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A Few Snags In My Plan Towards Better Skiing

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

This may be a long meandering post but I promise I'll get to my point/questions. I just don't want to leave any useful details out.

So, to give you some background..
- I'm a 34 year old, 6 foot 2 / 235lb male.
- As a kid I spent a few years taking ski lessons. I'd estimate that I got somewhere around 20 hours of instruction in.
- I spend most of my teenage years and young adulthood NOT skiing
- I started skiing again about 5 years ago, getting in a few days a year.
- I have been skiing on pure muscle memory and a helpfull tip about using a wider stance when initiating turns.
- According to Ski Level videos on the Whister/Blackcomb website, I'm between a Level 3 and a Level 4.

I have some issues with my skiing that are holding me back. I need to sort them out so I can get better and have more fun. Some things I think I can deal with on my own. Some things I am going to need some in person pro instruction to deal with and some things I am really kind of confused about. I'll list them off and hopefully some fine person or people could give me a little guidance with the stuff I am clueless over.

These things I feel can be dealt with in a lesson, whish I will be taking very soon.
 - I need to learn to deal with hardpack/ice. All I can think about doing is getting slow and under control when I hit it.
 - Turns at the high end of my speed comfort level (moderate). From the moment of initiation to the point a which I am transversing my chosen fall line, things feel unstable and less than in control.

Is it time for me to get new skis? I currently ski K2 Comanche Radius 167cm skis. I followed the chin/nose/forehead method of ski length selection when I bought. I got them when I first got back in to skiing and wanted something easy to turn that would ease me back into the sport. Conventional wisdom seems to be that for a guy of my height and weight that these are too small. I know the boots I bought at the time were too small and ive FINALLY replaced them this season with something that fits alot better with some help from the guys at Comor in Vancouver.

Im not sure if it's worth getting something new and longer at this point. Essentally I want to feel more stable and in control at speed and I don't know if getting something longer and maybe a little stiffer would make much of a difference. I don't want to be one of those people that trys to buy themselves into being better.. but I don't want to continue to ski something that may be making things more difficult than they have to be.
PS: If I was to buy something, I was looking at Salomon Lord @ 177. They seem like the kind of skis that would be very versitale without being too much ski for me.

Id also like to be able to tell when its improper technique that is causing problems or a lack of fitness. Is this something I can determine myself or is it something best left to the pros to determine?

I think that is enough verbal spewage. Thanks for reading and double thanks for any helpful commentary.

post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackgibson View Post

This may be a long meandering post but I promise I'll get to my point/questions. I just don't want to leave any useful details out.

So, to give you some background..
- I'm a 34 year old, 6 foot 2 / 235lb male.
- As a kid I spent a few years taking ski lessons. I'd estimate that I got somewhere around 20 hours of instruction in.
- I spend most of my teenage years and young adulthood NOT skiing
- I started skiing again about 5 years ago, getting in a few days a year.
- I have been skiing on pure muscle memory and a helpfull tip about using a wider stance when initiating turns.
- According to Ski Level videos on the Whister/Blackcomb website, I'm between a Level 3 and a Level 4.

I have some issues with my skiing that are holding me back. I need to sort them out so I can get better and have more fun. Some things I think I can deal with on my own. Some things I am going to need some in person pro instruction to deal with and some things I am really kind of confused about. I'll list them off and hopefully some fine person or people could give me a little guidance with the stuff I am clueless over.

These things I feel can be dealt with in a lesson, whish I will be taking very soon.
 - I need to learn to deal with hardpack/ice. All I can think about doing is getting slow and under control when I hit it.
 - Turns at the high end of my speed comfort level (moderate). From the moment of initiation to the point a which I am transversing my chosen fall line, things feel unstable and less than in control.


Is it time for me to get new skis? I currently ski K2 Comanche Radius 167cm skis. I followed the chin/nose/forehead method of ski length selection when I bought. I got them when I first got back in to skiing and wanted something easy to turn that would ease me back into the sport. Conventional wisdom seems to be that for a guy of my height and weight that these are too small. I know the boots I bought at the time were too small and ive FINALLY replaced them this season with something that fits alot better with some help from the guys at Comor in Vancouver.

