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An old thread, new discussion

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
We had this discussion here a year or so ago but I thought it was such a good topic and there are many new people around these days, I'd like to bring it up again.

With so many people looking for the do everything pair of skis, my perception was that it really didn't matter what the ski was, a good skier could ski them well in all conditions. Thus the question,

Does the skier turn the skis, or do the skis turn the skier?

I've got my theory, what's yours?
post #2 of 26
Skier controls skis; skis turn the skier.
post #3 of 26
The world is not black and white. You could give any great skier - Miller, Rahlves, McConkey, Pollard, Beckstrom, etc., etc. - a pair of barrel slats and they'd outski me no matter what I was on. At the same time, anyone who thinks equipment does not make a difference to both skill development and fun factor is blind.

In fact, you might be able to make the case that people in that great sea from advanced beginner to advanced skiers benefit the most from specific differences in equipment design and construction. A great skier knows what they want out of the gear at any given moment and they have the tools to push it as far that way as possible - even if they'd mutter under their breath as they did so. Those of us with more limited toolboxes get a proportionally bigger benefit from skis that take certain issues off the table at any given moment, or give us specific kinds of feedback, or are especially responsive to specific technique...

I think this is illustrated by an experience I had last winter. It was a classic fresh, soft 20 inches of PNW "over the bars" type snow. We were skiing the standard "beginner" off-piste bowl at my local hill. After entering the bowl, we were deciding which way to go and all of a sudden this random guy comes tumbling head over heels into the bowl. He good naturedly dusted himself off & took off after his daughter who weighed maybe 80 pounds & skimmed along the surface and disappeared out of the base of the bowl without even looking back. Skipping all the gory details, the guy probably fell 6+ times in deep snow before reaching the base of the bowl. Meanwhile, we'd just had a hoot of a time. The only reason we hung around was that we were actually a bit worried for him. And by the time he reached us he could hardly hold back the tears. He asked us about how we'd skied it so easily - we just lifted up our skis and watched his eyes pop out . He was on something like original Bandits. I was on 183 Dough Boys (hardly a radical ski by current standards). This guy was not an unusually bad skier, but the combined demands of terrain/snow/gear were just too much for him at that moment. Making the "snow" part a non-issue by virtue of different "gear" would have made his day. I assure you, I'd have had a much harder time if the ski tables had been turned (especially since I was in the middle of a major physical rehab thing myself). Meanwhile, a really excellent skier probably could have made short work of that bowl while using the previously mentioned barrel slats...

So I vote for "both".
post #4 of 26
Lars,
Although skis are more versatile, there are some skis that force you to ski a certain way. Slalom skis come to mind. Not the best choice for deep powder, or SG turns but do short turns and they sing. Same can be said for making a GS racer carve a five meter turn. Which means to me that you can overcome a designed limitation with compensatory movements and techniques but I would agree with you that the current crop of all mountain skis make that less necessary than any time in the past.
post #5 of 26
I don't know how many of you here know Ray Panella, an old codger with some crazy opinions whose ski stores were all around Philadelphia at one time. He must be in his 90's now, but when I was skiing Camelback he was one of my constant companions. And frankly, he is one of my heroes because of his achievements (not because of his opinions...)

Anyway, when the shaped skis started to come along, he spent two years (at least -- I left for the west after that) skiing with one shaped ski and one straight ski. He'd switch at lunch time just so he didn't start to develop side-to-side differences over time. He was trying to make HIS point, which was that good skiers could ski on either and that it was the skier doing the skiing. He was able to ski all the runs with no effort like this. (Of course, Camelback conditions are consistently groomed ice with some pitch and a long run out...he wasn't skiing powder in the trees.) Now, his style was that of someone in his late 80's of course, but he was a good solid skier, able at his advanced age to ski backwards with one leg and both arms flying out in the air. I had to listen to him tell everyone on the lift that he was skiing with these two different skis innumerable times (you know old guys....). The one thing I observed was that one leg was turning more than the other (the one with the shaped ski), but that he was able to compensate.

So, my conclusion? The skier does the skiing. The shape of the ski will influence what he has to do to control the ski, but it's the skier who is in charge.
post #6 of 26
So the analogy I always use is golf.

I'm not that good at golf. I've used $1000+ sets of Callaways and Taylormade's (why my friends are crazy enough to lend them to me is another story.) Anyway, I still suck even when using them. Sure, I can tell there's a bit of a difference, but at the end of the day you might as well let me use my Wilson's. However, in the hands of a good golfer, those clubs make all the difference. In fact, that's one of the reasons I know I'm not a good golfer - I should be able to tell the subtle nuances of those clubs and I can't.

