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Are skiing skills instinctive?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Why do some people pick it up right away while for some others, it never clicks? How important is innate "athleticism" to advanced skiing? Certainly there are plenty of skilled skiers who have the technical stuff down - they know what makes what do what, etc., and can execute the movements - but still lack some hard-to-pin-down grace, a kind of fluidity. Can this be taught? Aside from basic questions of fitness, isn't it true that some people have more Natural Skier in them than others? Myth?
For you instructors, what do quick learners have in common? Is it basic coordination skills (lack of) that keep some skiers back?
Is it all mental?
post #2 of 24
ryan, I don't think that many aspects of skiing motions are instinctive OR intuitive.

human instinct is to lean one's body back uphill, and reach one's hand back uphill, for stability. a skier who uses that instinct will never learn how to ski efficiently, and will have a very hard time learning control.

human instinct does use balance and proprioception to make corrections. unfortunately, those senses are based on a lifetime of experiences with balance during walking, running, riding bicycles, etc. unless you grew up skiing, you have a strange base for analogies.

I think that as with all sports, there are "fast learning" possibilities for anyone who can mentally block out the known and/or instinctive responses, and simply feel one's way along, consistent with instructor input.

I use fly-casting as a great analogy. The non-athletic woman who tries fly casting usually picks it up quickly. The athletic man usually doesn't, as his instinctive and learned response is to try to use power, rather than finesse and gracefully applied pressure & movement.
post #3 of 24
Gonzo, a good point there. I consider myself fairly athletic, but damn, I suck at fly fishing!

I think that although some people seem to take to skiing while some slide through the learning curve slower, it depends on how easily that person picks up other speed sports and how comfortable/agile they are on their feet.

I feel that there are three types of athletes in the world: Ball people, board people and wheeel people. Some people are good at all three types of sports, however, most are good at just one or two. I can make a pair of skis do almost anything I want, but I cannot hit the board with the ball from the free throw line, let alone make a basket. With that said, skill will take you so far, but then said person's personality must also contrubute. I've seen many a good technical skier never advance where they could be if they were more aggressive. You must force your body down the fall line, which is not normal human instinct.
post #4 of 24
Great topic, but a sore point for me! It depends upon the person. For me, it is about the most counter intuitive activity I've ever engaged in! Part of it comes from my being too much of a thinker, as has been said. I have students who are absolute klutzes in stpe class, but are excellent skiers.

I do notice that when I turn off my brain and let intuition take over, I do much better. { such as skiing in a white out}
But for some reason, skiing is the only activity I like, even though I am not a natural.
post #5 of 24
Lots mental, some innate athleticism, and LOTS "transfer"--similar movements and sensations learned in other sports or activities. Hockey players, for example, are athletes to some degree already, probably at least reasonably fit, and confident in their athletic skills. Beyond that, they have learned to balance on slippery, gliding feet. They are familiar with both the movements and the sensations of using their edges. And they are aware of their feet--in particular, they are accustomed to controlling the direction their feet point, and to the idea that they MUST control this direction, constantly, in every movement they make. Hockey players, almost always, pick up skiing very, very quickly.

The mental side, of course, is very important too. Everyone knows that children tend to learn skiing with very little effort. I can't count how many times I've heard adults lament that "I should have learned when I was a kid." But think about it--as adults, they surely have FAR more strength and coordination than any 5-year-old. They have more experiences, athletic and otherwise, to draw from. Adults SHOULD learn much more quickly than children.

And many of them do. Those who do, though, are the ones who can remember to learn like children learn--to become fascinated with the discovery and learning process, to revel in "new" sensations. As children, most of us loved experiencing new things. As adults, most of us have learned to FEAR new things, to become comfortable only with the familiar.

A few years back, while waiting for my student to show up, I watched a couple 3-year-old twin girls the first time they ever clipped into a pair of skis on snow. Their skis slipped around, as usual, and they made the usual gross, awkward movements to avoid falling down. And they fell once or twice. But unlike most adults, they laughed about it! You could see in their eyes how much these new sensations fascinated them--they took pleasure in them! On their own, they tried new things, gingerly at first, then with increasing confidence, to CAUSE the skis to do "strange" new things, to explore these new sensations. Their skis started sliding backwards down a gentle incline. Rather than driving in their poles and freezing up (like many adults) trying to "force" the skis to behave, they just kept moving around until, probably by "accident," their skis turned sideways on the hill and stopped moving. They looked up and smiled with joy, having just discovered a wonderful new toy!

