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"Good" and "bad" skiing

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
Since I don't have much to add to the PSIA vs. PMTS debates (they never seem to result in any progress), I figured I would tease out the above terms as a point of discussion.

Although this may be considered tautological... it really is two sides of the same argument.

What is, or should be considered "good" skiing?

There's great fun to be had for the beginner who beelines down the bunny hill on their first day, after wedging around on the flats for a couple of hours. Likewise for the intermediate who skis their first blue/black mogul run, non-stop, and doesn't fall or bail out.

Hi-C carving turns on smooth blue terrain with elegant arm/hand position, clean transitions, symmetrical tracks, rhythmic flexing and extending. Is that "good" skiing?

Apropos... What is, or should be considered "bad" (i.e., "not good") skiing?

Years ago, I was a full-time ski instructor, turned ski school trainer, turned ski school director who then lost his mind to grow up, get edumacated, and get a real job. (What is a "real" job? Whoops! That's another existential question for another time.) I would often try to ski one-on-one with most of the instructors, particularly the more experienced who taught upper level lessons. One of my favorite exercises was to have an instructor watch a skier, or another instructor demonstrating during a clinic, then ask...

"So... what's that skier doing wrong?"

Ohhhhh, the PSIA members had a field day with that question!

Pushing the heels. Inside hand dropping. Too much weight on the inside ski. Sitting back. Abstemming. Inclining. Hands too low.

One PSIA Level 1 told me "She's skiing on the wrong part of the trail."

But my favorite answer was from one of my snowboard/ski instructors:

"Wrong? Uh, dude... I don't think anything's 'wrong.' That kid looks like he's having mad fun. I think he should yell louder."

:::looking at me as his smile is fading:::

"Was I not supposed to say that?"

So maybe this post will start a more specific discussion of what, exactly, is contributing to the bedrock of this PSIA vs. PMTS bickerfest.

To what point of view does "good" and "bad/not good" skiing relate? To what standard?

The audience? The student/follower/one who tries to keep up? The customer?

Let's see some definitions of "good skiing." :
post #2 of 33
Good skiing is determined by two things,

The size of the SMILE!

And the loudness of the WAHOO!

We as ski instructors tend to get lost in the technicalities. Sure you can get techy and dot the i's and cross the t's, however, that don't mean squat if the client/student/guest doesn't walk away happy with the whole experience.

The reason I ski and teach is that I love it. My goal is to instill that love in my clients/students/guests. Sure I'd like them all to ski the "Perfect Turn" but thats just the goal. Its the trip down the hill you are suppose to enjoy. After all its just playing on the snow, if it ain't fun, why do it!

Bad skiing is when they don't come back because for some reason they didn't like the experience. My job is make the experience enjoyable to make sure that doesn't happen.

We can talk tech and get lost in the debates over what "system" works best, however, if we aren't making the whole skiing experience work from the time the guest arrives until they leave we are missing the boat. (Or should I say we're falling off the chairlift. )
post #3 of 33
A friend once told me he thought that I could ski more proficiently than I walk. (Maybe that means I don't walk very well ) Anyway, I'm sure all the instructors among this group would be able to pick out a bazillion flaws in my technique.

My stepdad gave me my first lesson, then I took a two hour lesson on a plastic hill with all of a fifteen foot vertical drop. I didn't learn anything I didn't already know. After that, I learned everything from the school of hard knocks.

The most profound improvement in my ability came the first day out with my own equipment, instead of rentals. This was about six or eight ski days into my first season. (Buckle boots and step-ins vs. lace-ups and cable bindings--I'm an old dude) I learned entirely by watching people better than myself and trying to emulate them. I think I picked the basics up fairly quickly; fine tuning took a little longer. I really invented my own wheel, and enjoyed the challenge and had a blast doing it. I still have a blast. What else is important, besides that?

Am I a good skier? I can comfortably go anywhere on the mountain and stay upright the whole time and once in a great while someone on the lift says "Hey, cool, look at that guy." How "good" do I have to be? Why should that matter to anyone but me?

"Good" or "bad" is something best measured internally. If someone feels like they would enjoy it more if their skill was greater, then they should do whatever it takes to reach that point, whether it be attending a ski school or experimenting on their own.

One way or another, everyone eventually becomes as "good" as they want to be, regardless of what methods they use along the way.
post #4 of 33
IMHO bad skiing is skiing too fast in ref to own ability, terrain or traffic; in other words dangerous skiing. Good skiing is basicly everything else. From an instructor standpoint good skiing is when technique and speed is in good harmony with terrain and snow conditions.
post #5 of 33
Good skiing is when you feel you are on your game. It's relative to your own level.

