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Level 9 Skiing Technique Analysis (Harpo's Photo Sequence)

post #1 of 142
Thread Starter 
This is Harpo's photo sequence of his friend.
The comment that sparked this is...

You can review the photos below and I would ask you 4 questions.

1) Is it level 9 terrain? (It is a 1000’ 40-42 degree chute that ends in a small waterfall, spring snow conditions.)
2) Is the skier in complete control?
3) Is it skied fluidly and efficiently?
4) If that skier could ski the same chute in powder, crud, or icy conditions wouldn’t he be a level 9 skier as described by PSIA?

Now I’m sure you will be able to make constructive and insightful comments but I don’t think you

“will be able to point out technical flaws in the skier that ARE holding him/her back in some REAL way”.

If you do find real flaws what are they holding the skier back from doing?

edit:re-directed one of the photos to a new location

[ May 18, 2003, 10:35 PM: Message edited by: dchan ]
post #2 of 142
Harpo & AC

I don't know about the flaws but thats one of the best layouts of an action sequence i've seen in a long time. Are you guys artists at a some publication?

post #3 of 142
Thread Starter 
The layout was done by Bob Barnes -- he did a great job and saved me lots of time. Thanks Bob!
post #4 of 142
Oh my, sure a lot of banking and arm swinging going on, but hey, if it works for him, good.
Nice job of photographing.

post #5 of 142
AC and Bob,

You guys did a fantastic job of putting that together. I also have to bow down in praise because I'd bet there is no other web forum with a moderator who is so willing and enthusiastic to help out the users by going to this much effort. Well done!

Now, as for my opinion of the skier. I have to say that, yes, this guy is a good skier. It's too bad there are large gaps between frames 22&23, and 24&25 because I see a problem with his turn initiation. This is definitely one of the hardest things to learn, even with lessons. And as evidenced by this "never had a formal lesson" guy, virtually impossible to just pick up on your own.

If you look at the frames that show turn initiation (19/20, 35/36/37 and 41/42), he is initiating the turn with his shoulders, not his CM (center of mass). Because of this, he stems to start his turns. Frames 41&42 really show this off. It's also too bad there arent some frames between 42&43. Frame 42 is a nice shot from behind that really shows the CM holding back and the shoulders dipping into the turn (some will call this a classic "rotary push-off"). Since the CM is not crossing over the skis, the only way for him to get to the new turning edge is one ski at a time, with the stem (looks like a small wedge/snowplow). I'd be willing to bet that this guy would completely fall apart if he tried to make controlled short radius turns. And the steeper the terrain, the worse it will get, because you need to move further to get your CM across the skis.

He also seems to be fairly consistantly a bit back on his heels. But not too badly. In frames 21-24 and 27-28, he has some pressure on the front of his boots, but from 29 through at least 43, his calf is in full contact with the back of the cuff, and therefore must push the tail of the ski to turn it, rather than being able to guide the tips. One note about that, though. That's how a Canadian Level 4 supervisor at Whistler tried to get me to ski in the crud a few years ago (I took a 3 hr lesson with another instructor friend when we were there, just to get some fresh ideas). So even though I consider this bad form, some high level instructors do not. But you'll never be able to carve very well that way. It only works in certain situations, such as the one this skier is in.

That's my $.02, and I'll probably get some change back

Oops, I didn't answer all your questions. Here's my short answer version:
1) Is this level 9 terrain? No, I'd say that the conditions that day would allow a confident level 7 to ski it.
2)Is the skier in complete control? I think he's in control. But I don't know how complete, because he'd have a hard time throwing a couple quick crankers to avoid small rocks at the last minute.
3)Fluid and efficient? Fluid, yes, efficient, no.
4)If the snow was above his ankles he'd be struggling. If it was east coast ice, he'd be doomed because that lateral push-off wouldn't work because he'd get no resistance from the snow. My gusee is, he'd be doing a lot of side slipping. but if anyone could ski that in any condition, yes, they would proabably be a level 9 skier.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JohnH (edited October 04, 2000).]</FONT>
post #6 of 142

guess he needs to ski with the D Team so he can be a "9"...

barfing sarcasm
post #7 of 142
I'm not an expert but I noticed two things right off the bat. First, he is skiing in slushy conditions. Second, he has a major backpack on. The backpack has to be effecting how he skis and adding slushy condition to the mix probably don't help either. I would hate to critique anyone in those conditions. When the snows come you should try this again without the backpack.
post #8 of 142
I will not comment on the skiing, but I would like the commentators respond to the questions listed in the first post.

