Online Communication Styles for Ski Instructors

Your students choose your classes for two types of reasons: tangible and intangible. The tangible reasons pertain to your level of expertise, the location of your resort, the lift ticket prices and the annual snowfall. The intangible reasons have to do with your style of communication. Doctor’s have a bedside manner. Ski instructors have a slopeside manner. To be successful, ski instructors must sense their student’s preferred style, and adapt their own accordingly.

This is relatively easy in a face to face setting. Online is a different story. Without the ability to see your facial expressions, potential new students can misinterpret your communication style. Conversations between direct and indirect communicators can cause major “disconnects” in online communication

Direct Communicators

Direct communicators shoot from the hip, and say exactly what they mean. For example, if a student asks “Should I go to Snowbird on my ski vacation”, they might say, “You’re skills are not strong enough for Snowbird You have to master mogul skiing. Direct communicators make their points with conviction. The words “should” and “have to” flourish within their sentences. They respect their clients enough to tell it like it is, without adding a sugar-coated topping. Although the direct communicator is usually not trying to be rude, an indirect communicator might view it as such.

Indirect Communicators

Indirect communicators often try to soften the blow. When asked about Snowbird, they might say “Wouldn’t Parkcity or Solitude be a better choice?” Words like “maybe” and “possibly” are common in the indirect communicator’s sentence structure. Direct communicators often don’t get it. They believe the indirect communicator is being wishy-washy, or worse, passive aggressive.

Direct and indirect communication issues are only two problems associated with online communication. Add things like Internet slang (believe it or not, some people don’t know the meaning of ROFLMAO) and other language barriers, and you have a regular Tower of Babel. Here are three hypothetical case studies about communication in a ski forum. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real life ski instructors is purely coincidental. However, if participate online, the conversations will sound familiar.

Three Ski Instructors on an Internet Forum

Three instructors log in to a ski forum. A novice skier has posted a question. She writes:
Hi! My name is Susan. I’m brand new to skiing, and I was wondering if I need to learn the snowplow before I can ski parallel.
Here are the responses:
Student and Coach
Instructor 1: Self-Proclaimed Ski Guru: That’s a bunch of BS!!! Any instructor who still teaches the wedge is a LAZY LUDDITE!!!!! The only way to learn is to come to one of our special, wedge-free ski weeks. Give me your email and I will send you information about signing up.

Instructor 2: Old School European Ski Instructor: Everyone needs to learn the snowplow before they try parallel. Das is how we taught it in Austria.

Instructor 3: Modern, Progressive Ski Instructor:
Welcome to the forum, Susan. The answer to your question depends on a number of factors. Do you practice any other type of sport? Roller-blading? Ice skating? Are you athletic? Do you have any fear of heights? Your answers to these questions will help your instructor decide whether you should start with the wedge, or go directly to parallel. If they decide you need to start with the wedge, you will probably learn a gliding wedge, as opposed to the old-fashioned breaking wedge. But the breaking wedge can be good to know. At some ski resorts, the lift line is on a slight downhill. You might need a wedge to keep you from ramming into the skier or rider in front of you. Feel free to ask more questions, Susan. We’re here to help!

Logic would dictate that Susan would choose instructor number three for a lesson, but logic does not always dictate human behavior. Intrigued? Read on for more about online communication styles for ski instructors.

The Courtesy Rules of Internet Speak

As the above conversation continues, Instructor 1 responds to Instructor 2. “EVERYONE needs to learn the wedge? What are you, some kind of SKI NAZI?”

Instructor 3 interjects: Since you mentioned Nazi’s, I’m invoking Godwin’s Law. Dating back to the days of Usenet groups, Godwin’s Law states that “There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.

Nazi comparisons are just one of the the things you should not do on social media.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing

  1. Make glib comparisons to Nazis: Tacky
  2. Post in all upper case: All-caps posts indicate shouting
  3. Ending sentences with multiple exclamation points: Overkill and juvenile
  4. Shamelessly promote yourself in a thread designed to garner information: This type of activity can get you banned in some groups
  5. Insulting others to make yourself look good
  6. Info-dump long posts without dividing them into paragraphs
  7. Post short, terse comments implying that people should trust you based on years of experience
    All three instructors are guilty of these “sins,” but they still might have a significantly-sized following. However the size of your following is less important thanattracting your ideal client.

Analyzing the Three Examples

Each of these instructor communication styles attracts a different type of student.


Instructor 1 is guilty of the first five offenses, but he still manages to survive — and in some cases, thrive — within the ski industry. A certain type of student responds to this approach.

They like to feel like they are part of an elite group , who is somehow superior to the other “Luddites” in the industry. The all-caps “yelling” posts do not affect them. Some might be used to this communication style in their homes, or in their work environment. Even the hard-sell method doesn’t offend them. This type of online communication style works if you want to create a cult. If you want a following of interested learners, you’ll need a different approach.

Instructor 2

Instructor 2 relies on his age, accumulated wisdom and the status and authenticity that some people associate with European ski instructors. Although he might occasionally argue with other instructors about the merits of different teaching styles, he does not understand the value of communicating this information to students.

In some cases. he might be new to social media. In other’s he’s more confident of his ski instruction skills than he is of his written command of the English language. The older, European ski instructor has a certain mystique, which might attract a certain type of client.

Instructor 3

Instructor 3 is almost perfect. She addresses Susan by name — twice, in fact. Her questions indicate that she is more interested in what Susan has to say about herself, than she is about selling Susan a lesson. Her only offense: A bit too much of an info dump. Paragraph, along with the Cliff Notes version of her post, will help.

Call to Action: Visualize the preferred communication style of your ideal student, and adjust your own style accordingly.

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