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Initiation Intuition

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Steve and I have been discussing this our blogs at DreamtimePublishing.com
Originally Posted by lmercer
An interesting thing often happens on the ski slopes. You reach a certain point, and suddenly notice that everyone has stopped. “Pray tell! What has happened. What deadly terrain lies below?”
Chances are, there is nothing of significance. The terrain is often no stepper that the terrain above. There have been no wipe outs. There are no moguls. But since everyone is gathered at this point, we fear the worst. In fact, we are convinced that there is something terrible down there.
Here is what’s really wrong. By stopping, and allowing oursleves to ponder the worst, we’ve lost our initiation intuition. The slopes have their logic. If you allow them to lead you, you will know the exact time and place to initiate the next turn. But if you allow your intellect to control the process, you might find that your turns go across the hill, looking more like crossword puzzles than circles.
An instructor once told me that if you start your turns across the hill, every turn becomes the first turn, along with that pesky first turn “yikes factor.” On the other hand, if you follow along the line where the mountain has been leading you, you might find yourself dancing with gravity!
I have found that this "stop and gape" factor often happens at Copper, right at the top of Rhapsody. As I come off the lift, there is a logical line that would bring me right down that trail. Unfortunately, when I get there, everyone is just hanging out and staring. For tow years, I always thought that this was going to be the start of something awful. Now, that I just ignore everyone and keep moving, I don't know what the problem was.

This was Steve's response:
Originally Posted by Steve Hultquist
So true, Lisa! Even when there is a slight change in incline (such as the various roads or benches that a typical long run may cross), stopping there removes the flow and so many folks miss the experience and sensations of floating over that slight rise and slight drop.
This is one reason why our good friend and Aspen/Snowmass instructor extraordinaire Weems Westfeldt recommends a few top-to-bottom runs each day. Doing that will give you a much better feel for the mountain and its sense of flow
post #2 of 12
LM : You're right stopping breaks the flow. When one stops and looks at the next section of trail too long they can get their head into it too much. They start imagining all types of bad things that can happen. Then the muscles and nerves tense up, and they can get frozen. Now I'm talking about basic terrain not extreme terrain where there are cliffs, rocks, and mandatory airs that one should definately scope out beforehand. One of the best ways I find to go with the flow is to get a song in my head and start humming it before I even reach the " scarier" part. That keeps my muscles loose and able to react to any change in terrain that I come upon. Most people probably have the skills to get down these spots it is just that they won't trust their equipment or their ability.
post #3 of 12
If I see a bunch of people stopped, I sometimes stop to see why they stopped. Probably they stopped for the same reason I did, except for the first one.

These day I don't usually stop until I reach the lift line, unless I'm skiing with someone and waiting for them to catch up. Back in my speed-demon years, I used to stop at the top of steep runs to allow traffic to clear so I could straight-line them without getting too close to other skiers.
post #4 of 12
It's better to stop (or at least slow down) and find out there is no reason to than it is to blast by and find out too late that you should have stopped. It's like riding a motorcycle fast; the secret of going fast is knowing when to slow down.
post #5 of 12
At this elevation, sometimes I stop because I need to catch my breath (oxygen—need oxygen!). I ski lots by myself and usually do about half my runs top-to-bottom, no stopping. A couple of years ago when I skied Loveland for the first time, I hopped off #1 chair and gazed at Spillway. Maybe 15-20 people were standing at the top of the run. At the time, it looked a little steep for me. My sister said, “Put your poles on and go! Don’t think about it, just ski!” Good advice as I can talk myself out of almost anything if I try hard enough! :

Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
It's better to stop (or at least slow down) and find out there is no reason to than it is to blast by and find out too late that you should have stopped. It's like riding a motorcycle fast; the secret of going fast is knowing when to slow down.
However, last season at Snowbasin, I came up over a rise--where a small crowd had gathered--and had I not stopped, I would have run smack into someone who had wiped out about 6' below. Better for me to deal with the mild annoyance of breaking my rhythm rather than breaking something less easily mended.
post #6 of 12
I really do not have interuptions in flow by stopping so I have no problem slowing or stopping for any reason. My first turns have rhythm and flow but I do very deliberate movement patterns to make that happen.

