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Shaped ski technique - my initial thoughts/experience - your feedback...

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I got out on my Volkl 5 Stars today @ NY's Hunter Mountain, a place with similarities to Gore with a fast quad chair and lots of steep terrain with hard, VERY fast snow combined with boilerplate hardpack and ice. Actually the snow conditions generally ranged from good to excellent, but in the Northeast that generally includes boilerplate hardpack/ice where ever high traffic has scraped the softer snow off the hard stuff underneath. The 175cm Volkls were carving snow that my old Rossignol 205cm (traditional) 7G GS racing skis would have skidded out on.

I discovered a new technique intuitively that upon confirmation with a few expert skiers today SEEMS (primarily because it worked so well for me) to be the correct way to take advantage of the new 'shaped' skis' phenomenal carving and turning capabilities. With my old skis, in order to check my speed on steeper terrain I would angulate my downhill ski knee in an effort to get a greater angle of attack for my downhill ski edge. More edging: more friction: shave off speed. But with the shaped skis I used a very different approach: I would set the edge and wait just a split second until the ski was locked into its carve. It felt just like putting a slot car onto its slot on the track: once you set it, the ski carved beautifully every time, even across 'bulletproof' hardpack/ice. All day the ski might have skidded out of its carve 5x out of hundreds of turns. The hardest part was having the confidence that the ski was going to hold its track every time - I'm simply not used to that, even my old Rossi GS skis weren't that reliable on the hard stuff. Once I started having faith in the Five Stars, things got much easier.

Now instead of angulating my downhill ski edge, I simply ride the skis - both of them, not just the downhill ski as is common with older skis - as long as it takes to shave off speed. The longer you carve, the more speed you lose, until you're almost skiing back UP the hill at the end of the turn's arc. That accomplishes another key element of this different turning style: it loads up the skis like a pair of giant springs, and initiating the new turn is as simple as rolling your knees and ankles over in the new direction - and releaasing all of the energy stored in those compressed skis - propelling you into the new turn. By allowing the ski to carve and compress - and then letting the compression release and simply rolling the ski into the new direction to repeat the process - you're actually letting the ski do all the work. You're just along for the ride.

And what a ride it was! Between my first real experience of shaped skis on a bigger mountain on a wider range of challenging expert terrain and employing technique that uses them to their potential, I got a look at what skiing will be like for me going forward. What a revolution in ski technique and gear this whole thing is! Old news to any avid skier, but a big newsflash for yours truly. I was discussing this with my wife and it seems that all her old 'bad' habits - rolling her knees over instead of unweighting, evenly weighting both skis instad of emphasizing the downhill ski - now they're actually proper technique for this new gear. I can see why ski instructors are thinking that shaped skis are going to make it much easier for novice and intermediate skiers to learn, and learn much faster.

If you tried skiing years ago and were frustrated by a plateau in your learning curve all I can tell you is that curve just got a WHOLE lot flatter. As an advanced skier I found that I could ski the same terrain at the same speeds/aggressiveness with less than half as much energy - and actually ski it better. I struggled with K-27 (one of the steepest slopes in the Northeast) which had VW sized bumps with heavy snow on top and boilerplate ice in between. But that was probably just staleness after an 8 year layoff and my fear to commit to the steep fall line with enough aggression and confidence. I'll get that back by mid season next year. I had no problems on Racer's Edge and Claire's steep bumpless runs. I also have a considerable fear of moguls thanks to my lower back issues/surgery/pain, which also played into my timidity on K-27 today. At least I didn't fall at the top. What a friggin yard sale THAT would have been : ).

We have knowledgable ski instructors here, I'm sure. Can anyone confirm or correct what I'm trying to convey (and I'm not sure I've done that well enough to be clear)? It really did seem to work for me today and a couple of other knowlegable skiers I bounced this off (and demonstrated it for) seemed to think that this was pretty the right approach. If I'm missing the boat on any of this somebody please tell me now before I form horrible habits that will be hard to break...
post #2 of 21
patentcad, welcome to EpicSki! This is a great early post, and, in my mind, parallels my experience of conversion to carving. Well done!
post #3 of 21
Patentcad,

Confirmed. You've come pretty close to describing the revolution, albeit you are a few years late to the party. The general theme is less rotary, more edge angles; rolling from edge to edge instead of up unweighting; more turning of the tips instead of moving the tails; more carving, less skidding and more fun, less work.