If only more adults could learn like that! All we have to do as adults to learn with the effortlessness of children is to become fascinated with the learning process itself. But we tend to focused only on the results, instead. We want to BE "good"--NOW--we HATE being "beginners." We fight new sensations. trying to force our skis to behave like normal feet, rather than allowing them to act like skis.

Adults who are willing to "play," willing to explore new things without fear of their newness, willing to "let go" and enjoy being beginners again, will learn the simple movements and tactics of skiing very quickly. Come on--admit it--you know you aren't really very likely to get injured when you fall down on the bunny slope! It's fear of embarrasment, fear of the unknown, or fear of being a beginner--not really fear of getting hurt--that interferes with most adults' learning to ski. We may SAY we're afraid of getting hurt--and we must admit that it is ALWAYS a possibility, whether skiing or not. But we really know better. It's more complicated than that!

And no--kids are NOT "fearless" either. That's another excuse many adults make, but it isn't true. Kids aren't usually afraid to learn, or to be beginners. But they have their fears. Ask any kids' instructor--fear of strangers, separation anxiety from their parents, fear of going too fast, and fear of purple monsters hiding in the snow, can all be real fears of children. So there goes that excuse, too, all you adults who are afraid that it's "too late"!

Learning on skis is NOT difficult! Mastering them is--no one has ever done it! Anyone fixated on becoming an "expert," rather than on the learning process itself, is destined to fail. For one thing, I know NO experts who are actually satisfied with their skiing! Proud of it, yes, and rightly so. But never satisfied. Part of the "expert's attitude" is, ironically, a perpetual "beginner's attitude." Show me a skier who has lost his passion for learning, and I'll show you a skier who has lost his love of skiing!

So the secret to learning to ski is to adopt this "expert's attitude"--the love of learning. For those considering starting skiing, think about this. And get yourself in shape. Try a little ice-skating or roller-blading, if you get a chance. But most of all, look forward to being a beginner again! How long has it been since you've had that opportunity--or that pleasure?

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #6 of 24
Many aspects of skiing, like golf, are not intuitive. For these skills, teaching is the surest way. Grace and fluid motion can certainly be coached.
What natural skiers have in common is they are not afraid to try or fail. They don't try to think through every move but instead, get a general idea of what it should feel like and shove off. They have an inate ability to realize when they have hit a road block, then seek help and they have a sense of adventure.
post #7 of 24
On another note, while I maintain that LEARNING is "intuitive"--just a question of remembering how to play and enjoy (again) the unfamiliar--GOOD SKIING is hardly intuitive. The movements and offensive attitude of good skiing are about as counter-intuitive as they can possibly be.

Even the confident, accomplished, "fearless" athlete, left to learn on his own, is likely to learn only defensive movements on skis. The need to control that sliding tendency of skis down the hill--the need to control speed, and to be able to stop--creates movements entirely contrary to the offensive "go" movements of great skiing.

Getting skis skidding sideways like brakes is what our "intuition" wants. And the easiest, most intuitive way to do this is with gross upper-body movements. Both this intent, and the upper body movements that arise from it, contradict the tactics and movements of expert skiing.

So I completely agree with those who say that, regardless of how successfully one can adopt the "beginner's attitude," and regardless of how athletic someone may be, lessons from qualified instructors are essential.

