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How do you measure improvement?

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
In another thread Lisamarie tells us that she felt she had been "delusional" about her progress this year after her injury. Her instructor contradicted that, asking if she could have skied some of the runs she did that year if she had not improved? Lisa had to admit he had a point.

This got me thinking, how does a person measure their skiing improvement in an objective, nondelusional way? There used to be Star Test, and there are still some pockets where Nastar is still active, but are there any other standardized measures?
post #2 of 40
How much fun I'm having.

Whether I feel more efficient.

Video analysis.

Critique from peers.

How long I last in the bumps before it's beer time (inidicates skiing effciency).
post #3 of 40
For instructors, L-I, L-II, and L-III (and above) certs.

For lower level recreational skiers, the ATM levels are great. Unfortunately, for higher level recreational skiers, the upper ATM levels are so compressed that they don't serve this function as well.

Tom / PM
post #4 of 40
I think there are several ways. Not sure if all of them are exactly "objective".

a. Video - the camera does not lie!

b. Working with instructors who give honest feedback.

c. Being honest with yourself about your skiing. For example, I used to flail around in powder so much that I could not understand what was so great about it. This year I finally got it. I could tell from how I felt that I had progressed in those snow conditions.
post #5 of 40
I doubt that there are any reliable measurements for improvement, other than simply timing a race. One has to be very objective and honest with themselves to be able to determine if improvement happened. Too often people talk about some breakthrough or some revelation during a lesson. For me that means very little. Until the breakthrough/revelation becomes an instinctive part of your skiing, you achieved nothing more than a deeper understanding of you shorcommings.

My improvement is measured over a season or two and it usually has to do with the terrain I ski (a cliche, but true). Specifically, I have to be able to ski increasingly more difficult terrain with no change in my technique. That (for me) is improvement.

I should add that this way of measuring improvement won't work all that well, if technique on easy terrain is not very good. Obviously, I need to take that leap of faith and assume that my technique (on easy terrain) is reasonably good.
post #6 of 40
Thread Starter 
I think increased comfort in more demanding terrain and conditions is about the only relevant measure there is. The way I see it, your technique is your vehicle, baby. Where can it take you?
post #7 of 40
There are a number of objective methods for rating ones skiing ability. There are also plenty of subjective methods for rating that could be considered non-delusional. Here's a random sample of 10 methods for each.

For objective methods, consider:
1) time in a race course
2) steepness of pitch one can ski without falling
3) depth of powder one can ski without falling
4) roundness of turns (measured by the tracks)
5) % of turn for which one has the ability to leave clean carved tracks in the snow
6) shortest radius turn possible (e.g. # of turns over a set distance)
7) versatility (number of combinations of turn sizes, pitch, snow conditions, speed, terrain features, tricks)
8) How many turns one can take in a bump run before stopping
9) Centeredness of stance
10) Amount of angulation in a turn (as measured on video)

For subjective methods, consider:
1) overall video appearance
2) smoothness (rhythm)
3) how tired one gets
4) how sore one gets
5) ability to manage fear
6) how much fun one has
7) # of days on snow
8) how fast one skis
9) Ability to maintain speed through a pitch change without losing rhythm
10) Ability to change speed on a consistent pitch without losing rhythm
post #8 of 40
How long or far can I maintain an intended turn shape and speed before blowing up or stopping (I apply this on ice, groomers, moguls, glades, and steep chutes)? The further I get, the better and in control I must be.

Am I still grinning when I stop?

Am I dictating where and when I want to go, and conversely, am I responding appropriately to changes? i.e. Have I run over anybody today? Hint: less is better.
post #9 of 40
Improvement off the slopes increases with the number of beers.
post #10 of 40
No really I measure by how smoothly I can ski a maneuver on nearly dead flat terrain and the same maneuver on steep terrain at speed.
post #11 of 40

To me, it all boils down to one word...


When I am skiing well, or to see if I've "improved" I usually look at whether I am balanced. Skiing more difficult terrain, or difficult conditions, or in trees, etc, if I am skiing them better I am more balanced.

If you look at professional golfers, you see people swinging exceptionally hard (for us mere mortals), but how often are they out of balance when they finish the swing? Watch closely, if they look out of balance then the shot is usually not going down the middle.