Im not sure if it's worth getting something new and longer at this point. Essentally I want to feel more stable and in control at speed and I don't know if getting something longer and maybe a little stiffer would make much of a difference. I don't want to be one of those people that trys to buy themselves into being better.. but I don't want to continue to ski something that may be making things more difficult than they have to be.
PS: If I was to buy something, I was looking at Salomon Lord @ 177. They seem like the kind of skis that would be very versitale without being too much ski for me.

Id also like to be able to tell when its improper technique that is causing problems or a lack of fitness. Is this something I can determine myself or is it something best left to the pros to determine?

I think that is enough verbal spewage. Thanks for reading and double thanks for any helpful commentary.

Some thoughts for you blackgibson, There is nothing wrong with going slow on hardpack/ice, probably a lot safer than anything else. It is easy to go fast and have little to no control, much harder to control a descent slowly.Look for white snow to turn in rather than trying to turn on the gray stuff, finish turns more up the hill use gravity to slow you down.

Try not getting into traversing, keep turning the skis even in a slight arc but always in some type of turn. Traversing usually is diagonally and you will keep picking up speed. That instability leading to lack of control you mention is probably from trying to catch up to your skis. They want to go down hill most people do not want to go with them. You are probably feeling more pressure in your calf on the back of your boots while the skis are running away from you.

 

 Get on some easier terrain and try to feel some shin contact with the front half of your boot the majority of the time in turns. Try some skating on flat areas to feel the shin make contact with the boot, make sure your boots are snug especially at the shin area and have some flex in your ankles. Take that feeling of contact and work it into your turns.

Skis seem short but until you get balanced over your feet you will just feel unstable on a longer ski although a longer ski could smooth out the ride a bit.

 

post #3 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackgibson 

- I'm a 34 year old, 6 foot 2 / 235lb male.
- I have been skiing on pure muscle memory and a helpfull tip about using a wider stance when initiating turns.
- According to Ski Level videos on the Whister/Blackcomb website, I'm between a Level 3 and a Level 4.

 


1.   - I need to learn to deal with hardpack/ice. All I can think about doing is getting slow and under control when I hit it.

 

2.   - Turns at the high end of my speed comfort level (moderate). From the moment of initiation to the point a which I am transversing my chosen fall line, things feel unstable and less than in control.

3.  Is it time for me to get new skis? I want to feel more stable and in control at speed and I don't know if getting something longer and maybe a little stiffer would make much of a difference.


4.  Id also like to be able to tell when its improper technique that is causing problems or a lack of fitness. Is this something I can determine myself or is it something best left to the pros to determine?



Blackgibson,

I'm going to respond to the 4 things above.  Hope this helps.

 

1.  I see you are from VT.  If that's where you ski, hardpack is probably most of what you've been skiing on this year.  You want to go slow enough to feel under control.  The way to do this is to control your turn shape.  I'm going to assume that you can turn all the way uphill and coast to a stop in both directions.  Do that with each turn on your next run.  Turn left, coast to stop.  Turn right, coast to stop.  Repeat until bored.  You just controlled your speed on whatever snow lies beneath your skis.  To go a bit faster, do the same thing but make your next turn just before you coast to a stop.  

 

A bit more about this turn shape.  The joy of skiing has something to do with the fast gliding you can do.  So where's the joy if you coast to a stop, or almost to a stop on each turn?  It's just before.  If your turns are round and C-shaped, a third of each turn is done with your skis facing straight down the hill.  There's your joy - in every turn when the skis are facing downhill.

 

But if you are whipping your skis around real fast and skidding downhill feeling out of control, then doing that in the other direction, you are killing your potential for ski joy.  Let's assume that this is what you might be doing.  Instead, try on very gentle terrain slowly making a turn that is C-shaped.  It can start out going to your right, then straight downhill for a bit (gain speed!!!  fun!!!) then curving off to your left.  Keep turning till your skis begin to point uphill and coast to a stop.  Do this whole thing in S.L.O.W.   M.O.T.I.O.N. on really easy beginner terrain. These are called Patience Turns, because you allow the skis to head straight down the hill for a third of the turn.  They help you enjoy the thrill of the middle of the turn, and help you stop jerking your skis around.  Jerking the skis around will loosen their hold on ice.  Do everything slowly when skiing hard snow and ice.

