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Is falling always a learning experience?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
Seems to me that I have read somewhere on this forum that "if you are not falling, then you are not learning or at least not moving your skiing in an improving direction. I have thought about this concept this year each time I have gone down and usually I can learn from some mistake. Sat last however I was skiing pretty good and going down a run for the fourth time,(relatively steep) when all of a sudden I was in the air, skis over head and I came crashing down on my upper left back. Knocked the wind out of me so much that I could not reply when asked if I was ok by a passing skiier.(should have given sign for ok,I guess). I have replayed this fall but can not determine WHY I lost it in the first place. I was making shorter radius turns and trying to stay closer to the fall line. I was doing good for over half the run and then WAMY!!!!!! Has this ever happened to you? How do I learn from this apparent mistake? :
post #2 of 45
Falling is a learning experince - you learn the current limits of your experience. But, getting up again is a growing experience. That's when you open yourself up to learning more.
post #3 of 45
snow snake
post #4 of 45
In the past years that I have participated on this forum, people have always told me that since I rarely fall, I'm not improving and learning enough. Given my current condition, I would have opted for a bit less knowledge and improvement.
post #5 of 45
Been there, done that and been told I was done for the day.

WHAM is usually a result of the center of mass travelling in a significantly different direction than the direction that the skis are travelling in. When the body mass engages the downhill edges and insists that the skis travel along, the skis resist and insist that the body mass reduce elevation. Suddenly.

The point of "if you're not falling, you're not learning" is that if you always play it safe and defensive then you will not get the most performance out of your skis. If you take some chances with offensive movements, you can get more performance into your skiing, but in the learning process you will occasionally get caught making a mistake and fall.

Sometimes, falls happen so fast that there is no way for you to diagnose what the root cause mistake was. Don't worry. Just don't let the negative feedback stop you from what you were trying to do unless you keep falling the same way repeatedly. Otherwise, focus on the moves you are trying to do and you will be fine.
post #6 of 45
With all of this being said, most folks get hurt when operating at the bottom 25% and the upper 10% of their ability level. Take this advice for what it's worth....

post #7 of 45
I don't really go for the falling being positive thing. For most skiiers in middle or old age, it certainly is not something to be courted. Negative reinforcement only goes so far... and we don't learn to drive by crashing the car.
post #8 of 45
Originally Posted by lshull
With all of this being said, most folks get hurt when operating at the bottom 25% and the upper 10% of their ability level. Take this advice for what it's worth....

I'll agree with that bottom 25%. Seems like the only time I fall is when I'm idling along, perhaps looking back over my shoulder to see where my kids are, and WHAM, snow snake. Dang, that hurts! :
post #9 of 45
I guess it is if you consider that rehabing a knee that had surgery for torn cartilage and a torn ACL because you fell because you momentarily looked back up the hill to check on your young son while you were going 40 miles an hour on a pair of 203cm Dynastar G9's and the bindings didn't release--sure, you learn.
post #10 of 45
Not falling is telling, too.
I started a thread about how I couldn't ski the powder at Whistler a week or so ago. I didn't fall that day at all - and that was because I was having trouble with skiing, so I was holding back and skiing 'defensively' or 'protectively'.
post #11 of 45
Well, sure...you're gonna learn *something* when you fall...well...unless you lose consciousness.
post #12 of 45
You don't always learn from a fall.

You don't have to fall to learn.

You often learn from a fall.
post #13 of 45
One guy I have been working with has a thing about falling. He counts his "sucess" that day on the number of falls.

Last week I had him skiing some steeper terrain with the emphasis on more body body mass directed down the hill. He only fell when he resorted to "defensive" posture. In that regard, those dumps were a positive part of the learning curve.

I also pointed out that he also fell at times on easier terrain. The mechanism here was that in essence, he went into a mode where you "stop skiing", that is, he stopped being on top of the skis. That's the same as relaxing at the controls of an airplane when you are "only" ten feet off the ground because you are 'almost down".

All part of the learning curve.
post #14 of 45
When I was in my old school shaped ski (old Dynastar Max-Zero), I was rarely falling, but didn't feel like I was advancing much without pushing beyond the limit of the skis, therby skiing was becoming slightly ho-hum. But once I was got my Atomic GS:11, I was going twice as fast, angulating much more, fearing much more for my life, falling and injuring like hell. But it also make me push much more to the limit and am enjoying the thrill of skiing much more. It makes up for my weekly limps or aches.
post #15 of 45
Lots of good and interesting posts here.

It is late and I am probably too tired to think straight but I think someone should post the obvious, if you fall and die, you don't learn anythng.