It's the same with skiing, for me. If I am in a race course, or in crud, and I can stay balanced while skiing agressively, then I know I am doing well.

post #12 of 40
I measure my own improvement by how little I have to think about it.

When I see improvement in a student, I ask them to tell me how it feels different. It helps them lock onto the improvement.
post #13 of 40
Doesn't it boil down to the terrain and conditions we ski coupled with how much energy we expend doing it? I would venture that this is how most of my students would gage their improvement. They feel it when they are using less energy to ski, at least they teel me this. I feel it when I'm using less energy for a better effect. I think it is observable from the outside too. Later, RicB.
post #14 of 40
My measure is how mush noise my skis are making on a hard black run. In other words, are my skis carving or skidding? If they are noisy, I make adjustments in my body position to quiet them down. This seems to work for me. I am getting feedback from my skis.

Rick H
post #15 of 40
Thread Starter 
Have any of you had a breakthrough in improvement, or would you say that your improvement has been incremental? If you have had a breakthrough, could you describe it and how it came about?
post #16 of 40
Quick self test. Did you enjoy skiing this year the trail that had you nervous or terrified last year?? Were you skiing without thinking on a trail or slope that used to require constant concentration??
post #17 of 40
I think increased comfort in more demanding terrain and conditions is about the only relevant measure there is.

pretty close to bullseye, if not dead on.

my breakthroughs seem to be about something i've been thinking about and working on being finally "understood" by my body. thought giving way to action.

all of a sudden, i'm looking for bumps to ski because absorption is no longer a foreign concept; it's moving from mind to bloodstream.

et cetera.
post #18 of 40
Thread Starter 
So it's like the saying: it may take years to make a change but it takes only a split-second to happen. One moment you aren't and the next moment you are.
post #19 of 40
With only a dozen or so days on the snow this year, I measure improvement in very small increments.

Actually, I'm not that concerned with measuring my improvement. I go skiing; I have fun. That works for me. I'm always trying to learn more and get "better", but I don't compete with anyone, not even myself. I guess I spend some time "working on points for style" when I try to apply all that I've learned over the years and what I'm still learning. I suppose I accidentally learned a lot demoeing all sorts of different skis this year, even though I was concentrating on what the skis did for me instead of what I was doing with the skis. In retrospect I suppose a measure of improvement could be how well I relate what I do on the snow to my physical model of what's going on. Theoretically , I've improved a lot!

Some measurements I have used in the past:
As a novice: how comfortable I felt; how seldom I lost it and had to bail out.
Getting better: how seldom I felt out of control and almost lost it; how precise I could be on any terrain.
Once I knew how to ski: The clock, as in how fast I can go period.
Later: How fast I could go without making too many mistakes (ie notice that I'm lightly out of balance and need to recover), especially on knarly terain - how fast can I go through these moguls without getting to the point that I have to make a recovery move or force myself out of the back seat.

Also: How smooth can I make these turns? How well can I play these skis i.e. how much of a dance can I get going back and forth (as in using energy from one turn to launch the next, etc.) doing tight turns in a long series.

Mostly I just want to have fun...testing and measuring be damned!
post #20 of 40

Personal Story

It's a good question. I recently finished my 2nd year skiing with over 50 days per year. In my case, what I liked doing was going back to a place where I was a year before, but hadn't been much if any during the year. For instance spring skiing at nubs their last weekend. This let me compare how easy a time I have of it now in junk and crud where the year before this would have really bothered me.

Also, each year I've been going to Mt Hood. I only do this in the summer. So this gives me that 1 time a year comparison to the year before on the same slope.

Nolo - your area, I only go to Big Sky once per year. I always do the Africa bump run among others. Each year this is dramatically easier than the year before.

So, in my case, it's pretty easy to see progress because there are a number of places I tend to only get to once a year. So I have some of these "benchmark" locations.

The places I go a lot to, I don't have that "benchmark" feeling like the once a year places.

If I didn't ski so much or at so many places, I would find this much harder to realize progress.

