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Truth In The Tracks?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
If you can produce perfect rail road track turns with no indication of skidding and sliding would the perfect RR tracks validate that your edging and movement patterns used to produce these turns were technically correct?

Better said, is it possible to produce pure RR tracks with flawed technique?

I acknowledge that RR track turns maynot be the begin all end all regarding ski skills. But I think (maybe out of ignorance) if you can do lay down RR tracks you're a pretty good skier. The steeper the terrain the more difficult for sure. When I have the opportunity to ski Vail , I always get over to Avanti and the try on the steep section to link turns with no slippage or skidding on the fresh courdoury in the AM. I always see some indications that I skidded in some of the turns when I look back at my tracks.
post #2 of 19

Technically correct? Effectively yes. "Correctness" is a subjective method to evaluate technique, but I'll stay with the terminology for a bit.

The theory has it that since the inside ski is travelling on a different radii turn, that there must be some skidding, even it what appears to be perfect RR turns. But such skidding is small enough to be neglible.

For "technically correct" turns, one thing that we are looking for is progressive movements throughout the turn. Progressive edging is one critical element that we are looking for. It is possible to "park and ride" (pause your edging movements) in a turn and leave a RR track? I think so. Is it possible to link RR turns with park and ride? I think it's possible, but not likely.

Is progressive edging more efficient technique than park and ride? Of course. Does it take more skill to carve turns (i.e. leave RR tracks) vs skid turns? Of course. A good pro will use more objective descriptions of quality of turns and avoid using terms like right/wrong or correct/incorrect.
post #3 of 19
Seems to me perfect linked rail road tracks showing a clean roll from Old to New edges without scruffing any snow would indicate ideal operation of the skis. Doesn’t necessarily validate what’s happening above the ski though. Getting the ski to operate this well on Green terrain is pretty easy. Tougher on Blue and downright challenging on Black. I’d say you’re already operating the skies pretty well.

Detecting why we’re skidding/twisting the skis at transition can be a challenge from the inside. An outside observer can more easily see any stiffness, notice excessive CM movement toward the new turn, detect weight positioning issues and maybe observe where any undesired twisting/torque might be coming from.

I’d second the notion that progressive movement (all aspects) will eliminate a lot of issues. Stalled movements through part of a turn will force us to make rapid catch-up movements at some later time. Pausing can translate into CM out of position, a build-up of excess torque, weight/pressure some degree from where we’d like it to be. Eventually we’ve got to rapidly adjust these positionings.

Rapid catch-up adjustments make the change we desire but that extra energy has to be dissipated somewhere. Normally, it gets translated right down into our skis in the form of extra twisting, thrusting or pressure.

I'm also in the boat where 'correctness' is measured by the distance between intent and outcome.

post #4 of 19
I agree with what has been posted so far. I do not totally discount the value of being able to look at the tracks you have just made though. A lot of my learning was done by doing this (skiing under the lift and then watching my tracks on the ride up). You can only tell what is going on with your feet, but often that will directly translate into upper body adjustment. It is a good starting point to adjusting your turn - even certain parts of your turn. Observing tracks you can see exactly where in the turn you're making the mistakes. That being said, it is easy to have poor upper body movement or lazy upper body movement and still lay out nice looking arcs, so it isn't an end all to fixing your skiing. It is however a decent start to see what you might need to work on.
post #5 of 19
Originally Posted by michaelA
Seems to me perfect linked rail road tracks showing a clean roll from Old to New edges without scruffing any snow would indicate ideal operation of the skis. Doesn’t necessarily validate what’s happening above the ski though.
Bingo. It is folly to conclude that your technique is very efficient by doing RR track turns. I have watched people lay near perfect tracks on newer skis with inefficient technique.

There are better choices for exercises where your tracks can be checked to get an idea how your technique really stacks up.