Good skiing can also be when the snow or terrain is unusually good compared to what you are used to. Ice if you are used to bare spots, packed powder if you are used to ice, 3 inches fresh if you are used to hardpack, knee deep if you are used to 3 inches, etc, etc, etc.

If you aren't skiing as well as you normally do, or if you've been trying some particular technique or terrain and it just isn't working, that is bad skiing. It is hard to have fun when you are frustrated. Saying "forget technique and have fun" isn't going to fix it.

Of course, there are also terminal intermediates who are perfectly happy with skiing as a social activity. That isn't my thing, but for them that is good skiing. too.
post #6 of 33
Sonny Bono's last turn was bad skiing. Otherwise I'm with the dude: there is no wrong or bad way to ski (as long as injury does not occur). There are more efficient and less efficient ways to ski. There are safer and less safe ways to ski. There are more fun and less fun ways to ski. These are simply choices that we make.
post #7 of 33
Let me make a clear distinction on right and wrong here.

It is never wrong for any skier to ski and have fun in any fashion that gets them down the slopes in one piece. Never.

Wrong is taking a students money and in return selling them very inefficient skiing that leads to dead ends while purporting to do otherwise. It is this definition of wrong that brings out the passion in these discussions.
post #8 of 33
Let's not pretend that there is no bad skiing out there. Bad skiing is like an ugly person. Hard to describe, but the majority agree how bad it is (or how ugly he/she is) when they see it.
post #9 of 33
Bad skiing is when the result obtained is not the intended result, for example you do a face-plant, or hit a tree. There may be more bad skiing, but this clearly is bad skiing. Bad skiing makes an unintended result more likely. Good skiing makes the intended result less likely.
post #10 of 33
In my book, good skiing doesn't have to be high level skiing. I have had many skiers in a lesson ski-off where I told them I loved how they ski (much to their surprise) that were level 3 to 5 skiers. I have also had level 8 skiers that couldn't ski slowely without falling. They are both good skiers, but the technique was much better in the lower level skier.
I am with TR with the thinking that movements that are effective (efficient) help define good skiing and other movements are not "bad", but less effective (efficient). Everyone has "ooooh shoot" moments in their skiing and these shouldn't define bad skiing.

post #11 of 33
Good skiing is skiing in any method you chose, and doing it with skill, efficiency and elegance.

A good skier is one who's able to exhibit that same good skiing throughout a buffet of methods.

Bad skiing, and a bad skier, is the polar opposite.
post #12 of 33
Its way too subjective and relative..
post #13 of 33
Good skiing is when you don't suck as much as when you ski bad.

Bad skiing is when people yell DIG ME at you from the lift.

Good skiing is when you don't fall on your ass and break sh*t.
post #14 of 33
Originally Posted by Baja View Post
Hi-C carving turns on smooth blue terrain with elegant arm/hand position, clean transitions, symmetrical tracks, rhythmic flexing and extending. Is that "good" skiing?
That looks like calisthenics to me. IMO good skiing is staying tight and in control on challenging terrain. Bad skiing is skiing out of control on any terrain.
post #15 of 33
Originally Posted by Pierre View Post
It is never wrong for any skier to ski and have fun in any fashion that gets them down the slopes in one piece. Never.
I was going to the say the same, but it is wrong for a skier to jeopardize the safety of others on the slopes. Whether or not you actually cause injury, it's still wrong.
post #16 of 33
I believe the question of good and bad was of a quality nature, not moral. From a quality standpoint, having fun doesn't transform bad into good. Fun doesn't have to be based on quality, but the level of quality is a reality, reqardless of the level of fun.
post #17 of 33
the rusty wrote- "Sonny Bono's last turn was bad skiing."

I'm curious... were you there to see it? Was it really that bad a turn? Maybe it was the best turn he made his whole trip! Just done in a really bad place!
All we can truly say, is that it WAS his LAST TURN...

(by the way- the weather forecast for Sth Lake Tahoe that day was...

..... cloudy in town... Sonny in the trees!)

I agree with Coug... this question is entirely subjective! What appeals to one persons eyes may insult anothers. And I certainly agree that what ever puts a smile on the face of a skier is a good thing! I have long held the idea that a skier may aspire to what ever level of competence or performance they so desire. And no one should tell them that they HAVE TO do anything.

