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The Master Skills

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
In the "Are you how you ski..." thread, Robin throws a small grenade:

I believe the Rotary skill to be the most misunderstood, misinterpreted and underappreciated skill....after balance it is the master skill.
How does this statement strike you?

I bring it up front because this seems to be a major bone of contention in the world of ski technique, whether rotary is passe or "the master skill (after balance)."
post #2 of 33
Question from an amateur: Is it realistic to expect NOT to use rotary skills in tight trees and narrow, winding New England trails?
post #3 of 33
Nolo! You read my mind! The same sentence struck me hard. I agree with it.

I love to watch a skier with good rotary skills. To me, that's still classic skiing. I'm not sure what the instructor definition of rotary skills are, but to me, it's a beautiful swing & rotate from the waist on down. It is NOT a heel push or a sperm turn.

I still ski with a lot of rotary, but I have too because I'm on traditional skis. Do the shaped skis still require good rotary skills? Or will they die out? My guess is that they are still required, but not as dramatic. I will miss the dramatic, it was a beautiful thing.
post #4 of 33
I agree with Robin, 100%.

The rotary skill encompasses all the movements and physical principles we can use to control the direction our skis point.

Skiers DO try to control the direction their skis point--often because they HAVE to, other times because they know no other way. Becoming SKILLFUL in how we do this is quite obviously important in becoming a good skier! How could anyone argue otherwise?

Rotary skill, and applying rotary skill, is hardly the same as "grossly twisting the skis into a skid"--although it is how we do that when we need to.

There are many ways we can cause our skis to turn, involving a variety of biomechanical principles. Rotation, counter-rotation, independent leg steering, blocking pole plant--they all involve movement, of course, so they all affect the position of the body. They all affect STANCE. Stance affects everything else--our ability to control edge angles, pressure, and even to apply the rotary skill! And stance affects safety, and the body's ability to withstand the potentially dangerous stresses of skiing.

Furthermore, the various rotary mechanisms are not equivalent in how they turn the skis. Some (rotation, blocking pole plant, and their various subforms) introduce "angular momentum"--they throw the skier into a spin, which he/she must then deal with.

Most (all except independent leg steering) involve the upper body, so they affect stance, balance, and all other movements, and detract from the upper body's ability to do other important things. Most (again, all except leg steering) are gross and imprecise, techniques best used to throw the skis quickly or powerfully in some new direction--important in "emergencies," but ill-suited to steering precise turn shapes.

The one rotary mechanism critical to today's high-performance, precisely shaped turns--independent leg steering--is extremely misunderstood. It is the least intuitive, the least likely to occur in an "unschooled" skier--although the very short skis some ski schools use for beginning skiers do help with this. I'd say that most instructors are fuzzy on it, although I've seen great improvement in that regard in the past couple years. And most skiers neither understand nor demonstrate any signficant skill with this critical tool.

So--for safety, control, precision, and above all maximum enjoyment--we MUST learn to apply rotary mechanisms skillfully and appropriately. Those who cannot are hacks--or novices--pure and simple! And those who proclaim otherwise are not thinking clearly.

None of this argument should suggest that good turns all involve twisting the skis with powerful, or even subtle, rotary movements. Nothing I have said conflicts with the fact that today's skis can do amazing, and fun, things when just tipped and pressured to bend their sharp steel edges into an arc. And, contrary to popular opinion, even powerful rotary movements are not necessarily incompatible with carved turns.

It's simply a question of developing skill--something you cannot be an "expert" without!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #5 of 33
Probably impossible to ski bumps without twisting your skis at some point. I don't care what anyone says. Pure carving in the bumps (at least the bumps I ski anyway) is a lie.

Sure, the goal is always edging.

But what about the times when all that's left to do is twist your skis against the side of bump, to slow you down?

I never really understood what rotary means other than twisting your skis. Sure, it's not modern skiing, but there's times, when the only thing that'll bail you out is twisting your skis.

post #6 of 33
SCSA- Of course rotary is modern skiing. That is one of the things we gang members have been trying to get across to you. We do have a system and it involves balance, coupled with rotary movements, tipping the ski on edge, flexion, and extension. The four movements are blended and used on an as needed basis.

So, in the scenario you describe, one may need to turn your skis to scrub off speed, however, I would argue that is a defensive move, used as a last resort, and should not be a mainstay of expert skiing. The ideal would be to have tipped the ski on edge and be turning the ski UPHILL PRIOR to needing to slam the skis into a bump.

I would assure you there are many bump skier who can carve very well in any moguls. Even in the moguls you ski. Do you have your very own private mogul field? Cool! My old boss is a superb bump skier who carves gracefully in almost any terrain.

