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Joyfull vs. Technical Skiing

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I have been lucky enough to ski with some world renown free-skiers and have also had occasion to ski with and observe ex-demo team members, world cup racers, and examiners. I certainly appreciate all of the high level skills I see in these skiers including balance, finess, power (mostly from the racers), and the ability to generate huge angles (most obvious in the racers). However, In general I notice a big difference in the "styles" between these two categories when free-skiing. Perhaps it's the playfulness of the free-skiers who look for every little hit and terrain feature to mess with, but I think it's much more. I have one free-skiing friend in particular who epitomizes this distinction with skiing that is joyful and exuberant while being able to match or exceed the skiing skills of most high level experts. This includes high speed GS turns or quick short turns on the groomed as well as steeps, moguls, and jibbing. I don't think it takes an "expert eye" to see this diffrence it's very evident.

I'll leave the movement analysis to examine these differences (if they even exist as a generality like I think they do) to the instructional forum. However, I would like to say that I think that many skiers do not get to see nearly enough of this type of "joyful" skiing (I know I don't). For me it is perhaps one of the greatest motivators for self improvement. Addtionally I think that there is not nearly enough of this pathos in typical instructional situations.

It doesn't necessarily take increased risk or skill to experience this joy. It can be had even at lower skill levels. Basically I think it is a shame that the "ski industry" does not recognize this deficiency and work to be sure it is included in lessons, programs, demonstrations, events to watch, events to participated in, ... you name it. I think it's a big difference between skiing and snowboarding that attracts to many younger snowriders to the latter.
post #2 of 14
Skiing is grim and serious business. Joy is for sissies.
post #3 of 14
one of my most joyful days was at alta in april a few years ago when snow fell non-stop, piling on the huge amount of fresh already fallen. the skiers i was with had a blast doing laps on supreme, flailing and falling and setting off explosions of white wherever we crashed.
we didn't know how to ski powder.
if i'd known how to ski powder the day would've been better.

all to say, and speaking entirely for myself, while i don't want to get hung up on the fine print of technique - "technical skiing" - i also see this acute attention to the do's and don'ts as somewhat necessary. sometimes one must learn the drill if only to be able to forget it and give over to this "joyful" skiing.

i don't see the two as mutually exclusive.

edit: Si, I take it you're speaking of a particular "skiing sensibility," and I'm reading into it that you see this "technical v. joyful" skiing point as pointing out how for some skiing might be a little serious, while for others the not missing a terrain hit is kind of like smelling the roses. (?)

I think this again points out how we are all different and bring our respective personalities to the hill, and to our skiing.

[ November 10, 2003, 09:31 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #4 of 14
My wife yells at me all the time when I try to give her basic pointers because I can see her form as she is coming down the hill.

She says that I suck all the fun out of skiing because I try to help her ski more efficiently and smoothly.

We are both self taught so if it feels wrong we know it is wrong and if it feels right we know it is right.

But little things like hand position and washing out tails can be corrected just by being aware of them.

To me the gear, technical aspects, and skiing of course is why I love skiing.

My wife just likes to cruise and chill and not worry about extreme technical nuances.

I see her point but to me it is a challenge every run to get better and that makes it fun for me.
post #5 of 14
I use the technical portion as a means to an end. The end, is fun and games time.

In karate, you do kata, over and over and over .... you repeat the tasks and movements till you achieve "technical perfection", (though it never is). It's hoped that these repetetive tasks will lead the "the perfect form" when it counts. The idea here is to "print the pathway, etch it into the brain" ..... so your body will be on auto-pilot.

Same with skiing. I do the first few runs by the book and hope I can print those neural pathways for the rest of the day. On one or two occasions I have finished a run without even remember skiing it ..... only knowing that I felt pretty good at the end. I was reading a book on sword fighting and they got into a thing called "mushin" .... Japanese for "no mind", you never think, you just "do". Without getting cosmic about it, I think that's the auto-pilot part.

The good stuff is in the doing!
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
I had no intent of saying one is more important than another or that joy needs to emphasized at the expense of technique. Not in the least. My point was that there are many ways to have more fun in working on impovement (technique) with an outcome of even greater motivation for improvement. Part of this can be just good leadership and demonstration by insturctors, for example. Let's talk about a simple example. There is a lot to be learned by learning to "take air." Now this can vary from a fraction of an inch to a few feet. Either way there is a tremendous amount that can be taught and learned through such maneuvers and I have not seen many frowns on people when they get their skis off the ground (even for that fraction of an inch that can feel like 10 feet).

So, please don't take my initial post as inferring anything at all about having to trade-off between having fun and working on technique. I am definitely talking about combining them. Also, this was only one part of my point. The other was the way "style" (especially expert style) can reflect joy (vs. technique)
post #7 of 14
I'll keep this simple. The better my technique becomes the more fun I have. That's the main reason for improving, I wish more people would figure that out.
post #8 of 14
Originally posted by smithby:
I'll keep this simple. The better my technique becomes the more fun I have. That's the main reason for improving, I wish more people would figure that out.
I don't know if I completely agree with the whole "the-better-I-get-the-more-fun-I-have" concept.

My very first day on skis *still* ranks as one of the most fun times I've ever had in skiing. I had no idea how to turn or stop, the skis were twice as long as I was (or seemed to be), the weather was horrible, the hill (a tilted pasture in Iowa) was worse, and I laughed all day.

While it's certainly true that improving your abilities opens up lots of new possibilities for enjoying the sport, I've seen plenty of non-very-good skiers having one heck of a great time.

