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Why such a HUGE emphasis on carving?

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
Hi Everyone -

This is my first post here. I've lurked for a while and I realize that this is pretty much a forum for skiing experts, so I hope my question is appropriate. (If not, please suggest another forum - but please, not rec.skiing.alpine).

Here's the background behind my question. I'm in my mid-50's, have been skiing for decades, but usually only 5 to 10 days per year, almost always in the east on family vacations, and almost always on trails (up to black) that have been groomed. My turns have always been parallel and look nice.

When I was younger, I could carve turns on my old stiff skis, but to do this, I had to be going very fast, making very gradual turns. A few years ago, I bought into the shaped ski "revolution", and a couple of years ago, bought a pair and took a bunch of lessons.

These lessons were entirely focussed on using shaped skis to carve turns, with the emphasis on doing it at much slower speeds and much tighter turns than ever before. Well, I did pretty well, and can now pretty much carve a turn whenever I want to.

I found a couple of skiing situations where carving short turns (versus skidding) really paid off - deep slush (in the Spring) and avoiding hitting icy ruts sideways. I used to be miserable at these, and am grateful to have learned the new technique.

However, my problem is that like most average skiers, most of my skiing is done on groomed eastern trails on either crowded weekends or holidays. If I carve my turns in a situation like this, I'm flying ACROSS the hill at very high speed (ie, across the paths of other skiers) and this just isn't safe. My actual downhill progress might be very slow and controlled, but I'm darting back and forth across the hill like some sort of crazed bug.
This isn't a matter of "completing your turns" either - they're complete - I can finish in a 90 deg traverse, but I'm still flying along like crazy.

The other thing that I can't understand about this modern emphasis on carving is how much energy it takes compared to older technique. If I'm flying across the hill and don't want to cross paths with too many people, I am forced to keep making one turn after the other, maybe one every 3 or 4 seconds, if I want to "stay in lane". With my old technique, I was constantly scrubbing off speed in sort of a half-carve half-skid. If conditions required, I could even skid to one side essentially indefinitely, controlling my speed perfectly and staying in a much narrower lane.

Anyway, I've lurked around here for a week or so, looked back in the archives, and every post seems to be about perfecting carving, EVEN for non-pro, average intermediate skiers like me, and I just don't understand this.

I think that most average skiers want to go down the hill safely at moderate speeds, expending as little energy as possible (so they can stay out longer), and don't run into conditions all that often (eg, slush, icy ruts, racing) where you actually need to carve your turns . Therefore, I'm really puzzled by what I see as this excessive emphasis on carving.

From my non-expert perspective, the whole reason behind carving is to reduce your friction, so while it allows you to make very accurate turns, you don't scrub off any speed in the process. This may be OK for racers or young hot-shots, but it is not for me and people like me. To me, it seems like it would be better to first teach techniques to control speed, and only after that is mastered, teach carving as a more advanced technique.

I know I must be missing something, but I sure don't know what it is? Maybe I'm just "over the hill" and most of your customers want to go fast, but from everyone I've talked to, this is definitely not the case.

Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 48
Why? Because most folks find it fun, powerful, fast & accurate. And people who are accomplished at precise carves of varying radius/terrain/speeds . . . can certainly still skid whenever necessary/desirable.
post #3 of 48
it feels good. better'n skidding. the WHOMP of the energy transfer from clean edge-to-edge. (cleaner for some than others.)
post #4 of 48
Much of the yelling and screaming about the carved turn comes from people who either want you to give them money to teach you to do it (ski schools) or give them money for equipment to do it (ski shops). You correctly point out the the real carved turn (as opposed to a skidded turn with the skis edged) is fast, and it must be: if you aren't skiing fast you will fall over to the inside of the turn. It is thus of limited usefulness on a crowded slope, where good people slalom skills are most important. Don't listen to all the hype; remember that this is the United States of America: the land of the free and the home of the brave, which means you can ski any way you want to.
post #5 of 48
Good post Jim, welcome aboard.
I hear what you're saying and I agree with you,(mostly).
Recreational skiing turns today are similar to the way they've always been, mostly skidded. No one skis clean carves all the time.
I guess the emphasis is on carving today because the skis are much more capable of it, and that's what they're designed to do. I think older straight skis were designed for stability going straight, not a lot of emphasis on turning.
Also, carving clean turns is where the real skill comes in. Any halfway decent skier can get down about any trail feet together, skidding away.
Picking your line and laying smooth, clean arcs is more challenging and rewarding. To me anyway.
But you're right. It is tough to do on a crowded slope. The vast majority of skiers ski like always, skid left, skid right. More sidecut just makes turning easier, with less input.
My .02
post #6 of 48
Welcome aboard. among all the "experts" on this forum are a whole lot more of us " expert wanna-bees." don't let any of us scare you away. keep reading and asking questions.
As for your current question. They are just plain fun. the feel is like nothing else on skis. shaped skis make them more attainable. I have been trying to learn to "carve" since before "super sidecuts" and the move to a deep sidecut has made it much easier to do.
post #7 of 48
yes, dchan said it. the "pure" carve is one i personally find very elusive, fleeting. most of the time, trying to carve, i'm skidding. still, something to work toward...just 'cause. i DO agree, there's no particularly "right" way to ski. but LESS of a skid and MORE of a carve IS preferable, to me. but i'm not bitching at myself for not "getting it right" when i'm skiing ugly.
well, maybe sometimes.
post #8 of 48
Couldn't have said it better Bob!
FamilyMan, I doubt whether all the "experts", in training or otherwise carve constantly...I know I don't!
On busy days, I corridor the sides varying short radius turns, some are high level slalom turns, reaching, but often I "play" with hops, shortswing, wedeln or goof.
On beautiful "open" less crowded days, I might just soak-in the experience and bank away (what they used to call "comfort christies...I like that name)enjoying the freedom and what skiing means to me.
Not all my turns are measured on the carve-'o-meter!
Your first post was awesome...look forward to more...welcome!
post #9 of 48
Hey FamilyMan,

Don't go off thinking this is a forum just for experts. It aint. It's truly by the people, for the people.
post #10 of 48
FamilyMan. The accessability of the carved turn has sparked the interest. Carved turns are no longer the exclusive domain of techno goobs and racers, but have been given to the masses! Shaped skis have revolutionized the sport in that beginning and intermediate skiers can now, for the most part, feel and enjoy a carved turn.

As has been said, however, carved turns are not always appropriate. In these cases I like to think that the movement patterns (and the understanding of them) required to carve a turn can also be used to "scarve" and even skid much more efficiently. In my own skiing, carving became the upper level platform from which I launched a whole new world of skiing. It was exciting to see the learning curve move upward again!

Anyway. Welcome to the forum and keep after us. This way we don't have to stop thinking about skiing. (By the way, I'm really rather pathetic in my love for this stupid sport. The more I get to talk here, the less my wife has to listen to me blabber on about it.)<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Notorious Spag (edited September 04, 2001).]</FONT>
post #11 of 48
Jeez. I hope we're (I'm?) not scaring people away.

Note to self:
Read How to Win Friends and Influence People - again.
post #12 of 48
FamilyManSkier, I notice that many of the answers you got are telling you how good it feels to carve and that you will like it.

As I gather from your post you already know how it feels, can do it great, but that you don't know why it is so revered.

It's because it is a new capability for the masses who would have had a hard time to carve on the old equipment, i.e. straigh skis.

You don't need to be told how and when to use it, use it anytime you want. Now, carving is nothing more than the high end of edge control, high edge in this case, where drifting with nearly a flat ski is low edge, naturally, and you will see many more people catch an edge and fall on their face while they feather and drift a ski than when they carve it.

One should master ALL of edge control. Bob Barnes and Robin, among others have said it in so many word: since you know how to carve, you don't have to unless you want to.