Plus I would appreciate it if AC could post the photo of the entire chute, to put the skier in context. Taking the skier out of context alters some perceptions about the skiing and slope. Bob Barnes is responsible for the sequence and I am grateful for his help and comments.

The chute is pretty steep, about 40 degrees with a double fall line, and ends in a small waterfall. Also you lose all sense of speed - the skier is moving fairly quickly.

I think the time between photos 22 and 24 is less than a second, and photos 29 to 35 are at about .1 second intervals. (all the shots were pulled out of video footage)

<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by harpo (edited October 04, 2000).]</FONT>
post #9 of 142
I should not have to rewrite JohnH comments because that is how I feel too (but JohnH did a better job than I would have).
Here are my answers:
1) Is it level 9 terrain?
No way. 6-8.
2) Is the skier in complete control?
3) Is it skied fluidly and efficiently?
Does not look fluid.
70% efficient.
4) If that skier could ski the same chute in powder, crud, or icy conditions wouldn’t he be a level 9 skier as described by AC?
20% chances.
post #10 of 142
Thread Starter 
Harpo is right, the full image gives more information about the terrain -- sorry. I have added it below the sequence photos. Those of you who have commented on the terrain, might want to take another look.

Speaking from my photography experience, photos always make the slope look much less steep.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by AC (edited October 04, 2000).]</FONT>
post #11 of 142
It is a pretty cool chute, but it's also hero snow, and it doesn't change my earlier comments. If you look at the best skiers on the steepest, nastiest hills, they look just as precise as they do on groomed intermediate runs.

Harpo, the guy in the photos is a really good skier. But you asked us to pick apart his skiing and look for flaws that could be holding him back. So please don't get defensive if we find some. The 'jist of my comments is just to say "yes" he could make improvements. It's not meant to be a personal attack.
post #12 of 142

That is Suicide Chute, on the east facing shoulder of Mt Superior, take a drive up the canyon and look at it. I do believe a level 7 skier could do that run, if and only if, they could get over there fear of sliding into the rocks.

I would have preferred it if AC would have put up the photo taken from the road showing the whole chute - but that photo makes the chute look much steeper than it is.

Make the drive and ski it this winter - its an easy hike and a nice ski.

JohnH - I didn't think I was getting defensive - just clarifying the location. I find the comments interesting, particularly since I know what that person can ski. But you instructors look at it much differently than I.

Rio - There is nothing in the packpack - it is a kelty kid carrier and does a good job of carriing skis and boots.<FONT size="1">
<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by harpo (edited October 04, 2000).]</FONT>
post #13 of 142
Looks to me like this skier does have a very heavy back pack. Does he look smooth? No. It could be that he isn't use to having a backpack on or as you can see by the pink-brown color of the snow it is varying spring conditions which could account for the forward backward jerking movements. Or the pack is shifting around causing him to over rotate his turns. I'd say he isn't a level 9 skier, but given the conditions, and if this was deep powder, this could be level 9 terrain. Ice, definitly. Anyone who has skied in these conditions knows that when you go from warm dirty snow to colder firmer snow it causes you to rock a little. With a pack on this woul;d be compounded. If the guy survived the run, he should be applauded. Most of the guys on this site would have great dificulty looking this good on a 40 degree chute with rocks on both sides. Would lessons have helped him ski this chute better? Maybe. Probably. I don't know. He might have been P.S.I.A. for all we know and having a bad day.

If it holds snow-It can be skied!
post #14 of 142
For someone who has never had any lessons I'm pretty impressed.

1) I don't think that is level 9 terrain but it looks pretty choppy and if it is 42 degrees and has a little waterfall at the end it sounds challenging enough.

2) At the time yes he does seem in control.

3) Is it fluid or efficient? No instead of extending out of the turn he is squating and loosing all the power his skis would have built up if he was not skidding.