So skiing is similar. For a lot of beginners and intermediates, I don't think it matters much what kind of ski they're on. However, for me, I really like a lot of different skis depending on what I'm doing or what the conditions are. For me, at the end of the day I can drive any pair of skis; but how good I look doing it depends a lot on the ski itself.
post #7 of 26
I think a good skier has the skiing skill set to extract a lot of versatility from his skis. Skis in general now are biased for a certain turn radius and snow conditions, which given to the same skier would allow him or her to ski in the "manner" even better. But I still believe the skier that has strong skills is able to pilot pretty much any ski in any conditions.
post #8 of 26
A good skier can choose to let the ski provide turning impetus or can choose to provide turning impetus to the ski. It al depends on intent. Modern skis can provide more turning impetus to the skier with less skill and energy required from the skier than straight skis could.

In golf, I have a 2 iron and a hybrid club. I am longer and more consistent with the hybrid club than the 2 iron because it is easier to hit. In theory I could hit the 2 iron longer if I had enough skill. Tiger still uses 2 a iron because he prefers the performance characteristics that make it harder to hit and he has the skill to hit it consistently. Glen Plake still uses straight skis for everything because he preferes their performance characteristics even though they are harder to ski and he has the skills to make them perform.
post #9 of 26
As to skis, I think the ski has a very big factor in making things easier. For example, I've skied every blue and above run at Mt. Tremblant, including mogul runs with 208 cm Super-G skis, but that doesn't mean it would be a lot easier with slalom skis (or mogul skis).

One thing that has changed is that slalom skis have become a lot more tolerable at speed. The "frequency tuning" printed on my Fischers works a lot better than the chicken heart on those old Dynastar Coursa slaloms. Every ski has a sweet spot, and a range of conditions at which it works well at. That range is just bigger with modern skis. I still wouldn't want to race a DH course on SL skis though. We still haven't got an all-turn-radius ski, at least on hard snow. I haven't had the luxury of trying out modern skis in deep soft stuff.
post #10 of 26
I think that for some skiers, the skis turn the skier, espicially those who rotate their upper body to turn. For those skiers who use strong diagional directional movements, the skis provide a solid platform for the skier to change direction while gliding and utilize the technology in the ski to turn them (old or new technology).

Many skiers lie somewhere inbetween to two, they are not totally passingers or totally the driver of the ski. They use either some directional movement, a pivot or tail push to change direction and then follow where the skis take them.

RW
post #11 of 26
Ummm . . . Is this a trick question?

Skis are inanimate objects. If I put them on the snow (with no skier attached), they aren't going to turn themselves.

Obviously, the skier turns the skis.
post #12 of 26
When the Elan SCX first came out I started teaching special "introduction to shape ski" lessons. In the middle of one lesson, one of the students came down to the group laughing his head off. He explained that he had started a backwards twisting fall and the skis had turned so hard on him that they cut off his fall and brought him back upright. Although it was his movements that caused the ski to turn, he certainly had the feeling that the ski had moved him. I believe the question is based on this kind of perception.
post #13 of 26
If the skis are so irrelevent why do we all buy the high end models? Go out on rec rentals and the answer will become obvious very quickly. Especially if they have not been tuned in a while.
post #14 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post
If the skis are so irrelevent why do we all buy the high end models? Go out on rec rentals and the answer will become obvious very quickly. Especially if they have not been tuned in a while.
Rec models or high end demos, doesn't matter, if they are not properly tuned they're not going to perform. This just proves that properly tuned skis make a difference what kind of control the skier has over the skis on his feet.

But, does the type of ski determine what type of skier you are? It does to a certain point doesn't it?
post #15 of 26
I thought Lars's question was akin to, is it the horse or the jockey that is the critical variable in winning a horse race? The best answer is "Both." The newest technology in well-tuned skis that perfectly fit the skier are wonderful tools, but they need the skier to ride them.
post #16 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars View Post
Rec models or high end demos, doesn't matter, if they are not properly tuned they're not going to perform. This just proves that properly tuned skis make a difference what kind of control the skier has over the skis on his feet.
I think you just displayed a regional and maybe a skiing type bias. The statement above is one of many possible generalizations that really needs some qualification. The tune only matters on hard snow. In sticky spring slush, the base pattern matters. In deep, cold, fresh snow, neither matters a ton. And so on...

In places with lots of snowfall, tunes mean less to the recreational skier than they might in places where most skiing involves icy or hard packed groomers.
post #17 of 26
Thread Starter 
Ya nolo. Even the best race horse isn't any good if you don't have a jockey who doesn't know how to pace him. Make him hold back in certain situations, know when to turn it on and know how much he has left for the finish. He's definitly going to ride him different if it's a muddy track or a fast track.

