204 Black diamond class handling
Soo.… you think you have a group of black diamond level riders. Before heading off to the park, pipe, trees, bumps, or steeps, you had better determine for yourself just what they can handle. More often than not, riders that rate themselves as experts are not. Rather, they are intermediates that are able to ride steep groomed slopes without hurting themselves too badly. This is a pretty bleak view, but it is grounded somewhat in reality. Since snowboarding is a relatively young sport, and since it has not fully evolved to a finished product, there is little consensus on what an expert rider really is. Many riders have actually figured it out, and have become quite proficient. These individuals rarely take instruction, simply because they don’t really need to. Intuitively, they have managed to teach themselves. On the other side, you have riders that took a few lessons, rode a bunch with their faster friends, and have become good at applying introductory technique at a high rate of delivery.
Do a little question and answer session. Try to determine, realistically, in a few minutes, what it is the rider wants to accomplish. Bear in mind that their goal may not be attainable. Take a run on a trail that is well below their stated intent. If possible, try to pick a trail with varying pitch, so that your warm-up run serves more than one purpose. If you suspect that your rider has vastly overstated their ability, make sure that you pick a short trail that will provide a correct diagnosis. In other words, if they say they ride the whole mountain, do not necessarily take them to the top for their first run.
Try to set up a casual atmosphere. You are in charge, due to your professional responsibilities, but you don’t want your client to feel like they have to impress you. “Ride this trail section in the manner that seems most appropriate”. “I’m not judging you, I am simply observing your predominant movement paradigm”.
Make sure you designate an appropriate stopping point so that your client does not ride non-stop to the bottom of the hill. Try to pick a trail with a good line of sight, both coming and going. Avoid crowds.
You are looking for the lowest common denominator in their riding. Do they kick-foot? Are they starting turns from the top down? Is there a lot of arm swinging? Do they try to direct their shoulders down the fall line at all times? (This happens a lot to cross-over skiers). Do they stand predominantly on one foot?
Essentially, do they look like fast-moving intermediate riders?
Once you have reached a valid conclusion as to their true level of skill development, DO NOT attempt to completely rebuild their mode of riding. DO NOT destroy their egos by informing them that their estimation of themselves is flawed (assuming it is). Present them with movement options. This may require you to retire to flatter terrain. If this notion is met with disdain, try to refine whatever it is they are doing well, and try to remove obstacles to further development. If you feel like getting technical with them, be sure you really know what it is you are talking about. It is okay to say “Well, I don’t really know why this works, but I have it on good authority that it is the appropriate thing to do under these circumstances”.