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Choosing skis to improve technique

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi all, long time lurker having picked up enough courage, about to ask a potentially silly question.

 

When focusing on improving ski technique, is there a strategically better kind of ski that will aid in the improvement? Don't get me wrong here, I'm not looking for skis that will magically make me ski better; I'm rather looking for a 'coaching ski'.

 

Specifically, when working to improve technique, does it help to work with skis which are more demanding and require precision, or could the honest feedback be detrimental to progress? 

 

 

Optional background information:

 

I'm a CSIA L2, qualified about 6 years ago but without any intention to take up instruction professionally, just as a way to improve my skiing. Since then, my work situation, issues with my left knee (PFPS for 7-8 years, ACL sprain last season) and a newborn have all conspired to restrict me to around 10-15 ski days per season, mostly in the Swiss Alps. My skiing has consequently regressed along with my general fitness level.

 

This season I'm working on building up my skiing back to the level when I was skiing the whole season in Fernie BC, and have set a goal that looks challenging on a good day, but feels like a stretch on a bad day -- getting my CSIA L3. I'm provisionally planning to take the course in late April in Whistler, and I'd be over the moon if I could pass the exam end of that month.

 

I have quite a few things that I know I need to work on, and wouldn't be surprised if there are some things that I don't even know is problematic. Here are some things I've always had to build up early every season, and things I feel need to be at a much sharper level than now in order for me to have a good chance at getting L3:

 

- getting back to centre (in the fore-aft sense) when transitioning from my strong turn to my weak turn, in challenging terrain, during changes in rhythm of turns, in bumps etc.

 

- seeking, remaining and recovering my centre and being in more control of where it is in relation to the BoS in general.

 

- better extension and absorption on my weak turn.

 

- better symmetry of turns for short radius turns / quick rhythms.

 

- quieter and more symmetric pole planting, and less tension in shoulders and arms.

 

- more coordinated movements of the 2 feet, matching angles and consistent distance between the skis, especially when transitioning from weak turn to strong turn.

 

 

Now, I have learned that skiing a lot is really good for technique. So are all the drills I learned during the instructor courses, books, videos etc. Skiing a lot and drilling a lot is good, I know. It's just unfortunate that this season I can't really do more than ski 1-2 days every weekend until the course. So I'm trying to find ways to 'hack' this mission. Hence the question.

 

 

Looking forward to hearing the wisdom of the more enlightened.

post #2 of 8

I would say that is a seriously loaded question, with no easy answer. My most hedged response is that you are going to want a ski that is on the higher end of the performance spectrum, but not at the top. If you're examining for an L3, you need the ski to be quite responsive and give you the correct feedback for the moves you are making. A lower end ski is going to lose some of the input in translation, and not give you accurate tactile feedback. 

 

On the flip side, you don't want an FIS race stock ski, because that type of ski is just too unforgiving. That type of ski isn't for learning, its for those who have already learned. If you don't drive that ski just the right way, it makes you pay big time. The problem with that (other than the pain of wrecking), is that you can't always tell what you did wrong to cause disaster. 

 

In short, you want a ski that is going to let you know when you're doing things wrong, but not one that's going to punish you for it. As far as a particular ski... not going after that one, sorry. 

post #3 of 8

Much agreement with Freeski.  First think of what types of skis will hinder your skiing.  Skis with a huge turn radius.  Long floppy rocker skis (if you aren't in deep snow, these skis belong in the closet).  Skis that, as Freeski describes, require more energy input to get suitable output than you put in.  If you aren't a big strong skier, then the max length in any top line ski is an example of a ski that needs more input than you provide, as well as race skis.  See if you can try some "beer league" race skis, rather short with a small turn radius, maybe 12 - 14 meters.  Head Supershapes are one example, and most lines have some although they aren't faddish these days.  Don't go too long/stiff.  I'm 6', 190#, very good skier, and 170s are just right for me.  177 would be too stiff, and 163 would be OK for training and teaching.

 

"- getting back to centre (in the fore-aft sense) when transitioning"  The easy way is to learn to pull you feet back under your center of mass to "get forward" or to push them forward to lighten the tips for hitting a rise.  It is much easier & quicker to move the relatively light feet than the much heavier body.

