Making the "Best" out of "Bad"
It happens. The wind blows from a certain direction. The upper, and then even the middle, mountain closes. Your all mountain lesson shows up for their lesson. They are considering canceling because none of the advanced runs are open.
This is a moment when, if armed with a few lesson ideas, you can exceed all their expectations. When you exceed peoples' expectations they tend to tell others about it. There is no better advertising possible than a customer who can tell others that you were "the bomb."
One important step to this is the student deciding not to cancel their lesson. I often use this approach. "We have the opportunity to get real specific and make a connection with our body. By being confined to easier terrain, we can develop refined movement patterns and practice in a controlled environment. That way, when we need to call on movement patterns at full speed in a real life situation, our body has a much better chance of doing what we ask it to do."
The next step is deciding what to work on. Don't just choose any skill. Watch the student and see what movement patterns they need to work on most. Be sure to compare what you think they need with what their goals are. This means asking them questions and working with them to work out a path towards their goals.
Many instructors fall into the trap of teaching the "skill of the season". This is when an instructor makes a personal connection with a task, lesson progression, or skiing concept and says, "Wow, this has helped me so much. I'm going to work on this a lot." The problem is they work on it by teaching it to every lesson they get, regardless of the students' needs. If you find yourself teaching a student what you are working on in your own skiing, be careful, you may be falling into the skill of the season trap.
Once you have chosen a skill, it's time to choose a way to play with it. Just by you helping them change the duration, intensity, rate, or timing of a movement they can make a huge effect on their skiing. One of my favorite ways to isolate movements is to set strict parameters. For example, see how slow the legs/skis can pivot through a corridor of poles. Playing with their balance is another great thing to do. A student and I once spent three days in -30ºF (wind chill) playing with turning both directions on a single ski. We spent day 1 learning how to do it; day 2, playing with various turn shapes and sizes; day 3, learning how to do it on the other leg and teaching his buddy (who had been in the condo sulking for two days) how to do it. We had a ball.
There are lots of high level progressions that can be done on beginner terrain. Some play with timing. Some use props. Some are parlor tricks with great bragging rights. Any of them can turn a potential bad weather day into a lesson breakthrough and a memory that keeps that client coming back for more. So, take one of your mentors out for a beer and ask them what some of their best bad weather day progressions are.