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To Ski Or Not To Ski The Slow Line Fast

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 
Lots of talk about skiing the slow line fast over on Nolo's "Snow" thread. While I believe this concept has merit, I also think it is far from an approach which can be practically employed on a universal basis. Seems to me that trying to utilize (or especially, to impose) this concept with an "aggressive" learner can be a sure way to turning them off to coaching and instruction. There certainly are many people who love to ski a line that challenges them in an "in your face" fashion as opposed to working on a slower line where they can work on skiing it smoother and faster. Certainly, over time, most of us (notice I include myself as at least a former member of this group) learn the utility of practice on a slower line but how do you best help bring someone to this enlightened state?

I would be interested to hear how people deal with these type of situations. Is there an effective way to develop the skills of such "agressively minded" skiers on the fast line? Are there better ways to demonstrate the effectiveness of practice on a slower line?

Of course there is the other side of the coin to consider as well; those that only want to work on skiing the slow line smoother and faster.
post #2 of 63
very good question. I don't pretend to have a definitive answer, but I will offer an opinion.

Last season I was giving clinic. And I assumed the role of this aggressive 18 yr old skier. I received a 3 hr. private lesson from my uncle. I said, "I want to see what this mountain had to offer. And work on a some tactics along the way." And when the instructor took me out on the mountain to observe. We went to a mogul field. He said, "go for it". It did, and skied a rippin' zipper line. Didn't loose balance, snow was flyin', then I finished the run laughing and said, "that was great, can we do more of that". He said, "first things first, let's go to this blue bump run and work on rounder turns." UUUGGGGGGGGGG!!! I was ready to call the lesson quits and see if the instructor could just keep up.

That said, what we as a group determined is, "let's make this an adventure day" Find terrain which is challenging, also which may force the hand of a slower line skied aggressively. Once the initial skiers energy is exhausted, then we can play lines and tactics. When to go through the bump, and when to use terrain to manage speed, and line to manage the skiers path to make the run more interesting.

However, if the aggressive skier is lacking in ability. We may find a slope that may accentuate the problems of skiing aggressively while suffering from poor or sub-par technique.
Video is a possiblity, leap frogging instructor/student, down through the bump line. Judging exhaustion level at the bottom of the hill (student breathing hard due to inefficient technique or tactical choices).
Like anything, to have change, the learner must desire change. Sometimes the student comes to the instructor knowing that change is required, other times a desire may have to be created.

And if you as teacher can't inspire that change, perhaps you must look inside first. (I for one don't pretend I can teach misty flips, so I refer those lessons elsewhere.)

Best Regards,
post #3 of 63
This reminds me of some advice a teacher gave me once: "First, take them out and get them a little bit scared. Then they will pay attention to you."
post #4 of 63
I think you are making too much of this statement by Bob Barnes.

He qualified it also by adding "Ski the slow line fast, WHENEVER YOU CAN", which in my book means the following:

Whatever line downhill you choose, ski it offensively sliding the skis lengthwise fast and control your downhill speed by turn completion and shape, which slows the downhill progress, NOT by sliding the skis sideways and braking in a defensive movement.

That's about it. It's a 'GO' move, you slow yourself down, the slow line, by GOING FAST around the turn AND FINISHING THE TURN UPHILL UNTIL YOU HAVE SLOWED TO THE DESIRED SPEED. All the while pushing to get there.

The "whenever you can" qualifier just acknowledges the fact that sometimes because of conditions or terrain you will have to use braking moves. Which is not a sin.

post #5 of 63
Speed, line and "perciever dynamics" have huge impact on the learning environment.

One interesting factor I've identified thru setting up and observing tasks that have an interpritive component such as "speed" is that people experience vast differances in perception of what is "fast". And that their perceprion can vary by skill level, confidance, and comfort level to the different terrain and snow conditions.

