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Why is "counter" a bad word?  

post #1 of 202
Thread Starter 

As a ski instructor I don't hear much about "counter."  I've run into it in ski instruction books for sure, but not so much in on-mountain training.  I've just read through the PSIA Adult Alpine Teaching Handbook, and the word doesn't come up very often in that manual if at all.  

 

There are some commonly used phrases that that incorporate the idea of counter:...  "upper body-lower body separation," "independent leg steering (ILS),"  "femur rotation," and "turning the legs more than the upper body."  Each of these takes longer to say than the two-syllable word "counter."  Why is "counter so offensive?

 

Kate Howe references the forbidden nature of using the word at 13:12 in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB_wxKs363k&feature

 

So what's wrong with talking about "counter?"

post #2 of 202

Well, to be devil's advocate, 2 common misuses of the "counter" concept include being a position instead of a movement and achieving counter via upper body rotation.

post #3 of 202

Rusty has hit it on the head.  Many people don't understand the concept of counter.  You will see someone twist their body into what they believe is a countered position and hold it.  This is definitely what you don't want to do.

 

The best description I've heard is that you ski into and out of counter.  The amount of counter is changing constantly.  This is done through rotation of the femurs in the hip socket as you make your turn.  The amount of counter you want is dependent on the radius of the turn and a bunch of other factors.  A long radius turn needs very little counter while a dynamic short radius turn with the skis coming almost 90 degrees to the fall line requires a whole heck of a lot of counter.

 

Good counter comes out of good movement patterns.  Teach good movement patterns and you are teaching good counter at the same time.

post #4 of 202

Right - so you can ski into and out of counter.  But you're never countered.  But when you've skied "into" counter are you not countered at that point in time?

 

I like LF find that within the PSIA world it's a very odd approach to a word.  It really is treated like a bad thing, and yet it isn't a bad thing because you go in and out of it.

 

I do "get" it that they are trying not to encourage it as a position, a fixed position, but it DOES exist, it is valid, it's taught by examiners, they just refuse to call it what it is, imo.

post #5 of 202
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

 

So what's wrong with talking about "counter?"

 

Because Harald does.

post #6 of 202
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoebag View Post

 

Because Harald does.

Oh.  He's that powerful, then?

Is this it, really?  The great big PSIA backed off a perfectly good work because HH took it over?

post #7 of 202

The word counter is used often enough, but unfortunately I have heard it used so many different ways as to render it as a source of confusion.  There is a long history surrounding some concepts such as counter rotation, etc.. and the shortcut term "counter" came out of that.  But generally speaking in modern times, counter is referring to one thing...a body position, albiet, not a frozen one.

 

No it does not mean you should plop into a frozen countered position.  But basically if your upper body from the hips up is not facing square to the direction the skis are pointing, but turned outside of that, anywhere from 0.0001 degrees to max degrees.....then you are "countered".   I think if you use the word like an adjective, its referring to a position.  If you use it like a verb (ie, countering), then it could be referring to a movement (ie, counter-rotation or counter-action as some circles like to call it).  Both are equally valid concepts to discuss about skiing.

 

You could be countered a lot or a little and you can be gradually increasing or decreasing your amount of countered-ness with a continual flow, but its perfectly legitimate to refer to someone as being "countered" (adjective) as long as their upper body from the hips up is turned outside of square to some degree.

 

No its not a bad word.  

 

Myself, I do not personally like the "skiing into counter" slogan which came about in some circles.  Its also perfectly legitimate because the upper body would be turned towards the outside of square near the end of the turn by that method.  But my feeling is that due to this slogan, many people came to believe that the only appropriate time to have some counter established is at the end of turns, which is a huge disservice to the industry, IMHO.

 

Early counter (before the fall line) is very much a good and useful concept!  You can't achieve early counter by "skiing into it".  You can kind of achieve late counter by skiing into it, but I want to say something about that too.

 

The ski instructor notion of letting your skis turn under a stable core(ie skiing into counter), is an interesting concept, and it may deliver results when used as a visualization; however it should be noted that its physically impossible to maintain a stable core, so to speak, as the skis turn underneath it, without having some other anchor point for the upper body.  The truth is, that in order to achieve the appearance of a stable upper body while the skis turn underneath it....one must make counter-acting movements between the hips and femurs.  When done with just the right amount of intensity, it will not appear to an observer as counter-rotation, it will look like "skiing into counter", but make no mistake...counter-acting muscle activations must occur for that result.