On groomers I like to push myself and my gear to the limits and I almost always manage to recover if I go a little too far. This way I learn the limits of myself and my skis and minimize the risk of injury. I think this becomes more important as one gets older when injury becomes more likely and more difficult to recover from.

In general, you can learn from falling but I think skiers can learn a lot without falling. Being afraid of falling can slow down the learning process but most adults manage that well. Is it more important to avoid injury or to progress faster? Quite a personal decision.

post #16 of 45
HereĀ“s my specific point of view.
I ski with hip replacement and have to be careful. I would say I am even in gates and I very, very rarely fall - 1-2 times/season and practically never when freeskiing.
The only exception in the last two years was on Friday. I pushed it quite hard early in the morning on the frozen snow, caught the inside edge in a fast turn transition on 192cm GS skis and went helplessly to my back. Routinely (as should be expected at my age) managed to get legs and skis up, control my sliding, set my edges to stop etc., almost a schoolbook fall management.

The point is, I was almost proud of myself: you finally could go at your maximum!
If I fell in each ride no pride would be appropriate. But this case - although there was a risk for my hip, not to speak about the trees sorrounding the rather narrow part of the run - was a positive experience for me, though more psychologically than technically.
post #17 of 45
In my personal opinion, with every fall there is the opportunity for learning. My personal motto is if I haven't fallen or I am not at least somewhat sore (muscularly) then I haven't tried hard enough.

Sometimes the lessons which can be learned by falls are not always obvious, such as how to fall, how to self-arrest properly, learning current personal limitations of the conditions, and learning that the "one last run" philosophy leads to many injuries. Often times, its easy to write off a fall by saying, "I just screwed up", but I do firmly believe that every fall has the potential for learning, just sometimes you have to search for the lesson.
post #18 of 45
I feel like I've passed through the stage of "If you're not falling, you're not learning". I feel like I learn the most when I'm staying upright. I know how I want to make my skis feel (from maybe the half-dozen turns in my life that I would consider perfect), and I know how they're feeling during the turn, so I just try to adjust various things to get them to feel "right". Depending on if things get worse / better, I've learned something regardless. I have so many instinctive recovery moves that I rarely fall anymore -- I am pushing my / the ski's limits (at times), I just know how to get out of it when I get close to the edge. i.e., I feel like I have a really ingrained knowledge of when I'm about to go down.

That said, when I do fall these days, it's usually by total surprise. i.e., a "what the heck just happened?" type of thing. As another poster said, the only thing I can really discern is that the CM went one way and the skis kept tracking in another direction. What it was about that one particular moment that caused things to not work though is a mystery to me, so I don't really think that I learned anything valuable from it.
post #19 of 45
All I can say is FALLING SUCKS!
post #20 of 45
Originally Posted by chuckc
All I can say is FALLING SUCKS!
Agree, absolutely! Seriously speaking, what I've learned from falling, is that if your entire livelihood depends upon you being highly active on a daily basis, you should avoid falling at all costs.
post #21 of 45
Originally Posted by Lisamarie
Agree, absolutely! Seriously speaking, what I've learned from falling, is that if your entire livelihood depends upon you being highly active on a daily basis, you should avoid falling at all costs.
Not necessarily true, I have done more damage to myself preventing a fall than I ever have falling. Learning how to fall is one of the most important lessons any skier can learn. Because that lesson took me so long to learn, I have permanent damage in my lower back from refusing to fall (head hit boots and snapped back up -> permanent muscle damage in the lower back). Knowing how to fall to minimize risk is always, and I restate, always going to be safer than fighting/contorting to stay up in an imminent catastophic fall. Often times, you have a split sencond that you know you're going down, and you can either fight it, or control the fall. Sometimes, however, as many people know, injuries still happen, but knowing how to minize the risk will typically save you more than it'll hurt you (especially when you start getting into expert level terrain/skill set).
post #22 of 45
Originally Posted by Lisamarie
Agree, absolutely! Seriously speaking, what I've learned from falling, is that if your entire livelihood depends upon you being highly active on a daily basis, you should avoid falling at all costs.
I have to chime in here. With this way of thinking, this means you should Stop Skiing! Are you ready to stop skiing all together? Cause you can get hurt just as badly on the greens, and you know it.

Falls are part of skiing. You can fall anywhere, anytime! Even standing in a lift line (my dentist tore his ACL doing just that!) You can get broken by just standing there, as Max Capacity found out at Okemo when a boarder skied into him while he was standing at the side of a trail.