I think the litmus test is as follows. Are the tails being pushed out in a defensive manner or is the inside tip turning thus leading the entire package in a new direction.
post #7 of 33
Thread Starter 
I find it interesting that this one skill is, as Robin said, so misunderstood. Why has it become the outsider's whipping boy of the ATS?

Everyone seems to accept a less to more continuum with the other skills; why make rotary movements an either/or?

Something Weems said the other day makes sense. He was talking about the Centerline, and how it too was misunderstood, prematurely retired from the catechism, and all that. He was talking about how important is the concept that every skill has two sides (lateral learning), less and more.

Precision at any skill would then be defined as Bob has, as the ability to apply the skill anywhere on that continuum, in any combination with any other skill applied anywhere on its continuum. Ron LeMaster likens it to using a sound mixing board to produce music.

It makes perfect sense and squares with my experience as a skier. Every skill has two poles, and we put the skill into play somewhere between them. It's not either/or but "having the complete polarity" of the skill.
post #8 of 33
I can see why people think that Rotary is officially a BAD THING (when in fact for my past 2 seasons, in Oz and the US, it's been pushed very strongly in SS training).

A few years back, doing Masters in Australia, I did a "short turns in steep terrain" clinic, and the instructor (Oz and Switzerland) as he did his intro, commented that me and one of my old buddies (who still does the legs together thing) would like this, as we still persisted in aggressively steering our skis. That was only 2 years ago, but the message then was what you guys now call 'park and ride'!

I guess the pendulum swings back and forth, I think that it swung way too far to edging, but is now coming back to a better balance between steering and edging (yes, rotary, i know, but that's a meaningless word for a lot of students and reminds me of clotheslines).
post #9 of 33

Yeah, but I don't know if I'd go as far as to say that using a "check" (twisting the skis against the side of the bump to slow down) is a mistake, though.

I'm thinking about challenging bump runs like Highline or Prima. I'm just wondering if even the great ones get down them without throwing in a check here or there.

post #10 of 33
Nolo, I think maybe your question is a little bit off of the "centerline" of the point (sorry!). First of all I would like to differentiate between rotary join movement (which we use even to edge and carve purely) and ski rotation (twisting) in a plane parallel to the snow surface. I am talking about the latter. Second, I am limited on time here so I hope I can get my point across briefly.

I agree that rotary movements are an important part of skiing proficiency. The point I would make is that the problem with teaching rotary (especially early on) is that I believe it commonly leads to ineffecient movements. I understand that some may disagree with this statement but this is both my experience and observation of others.

When a teaching progression exclusively (and simply) focuses on edging and balance I think skill development is enhanced. From a point of balance I believe it is relatively easy and automatic to add in rotary movement. When I first read about PMTS and started applying some of it tenets I was able to achieve a more consistent state of balance. From there I realized that it was rather simple to rotate as needed.

A couple of years ago I had a long discussion with H.H. about this. We (Bob Barnes, Todd, and others) were having some heated discussion on this over at Paula's Skilovers and I though I'd see what H.H. thought about my perceptions. (I had do difficulty getting opinions from the other participants that I was wrong ). Now, I won't say that this is Harb's opinion or philosophy but at the time he seemed to agree with this point of view - that the problem with rotary was the negative effects it produced when it was included in the teaching progression (especially at the beginner to intermediate stages).

I bring H.H. up not to bolster my point of view, that needs to stand on its own. I do it to point out that, at least from my understanding, perhaps the arguments presented by other "brands" of ski teaching in opposition to rotary comes from its negative effects when employed too early in a teaching progression.
post #11 of 33
Thread Starter 
Here's what I think. Rotary is not the master skill anymore than edging is the master skill. As Si notes, one can't ski without rotary movements of the joints, so to dismiss rotary movements as unnecessary in modern skiing is just plain stupid. [We have one policy around here: we don't do anything stupid.]

Other than that, I stick to my sound mixing board analogy re skills application.

And I would add that skiing any type of terrain involves at least as much tactical skill as technical skill, and part of the tactics of skiing bumps is to use the terrain in such a way as to assist the deflection of the skis (certainly this is fundamental to all turning).

This either/or stuff is the basis for the troubles in the Middle East, you know...Maybe it's time we all wised up and realized THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER!!! The system's only hard-wired value is BALANCE.
post #12 of 33
As always, let's get on the snow. That's where the magic is.
post #13 of 33
Nolo, Your post emphasises the case that there is a real need to find clearer terminology. Ski rotation and joint rotation are very different (although sometimes related) so that when someone says "rotary" there is great opportunity for confusion. Additionally ski rotation could be in a plane parallel to the snow (pivoting?) versus rotation in around the long axis of the ski.