But if they put themselves on the block to be viewed and evaluated from a tactical or technical perspective, or if you want to narrow it down and talk about pure technique and it's relative effectiveness or efficiency, then that is something completely different!

I read these posts which compliment each other for how great their skiing looks on the videos presented. I just sit and laugh hysterically!

What I may see as 'poor' or 'bad' skiing may impress the hell out of some of you. And my own skiing may not impress Hermann or Bodie. Maybe they'd look down their noses at me and say "you call that skiing?", and laugh too! If I had asked them their opinion, then they certainly had the right to say that! No less, I would hope to hear their HONEST answer. And by placing their videos up on this site, I assume the members posting here are asking for an opinion.

It all comes down to a persons background of understanding and ability, and whether they have the brass to tell someone 'you suck'. Or whether we play the PC game of not hurting anyones feelings by piling undeserved accolades upon skiers who's skills are deficient.

For saying this I will no doubt I will now pick up a reputation of being an ____________. (fill in your word here) Trust me, I've been called worse to my face. But the reality is simple. I'm not trying to be a ____________, but rather just calling it how I see it! And I have seen a lot of it, from working with some of the best in the world, to teaching some who I wondered how they even managed to walk to the office.

Yes, there is good skiing out there. There is even fricking AWESOME skiing out there! But there is also really BAD skiing out there. And there is down right UGLY skiing out there.

So you choose. You can "be a happy idiot" (as Jackson Brown put it), or you can take this as seriously as you wish. But if you opt for the latter, then you take it all, the good and the bad.
For if you don't, you are nothing but a "Pretender"..... My favorite movie line- "You can't handle the truth!" Jack Nicholson, spitting it out at Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men"
post #18 of 33
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for the responses so far.

I'm not sure that I agree with the idea that "good" and "bad" skiing is entirely subjective. I concur with Rick's idea that good and bad are qualitative terms in regards to skiing.

In order for there to be something that's considered "good skiing," there must be something, or many other somethings, that are considered "not good skiing." To me, it doesn't make much sense to base good skiing solely by the smile on someone's face (i.e., how much they are enjoying themselves), for the corollary would be that a skier not enjoying themselves... for whatever reason... could not be considered a good skier. And I believe that's a fallacious exclusion.

With that said, we probably should recognize that "good" quality skiing consistently reflects confident, efficient, and versatile movements in all (or at least, most) "skiable" conditions. Variable conditions and changing conditions are an integral part of the sport.

Is it "good skiing" when someone looks balanced and efficient on groomed silk or corduroy, but out-of-balance, defensive, and lack of control on ice? Wouldn't there be something lacking in that person's skiing in that circumstance?

As Rick pointed out:

A good skier is one who's able to exhibit that same good skiing throughout a buffet of methods.
A novice or intermediate may show nice skills on easy terrain, but revert to "survival mode" (thereby hindering their body movements and equipment performance) on more challenging terrain and conditions. IMO, I don't think someone can show "good skiing" on groomed cruisers, yet awkwardly defensive movements in bumps or steeps, and be considered a "good skier."

(Side-note: Are the terms "good skiing" and "a good skier" mutually linked, or are they separate subjects? I tend to think the former.)

Because skiing requires highly-developed physical skills, I would contend that "good skiing" requires time and experience in a variety of terrain and conditions. I just don't think I could classify someone as a "good skier" if they have only been skiing a few days.

Anyway... that's sort of how I'm presently looking at this subject. I'd love to see some more input and discussion, though.

Thanks again!
post #19 of 33

Good and Bad Skiing

BAJA, If I adhere to your last definition:

To me a good skier is comfortable and flowing with the mountain. Can ski most terrain, not just groomers

To me a bad skier is fighting the terrain, speed his own lousy habits and is just generally fighting the flow.

BAJA, if I adhere to my definition:

A good skier is having fun and enjoying the moment whether its their lst full run off the bunny hill or their lst full run on the bunny hill. Clean, flowing arcs on a perfectly groomed intermediate run or off Climax doing the same at Mammoth. Flowing in powder, hop turning into one man chute or warp speed in the flats at _________________ ski resort or _________ mountain. A smile accentuates he/she is a good skier using their own skills and confidence and not fighting the snow and mountain.

A bad skier admits to himself he knowss everything and is fighting the terrain, speed, his own lousy habits and is just generally fighting the flow of skiing.

