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Ski without instructor

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
The question I want to raise is: Can anyone learn to ski (and survive) whithout having one or more instructors to teach him, and without the possibility to spend several days in a row skiing?
If yes, which is the highest possible degree in proficiency that one can achieve? Is he doomed to become and remain a mediocre skier?
I am asking this question because I have just discovered the incredible pleasure of sliding on a slope (I cant say "skiing" as far as i am concerned yet), as I`ve taken a few separate lessons with different teachers, but the problem is that I cant spend more than 2-3 days (week-ends) in the same place skiing due to the nature of my job.(and not more than 2 weeks in winter season in total)
So when i take a new lesson the instructor must first asess what i know and what i don`t, than sometimes he starts giving me advice quite opposite to what i know (or think I know), and i feel that in this way one cant become even a decent
skier. :
So feel free to give advice to a novice.
Are there any books (laugh if you want to) to help people discover even the basics of skiing?
What do you people think?
post #2 of 43
There is an expression ..... "build miles on the snow" .... skiing is not an exercise of the intellect. No one can read a text and become an expert. Your body must experience (and sort out), what works and what doesn't through time and repetition. The instructor is a guide along the way.

You are probably still sorting out many issues and are not in a comfort zone regarding speed, balance, etc. I view skiing as a way to relax and am not a strong proponent of cramming massive amounts of technical knowledge into a small "box" in a relatively short period of time.

Have some fun for a few days or weeks and then take a lesson. If it becomes an obsession or a "forced march", is it fun?

When you get off the lift at the top of the hill take a moment to just enjoy the view..... at your own pace in your own time.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 24, 2001 05:33 AM: Message edited 1 time, by yuki ]</font>
post #3 of 43
I presume you are traveling about Europe and encountering the large difference in ski lesson approach associated with the fact most European countries have their "own" ski instruction system and tend to adhere to it.

Given that scenario, I think what I'd do is present myself as a skier willing to listen to suggestions based upon how the instructor evaluates my abilities and needs, and just accept whatever is presented as food for thought. Then use whatever system seems to help you the most.

You must be aware, however, one does not become a concert pianist by practicing a dozen times a year, and the limitations on your skiing time will not allow you to become an expert skier. As long as you elect to let the rest of your life limit how frequently you may ski, you might as well look at the activity as something you apparently enjoy doing for the pleasure it gives you and not set goal regarding skiing that will not be attainable.
post #4 of 43
Danone--Warmest welcome to EpicSki!

The simple answer to your question is "Yes...BUT!"

Anyone with a little determination, a modicum of athleticism, a basic survival instinct, and a dose of common sense, can learn to survive on skis.

But "survival" and real skiing are two very different things. Indeed, the struggle to survive is the problem! Good skiing skills are not difficult to learn, but they are anything but intuitive. Good skiing skills are OFFENSIVE; survival skills tend to be DEFENSIVE. In other words, the movements you develop trying to learn to survive are the very antithesis of good ski technique!

You will get good at whatever you practice. I've said it often--if you practice bad (read "defensive") skiing habits, you will get good--perhaps VERY good--at at bad skiing. Learning is natural and inevitable. Indeed, that instructor isn't going to "teach" you anything--you're going to have to learn it yourself, whether you're with an instructor or not. The instructor's role is to guide your learning, to set you on the right path to good skiing and to keep you from the dead ends that lead to mediocrity.

Believe me, the path to good skiing is worth discovering, but it is all but hidden to beginners without a guide. The obvious paths will lead to horrible habits, habits that will end up frustrating you not only for their ineffectiveness, but for the difficulty of breaking them as well!

Perhaps the best thing about being a beginner is that, unlike virtually everyone else on the mountain, you have NO BAD SKIING HABITS (yet)! Think of that! It's a wonderful thing, and your only opportunity ever to enjoy this unspoiled state! Why would anyone risk spoiling this? Learn good skiing movements from the start. Taking a lesson is the best way--the only way--to make sure you develop a solid foundation of good skills and movements.

