This thread has gone in a great direction here in the last week or so since I lost interest. I love the way @tball is challenging the received wisdom here without being contentious, motivated by what obviously is a sincere perspective.
@segbrown definitely nailed a piece of this puzzle with her comment that
It is largely guys I am thinking of who this worked for. There is a certain amount of who-cares trial-and-error involved (ie, crashing hard), which isn't something most girls are good at.
Funny that this comment should have surfaced right now, because it totally speaks to what was in the back of my mind when I made a post in the cycling forum that understandably pissed off @contesstant. I said that I don't think you can get good at mountain biking without being willing to shed blood regularly for the first couple of seasons, at least. My unspoken but, I suppose, transparent observation has been the same as yours, seg, namely that women tend to be reluctant to enroll in this school of hard knocks. The fact that you are willing to say it out loud gives me the confidence to agree , even while the politically incorrect generalization obviously does not apply to all women or men.
Now while I don't believe you have to embrace crashing enthusiastically to improve as a skier or rider, I DO think you need to accept that it's going to happen here and there. (In the case of MTB, the difference is that you're more likely to sustain minor cuts and bruises simply because you're generally wearing fewer clothes and landing on stuff that's ... well, not snow.)
Anyway, it's pretty clear that tball came to skiing as a relatively fearless, coordinated, athletic, speed-loving guy with good vision and reflexes. He started skiing at an age when serious life-changing injury is a boring abstraction. I further suspect that his ski buddies all fit the same description. So it makes total sense to me that to the people dwelling in that fraternal snow globe it would seem obvious that the school of hard knocks is a very effective school. All the students are self-selected for that learning style.
I'd go so far as to say that most people who are going to end up as high-level skiers probably exhibit most of these traits before walking into the room, so to speak. With this in mind, when tball says,
Go to Mary Jane some weekend and ask a bunch of good skiers how they got there. I could be wrong, but I bet that's the path of the majority.
he's probably correct. If so, it's likely not because his method is the most effective way to learn how to ski, but rather because the people employing it would have learned to be good skiers by any method, and this, being the path of least resistance, is the most common one. Seg is or was an editor. Maybe she graduated Princeton and then did an internship at The New Yorker, or maybe she was a college drop-out and had a scut job assembling classified ads for the local community rag. I don't know. What I can guess, though, with a good chance of being correct, is that she was an attentive and enthusiastic reader when she was a kid. See where I'm going here? She was suited to be an editor, just like most other editors were probably suited to be editors, way before they made decisions that led them to lots of expert coaching in their craft or to very little.
So, tball, it looks to me that while your observations (many expert skiers are more or less self-taught) are correct, the conclusion you draw (self-teaching is a good way to become an expert skier) may not be.
There is another part of your spiel that resonated with me - the part about skiing difficult terrain a lot. Intellectually I actually agree with the instructors in the group who say to burn in the fundamentals and learn new skills on easy terrain. However, I see people all the time who THINK they are doing this but who really are just stagnated. I notice this in my race league, for example, where several people who pay lip service to this idea are close to paying off a fifteen-year mortgage on their personal plot on the leaderboard. You might think that posting better times would be a big motivator, but apparently it's often not.
Meanwhile I relate better to the folks flailing around in the bumps and the trees. Not because they are developing great fundamentals immediately (they're not), but because skiing this stuff seems to make them really AWARE that they have technical shortcomings and MOTIVATES them to improve, however slowly and (sometimes) ineffectually. They seem more spiritually alive, somehow, as skiers.
My own context for this conversation is that while I have had more than "ten minutes" - to quote someone's earlier post - of lessons, I probably haven't had more than ten hours ... in 46 years of skiing. So by any measure my skiing is not a product of formal (or even informal) coaching. Doubtless some would quip, "That explains a lot!" Nevertheless I can say without excessive boastfulness that I've turned into a good skier, however slowly. With this as background, I surprised myself a little by identifying strongly and even emotionally with segbrown's remark about being a "visual learner." I'm sure that does play into this whole topic. Light bulb on! Thanks, seg.