You can; Ski turns with radii shorter than the natural arc of the ski. If the inside track matches the amount of skidding on the outside ski track (equal width skid), you are there. If your inside ski is diverging and leaving a wider track than the outside ski you are not blending the skills as efficiently as you could. This is not tough to do when the turns are not finished very far out of the fall line but very tough when finishing turns to near 90 degrees across the fall line or even going back up hill slightly.
post #6 of 19
I find RRT a valuable exercise that offers different stepping stones to students at different levels. For those who have never experienced their ski's technology fully engaged, just being able to do the task can provide a real eye opener. Like most break-thrus, gross movements come before practice time/milage begin to yield precision, adaptability, and finesse. These are the fruits of labor for those willing to push their envelope by becoming a driver vs. just a passenger.

RRT at the lowest level is simply "park-n-ride" as a passenger going where they take you. At higher skill levels one lays the tracks in the shape and direction they choose by altering their input to the skis and exploring the various trun radii their equipment can produce.

An example of this is racers pure carving various radius turns at different speeds, on different pitches over a varied range of snow conditions. :

While two skiers may appear to be producing the same results in "ego" snow with most of the base imbedded, a transition to harder conditions where they must balance on and precisely engage the steel only might reveal completely different levels of adaptabiliy skills, where one can still cut clean lines and the other is reduced to "skarving". :

RRT are just one doorway to a process of exploring the carving gliding end of the turn type spectrum, but not an end product to the exclusion of other skill blends that provide other mountain puzzle solving options.
post #7 of 19
I agree that just like anything else, there are levels of ability to be shown in a pure RRT turn. Sure, it shows some level of accomplishment to be able to make them, but also look at turn transition from one set of edges to another. Does it take longer than the length of the skis or not (how fast was the skier going?), is the top half of the turn the same radius as the bottom half? Was there intent, on the skier's part to make it that way? Can they adjust the radius of the turn at any point in the turn?

I think intent plays a big role in the equation. As with anything else, the ability to perform to the intended outcome is a better measure of "correctness".

There are too many factors involved to just say that a pure RRT turn means a technically correct turn. What if those nice clean tracks come to an abrupt end at a lift tower?
post #8 of 19
A pure RRT turn doesn't means a technically correct ski turn, it means a technically correct RRT turn.

What I find that RRT turns, WP turns, one-legged skiing, etc. do is help you get certain aspects of your skiing right and also test to see if you get those right (why do you think PSIA examiners make us do them?).

RRT turns require-
Parallel skis
A reasonable and consistent width between skis
Equal and simultaneous edging of both skis
CG balanced correctly over skis both side/side and fore/aft.
Movement of CG with the skis (when I see people fail RRT it's usually about 1/2 to 2/3 thru the turn,the skis let go, I think this is do to them not moving with their skis).
post #9 of 19
And if you video tape them after the fact you make everyone dizzy and complain that they were falling out of their chairs.

post #10 of 19
A very interesting drill is to do RRT turns on super flat terrain going very slow. That is a test of progressive movements troughout the turn and the proof is in the tracks. Easier said than done.

post #11 of 19
Last season I got to spend a day skiing with the Epic Ski Academy instructors at Big Sky. Most of the runs were deserted so it was easy to look at the tracks of the instructors as well as my own. I noticed their tracks looked like RR tracks while mine showed a distinct skid that maxed at the apex of the turn. Realizing I was comparing my tracks against a group of the most technically skilled skiers in the world I had to face facts about the reason their tracks were so much cleaner.....their skis must have been tuned better.
post #12 of 19
Originally Posted by Rio

I noticed their tracks looked like RR tracks while mine showed a distinct skid that maxed at the apex of the turn.

You were actually *turning*????

Were you sick or something?

Back to the original question, I think Pierre's comments are right on. The more "round" the turn is and the tighter the radius of the turn, the more the tracks tell about technique.

It's relatively easy to make rr tracks if you're only turning thirty degrees out of the fall line. Pitch, speed, and hardness of the snow are also very important factors.

My own summary would be that if your tracks show good rr turns on milder slopes with moderate turns, you're on the right track - so to speak. From there, it's a matter of tightening the turn and completing it more and more on ever-increasing slopes at faster speeds.