Whatever the environment variables, I have learned to first ask for people identify what percent of their max that their comfort zone norm is, (relative to that hair on fire max) so I can share a baseline perspecitve with each of them. A group might report a range of 50%-110%, for example, giving some clues to who's may be a "leaper" or "creaper". What is interesting is seeing two skiers going the same speed when one self-id'd at 60% (a lazy leaper) and one self-id'd at 90% (a flying creaper), both recording vastly different perceptions of their level of speed sensation from similar interaction with the terrain and snow.

I frequently will ask for "as fast as you feel comfortable" and through observation try to access who has what margin left to safely be explored. (another leaper/creaper clue)

So, depending on whether I'm trying to speed up or slow down an idividuals rate of activity, I'll initially ask for some +/- percent of adjustment by based on their (what I'm now adopting as (thanks nolo)) leaper/creaper factor to explore that margin I felt they would be safe within.

Guiding people thru ranges of "slow line fast", "fast line slow", "slow lines slow", "fast line fast" all offer calibration and "expanded horizons" perceptual growth oportunities just to know the differance between them and which one is their comfort zone. It also provides choices among new and different options.

It all come back to recognising that we teach individual people who are each a unique application of whatever concept we teach.

Having run DH in 70-80mph range and race cars up to 170mph I know my sense of speed is a relativly expanded one. Back in '73 when the 55mph National Speed Limit came out I got a license plate that said "I SKI 55". Does that make me a leaper?

[ November 07, 2002, 02:17 PM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #6 of 63
Well, Ott, I have to say that I think you have said it, though I will maintain that it needed to be said.

"Ski the slow line fast" is an expression. What it expresses is a value. The value is to GO THERE. Not anywhere, but there. What did Weems call it: eye-to-foot coordination.

Skiing well is to choose tactics that are appropriate to the situation. Sometimes one skis with restraint. Sometimes one has to self-arrest, in which case the value is to STOP THERE.

Action and intent are a reinforcing feedback loop, which I think is extremely well calibrated in good skiers.
post #7 of 63

Thank you for the words.

When I read "you slow yourself down" what registered in my head was "you ski yourself down" And thats it'.

post #8 of 63
Arcmeister, I don't know if we are on the same page when we talk about speed as in skiing the slow line FAST.

The skier who is skiing the slow line can be going faster in a forward motion than another skier who rarely finishes his turns and is down the hill twice as fast as the faster skier.

And if the skiers in your class ski the turns without any braking movements and all finish into the hill the same before starting the next turn they will all go the same speed, give or take a minutia for weight.

So no one will be faster or slower, that is why follow the leader skiing works.

Speed is gained and lost by the amount of time and the degree the skis spend near or in the fall line. If a turn is started while moving five miles an hour, by the time the skier is in the fall line he may be moving ten miles and hour (speed for illustration only) so now he must keep turning until he has slowed again to five miles an hour before starting the next turn. Repeat. This way dowhill progress is steady and the distance traveled is longer.

Now there is nothing to prevent speed freaks to start at twenty miles an hour and speed up to thirty five MPH in the fall line, but as long as they keep turning uphill until they move only twenty MPH they are still skiing a line that is only slightly faster than the slow line even though they are moving quite fast.

Losing speed, which is gained by starting the next turn before the old one is finished into the hill, usually involves heavy braking movements or stopping to start over before control is lost.

So, to live up to the 'slow line fast' edict a skier should ski as fast as his skis will allow in the turn to arrive back at the speed he was skiing when starting the turn.

No matter how much you push, starting at 5 MPH and ending at 5 MPH will not be very fast in forward or downhill travel yet it will fullfill the "Skiing the slow line fast' formula because the skier is moving in a GO motion as fast as he can.

post #9 of 63
I'm well into using the "slow line fast" concept. I've been using it, individualized, for more years than I can remember.

I may have not have have expressed my point very clearly.

I wanted to share my awareness that if you set up what you think is a "one line fits all" slow line, and the speed it yields exceeds the perceptual speed comfort level of any student, they will instinctivly engage braking activities and signifigant learning potential is lost. For "creapers", the fear of injury will almost always overrule the thrill of speed.

You can not just play follow the leader unless you pick a line slow enough (your 5mph example) to keep everone within the perceptual speed comfort level of the student with the slowest speed limit, and that could fail to motivate the students with a much higher perceptual speed comfort level and keep their interest.

