At 109 pages this book is little, but don't let its size fool you, it has plenty of good information and advice that is easy to understand. It's intended for "passionate and dedicated skiers who simply want to learn to ski better." I would maybe change the order of that sentence to read "skiers who want to learn simply how to ski better."
The authors, Jim Vigani and Joan Heaton, are two experienced ski instructors from Windham. Joan Heaton's work may be familiar to EpicSki regulars and ski pros who have read her excellent articles in our Premium Article Collection in the Supporter Lounge (The Many Faces of Feedback and Experiential WHAT?). A professor, now retired, of Physical Education at the City College of New York, Joan was responsible for introducing Teaching Styles to PSIA and has been a catalyst of PSIA-Eastern division's outstanding teaching curriculum.
"Balance on your skis, choose your path, and let your movements evolve." Joan teaches us that there are two kinds of motor skills, those which are closed, such as a golf swing, and those which are open, such as skiing. Learning the golf swing requires many repetitions of a movement chain (years even) to be successful. Skiing requires us to think with our feet, so to speak, to respond in the moment, in the now, to new and different challenges in every turn. It's not a sport with a checklist, but one that relies on sensory awareness and distinctions between different sensations that are communicated through the sense of touch.
"Why does learning to ski better take so long?" The answer to this question is what inspired the book, because it led the authors to the work of David A. Kolb, a noted educational theorist in the field of experiential learning. His Experiential Learning Model provides the methodological framework Heaton and Vigani had sought to "supercharge" learning. They discovered that Kolb's learning model plus a simplified model of skiing mechanics yielded amazingly fast results.
The authors believe that "at its core, skiing is basically simple." Some purists may quibble with their simplified model of skiing mechanics, but it does address the most pervasive skiing errors of stance and balance, namely sitting back and the inability to balance on the outside ski. For that reason, fore-aft and lateral balance is the predominant concern. Their first principle is: If you're not in balance, nothing else matters." Furthermore, being in balance is a feeling, not a position. Their second principle is: "Learn to balance on the outside ski first." The third principle is: "Move to engage the tips." The fourth and final principle is: "Everything else is a detail." In other words, pole usage is irrelevant if you're out of balance.
"There is no secret handshake." The "What Am I Doing Wrong" approach to learning skiing is seductive because it presumes there's an expert out there who can give us the secret handshake. However, the way to good skiing for YOU is going to depend on your character, motivation, physical fitness, natural gifts, economics, etc.
"[W]hile there are basic fundamentals to good skiing, everybody needs to find what works for them." A teacher can help diagnose deficiencies and prescribe skill-strengthening drills, but the learner has to cycle through feeling, watching, thinking and doing to "get it." As an example, a typical learning event would begin with a Concrete Experience, say, for a lot of EpicSkiers, making a turn from a dead stop where the tails are not displaced laterally. In the second phase you'd compare what happened and what you intended to happen. In the third phase you'd decide what you need to change to get the desired result. A teacher can help a lot in phases 2-3, but phases 1 (feeling what you are doing in the moment) and 4 (testing the new skill in harder terrain and conditions) are self-directed and require self-awareness and buy-in from the student to do the work.
"Your coach's job is to guide you through the experience, while letting you figure out what needs to be done." The idea of leaving How to the learner may strike many as a sort of blasphemy, but if you think about it, that is the reality, especially with adults. After all, we decide whether learning something new is worth the effort or not, and know-how is what we want to take away.
If you are a self-directed learner in the market for a quick read on skiing better and learning faster minus the details, I highly recommend this one by two of the professional ski teaching community's finest. If you are a ski instructor interested in bringing principles of experiential learning into your teaching practice, this book will give you a great start.
Visit http://littleskibook.com/ to learn more and order the book.
Edited by nolo - 4/5/11 at 5:34am