Some warnings: if your upper body moves AT ALL to cause your first turns, you are on the road to mediocrity! If you think of turns as a way to slow down, you are on the road to mediocrity. If you learn to like the sensation of "braking" and equate it with the feeling of "control," you are on the road to mediocrity.

All this said, the tragic fact is that, because most instructors teaching beginners are very inexperienced, the important benefits of those first few lessons may well not be realized. It takes a very knowledgeable and skilled instructor to make absolutely certain that you are introduced to the right movement patterns, and steered away from the mistakes.

So by all means, take a few lessons to get started right. And continue to take lessons on a regular basis forever. Lessons are the best way to make your improvement continuous. They're a great way to learn your way around a new ski area, and to glean tidbits about the tactics as well as the techniques of great skiing.

But DEMAND qualified instructors. When you sign up, INSIST that you ski with an instructor with several years of experience, preferably fully certified. The ticket seller probably won't even know what you're talking about--VERY few people make such demands. But it's your right! Tell them you don't want the lesson, and that you'll demand your money back, if you can't get a highly qualified instructor. If the seller has to call over a supervisor or the ski school director to satisfy your request, let 'em do it! Be very clear that the only way they'll separate you from some of that cash in your wallet is to satisfy your request.

You won't regret it!

Best regards--and Merry Christmas!
Bob Barnes
post #5 of 43
My two cents:
I skied for 6 years before my first lesson... I could ski almost everything.

Then I got a lesson! Then... I truly could ski. One day with a few GREAT instructors, and I was really tuning my skiing... and looking good. You will feel better at the end of the day if you are doing everything right also!

Ok.. I think that was more than two cents.


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 24, 2001 09:22 AM: Message edited 1 time, by HValleySkier ]</font>
post #6 of 43

Nothing to add except welcome aboard...
So far, lots of good tips for you.
post #7 of 43
Bob Barnes was too modest to put in a plug for his books. I can't do that because I have not yet read his latest (though I will soon, I promise), however the other bears who have, had had highest praises.

I am not sure how the PSIA/USA jargon and techniques would conflict or confuse regarding the terminology used in the european systems........ ?????
post #8 of 43
Welcome aboard. Can't really add anything except my own experience.

I am an instructor and decided last year to learn how to snowboard. I bought all the texts and videos.

Duh...after several days of no real success, too much experimentation, and as Bob Barnes says, getting bad technique, I took a lesson. Even though I knew all the terms and process, I was not able to evaluate myself.

Lessons do help.

Now I enjoy the whole mountain. Still learning..
post #9 of 43
Help me with "if you think of turns to slow down". I understand what you are saying here - braking actions, defensive, not flowing, not moving forward, etc. But, what about thinking "speed control from turn shape"? I think that IS consistent with good skiing.
post #10 of 43

I think it is how it is presented. Many instructors tell the beginner that to slow down, turn completely towards the woods.

The student hears it as...turns slow me down.

Turn shape can be used to accelarate, maintain or reduce your speed, but if the mind set is a turn slows/stops me, then it is harder to carve than skid.
post #11 of 43
Hi Blizzard--the phrase "Speed control from turn shape," while not inaccurate, is a pet peeve of mine! I know what you mean, but ask a child to name a few "shapes" ("square, triangle, diamond, ...") or "turn shapes" (circle, "Z," "round," "sharp," ...)--then ask which shape will slow you down the best. Remember too that an incomplete turn and a complete turn can have the exact same "shape" (round, circular). So the phrase "speed control from turn shape" really doesn't describe what you're looking for very well, does it?

But my sentiments go beyond even this issue. I contend that turns have NOTHING to do with speed. What slows us down is BRAKING (which is very different from TURNING) or GOING UPHILL--which has nothing to do with turning either, necessarily). Turns control DIRECTION, not SPEED!

Of course, control of direction is what we need if we choose to go uphill, or any other direction, so turns play a very INDIRECT role in speed control. I turn not for speed control, but for line control. And I choose a line such that I don't need to control my speed. I turn not for speed control, but to minimize the NEED for speed control!