Oh, 2nd idea. I try to get some video of myself every few trips. Comparing the videos really lets you see if you're improving or not.
post #21 of 40
Originally Posted by nolo
Have any of you had a breakthrough in improvement, or would you say that your improvement has been incremental? If you have had a breakthrough, could you describe it and how it came about?
I think for most people it is pretty much the same for mastery of any subject. In the beginning, breakthrough, breakthrough, breakthough, in pretty rapid succession as you pick up key items. (Keep the upper body still, counter down the hill, keep your hands up and forward, etc.) Beginners and low intermediates have gross things to learn and there are more of the "WOW! That really works" moments.

As a beginner/low intermediate, explanations and guided discovery worked for me. Playing with ideas and concepts. Also, some plain old "do this now" also worked.

As you progress and start to master a subject things become more refined. For me this has been the little things and are more incremental. These can happen slowly or quickly, it all depends. (Forward really means FORWARD, wait for things to happen, flow with the hill, etc.) This becomes the time of "Ah ha, now I understand why and how that works." Of course there will still be the "WOW" moments and they are just as much fun as in the beginning.

Now I like to get into discussions to further my understanding of skiing. There is still a majority of time spent trying things out. However, I do a lot of off piste thinking and studying. This year there were no "major" breakthroughs, however, there were many minor ones that added up to a major change in the way I ski and the way skiing feels to me. I'm more in touch with the mountain. I feel I'm flowing with the terrain. I'm smoother. I'm faster. I feel the bite of the skis into the snow. I feel the changes in the snow composition. I hear the interaction of the skis and the snow. Its a Zen thing. (Good Lord, I better stop before I start saying, "Ah, Grasshopper.")
post #22 of 40
Thread Starter 
How many times have you had this dialogue with a student? "You need to do this." "But I am doing that." "Well, you need to do it more." "More?" "More." "More?" "More."
post #23 of 40
  • Nolo, with respect to your question regarding incremental progress or breakthrough, I have had both. I will try to describe:
The breakthroughs:
  • At ESA, after the first time down the bump run off the Challenger chair, I did not want to go back up there. I spent lunch time with SSH, Tim and Eric who helped me understand where to ski on the bump. After doing that run after lunch, my fear of bumps completely disappeared. I had always looked at bumps as impediments to skiing and that went away.
  • Working on sideslips with Nolo at ESA. I finally realized that in order to do this, my downhill hip needed to be over my dowhill ski and that it would not work otherwise.
  • The next breakthrough was skiing with Scott and a friend of mine who is an intermediate skier. Scott was working with Kelli on extension and edge release. I was following behind them trying to incorporate what he was teaching her into my own skiing. And suddenly, it happened. Where I had always felt some element of forcing my turn or some defensive movement of stopping the old turn to start the new turn, I now felt effortless release and movement into the new turn.
  • Skiing bumps with Bob Booker at Loveland. At the top of the run, he said, "two feet" and "follow me". I followed him through the bumps ignoring the terrain and doing exactly what he did. I had the most effortless, fun, wonderful run through the bumps I have ever had. I realized after that run, that I have been trying to manuever through the bumps using some defensive stem type movements instead of skiing with both feet doing the same thing.
  • I demo'd a pair of Dynastar GS skis when Jeannie Thoren did her women's ski demonstration at Breck. She was out of the Burnin Luv's which I wanted to try. She asked me what size boot I had and luckily I had the same size boot as she did. She gave me next year's Dynastar 11s and told me that they like to go fast. Anyone who has seen me ski, knows that skiing fast is not something I do. However, I decided to take her word for it and let it rip on those skis. What a blast! I discovered I could go fast and feel stable at the same time.
The incremental:
  • As I look back over the season, I can visualize the gradual changes in my skiing that I could not recognize on a day to day basis. Going from being uncomfortable in powder and crud to gliding smoothly through the powder and crud up off of 6 Chair at Breck.
  • To go from standing frozen with shaking legs before going slowly into steep terrain to confidently dropping into the various terrain where I refused to go last year.
  • To be able to feel and recognize some of the inefficiencies in my movements and to be able to experiment with different movements to determine how they affect my skiing.
  • I realized that things I thought I understood, I really don't, but now know I am on my way to understanding.
post #24 of 40
How about movement in the other direction -- regression of skiing ability. It really does happen for a lot of reasons like age, diminished physical ability, lack of practice or desire to stay current, etc. For years I have seen many wearing level III pins that could not pass any portion of the exam today. Should we constantly be measuring and re-certifying? Or should getting the pin be a one-way gate?
post #25 of 40
Improvent is when a skill can be translated from green to blue, or blue to black etc.

