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BoS, Stance, and Proficiency

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I've learned quite a bit from the Weight Distribution thread. I got a good idea what I want to do this season. What I've also read from a number of discussions here makes me think hard about old and new techniques, intermediates and WC racers. I have come up with a unified theory for ski racing and instruction regarding stance width and weight distribution on smooth, hard snow which I hope will provide you with some entertainment (and give me some more food for thought).

 

In case you haven't read any of my previous posts, let me tell you about my extensive racing background. Mammoth has two runs that are almost always closed to the public for racing or race training when I am there. I always stop and watch, but never dare to inquire how I can sign up to try a run or two for fear that the racers who may have seen me ski would hurt themselves laughing. But I do watch a lot of videos of racers at the highest level. Last but not least, I come here (and elsewhere) asking questions and process information.

 

Beginners always have a wide stance with their COM between their feet. They want a good base of support (BoS) and always ski two-footed. Racers, even the same one, have wider, narrower, more two-footed, entirely one-footed, inside ski lifting,... the whole enchilada on display. I suppose the main concern for beginners is not to fall whereas for racers it is speed and higher speed. Everything the latter do is to optimize for speed given the constraints of the course, which means, roughly speaking, minimum pressure, minimum edging to hold their chosen line. As pointed out to me, depending on whether it is SL or DH and everything in between, the weight distribution and stance width is to achieve this optimization. Skiing one footed on a long radius turn is slower than skiiing more two footed on a surface with friction that increases with pressure. But the weight "naturally" shifts to the outside ski more and more as the radius gets tighter and/or the speed higher like a car going through a twisty canyon road. And when the road is very twisty (SL) it is faster to ditch the car and get on a motocycle, or likewise skiing mostly one-footed with a narrow stance. Racers probably don't give a hoot about BoS - they can ski one footed with their hands tied. They want to optimize for speed, and if that results in a wider BoS, it is just a by product, not the intent. So, very very good skiers don't ski one-, two-footed exclusively or with a fixed stance width. It all depends on the speed, the turn, the ski etc. But that has nothing to do with BoS just as bikers don't think about, can't change, BoS on their two-wheeled toys (and they do crash or stick a foot down if they mess up their turn). Am I in the ballpark?

 

But intermediates (me) are not "very, very good skiers" by definition. So, they (I) should first learn to be able to ski one-footed through the entire turn, to have the balance to do that, before fussing around with weight on the inside ski. Unlike racers who may worry about too much grip that slows them down. For me, more grip is always better. And there is more grip with more edge pressure on one ski. I guess this is a very old school technique that still works very well with modern skis. I think the proper progress for a student is to get off the beginners two-footed stance and be able to ski one-footed solidly as the first priority (a skill that also includes other stuffs like tipping, angulation, whatsnot...). Then the next level is the ability to pressure or put weight on the inside ski for whatever intent a skier at that level wants to do. A skier who needs two skis for BoS is stuck at the intermediate level. Time spent on technique refinemens without the ability to ski one-footed (old school good skiing, I guess) is a bit like putting the cart infront of the horse. But insisting (not sure anyone here does) on exclusively one-footed skiing is not supported at the highest level. However, one-footed skiing is a huge component of good skiing on modern skis that must be mastered first. Do I sound right?

 

All joking aside, I think my reasoning is correct to first oder. But I am prepared to be slammed - better to be wrong and learn than never to know.

post #2 of 16

Chuck,

 

I think you assertions are reasonable.  I will point out a few more truths thou:

 

  • Stance width and lateral weight distribution are related buy not the same thing.
  • Wider stance is more stable - narrower stance is more agile.  Racers sometimes prefer stability (speed events), and sometimes wants agility (SL), sometimes both in the same course for various reasons (Going from standard set to a flush in SL for example the feet will narrow up in the flush).  I think this is the biggest reason for stance width variation in racing.
  • In "free skiing" the same rules apply - but there are exceptions when the narrower stance is actually more stable - namely bumps and powder (1 platform is easier to stand on then 2 - with 1 going up and one down) - but this doesnt apply to racers.
  • It is the most biomechanically efficient to balance over the outside ski, but I dont think we need to go 100% there, to progress, the clock face examples I gave in the other thread, most skiers can achieve naturally without even thinking about it....so no reason to over think or over complicate.
post #3 of 16

^ That's right. Training,practice and fun.