NOTE. As a personal note I'm not teaching this year because I got tired of the constant technical critical bent at the place where I worked and I just wanted to get out and ski and enjoy the mountain. Their are many that would say "I should do this, I should do that, eliminate this, add that." But the bottom line is I don't care what they say I just want to ski.
Does that make me a good skier, not necessarily but I'm sure having fun.
post #20 of 33

The Unofficial Guide to Good Skiing

Good and Bad skiing –

There is a framework often used by ski instructors to assess what is working well and what needs attention. The first version I saw was called “The Unofficial Guide to Good Skiing”, and another description for “Bad Skiing”. Now the two descriptions are for “Efficient and Inefficient Body Movements in Skiing”. The history of this framework goes back to Scott Mathers when he was on the PSIA demo team. Some have quibbled with some word choices and small parts of this. Others have proposed additional concepts. Some have made substantial conceptual changes that detract from the beauty of the original framework. But for a view of “good skiing” stated in a useful concise format, I think this framework is hard to beat.

The original is at:

and a version we use in the NW is at:

Here is the description of “Efficient Skiing” version copied from the NW site:

Revised 10/22/99
Efficient Body Movements in Skiing
Visual Cues
This information is intended to be an analytical tool and a reference for good skiing in most ski instruction situations. This guide is not intended to describe every movement and position that very high-level skiers pass through in the extreme situations of World Cup racing and mogul skiing. It does define the basics of skiing that should be the foundation of movement for all skiers, whether they are recreational skiers, instructors, racers, bump skiers, or even extreme free skiers.

A. Flex and extend your ankles, knees, hips, and spine to balance over the whole foot as you control pressure on the skis so you can flow with the terrain.
1. The outside ski bends from the middle.
2. The shins maintain contact with both boot tongues.
3. The body flows continuously with the skis.
4. The skis flow over the terrain.
5. The skier exhibits fluid motion as a result of continuous and coordinated movement at joints.

B. Use diagonal (forward and lateral) movements of the feet, legs, and hips to engage and release the edges of the skis.
1. The skis tip on edge early in a turn.
2. The shins contact both boot shafts forward and laterally.
3. The edges are released and engaged with one smooth movement.
4. Ski lead change occurs before you enter the fall line.

C. Direct your balance to the outside ski in a turn.
1. The outside ski bends more than the inside ski in a turn.
2. The shoulders stay level to the horizon or they level out through the turn.
3. The inside half of the body leads the outside half through the turn.
4. The inside leg is flexed more than the outside leg in a turn.

D. Turn your legs under your body to help you guide the skis through a turn.
1. The legs turn more than the upper body.
2. Turning movements originate in the feet and legs.
3. The upper body is stable and quiet.

E. Direct your upper body and swing your pole to flow with the skis through turns.
1. The hands are forward.
2. The inside hand, shoulder, and hip lead through a turn.
3. The shoulders are forward of the hips.
4. The pole swings smoothly in the intended direction of travel.
5. Vision is forward and the eyes look to the intended direction of travel.
6. Pole touch/plant complements the desired turning outcome.
Mechanical elements do not in themselves make a great skier. They merely create a foundation for that intangible quality of “touch” - that is, the profound connection of the skier with the skis, snow, momentum, and the mountain.
post #21 of 33

Good and Bad Skiing

Havens, thankyou for the really concise nonanalytical answer. B.A.R.F
post #22 of 33
I think it all comes down to the level of refinement of balance. The better a skier demonstrates and maintains balance in all terrain, in any condition, in a variety of turn shapes, at any speed, the better skier they are IMO. Think about it, there are various techniques around the world but as balancing skills become more precise the look of the skiers become very synonymous. Their basic movements and angles are very similar. Look at all the things that elite athletes do in their personal training to challenge their balancing skill. One can not ski well unless they posess great balance. A skilled skier may be thrown off balance by some unforseen obstacle but will regain balance very quickly. An exceptional skier is thrown off balance much less frequently or at least recovers from the imbalance before most could notice any imbalance at all. Some call this athleticism but it is simply exceptional balancing skills. When you see a great skier coming down a run there is no need to check a list for accuracy, just observe the fluidity and balance they exibit.

The smile on my face means I am enjoying myself or sometimes laughing at myself and my errors, it doesn't neccessarily mean I am skiing well.

Oh, Sonny Bono.... Have you seen the commemorative plaque Heavenly put on the tree he hit?... it says, "I got you babe"

post #23 of 33
Originally Posted by vail snopro View Post
the rusty wrote- "Sonny Bono's last turn was bad skiing."

I'm curious... were you there to see it? Was it really that bad a turn? Maybe it was the best turn he made his whole trip! Just done in a really bad place!
All we can truly say, is that it WAS his LAST TURN...

