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Instructors: When to go steep?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
My experience with sports training is that, at some point, athletes need to be pushed to the limit of their abilities. People can only learn so much by practicing and doing drills in a completely controlled environment. In chess, you only improve by playing someone better than yourself; in boxing, you only get better by fighting good fighters. I think this model applies to skiing, as well. I know that I make my best improvements by skiing over my head, by skiing terrain that challenges me. There is nothing like a high pucker factor to get my attention and to keep me focused.

My question is about strategy. At what point do you take your students to a hill that is at the upper limits of their ability? If it's a four or five day lesson, do you do it every day? Do you work on drills and technique for most of the day, then close with a challenging run? Do you do a few warm up runs, then throw in a challenging run to see how well the lessons are being assimilated, then modify your lesson plan to account for the student's progress? How do racers train?

I suspect that I'm spending too much time trying to ski with the adults, and neglecting the training time required for skill develpment. Any advice on the proper balance would be appreciated.
post #2 of 12
Read "The Yikes Zone" good description in there
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
What is "The Yikes Zone", and where do I find it?
post #4 of 12
I spoke with a coach at length about this in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I was in the process of setting up a ski program over there adn i picke dhim as my lead coach. the project, becasue of 9/11, folded, btw.

This coach talked about steep and speed work. He pointed out, for example, that if you do DH or Super G training, you have to break a course down into its consituent parts. There are different body postures for the different parts or the course. Before you let them run a course and break their neck, you teach them each section of the DH or Super G and they practice just that section. When they learn these things, you let them put it all together.

My big question for your athletes would be: Can they free ski by carving one full GS turn after another all the way to the bottom of the steep you are on? Can they doe the same with slalom turns? If so, how many run before they lose their form?

Hope this helps.
post #5 of 12
Originally Posted by Colossus178
What is "The Yikes Zone", and where do I find it?
It's a book. You can get it at Amazon.com.

Read about it on Mermer's web site or on an old thread in epic
post #6 of 12
BTW - you can push athletes to limit of ability without going steep - just make the task REALLY hard....
post #7 of 12
I am in my 4th season of skiing. I have taken lots of lessons and have a wonderful, patient boyfriend who is a ski instructor. I have spent lots of time working on skills on terrain that is comfortable to me with frequent ventures onto challenging and steeper terrain. At times it has seemed like I should be able to progress faster onto more challenging terrain and it has frustrated me. I have watched people in lessons who define themselves by the terrain they ski and not the way they ski it. My observation has been that these people have devloped very defensive skiing moves that become ingrained and difficult to change.

At ESA, I told Nolo that I had to be pushed. I figured she would know
how far to push me. I am finally beginning to see the payoffs of not rushing to the steeps and more challenging terrain. I think it is helpful to ski with an instructor you trust who can judge your skills accurately and can take you places that challenge you but that are not going to help you create bad habits.

I also think that for those of us who did not learn to ski as children, mileage and spending time skiing, regardless of the terrain is important in gaining confidence.
post #8 of 12
Some conditions are good and some conditions are good for you.

We definitely need to spend time in conditions that are good for us.

I think that even in Skier31's case, some guided exposure to steeper terrain would be a good thing, as it allows the student to learn the tactics of terrain and to become familiar, if not somewhat comfortable on it.

That way, when they do find themselves on more challenging terrain, be it by choice or by accident, they will have some knowledge to fall back on.

I make it a point to take adolescents that are motivated by peer pressure and/or ego onto terrain that is steeper than I would normally teach new skills or refinements on, because I figure there's a good chance they will end up there, and I want them to learn to be safe on it.

I find that steeper terrain also helps teach speed control through turn shape. Usually it's as simple as just having the students follow your tracks to keep them from making over-rotated Z turns.

That said, you need to be conscious not to go into terrain that is TOO steep.
post #9 of 12
In skier31's case, her technique was ready for steeper terrain than she was comfortable skiing--she had greater mental challenge than skill challenge. She overcame at the ESA, and did a great job on terrain that had previously been a real issue.

It is difficult to do this terrain selection on one's own. Depending on tendancy, one may over- or under-terrain based on unconscious bias. Better to rely on the judgement of others whenever possible when "pushing" oneself for these very reasons.
post #10 of 12
I take students onto uncomfortable terrain with two goals: First is to show them that if they use the correct tactics (staying with a turn until their speed is comfortable before starting the next one), they can survive anywhere, and second is to encourage them to ski a bit faster on the slopes they ski comfortably. I always begin this step by reinforcing the idea of the first tactic (turn till your speed is OK) and by saying we're just trying to survive, not work on anything. You can't really learn anything new where you feel defensive. And really steep terrain causes things to happen too quickly for the unfamiliar to even know what's going on.
post #11 of 12
Skier31's bulletproof technique translated beautifully to the steeper slopes, and I think she learned something about how strong a skier she truly is by venturing there.

To everyone in my group: I finally got the tape and am editing your DVDs. From Day 1 to Day 3 (no video Day 4) we captured a good 4 minutes of skiing for each person. The changes from Day 1 to Day 3 were simply amazing. I credit a lot of that improvement to the terrain we learned to ski over the week.
post #12 of 12
From Bob Barnes:

THE 20-60-20 RULE:

(This thread is an offshoot of the topic "Level 9 Skiing Technique Analysis")

Hi all--

We've been discussing very strong skiers, and how even they might improve. Here are some thoughts for anyone, at any level (recognizing that one person's challenge is another's cake walk). This also relates to the "great debate" as to the relevance and importance of lessons and good technique:

Skiers who always ski terrain that is easy for them quickly reach a plateau--and earn the scorn of many of the people on this forum. They lack versatility, athleticism, excitement. Skiers who only ski terrain that challenges them practice their same old mistakes over and over--and get good at them. So follow the 20-60-20 rule:

20% of the day, ski terrain/conditions/speeds that truly challenge you, where you can expect to make mistakes and take falls. Just ski it--test yourself (but do recognize your limits-it's hard to improve in a hospital). This is not usually the place to work on your technique--but take note of the things that need work.

Another 20% of the time, ski terrain that is very easy for you--but work VERY hard here. This is where fundamental technical changes can happen. If you've identified a bad habit, DON'T let it happen here. If there's a new move you want as a habit, practice it here.

Neither of these two 20%'s are particularly fun. Fun lives in the other 60% of your day, where the challenge is reasonable, and you can expect some "moments of brilliance" as well as some mistakes.

You don't have to go out of your way to follow this rule. At most resorts, getting to and from the challenging stuff requires some flat stuff. Work on something here. And if you don't know what to work on--take a lesson! Improvement will definitely come.

"To ski the hard runs easy--you have to ski the easy runs hard."

Have fun gang!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

Bob's 20-60-20 rule works great for working skiers to more challenging terrain, IMO.
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