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Teaching and Learning Made Simpler

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
A recent thread on “Skiing Made Simple”, started by nolo, prompted me to post these notes on an excellent and innovative day-long clinic this year which greatly simplified the teaching/learning of skiing for me. I may not have captured the essence of all of the drills we did, and I’m not interested in defending them or my description of them at this time. I’m more interested in the general scheme – the Essential Hierarchy. It makes sense to me.

Nick's 1-2-3 Scheme:

Overview: The "Unofficial Guide" and "Common Threads" provided key elements of skiing widely used PSIA-NW. This 1-2-3 approach, however, adds to them specific priorities for teaching and skiing. This approach is appropriate for first day skiers as well as clinics for experts. The “priorities” concept is more than simply what goes first. It is like Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” which specifies that the basic needs must be met before higher needs can be successfully addressed. If the safety, hunger, and warmth are unmet needs, it is virtually impossible to focus on needs higher in the hierarchy. Nick presented a similar model for essential elements of skiing skills. In this case, some of the elements of skiing cannot be executed unless the more fundamental elements (skills) are properly executed.

Essential Hierarchy:
1. Fore-Aft Balance: You should maintain stance during all phases of the turn (shin/cuff pressure at all time, generally angle of the upper leg (femur) should mirror the angle of the lower leg (tibia). The Fore-Aft balance is the #1 priority because without it, the next two key elements cannot be executed effectively. (See Attachment at the end: The Essential Skills Hierarchy.doc)

2. Side-to-Side Balance: Direct your balance to the outside ski during the turn. (While maintaining the fore-aft balance -- without this, the next step cannot be done effectively.) With this balance you are able to adjust the pressure on the inside ski from basically zero to approximately 50-50 without major changes in CM or body angles.

3. Turning or tipping the skis: Turning is generally achieved by tipping the skis on their edges. Effective turning or tipping of skis requires the maintenance of fore-aft balance and directing the balance toward the outside ski. Both the first two elements are required for successful execution of the turn.

Given this framework, (briefly explained in the first 4 minutes of the clinic) many drills were done with careful error-correction feedback, so that we could more effectively accomplish these elements at the same time.

The clinic was for instructors preparing for certification exams, and the following drills were used (numbers refer to priorities/hierarchies above):

A. A special “J” turn to emphasize these essential priorities. Straight run on gentle slope with (1) cuff pressure, and (future) (2) inside ski tail off snow, then the Harb phantom (PMTS) type (3) tilt of tip of inside ski into a "J" turn and stop. The fore-aft balance should be maintained during the complete drill. The lifted inside tail forces balance to outside ski (only one supporting ski, with the inside ski only having tip on snow) and the tipping of the inside ski by moving the inner thigh or knee produces the turn by causing the skier to unconsciously move their hips into the turn, which also tips the outside ski. We then practiced with feedback and error correction.

B. Same as above, with more of the inner ski fore-body on snow. Imagine pressuring more of the front of inside ski so bending point is between boot and tip, with the tail just barely off the snow. The idea is to do this while maintaining the essentials (1,2,3).

C. Same as above, with entire inside ski on snow. Then pull inside ski back more to achieve more tip pressure.

D. Practicing with medium radius turns. Types of movement analysis/error correction: Continued feedback was given on observed lack of shin-cuff contact or settling in the backseat at the end of a turn (1), "A" frame stance (2), twisting inside ski instead of tipping it, allowing skis to diverge (3). We were striving for rounder turns with skiing under body to facilitate edge change (minimal pivoting) (3), earlier pole swing to facilitate fore-aft balance at end of turn (1), more movement of inside knee or thigh to initiate turn (3), and other guidance was provided to help us make good turns maintaining all three elements for the entire turns.

Expansion of Scheme: After lunch we started with the picture of our morning’s medium radius turns as reflecting one side of a continuum. The afternoon was going to be devoted to two variations on this. We were going to switch from medium radius (carving) focus to more rotary-based short-swing turns, which represent the other side of the continuum. After that we would be doing short radius turns with focus more on higher edge angles. The same principles would be used, but with a turn that blends the ends of a continuum.

Short Swing, or braking, turn: This turn is very different from the medium radius. Drills used: Mambo turns, Mambo with stronger counter move (punch with outside arm, pivot around inside shoulder), pivot slips, pivot slips with extension of outside leg, focus on leg turning. Rhythm, more active pole plant, sync skiing with pairs, sync skiing in three's with middle person doing reverse sync. Maintaining fore-aft balance was emphasized during all these. Side-to-side move is less, but still there by extension on outside leg. Lateral travel of boots is pretty narrow (maybe a yard). The sync skiing helped with our rhythm, timing, and pole plant moves.

Short Radius Turns: Given extremes of carving medium radius and rotary short swing, we then moved to a mixture of the movements for short-radius turns. Fore-aft again was primary, with boot pressure (1) throughout turn. (Without it, the rest would not work smoothly or would be contrived, or would require special re-balancing moves). The early move to new outside ski was emphasized (2). We focused on skiing so boots travel a wider path (compared to the short swing) to the edge of a wider corridor (maybe 2 yards) while CM remains … near center of corridor, which requires more tipping (3). Angulation from hip movement is essential for this shape of a turn. The hip movement allows for a high edge angle.

Conclusion: For our teaching, the type of drills would vary depending on skill level of students, terrain, and conditions. The pattern would be the same with the emphasis on 1) fore-aft balance, 2) side-to-side balance to outside ski, and the 3) tipping (or turning) force (in that order). For our own skiing improvement we should use the same hierarchy to check our progress and work on problems. We should make sure we have a workable foundation before we try to work on movements that depend on that foundation. It’s as simple as 1-2-3. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

post #2 of 4
Efficient skiing really is pretty simple.

But it were easy, it would be called Snowboarding :
post #3 of 4
Originally Posted by Havens
We should make sure we have a workable foundation before we try to work on movements that depend on that foundation. Havens

for/aft and lateral planes assessed and corrected is a good, a darn good start.
post #4 of 4
Originally Posted by Havens
We should make sure we have a workable foundation before we try to work on movements that depend on that foundation. Havens
I agree completely! For beginners to experts. I teach skiing and not just turns. This approach seems to help reinforce movements from the bottom of the foundation on up.
After all, we are ski instructors (or snow sport instructors) and not turn instructors.
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