So the shape of the turn has nothing to do with speed control. (Except that there is always SOME increased resistance when our skis are turning--but the better the turn, the LESS it slows us, right?) What matters is very simply the direction you're going! Go downhill, and you will go faster. Go uphill, and you will slow down. You may, or you may well NOT, need to make a turn in order to accomplish either of these!

In any case, whether it is in a car, on a bicycle, or on skis, we turn to GO WHERE WE WANT TO GO--not to slow down. If I want to slow down, I GO uphill. If I want to speed up, I GO downhill. And since most turns begin by going downhill, must we not conclude that we should actually turn to SPEED UP? This, I submit, is the problem of almost every terminal intermediate skier on the hill. They turn to slow down. The don't turn until they NEED to slow down. So their turns are always defensive. They habitually twist their tails out rather than guiding their tips downhill to start the turn. They have practiced and practiced this move, and actually feel uncomfortable when their skis AREN'T skidding.

Experts turn to go where they want to go. If any of us want to even approach the turns of the great racers, we must begin by making sure that we're turning for the same reason they are--and that certainly isn't to "control speed" is it? It's to GO!

To ski like an expert, we must start by thinking like an expert. Only then will we start getting better at the same thing experts are trying to get better at. To turn like an expert, lose ALL association between turning and speed control. Use direction, if possible, or BRAKING, when necessary, to control speed. Think like an expert!

Merry Christmas!
Bob Barnes

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 25, 2001 08:47 AM: Message edited 2 times, by Bob Barnes/Colorado ]</font>
post #12 of 43
Hey Bob, I turn because it's fun! I don't think "okay, now I want to go 15 feet to the right......". Because really, I WANT TO GO from the top of the hill to the bottom. It's just alot more fun to make turns on the way!
But I suppose that's mostly semantics, I don't really disagree with you on this one.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 25, 2001 02:52 PM: Message edited 1 time, by milesb ]</font>
post #13 of 43
Thread Starter 
I thank you all for the advice given here, you ve been all pretty much convincing, as most of you have the same vision on the topics I have raised. Right now i am thinking of managing my time in a way which should allow me to take several lessons in a row, whith a Good instructor and that is for two reasons: I enjoy the slope and I dont want to become "a skiing freak" who bothers or amuses anyone on the way .
Thank you Bob, for your detailed answer.

post #14 of 43
Merry Christmas, Patcky, and welcome to EpicSki. Look me up sometime, Silverthorne neighbor! You were obviously watching the wrong instructors (not that there aren't plenty of them out there...).

Yes--clearly, we ski because it's fun. But wouldn't you agree that turning is way more fun than braking? I would agree that we rarely think, consciously, "I want to go 15 feet to the right," and we rarely plan our exact line with conscious precision. But expert skiers rarely ski a line that is random either. Turn radius, turn completion, and line, are quite deliberate, and highly purposeful. They vary with terrain, steepness, conditions, and other factors. These tactics may not be something you choose consciously, but if you are an expert skier, there is a reason for nearly every tactical "choice"!

To the expert, line is critical. If you haven't discovered this yet, try following the exact tracks of a real expert, and see how much easier skiing can be! If we don't ski a "slow enough line," we have no choice but to use our skis as brakes, which takes a whole lot of the fun out of it!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 25, 2001 03:36 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Bob Barnes/Colorado ]</font>
post #15 of 43
I would agree with Bob, but I had a coach who put it slightly differently, using these alternative phrasings: If you are not specific about what you want, you must accept whatever you get; or, if you are not specific about where you want to go, any route will get you there.

We skied gates, trees, and bumps to become more specific about "where we want to go." Then we transferred this to open slopes: look ahead, find the line, and ski it like it was defined by gates, trees, or a set of bumps.

A very useful exercise!
post #16 of 43
We've stumbled on hints to your true identity...
You may be Alice of Wonderland and that coach was the Cheshire cat who told you:
"If you don't know where you are going, any path will do".
You are a student of Moshie Feldencrise(?) from who you learned: "If you don't know what you are doing, you can't do what you want".

And to the thread launcher: An overlooked value that an instructor can offer is to teach you how to learn to learn better so that you can be your own best coach. You will always be teaching (and learning from) yourself, whether you are doing it consiously or not. A visit to your Pro from time to time can provide calibration of your own process.
post #17 of 43
I like that: an instructor can teach you how to learn better so you can be your own best coach.