Welcome to the forum. ...Ott
post #13 of 48
Anybody with a lot of race experience knew how to carve perfectly well on the older equipment long ago. My old 223 DH boards can still leave as razor sharp of an arc as any of my 'shaped' skis, of course their sidecut determines that the arcs it carves are all of extremely long radius. But on shaped skis I can still carve an arc of that long of a radius, but also an endless variety of small and mid-sized arcs. So the shaped skis did not teach existing experts/pro's anything about carving - they simply opened up new options.
post #14 of 48
Actually the "new pintail design" that is becoming more popular is designed specifically for scarving.
post #15 of 48
Family Man Skier
In your post you said
>>This isn't a matter of "completing your turns" either - they're complete - I can finish in a 90 deg traverse, but I'm still flying along like crazy.<<

A completed turn does not necessarly only go to a 90 deg traverse. As Bob B. said use gravity. To me a completed turn is a turn that keeps turning untill I am going the speed I want to ski. This may mean sking up hill to let gravity slow me down. Then begin the turn in the other direction.

post #16 of 48
Yes, Yes! IMHO, nothing ruins a skier more in their formative phase more than an over emphasis on the traverse. Much worse than the wedge. Since it allows for the "cop out" of not having your skis facing down the fall line, for some people it can become a crutch and an extremely hard habit to break. {ask me how I know!} It also gets other skiers extremely angry at you!

Many instructors teach the traverse as a "fear managment tool". I think the time would be much better spent on learning the slide slip for that purpose. At least it teaches a useful skill, such as how to RELEASE your edges, which, believe it or not, some of us have a hard time with.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the
Never settle for the path of least resistance

I hope you dance.........
post #17 of 48
Welcome FamilyManSkier! How cool, another drooling ski idiot! You have a family of SnoPeople? How wonderful, you lucky guy! Wish more skiers like you would post here, and not just lurk. Thanks for "piping" up! And, for what it's worth, I wish you could ski more. Really.

It's the roundness of the turn, grasshopper. And, umm, scarving just ROCKS. The scarved parallel turn is a wonderful thing, for any level of skier. Control=Comfort. Comfort=Control.

Carving is a blast, and it feels so good. Tends to more of an expert move, and is less likely to be appropriate for a lower level skier, especially in challenging terrain. An expert in quite challenging terrain will scarve too, as appropriate. Or even a darn stem christie, eh? ROFLMAO!

Z-Turn hassles... well, hows about those ideas of "releasing into the future". No more "shopping for turns", just turn, on demand. Mmmmm, k?

Shape skis work better than the old straights. Easier to turn, easier to do a scarved turn that is more of a carve, finding that control. More shape, smaller radius turns, less effort. Wheeee!

But you have to watch what skills you "blend in". Too much of the "old bag of tricks", then shaped skis don't make a good feeling, nice scarved turn. Many straight ski "bad habits" are really mess with shape ski success. Hence the interesting discussions of the different skiing (and teaching) "models".

Visit me here >>>SnoKarver

<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by SnoKarver (edited September 04, 2001).]</FONT>
post #18 of 48
Am I the only one who has read and understood the original message by FamilyMan? He stated that he has learned to carve and can do it at will, so there is no point in trying to tell him how to do it.

His problem is that to finish a rounded carved turn to 90 degrees across the hill or even uphill will put him at speed into harm's way from skiers on a crowded hill who are mainly skiing the fall line. Haven't we all encountered this?

To paraphrase, he said: now that I know how to carve, I find that on a crowded slope where everybody is fall line skiing, this cranking around in a carve takes in too much real estate and if I don't want to cross other skiers I have to make a carved turn every 3 to 4 seconds which doesn't allow me to turn into the hill to scrub speed, so why all this overemphasis about carving (it ain't no big deal, everybody does it. <Ott's comment>).

post #19 of 48
I guess he won't be doing any carved 360s.
post #20 of 48
There is such a huge emphasis on carving because it is so possible, and so much more than many of us know is possible...Because it is so much fun...And because when utilized well it is so much more relaxing than skidding.

If a carver is not getting speed control out of a carved arc it means the upper section of the turn (before the fall-line) is not being shaped and utilized for speed control. Depending on turn finish alone for speed control requires skidding.

That said there is a lot more to skiing than carving. For example www.epic-ski.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000401.html

It is a mistake to solely focus on carving..but damn it is fun!
post #21 of 48
That was a very thoughtful response. Thanks.

I like many others took your first post at face value. especially with the header of "why such a hugh emphasis on carving".
I understand after reading your response and re-reading your question.