Learning is natural. It is intuitive--it's the essence of being alive! If we're good learners, we'll easily learn whatever we practice. If we are slower learners, or if we interfere with our natural ability to learn, it will take longer. But either way, if we practice bad skiing movements, they are exactly what we'll get "good" at!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #8 of 24
I know that for me skiing is 90% mental. It took me years to become a proficient skier, and I still have really retro days when my head gets so in the way I virtually psyche myself out of being able to ski the way I know I can. I've actually been told by one of my trainers that I am the most affected by conditions skier he has met in 20 years of teaching. Athletic ability goes a long way in how fast one can become proficient, but the ability to go for it with minimal fear is what separates good skiers from great ones.
post #9 of 24
I have learned to ski as well as i do by watching skiers who i deemed to be much better skiers than myself. I would imitate their movements, and add technical informationt hat i knew from reading articles on basicly how to ski... Until this season i had never had any instruction, but i am still a pretty good skier. My coaches told me that some people have it and some people dont... i guess i have it... whatever that means. I do consider myself an expert skier, but i am deffinitly a long way from where i would like to be, or could be. Everything seems to come to me rather easily and quickly, but it does take concentration and work. Every time i am on the hill there is something that i am working on, or that i have int he back of my head even while im free skiing. While lessons and instruction are great, i believe that it is the skier that makes himself or herself the better skier. An instructor can tell a person how to ski until they are blue in the face, but they have to not only comprehend it but also practice what they are told.

Right now, being that it is my first season racing, i am trying to bring my carving ability into the gates and maintain the same turn quality, edge angulation, etc while in gates. I dont know if i am considered a natural or if there is even such a thing. Obviously i have to know what to do before i can do it, but once i know what to do i can just go do it. the only thing so far that has given an extensive amount of trouble is spinning while im jumping...
later
GREG
post #10 of 24
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:
Lots mental, some innate athleticism, and LOTS "transfer"--similar movements and sensations learned in other sports or activities. Hockey players, for example, are athletes to some degree already, probably at least reasonably fit, and confident in their athletic skills. Beyond that, they have learned to balance on slippery, gliding feet. They are familiar with both the movements and the sensations of using their edges. And they are aware of their feet--in particular, they are accustomed to controlling the direction their feet point, and to the idea that they MUST control this direction, constantly, in every movement they make. Hockey players, almost always, pick up skiing very, very quickly.

*SNIP!*
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I'll attest to that. I've been a hockey player and a skiier my whole life, and whenever a friend asks me to teach him or her how to ice skate, I'll ask if he or she can, and vice versa. Everyone in my family plays hockey, but not all of us ski, so when I'm teaching one of the relatives to ski, they tend to pick everything up pretty quickly, especially edging and fore/aft balance.
post #11 of 24
Awhile ago i had a thread in fitness entitled The Cat and the Salamander.
Cats engage in unpredictable recreational activities such as hockey or soccer. Skiing for them is relatively easy.

Salamanders engage in repetitive sports such as running or swimming. Skiing for them may possible be a challenge.
post #12 of 24
I think those who are in touch with and have re-learned how to trust their body's genius learn any sport faster. I also think all sports are cross-training for each other. Those who think their brain is smarter than their body (how ridiculous?) and therefore must direct the process seem to struggle with experiential motor learning (duh!). Fortunatly we all learned to walk before we learned to talk. Can you imagine how goofy we'd all locomote if our folks had been giving us verbal directions on how to walk? We try don't do logic with our right brain (most of us anyway), so why would we try to ski with our left?

Tim Galloway's "Inner Game" theory books (tennis, skiing, golf) are delicious insight to the mind/body synergy of motor sports skill aquisition!
post #13 of 24
I'll second that, Arcmeister. Many instructors malign Gallwey's INNER SKIING for its lack of hard technical information. But they miss the point, entirely! INNER SKIING, or really any of Gallwey's books about tennis, golf, whatever, is a great, insightful look at the mental side of the game, dealing with fear and self-talk, letting the "right brain" learn, and so on.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #14 of 24
For what it's worth,I beleive that BALANCE is the primary skill needed to become or be a skilled skier. Relaxation,Control and Feedback from the skis will come with practice,practice,pratice. A skilled skier should be aware of his mental state(good or bad)and adjust accordingly. Some days your and somedays your .
post #15 of 24
There is a certain level of instinct in my skiing skills, but it's not all good. Here are some of my instinctive skills:

1. I can fall over with the best skiers in the world. I was never taught when to fall, but I have this natural "instinctive" ability to do it.