4) If this skier were on ice even western ice he would have slid down this chute on his side. I say this because he drops his shoulders into each turn. Each time he does this he unweights his downhill ski giving him no power and the potential to fall inside. Also his shoulders are not open to the hill. The same applies for crud but I think that he could pull it off pretty well in powder.

He may not be level 9 but it still looks pretty good.
post #15 of 142
hey not to be a cocky kid but that looks super easy. Yeah it has rocky exposure on both sides big deal, look how soft the snow is.... All I could say is that i've skiied with many that could ski that easily, it's doesn't look to bad to me.... I think that you bring that guy on my mogul course and see how he does, cause if you can't ski fall line bumps you cannot ski in my opinion..

post #16 of 142

I know where suicide chute is. It is indeed a steep chute. I hike this side of Mt Superior several time a year (spring/summer). I have not skied it yet but will this season. May be I will change my opinion after I do it...
Anyway, I gave a 6-8 wide range because I could not see the run very well from the pictures, I call it now an 7+/8.
But do not get me wrong. I may seem harsh on the guy but I compare him to the good ones.
I see my comments as a compliment, don't you?
post #17 of 142
Thread Starter 
Okay, harpo, I added the "across the road" shot of the entire run (at the bottom of the page).
post #18 of 142

In photos 35 to 38 the tails of the ski's are off the ground. If you look closely you can see the shadow line under the ski in photo 37. (since I have full size photos it is much easier to see)

Anyway I still find the comments interesting.
From the comments so far I guess we're level 8's at best. I'll have to let the guys in the office know we are not as good as we think we are - c'est la vie.

I'll have to plead "no contest" on "can someone reach level 9 without instruction", apparently not.
post #19 of 142
Harpo, How wide is that chute in most places?

Anyone else: What's going on in picture 20, from the angle I'm viewing it looks like the uphill ski is off the snow (hard to tell with size of the photo) at about the time some of the weight should be transferred to that ski along with some edging.
post #20 of 142
The chute probably averages 25'-30', the only place it feels narrow is at the top when jumping off the cornice since if you fell bad you would slide right into a wall.

In photo 20 the tails of both skis are in the air and do not land until immediately before photo 21. I find those 2 photos fairly interesting because when I look at them I see the shoulders and hips remaining fairly square while the skis move under and across into the next turn, which is not how JohnH and Bob Barnes (both trained ski instructors) saw them.
post #21 of 142
...." I'll have to let the guys in the office know we are not as good as we think we are"..

Harpo, don't feel bad, I have heard the above statement dozens of times, from certified instructors no less. When Instructors go for certification they have a day or two of "pre-course" before the examination where they are in groups skiing and teaching with an examiner.

These examiners take them apart and put them back together, but many of the instructors feel like they have two left feet and can't do anything right, and that is after coming here thinking that they are hot skiers. It is real hell and really humiliating to find out you are not technically as good as you though you were.
Now to the skier in your photos: John and Bob have covered most of it and I just want to elaborate on your comments.

First, you say that in each turn, you mention two places, the skis are either totally off the snow or the tails are up. In a narrow chute like this it is imperative to keep contact with the snow at all times since you have no control while in the air, you are just flying along until you make solid contact with the snow again, and that takes a moment until the edges bite and then you have to adjust the direction of the skis in the turn again.

Second, as Bob and John mentioned, good technique is skiing from the hips down with the upper body keeping the balance. Skiing with rotation, as the pictures show, is a very powerful turning force and amounts to yanking the skis around which has many downsides, but I'll just mention that what you rotate, you will have to un-rotate for the next turn.

Skiing from your hips down allows your upper body to stay mostly facing down hill, so what you don't rotate, you don't have to unrotate.

And, if the skis are steered and pressured, THEY will make the turn and you let them.

That said, years ago we all used to ski by necessity with up-unweighting and rebound of the skis, and we even used rotation in deep powder to get the skis around. But with the development of the new , more extreme sidecut skis, and with a technique that allows us to change edges simply by letting our body move over and past the skis as they finish the turn below us, economy of motion and control of the new edges from the outset instead of partway through the turn as before, allows us to ski the line we pick at the speed we want at all times in all conditions.