I'd have to agree that it is ultimate value of exposing oneself to good coaching.

You remind me of a story told long ago by a Japanese samurai. A student goes to learn from the master. He is asked to be seated at a table on which is a pot of green tea and an overturned cop. The master takes the pot of tea and starts pouring it onto the overturned cup. The student, puzzled, hastens to turn the cup upright so the tea can go into it instead of onto the table. The master says, "The cup must be in a position to receive," and continues pouring until the cup overflows. The student quickly drinks the tea and again places the empty cup under the stream of tea the master has continued to pour. The master says, "The cup must be emptied before it can receive more."

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 25, 2001 04:37 PM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #18 of 43
Bob Barnes,
The jury is still deliberating your position regarding speed control, but I will keep an open mind during the next week of skiing and see where it takes me.
Thanks for the reply.
post #19 of 43
YOu have hit the nail on the head! Turning is not braking, nor speed control. For me at least it is used to establish rhythm. Not to oversimplify here but by rhythm I am not just talking about a 123 turn, 123-turn mentality but a rhythm for the entire run, anywhere on the mountain. Once you reach a certain level of skiing you are able to pick and choose the line you want and how you want to ski it. As was stated earlier, defensive skiing is just that,defensive. Once you change or perspective (i.e. paridigm shift) to an offensive mindset, anything is possible. You will be able to make very subtle changes in your technique and feel an immediate difference.
If you watch a bunch of solid skiiers, one thing you will notice that they all share (hopefully) is flow. The movement of their center of mass throughout the turn. To properly do this you CANNOT ski defensively. Your boidy will not let you as you will be blocking your hips, kness etc. Will not ramble on any more, just wanted to agree with Bob on this, especially about skiing in an experts tracks. My students, just by following the line of the instructor will be "forced" to turn in certain areas and therefore experince sensations that they have not before.
post #20 of 43
Jujuman--yes! Following a good skier's tracks puts your mind clearly into the offensive mode of thinking where to GO. With this clear intent, the "right" movements naturally follow as much as possible, according to the skill level of the skier.

Other exercises that put us in "go" mode, and thus bring out the right technique, include running gates, trying to go as far as possible around a circle, "uphill christies" (j-turns, gliding as far as possible back up hill), skiing back and forth across a snowmobile track--or a snowcat track, looking for "targets" (clumps of snow, pinecones, shadows, whatever) and trying to slice the target in half as you turn, and many others (I'd love to hear some more ideas...).

These completely non-technical focuses, by generating the right offensive intent, can have huge effects on technique! Without saying a word about HOW to do it, exercises like these can affect technique more profoundly than any amount of technical description.

On the other hand, many instructors struggle because, though they teach totally sound "turning technique," they teach it to skiers whose intent is not to turn but to control speed! It's not to "go that way," but to "stop going this way."

Again, technically, the movements of braking and the movements of turning are not just different. They are diametrically opposed, completely opposite, and incompatible!

The movements of TURNING are what I call "positive movements"--movements in the direction you want to go. In a left turn, everything you move should move left. You tip your skis TOWARD the turn. You move your body INTO the turn. You steer your tips INTO the turn. You (might) swing your pole toward the turn.

The movements of braking are "negative movements"--movements in the direction you DON'T want to go. You tip your skis AWAY from the "turn," gripping the mountain. You push your body uphill, AWAY from the "turn." You twist your tails OUT, away from the "turn." You (might) plant your pole, blocking the movement of your center of mass, pushing it away from the "turn."

Again, the important thing to remember is that these movements, opposite as they are, are all quite natural. But they absolutely reflect our intent. If our intent is offensive--we're trying to control direction, to "go that way"--negative movements feel all wrong. If our intent is defensive--we're trying to slow down or "stop going this way"--negative movements feel right, and positive movements feel wrong.

So skiers--ask yourself--"why do I turn? What am I trying to control?" And pay attention to the first answer that comes to mind--it will tell much about your skiing.