Thanks for the joke, I will use that one. No, I wasn't there with Sonny, but I can definitely say his last turn had a bad result. If you make a technically perfect turn and run into a wall, technically, it was not perfect unless that was what you intended to do.

One of the criteria in the PSIA Visual Cue movement analysis approach is "Directional Movements". Although it's not in there, an obvious add on is:
  • An effective directional movement results in going where intended.
  • An ineffective directional movement results in an unintended destination.
If you do not intend to run into other people or objects and you're skiing in such a manner that you can not avoid other people or objects, you may be a red neck (with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy). Ooops! Scratch red neck and make that "you may have an opportunity to improve your skiing".

"Right or wrong" or "good or bad" can either be moral assessments or logical determinations. Since there is no accepted standard for how to ski, there can not be a logical determination of correct or incorrect skiing movements unless one is trying to perform specific tasks.
post #24 of 33


Originally Posted by Pete No. Idaho View Post
Havens, thankyou for the really concise nonanalytical answer. B.A.R.F
Pete, this acronym lies outside my experience (well, at least since my college days...), and google didn't narrow it down, so I've gotta ask the source....

Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods?
Bay Area Renaissance Festival?
Biblical America Resistance Front?
Bay Area Rapid Folders (origami organization)?
Best Available Retrofit Facility?
Be A Real Friend?
Books Are Really Fun?
post #25 of 33
Boring Analyses Regurgitate Food.

According to what I've read here, no one can ever be a 'good' skier, if you have to ski the same and comfortably in all conditions and terrain. Hop into Corbets, a green run in Wisconsin, or ski the Lohtse Face ala Kit Des Lauriers....all the same? Who has the cojones for that? No one on this board.

So since we're all 'bad' skiers........let's just have fun with it.:
post #26 of 33
Good and bad are poor measurements; as someone said, inherently subjective and riddled with personal bias. In sports it's more common to measure a person from unskilled to skilled. We don't say a beginner is a bad skier, but a novice.
post #27 of 33

Good and Bad

BONNI, Thanks for helping me out, you nailed it !!
post #28 of 33
Originally Posted by Bonni View Post
Boring Analyses Regurgitate Food.

According to what I've read here, no one can ever be a 'good' skier, if you have to ski the same and comfortably in all conditions and terrain. Hop into Corbets, a green run in Wisconsin, or ski the Lohtse Face ala Kit Des Lauriers....all the same? Who has the cojones for that? No one on this board.

So since we're all 'bad' skiers........let's just have fun with it.:
Some of us look at it a little differently Bonni. I doubt that I will ever reach the pinnacle of skiing performance, but I want to ski to the best of my personal potential. This has always been my goal and is a primary reason I love skiing. I love those turns, runs, days, that I feel one with the mountain and can float effortlessly down it. I like talking about skiing with others who share my same love for the sport. I also like helping others find their potential, whether that be helping them get their boots on the right feet or helping an olympic athlete find that little advantage that may make the difference in a podium position.

If I ever lose that desire I will probably stop skiing and take up another sport or hobby that offers me a similar challenge. If skiing was easy to master I would have become bored and moved on long ago.

If you do not have a goal, an ambition to improve, to feel comfortable on steeper terrain, or ski bottomless powder effortlessly and in perfect balance....why bother? The better you can balance the more opportunities you afford yourself to enjoy all the mountain has to offer!

post #29 of 33
The only "bad" in skiing is any skiing that causes avoidable injury.

"Good" and "bad" can be moral terms, not simply qualitative ones, and therein lies the core issue for many conversations. I avoid them in the context of skiing for that reason. There is nothing inherently "wrong" about any skiing, except when it threatens life and limb. This is why I prefer to discuss efficiency (achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense) and effectiveness (successful in producing a desired or intended result) instead of "good" and "bad" or "right" and "wrong." Even "offensive" and "defensive" have had this issue here on EpicSki as people misunderstand the terms as having moral overtones.

Of course, there are those who want to be able to define morally acceptable skiing so that they can be "right" about it and demonstrate their superiority. I find such an attitude to be disappointing at best and often downright wrong ().
post #30 of 33
Good Skiing = not me

Bad skiing = Me.:

For me bad skiing is sking in a manner that endangers yourself and/or other people and property. Bad sking is not the same a skiing badly.

Me for For example, I am not a bad skier, I just ski badly.

Good skiing is, to me, is skiing in a manner that is fun, safe, courteous and respectful of other people and property.

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