 

Those same counter-acting muscle activations can be used earlier in the turn if desired to establish counter prior to the fall line.

 

 

 

 

post #8 of 202

Also there is most definitely a useful purpose for achieving "countered-ness", early in the turn.  There is a lot to say there, which has been explained many times on this forum, but to simplify it....

 

your body is more efficient at angulation and edging when its countered a bit.

post #9 of 202

It is all about the Rotational Plane of Balance.

 

One can be under countered in a turn which would be rotation. Which in the real world is not always a bad thing. But too much is. So it is a fine line between too much or not enough. The skier needs to find that balance point that works best for them. Turn shape, conditions, terrain, expertise and equipment are all factors. What makes the skis do what you want them to do is up to you. How much or not enough???  That's the fun part!!!

post #10 of 202

From a Canadian perspective, In the CSIA clinic's I've attended over the past year, leaders haven't referred to the word counter-rotation. When I brought up counter-rotation in the level 2 race coach course, the leader talked about how counter-rotating is bad. It took a bit of digging to discover that the industry defines counter-rotating as actively twisting the upper body in response to the lower body, or jackknifing. Instead our course conductor talked more about "coiling", or creating separation through pivoting. 

 

And it may just be that I've improved as an instructor and skier, but higher level instructors seem to be defining pivoting differently now too. Just five years ago, pivoting meant actively turning the femur in the hip socket (often resulting in twisting the ski). Now the definition of a pivot has expanded to include any time the femur turns in the hip socket (IE whenever you're... separating!). 

 

Quote:
 it should be noted that its physically impossible to maintain a stable core, so to speak, as the skis turn underneath it, without having some other anchor point for the upper body.  The truth is, that in order to achieve theappearance of a stable upper body while the skis turn underneath it....one must make counter-acting movements between the hips and femurs.

 

borntoski, your ideas are interesting. I haven't heard this concept before. What do you mean by anchor point? And can you describe why you feel this is the case?

post #11 of 202

Back on track people.

 

The question isn't to debate the technicalities of countering, or not, there are hundreds of threads about that already. The question is why the term countering had become taboo in PISA vocabulary.

post #12 of 202

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that over simplification often leads to misunderstanding. The abbreviated term Counter is a prime example of this. Counter rotation, a countered stance, or angulation being a form of counter balancing all describe specific things that the two syllable word alone cannot.

post #13 of 202
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoebag View Post

Back on track people.

 

The question isn't to debate the technicalities of countering, or not, there are hundreds of threads about that already. The question is why the term countering had become taboo in PISA vocabulary.

 

If we are to understand why counter/counter-rotation is considered "not a best practice", we need to understand what counter/counter-rotation means. 

 

Do you still have a bee in your bonnet because I asked you not to threadjack in the very first reply in a snowboarding thread? If so, that was two weeks ago; move on already!


Edited by Metaphor_ - 7/13/13 at 2:12am
post #14 of 202
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoebag View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

 

So what's wrong with talking about "counter?"

 

Because Harald does.


Well at least Harald has the decency to add a noun to the adjective.  Counter what?  It appears that most here automatically use the word as an abbreviation for counter rotation, which is fine for folks steeped in ski instruction that historically used the term counter rotation.  That is, unless they are engineers (or Germanwink.gif) in which case inaccurate wording is abhorrent to them.  Most normal people are more familiar with the term used in the sense of a counter balance, or an opposing motion.  I bet the word is not used much because it is not effective in clearly communicating what is meant, or that using the word hasn't  been all that good at achieving the teaching goal.   It seems to work for some people when used with nouns that more clearly define it though.

post #15 of 202
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

 

Do you still have a bee in your bonnet because I asked you not to threadjack in the very first reply in a snowboarding thread? If so, that was two weeks ago; move on already!

 

I was just trying to save a little face for you when your skateboard buddies left you hanging. The virtual silence was deafening.

post #16 of 202
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that over simplification often leads to misunderstanding. The abbreviated term Counter is a prime example of this. Counter rotation, a countered stance, or angulation being a form of counter balancing all describe specific things that the two syllable word alone cannot.

