealand pro skier, Andrew Gowans to produce a series of ski technique videos. Having watched many poorly produced versions, he wanted to make video instruction more user-friendly. “Our focus was on simplifying and keeping things as clear as possible,” he explains. “After discussing ideas for filming there was a bit of a ‘eureka moment’ - rather than just film and make a DVD, an app seemed like a much more versatile platform.” It could be easily updated whenever necessary and wouldn’t involve stock or shipping issues. “Most importantly the user can use the information whenever needed,” Turner points out. “I have never seen anyone on a chairlift reviewing a DVD!”

Serre Chevalier
(Courtesy of AGENCE ZOOM)
Targeting skiers of all levels, the Ski School Apps first launched in 2010, are available from iTunesAndroid Play and Windows app stores. With future plans to expand into Instagram, skiers can link to the app via Facebook and Twitter. “Both feature frequent posts - pretty much anything technique and ski-related,” he says.

As with all new technological breakthroughs, there are people who jump to the conclusion that the ski app could adversely affect ski instructor jobs. But Turner finds this ludicrous and thinks it could actually do the opposite – give newcomers to the sport a head start and improve every skier’s awareness of how lessons can actually help them.  “Also, if the app can help increase the amount of people who try this sport for the first time and have a positive fun experience through understanding, then the chances are they will participate in the sport for longer and fall in love with it like I have,” he concludes.
Cool carving from Ski School App
The team closely monitors feedback, finding enhanced confidence and goal-setting to be the main comments. The skier analysis feature is particularly successful as it enables the user to take a video of a skier and, using split screen technology, compare it directly with Turner’s demonstration. “Or you could also compare yourself to a previous video of yourself or your friend, the options are endless,” he says. Users can take notes and store ski videos on the app to keep a history of progression and share images by email or social media.

Darren Turner
With the expert level Ski School App about to be launched, Turner is convinced that ski apps are the way of the future: “I am confident that it is a useful tool for all recreational skiers. We have had a lot of positive feedback from first time skiers all the way up to fellow ski instructors and coaches.”

Exploring the off-piste at Serre Chevalier
(Courtesy of Sindy THOMAS/AGENCE ZOOM)


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