As I said previously I think that pivoting the skis from a point of balance can be very natural and easy. However, in teaching with a progression it is usually wise to focus more exclusively on proper movements for balance and edging. There is too much potential for ill effects when a skier is taught (or naturally trieds to) to pivot the skis too early.
post #14 of 33
Thread Starter 

I have thought so and have taught so since the mid-eighties.

In reading Harb, I see he makes the distinction between "primary" rotary and "secondary" rotary. The first he feels is erroneously mandated in PSIA's concept of steering. Primary rotation involves the large muscles of the femur and pelvis and constitute a gross motor movement. "In the strictes context, rotary movements do occur in PMTS skiers. The difference is that the PMTS rotary actions are a consequence of lateral tipping movements at the ankle. They are not initiated by rotation or twisting of the legs. In fact, the PMTS focus is to eliminate inefficiencies resulting from active leg rotation."

I have a bit of a problem with what part of the body initiates ankle tipping, as there is obvious twisting of the muscles of the lower leg, and there appears to be no sequence involved.
post #15 of 33
I'd classify edging and rotary skills as rudamentry mechanics, balance as indispensible (yet inately personal), but virtuoso pressure control skills as the "touch" that transends skiing into an art form. It seperates the "dancers" from the "marchers".

[ June 10, 2002, 02:30 PM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #16 of 33
Maybe after balance...touch or feel is the ultimate "master skill"
post #17 of 33
I sure wish there was a video archive somewhere, that we could point and reference to.
post #18 of 33
Every time this comes up it appears that each one has their own idea of what is meant by "rotary". I like what Bob B said. My view is if there's turning, some sort of rotary has to be involved.
I agree about Centerline. I liked the concept from the begining. It was a great idea but too many people used it as a "final form". Also they kept trying to use it as a set of limits rather than realizing that possibilities endless. I had some experience where the attitude was, this doesn't fit into this box, it can't be any good. I guess it's like in my auto repair business,"the tool is only as good as the operater".
post #19 of 33
I don't get that Harb thing. If you tip/edge, with no turning/twisting/steering at all, then the turn will be very gradual, and dependant on the ski's sidecut, plus any bending of the ski you are able to achieve.
How would you ski bumps or trees????!
post #20 of 33
Thread Starter 
I think Arcmeister has suggested the answer, ant:

virtuoso pressure control skills as the "touch" that transends skiing into an art form. It seperates the "dancers" from the "marchers".
post #21 of 33
Uh, pressure control ain't worth squat if you refuse to use any rotary movement at all in your turns, and there's a bloody great tree speeding towards you. Vituoso or not.
post #22 of 33
I see here a (another?) difficulty that has presented itself in other threads as well. Accurately describing what happens in a turn can be very different from how you teach someone to execute a turn proficiently. I think we have some people talking about (or quoting others) about how you effectively teach someone to turn and others disagreeing because it doesn't include everything you do when you turn.

My experience and point of view in reference to skiing and many other sports is that inclusion of a complete and accurate description of a movement or skill is frequently not the optimal way to teach someone and in fact is quite often counter productive. There can be many aspects of a movement or skill that if focused upon will often lead a student astray. I think that inclusion of rotary movements in instruction (especially at earlier stages) can be such a misstep just like a focus on follow through movements of a tennis stroke can be. In both cases I believe an instructional focus on the initiation of the movement usually is much more effective and leads to more efficient learning.
post #23 of 33
Thread Starter 
Oops, I should have read your post more carefully, ant. No one has said that they can turn the skis without rotary movement--"rotary movements do occur in PMTS skiers. The difference is that the PMTS rotary actions are a consequence of lateral tipping movements at the ankle. They are not initiated by rotation or twisting of the legs."

So, the "rotary question" seems to be: is it possible to tip at the ankle without a rotation or twisting of the leg?

If a bloody great tree is speeding toward me, I guess I haven't planned ahead. In such cases, a great wrenching rotary movement is all she wrote.
post #24 of 33
SCSA- I've been gone....sorry I didn't respond sooner. Sure, turning the skis "sideways" and scrubbing off speed ala a hockey stop is one method to deal with impending disaster and one that any skier might use from time to time.

I will simply suggest that the very best skiers or "experts" for lack of a better term would look upon such a move as tantamount to failure.

I think they would chalk it up to bad tactics or bad line.

I think it is in very steep bumps that true masters are able to control their speed via turn shape.
post #25 of 33
Maybe it's not a failure. Maybe it's just the best available option under the circumstances.

[ June 16, 2002, 07:42 PM: Message edited by: oboe ]
post #26 of 33
Originally posted by Rusty Guy:
SCSA- I've been gone....sorry I didn't respond sooner. Sure, turning the skis "sideways" and scrubbing off speed ala a hockey stop is one method to deal with impending disaster and one that any skier might use from time to time.