I put to you that even with straighter skis (salomon Prolink Equipe 3S for me) it is possible to control your speed at low speeds by carving. I found that you need to use more steering and 100% of your weight on one ski to get it to respond but it was not impossible. I'm sure the skill is a bit harder to teach and more work than many recreational skiers want to do so the superside cut skis were very helpful in this area. My best example how speed control does work was several years ago I was skiing with a friend that never really learned how to carve. She was planning on taking a lesson and asked me about speed control and wanted something to work on and something to have her instructor work with her on. we were standing on a moderate pitch groomed slope. I had been watching her ski and noticed that she makes "S" shaped turns not "S" turns and that she was not completing her turns. I tried to explain this but it didn't click. (I wish I had a video camera) So I told her to try to follow my tracks exactly as I skied down. I was on 198 Prolink Equipe 3S skis. She was on a 170 ish semishaped ski (I don't remember which maybe K2 cut?) I took off steering and carving pretty tight round turns. In about 2 turns she almost ran me over and flew by..

I told her to tell her instructor to work her on completing her turns and early weight shift.

After her lesson with a pro and a few more hours of practice we tried the "follow me" again and nice round turns in control.
post #22 of 48
Family Man, I think the answer to your problems with carving on crowded slopes is in the quote from Bob Barnes:

"good skiing is skiing a slow enough line as fast as you can- (with special heed to the qualifier) -WHEN you can."

post #23 of 48
"However, my problem is that like most average skiers, most of my skiing is done on groomed eastern trails on either crowded weekends or holidays."

oooh.... that IS a problem, FAR more serious a problem than this carving stuff.
I'd say deal with the REAL problem and the carving issues will take care of themselves.
post #24 of 48

Welcome to the forum. You posted an interesting topic which has touched on a lot of different areas. Regarding difficulty blending skidding and carving with new skis, you might want to look at your ski's tune. When I first went to "shaped skis" I was in a clinic where we were working on pivot slips and hockey slides which I could do OK on straight skis, but on the shaped skis the pivot always resulted in a turn rather than a pivot into a side slip straight down the hill. I checked the tune of the skis (when in doubt blame your equipment ) and found that there was little or no base edge bevel and about 1 to 2 degrees side edge bevel. The base was also a little concave. I flattened the base (I'm told don't do this with Atomics), and then did a less aggressive tune with 1 degree base edge bevel and one degree side edge, which was supposed to be the factory spec. After that it felt much easier to blend skidding and carving without an abrupt transition, and the pivot slips and hockey slides were much easier to perform accurately. Not that any of this was impossible with the original tune, its just that with a "softer" edge these things were easier to do.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JimL (edited September 05, 2001).]</FONT><FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JimL (edited September 05, 2001).]</FONT><FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JimL (edited September 05, 2001).]</FONT>
post #25 of 48
Thread Starter 
Everybody - I am utterly overwhelmed with the huge number of thoughtful, articulate and insightful responses to my question (to say nothing of the warm welcome). I've taken lessons off and on for decades and would have been ecstatic to ever get answers to my questions of the quality of your responses here. I actually wasn't going to even bother posting this question because I thought it might come across as too simple-minded for this group of pros and serious amateurs. Thank you all.

Now, with respect to all the replies, I'm not sure where to start, so I'll try grouping them in categories:

1 > "its fun, feels good, is challenging
1 > and rewarding"

You will get no argument from me on this one - it IS fun. It's like leaning a bicycle way over in a fast turn. The fun factor is exactly why I continued to learn & practice carving at slow speeds when the new deeply shaped skis came on the scene.

But, as "Ott Gang" pointed out, "Am I the only one who has read and understood the original message by FamilyMan?", I wasn't griping about the desirability or the actual technique of pure carved turns, as much as its appropriateness for the crowded weekend skiing situations that many of us small hill, east coast, intermediate amateur skiers find themselves in.

I think someone essentially said that speed control techniques like skidding come naturally to most people, so they don't need to be taught. I'm don't really agree with this. I and my family members have been hit numerous times from the rear by people (adults and kids alike) that weren't able to control their speed.

