Just for fun, I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate.
Lets go all the way and imagine just how bad it would be if we started all never-ever skiers on 90 mm wide, shorties with a mid-teen sidecut radius. Instead of the currently favored PSIA progressions for skiers, we took them down a path more similar to what we teach never-ever boarders – lots more sideslipping, edge control and rapid, large pivoting moves early in their instruction.
Then, once these folks had the basic survival skills, and could push snow down the mountain as well as any novice boarder
, we could then teach them to link turns, develop higher edge angles, start skiing the slow line fast, etc.
My guess is that with a progression like this, you would entice many more of these never-ever potential skiers into returning because, just like with boarding, these newbie skiers would see a relatively fast rise to intermediate status. The more timid ones would feel “more stable” on the wider skis and have immediate speed control on easy terrain, while the more daring newbies could “ski” (ie, windshield wiper turns and edge sets) steeper terrain and get to boast about it. In fact, isn’t this exactly the way it used to be in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s when retention was at an all time high?
OK, I realize that this would lead to:
1. Lots more snow getting pushed off the mountain and into horrible shaped bumps
2. Even more kids than now bombing green runs by going straight down then fall line, then throwing in a speed check every few hundred feet.
3. More potential for collisions between the folks in #2 and more advanced skiers carving down the same trail.
4. Students taught this way would have to spend more time unlearning the early emphasis on rotary when they want to move on to more advanced skiing, etc. etc.
BUT, back to the original question: Is it good for the economic health of the sport?
Advanced skiers such as those in this thread can rant and rave all they want about this abomination and reversion to prehistoric methods, but my guess is that with wide skis and the above learning progression, we would greatly increase retention and numbers for many, but not all of the same reasons boarding was/is a success.
From a purely economic POV, early retention is the key, and anything we can do to increase it will boost numbers throughout all skill levels in the learning pipeline. More people will “fall in love” with skiing after their first exposure, so the number of people visiting the resorts will increase, as will the number of times a given individual returns per season. These people will buy food, lodging, real estate, etc. They will carry the message back to their friends about “how easy it is”. Ski schools will be busy with both the never-evers who want to try the new equipment and instructional methods, as well as with intermediates who want to move on past windshield wiper turns, and the world will once again be happy.
While those of us in this thread, either advanced recreational skiers or pros, have already bemoaned bits and pieces of the sacrilege I just described, I see nothing in this thread to indicate that the expected economic benefits wouldn’t occur.
Most of the arguments given against starting newbies on fats are that such skiers won’t progress as fast or as far as someone on normal skis and given a traditional learning progression. While this is true for any given individual who stays with the sport, unfortunately, the economic reality is that there needs to be such individuals in the first place. If there is low early attraction and retention, there will be few people in the pipeline, so quicker skill development won’t matter one wit in the overall economics.
In fact, I would go further and wonder if one of the reasons skiing was so popular from the 1960’s through the ‘80’s was that the bar was lower with respect to skill. It was OK to snowplow. It was more than OK to ski the greens and blues. If you went skiing at all, you were regarded with a bit of awe by your non-skiing family and friends, no matter what you did on the hill. Nowdays, expectations are incredibly higher, and if you are a young guy and can’t compete in an extreme skiing competition after a few times on skis, you might as well cut your loses and get out of the sport “cuz your nothing but a loser”.
I think that managing expectations is an important goal for the ski industry. It won’t be simple, but telling newbie skiers that it’s OK to use “cheater” gear (ie, wider in addition to shorter), and not carve for your first couple of weeks on skis is just fine.
An obvious question is how is the above suggestion essentially different from the ill-fated GLM method which introduced many inefficiencies into ski technique and often ended with the student in an intermediate rut. Times have changed since then. As TheRusty pointed out earlier this year, (http://forums.epicski.com/showpost.p...97&postcount=8
), new methods of construction have allowed much higher levels of performance in the skis. The teaching progression proposed above would obviously make use of improved equipment. In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, in 2006, we are now VERY aware that the students that are clearly in skiing for the long haul would need to get converted relatively quickly over to using skis they way they were designed to be used (sliding forward, not sideways) to avoid the intermediate “rut”. Thus, unambiguously dead-end movements such as use of opposite edges vs. corresponding edges (snowplow vs gliding wedge), would never be taught.
Now that I've painted the large target on my back, I'll stand perfectly still while ya'll take aim.
Tom / PM
[/Devil’sAdvocateMode = OFF]
PS (in edit) – As per Alfonse’s comment, the newbies might actually have more fun using the above approach.