I will simply suggest that the very best skiers or "experts" for lack of a better term would look upon such a move as tantamount to failure.
well, when the day comes where I can't ski terrain
where I HAVE to turn em' to scrub off some of
gravity's power.....HSWC will be one sad puppy...

[ June 17, 2002, 04:39 PM: Message edited by: HaveSkisWillClimb ]
post #27 of 33
HSWC- I assure you there are many folks out here who can ski on very steep terrain and not skid their skis scrubbing off speed. As many have outlined here, a turn shoud be an oppotunity to change direction and it's an offensive movement.... a time to accelerate and if need be go uphill to control speed.

I don't want to skid and I don't want the tails of my skis grooming.
post #28 of 33
Hey You Guys,

Just a very quick thought on the inherent Rotary Forces that exist by tipping the feet in transition. It is as somone pointed out above: the rotary steering to guide the skis into the falline happens as a consequence of the tipping of the feet. ADDITIONALLY, this roatry drawing of the skis into the falline as they come up on to edge is helped by the counter rotation of the upper when the skis are finishing one turn, pointing across the hill, while the upper body is already facing the middle of the next turn. This essentially loads a spring in your trunk (waist and lower back) that will uncoil when you release into transition and the skis pass through neutral. As they do this and the feet are leading the edge change (namely the new inside foot coming in light), the feet and skis will naturally re-allign with the upper body which is already facing more down the hill. This allows for simple focus on the very efficient movement of the feet and really makes it effortless too link your turns.

So...I would agree with those who say that an active focus on the gross motor rotary movements used as the major move to initiate your turns is out of date and too often results in gross skidding and rectangular turn shape.

Hope everyone is having a good summer!
post #29 of 33
I hope you're having a good summer too, ESki--good to see you here again.

But not quite so fast on dismissing steering as an essential skill, and a worthy focus at any level! Yes, there is a solid biomechanical link between edging movements and rotary movements. I've described it in the concurrent thread about "sequential leg movements"--essentially, tipping the lower leg (knee angulation) involves rotation of the femur in the hip socket. You can demonstrate this while sitting right where you are.

But that does not mean that all tipping movements cause steering/rotary movements of the ski! It is possible--and indeed common--to tip the ski without applying any twisting force to it.* Think of what happens in "railroad track turns" or any pure carved turn.

How does this happen? As the lower inside leg tips out (into the turn), the femur rotates out. To compensate for this, the lower leg and foot must rotate IN at the same time. It's a complex movement, and for a few people a difficult one to coordinate. But it can be done, and it must be done to make a "pure-carved turn." We can "just" tip our skis! And telling someone to "just tip" his/her skis may well result in just that.

We can demonstrate this easily too, while remaining seated. Without moving your femur (thigh), simply twist one foot in, "toe-in," "pigeon-toed." "Just tipping" the ski involves twisting the foot in while the upper leg rotates out.

So I say that for some, if not most, beginning students, it IS appropriate to describe the turning action of the inside ski. Unlike "tipping the left ski left," "turning the left tip left" REQUIRES the other--you can't do it without releasing its edge. You can do it as subtly or as strongly as required to make whatever shape turn you desire--something else that lacks when the focus is purely on tipping (even if there IS some unconscious turning that accompanies it).

Neither description, of course--tip the left ski or turn the left ski, fully describes the activity of turning left. It is, as Si notes, an INSTRUCTION--a simplified thought intended to trigger and sustain the complex symphony of movements of many body parts that could never all be consciously controlled. Either could--and does--work for any given student. They ARE linked, and neither is necessarily right or wrong. The art of teaching entails finding the right key to unlock the performance of each individual. We aren't all keyed alike!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

*PS--For those who insist on being picky (and technically accurate), yes, tipping the ski involves "torque" as well as turning it does. Tipping a ski involves rotation around its long axis. "Rotary" describes torque that causes rotation around an axis perpendicular to the snow--movements that affect the direction the ski points. You knew that, though, didn't you? So stop being so picky!
post #30 of 33
I hate to be so agreeable but there are some excellent points on this topic as well as many in the past as we have discussed this now many times. I wrote a post "Rotary Rules" a while back that got into alot of the some points. In the end my feeling is that people will twist the ski to quickly, from the wrong place, and at the wrong time unless we show/teach them differently. It is this reason I think rotary is the critical skill because it is so misunderstood and most misused. It is the hardest of the skills to master, you need a deft touch to use the correct amount and at the right time from the right place. I agree that we can use the edging skill to accomplish much but if we don't hone there rotary skill early they will discover the dreaded PUSH of the ski's.
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