The tracks *do* tell the tale as the conditions get tougher. Unfortunately for me, they tell me that I have a lot of work to do.
post #13 of 19
Isn't the purpose of "technique" to produce a clean turn?
What could be wrong with technique that produced a "perfect" set of tracks?
Doesn't form follow function?
post #14 of 19

What is a perfect set of tracks? If you define it as a set of RR tracks, you've defined the perfect turn as a turn with no skidding. For many skiers, a turn with no skidding is perfect enough. But if we want to talk about efficiency of movement in a turn, there's more to talk about than skidding. Here's where the shape of the turn can start telling us more information.

For example, I've described a "Park and Ride" turn as capable of producing RR tracks. This is where the skiers body stops moving and simply let's the ski continue the turn. Although the RR tracks show no skidding, the lack of progressive movements deform the roundness of the turn. There's nothing "wrong" with a park and ride turn. It's just not as efficient as a turn where all (the required) parts of the body are in continuous and progressive movement.
post #15 of 19
I guess I should of added for that one turn that one time.
The "park and ride" might give a clean arc but usually doesn't transition well.

My main thought was the form following function.
post #16 of 19
I have seen clean turn transitions on both skis similar to a snow board from a skier who is park and ride and never leaves the back seat. Instructors who do this often ask me what I think and when I tell them what I see the answer is usually "I can't be doing that and leave tracks like that" My answer "Yes you can if you don't turn very far out of the fall line and you are moving at a pretty good speed". All one has to do is shuffle the feet with a bit of banking and use retraction cross under turn transitions.

I find it very difficult to get instructors who buy the "tracks must tell the truth" to understand that good tracks can be laid even with inefficient technique. The human body moves in certain ways and all it takes is stacking the inefficient techniques in the right order.

Ron pointed out that doing RRT turns on nearly flat terrain as slow speed is much harder. When you can do them at slow speed after completeing a turn more than 90 degrees across the fall line and transition over the top, you are truely there.
post #17 of 19
Originally Posted by Pierre
The human body moves in certain ways and all it takes is stacking the inefficient techniques in the right order.
What a perfect description for most skiers stuck on the proverbial 'intermediate plateau'. And also a very good reason why we should teach more than just a single microscopic skill-element in any given lesson.

Replacing a single element of a student's repertoire with better technique often fails to meet expectations because other (mis-applied) elements may depend on the particular outcome delivered by the errant element we tackled.

The complex component-mix employed by a student may not be improved despite showing them a better technical element. They may even fall apart, get angry and assume the lesson to be a bad one.

post #18 of 19
Michael A,
Very well stated post and I agree with you.

Replacing a single element of a student's repertoire with better technique often fails to meet expectations because other (mis-applied) elements may depend on the particular outcome delivered by the errant element we tackled.
But we must start with something. If it works or not depends on how well it is understood (physically or intellengtly) by the student. Also, picking the correct element is also the key, as I am shure you know. Often a funtimental skill is weak and the student compensates by over utilizing another skill. It is our (the instructors) challange to find the cause and cure it and not just treat the symptons.

Damage control for the student may seem like a bad lesson, b/c there is often not anything new added other than a cure for what the student already has. For progress to happen, adding good on top of bad is a waist of time and money.

post #19 of 19
Shouldn't a "perfect set of tracks" a personal thing?

If you are going exactly where you want to go, at exactly the speed you want, with exactly as much skidding/carving as is appropriate to exactly do so, wouldn't that leave the perfect set of tracks for that turn?

I accept that a day of laying perfect tracks for a beginner or intermediate would leave different set of images in the snow than an expert would.

What sets the expert apart is having a larger range of options avaliable to pursue their concept of perfect tracks in a wider variety of terrain and snow conditions. And when it feels right internally as they are skiing down, they are unlikely to look back to the tracks for external validation.

If you are using the "perfect tracks" outcome as a measurement for a training or improvement process, I'd suggest setting some shorty brush gates. Set them varying both lateral offset and vertical distance and streatch your ability to adjust each arc to arrive exactly where the next transition needs to begin to link a continous set of linked arcs. You do not need to make it about speed, but precision, and being a driver vs a passinger.

Once you think you got it, go back up and ski it again in the same set of grooves, those will be perfect tracks.
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