It seems to me that ways to continuously scrub off speed should be drilled into beginners and low intermediates - sideslipping, hockey stops, falling leaf drills, quick pivot turns (if that's what they are called), etc. I know there is a big sentiment against skidded turns like these scraping all the snow off the mountain, but I still think its essential that everyone learns these techniques first before they are exposed to a technique (carving) designed to do precisely the opposite, namely, to minimize your friction on the snow.

2> "Carved turns are no longer the exclusive
2> domain of techno goobs and racers, but
2> have been given to the masses! Shaped
2> skis have revolutionized the sport in
2> that beginning and intermediate skiers
2> can now, for the most part, feel and
2> enjoy a carved turn."

Again, no argument from me on this on either. Nowdays I don't like to go as fast as I used to, so if I were still on my old straight skis, I wouldn't be doing any carving whatsoever because I simply wouldn't be carrying the necessary speed and in open enough situations for the long radius turns.

3> "...if you learn to carve turns, it is
3> extremely easy to "feather" the carve
3> into a shaped skid (sometimes called
3> "scarving"). The same skills that you've
3> had to refine to a high level to produce
3> carved turns will allow you to skid all
3> you want or need..."

This statement probably touches on the heart of my personal problem. On my old straight skis, I used to be able to go down the hill with the skis pointed at any angle I wanted to my direction of travel from zero (a pure schuss) to 90 degrees (a pure sideslip), and anything inbetween. For some reason, however, its now much harder for me to do this on my deep sidecut equipment. I seem to be able to carve OR do a major skid, but not get all the intermediate angles. I don't know if this is a psychlogical / inadequate experience issue, or something to do with the equipment, but as soon as I get back on my early 1980's 205 Hart GS comps, I can dial in any angle of attack I want to the degree. On my new skis its more of an all or nothing thing - I'm either in carving mode or serious skidding mode, but nothing inbetween (which is where I usually want to be).

4> "...Good instructors do NOT emphasize
4> carving--they teach a full spectrum of
4> skills that allow the skier to do
4> whatever he/she wants or needs ..."

This is VERY reassuring to me, especially coming from someone as prestegious as Mr. Barnes. The opposite of this is what I had personally experienced (both in class and in all popular ski magazines).

5> Pierre's reference to an old thread:
5> "...That intentional skidding happens
5> when I feel alive, the sun is shinning,
5> I'm on a blue/green trail and I just want
5> to ski slow and take it all in. I granny
5> ski and sort of smell the roses so to
5> speak. I'm trying to reduce my need to
5> pay attention to traffic and others when
5> I do this.
5> I can be slow and very lazy. My 13 year
5> old daughter puts this phenomenon in the
5> same catagory as classical music. She
5> believes it to be purely age related...."

This old message of yours described my best moments on the hill to a "T". When I'm in that mode, I'm not out to prove anything - I'm just happy to be out in the mountains (either alone or with friends / family) and still be in good enough health to enjoy it. Maybe your daughter is right and it is age-related. Maybe we should be snowshoeing instead of skiing when this mood hits. Unfortunately, I'm too lazy to do much snowshoeing .

6> "...A completed turn does not necessarly
6> only go to a 90 deg traverse. ... To me a
6> completed turn is a turn that keeps
6> turning until I am going the speed I want
6> to ski. This may mean sking up hill to
6> let gravity slow me down. Then begin the
6> turn in the other direction..."

This statement confused me because I know I have seen drawings in ski instruction books where they show a bunch of different turn shapes, eg, "S" is good, "Z" is bad, and I'm pretty sure the shape Tom D is suggesting was considered "bad". If I understand him correctly, I think his technique would lead to a track that looks like a bunch of parallel, upward curved arcs with fast course reversing turns at the ends of each. Is this what you meant?

7> SnoKarver: "Welcome FamilyManSkier! How
7> cool, another drooling ski idiot..."

I've been called a lot of things in my life, but never a drooling ski idiot. I will take it as the highest complement and form of acceptance! Also, thank you very much for your other warm wishes. Ahh, if only I could go back to those couple of years where I did 25 or 30 days per season on the hill.

7> "...But you have to watch what skills
7> you "blend in". Too much of the "old bag
7> of tricks" ..."