Peak learning potential, just like peak performance, takes place at what is called "optimal arousal level", which varies greatly from individual to individual (or even situation to situation for an individual). When you exceed that arousal level by enough to create a priority greater than the task, (fear for safety) learning diminishes. Conversely, when what you are doing is not stimulating enough to hold interest, (too slow or boring) learning diminishes as well.

My point was to suggest an awareness that the appropriate line and speed for each individual student to learn from can vary greatly.
One of my key strategies for this task is to put people on gentle enough terrain that they are comfortable "letting them slice". I graduate terrain when group is ready and adjust the lines to the individuals to try and keep each one in their "wow" zone (as apposed hitting a "whoa zone").

post #10 of 63
OK, Roger, I agree with that, you are talking about a class situation and the differing speed/perception/comfort level of student thrown together in the same class, whereas I was talking about any individual at any time skiing the slow line fast.

Apples and oranges.

Good that we ironed that out... ...Ott
post #11 of 63
Think of it in these terms.....would it be better to ski the fast line slow?

The mere mention of this conjures up visions of heel pushing, tails skidding, boots clamped together!

When I hear Bob's expression it makes me think about shaping turns and acceleration. It makes me think of an offensive turn.

I spent an epic day at Loveland with Bob, Hapski, Dogger, and a whole host of others.

As I was leaving the parking lot I had the chance to have a wonderful conversation with an old friend from epicski. An old friend that I used to "butt heads with" and miss very much. He is a complicated character, however I hope we get to ski together many times this winter.
post #12 of 63
nolo and CalG, you got it... [img]smile.gif[/img] .....Ott
post #13 of 63
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Ott Gangl:
OK, Roger, I agree with that, you are talking about a class situation and the differing speed/perception/comfort level of student thrown together in the same class, whereas I was talking about any individual at any time skiing the slow line fast.

Apples and oranges.

Good that we ironed that out... ...Ott
Ott, I think the apples and oranges thing may be true in regard to my first post and your comments. The point wasn't about where or how often this concept applies but rather that it does have some utility, which some individuals may not be able or willing to take advantage of. In such cases, my question was can you work around it and still have effective learning (if so, how?). Also, I was interested in learning about the approaches people use to get people to see the advantage of a slower line and reduced emphasis on braking or other "defensive" maneuvers.
post #14 of 63
Altho Si's initial post asked about teaching and motivating the "ski the slow line fast (when you can)" (aka, STSLF) mantra of Bob Barnes, the title of the thread and the underpinnings to such teaching and motivation is a precise understanding of why (and when) one would want to STSLF.

Many reasons to follow Bob's exhortation to "ski the slow line fast (when you can)" have been mentioned over the past couple of years here on Epic. For fun and fairness, I'm going to play Devil's advocate on a bunch of these and state some of the objections that I've heard. Also, for simplicity of argument, I am going to reduce his STSLF exhortation to the simpler form, "carve when you can", and ignore the intermediate situation of slightly skidded carved turns (skarves) that STSLF allows and combines the best of both worlds.

I think that the murmerings of dissent that are occasionally heard against Bob's strategy have arisen because people have inappropriately focused on items 1-8 (the weaker points below), whereas the core, irrefultable benefits to ordinary recreational skiers can be found in items #9 and #10 below:

1) It's "efficient":
Humm ... maybe. It depends on what you mean by efficient. Its certainly not the most efficient (ie, quickest) way to slow down. The sense in which I would call carving efficient is that its THE way to dissipate the least kinetic energy per foot traveled.

2) Its "easy" on the skier:
It's not all that easy. You got to put your body through some contortions to get up on edge, and the high G-forces that you can generate in tightly carved lines requires significantly more muscular strength compared to sperm turning down the hill.

3) It's easy & intuitive to do:
No way. Sure, its pretty easy to do once you know how, but skidding is much more intuitive - look at any beginner left to their own devices.