 

+1  More words are good!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
Well at least Harald has the decency to add a noun to the adjective.  Counter what?  It appears that most here automatically use the word as an abbreviation for counter rotation, which is fine for folks steeped in ski instruction that historically used the term counter rotation.  That is, unless they are engineers (or Germanwink.gif) in which case inaccurate wording is abhorrent to them.  Most normal people are more familiar with the term used in the sense of a counter balance, or an opposing motion.  I bet the word is not used much because it is not effective in clearly communicating what is meant, or that using the word hasn't  been all that good at achieving the teaching goal.   It seems to work for some people when used with nouns that more clearly define it though.

 

"counter-rotation", was used to refer in the really old days for a specific technique, which is now pretty much out dated.  That was a technique whereby someone really aggressively twisted their upper body in the opposite direction they wanted their skis to twist.  Very old school brute force way to turn z skis.

 

If you really think about what is going on when your skis turn under a stable core, there are counter-acting movements in the hip sockets happening.  In a sense you could say that the pelvis is counter-rotating on top...but due to the history of that specific term "counter-rotation", its probably best to avoid that particular variation because in the old days it was an actual turn type.  Generally today when we talk about countering movements we are talking about specific joints of the body...not referring to an actual overall turn method.  At the micro level of what is happening with joints in our body, counter-rotation is absolutely part of it!  But due to the historical use of "counter-rotation" as a turn method, I myself try to avoid using that phrase.

 

That is one reason people freak out when they hear the word "counter", if they are under the false impression that someone is actually trying to teach that old stuff by using this word.  I hear plenty of people in PSIA circles, including higher ups, use the word counter by way, I don't think its a fair assessment to say that nobody in PSIA does.  its a perfectly legitimate word to use as long as its accompanied by sufficient additional content to avoid any confusion about the meaning, if its obvious from the discussion that the other person knows exactly what you're talking about; and plenty do.

 

That is, I suspect one reason the above mentioned person decided to author his books with the term counter-action.  Adding "action" to the end gives some inference that we are not talking about a body position now, but we're talking about a movement....action...a verb.  and its an action in the opposite direction from the direction the skis are turning.

 

You have to read the context to determine if someone is using the word counter as a verb or adjective.  "skiing into counter", is obviously using it as an adjective.  If you were to tell someone to "establish some counter", it would be an adjective.  Saying someone is "countered", adjective.  If you say someone is not "countering", then its being used more like a verb.  Harald eliminated the guess work by using "counter-action".  Its a verb, that's it, and not to be confused with any old school techniques.  and its referring to specific muscle activations and movements that happen at a micro level, not referring to an overall turning technique.

 

Establishing counter for certain things is a crucial component to skiing and should not be overlooked by trying to erase the word from existence. 

 

Quote:

borntoski, your ideas are interesting. I haven't heard this concept before. What do you mean by anchor point? And can you describe why you feel this is the case?

 

You cannot twist your femurs one way without simultaneously twisting your pelvis the other way on top of it, unless your pelvis is anchored to something that you can push against.

 

If you're standing on an ice rink in slippery shoes and try to leap forward, your feet will go back, your head will go forward and you fall straight down.  On ground your feet have an anchor point of friction on the ground and so you as you push back (in order to leap forward), your feet stay still and stabilized and your body leaps forward. 

 

Like wise if your legs are turning under your stable upper body, what is stabilizing it?  There is no anchor point, no friction for it.  You can't rotate your femurs in the hip socket without your pelvis twisting in the opposite direction (and using the muscle activations to do so).  That can be subtle or exaggerated. 

 

If you do pivot slips and listen to your muscles while you do it, you will discover that you are activating all sorts of muscles above the legs to counter-act the aggressive pivoting you're trying to do with your feet.  You are in fact twisting the two parts of your body in opposite directions, you are just doing it with just the right intensity to match all the forces of friction on the ground, etc...such that it appears like your upper body is attached to an invisible anchor point and your feet are turning underneath it.  But there is no anchor point.

 

If you do some park and ride turns...your femurs are not really rotating in the hip sockets, so no counter-action muscle activations or movements are in play.

 

If you do some "ski into counter" turns,.your femurs are very slowly and gradually turning in the hip sockets, but make no mistake, in order to make that happen your pelvis has to be turned the opposite direction with counter-acting movements and muscle use.  It only appears like its stable in space, but without something to anchor it, the truth is that you're just rotating the femurs and counter-acting with the pelvis with just the right amount to match the turn shape, so that there is an appearance as if something is holding the pelvis in a nice stable position. 