 

Repeat in other direction, with your goal to make perfectly round C-shaped turns.  Then take it to the steeper slopes.  

 

2.  You say you feel unstable and out of control from initiation to traversing.  I'm going to take a guess and say you, like almost every other skier at the beginning of their ski life, are in the backseat.  You are concentrating your weight on the back half of your skis.  Imagine you are driving a car along and you have so much weight in the back that the front tires are up off the road.  What happens when you want to turn left?  You turn the steering wheel but the tires are in the air and you keep going straight.  It's the same with skis.  The fronts of the skis are your steering wheel.  You need to get your weight on the fronts of your skis.

 

Stand up straightish as you ski.  Bend forward at your ankles.  Yes, other parts of you will be bent, but not much.  Focus on the ankles.  Ski.  Reach your arms out forward so that your elbows are in front of your jacket side-seams.  Keep them there.  If you feel unstable, project your arms forward.  Bending forward at the ankles, and holding your arms forward with elbows in front of side-seams should keep your ski tips contacting the snow so you can control those turns better.  

 

3.  Don't get new skis.  It's very likely you will have the exact same problems, maybe more, if you get new ones.  Work on training the pilot, not on changing the vehicle.

 

4.  You wonder if you might not be fit enough.  I read in this that you may get tired skiing.  This most likely has to do with two things.

----You may be holding yourself in a half-sitting position as you ski.  This puts enormous strain on your legs and causes quad burn.  It's like  doing wall-sits all day.  If you are crouching, stand up higher!  You can be balanced while standing upright-ish; this is worth working on.  Focus on keeping those ankles bent forward.  

----If you are whipping your skis around fast and scraping them against the snow to slow down on each turn, you are wearing yourself out.  This is waaay too aerobic.  Ski it "easy."  Instead, practice those round turns that allow your skis to go straight downhill for a bit on each turn, and that involve you Slow-Motioning the whole turn.  

 

5.  One more thing ... to get yourself down the hill slower, shorten your round C-shaped turns that you do in Slo-Mo.  Look down the hill, imagine a rather narrow lane straight down, inside of which you intend to stay.  Go!  Make short round turns in that lane, coming across the hill with each turn.  Keep your movements as "measured" as possible, not rushing the skis around at the top of the turn.  Report back on how you do, and enjoy!  

post #4 of 17
Muscle memory you developed when four feet tall probably isn't very accurate at six feet and 25 years later. Your equipment is not the problem. Get some instruction the next time you ski and go from there.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Let me preface my reply by saying that I have a lesson booked for Feb 12th @ Cypress Mountain. I know I need instruction, but I like to have my head in the right place before hand and talking things out on forums helps me do that.

 

Thanks for the extensive reply Liquid Feet. Id like to address a few of the points you made.

 

1) I actually live out west in Vancouver, Canada. I usually ski Cypress Mountain and occasionally hit up Whistler or another local hill for variety.

 

2) I spent a recent (ski day before last ski day in fact) day exclusively on the same green run just focusing on making clean, c shaped, non skidding turns. Id go for 4 or 5 turns, then stop and take a look at my tracks. Id say that maybe 1 in 5 turns were skidded a bit instead of nice c shapes. I was even linking turns (which I understand to be going from one turn into another smoothly and seamlessly without ever having your skis perpendicular to the fall line.) in the wider straights. I had my snowboarder brother follow behind me and watch to keep me honest. When I hit ice or I'm going uncomfortably fast, this all goes out the window however, and Im skidding and zigzagging till conditions improve and/or speed is decreased. Maybe its a confidence issue?

I fully admit to making shortish, but really wide turns to manage speed on sections that feel steep to me. I figured this is better than skidding and zigzagging my way down the hill. Skidding and zigzagging kill my quads dead. nice C shaped turns don't. I've had days full of both this year. It's been educational.

 

3) I appreciate the "working on the pilot" comments. I figured as much, but wanted to be sure.