4) It looks elegant:
True enough, but there are other ways to look elegant on skis. For example, Ott's endless, timeless weidel looks pretty nice to me, as do good bumpsters and even some park rats. To me, these are simply different styles for different purposes, each elegant and graceful in their own ways.

5) It allows you to ski at a constant velocity:
Again, true enough, but again, there are lots of other ways you can do this including everything from snowplowing to Z-turns to straightlining a run.

6) Attitude, as in "offensive, not defensive" or "GO THERE!":
Maybe. This argument is a bit too nebulous for my tastes, but I've got to admit that I more often feel like the king of the hill when I'm swooping down the hill using a STSLF line than I do when using a STFLS line (eg, hop turns in steep muck).

7) Carving gets you down the hill faster:
This is not the way some people look at it. They incorrectly compare applies and oranges, ie, a sinuous (but very long) carved path (dropping little vert per turn) compared to straight lining the run, but with the brakes always on.

8) Carving is better for racing:
OK, now here is an item that can't be directly argued against. If you define a path down the hill with gates, then carving will always beat skidding. Well, recreational skiers will argue that they don't want to be a racer, so this argument is irrelevant to them.

9) It gives you better control of line:
Well, now we are getting hot. There are some lines that can't be carved with a particular set of skis, at a particular speed, etc.. However, when you CAN carve it, you can be incredibly accurate. OTOH, there are many, many more lines that can never be realized using a highly skidded turn, so carving clearly wins on this acct.

10) So, what's left? Ott said it earlier, and I agree totally. The answer is simply that carving is the way skis were designed to work. They are long and narrow. You can indeed skid sideways on them when you are on a smooth packed surface, but as soon as ruts or death cookies or heavy slop appears, you skis better be pointed in the direction you are going (aka, carving) or else you are in for a rough ride or fall. About the only argument I've ever heard against this is that some skiers only go out on groomers in good conditions, and IMHO, people like this don't count - grin.

To me, skiing in rough / thick / deep / re-frozen / cut-up snow is THE single most important reason for carving. Any recreational skier spending more than a few days per year on the hill is going to encounter such conditions, and if they want to enjoy themselves and not be limited / frustrated, they really aren't going to have much choice but to learn how to carve their turns. Perhaps even more to the point is that even in the best of conditions, there is always going to be the odd rut or patch of sticky snow, and its a lot better to hit such a surprise in a carve than skidding into it sideways at the same speed. Thus, you are a lot better off carving as much as you can (exactly as Bob said).


Tom / PM

PS - Someone brought up the issue of whether high quality smooth turns in deep powder were carved or not. I don't want to make this post much longer than it already is, but it is my strong contention is that the best of powder turns are indeed carved. The usual hardpack definition of carving is that there is no sideways motion of your ski over the snow. In a high quality turn on soft snow, the snow is constantly compressing and deflecting out from under your skis, but by equal amounts to both sides of each of your edged/banked skis. Thus, on average, there is still no net sideways motion of the snow under your skis, and hence, such turns are carved. Another way to see this is that in a highly banked stable turn in powder, if there was any net sideways movement of the skis over the snow (ie, looking down, perpendicular to the topsheet - which is up at an angle), your skis would be either rising or sinking in the snow, and the turn wouldn't be stable.

[ November 07, 2002, 10:26 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #15 of 63
Si, after rereading your opening post I see that you were addressing the teaching end and how not to bore an agressive student with a line that is too slow, even when skied as fast as possible, but which may be too fast for the more timid.

Since the 'slow line fast' is about using completion of turns into the hill in order not to gain speed overall and without braking moves, the line for the more agressive student has to start steeper, thus faster, and end when the speed after momentum loss equals the starting speed.

I don't know, maybe lay down different lines for different students? But if each turn is completed without an overall speed gain the student has skied the 'slow line fast'.

It is up to you to pick how slow the slow line is. It doesn't matter as long as the student skis that line hell bent for speed to get to the completion point.

post #16 of 63
Same slope.
Same snow
Same group.

The agressive skier lays down a line that looks like a linked bannanas down the fall line.
The more reserved skier's tracks are deep esses.
(how to get this out of a keyboard?)