They're pretty joyful.

post #9 of 14
All of us who ski quite a lot, vary our skiing from challenge to learning to just having fun however what Si I guess is getting at is how a person balances those orientations of skiing.

Some skiers get quite oriented into challenge and performance. For those who race that is a natural tendency. Whatever the category of effort, accomplishments are a form of feedback which can end up what the person enjoys most. That can particularly be the case when others as peers or instructors are involved. All such is not positive however. Some who ski with groups particularly with some novices, learn to enjoy being one of the first ones down a slope back in the lift line as it gives them a sense of more accomplishment regardless of how their style looks. In the end speed without form or style becomes a self destructing end. Then there are those who want to ski difficult terrain which is more often more of an exhausting athletic event rather than pleasant.

The above contrasts with those who are more interested in enjoying the visceral motion feelings from snow sliding on skis. Most of those above also enjoy these sensations but for whatever reason it is not much valued or explored. For powder skiers it is a natural tendency. There are those who learn to enjoy the smooth sinuous sensation of making good turns rebounding from the flex of skis rhythmically. Most intermediates understand what that is about but not always so with novices. I've always been one of those enjoying sensations thus seek pleasurable snow and terrain most days.

For those who ski with groups, particularly guys, there may often be strong un-spoken forces of who skis better between members of a group. For those who don't adequately match up, that can alone be enough to effect their decision to become a long term skier or find some other activities more to their liking. Generally it is true that in skiing the cream does tend to rise to the top. Most old time addicted skiers are generally excellent athletes. -dave

[ November 10, 2003, 01:22 PM: Message edited by: dave_SSS ]
post #10 of 14
Let's compare playing a Rachmaninov Concerto to one of Joplin's Ragtime ditties. Certainly one sounds (appears) to be more playful. Is the joy to the performing pianist only in ragtime?

The joy that an elite athlete (or demo teamer) receives from their type of playfulness can be unfairly misunderstood. The joy of mastery is playful in itself.

Give the kids the finger paints.... "No Johnny, you can't use your elbow, we want you to play THIS way!"

I know a bright eyed 13 year old who excels as an alpine racer. I introduced him to my lady and told him she's not a skier. (He was unaware of her unrelated neck injuries). His reply to her, (with his disdain tongue in cheek) ...."oh, you a boarder?" What a hoot! No way you could convince him there is greater joy on a mountain than the way he playfully pursues his sport. Even if he looks (and is)intent.

May I hope that if it's skiing, it's play. And, if we're playing, there's joy.
post #11 of 14
I only work on technique for when I'm skiing with others, because that's all about image. When I'm by myself I'm a joyful skier, or when I'm showing someone a line they never knew about, then I'm a joyful skier. But if people are around it's 100% about having perfect technique. Because it seems like every single person I ski with has a complex about my equipment and I have to hold myself to a super-high standard so as not to embaress myself by giving ammunition to a doubter/hater. Catch me skiing when nobody's looking and you'll see a huge smile on my face. Ski with me and you'll see me grinding my teeth in concentration.

C'est la vie. :
post #12 of 14
Originally posted by smithby:
I'll keep this simple. The better my technique becomes the more fun I have. That's the main reason for improving, I wish more people would figure that out.
I think you're dead on.

I have more fun skiing when I feel that I can ski anywhere under any conditions, and can explore the mountain without limits. You don't reach this level without technical proficiency.

I'm at a point where I feel I'm 85% of the way toward this goal. My wife is under 50%. I look forward to achieving the additional 15%.
post #13 of 14
no mutual exclusion, Si.

as a technically minded person, my approach to my two passions (mtn bike riding and alpine skiing) is technical.

I practice each passion with joy and playfulness.

the ability to have fun and be playful is what's missing in the joyless skier. it's not the emphasis on technical skiing, because that's obviously a fundament to the high-level playing.
post #14 of 14
I kind of relate technical proficiency in skiing to that of training to climb harder grades (rock climing, not mountaineering). For example, when I first got into climbing, I had no idea what was going on. Through some hard work in the gym and working on the technical aspects of climbing (movement, efficiency, using brain over brawn) as well as climbing with people much better than me, I was getting on sport 5.12's within 8 months. For me, the goal to climb 5.12 wasn't an attempt at vanity (I know enough 5.13 climbers to know better anyway). My logic was this-if I can at least redpoint a 12a/b, and are also onsighting 11b, it opens up a world of new climbs. I can quickly work and send 11's without exhausting myself, and most 10's are on auto-pilot. I am solid at the grade, so I can attack longer, more difficult multipitch routes when I go to Yosemite. It just opens up so many more opportunities, both on road trips and at the local crag (Smith Rocks, where the bulk of good routes are 11's and easy 12's). Sure, I am not always looking to redpoint a really tough route (for me) but if I had never spend the time becoming somewhat proficient, I would be stuck on the bunny routes day after day. That would personally get old. But, if I was just a social climber, out to have a good time in the sun with my buddies (as many skiers are) it would be a different story.

It is pretty much the same with skiing. If I spend time each day (usually less than 1 hour) working on something I want to improve on, as well as reviewing the basics, trying to ski well at a very slow speed, then I will be more or less dialed in all day long. I can therefore ski relatively well (at least for me) on most of the terrain our local hill has to offer. When you have skied well enough to "feel" it, you certainly don't want to get lazy and go back to skiing poorly-that isn't any fun. I personally enjoy making improvements in my skiing-several years ago, when I stopped improving due to a lack of good instruction (I was kind of in straight-ski purgatory) skiing got old. When I finally got some real (shaped) skis 2 years ago and began to improve again, I once again became addicted. As it says at the end of Ron LeMaster's book: "skiing well is it's own reward".
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