Instructors--ask your students the same questions! If they're turning to control speed, then either teach them to brake better, or help them arrive at the realization that turns are for controlling direction. If they're trying to control speed, and you're trying to teach them to make better (offensive) turns that control direction, you have a conflict! If you're trying to teach them to "release their edge and let their skis GO downhill," and they only think of "turning" once they need to slow down, and they LIKE the sensation of gripping the mountain, you are both destined to fail!

Everyone--learn to ski "the slow line fast" (ski a slow enough line as fast as you can, WHEN you can). Develop the habit of controlling speed with DIRECTION, not FRICTION. If you want to speed up, GO downhill. If you want to slow down, also GO--UPhill--as fast as you can! Ski offensively, like an expert--at any level. You won't regret it!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #21 of 43
Thread Starter 
This is most inspiring, Bob. It`s quite a new vision of sking movements, instructors usually focus on skiing techniques but they dont pay much attention to setting the goals of the students in accordance to what they are taught. I think i ll look for skiing the "slow line as fast as i can", the minute i get back in the mountains (hopefully this January).
As a matter of fact , i like the sensation of gripping the snow on brakes.(i like the sound and the power sensation. I enjoy a good break, especially on the lowest part of the slope, when nobody objects about messing up the snow.
post #22 of 43
You're making a huge mistake and you'll get nowhere without proper training. So, this makes me think this post is a waste of time, because you're clearly a knuckle head.

But I'll assume that you really do have some sense.

You really want to get off on the right foot? Take two days of lessons with a PMTS guru. Buy both books and videos.
post #23 of 43
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>You're making a huge mistake and you'll get nowhere without proper training. So, this makes me think this post is a waste of time, because you're clearly a knuckle head.
But I'll assume that you really do have some sense.

You really want to get off on the right foot? Take two days of lessons with a PMTS guru. Buy both books and videos. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

SCSA--Knock it off, will you PLEASE? What is your point, calling people names? And please stop using AC's forum as your personal advertising pulpit. You've been doing so well, for quite some time. Looks like it's time for another pill....

I am very reluctant to post this message, but you brought it up, SCSA, and I feel a balanced response is necessary.

For the record, especially for those who might be new around here, suffice it to say that SCSA's sentiments and enthusiasm for the PMTS program are hardly shared by all. With respect for RickH, SnoKarver, Arcmeister, Si, and SCSA, and others who have described positive experiences with PMTS, their sentiments do not represent the consensus! There are many, including myself, who have expressed deep and specific concerns about the PMTS progression and technical model, as well as its presentation and philosophy.

Personally, I contend that the PMTS progression is likely to lead to frustrating dead ends and bad habits in skiing. I, and many others, have written thousands of words here at EpicSki discussing the pros and cons of such questionable PMTS focuses as "the lift," the very narrow stance, the failure to recognize the importance of the "rotary" skill, the curious (but self-proclaimed) inability to teach appropriate movements from a wedge stance, or to people with older equipment, or imperfectly-fitting boots, and its "one-move-fits-all" approach to technique, not to mention its equating "parallel" with "expert," its unsupported blanket criticism of all non-PMTS-affiliated instructors, and its almost cult-like brainwashing of its "followers" to believe in and only in the words of its leader, and to shun the words and ideas of all others.

My best advice--take a PMTS clinic ONLY after you have a good grasp of skiing fundamentals, when you can keep perspective while sorting out the worthy from the worthless....

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #24 of 43
Not so fast, short skis breath.

Barnes makes the classic mistake of ignoring the customer -- like the rest of the gang leaders. There could be 8 zillion students that have had success with PMTS and he'd still tell you it's wrong.

Here's what you got to understand about Barnes. He's a gang leader. So, he cannot endorse PMTS, because he'd fall out of favor with his gang friends.

If you really want to make an informed decision? Don't listen to either Barnes or me. Talk to skiers who are doing the PMTS thang.
post #25 of 43
I don't understand your critisism of Mr. Barnes. I truly believe if he felt there was a better system or technique he would do one of two things. Incorporate it into PSIA, or jump ship to PMTS. By now you must understand by the quality of his writings and the depth of his thought. He has played with the ideas of PMTS on a cognitive level as well as a practical one.