"- seeking, remaining and recovering my centre and being in more control of where it is"  Beware of boots that are too soft.  You want stiffness in the boot to have something to lever against to get recentered.  If your boots can be stiffened, try that.

"- quieter and more symmetric pole planting, and less tension in shoulders and arms."  The right position for the arms is the natural balancing position you'd find them unconsciously when walking across an icy patch.  Where your body puts your arms for balance is where you want them for skiing.  Don't pole plant.  Pole tap.  Just a twitch of the wrist is perfect--but won't please some coaches and examiners.  Flinging the arms around destroys balance and the skis' grip on the snow, but it pleases some coaches.

"consistent distance between the skis" is an artificial construct.  Consistent distance between the legs is good.  As you make angles turning, your inside ski needs to be drawn up alongside the outside leg so the distance between skis changes as your legs' angle to the snow changes.  But the distance between your legs shouldn't change.  And, this also might not please some examiners.

post #4 of 8
A soft short slalom ski is alway the best for technique improvement. Soft so you don't have to work a lot, short radius for many turns and instant response.

Go two levels down from race. But do not go for "intermediate/advanced" stuff. Go for the lowest ski that is for "advanced/expert". Or like up to 9 out of ten. Head Supershape with a short radius comes to mind, Fischer SC or even maybe Progressor 800, Atomic SL Edge or at most a D2 stuff like that.

160 at most 165cm. Radius 12m or under.

Cheers

I have a Fischer RX8 that I remember to be insanely good for learning on piste. That's the old 800 I think. Do not go wide underfoot, stay within 70.

You could go on kijiji and get used stuff that doesnt look too bad - dont need latest and greatest.

Good luck.
post #5 of 8

As a guy who's intended to pass the CSIA 3 exam "at the end of this season" for the past 4 years, I'm going to suggest you should give yourself more than a month from the time you take the course to the time you do the exam. The 3 is not just a modest step up from the 2; it's a significant evolution of the way most 2s ski. There's no "hacking" the 3, and there are no shortcuts. Factor in that you've regressed since getting your 2 and you're only skiing 15 days/season and it's looking unrealistic to pass the 3 this season. Rather than becoming a big gearhead, I would follow this approach: 

 

Do the course immediately. Do not expect to be told that you're ready for the exam. The course conductor will provide you with significant feedback and give you some context for how you need to develop. Note that unless you are very close to the standard, I wouldn't expect to get a "whole picture" of the issues you need to address. Rather, you'll come away with a few core items to develop to move you closer to your goal. 

 

I would take the course feedback away and self-coach for several days. (For example, after a recent intensive weeklong coaching program with JF Beaulieu through Rookie Academy, he recommended I take 14 ski days to integrate the course learnings.) Get some feedback from a 4. Many course conductors I've trained with are happy to review some video and give me feedback. 

 

I would then take the CSCF-1, then the CSCF-2. These "building blocks" will move you closer towards achieving the advanced parallel requirements. Most 3s can pass the CSCF-2, so it's a good yardstick. 

 

As for your gear, that's a tricky one; different course conductors have shared different opinions with me over the years. A cheater GS ski will help you develop your steering skills. A slalom ski will not promote steering as much. This view has been shared with me by multiple level 4 course conductors. I would not train on a slalom ski to develop steering, but it could be a good exam ski. The narrowness of a cheater GS will help you to work towards precision in your skiing. That said, skiers have passed the exam on skinny, fat, turny and straightish skis. If you do the exam at Whistler, a cheater GS like the Fischer RC4 could be good (Ken Paynter thought it was a great ski for me to do the exam on). But no matter what, the best ski for the exam will be the one you can best demonstrate on. 

 

Set the bar high, find a trainer who'll work with you, train long hard and smart, and I'm sure you'll get there eventually. Oh, I'd watch whose advice you take (including mine) around CSIA level 3 specifics. Lots of well intentioned individuals do not know the CSIA 3 standards. Of the people here, the only ones truly qualified to really steer you right are skinerd, rollo and skidude (if he ever comes back :(  ) since they're CSIA level 4. Past postings about  the CSIA 3 include: 

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/121218/what-ski-should-i-use-for-csia-level-3-exam 

http://www.epicski.com/t/127032/frustrated-level-3-csia-training

 

 

Good luck!


