I actually remember that Abe tidbit.
I have often thought of it in the context of value of the mental imagery, or practice. I think the key is the content quality of our images, or thoughts.
During the off-season we can imagine our skiing as it is, reinforcing and anchoring it's current state, or we can imagine it as we want it to be, building a foundation for change.
I believe in the concept that if one can have a clear image of themselves skiing "better", their neuro-muscular programming for skiing shifts to support the new movements (the Cyber-Vision video series concept). I think there is a coorelation between how clearly one can create a mental image of themselves doing something and their inate ability to (learn to) do it. If one's mind can clearly image oneself doing something, where else but from one's own body's knowledge of it's own capabilities could a clear image of themselves be created? I see this as a level above imitating anothers performance (be like Mike).
Depok Chopra suggests that the main reason we are the same person from day to day because we think a dominant majority of the same thoughts about ourselves from day to day. We only undertake profound change in our being when we profoundly change our day to day thinking about ourselves. His context was from a health perspective, but I think the concept has fairly unlimited application potential.
Applied to sports, one can most easily profoundly change how they think about doing a sport when they are not hampered by actually doing it using the same day to day habits, as in during the off-season. One can re-ski a run and change the process and outcome more easily in ones mind than while doing it in reality. Once the desired outcome is mentally achieved, it can be perfectly rehearsed innumerable times, before it is brought back on snow next season where we can more easily "move to learn" the physical reflection of how we have already internaly "learned to move". I think this is similar to the Feldinkris(?) concept of creating a movement mentally before attempting it physically.
This is different that our default sports education approach of "moving to learn" before we have "learned how to move".
A study was done years ago with three test groups shooting free-throws. Each group recorded a percentage of 100 shots made for a baseline. Over a three-week period, Group-1 practiced (without coaching) shooting free-throws 30 minute a day. Group-2 mentally practiced making free-trows 30 minutes a day (instructions to imagine "making every shot"). Group-3 did nothing about the process. I think the the follow-up shooting session resulted in G-1 improvement barely edging out G-2's, and G-3 showing none at all. Conclusions: physical practice might re-inforces errors even while trying to change them offers little advantage over mental practice that is error-correcting, or even error free. So what if the two were coordinated?
One might suggest that a child learns to walk during their crawling season, before their first step is taken. It is easy to deduce that they learn using observation, translated into imagery of themselves walking, to prepare for the physical learning using acute awareness applied to a try it, fix it process.
One might ask: Is the mental side of learning the as yet untapped frontier or the supressed inate potential of advanced learning processes?