A breakthrough is when "mastery" of the skill rears it's head on the green/lower level terrain!
post #26 of 40
Originally Posted by nolo
How many times have you had this dialogue with a student? "You need to do this." "But I am doing that." "Well, you need to do it more." "More?" "More." "More?" "More."
At that point I normally say, "Do it until you feel you are so over exagerated that you think it will look funny or you will fall over. Then you are probably almost there."

Its the old you can't do too much of a good thing.

I've only seen one skiier that was too far forward. Two years ago at a level II skiing prep course we had one guy who was so far forward, the tails of his skis would lift at points during the turn. It was marvelous to watch. Talk about commitment. You should have seen the examiner when he said, "Get back just a little. Not too much, we don't want to do bad things." Now how many times have you seen that?
post #27 of 40
Thread Starter 

Thanks for giving us such a thorough and thoughtful answer. It sounds like you have lost your timidity and are charging down the hill. You have an exquisite touch, don't lose that.

T-Square, You are right: one could ride the chair blindfolded and do pretty good movement analysis, just based on the probability that the skier is doing what 98% of the other skiers are doing. (That's an exaggeration too.)
post #28 of 40
Originally Posted by nolo
Have any of you had a breakthrough in improvement, or would you say that your improvement has been incremental? If you have had a breakthrough, could you describe it and how it came about?
Mostly it is incremental - I may have sudden breakthroughs in understanding - but the progress in movement skills is incremental.

The small improvements in many areas can be difficult to notice though & then you finally put ALL the small improvements together at the same time (instead of each one in one particular situation) & you FEEL as though you have just made a huge breakthrough.

This is happening in my surfing right now. I am improving all my turning & paddling skills (my weakest areas are paddling & timing) & my balance continues to improve & I am jumping up faster. At the same time I am improving my timing paddling to catch waves... & my timing of my jump ups....
This means that every so often I put ALL my better efforts together at once & have a really good ride...

The guys teaching me are walking around expecting the big breakthrough soon - they can see me teetering on the brink - but not yet able to consistently put it all together. As they keep saying - once I put it all together I WILL be a different surfer. All teh skill sets are there - but I still am not quite able to put the skills together in any reasonable manner. SOON!

Now that I have been through this in skiing though I am more patient with myself learning surfing. I recognise that I simply need to persist in working for my goals. Keep focused on the small imrpovements & the larger ones WILL appear
post #29 of 40

My first breakthrough came after I had been skiing for many years. It was on the day I bought my SG skis. The guy in the store was asking all the right questions so as not to over-sell me. When he discovered that I was skiing by feel without knowing exactly how I was doing it, he explained how a ski worked - side cut, flex pattern, etc. Everything became so much easier to do once I understood the mechanisms.

My second breakthrough came a few years later, when I took my very first ski lesson. I was a starving student during my early skiing years and couldn't justify the expense! However, since I had just wiped out (from about 60 mph: , Thank God for soft powder and for assigning me a superb Guardian Angel) and was feeling a little dizzy and "woozy", I figured the day was shot anyway as far as high-speed hi-jinx was concerned so I might as well take a lesson (a sane person would have checked into the local hospital). The more you know the better it gets!
post #30 of 40
My biggest breakthrough when after 16 years of skiing (started as an adult) I finally got my weight forward by dropping down into my boots, pulling my feet back and keeping constant shin/tongue contact.

Once I felt this position my skiing improved instantly and immensly. Everything else I had learned worked better (and that's a LOT of things

For years I thought I was forward, but in fact was bent over at the waist to stay forward because my feet were out ahead of me and I was releasing shin contact at various points during each turn. Once I found that I could keep shin contact, and as Tom Burch told me, that it was OK, if not preferable, to have some pressure on my heel (but not on the back of the boot) everything changed. I measured my improvement by how balanced and in control and comfortable I felt.
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