One horrible habit that shape skis can induce is "park and ride" where you get the skis on a set edge angle and ride that angle through the turn. Efficient ski technique still requires smooth and continuous movements throughout the turn.
post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by patentcad
Now instead of angulating my downhill ski edge, I simply ride the skis - both of them, not just the downhill ski as is common with older skis - as long as it takes to shave off speed. The longer you carve, the more speed you lose, until you're almost skiing back UP the hill at the end of the turn's arc. ..
Welcome to Epic, Patent, and thanks for the post, which I read with great interest because I "returned" last winter, too, after a long hiatus, and am just amazed at what I -- or these shaped skis and I -- can do. You do a fine job of conveying the sense of fun carving offers. I had one question, however, and any of you experts can answer this: based on the quote above, how do you deal with the eternal dilemma of needing to lower speed in steep fall-line skiing on narrow runs if you want to keep carving. I just never seem able to do it without resorting to skids or "rotation" (I don't know the proper nomenclature here, sorry) when things get hairy.
post #5 of 21
Skiing conditions in Hunter lately has been real real easy. Especially on weekdays with nobody around and the hard pack. I notice that I still have to force my Atomic GS:11 skis into small turns (as in old style rotary slalom carves, no shaving) on the steeps like Claire's Way or else I would be accelerating too fast toward the bottom. I tried some Super GS size turns on Racers Edge but the angulation required is so much in order to carve really round turns so that one doesn't end up too fast toward the bottom of that run, or else you will be launched off that giant hump right before it merges with the bunny slope. The titanium in the skis prevents me from going onto slopes like K-27, which I don't mind, since I have to save every ounce of my leg's strength for those high-G carves. My biggest problem is if I do the GS carves down Hellgate, I eventually reach such a high speed that I have to use all my might to stop before I reach that flat resting area by 7th Ave, otherwise, I will be doing a 200ft launch. I've tried slowing down somewhat and take the smallest drop toward the right, but you would be taking air no matter which path one goes when at speed.

Anyway, the way to ride these skis is to angle the skis. You just basically tilt them to the side more and more and more and more. To the point where you are on the verge of booting out. But at such steep angulation and high centripetal force, the transition to another turn gets harder. Besides the much higher speed that you would normally be if you were on your old sticks, going from lying halfway on your side to completely upright might launch you over if the terrain takes a suddern surprise or if you are careless. I was launched head first just from such situation on Racers Edge a few days ago.
post #6 of 21

why not "park and ride"

Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
Patentcad,

One horrible habit that shape skis can induce is "park and ride" where you get the skis on a set edge angle and ride that angle through the turn. Efficient ski technique still requires smooth and continuous movements throughout the turn.
I have heard this many times, but apart from being too easy what is wrong with park and ride. To put this another way, if I am happy parking and riding down a groomed blue, what specific skiing goals are eluding me (on this run) and what do I need to change to avoid them?

I am not stirring up a debate for fun, I genuinely don't know the answer.
post #7 of 21
Hearing or reading the converts´ enthusiastic reports I´m always becoming envious that he/she just has something I only have in my memories and can´t experience anymore.

Like the first great love, first lovemaking...

post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
With respect to carving on steeper slopes - I was able to do it on steep non-bumpy terrain. I don't think that type of carving is going to work on bumpy, steep, narrow trails - and if it does it's going to require some figuring out on my part. I was able to carve on steep fall line short swing turns- but that required the most faith in the ski's carving capability and in a strange way the most patience - because your natural tendency is to want to get off the edge and onto the next one. If you wait that split second, even on steep terrain, the ski will carve and you can pretty much turn the same way you would on a flatter slope...

As for the statement above that Hunter Mountain's conditions have been 'good' lately - nothing says more about how used to crappy conditions Eastern skiers are than that : ). I was out there yesterday and while I'd characterize the conditions as good to excellent by the afternoon many of the steeper trails were ready for the friggin FIS World Cup race course setters. But that's any Eastern ski area with steeper slopes and high traffic. I also found that my new skis were SOOO much more proficient at carving that boilerplate than my old skis - which made the conditions seem 'better' than they really were.
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jpowrie
I have heard this many times, but apart from being too easy what is wrong with park and ride. To put this another way, if I am happy parking and riding down a groomed blue, what specific skiing goals are eluding me (on this run) and what do I need to change to avoid them?
In the short answer, nothing is "wrong" with park 'n ride. That said, are you in control or is the ski?