1000

post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckT View Post

... They want to optimize for speed, and if that results in a wider BoS, it is just a by product, not the intent. So, very very good skiers don't ski one-, two-footed exclusively or with a fixed stance width. It all depends on the speed, the turn, the ski etc.

 

...ski one-footed through the entire turn, to have the balance to do that, before fussing around with weight on the inside ski...

BoS is a cool acronym, but a bit of a dead-end.  For instance, snowboarders have for a long time played around with putting hips, elbows, and even chests and upper arms, onto the snow as a stylized version of freecarving, but while the technique to do this with each turn can be specialized, it's what is happening between the board and snow that matters, not some perceived extra contact point.  (And, in fact, reaching down to make that contact happen is a huge technique flaw.)  I'll go so far as to say I can take an athletic, confident strong intermediate and get them to where they can carve while putting an elbow down within a couple days on a mellow blue, but that expanded BoS doesn't make them a better skier than if they don't put the elbow down.  It can be fun, and also a good way to have to patch your jacket or buy new gloves, or to injure your hand.

 

As far as skiing one-footed through the entire turn, view it as primarily a drill.  Skiing on only one ski is an extension of this drill, and a staple for developing even the most two-footed of racers, as people involved with modern racing know.  There are a number of other drills that result in independent use of the skis that are great as well.  Understanding that lifting a ski off the snow at transition is totally ok, and done routinely at the highest levels of several different types of skiing, is also a good thing. 

 

Research oriented types could probably take a few separate drills and plot performance on them, and come up with a rating that jibes fairly well with all-mountain skiing ability.  Not being a math or research type, I'd initially boil it down to time on a 200 yardish mild uphill skate, time through a straight section of whoops on a traverse or bottom of a blue mogul run with no skating allowed, and time on an appropriately offset brushie course while skiing on only one ski (two runs, one on each ski). 

post #5 of 16

Hey Chuck, a unified theory is pretty ambitious my friend. I think you are on the right path but perhaps instead of unification, it might be easier to do some in depth study of a few different systems. Getting certified to teach in a couple of systems would be my suggestion. As you do that I think you will discover that each system will feature a slightly different skew. Mostly due to the different tasks they are trying to teach. Appreciating that differences exist between systems and accepting that like religion, no one path works well for everyone is my best advice. Even getting folks here to agree on something as fundamental as the number of primary skill classifications is difficult. SD and CSIA would say five, I would say three in one system (PSIA) , two in another (USSA). So who is correct? All of them but only within the scope of their system's approach to teaching. What is more important is gleaning as much information as you can from whatever systems you choose to study.  

 

BTW, unified theories in physics are a holy grail but as Jamt and just about any other PHD level physicists will tell you, the concept of finding it is seductive but in reality they are pretty far from being able to offer one. Wanna to drive them crazy? Ask them to fully explain Gravity, or how many dimensions exist. On a superficial level we all know Newton's apple fell to Earth and visually we see height, width and depth but that doesn't mean on a deeper level a single unified theory has emerged and been universally accepted. Ski teaching isn't quite as complex but we still see the details being debated and no universal acceptance of any one theory.

 

Good luck in your quest,

JASP


Edited by justanotherskipro - 12/19/12 at 11:17am
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post

Hey Chuck, a unified theory is pretty ambitious my friend. I think you are on the right path but perhaps instead of unification, it might be easier to do some in depth study of a few different systems. Getting certified to teach in a couple of systems would be my suggestion. As you do that I think you will discover that each system will feature a slightly different skew. Mostly due to the different tasks they are trying to teach. Appreciating that differences exist between systems and accepting that like religion, no one path works well for everyone is my best advice. Even getting folks here to agree on something as fundamental as the number of primary skill classifications is difficult. SD and CSIA would say five, I would say three in one system (PSIA) , two in another (USSA). So who is correct? All of them but only within the scope of their system's approach to teaching. What is more important is gleaning as much information as you can from whatever systems you choose to study.  