I don't think I'm using too much old school stuff. I've toned down my unweighting and foot twisting to almost nothing. On the other hand, as I said earlier in this message, for some reason I do have a problem blending skidding and carving on my new skis, whereas I never had that problem on my old straight skis. It almost feels more psychlogical than equipment related - its more like I can't switch modes, not my equipment can't switch modes. Any suggestions?

I've gone on far too long, but I wanted to do justice to as many of your replies as possible. Thanks again everyone.

post #26 of 48
Family Man:

>>If I understand him correctly, I think his technique would lead to a track that looks like a bunch of parallel, upward curved arcs with fast course reversing turns at the ends of each. Is this what you meant?<<

No. The sking uphill is an illustration or a thought process. The completion of a turn is when you are comfortable with your speed and desire to go another direction. Just keep in mind it is not a set number of degrees of turn. I like nice even s turns, but in crowded conditions this may not be possible, but it is often possible to ski in a direction to avoid other skiers and slow down also.

Someone talked about the part of the turn before the fall line. This is very important in shaping the turn and having a smooth direction change.

And to touch on the title Why such a HUGE emphasis on carving? I don't push carving to students but at the proper time, and sking level, show them how much fun it is. It is not the only way.

post #27 of 48
FamilyMan - Welcome. Haven't seen such a well thought out first entry in a long time.

Bob Barnes, as usual you continue to astonish me with the extremely well thought out and enunciated (if that word can be applied here) discourse.

God, I'm glad I found this place.
post #28 of 48
Bob Barnes writes:

. It is ironic that true experts almost NEVER try to control speed--at least not directly. They do not like the "out of control" sensation of skidding. They focus all their efforts and skills on using their skis to hold the LINE. And--here's the catch--they choose their line such that they don't HAVE to control their speed--gravity does that for them.

Wow, I'll have to echo what Jimmy just said. Bob, that thought just flows as smoothly into a visual as any skiing phrase I've ever read. I could try to describe this technique 20 times and never be able to do it as clearly as you just did. Thanks! Now I have to go find that book of yours.....

post #29 of 48
FMS, there are 3 ways (at least that I can think of) to make short turns appropriate for your skiing situation.
1. Skid the skis gently through the top part of the arc, usually through unwinding from an anticipated position. Followed by carving in the middle/bottom of the arc, through increased edging and perhaps leg steering.
2. Allow the sidecut of the front half of the ski to "pull" you into the turn by very early edging and by gently weigthing the front of the skis. Follow this by allowing the tails to skid the rest of the way around, basically a side slip. At the end of the turn, let the edges gently bite so the start of the next turn will be effortless.
3. Get the skis on edge very early and aggresively steer them around the whole arc, thus producing an extremely tight radius, (mostly) carved turn. These can be done at a fairly slow speed straight down the fall line. Vary the weight between the skis as the turn progresses, rather than all at once.
On straight skis, only method 1 was a realistic option for such trails, and is of course a mandatory skill, but try experimenting with 2 and 3 (if you already haven't) to get a better feel for the capabilities of the new skis.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by milesb (edited September 06, 2001).]</FONT>
post #30 of 48
Hello Family Man and Welcome! Your questions are excellent and (as usual) have received many great responses from the resident 'experts'. One thing I could add here is the 'why' carving is better ( more efficient and fun )than skidding. As Bob B. has pointed out many times, skidding (as you have described it) is braking, not turning. So if you are constantly braking, you are also PUSHING your feet away from your body and this is where the problems begin. Most skiers that do this begin by pivoting the skis in the direction they want to go, then push the tails of the skis in order to 'scrape' snow and slow down. So while the skis may be pointed in a different direction, the skier's body is still going the same way- staight down. Once the feet are pushed out from beneath the hips, the skier is way out of balance and must immediately begin corrective measures, usually throwing the upper body in an effort to 'catch the feet'. Some people are quite good at this and don't think there is anything wrong with it. These so called 'z' turns are also putting much more strain on your body as you interrupt the 'flow' of your skis down the mountain. Imagine driving your car by constantly bouncing your foot from the accelerator to the brake. It is possible to skid and be in balance ( linked pivot slips are great fun) and skidding is a necessary skill, but like Bob says, a braking skid is simply a very inefficient way to ski.And like Uncle Milt says,"Skidding ain't turning!"
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