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Tall trees,,, deep of root

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
The following post by Bob Barnes was a technically insightful gem that I fear may have been lost within the emotions of the thread in which it was placed. It needs to be set high on display for all to see, study and heed.

Originally Posted by Bob Barnes
Doug Coombs was a virtuoso of skiing, a master of the entire spectrum of techniques, tactics, and intents, as well as a master of the mental focus and discipline needed to bring out top performance in trying situations. His unbiased versatility allowed him to employ any technique needed to get the job done, and demonstrated clearly why skill is the real measure of good skiing--not just practice of any particular technique. And I agree completely, too, that there is a big lesson in his skiing that conflicts with many of the restrictive technical biases so often pushed as the "right" way around here.

Perhaps the biggest polarizing point of contention in the technical forums here over the years has not come from disagreement about which techniques were "right," but from disagreement about whether or not there really is a "right" technique in the first place. I've long advocated, along with many other instructors, that good skiing is about developing broad-based skill, not about particular "final forms." Modern ski instruction in the US, and to a large extent worldwide, has shifted stongly from the "final forms," technique-driven models of the past to the more versatile, less-restrictive, skills-based and outcome-based (matching specific techniques to desired purposes) models of today, and great skiers like Doug Coombs demonstrate why.

The lessons of Doug's skiing go well beyond just the technical, too. He demonstrated mastery of the concepts Weems expresses in his "Sports Diamond" model as well. Power and Purpose--the ability to match movement to intent, technique to tactics--Touch and Will--the blending of mental focus, passion, courage, and will-power with sensitivity, feel, and versatility, to impose mental control over movements, even while trusting the body to react unconsciously and appropriately to feedback from the skis and snow.

Doug Coombs showed all these things to the highest level. Few skiers can aspire to the same degree of mastery, but all skiers can learn from the principles that Doug embodied. Skiing, as the totality of body, mind, and spirit, is so much more, so much richer and more challenging and rewarding, than skiing as a mere technique.

So explore and practice all techniques, all variables of movement. Focus not on "right and wrong," but on cause and effect. No technique is right or wrong in itself--only when tied to intent or outcome can its effectiveness be measured. I've described before a "spectrum of intents" (from pure carving to pure braking) that I think simplifies the range a bit, but the point is to practice without bias all possible blends of skill and movement, while developing a high-level awareness of the effects, uses, and misuses of each. Any technical focus is, by definition, biased and restrictive. Great skiing is not!
post #2 of 10
Wow, thanks for highlighting this Rick. I looked here because it was you posting it, and thanks to Bob for writing it. If this level of clarity was the norm in the technical forums, then I wouldn't avoid them like I do.

This reaches near what drives me in skiing, the intuitive fusion of consciousness and form, the high speed processing of reaction to terrain, texture, and obstacles, which expand the volume of experience in a given moment, until all else falls away, and one experiences the liberation of being.

God knows I love skiing.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks, VA, for adding your thoughts, and for the kind thumbs up you sent my way.

I like what you're saying here, and your perspective on the sport. It reflects the sentiments Bob was sharing in his post, with a touch of that which Weems promotes. Digest into mind and body a broad technical skill base that allows one to adapt and perform in many types of conditions and terrain, in many ways,,, then set the mind and body free to dance joyful and carefree with the mountain.

There are no right or wrong skills in skiing. There are only differing levels of proficiency at performing those skills. The more skills one has in his/her pocket, and the more refined those skills are:

- the more options one has available for negotiating various terrain

- the more able one is to instinctively react to sudden and unexpected disruptions

- the greater one's level of comfort and confidence on their skis

- the easier one learns and internalizes new movement patterns into their performance repertoire.

- The greater the number of pools of pleasure from which to dip
post #4 of 10
Some of my thoughts along these lines were triggered by a close friend I ski with often, who said that there is no other sport which requires the brain to process more information in a given moment than do the higher levels of skiing. After the past couple seasons of developing as a skier, with an emphasis on steep tight lines through the trees, I have come to fully understand what he was talking about.

Modern society has dulled our capacity for physical reaction to input, made us slow on our feet as it were, and skiing can be a way of regaining nature.

Technique should only be considered a mechanism for unlearning the blockage between our minds and bodies. Proper form is a fusion of body dynamics (height, weight, musculature), movement tailored by necessity of efficiency for the given body dynamics, and expression of one's personality (emotional input such as aggressiveness and/or gracefulness).

Of course, I think in terms of freeskiing, but I expect this applies in racing too.
post #5 of 10
It's posts like this Rick that made me plead with you to share your thoughts and ideas more. You have so much to offer and I hope you continue to share your insight and knowledge.

When you talk, I listen.

And thanks for listening to me.
post #6 of 10
Originally Posted by volantaddict View Post

This reaches near what drives me in skiing, the intuitive fusion of consciousness and form, the high speed processing of reaction to terrain, texture, and obstacles, which expand the volume of experience in a given moment, until all else falls away, and one experiences the liberation of being.
Living in the moment. Skiing is one of those experiences where this happens.

I agree with Lars.
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Lars, Paul,,, thanks guys.

Lars, yes, our talk at HV has rung in my ears and played a role in my continuing to post. Thanks for the nudge.
post #8 of 10
My brother attended Doughs camps in la grave twise and was shocked by the news of Doughs passing away. The camps were the wholy grail of off back country and off pist and powder skiing and Dough truly inspiring and challenging, pushing the consept past skiing.

Ive been skiing in the alps for nearly 40y and Im not so impressed by todays fat ski boom crowding the back country with young low level skiers risking their life for something Im not really sure they can truly appreciate. After being caught in a minor avalanche once and seen huge ones miss me close by I can only be thankfull Im still alive. Also thankfull noone of my friends or students skiing with me ever got into more trouble than they could handle. However, avalanches are not the only dangers lurking on the mountain. There are all sorts of misshaps that can put a hault to your skiing and turn nirvana into hell or worse. Will a shovel help? Yes, it can help but how many of the teenagers packing them in their back pack would be ready to risk their own life for saving someone else? My advise, choos your skiing buddies carefully. I too would have chose Dough.
post #9 of 10

I had the privilege of skiing with Doug a couple of times, at his steep camp in JH and with him as my guide in the Chugach. He is the skier I have always most admired. I have a post here on Epic with a letter to the editor of Skiing magazine that I submitted and was published that expresses my feelings more fully.

I like the points Bob brought up in his post, however, I don't know that they always translate directly to the best teaching paradigms. In this respect I would suggest a bit of caution.

Unfortunately, skiing instruction sometimes seems to be like religion in the way people develop belief in various teaching methods. Following a structured, "restricted" path for development may be more effective for some. Eventually, though, it's to a skiers advantage to explore beyond the bounds of any single paradigm. In this case, when and how to do this becomes an important issue to consider.
post #10 of 10
In the film Steep Doug Coombs says his wife Emily is "the skier of the family" and "she could ski at sixty-five degrees, I fell at sixty five degrees. I'm still trying to figure out how she did it."

One doesn't hear the interviewers question so it's hard to know what he was responding to.
Anybody ever ski with Emily or know about this?
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