Much like skiing, it's good to have the right equipment whether it's new or not. It must be in good condition and tuned correctly.

the point I'm trying to make coincides with the all mountain ski question. People put too much emphasis on purchasing the perfect ski. That ski that will make them into the type of skier they would most like to become. The skier in the advertisment page of Powder Magazine or in some Warren Miller flick. And although certain types of skis may be better suited for your style and abilities, it isn't going to make you a better skier. That has to come from practice and hard work, probably for most, lessons from a qualified instructor.

Looking through the pages of different skis, hundreds of them from even more manufacturers than last year. It's mind boggeling to think that everyone of them is different. Different sidecuts, lengths, widths, cambers, bases, topsheets, cores, flexes, metal edges. Ski manufacturers have been hanging with too many Automobile executives. To market their cars they must make minor changes every year to attract new buyers. Ski manufacturers do much the same to try and make gear hoes out of us. The question is, do you really need new skis twice a year? Is this years Karma really an improvement over last years? Is the new K2 Seth better than last years? Do we really need an all mountain ski, a slalom carver and a powder ski to bring on vacation?

Looking through all the ski magazines and reading the stupid reviews makes one wonder. Where will it end? For sure, it's getting out of hand. It's the skier that controls what the skis do. Finding the right ski for your ability can help you become a better skier, but it's up to you to find the skills to master them.
post #18 of 26
"It's not the arrow, it's the indian" - Rich Eitner

We don't grow too old to play, we grow old because we stop playing -
Herman "Jackrabbit" Johanson
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post
I think you just displayed a regional and maybe a skiing type bias. The statement above is one of many possible generalizations that really needs some qualification. The tune only matters on hard snow. In sticky spring slush, the base pattern matters. In deep, cold, fresh snow, neither matters a ton. And so on...

In places with lots of snowfall, tunes mean less to the recreational skier than they might in places where most skiing involves icy or hard packed groomers.
I agree that tunes mean LESS to the recreational skier in places with lots of snowfall. It is true that deeper and software snow wears a tune out slower than hard snow. It's also true that "out of tune" problems have less of an impact in deeper softer snow. But it's jsut a matter of degree. The majority of skiers in the US would be better off spending less money on new gear and more money on tunes.

Lars may be over generalizing, but only a very small percentage of the skiing public spends all their time in soft snow. Ya ya it matters less in deep powder, but poor tuning saps performance in any conditions. Especially if you consider edges as part of tuning. In sticky spring slush I often use NotWax as part of my tune. It makes a huge difference vs not using it. Let's put this issue in context with the thread question: does the skier turn the skis/ do the skis make a difference? Spin - you've got a great point that the condition of the skis make less of a difference in powder vs hardpack. I certainly agree that skiing 3 feet of sierra cement would be a lot more enjoyable on out of tune fatties then on out of tune Glen Plake cast offs. But as far as having one pair of well tuned skis vs a an out of tune quiver, I think Glen has shown that it's possible to ski well on all sorts of gear that's not necessarily the best tool for the job.
post #20 of 26
I will admit to not reading this entire thread in detail, but lets drift away from the "what ifs" about proper skis and proper tunes and assume that the skier in consideration has the correct tune and correct skis for the task that they are attempting to perform.

So which is it? In this case do the skis make the skier or does the skier make the skis? This discussion seems to come up every so often and there is really a simple solution.

Two skiers - one that is highly skilled and one that is less skilled, on the same skis (high end skis preferably with a tune and performance to match the desired terrain)... In this instance will you tell the difference between the skilled skier and the non-skilled skier? I think that nearly everyone in this discussion would be able to pick out the weaker link in this situation. If you took the same situation and used skis applicable to the lower skill level could you tell then? Yup.

It's the skier and the skill set they possess.

We could put any intermediate skier on the latest a greatest ski, but coming down the hill (observing movements and skills) they will still look like the same intermediate skier...

Later

GREG
post #21 of 26
It's primarily the skier (and most of us are nowhere good enough for the limits of our equipment) BUT the right equipment for the right conditions will take you further.

I'm a racer, and I ski exclusively on skis (A) where the binding release is cranked pretty far up to prevent premature ejection, (B) with a one degree base bevel, three degrees side, (C) with freshly sharpened edges, (D) a racing plate lifter, (E) waxed base, and (F) a sidecut appropriate for the turns I'm making that day (GS, SL or SG).

My skis hold better in icy conditions (sharpened, beveled to a more acute edge than 90 degrees, with a racing plate) they're 30% easier to pivot than unwaxed skis and they don't eject me if I commit forward at turn initiation. (Tried one day to ski in slush with a damaged binding while the replacement was ordered. The maximum it could be cranked to was a level II skier setting for someone my weight. Got a premature ejection on almost every turn where I properly committed forward at turn initiation.)