If a group are gathered at one point, I definitely will not blow by them at high speed. There could easily be some gapers sitting on the slopes with boards or a mom and a kid having a difficult time gettting down just past the rise. I do not want to scare the bageezzus out of these folks. If they look particularly distressed, I may even stop to help them.

If I am running from top to bottom, I will run to the side and enter just below the crowd on a very shallow angle. Once I see the coast is clear, I will turn on the juice once again.
post #7 of 12

Every slope seems to have some places where people naturally stop and look. For some, I think they are pondering how to negotiate the next scarry part. For others, they are waiting to see what happens to those brave enough to dive into the abiss. Others are waiting for the possible carnage to dissipate before they try the waters.
Good instructors know those areas and don't stop the class there so anizity doesn't mount within the students. If instructions are needed to be given to the class, the instructor gives them well above the "scarry zone", selects a safe meeting place for the class and lingers part way down the "scarry hill" to help anyone who is stressing the terrain. If the instructor does their job well, it should be a non-event.

We sometime notice someone stalled above one of these spots for quite some time and comment "if they wait long enough, the snow will melt and they can walk down". I think that in many cases, it is fear that causes this and it takes time for the mind to process all of the factors envolved along with watching how others cope who are also in the same situation.

Instructors should have some empathy for their class who are facing these areas. I often call it "the scarry corner" to my class which is relieved to hear that the instructor knows what they are feeling and also has a plan for them to negotiate it.

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
I agree that with a ski class, there will be some obvious points hwere everyone needs to stop and re-group. Yet lately, I find that for the most part, I prefer to ski solo so that I can find my own innner rhythm.

I had an interesting thing happen last week. I was skiing in Timberline at Copper, and went down Windsong. I did not expect it to be bumped up. In fact, ever since my ACL injury on a bump run, I have had no interest whatsoever in skiing bumps. However, there they were, and I needed to get down, so be it.

At first, the motor memory came back, and I realized how easy they are once you establish a rhythm and flow. Then, all of a sudden, in a wide open field where any other line was possible, a girl decides to ski right out in front of me, and stop about three bumps ahead. All of a sudden, my sense of flow, as well as my sense of slope logic was gone. My intuition told me that she was unpredictable, and since I tore my ACL by trying to avoid an unpredictable skier on a bump run, I waited to she was well down the slope to start again.

Ironically, I was not at all scared, which was a good thing. But an odd thing happened. Every time I got to the top of a bump, my skis would just sop moving. Notice, I'm not saying that I stopped moving. This was not that standing in terror on the top of a mogul thing that sometimes happens. No!
My skis would just get there and stop. Since I was alone, I started yelling at my skis.

"Why are you stopping?" You were doing great before! If I'm not scared, you shouldn't be!"

I still can't figure out why this happened, but I attribute it to losing momentum.
post #9 of 12

I still can't figure out why this happened, but I attribute it to losing momentum.
Could be, but it could also be a result of you not making the same movement over the top of the bump to release your edges and carry you into the next turn. Just a guess.

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
That's a possibility. I was also focusing on the top of the bump, instead of focusing on the next one down the line. Since I was focusing on the top of the bump, that's where I ended up.
post #11 of 12
Learning to ski through transitions of all sorts is an amazing way to improve.

I also love to keep going over the lip when I see the puke lineup at the top of a bump run. Sometimes I'll whisper as I go by, "If you stop, you rust."

And you don't have to do it fast, or in the air, or anything like that. Just keep skiing, looking, setting up... It's big fun.
post #12 of 12
When I stop either alone or with a group, I will usually intentionally not stop at those natural gathering places. Instead, I'll stop a bit above it and help the skiers in the group to naturally experience the joy of riding the rise and fall of the slope at that point. Sometimes, I'll stop a few turns below one to allow the group to catch their breath.

The mountains have a rhythm, and those who cut the best trails create them to be complemented by that rhythm. Breaking them up too much is one of the habits that can cause skiing to become mechanical instead of a dance with the mountain.
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