 

Those counter-acting muscle activations and movements have to be there, whether you realize you are doing it or not.

post #17 of 202
Thread Starter 

There's some relevant stuff in post 33 by Bob Barnes in this thread:  http://www.epicski.com/t/114527/physics-and-ski-technique/30

part of which is this:

 

On the left, legendary Willy Schaeffler (from a 1957 Sports Illustrated cover) demonstrates classic counter-rotation, upper and lower body rotated opposite directions with the pivot point above the pelvis in the lower spine, and both legs rotating as a single unit with the pelvis; on the right, equally legendary current instructor Annie Black's legs are rotated separately in her hip sockets, while her pelvis remains "square" with her upper body, resulting in the obvious "lead" of her inside (right) ski that characterizes Independent Leg Rotation.

post #18 of 202
Thread Starter 

There's also an explicit difference between counter-rotation (very useful if you are doing aerials) and independent leg steering, or femur rotation, with both feet on the snow.  They are not the same.  The difference is felt when you stand with both feet on one bar stool and make your feet turn left by turning your upper body right.  Then stand on two bar stools and turn both feet left; you don't have to turn your upper body right.  A different mechanism is at work.

post #19 of 202

Before you run away with this too much, its important to point out first the the picture on the left at least, is a hand drawn illustration made for Sports Illustrated in 1957.  its also important to point out that at some time in ski history it became fashionable to have a certain elegant look as you skied.  That included the sweater, the slacks....feet locked together and yes an the Comma pose was considered fashionable.  Much like the pictures today on the cover of ski magazine might show someone skiing in an exaggerated position to make it look more rad then reality, you can not give that much credibility to this hand drawn illustration being exactly the way everyone was skiing around.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

There's some relevant stuff in post 33 by Bob Barnes in this thread:  http://www.epicski.com/t/114527/physics-and-ski-technique/30

part of which is this:

 

On the left, legendary Willy Schaeffler (from a 1957 Sports Illustrated cover) demonstrates classic counter-rotation, upper and lower body rotated opposite directions with the pivot point above the pelvis in the lower spine, and both legs rotating as a single unit with the pelvis; on the right, equally legendary current instructor Annie Black's legs are rotated separately in her hip sockets, while her pelvis remains "square" with her upper body, resulting in the obvious "lead" of her inside (right) ski that characterizes Independent Leg Rotation.

post #20 of 202
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

There's also an explicit difference between counter-rotation (very useful if you are doing aerials) and independent leg steering, or femur rotation, with both feet on the snow.  They are not the same.  The difference is felt when you stand with both feet on one bar stool and make your feet turn left by turning your upper body right.  Then stand on two bar stools and turn both feet left; you don't have to turn your upper body right.  A different mechanism is at work.

 

There has to be an anchor point somewhere.  There can be a blocking pole plant.  Also you can unweight one foot, using the other one as an anchor in order to rotate the unweighted one, while counter-act your pelvis against the weighted one, etc..  That can be in varrying degrees, doesn't have to be completely unweighted to accomplish it.  If you look at the picture on the right and isolate the outside leg, the pelvis is definitely counter-acting relative to the hip socket..its just not rotating relative to the camera.  The other inside leg is a slightly different matter.

 

Stand in your stocking feet on a slick hardwood floor and try to do it.  Try to be careful to maintain 50/50 weight distribution. 

post #21 of 202

borntoski, I see what you're saying. 

 

It's why we learn about angular momentum in skiing: an object set in rotational motion will continue unless stopped by another force. Your upper body will follow your lower body and continue to rotate around unless it's blocked. So your point, as I see it, is there's more going on than just "allow the lower body to turn under the upper body while maintaining a stable core"-- your "stable core" has to resist, or even counteract the rotateion; therefore your upper body's doing more than just "being stable". 

 

I guess it's not a new concept, since we learn about it as "coiling", but maybe it's good to keep in mind when we try to create separation in our learners: our upper body needs to actively resist against the lower body's turning. 