So it is mostly the skier, but I'd be a lot worse with skis from the rental shop.
post #22 of 26
Lars,
I agree that today's latest gear is more versatile than any time in the past and that most reputable manufacturers make good all around skis. Can you buy good turns by buying new skis? Of course not, talent and ability are still required.
That being said, I would ask why technique has changed over the years. IMO it has more to do with ski design than any other factor.
For example; Warren Miller films did a piece with modern skiers on skis from the forties. It was remarkable how similar their technique was to the technique that was used when those skis were new. Why? Because it works.
Which begs the question, What has changed over the years, the human body or the tools we are using? I say the later.
post #23 of 26
Thread Starter 
JASP, I understand what you are saying. I think it's true to a point but I question that people who have been skiing for 30 plus years are skiing better today because of the equipment. I skied the same terrain, powder, bumps, trees, steeps and groomed just as easily on 203cm narrow boards as today on my 84cm waisted mid fats. I'm sure you're going to find that people are skiing differently today, the carving craze on 150cm skis that I never really got into. Ya, more people new to the sport of skiing are obsessed with carving than skiing bumps and backcountry. I think for me, boot and binding technology has made a bigger impact on my skiing. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my midfats for the world. But the skiing was just as good 30 years ago.
post #24 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post
I don't know how many of you here know Ray Panella, an old codger with some crazy opinions whose ski stores were all around Philadelphia at one time. He must be in his 90's now, but when I was skiing Camelback he was one of my constant companions. And frankly, he is one of my heroes because of his achievements (not because of his opinions...)

Anyway, when the shaped skis started to come along, he spent two years (at least -- I left for the west after that) skiing with one shaped ski and one straight ski. He'd switch at lunch time just so he didn't start to develop side-to-side differences over time. He was trying to make HIS point, which was that good skiers could ski on either and that it was the skier doing the skiing. He was able to ski all the runs with no effort like this. (Of course, Camelback conditions are consistently groomed ice with some pitch and a long run out...he wasn't skiing powder in the trees.) Now, his style was that of someone in his late 80's of course, but he was a good solid skier, able at his advanced age to ski backwards with one leg and both arms flying out in the air. I had to listen to him tell everyone on the lift that he was skiing with these two different skis innumerable times (you know old guys....). The one thing I observed was that one leg was turning more than the other (the one with the shaped ski), but that he was able to compensate.

So, my conclusion? The skier does the skiing. The shape of the ski will influence what he has to do to control the ski, but it's the skier who is in charge.
LOL, memories. I wonder how many times you and I were in the same lift line at Camelback.

Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post
If the skis are so irrelevent why do we all buy the high end models? Go out on rec rentals and the answer will become obvious very quickly. Especially if they have not been tuned in a while.
Gimme a well tuned intermediate ski of today vs. any high end race ski from years ago. on another note...Too many people are skiing too much ski...even moreso, too much boot.
post #25 of 26
Ive skied with 165cm SL skis for the last 4 years. Great all mountain skis. I struggle in tricky off pist condition so it is by no means the perfect solution but its a compromize and its most of all for practical reasons. No matter how good you are you will benefit from a good pair of phat skis in powder and a good pair of SL skis on a groomer. Actually the better you are the more you get out of your equipment.
post #26 of 26
Lars,
I doubt the fun factor has changed but the movements we use certainly have changed. I skied 204 slaloms for decades. Releasing those skis often meant taking them off the snow by stepping or doing a rebound turn. Today's style is different for a variety of reasons.
Shorter skis are less forgiving of large fore/aft movements like tail carving and levering forward on the tips. Especially on the 150 slalom skis, they simply don't have enough tail to perform a tail carve. We also saw an increase in ACL injuries from people getting caught in the back seat on these skis. So by neccesity we adopted a more centered stance and we increased our stance width to compensate for this design limitation. Why? Because the tool required a different technique.

IMO we taugh a whole generation of skiers to carve without ever helping them develop effective rotary skills. You can still see that in the opinions of several members here at Epic. Don't get me wrong I love to carve and leave trenches on the groomers. It just is not the only thing I like to do.

Enough skiers shared this opinion to drive the market in a new direction. Mid fats and all mountain skis are now becoming the standard and with that rotary skills have made a comeback. Especially with the freeriders and park & pipe generation. Even the certification tests are reflecting this in the test maneuvers. Switch and park skills are required elements.
I guess this becomes the ultimate chicken and egg argument with the manufactures marketing their latest creations as the best thing since sliced bread. Like you Lars, I beleive there is no magic pill that will replace talent and ability. That being said, I think carving on my old 204's required more talent and a different blend of skills.
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