You're missing some of the fun if you aren't skilled at "driving" the ski while it's "locked" on edge. For truly active and controlled skiing, you need to be able change turn shape where/when necessary and control speed. It isn't a skiing felony not to be able to carve the arc you want... but it is a misdemeanor.

There are also conditions where pure carving just isn't desirable or even possible.
post #10 of 21
Very cool story and great experience on your part. Just very cool.
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
>>There are also conditions where pure carving just isn't desirable or even possible.<<

While I would agree with this statement (pure hard core ice might qualify) I was amazed at the stuff that my Volkl 5 Stars were carving on yesterday - stuff that my old Rossignol 7G's would never have handled. Maybe the 7G's would carve some of that if they had JUST come from the ski tuner's bench - but I'm certain that some of the steeper, harder 'snow' (and it's almost laughable to call that crampon crap 'snow') would have had the Rossi's - and me - flailing or at the very least quickly jumping from 'J' turn to 'J' turn trying to find a good edge. The Volkls were a series of continuous beautiful lower case 'c' turns, no matter how steep or how hard the snow. I suppose some of this is due to the shaped ski technology and the other part is a credit to what a great hard snow ski the Volkl 5 Star is - at least for this skier.
post #12 of 21

what is wrong with park and ride?

ParkNRide is a lot of fun. If you're happy, there's no need to change a thing. This technique is effective on a groomed blue run. But just because you're happy does not mean that you should pass up on being ecstatic!

If you are a one trick pony, this technique will not serve you well as the level of difficulty goes up either because of increase in pitch or more difficult snow conditions. This is because parknride requires more movement from the end of one turn in order to initiate the next turn. For example, if you finish a turn with your edge angle decreasing, you can quickly and smoothly start your next turn. By getting onto your new edges earlier you can round out the top part of the turn better. By getting onto your new edges smoother, you are reducing the chance of getting out of balance because of jerky movements. When you add up the costs of being static in the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and hands, you are losing the ability equivalent of volume setting 7 versus volume 10. On more difficult terrain, you may need that extra volume just to stay happy. Even on a blue run, those three extra volume levels can add a lot more fun.

As fun as parknride is on a groomed blue, doing smooth continuous movements on the same run are even better. Let's compare a $100 bottle of champagne to a $30 bottle. If all you have to spend is $30, the $30 bottle is better than nothing. So it goes with parknride. If you don't want to spend the time and effort to keep improving your skills, parknride is fine. If you're only going to ski 5 days/year this makes sense. But if someone else is paying, you're going to take that $100 bottle. Of course, in skiing, you must earn your turns. Once you've made the investment to learn continuous movements, you're going to prefer that to parknride. But is a $100 bottle of champagne better than 3 $30 bottles? Fortunately in skiing we only need to ask that question apres ski!
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by patentcad
>>There are also conditions where pure carving just isn't desirable or even possible.<<

While I would agree with this statement (pure hard core ice might qualify) I was amazed at the stuff that my Volkl 5 Stars were carving on yesterday - stuff that my old Rossignol 7G's would never have handled.
Ugh oh... another addict! Glad you enjoyed 'em.

Actually I was thinking more radius size. There is a physical limit where no matter how much you want to, the desired arc is too small for the ski to carve. It can scarve, but just won't bend enough to "rail it".
post #14 of 21
Sounds like you've got it Patentcad.

If you want to get more exercise on your skis and get that (satisfying stiff felling in your quads the next day feel), just tighten up the turns while in them (by tipping the skis more), until the skis ready to break loose then tighten them up a leettle more, but instead of forcing them loose bend you legs and crouch like a cat about to pounce so that you don't put too much force through the ski. Now you can spring with you legs as well as the bent skis into that new turn. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Warning! Be aware that there is a danger of becoming addicted and you may not realize that you are playing slalom with the other skiers.

As for those bumps, I mean piles of snow placed on that slanted skating rink, you could just drop into them about 6 bumps from the bottom and slalom around them; by the time your speed is too high you will be clear of them. You don't want to be sliding straight down into them and then having to absorb all your speed in a short sharp turn before you going straight down the ice again. That's not fun; that's torture.
post #15 of 21
If you can't afford the Dom Perignon (spelling? I can't afford to buy it either )
don't bother buying cheap champaign; get a good bottle of wine instead. Once you've tried the Dom you will know what I mean.