Same number of turns, different completion factor.

Whats not to like?

post #17 of 63
CalG, I'm seeing the aggressive skiers making like their snowboarding brethren and laying down GS arcs at speed in steep open terrain. When they're not airborne, of course.
post #18 of 63

Those guys will be hard to "instruct".
Always out of ear shot, standing at the entrance to the lift line waiting for the group to "catch up".

In my "Dream World" sudents come to learn. (Have I read "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" to often?)

I knew there was a reason I am not in your profession!

post #19 of 63
Very interesting! Clearly, there is much more than meets the eye to the concept of "the slow line fast." It is not about a line, a turn shape, or a speed! It is a mindset, an attitude, an all-encompassing paradigm that cannot be understood by cursory examination of the surface meaning of the words. And like any true paradigm shift, it doesn't arise from mere rational discussion or understanding. It must take place deep down in your core! I'll throw a few more teasers at you.

I should remind everyone that no one has yet quoted my actual full statement that is often shortened to simply "ski the slow line fast."

"Good skiing means skiing a slow enough line as fast as you can, when you can."

THIS is the full statement, and the word "enough," the qualifier "as you can," and the final clause "when you can" are ESSENTIAL to its meaning!

There are times when a straight run is "slow enough"--it depends on the slope, the conditions, and the personal definition of "slow enough" of each individual skier at the moment. Remember that "slow enough" is a state of mind--it does not in any way imply "slow." Nor does "as fast as you can" imply "fast"! For some skiers, a "slow enough line" is a very fast line indeed! And for others, even a very slow line is not slow enough.

Nor does "a slow enough line" imply any partcular line. It can involve large turns, short turns, a variety of lines through moguls, and even applies to the tactics of half pipes. And, while these "good turns" are definitely not INTENTIONALLY skidded, they are not necessarily carved either. They are as carved as possible, given the equipment, conditions, and skill of the skier (hence "as fast as you can"). But Hermann Maier skids many feet sometimes as he flies through a downhill course, and beginners in their gently brushed wedge turns are certainly capable of skiing "a slow enough line as fast as they can."

The alternative to skiing "the slow line fast" is skiing "the fast line slow"--i.e. with the brakes on. Skiing "too fast a line" implies one of two things: 1) you are going too fast, or (more likely) 2) you are skiing defensively. Defensiveness, as a habit, is is hardly characteristic of good, or expert, skiing! (Although certainly, defensive, braking skills must be in the repertoire of the expert too, for use "when you can't"!)

Who would argue against the notion that great skiers habitually ski OFFENSIVELY, as opposed to DEFENSIVELY? But "offensive" does not necessarily imply "aggressive," and "defensive" does not imply "timid." Many very capable and very fast skiers are merely "aggressively defensive." They brake HARD! They fight the mountain aggressively.

The very moment you start to ski "too fast a line," you will become defensive. There are no two ways about it--it is not a value judgement--it is true by definition. "Too fast" is your own personal threshhold, in any given situation, at which you become defensive. It is true of beginners, intermediates, and World Cup Downhillers, in wedge turns or parallel, on green runs, blue runs, black runs, mogul runs, trees, steeps, chutes, powder bowls, and cat tracks.

Play with that!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ November 08, 2002, 10:47 AM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #20 of 63
If I ski as fast as I can - AS FAST AS I CAN, and not faster than I can - I'll necessarily choose that line which allows me to ski that fast. Just how fast that is, and consequently what the line is, depends completely on me, my ability, and my perception. I hope that's a correct statement.
post #21 of 63
Finally the author is lured away from his responsibilities to clarify our muddied thinking. To me, who has also read Zen & the Art several times, what you are describing is a value that applies to anyone, novice to expert.

I watched City Slickers a few days ago. There's a scene where Curly (Jack Palance) tells Billy Crystal's character what the secret to happiness is. He holds up one finger. "One finger?" "No, one thing. It's up to you to figure that out."

There are lines all over the mountain. Some are too fast, some are too slow, and ONE is just right for me to GO.

