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European vs. American Public Skiing Philosophies and Practices

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Over the holidays I was having a beer with a friend at Solitude who is a prior Euro Cup racer and German Demo Team Member (maybe captain or coach even). He made an interesting observation about one of the many reasons he preferred skiing in America. He noted that in Europe everyone is very concerned about their form on the slopes and how it fits within the established "standards." He further commented that European skiers do not tend to venture in to terrain where they can not maintain this form. In contrast he observed that Americans are much less concerned about their form and often venture into terrain "above" their skill level seeking adventure. He prefers the American philosophy and practices much more.

I found this to be a very refreshing point of view as compared to impressions one might get from this forum. As I post this I think about all the technical discussions of the most efficient or effective way to ski (in which I sometimes participate myself) and the multiple voicings of right and wrong (or just "better ways" as some would insist) vs. the rebels (like Highway Star) and the threads like those about Harpo's skiing, etc. Just helps keeps things in perspective.
post #2 of 13
I like your friend's comment, and agree with the freedom it implies... That said, I'm not sure that discussing these things is actually in contrast to the philosophy that your friend mentions for America. I think that I can seek to improve my efficiency or effectiveness (so I can ski longer each day and for many years into the future) while enjoying slopes and challenges that bring out the most glaring weaknesses of my skills.

If I start looking for a "form," someone please stick my head in the snow?

post #3 of 13
If only I had a form to worry about...

Gotta love those broad generalizations anyway.
post #4 of 13
I think the American culture lures both skiers and riders into a zone where they don't have the technical ability to be. If they get injured or injure someone else in the process, it's someone elses falt (that is what lawyers are for), instead of taking responsibility for their own actions (oooh, he cut in front of me and I couldn't stop!).

The positive side is Americans arn't afraid to innovate or try new things which keeps the sport evolving.

post #5 of 13
I find the initial comments odd, at best.
I am instructing here, in Europe, for an American Professional.
Generalizations, typically, are best avoided, and I wonder from whence the author of the original statement (of this thread) gleaned his/her European Instructing "experience".

Here on the continent, ski schools tend to be private, and, therefore, more widely varied in approach/operation.
That being said, I can assure the author that I have seen (here in Europe) fewer instructors so-obsessed with their own form, and more instructors truly interested in the needs of their pupils, than I have at at most American resorts.
There is both good and bad everywhere; It is the ratio of one to another, and, ultimately, that of the wonderful to truly terrible, with which we might better concern our observations.

What is a mere occupation and source of professional competition and hubris in my home country, is more of a lifestyle and culture of genuine educational integrity, here in Europe.

I've taught extensively on both continents for decades, and have always found the overall experience more rewarding, and less constrained by egotism, here.

We should, each of us, strive to make our own instructing experience stellar for our own pupils, and concern ourselves less with considering which continent is "better" or "worse".

There are absolutely beautiful human beings everywhere.


Please do not hesitate to PM me should you wish to visit us.
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi Hemingway,

I appreciate your comments and apologize for any misrepresentation. This was obviously a gross generalization and as such can not reflect the great diversity of skiing everywhere. Also, I don't think he was referring to instructors specifically but rather the "masses" of skiers on the slope. I have only skied in Europe a few times but my observations seem to match up with this generalization. I have seen a much larger majority of skiers on the groomed piste with a much smaller percentage venturing off-piste. I have also observed that people seemed more content to "ski within the limits of their skills and abilities" as opposed to pushing the envelope in terms of speed, line, and terrain as much as I find in the U.S.

Now my experience is pretty limited in Europe (I've skied at a wide variety of resorts in the Western U.S.). As far as I can remember I've been to Bormio/Livigno/Santa Caterina, St. Moritz, Grindelwald/Mürren, Hintertux, St. Anton/Zurs/Lech. Maybe these places aren't representative but I saw similar trends in all these places. I am very open to having this impression of mine debunked. However, I didn't really post it here in technique as a cultural comment but rather one of consideration for the many who post and read this forum in relation to perspectives on technical aspects of skiing.
post #7 of 13
Si, as a Euro, who was originally taught to ski by Austrians and French, and who has skiied in a few different resorts in Europe, I'd tend to agree with what was said in your first post.
I would add that in general, Euros are more likely to stick to the pistes (although this is changing), and that is probably partly to do with form/looking good.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
Si, as a Euro,
Hey Fox, you had me fooled - I was sure you were Irish
post #9 of 13
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
I would add that in general, Euros are more likely to stick to the pistes (although this is changing), and that is probably partly to do with form/looking good.
And possibly having to do with more miles of piste available so as to avoid utter boredom?
post #10 of 13
Originally Posted by Si View Post
Hey Fox, you had me fooled - I was sure you were Irish

He just drinks Irish.
post #11 of 13
Please bear ( ) in mind that much European "piste" has few, if any, deliniators, hence enormous fields, valleys, etc., are considered "piste".
I, too, was originally instructed through the Arlberg School, and I taught with them, as well.
teaching techniques are oft-antiquated, esp. with regard to the Austrian School, at large; philosophical techniques tend to be far and away more guest-based in much of Europe.
My present SSD, and American ex-bear certified through several national systems (he recently rec'd his lev. III equiv. Swiss Alpine Board Cert.), disagrees with me on this point, and tends toward a near-pathological anti-PSIA bias.
I still prefer The American Technique (Yes, some of us still use this term this expression) by and large, and our "spirited" discussions (I used to work for his father in the states) bear little hope of any tunnel-end light.
Aside from well-delineated, distinctive nationalized technique, howver, I try to avoid generalization....although the qeues at home are still far and away more civil than any on the continent.
post #12 of 13
I have never skied in the US but in Europe off pist skiing is very regional. In places like StAnton, Verbier and Chamonix all available off pists are farmed within hours of beeing accessible while in many other ski resorts you can ski powder all week just beside the regular groomed slopes. In Austria and other countries as well it is also not legal to ski in certain areas and federal lawmen are not to mess with.

As noted here earlier you guys also generally speaking have a lot more gutts than we do and therefore you ski off into the back country with far less skills than we do. Disclaimer, since off piste skiing is at least 50% gutts you guys have a half a mountain head start.
post #13 of 13

Can do attitude?

A few years back I was riding up the lift with a lady from London. We were watching a telemark skier gliding down the hill. She asked me if I did that. I said, "not yet, but I will." She said, "Amazing. You Yanks think you can do anything". I thought to myself, "come on, it's only telemark skiing. It's not like were are going to the moon or something". Then I though, "I guess we Yanks think we can do anything."

Interesting post. I look forward to hearing the responses.

to your sliding success,
Jon Law
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