Rusty's game of increasing the sharpnes and then gradually and smoothly easing off and switching to the other turn is also a good game to play. Kind of like increasing your turn sharpness into the apex and gradually reducing it on the way out as you balance braking accelerating out of the turn racing a motorcycle or car on a track (never on a public road ).
post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
ParkNRide is a lot of fun. If you're happy, there's no need to change a thing. This technique is effective on a groomed blue run. But just because you're happy does not mean that you should pass up on being ecstatic!

When you add up the costs of being static in the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and hands, you are losing the ability equivalent of volume setting 7 versus volume 10. On more difficult terrain, you may need that extra volume just to stay happy. Even on a blue run, those three extra volume levels can add a lot more fun.

As fun as parknride is on a groomed blue, doing smooth continuous movements on the same run are even better.
This is the crux of the issue. I think the static position of many parkNriders is not a stubborn reluctance to move, its an ignorance of what to move and why.

What are these smooth movements (between transitions) that should raise the volume from 7 to 10. My guess is:
- Counter slowly adjusting throughout the turn
- Weight gradually moving relatively backwards towards the end of the turn.
- Gradual flexing of knees and ankles to absorb pressure at end of turn.
- Gradually easing off the edges towards the end of the turn (although some might prefer a last-minute high-energy inside leg extension transition)
post #17 of 21
For us dummies, would one of you mind kindly offering a brief definition of Park N Ride? I think I get it, but not sure. Sorry to be rather ignorant of these matters.
post #18 of 21

Me and my big mouth

hmm, how about:
maximum edge angle/angulation in the fall line (i.e. middle of the turn), minimum at the end of the turn (i.e. flat ski marks the end of one turn and the start of another);
minimum difference in knee flex at the end of the turn, maximum in the middle(long leg/short leg - collapse the inside leg to start the new turn);
maximum counter at the end of the turn, minimum in the middle (steer into counter);
maximum difference in shoulder elevation off the snow going across the hill, minimum in the fall line (match the shoulders to the slope pitch);
??weight most forward 1/8 into the turn, weight most back 5/8 into the turn?? (pressure the tips to start the turn, pressure the tail to finish)

These would be ideals that are not necessarily achievable or EXACTLY desireable.
post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by wbroun
For us dummies, would one of you mind kindly offering a brief definition of Park N Ride? I think I get it, but not sure. Sorry to be rather ignorant of these matters.
My definition would be the skier is making effective transitions from turn to turn, the skier is effectively engaging a carve at the beginning of the turn , but for whatever reason the skier parks the carve (end enjoys the ride) at the desired edge angle with minimal body movements or adjustments until its time to make the next transition. In effect the mental skiing effort and noticeable physical movements all seem to be concentrated into the turn transitions.

To the untrained eye (like mine) anybody arcing around in this way at ~30 mph looks like an expert having a blast.
post #20 of 21
[quote=patentcad]With respect to carving on steeper slopes - I was able to do it on steep non-bumpy terrain. I don't think that type of carving is going to work on bumpy, steep, narrow trails - and if it does it's going to require some figuring out on my part. I was able to carve on steep fall line short swing turns- but that required the most faith in the ski's carving capability and in a strange way the most patience - because your natural tendency is to want to get off the edge and onto the next one. If you wait that split second, even on steep terrain, the ski will carve and you can pretty much turn the same way you would on a flatter slope...

Patience is the key. How remarkable that you got that by yourself!

As for steep and narrow; play with the range of blends pivot slip (flat ski) to total carve (all edge.) A question to explore is--what happens when you
add a touch or rotary and or skid to different parts of the turn?
post #21 of 21
Thread Starter 
>>Patience is the key. How remarkable that you got that by yourself!<<

Sorry, I have to confess that a ski buddy of mine gave me that advice - and I quickly discovered how true it was. He said 'the key is to be patient - and wait for that ski to start carving - and then just let it ride..' I'm not sure I would have discovered that for myself - but what surprised me is how easily I was able to convert the theory/instruction from my friend into practice on the slope. The deep powder experience ten years ago @ Grand Targhee - letting the snow compress under your skis and then just rolling your boards over into the new turn instead of an exaggerated unweighting motion that I had been using - was so similar it was amazing. Same kind of sensation, only on hardpack. I don't ever recall having quite as remarkable an experience with respect to technique and how radically it can help your skiing.
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