 

BTW, unified theories in physics are a holy grail but as Jamt and just about any other PHD level physicists will tell you, the concept of finding it is seductive but in reality they are pretty far from being able to offer one. Wanna to drive them crazy? Ask them to fully explain Gravity, or how many dimensions exist. On a superficial level we all know Newton's apple fell to Earth and visually we see height, width and depth but that doesn't mean on a deeper level a single unified theory has emerged and been universally accepted. Ski teaching isn't quite as complex but we still see the details being debated and no universal acceptance of any one theory.

 

Good luck in your quest,

JASP

 

Dont confuse pedagogy with technique.  For example the CSIA considers "fore/aft balance" to a be plane of balance, sitting within the broader skill of "Stance and Balance", and its important....the CSCF (at least used to) consider fore/aft balance a skill on its own.  The difference is irrelivant, and is just a function of how they break skiing down to explain it to others...however, what matters is that both acknowledge and understand this thing called fore/aft balance, they acknowledge its the same thing, same level of importance, and most important of all, they agree what makes "good fore/aft balance" is the same, how it is manipulated is the same etc etc.  Pick one system, learn it.  Once you get there, you will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

post #7 of 16

My point exactly SD, a superficial understand of the difference you just mentioned would lead to confusion but when explored on a deeper level there is the realization that they are just how a system chooses identify and label a movement / outcome.

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

Sorry, the tongue-in-cheek part of my "unified theory" phrase didn't come off as I intended with the description of my "extensive racing" background.

 

For some reason, skiing fascinates me more than any other physical activity. Much of my interest in skiing is also academic. Just this morning, I read an analysis of Hirscher's skiing and found myself pretty impressed and fascinated even though I will in all likelihood never be able to test the movements described for myself. I like the consistency of the explanation that shows, or at least strongly suggests, a solid understanding that can be communicated to others. It's sort of like math or physics which is appealing to me. But skiing is also an art. I don't know if Hirscher agrees with any MA of his skiing or if he truly understands and can articulate what he is doing. I can't imagine a youngster like him or Ligety, or any racer on the WC circuit, would understand more about the physics of skiing than every single coach/instructor on here and elsewhere that has spent a lot of time thinking, analyzing, racing, and coaching racers. But it would be a very, very good bet that these whispersnappers trounce everyone here in a race. It almost seems like the scientists are catching up, trying to explain what the artists intuitively do. I don't believe there are "rights" or "wrongs" in any judgemental sense that dictate one must or must not do (after all skiing is just having fun for most). However, in the science, and teaching, of skiing, there must be "right", "wrong" explanations, "effective", "ineffective" techniques within the context of the discussion.

 

It makes me happy to learn new things about skiing, but I certainly subsribe to the idea that there is no need to overthink or analyze to ski well. I wandered into another thread a few weeks back and joked that the less I think about physics, the better I ski. Not totally true, but not too far off either.

post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckT View Post

... joked that the less I think about physics, the better I ski. Not totally true, but not too far off either.

It is funny, physics actually works to explain what people do in motion sports, but physicists can get caught up just like everyone else.  I have had a friend get vehement over beers that pumping can't work (this was on a bike) and to prove the point I pumped a bmx bike chainless...and he admitted something was happening, but just couldn't accept that it was pumping.  People on here are very resistant to the idea that you can suck up speed through absorption.  Go to a skatepark, and you see lots of cool displays of physics from guys who often don't even do video review, much less worry about numbers.  The expression about ski racers, the dumber the better, makes sense to an extent. 