2. I'm not sure whether it was because I studied physics at school, or what, but I instinctively knew you skied in a general downward direction.

3. I always instinctively choose the girl in the bar whose boyfriend has just gone to the restroom, and when he returns, I find out that he is a WWF wrestler, just out on parole for assaulting the last guy who looked at his girlfriend.

4. I instinctively know in the morning that I drank too much the night before.

Does the fact that I'm so instinctive make me a better skier?


NO.

But it does make me more fun to be around.


S
post #16 of 24
Some people are just born to dance; they are in tune with the rhythm of the world. These people will take naturally to flow and motion sports.

IMHO there are two types in general:

1.) Those who abandon themselves to the rhythm of the earth and find freedom.

2.) Those who live in fear of rules, image and methodology.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #17 of 24
I think learning styles are also important. The 3 main types are feeler (or doer), thinker, and watcher. We are usually a combination of them in some proportion or another. The feeler will learn the fastest, because usually once they've done it right they can identify it. The watcher probably follows, as long as the demos are very good. And thinkers, well, it can take a long time for them to translate things into something that makes sense to them.

I used to think my primary learning style was thinker, I blamed most of my shortcomings on it. But, I've recently learned that I am primarily a watcher with thinking being strong support of what I'm seeing. Feeling for me is virtually non-existant. I can see a perfect demo, copy it and ski it well right behind the person doing it, then not be able to repeat it twice. It's about as frustrating as it gets.

Bob, it's nice to hear from you what I tell my students every day... yes, skiing is as counter intuitive as it gets. I try and convince them, and myself, that projecting your body down the hill is the leap of faith one must take in order become a more accomplished skier.

LM... where is that thread on Cat and Salamander??? I'm definitely a Salamander.
post #18 of 24
post #19 of 24
Why do some people pick it up right away while for some others, it never clicks?

The basics can be taught. With patience and practice most people can learn to ski. Some people are total klutzes, but they shouldn't be on any type of sports equipment, let alone skis. They probably have a basic coordination problem. The vast majority of people have the aptitude to ski.

How important is innate "athleticism" to advanced skiing?

Not too important. By practicing skiing, you develop the necessary skills such as balance and timing. You certainly don't need to be a jock or athlete.

Certainly there are plenty of skilled skiers who have the technical stuff down - they know what makes what do what, etc., and can execute the movements - but still lack some hard-to-pin-down grace, a kind of fluidity. Can this be taught?

No. This takes a LONG time to acquire. One day, it just all just "clicks". But it takes YEARS to get there. YEARS. Ski hard, ski often, ski alone and wait for that magic day. Don't think, don't analyze, just hum.

Aside from basic questions of fitness, isn't it true that some people have more Natural Skier in them than others? Myth?

Myth

Is it all mental?

No, not at all. It's all about the amount of time spent on skis.
post #20 of 24
Practice is not the solution if you are not practicing the RIGHT moves. It is possible to get very good at the WRONG moves!!

However, I do think that feeler/doers have a better chance of trial and error self movement analysis. We would probably call these people "naturals".
post #21 of 24
Yes, an adamant YES!

Why else do you think the Euro's dominate the sport? ...because they've been blending ski genes far longer than other countries.

I'm not gonna get into the age-old genetic/environment debate, but certain physiologys accel at particular disciplines and skiers tend to live and play in more mountainous environments where they meet like-minded partners with similar skills. The concept's the same in the horse racing world, hence exhorbident stud fees.

When you put two people with similar talents together, the result is already a step ahead before they exit the womb. Now you add the proper nurturing and those Austrian downhillers just can't help but kick some...

The only way to fix the problem is to start introducing these young Euro racers to some clutsy American Playboy Bunnys [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #22 of 24
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Cheap seats:
The only way to fix the problem is to start introducing these young Euro racers to some clutsy American Playboy Bunnys [img]smile.gif[/img]<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hey hey! I'm European. I can race (slowly). OK, I'm not that young, but you can;t have everything! Just drop the "clutsy" bit, and I'm up for it!


S
post #23 of 24
yep

Wouldn't it have to be intuitive for someone?
post #24 of 24
only for you, frozenh2o

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