 

Thanks again for the comments.. all of you.

 

 

post #6 of 17

BG, it's a journey.  Enjoy all the sites along the way.  Why did I think you were from Vermont?

post #7 of 17

 

Quote:
I know the boots I bought at the time were too small and ive FINALLY replaced them this season with something that fits alot better with some help from the guys at Comor in Vancouver

 

Be careful with this one.  If your foot isn't in agonizing pain when your boot goes on, then the boot probably isn't too small.  And even if it is too small, a good bootfitter can probably make it fit anyway.  Properly fitting new ski boots are going to be pretty snug for the first couple days you're wearing them until the liner starts packing out a bit.

 

It's obviously impossible for somebody online to determine if your boots fit properly or not.  But this about the first time I've heard of somebody saying they in a boot that's "too small"

post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 

When I bought my first set of ski boots I attempted to err on the side of tightness and it brought me nothing but pain and misery. My old boots would be more than uncomfortable at first, to really painful after about 30 minutes of skiing to unbearable to the point of having to take them off after about 2 hours. I wore them with the stock insoles. I wore them with green Superfeet, I wore them with NO insoles at all. I even went to a bootfitter who punched the boots out at the trouble spots, 5 years and 90+ hours on these things and they were still as painful as the day I bought them.

 

So, I did A LOT of research on boots. I read a ton about fitting boots and various different boot models. The day I went to buy my new boots I went to a well respected Ski & Snowboard store (Comor @ W4th & Burrard in Vancouver) I asked to be helped by an experienced bootfitter. I gave the bootfitter the following information: My experience with my old boots, my level of skill, where I expect to be progressing, and the boots I had researched and was interested in. I also told the bootfitter that if none of the boots I was interested in were appropriate for me that I would be more than happy for any reccomendations.

 

I ended up trying 3 different boots. The Salomon SPK 75, The Atomic Live Fit 70 and the Tecnica Phenoix Max 6 in both 28.5 and 29.5. The SPK was super comfortable in both sizes but was too soft a flex. The Salomon boot was ALOT more flexy than the other two at a with a flex rating HIGHER than both the other ones.The toebox on the Tecnica was too narrow just like my old Tecnicas. The Live was really really nice. Just a little tighter than snug, no toebox issues and those stretchy panels are right where my old boots would just kill my feet.  Ive skied a handfull of days on them and love them. I feel a little bit of burn once at the bottom of the run but if I unbuckle them before I get back on the lift, my feet feel fine before its time to disembark for another run.

 

 

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

UPDATE: I had an enlightening lesson this past Sunday. This is what I learned.

 

1) The less people on the run/piste with me, the more confident I am.

 

2) I have a bad habit of dropping my uphill hand and my shoulder follows, screwing up my balance.

 

3) Rick @ Cypress Mountain here in BC is one awesome 70something ski bum/instructor.

post #10 of 17

Hello Black Gibson

So what are you working on and what drills did your instructor give you to practice?

post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 

We started with plow/wedge turns going backwards down the hill. Just about the first thing we did. Ingeniously simple way to get one to consistently lean forward.

These were followed by "Diving into the pool" AKA Fully parallel turns AKA Master this and everything that comes after will be infinitely easier. The steps were taught as follows:

1) stop at some spot on the run in which pointing ones skis down the run will make you travel easily.

2) set oneself with one's skis across the run.

3) draw out in your head the arc of the turn you are going to make and mark where the fall line crosses it.

4) bend at knees and ankles a bit and  lean forward, putting making sure you can feel your shins on the front of the boots. If you think you are leaning enough, lean a bit further.

5) turn your upper body towards the mark made in step 3 and rise, keeping forward pressure on your boots and "diving" towards the mark.

6) be in awe as you start moving and your skis magically make a parallel turn below you as your lower body turns to mate up with your upper body.

 

I could already make fully parallel turns, but not for more than 3 or 4 turns before losing balance or slipping into a stem turn. My balance has been sucking and this lesson drove it home.