If you ask my students which "system" I use I doubt you will get a PSIA vs. PMTS answer. Rather you would get an answer that relates to motivations of the student, and movements to accomplish these motivations. Also, they may be able to share with you why the use certain blends movements in certain situations.

A few years ago I picked up the game of golf. From the beginning I picked two instructors to help me. 5 years later I am in the PGA program with a 0 hcp. I have several friend who started before I did, and they played more than I did and possessed equal or greater talent than I. But I went out to model 0 and + hcp players, and excellent instructors. That, and good practice was the difference.

So if you ask me, should I ski with an instructor to improve more quickly. I say yes, but do some homework to find and instructor that will meet your needs.

Jonathan Lawson
post #26 of 43

Litos camps are booked months in advance. Harbs books are #1 in their category. I even heard that the PSIA is now linking to Harbs web site.

I think it's pretty clear. People are looking for a better product than what they can get at a ski school desk.
post #27 of 43

Using this web site[go to epic.com home page,scroll to Focus in left column, and click ski shop] as a link to: amazon.com
You now may want to order Lito Tejada-Flores' new book, "Breakthrough on the New Skis."

He writes very well and makes skiing techniques understandable and logical. In each chapter,he also provides some on hill exercises that you can do to learn the various techniques.The illustrations and pictures are also very useful. He does use the phantom foot as described by Harald Harb but calls it "Phantom edging." Harald Harb has endorsed this book.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 30, 2001 12:22 PM: Message edited 2 times, by wink ]</font>
post #28 of 43
Without getting into the specifics of one system or another, I'd say get an instructor. My own experience is that people have a warped view of their own skiing, and don't realize it when they're using inefficient movements. A well-trained, motivated instructor can diagnose problems and give you solutions that you can work on in your own time.

If that option doesn't appeal to you, Lito Tejada-Flores' Breakthrough on Skis videos and books are inspiring, although not everyone's idea of technically correct by today's standards. Lito has a way of diluting technique into easy to digest concepts that are more theory than exercises. It's more a way of thinking about skiing than actually a how-to series. Zen and the Art of Skiing. I prefer the videos, but he has just rewritten the book (1986) to be more up-to-date and with more graphics. Anyway, it's worth a look and it might inspire you to seek further instruction.
post #29 of 43
From what I have seen lately the mainstream ski instruction certification bodies are willing to incoporate anything that is tried and proven and makes sense in skiing .... I wonder if this is true for some of the other "patented" systems.

I wonder about the goals of some "patented" systems. Do they holistically produce a teaching manual\progression or simply prey on the innocent and make money? I prefer a "peoples" text rather than a "business" text.

If the PSIA is linking the PMTS site then my observation would be that the PSIA has a more holistic approach to ski methodology. The bottom line is that no one system has all the answers. My preference is to be associated with a system that appears to be more outward looking.

I am not a gang member. I am a ski instructor open to all ideas. Whens HH coming my way for a free lecture ?

On topic. Sure ski yourself BUT get lessons along the way to ensure a real and lasting progression.


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 30, 2001 05:05 PM: Message edited 1 time, by man from oz ]</font>
post #30 of 43
Sure, Lito's camps are completely booked months in advance, and he has waiting lists that are as big as the number of slots available. I don't think this is primarily due to his "rock-solid" technique (it isn't), however. I think it is more from his infectious way of conveying the joy of skiing to the masses. He's not a directive teacher- he prods you in the right direction and points out that this is supposed to be fun. He's extremely gifted in that respect and I believe people respond to it. I'd certainly love to spend a few days skiing with the guy- I'm sure he'd inspire me to make a vast improvement, if only in attitude.

Lito isn't for everyone (he's a little zen for some people). Harb isn't for everyone (he's a little directive for me at least). PSIA/ATS isn't for everyone (although it depends more on the instructor than the system). Each has its place based on desire, resources, and personality. However, I think that a little direct instruction from any well-educated, motivated instructor will speed up the learning process greatly.
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