You had a tough break, but ask any ski instructor who's taken some knocks, broken some Stuff, and they'll say "Shit happens", and then you get better and go on.

Fall as safely as you can under the circumstances, and continue to enjoy the sport, or you'll be back at square one, frozen with the fear that you'll do it again. Dig out Mermer's book "In the Yikes Zone" and reread it. I'd hate for you to be that old skier again.....the one who never fell but was paranoid and overly cautious all the time.
post #23 of 45
Originally Posted by Manus
Not necessarily true, I have done more damage to myself preventing a fall than I ever have falling.
This is 100% true. In certain falls (dumps out the back), you can INCREASE the risk to your ACL by fighting the fall. The best advice is to just go down. Now there is always the risk of injury when you fall, but we can mitigate this by the way we go down....



* Attempting to get up while still moving after a fall.

* Attempting a recovery from an off-balance position.

* Attempting to sit down after losing control.

Many injuries might be prevented by learning a few simple rules and avoiding altogether certain types of high risk behavior.

Don't (fully) straighten your legs when you fall. If your ultimate intent is to bail out by means of a controlled fall, knees should remain flexed until you have stopped sliding. Although you should routinely correct your stance whenever your hips fall below your knees, attempting to straighten your legs as part of an initial response to the full-blown threat of an ACL injury puts the already vulnerable downhill knee at even greater risk. Return to a normal skiing stance only as part of a maneuver to recover balance and control after you have addressed other elements of the profile.

Don't try to get up until you've stopped sliding. Unless you are trying to avoid an obstacle or another skier, when you're down--stay down.

Don't land on your hand. Keep your arms up and forward in any kind of fall. Pushing off or breaking your fall with your uphill arm greatly increases the chance of injury. Whether you're trying to get up or sit down, if your skis are still moving, you're at risk.

post #24 of 45
Pushing yourself is overrated.
post #25 of 45
Oddly enough, falling was taught as a part of the first ski lesson in the 60's.

Today, we are not allowed to even mention falling while giving instruction though it is a very common question. Once again, the legal profession has put a crimp in one of the most basic beginner problems.

Instead of just giving a basic demo you have to go through a five minute "disclaimer" and dance around the issue.
post #26 of 45

In favor of falling

I'm a recreational ski racer, 46 years old, living 3 hours from the snow, and on non-sabbatical years I can only manage 25 ski days--in a good year. Every year (well, the last 8 anyway) I'm faster in gates, but at this point the guys I ski against all have more days on the snow, so I have to learn more in less time. I spend a lot of time in dryland training, including a lot of core and balance training, and I don't have to make my living on my legs. And I have health insurance.

Which puts me in a different category than most people when it comes to fall comfort.

For me, it depends on what I'm doing. If I'm skiing with my 11 year old son and brother in a near whiteout, or am in a no-fall zone above a cliff drop, I ski not to fall. If I'm skiing Super-G, close to 60 mph, I'd prefer not to fall.

Otherwise, I think it's important (1) to fall periodically from over-aggressive skiing (boot out type falls from excessive inclination), (2) to learn the emergency recovery moves (snow punch with inside hand) to avoid (1) above; and (3) to keep a notebook of all biffs and falls--especially in the gates--to figure out what went wrong and why. Kind of like the FAA post-crash analysis of aluminum rain episodes: It's a great way to get feedback on how to avoid future mistakes.

That said, when you're tired or it's the last run of the day, it's not the time to push the envelope. Been there, done that, got the knee brace...

post #27 of 45
God Sf! Doesn't that orange box strapped to your back put you in aft CG? Or, do you do weight and balance calculations before each take off ... eer run?
post #28 of 45
If I learned something new every time I fell, I'd be a damn genius by now.
post #29 of 45
I'm a damn expert at falling. I'm so good at it, I don't even have to try, it just happens for me. I learned the art by practicing it so much. In fact, I think I can fall better than 97% of the skiers out there. Unfortunately Coach, genius continues to elude me regardless of my efforts.
post #30 of 45
You can certainly learn from falling, but at times all you learn is that gravity still works. Falling is not necessary, and unadvisable once a certain level of skill is reached. You certainly don't want to fall at high speed. You can often learn from a fall, and some people believe that if you are not pushing your limits hard enough to fall, you are not learning to expand your skill set. This viewpoint is imnsho is erroneous; you reach a point of diminishing returns. You should instead endeavour to feel as much as you can all the time you ski. A series of linked recoveries can teach as much as falling (it can be as injury producing as well). It is better to almost get out of control than to actually push it past the point of no return. A slight off-balance from which you recover without getting so far out of position that you stretch anything, is far enough.
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