The guy in the picture is a real strong skier and most of us think so, we instructors just think that with some guidance he could ski this with a lot less effort. At least I think so.

post #22 of 142
Lars said-"Most of the guys on this site
would have great dificulty looking this good on a 40 degree chute with rocks on both sides"-Hey Lars, how can you make this statement? Have you seen everyone on this site ski?
post #23 of 142
as a self-described level "7," though now
i'd second-guess that a bit, i'd have to say
this is one of those runs i'll look at and
just wonder. i know it would be, unless in
absolutely IDEAL conditions, one that i
GOT DOWN (maybe) much more than SKIED. i think i have seen this place from ALTA but
i'm not sure. (sorry, that's beside the point.)
anyway, if the skier is an "8," i am NOT
a "7," as said skier is obviously far, um,
superior. and while i get a kick/laugh out
of the well-meaning and good-natured nit-
picking going on, i have to confess i guess
i'd be the same way, trying to get close to
something like Perfect Form all the way down.
i guess my rhetorical wondering at this point
is...does the skier get down to the bottom
and say "Damn, what a freakin' blast that
was!" OR "heck, my tails were a fraction off
in the 23rd turn." and what would the instructor say?
i thought i was tweaked; NOT. you guys take
the cake. GOOD STUFF.
post #24 of 142

I'll throw in some positive notes too. In frame 20, it looks like you either took a little air off a mini bump, or made a hop turn. While the stance suffered a bit, what I really like, is that the tips came down first. That means you are balanced correctly. I like hop turns in steep narrow chutes, so don't think it's necessarily bad technique. As long as you stay centered and guide the skis where you want them to go. I just find them to be a lot more athletic and fun. Making hop turns is more what we would call "tactics", rather than technical ability. I also really like frame 24. Very poster worthy, as is the shot of the chute from across the street.
post #25 of 142
Wow This has been great I have really learned a lot from all This.
post #26 of 142

I re-read my first set of answers and found a mistake. Answer 4/ was supposed to be 80% chances to be a Level 9, not 20%, I got confused. My apologies.
post #27 of 142
///does the skier get down to the bottom and say "Damn, what a freakin' blast that was!"//

Ryan, unless I have misunderstood the jist of this thread, it was not how good you ski but rather if you could get better with professional instruction. We see too many skiers on slopes that are too much for them, arms flailing, stopping after two turns, overturning, etc. You've seen them.

And when I see them I wonder: why don't they get instruction on how to do it right and not have to expose themselves to the danger of hurting themselves.

As I said in my other post, this is a good skier who has no trouble negotiating this chute, but with a little coaching from a trained instructor with a good eye, he could be dancing down this chute instead of having to power ski it...the end result would be the same, he did well, but he could have done it with less effort.

And what do you care into which level an instructor at a ski school would put you, 7-8-9, these are just classification numbers so that a level 7 skier does not end up in a level 9 class or vice versa...

Just ski and have fun and always, always ski in control.

post #28 of 142

- The photos cover a 9 sec time span, there are 9 turns, and it covers about 200 vert feet (conservative). The average ground speed is a minimum of 20 mph (based on a straight line, the 200 vert, and 40-degree slope).

- The short turns in 16 to 21 set up the long turn that culminates in 28(an attempt to spray the cameraman).

I have tried not to comment on the skiing, except to point out a few things in the photos, for several reasons.
Primarily because I have access to much more information, the conditions, the line, the skier, the skis, etc – plus the shots are pulled off a video, which I can and have watched in slow motion in light of the comments.

This type of discussion is really much better suited to a day when all involved skied the same shot, the same day etc. and we are all sitting around the tube, drinking a beer and watching each person’s line.

Special thanks to AC for indulging us and Bob Barnes for doing the photo montage.
post #29 of 142
One thing that I don't think has been stressed is that while it is certainly possible for someone who has been skiing since they were young and/or lives in a ski town to become a level 8 or 9 skier without lessons, I don't think that this is reasonably possible for most recreational skiers who ski 5-20 days a season. With lessons, the more casual skier can advance to level 8 in a few seasons ( I think that level 9 requires quite a bit more commitment).
post #30 of 142
Also, a much better judge of someone's skiing proficiency comes from seeing how they handle moguls. That's where it all falls apart if the technique is not solid. Notice how it took trained instructors to find the faults in technique in the chute, whereas any of us would be able see problems in the bumps. Like Glen Plake says about moguls "you can't fake it".
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