It's a very cool concept, Bob. You should be proud to have put it together.
post #22 of 63
The alternative to skiing "the slow line fast" is skiing "the fast line slow
My take on skiing the fast line slow is offensively minded, agressive movements in total CONTROL. The slow part is making it all look easy.

nice skiing Nolo.
post #23 of 63
For you folks who have Bob's book, read page 263 "Speed Control" and the reference articles referred to at the end. He makes it clear about the "slow line".

It's basically as we discussed, offensive skiing without braking and skiing the turns out in the chosen direction so you can keep a constant speed, whatever you choose.

Bob, I think where the confusion comes from is the words "slow" which may be interpreted as a crawling forward speed and which it is obviously not.

No one seems to talk about "slow ENOUGH", only slow. Slow enough is what? a line which a skier knows he can handle at speed? Or what? Is the oppsite, a fast line a line that is over the head of the skier, meaning too fast, and he thus becomes defensive?

You say, and I quote:
>>>Clearly, there is much more than meets the eye to the concept of "the slow line fast." It is not about a line, a turn shape, or a speed! It is a mindset, an attitude, an all-encompassing paradigm that cannot be understood by cursory examination of the surface meaning of the words. And like any true paradigm shift, it doesn't arise from mere rational discussion or understanding. It must take place deep down in your core!<<<

OK, so it is a mindset, a GO attitude, but why say it is not about a line or turn shape or a speed, when it seems to me being about control, control of speed, direction and flow.

If it is not, why bother with it?

Lots of questions, and if you have time from your busy ACADEMY organizing, maybe you can address it in the context of your book and your writings in this forum.

Why I am asking is because a lot of people have made it a mantra, even to the exclusion of other things, and they should be sure to practice the true mantra as you intended.

post #24 of 63
ok why not, Slow line fast, or fast line slow. either way there is intent and then it's reality. If our intent and reality create conected arced turns we are doing sompthing right. A slow line fast is an excersize that is usualy close to being unachevable. Like equal pressure on both skis, paralell leg shafts, a completly paralell turn, Symetric movment paterns, etc. it is the ultimate in the unachevable. It is a great focus for a run or two but never end the day on slow line fast in gates, If you are coaching someone to ski a fast line fast ultimatly.

"Average, is one step from failure, if you strive for perfection, you just might catch excelence" Coach, Tom Reynolds
post #25 of 63

That's totally HEAVY!!!

"Average, is one step from failure, if you strive for perfection, you just might catch excellence" Coach, Tom Reynolds

I like it!!!

Can we steal this as the mission statement for the ACADEMY???

post #26 of 63
as you wish, I don't think that it is stealing. Everyting I know first was someone elses words in some way. Lets call it sharing. I got it from Tom Reynolds. He has lots more where that came from.
post #27 of 63
I personally don't buy the GO THERE attitude when we are simply talking speed control. To me, the GO THERE mind set and the speed control objective are not the same. When I come down some slope and try to stay within an invisible "corridor" I take the "slow line fast" in order to control my speed. I never think go left, go right, go left, go right. In this case it is about speed control NOT about direction.

If I have a slope to myself, then I will think more along the GO THERE line (i.e. change direction) while I am all over that slope. There is a subtle difference here. GO THERE is not about rhythm, while the idea of taking the slow line fast to control speed is all about rhythm.
post #28 of 63

The concept of 'go there' goes far beyond just 'go left, go right'. Where I am going is along the line that I have selected and in most cases along a line that is leading to a selected point on the hill. So if I intend to go 'there' and follow a line that will have me arrive 'there' with my skis pointed and traveling back up the hill then then 'going there' did indeed serve to slow me at the end of the turn.

post #29 of 63
East Coast

"The fast line slow"
may be a series of pedal turns down a steep chute.

Very aggro, control is "Vital". How to make it look easy?

One aspect, Arc the complete turn till you come to a near stop, then repeat.

post #30 of 63

' skiing a rhythm to maintain speed? Unless dancing with a partner, I suggest lifting your gaze and let your minds eye pick out your path without comment. The "go here, go there" statements are internal, and not to be heard by the brain. The large view is the best.

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