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Oneness with Ski (and Racquet)

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I have tried to write a couple of skiing articles and in doing so have drawn a few analogies between skiing and tennis (both of which I spend as much time at as possible). Based on recent "insight" I thought I would try out another.

Recently while working out on the tennis court I realized that over time I have developed the ability to consistently hit my backhand with the contact point out in front, at my feet, or even behind me - all with the same grip. What I realize is that I have learned/developed the experience and confidence to hit the ball with different racquet angles (automatically adjusted via arm and wrist position) appropriate for the contact point. I also notice that until I warm up a bit (or when I think about how I used to hit as a less experienced player) I tend to play around with the racquet face trying to tune in the proper relationship between racquet angle and contact point resulting in much lower consistency.

A week ago we were skiing in Louise and spend a couple of late afternoons skiing just out of bounds in order to find some only moderately tracked up powder. Since this was the best soft snow on the mountain we skied multiple laps through this nicely pitched (~30 degrees) cut up snow. In the beginning I tried to ski fast but made pretty short, well completed turns working on maintaining side to side and fore/aft balance as the snow pushed on my skis a bit and created lots of perturbations. As the afternoon wore on I found myself opening up the turns (kinda GS or Nobis style) and really start to let the skis rip to a much greater extent. (Once achieved, speed can definitely be your friend in these conditions). What seemed to happen is that my body was able to lock in the relationship between snow, speed, edge angle, and fore-aft balance.

It seems to me that the ability to smoothly and confidently set the appropriate edge (or racquet head) angle for the conditions and desired outcomes is a key feature of "expert" skiing. An important part of learning is to play around with edge angle to learn about various options and consequences. However, you really arrive when there is a "oneness" with the ski and you can automatically set the edge appropriately for the desired shape of turn and terrain conditions.

As I think about my own ski progression or perhaps more obviously, watch (and sometimes get to ski with) a few friends who are professional freeskiers, I think that this oneness with the ski describes very well what they are doing. When achieved, even to some small degree, it leads to a high that for me is certainly a pinnacle of skiing. You can technically analyze or do movement analysis all you want (and I do sometimes), but in the final analysis once these relationships become programmed you don't really need to think about how to do it, rather just let your body do its thing.
post #2 of 10
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the links SnoKarver. Proprioception is certainly an important part of the formula. Perhaps an underlying issue in what I'm trying to get at is the seemless (smooth, confident, expert, etc.) integration of proprioception into dynamic movement and balance for sports. The "technical" words however, belie the more empirical (perhaps even spiritual level) of the concept and experiences I'm trying to get at.
post #4 of 10
I think you have an interesting, although confusing thread posted. There is no doubt that "hitting the sweet spot" or "being in the zone" is difficult to achieve. Finding the right technique and then being able to repeat it is the mantra of successful athletes. However, in the moment of action and reaction, I doubt that those athletes think about how to do what they doing. If Tommy Moe, thought too much during a race he would have crashed too many times to be a champion.

As an experienced skier (35 years), I think that most skiers don't have enough mileage on skis to be able to notice the very subtle, technical movements involved with skiing. My learning style has never been to need an overly precise understanding of how I ski. In my teens, I spent many hours following the tracks of some of the best instructors in the Vail ski school. Without needing words, I learned by imitation and reaction.

I believe that a controlled turn in your minds eye can be executed with precision by experienced muscles. Too many thoughts about tiny muscle control only tightens the muscles that need to be the most responsive and relaxed. Finally! Ahh yes, If I could have just typed that last sentance first, I would have been done much sooner!
post #5 of 10
Si, I always learn so much from your posts! Tominator has a rather humorous signature, BE THE SKIS! But there is some truth in the humor!

At a recent workshop on conditioning for sport, we were told that to design
effective sports fitness programs, we need to look at the biomechanics of the sport, the actions of the opponent, and the actions of the equipment.

For many people, coming from activities such as running or dance, that require almost no equipment, the jump to an equipment reliant sport such as skiing, may result in some initial confusion.

Someone may have a complete understanding of the biomechanics of skiing, but have no comprhension as to how the body and the equipment become partners. I mentioned in a post about Q angles that there have been incidences of women wearing ankle support as PREVENTATIVE measures against ankle injury while skiing ending up tearing their ACLs. But to me, the act of wearing an ankle support profilactically represents a complete misunderstanding of the relationship between ankle, ski and ski boot.

I had to learn the hard way that skiing with very cushy boots makes it close to impossible to experiment with the edge angles you are speaking about. That's why I think its important to get begining students in reasonably good equipment.

The proprioception element you are speaking of, I referred to in the thread about teaching the visually impaired. Many have said that they have had breakthrough experiences when skiing through whiteouts. The left brain needs to turn off a bit, while one needs to tune into the trinity of body, ski and snow!

Please continue to inspire us with your observations!
post #6 of 10

I agree. Smart feet do thier own thinking. Mileage on good technique gives one smart feet.


From your posts you seem to have an obsession with injury. This could be a factor in your ski proficiency progression. (just a thought not a critic)


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 09, 2002 07:35 PM: Message edited 1 time, by man from oz ]</font>
post #7 of 10
No offense taken! Much of what I post about is related to the post rehab training program I'm taking. You know how med students begin to think they have every single disease they are studying, well thats what happens when too much time is spent in the books!

Also, this year there seems to be an astonishingly high # of injuries amongst participants of this forum. Brings out the over protective Mama Bear in me!
I'll try to lighten up a bit! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Rossiman, This was a first time, off the cuff post on this thought and I think what you are saying is actually in agreement with the point I was trying to get across. One thing I would say about sports instruction (including skiing) in general (no accusation about any particular individuals inferred here) is that not enough time is spent on letting (or better guiding) the person to be able to feel the results they are searching for. I don't think that technical guidance is a means in and of itself, only a bridge to developing a proper feel for the activity and that each person must obviously develop such feel for themselves.

Today, I worked out on the tennis court and in an effort to play around with this idea as an approach to learning I tried to focus exclusively on producing solid sweet contact between the racquet and the ball. Didn't try to think about racquet angle, grip, contact point, timing, or anything else. Now, I would have much preferred to have worked on solid sweet (balanced) contact between ski and snow but unfortunately my home living situation doesn't quite allow for that. However, I've got a couple of opportunities left this season in my continual effort to achieve oneness between ski, snow, and me.

LM, thanks very much for the compimentary feedback. I like your comment about "the body and the equipment become partners" a lot.

Oz Man, I also like your saying "Mileage on good technique gives one smart feet." I actually think that once you start to develop smart feet you also get to start playing around with technique with much greater assurance that you're not going to end up with inefficient movements.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 09, 2002 08:31 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Si ]</font>
post #9 of 10
oic, Si

In the zone... like Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) in the movie CaddyShack:


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 09, 2002 11:14 PM: Message edited 1 time, by SnoKarver ]</font>
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
BTW SnoKarver I realize I never offered my "welcome back" to you upon your return to epic. I always enjoy your contributions.
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