Edited by Metaphor_ - 2/25/15 at 5:20pm
post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
I'm very grateful for the detailed feedback.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post

Much agreement with Freeski.  First think of what types of skis will hinder your skiing.  Skis with a huge turn radius.  Long floppy rocker skis (if you aren't in deep snow, these skis belong in the closet).  Skis that, as Freeski describes, require more energy input to get suitable output than you put in.  If you aren't a big strong skier, then the max length in any top line ski is an example of a ski that needs more input than you provide, as well as race skis.  See if you can try some "beer league" race skis, rather short with a small turn radius, maybe 12 - 14 meters.  Head Supershapes are one example, and most lines have some although they aren't faddish these days.  Don't go too long/stiff.  I'm 6', 190#, very good skier, and 170s are just right for me.  177 would be too stiff, and 163 would be OK for training and teaching.

I was going to look for something with a 16-18m radius, about 175 in length. I'm 1.85m / 80kg. (Siri says that's 6' 1, 176 pounds) I currently ski on Dynstar Legend 8000, 172-ish, and Scott Mission, 178 on days when I can find soft snow. I enjoy both skis but wouldn't mind expanding the quiver for the right kind of skis that will 'coach' me, and it wouldn't hurt if they help me demo well for the exam. Perhaps I should try a shorter length as you suggest, of something comparable to the 8000 so I can understand whether the shorter length works better. Thanks for the pointer.


Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post

- getting back to centre (in the fore-aft sense) when transitioning"  The easy way is to learn to pull you feet back under your center of mass to "get forward" or to push them forward to lighten the tips for hitting a rise.  It is much easier & quicker to move the relatively light feet than the much heavier body.
"- seeking, remaining and recovering my centre and being in more control of where it is"  Beware of boots that are too soft.  You want stiffness in the boot to have something to lever against to get recentered.  If your boots can be stiffened, try that.
"- quieter and more symmetric pole planting, and less tension in shoulders and arms."  The right position for the arms is the natural balancing position you'd find them unconsciously when walking across an icy patch.  Where your body puts your arms for balance is where you want them for skiing.  Don't pole plant.  Pole tap.  Just a twitch of the wrist is perfect--but won't please some coaches and examiners.  Flinging the arms around destroys balance and the skis' grip on the snow, but it pleases some coaches.
"consistent distance between the skis" is an artificial construct.  Consistent distance between the legs is good.  As you make angles turning, your inside ski needs to be drawn up alongside the outside leg so the distance between skis changes as your legs' angle to the snow changes.  But the distance between your legs shouldn't change.  And, this also might not please some examiners.

Thanks for these great tips / reminders too.

Arms: recently I noticed there's a lot of tension in my shoulders, trapezoid, arms as the speed or terrain gets dialled up. It could explain why my arms sometimes look quite rigid on video. I'm pondering whether I'm compensating for being sligthly in the backseat by reaching out with the arms. Next time I'll practice exaggerated pulling back of the feet in the middle of the transition to see if it helps. But also... I notice this happens more with my Legends, i think because they get chattery at speeds lower than my Mission. So, until I'm fully warmed up, perhaps stability / smoothness of the skis could help? Or maybe I'm overthinking this one...

Distance between the skis: I realise should have written '... between the legs, especially the knees'. I have noticed from video footage of a recent early season run that my leg movements are not as synchronised as I'd like, and sometimes I am doing a very quick 1-2 of the new inside ski on a transition. I've just been so consumed so far on balancing on the outside ski (on my weak turn there is a noticeable fragility of balance) that I paid little attention to where the inside ski is and what it's doing. I am planning to work more on the inside leg this season and see if it helps me get a smoother edge change.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Weird double post deleted.
post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

(For example, after a recent intensive weeklong coaching program with JF Beaulieu through Rookie Academy, he recommended I take 14 ski days to integrate the course learnings.) Get some feedback from a 4. Many course conductors I've trained with are happy to review some video and give me feedback. 
he he nice!!! i thought I recognize the focus on long leg and creating the turn with shortening of the leg you were talking about..... Very cool beercheer.gif
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