For five days in February I had the pleasure of teaching British exchange students to ski at Attitash and Wildcat Mountains in New Hampshire. Most had never skied before. In fact, during the first two days, multiple students asked me if we were skiing on real snow.
I learned that they had spent 8 weeks preparing for the trip by practicing indoors, on artificial snow. So while they came to the U.S. having never truly skied before, they did have some basic exposure to the sport.
Building a Base – Working on Fundamentals
We spent the first two days at Attitash, working on fundamentals. We started with the basics of sliding on snow and wedge turns. They quickly moved to more difficult terrain and, by the end of day 2, I was able to take them to the top of the mountain to enjoy the view.
Moving Up the Mountain
On days 3, 4, and 5 we moved to Wildcat Mountain. Once again, we reinforced the basics and spent a lot of time on easy, Beginner runs. They progressed nicely, and on the afternoon of day 3 we were able to move halfway up the mountain.
A Storm Rolls In
Day 4 started with a dense fog, temps slightly above freezing, and the promise of a wet day. My students seemed tired, and the energy was low. They had been frustrated with some of the skiing instructors and who felt their progress was too slow. These students were less focused on technical skiing prowess, and instead simply wanted to be proficient enough to explore the mountain. Most of them had never skied before, and may might never ski again,
My objective was to keep everyone safe, be able to explore the mountain, and have a good time.
Facilitating a Peak Experience
Day 4 turned out to be an epic day. It started with low energy, and I could tell that some of the group was bickering between themselves. People were tired, and the group members were getting on one another’s nerves.
Riding the chairlift up the mountain with two young ladies, my observations were confirmed.
Group Development: Norming to Performing
I thought about the four stages of group development: (1) forming; (2) norming; (3) storming; and (4) performing, and mentioned this to one of the young ladies.
To me, the group was in the storming phase. They were tired, and getting annoyed with one another.
I tried to keep my energy high, and worked to provide a peak experience that would facilitate group bonding, and get everyone out of their funk.
I designated one young man to lead us down the mountain. Per my instruction, he stopped every time the trails diverged so we could re-group. People started having fun, and we did a ton of skiing.
By the end of the day, we had moved through the storming phase ad were performing. The group was functioning as a team, assisting each other through difficult terrain, and helping one another when a group member fell, or lost a ski pole or ski. They checked on one another’s progress, and displayed genuine concern for each other’s well being. It seemed like they realised that they’d all have more fun if they worked together and helped each other out.
Peak Experiences Promote Group Cohesion
I was reminded of something a wise man once told me: facilitating peak experiences is an effective way to promote group cohesion.
That’s exactly what I saw take place with this group of young people. Our goal to ski from the top of the mountain – the peak experience. To get there, we needed to work as a group. Throughout the day I saw these young people go from normal teenaged bickering, to tuning in to one another’s needs and helping each other so we could ski more of the mountain, more times.
It was pretty awesome, and another example of the power of outdoor education to bring people together.
If your group, organization, business, or community could benefit from leadership training using peak experiences to facilitate group development, contact the Cleveland Zephyr Outdoor Academy today. Explore our website, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up for one of our classes.