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Question about mental focus

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

There are two ways I fall when I ski:

  1. I’m on challenging off-piste terrain, in difficult snow, am highly focused, but nevertheless mess up and lose my balance.
  2. I’m on an easy trail, let my mental focus drift for just a fraction of a second, catch an edge, and go down hard.


I’ve never hurt myself with no. 1.  My concern is no. 2, where I’ve had all my serious falls.  I've had only three of these in 40+ years of skiing, but two happened in the last five years; the most recent was last week (see, motivating this post.   Regarding situation no. 2, I’d say it’s not surprising that a momentary loss of mental focus sets me up for a fall, since when I am focused I make mistakes routinely, but when I'm paying attention I am always able to recover from them (typically with some attendant pucker factor rolleyes.gif).   So here’s my question:


Is this simply the nature of the beast – that if you’re skiing reactive skis (I was on my 160 cm Atomic Beta Race 9.16 SL), you are going to make mistakes, and constant mental focus is the only way to protect yourself --- or is it the case that, with well-trained technique, even a momentary lapse should not create a high likelihood of a fall, since your technique should be predominantly "automatic," i.e., based on engrained muscle memory?


If it’s the former, then how do you folks maintain this unwavering focus?    Or if it’s the latter, I suppose I need to have someone take a look at my skiing (I assume there’s no “typical” technique flaw that leads upper-level skiers to have this problem). 

post #2 of 7
Been there, done the same - those are the worse falls.

I try to not really let my focus waver - I now generally keep myself busy even coming to the lift, with a quick edge change, turn on one ski or whatnot. So far this season it seems to have worked... Or was luckier than last.

Balance skills seriously help though. I had a couple of close calls, where I managed to recover quickly enough and I believe it's more "balance on skis" rather than technique.
post #3 of 7
Skiing well does require mental participation. Momentary lapses tend to occur when the perceived danger is low. So pay attention a bit more when approaching that terrain. Beyond that if errors occur on the steeps, it is likely they occur everywhere. Technique alone may not be the biggest problem though. Perhaps tactics need to be mentioned.
post #4 of 7

Nobody maintains unwavering focus (oh look  - Snow!) Those of us with over 40 years of on snow experience are undoubtedly suffering from diminished visual abilities even if our focus was not wavering. When I switched to bifocals (progressive), I went through a couple of seasons of higher than usual bumps/bruises/injuries. Coincidence? Bad Luck? Whatever. Ship happens.


I'm a little confused about a backward twisting fall being caused by "catching an edge". Catching an edge is something we used to do with straight skis and rarely resulted in a backward fall. Breaking a piece of a 10 year old binding could normally be written off as "pressing your luck". But the subtext under your question smells like you already know the answer.


If catching your edge was really your problem, the easy workaround is to increase your edge bevel. Sometimes the change in performance really is due to a change in gear. For some people, the solution could be a simple mental trick like whistling or singing a tune when you're on easy terrain as a mental cue to keep your "autopilot" on course. But if the answer is that the cause is too much skidding, too little edge angle and too much weight in the back seat, then the fix is to get some professional help.

post #5 of 7
Stop skiing when you are tired? Human mind cannot be focused on a single object for a long time, that's when I get most falls, either at bottom of a run, or catch an edge and fall at entrance to lift line, talk about embarrassing.
post #6 of 7

TR makes a good point about catching an edge. Typically the tip catching and the ski suddenly turning is how catching an edge is described. Are you experiencing that, or are you having trouble releasing the tail and it takes you across the hill until you bail?

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi guys,


Thanks for all your thoughts.  To address your comments:  It wasn't fatigue -- it was the third or fourth run of the day, and I was feeling pretty good.   As to what actually happened, I emailed a binding expert, and it looks like I got it backwards: the binding didn't break because I fell; rather, I fell because the binding broke.  I was making sweeping, fast GS turns with lots of edge angle on my SL skis, and I went down near the transition.  Since I wasn't highly focused, I don't know exactly what happened, so I used "catching an edge" as a catch-all term.  Sorry, I should have been more precise.   I was puzzled how I ended up on my back, hitting the back of my helmet on the snow, since I've never fallen like that before.  But the binding failure would explain it: I was probably finishing a turn and thus pressuring the tail when then binding cracked.


But just because I can blame this particular fall on the binding, that doesn't mean I'm off the hook.  In reading your replies I've given additional thought to the issue of mental focus vs. "muscle memory," and for me I think much of it comes down to this:   Back when I was skiing 20-30 days/year, and getting weekly race coaching, my body probably worked better on automatic.  Not that some level of constant attention isn't always required, regardless of level; rather, it's that the focus didn't have to be so "extreme"  (unless other skiers are around -- then it's always turned all the way up).  But these days, after being away from the sport for a few years and now getting just 10 afternoons/year, my balance and muscle reactions are not as well-tuned.  Thus, until I return to my old form, I will need to keep the focus at maximum (though it has to be a relaxed maximum focus, since I need to maintain it all day).  

Edited by chemist - 2/27/13 at 1:17pm
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