My instructor told me that once I can consistently do "diving" turns, blue runs will be no problem for me.

post #12 of 17

 

Quote:
going backwards down the hill. Just about the first thing we did. Ingeniously simple way to get one to consistently lean forward.

But, that can be a problem.  It is teaching the skier to lean toward the hill, which is WRONG.  If it worked for you, great.

 

You need to keep in mind that your skis (and all skis) are made to work for you when your weight is on the center of them.  That means on the ball of your foot.*   And the ball of the foot which is on the outside of the turn.  You want very little weight on the inside foot--insignificant weight.  If you are balanced over the ball of your outside foot (outside meaning the left foot in a right turn & vice versa), then when you hit a patch of ice you'll slide along in balance.  If you lean back toward the hill your feet will slide out from under you, & .... splat.

 

You need to engage the fronts of your skis to have control.  Specifically, the front half of the inside edge of your outside ski.  If you get this working into the snow in the first, upper, third of the turn, you'll have control to do about anything you want including speed control on ice.  "Diving into the pool" at this part of the turn takes trust, but it works!

 

*Think of any physical activity where the weight is not on the ball of the foot...so far I've only come up with bull wrestling and water skiing.

post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiredknees View Post

 

.... It is teaching the skier to lean toward the hill, which is WRONG.  If it worked for you, great.

 


Almost any drill can be misconstrued into an undesirable result. White Pass turns can be done poorly and lead to banking problems, etc...  Skiing backward puts the skier in the front of their boots and hips over their feet. The instructor will then simply ask the student to turn this position 180 degrees down the fall line and continue. In my experience, especially with kids who love the challenge, 'switch' skiing is a great way to understand what it feels like to have their hips in the correct position over their feet. For many adults, once they understand that it's really not about skiing backwards at all, switch riding can lead to great breakthroughs in finding a tall and balanced position.  It seems you've had less luck with this, or perhaps just experienced poor instruction, but done properly, there's a pretty big baby sitting in a little bit of bath water. Careful what you toss! smile.gif

 

post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post


Almost any drill can be misconstrued into an undesirable result. White Pass turns can be done poorly and lead to banking problems, etc...  Skiing backward puts the skier in the front of their boots and hips over their feet. The instructor will then simply ask the student to turn this position 180 degrees down the fall line and continue. In my experience, especially with kids who love the challenge, 'switch' skiing is a great way to understand what it feels like to have their hips in the correct position over their feet. For many adults, once they understand that it's really not about skiing backwards at all, switch riding can lead to great breakthroughs in finding a tall and balanced position.  It seems you've had less luck with this, or perhaps just experienced poor instruction, but done properly, there's a pretty big baby sitting in a little bit of bath water. Careful what you toss! smile.gif

 


This is exactly the reason our instructor told us we were doing this drill.

 

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post


Almost any drill can be misconstrued into an undesirable result. White Pass turns can be done poorly and lead to banking problems, etc...  Skiing backward puts the skier in the front of their boots and hips over their feet. The instructor will then simply ask the student to turn this position 180 degrees down the fall line and continue. In my experience, especially with kids who love the challenge, 'switch' skiing is a great way to understand what it feels like to have their hips in the correct position over their feet. For many adults, once they understand that it's really not about skiing backwards at all, switch riding can lead to great breakthroughs in finding a tall and balanced position.  It seems you've had less luck with this, or perhaps just experienced poor instruction, but done properly, there's a pretty big baby sitting in a little bit of bath water. Careful what you toss! smile.gif

 

 

This.  icon14.gif

Plus, it's great for beginners to know how to handle those moments when they lose their balance, their skis misbehave, and they mistakenly end up facing uphill in a backwards wedge (i.e., "going backwards").  If they've done some backwards sliding on purpose, then they know what to do to avoid sliding away downhill out of control.  
 

 

post #16 of 17

bump

 

If you are relatively new to skiing, here's the type of answer you could get if you start a thread with a question in the Beginner Zone.  Check out the rest of the thread too.  Hope it helps!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

Blackgibson,

I'm going to respond to the 4 things above.  Hope this helps.