 

But, you want practical knowledge about how to use current gear, racers, freeriders and similar have the knowledge about how to acquire those skills. 

post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post

BoS is a cool acronym, but a bit of a dead-end. ...they can carve while putting an elbow down within a couple days on a mellow blue, but that expanded BoS doesn't make them a better skier than if they don't put the elbow down.

That's how I think too. But not from any personal skiing ability, just armchair reasoning.

 

Your suggestions are what I will be doing this season. We will see how I do.

 

In Chinese martial arts novels, the fighters some times refuse to identify their masters or schools for fear of bringing them dishonors if they lose, but you are already anonymous here smile.gif

post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckT View Post

 

I wandered into another thread a few weeks back and joked that the less I think about physics, the better I ski. Not totally true, but not too far off either.

I think it was the http://www.epicski.com/t/114527/physics-and-ski-technique thread. A good read regarding the role of physics IMO. I certainly do not think about physics when I ski, but I do it a lot when I am not.

 

So that was about skiing, but what about coaching.

 

-The less I think about physics, the better I coach?

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jamt View Post

 

So that was about skiing, but what about coaching.

 

-The less I think about physics, the better I coach?

Saying NO would be equivalent to claiming that modern ski design and technology don't help skiers ski better, imho.

Physics-related questions for you, Jamt.

 

1. In a transition where the COM moves up without legs pushing, does the skier have to put the skis on higher edge angle right before the release?

 

2. When the course is very icy and avoiding uncontrolled skidding is the main goal, should the skier release just right after the apex, well before the bottom of the C?

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckT View Post

1. In a transition where the COM moves up without legs pushing, does the skier have to put the skis on higher edge angle right before the release?

-No but it helps. Different angle between gravtiy force and slope angle helps, and also distribution between inside and outside. Also leg length.

 

2. When the course is very icy and avoiding uncontrolled skidding is the main goal, should the skier release just right after the apex, well before the bottom of the C?

-Difficult to give a generic answer. You can start the release movement quite early, but the skis are not released that early

post #14 of 16

  Chuck T...you still thinking about getting instruction/coaching on the hill? If you do--and I'm being totally respectful and serious here--let the instructor/coach do the talking most of the time. Listen to what they tell you, and ask any questions when appropriatesmile.gif

 

respectfully,

   zenny

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

hi zenny, I know you mean well. Your advice about listening/talking is of course applicable to all learning in general.

 

For me, the key to in-person training is all about balance (pun intended) between many factors like time, money, frequency, pedagogical style, etc. Sort of like a click between student and instructor. I don't think I can get that balance this season by showing up at a ski school asking for a lesson, which is about all I could realistically do at this point. I have my sight set of a few camps in JH and CO for the future.

 

The trouble with web communication is that a lot of cues we are used to like tone and body language are hard to convey and can create the wrong impression. Take my questions to Jamt as an example. In hindsight, I see they could be interpreted, totally incorrectly, as I was challenging or testing him. (I'm glad he didn't seem to take them that way.) But its benefits are undeniable in my case. I got from flailing on green to making some folks I ski with impressed enough to think I should be an instructor. (They don't really know what good skiing is.)

post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by zentune View Post

  Chuck T...you still thinking about getting instruction/coaching on the hill? If you do--and I'm being totally respectful and serious here--let the instructor/coach do the talking most of the time. Listen to what they tell you, and ask any questions when appropriatesmile.gif

 

respectfully,

   zenny

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckT View Post

hi zenny, I know you mean well. Your advice about listening/talking is of course applicable to all learning in general.

 

 

Listening is obviously an important skill in being able to learn BUT most people tend to remember much more of what they do, say themselves or even write than what they hear or read.  To get the most out of a ski lesson it certainly pays to listen to and watch the instructor, but a good instructor will check to make sure you understand what they are teaching by watching what you are doing and/or having you explain things back to them.  

 

I bet it helps ChuckT to understand and remember what he is trying to learn by posting here (and having a dialogue with an instructors he receives coaching from). 

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