 

Perhaps counter-rotating is simply taking the idea step too far by over-steering the upper body?

post #22 of 202
Thread Starter 

I've been wondering if back in the "final forms" days "counter" was a final form.  When the teaching focus changed, using "counter" (to reference a final form and for  anything else as well) got labelled a no-no.  

 

Or maybe it wasn't a final form.  Was it?  Does this have anything to do with the issue?

post #23 of 202

who said its a no no?

post #24 of 202

As my "devil's advocate" comment implied, it's not a no-no per se. It's just that a fair number of people get bent out of shape when they hear people refer to counter as a position instead of a movement. As with any topic like this, there are a wide range of opinions on the topic. Semantics also plays a large part in the discussion here.

post #25 of 202

To the ops original question then, why do they get bent out of shape?  How is that "position" any different then say, body positions we look for related to stance and balance?  

 

Again, not saying anybody is frozen in a position, but I never personally heard anyone say to be in a frozen countered position so to speak either, or to be frozen in any other position.  

 

So why the fear of the word?  We talk about their fore-aft stance a lot.  We talk about how much inclination vs how much angulation, etc..  But talking about amount of counter is not allowed?

post #26 of 202
Thread Starter 

It has been my experience that this discussion doesn't come up.  It's just off the radar.  There is discussion of getting rid of inside tip lead, of not instituting inside tip lead consciously, and on occasion of "skiing into counter" (the only time it comes up by name in discussions I encounter). Far more prevalent in my circles (New England PSIA territory) is an occasional discussion of turning the feet more than the upper body, or turning the feet under a stable core.  It's as if the topic of counter itself, discussing how much counter, when and how, is a mine field so people just stay away from it.  

 

The little piece of Kate Howe's video where she says "counter" and then replaces it immediately with some other phrase ("Oh My God did I just say counter???"), clearly indicating that the word is forbidden, gave me the idea to start this thread.


Edited by LiquidFeet - 7/16/13 at 1:47pm
post #27 of 202
Discussing the relationship between lateral hemispheres and which should lead through a turn and even how variable that relationship is requires more than two syllables. I discourage the use of jargon that requires us to explain and define it. In the case of counter, it is unclear which type you are discussing and adds more confusion than help.
post #28 of 202
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that over simplification often leads to misunderstanding. The abbreviated term Counter is a prime example of this. Counter rotation, a countered stance, or angulation being a form of counter balancing all describe specific things that the two syllable word alone cannot.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post

Discussing the relationship between lateral hemispheres and which should lead through a turn and even how variable that relationship is requires more than two syllables. I discourage the use of jargon that requires us to explain and define it. In the case of counter, it is unclear which type you are discussing and adds more confusion than help.

 

Jasp, It seems like you are saying I just can't say anything right.  I oversimplify, or I say too much and confuse. 

It's the WORD "counter" that I am talking about.  Whatever it means to people.  

I am curious, and there isn't much going on in the technical forum here.  I have simply offered a topic for conversation, hoping for enlightenment from those who know the answers to all things, and interesting and energetic digressions from everyone else.


Edited by LiquidFeet - 7/16/13 at 7:27pm
post #29 of 202
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

 

The little piece of Kate Howe's video where she says "counter" and then replaces it immediately with some other phrase ("Oh My God did I just say counter???"), clearly indicating that the word is forbidden, gave me the idea to start this thread.

 

For the record, I am neither a supporter nor distractor.

 

 

Who is the nemesis of PSIA

Who thinks he should be the US Team coach

Who rips all the Americans in favor of the Austrians

Who thinks the US can't even pick the right boots for it's skiers

Whose system is based on COUNTER rotation, COUNTER acting, COUNTER balance

Not sure, search his name on Epic and see how he is perceived on this forum

Yes, it's He Who Must Not Be Named

 

Not surprising Ms Howe isn't allowed to use the word. To be honest, it's OK for one coaching system not want to use the terms and phrases popularized by another, puerile but OK, unless there is the worry/threat of trademark infringement?

post #30 of 202
Shoebag ^, Perhaps I am naive, but I think you are barking up the wrong tree. I have used HH terms frequently from before I even new they were HH terms wink.gif
(Shoot, I would bet the majority of PSIA members don't even know who HH is & the majority of those who do have a pretty high respect for his "system")

The word counter is not a problem, it is the context in which it is often used & mis-construed.

& that is the most I have ever written on my phone wink.gif

JF
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