 

1.  I see you are from VT.  If that's where you ski, hardpack is probably most of what you've been skiing on this year.  You want to go slow enough to feel under control.  The way to do this is to control your turn shape.  I'm going to assume that you can turn all the way uphill and coast to a stop in both directions.  Do that with each turn on your next run.  Turn left, coast to stop.  Turn right, coast to stop.  Repeat until bored.  You just controlled your speed on whatever snow lies beneath your skis.  To go a bit faster, do the same thing but make your next turn just before you coast to a stop.  

 

A bit more about this turn shape.  The joy of skiing has something to do with the fast gliding you can do.  So where's the joy if you coast to a stop, or almost to a stop on each turn?  It's just before.  If your turns are round and C-shaped, a third of each turn is done with your skis facing straight down the hill.  There's your joy - in every turn when the skis are facing downhill.

 

But if you are whipping your skis around real fast and skidding downhill feeling out of control, then doing that in the other direction, you are killing your potential for ski joy.  Let's assume that this is what you might be doing.  Instead, try on very gentle terrain slowly making a turn that is C-shaped.  It can start out going to your right, then straight downhill for a bit (gain speed!!!  fun!!!) then curving off to your left.  Keep turning till your skis begin to point uphill and coast to a stop.  Do this whole thing in S.L.O.W.   M.O.T.I.O.N. on really easy beginner terrain. These are called Patience Turns, because you allow the skis to head straight down the hill for a third of the turn.  They help you enjoy the thrill of the middle of the turn, and help you stop jerking your skis around.  Jerking the skis around will loosen their hold on ice.  Do everything slowly when skiing hard snow and ice.

 

Repeat in other direction, with your goal to make perfectly round C-shaped turns.  Then take it to the steeper slopes.  

 

2.  You say you feel unstable and out of control from initiation to traversing.  I'm going to take a guess and say you, like almost every other skier at the beginning of their ski life, are in the backseat.  You are concentrating your weight on the back half of your skis.  Imagine you are driving a car along and you have so much weight in the back that the front tires are up off the road.  What happens when you want to turn left?  You turn the steering wheel but the tires are in the air and you keep going straight.  It's the same with skis.  The fronts of the skis are your steering wheel.  You need to get your weight on the fronts of your skis.

 

Stand up straightish as you ski.  Bend forward at your ankles.  Yes, other parts of you will be bent, but not much.  Focus on the ankles.  Ski.  Reach your arms out forward so that your elbows are in front of your jacket side-seams.  Keep them there.  If you feel unstable, project your arms forward.  Bending forward at the ankles, and holding your arms forward with elbows in front of side-seams should keep your ski tips contacting the snow so you can control those turns better.  

 

3.  Don't get new skis.  It's very likely you will have the exact same problems, maybe more, if you get new ones.  Work on training the pilot, not on changing the vehicle.

 

4.  You wonder if you might not be fit enough.  I read in this that you may get tired skiing.  This most likely has to do with two things.

----You may be holding yourself in a half-sitting position as you ski.  This puts enormous strain on your legs and causes quad burn.  It's like  doing wall-sits all day.  If you are crouching, stand up higher!  You can be balanced while standing upright-ish; this is worth working on.  Focus on keeping those ankles bent forward.  

----If you are whipping your skis around fast and scraping them against the snow to slow down on each turn, you are wearing yourself out.  This is waaay too aerobic.  Ski it "easy."  Instead, practice those round turns that allow your skis to go straight downhill for a bit on each turn, and that involve you Slow-Motioning the whole turn.  

 

5.  One more thing ... to get yourself down the hill slower, shorten your round C-shaped turns that you do in Slo-Mo.  Look down the hill, imagine a rather narrow lane straight down, inside of which you intend to stay.  Go!  Make short round turns in that lane, coming across the hill with each turn.  Keep your movements as "measured" as possible, not rushing the skis around at the top of the turn.  Report back on how you do, and enjoy!  

post #17 of 17
Quote:
I have been skiing on pure muscle memory and a helpfull tip about using a wider stance when initiating turns.

 

I don't think there's anything helpful about being told to have a wider stance.  Maybe that's helpful if it's your first day on skis and you have horrible balance.  But the truth is a narrow stance actually gives you more control. 

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