And another welcome to EpicSki, Gnar Gnar!
Before this discussion goes too far, I think it would be helpful to agree on a working definition of "platform" as it relates to skiing. Generically, in "every day" use, a platform is some reasonably firm, stable thing you stand on, or could stand on. It is that common use, I suspect, that coach McNichol alludes to when he emphasizes the importance of "developing a platform"--primarily referring to creating a solidly-engaged, stable, carving, edged ski that you can balance on in a turn. That is
a good thing!
But "platform" is also an old skiing term with a rather specific meaning, traditionally--and that meaning, while related, differs greatly from the common meaning of just "something to stand on"--to the extent that it is almost contradictory to modern, high-performance carved turns. I have covered the term "platform" briefly in the EpicSki Skiing Glossary,
and a bit more completely in The Complete Encyclopedia of Skiing,
upon which the Glossary is based. Essentially, in skiing, "platform" traditionally refers to an edge set at the end
of a turn, abruptly stopping or slowing any skidding from the turn, and providing a solid base from which the skier can then "push off" to twist or throw the ski tails out into a skidded entry for the next turn. That push off typically involves some sort of "up-unweighting," often strengthened by the "rebound" (bounce) from the edgeset-platform.
In the days long, stiff, "straight" skis, when most turns were intentionally skidded out of necessity, the traditional "platform-pushoff" initiation was the state of the art. But today, there is another way--a better, more efficient, more elegant, offensive way to start a turn. For expert skiers, the old "platform-pushoff" initiation has become a backup plan, a defensive movement pattern used when needed, while the modern "edge-release-guide" initiation is the default pattern for great, contemporary, offensive turns.
As late as the 1980's, most instructors, coaches, and racers emphasized ending turns with a clean, solid edgeset platform for good skiing. It created many options--from that solid base of support, you could stem, step, hop, push away, or rebound into the next turn. But by the later 1980's, a new way to link turns involving releasing the edge, letting go of the mountain, and guiding the ski tips effortlessly down the hill and into the turn revolutionized ski technical models and teaching. PSIA (American ski instructors' national association) highlighted the new technique in its "Center Line" Model(TM). And new terms started to appear. Some authors and instructors adopted the term "moving platform" for the edge-release-guide initiation, and described the old edgeset-based "platform" as a "stationary platform." These terms did not stick around in common use for long, though, so today we just hear the simple word "platform"--and argue about whether it is "good or bad" before even discussing what it means. But I'll continue to use it here to describe the edgeset-pushoff-based transition, as opposed to the gliding, edge-release-guide-based transition.
Platform-pushoff initiations block and disrupt the flow of the skis and body from turn to turn. Release-guide initiations enhance it, allowing modern skis to enter the new turn smoothly, with minimal-to-no skidding, as the skier flows smoothly and continuously from turn to turn. Technically, they could not be more opposite:
- Platform-pushoff turns end--and therefore begin--with an edge set. Release-guide turns end and begin with an edge release.
- Platform-pushoff initiations brake and slow the body's movement down the hill as the skier literally pushes himself away from the direction of the new turn. Release-guide initiations require the body to move downhill from the feet (so-called "cross-over" or "cross-under"--referring to the smoothly crossing paths of the skis and body), leading the way into the new turn.
- Platform-pushoff turns involve twisting the tails of the skis uphill and out to a skid--like a forklift with its guiding wheel(s) in the back; release-guide turns involve guiding the ski tips down the hill and into the new turn--like the precise steering of a sports car.
- Overall, technically, platform-pushoff-based initiations involve entirely what I call "negative movements"--intentional movements away from the direction of the turn. Skis tip uphill, away from the turn, to set the edges (negative edging movements). Tails twist out, away from the turn (negative rotary movements). And the body flexes and extends to push away from the turn, often involving a weight transfer from the downhill ski to the uphill ski (negative pressure control movements--although not all weight transfers necessarily result from negative movements). Release-guide transitions, on the other hand, involve all "positive movements"--into the turn.
- "Right tip right to GO right" is an effective mental cue for beginning an offensive turn to the right involving an edge-release-guide initiation. "Left tail left to NOT GO right" describes the platform-pushoff initiation for a right "turn." (Can't get more opposite than that, can you? Left vs. right, tip vs. tail, go vs. don't go....)
- Platform-pushoff initiations are defensive--they control speed directly, slowing you down, blocking your movement, and scrubbing momentum as the skis skid laterally. Release-guide initiations are offensive--they control direction directly and precisely with minimal loss of speed as the skis "hold the road" and carve.
- Platform-pushoff initiations serve the intent to "stop going this way." Release-guide initiations serve the intent to "GO that way!"
- Platform-pushoff initiations are the tool of choice for controlling speed by "skiing the fast line slow"--minimal direction changes as the skis skid and brake. Release-guide initiations are the hallmark of skiers "skiing the slow line fast"--using tactics and line, rather than braking techniques, to control speed.
- Release-guide initiations feel like flying. Platform-pushoff initiations feel like, well, like getting down the hill.
Great skiers are skillful at both fundamental turn initiation patterns, and use them as appropriate, with purpose and intent. But the gliding, smooth flowing, effortless-looking movements that distinguish true experts result from using platform-pushoff defensive turns as little as possible, and offensive release-guide transitions whenever they can. Platform-pushoff skidded turns are an important skill, but a bad habit!
Unfortunately, most skiers--even among those who ski very advanced terrain--rely on the platform-pushoff as their default, fundamental, habitual movement pattern. For many skiers, it is their only option. Release-guide initiations require
--and result naturally from--offensive "go that way" intent. But that intent is not, for most skiers, intuitive, so they naturally adopt and practice the platform-pushoff skidding movement patterns that serve the defensive intent to control speed, the desire to cling to the mountain and prevent the skis from gliding freely. The first instinct of most beginners, as soon as they feel their slippery skis wanting to slide away from them, is to try to do something that makes those skis grip and stop sliding--something that gives them a little "traction." Twisting the ski tails out--either into a braking wedge or a parallel "hockey stop" skid--creates the traction and returns a sense of normalcy to the world. Unfortunately, most skiers, especially when self-taught, latch onto that first sensation of "control" (of speed) and then simply get better and better at it through practice. They may never learn to let go and feel the sensation of gliding, carving, slicing, precise direction
control, and controlling speed indirectly through tactics, not technique. They push off and twist and skid and brake through any condition, on all terrain. It "works," in the sense that they can learn to "get down" even advanced terrain with it. But no matter how good you get at platform-pushoff-based turns, they will never evolve into offensive, gliding "expert" skiing.
So I don't know if that answers your question, Gnar Gnar. Clearly, by the traditional definition of "platform," it is a skill you want to develop, but a habit you want to avoid if you aspire to the effortless, gliding efficiency and soaring joy of the expert skier. If you seek the benefit of the "platform" that Phil McNichol refers to, that's a different use of the word. And if you're wondering about things like "platform angle"--a term Ron LeMaster has used to describe concepts and movements that influence a ski's ability to grip or release--well, that's another good conversation altogether.
Now we just need a little snow.... (Won't be long!)