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Common difficlties in skier technique

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I have been teaching skiing for many years and have consistently observed three very common problems in many intermediate skiers.

1. Poor stance and balance.

This refers to a non-athelic posture on the skis that has the
upper body very upright, with the shoulders over the feet
rather that forward over the knees. Hands are frequently low and close to the body. Also, the hips may be too low and back.

2. Static skiing.

The legs do not extend and flex as the turn progresses, but usually remain in a slightly flexed position throughout.

3. Poor timing at initiation

Skiers who do show some leg movement frequently extend vertically off a flat ski, rather then gradually and more laterally as part of inclination.

Maybe it is just me, but I see these dificulties in at least 90% of my students! Epidemic proportions! And often the students have had lessons before, and have skied for years.

Have other instructors noticed this? Thoughts on why it occurs so frequently?

Also, any ideas on how to help the student delay lengthening their legs until they have started to "cross over" the skis?

Thanks, cdnguy
post #2 of 24
I'm not a ski instructor, but I'll give this a try.
1. Poor stance and balance.

This is often due to weak deep core muscles. The posture you describe implies that the student is "bracing" as opposed to centering. They see gravity as an adversary, as opposed to a dancing partner. As a result, they are in combat, as opposed to cooperation with the mountain.

2. Static skiing.
Someone has probably told these students that practicing "wall sits" is a good ski prep exercise. Again, this can relate to lack of deep core support. By working in a consistently flexed position throughout the turn, these skiers are also bracing instead of centering.

3. Poor timing at initiation.
This can be a boot issue. Butkeep in mind, very few people have acceptable foot biomechanics, even in "normal" activities such as walking. Once you start adding ankle inversion and eversion, even more problems are exposed. Anyone who has frequently sprained their ankles will have limited ankle proprioception. They may need to practice some foot moves at home.
post #3 of 24
Ahhh, yes, ... body center of mass flowing smoothly in the direction of each new turn, edge change effortless and early in the turn, legs working gracefully beneath you, launching into each new turn with a smooth extension and a little inside leg lead, joints flexed, body centered, yet angulated to hold the edges in a carve like you're on rails ... down a 50 degree icy narrow couloir?! Doubtful, even for a pro. For intermediate skiers, most slopes probably seem that intimidating. CM crossover, they say ... you mean lean downhill??!! (OMG! If only to themselves). You might as well ask a prize fighter to lean into the punches. No, they're going to hug the hill, my friend, and all that stiffness, lateness and backseat stuff is the visible result. If anyone finds a good formula or progression that will simply give skiers "faith" to make the leap, I'd sure like to hear it, too.
post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally posted by BigBear:
Ahhh, yes, ... body center of mass flowing smoothly in the direction of each new turn, edge change effortless and early in the turn, legs working gracefully beneath you, launching into each new turn with a smooth extension and a little inside leg lead, joints flexed, body centered, yet angulated to hold the edges in a carve like you're on rails ... down a 50 degree icy narrow couloir?! Doubtful, even for a pro. For intermediate skiers, most slopes probably seem that intimidating. CM crossover, they say ... you mean lean downhill??!! (OMG! If only to themselves). You might as well ask a prize fighter to lean into the punches. No, they're going to hug the hill, my friend, and all that stiffness, lateness and backseat stuff is the visible result. If anyone finds a good formula or progression that will simply give skiers "faith" to make the leap, I'd sure like to hear it, too.
That's exactly the problem. Until you actually have the experience of dynamic skiing, your body instinctively rebels against doing it. The only solution is to develop the necessary skills in less intimidating terrain and then gradually experiment with those skills in steeper and steeper terrain. There is no shortcut, and no new skis, new boots or footbeds are a substitute for skills.

Regards, John
post #5 of 24
Sadly, you are looking at the level of skill that can be achieved by non-athletic people who don't ski enough and don't have the motivation and/or athleticism to improve. This is not to blame anyone! It is just the way it is.

Ski lessons are largely useless if the student does not follow through. On snow time is a must, so skiing 5 days a year is simply not enough. Motivation is also a must, so if you don't care to apply yourself with great determination you will stagnate. Finally, we are a nation of out-of-shape, inactive individuals (63% of Americans are fat and Canadians are not far behind). We work too much, eat too much and use a car to go everywhere. You simply cannot expect miracles.

So unless you stay in shape and put a considerable amount of time, effort and money to ski during the winter, all the instruction and/or alignment in the world will be largely wasted. Students must take some responsibility here.
post #6 of 24
Tom,
Good points!

I also think you exactly describe the problems with my golf game.
But I think I hit it thin 63% of the time, and fat the other 36%.
:
post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally posted by BigBear:
you mean lean downhill??!! (OMG! If only to themselves). You might as well ask a prize fighter to lean into the punches. No, they're going to hug the hill, my friend, and all that stiffness, lateness and backseat stuff is the visible result. If anyone finds a good formula or progression that will simply give skiers "faith" to make the leap, I'd sure like to hear it, too.
I use a visual demonstration. I will try to explain it here:

The group tells me that it feels unsafe or unnatural to lean forward (down the hill) when skiing. I tell them that I agree. Then I explain that skiing is physics and I hold up my ski poles and create a visual diagram.

One pole is the snow surface (the X axis)
One pole is the skier (the Y axis)

Holding my poles in the air - I cross the Y over the X. There is a perfect 90 degree angle. I explain that this is like standing or walking on flat ground. I explain that IDEALLY as the slope becomes steeper, the skier will move their body to maintain the 90 degree angle. I tilt both poles - X pole tips down and Y pole tips forward.

Then I put the poles back to the "flat land" example - I smile and say - what happens when you guys ski like this: and I tilt the X pole (the snow surface) but I don't move the Y pole (the skier). Everyone laughs and agrees that's how they ski... and we agree that it's incorrect to stay upright.

I also get them to each take a ski off. We hold up our skis and identify the tip/waist/tail. I refer to the "pole diagram" and ask them where their weight will be on the ski if they don't lean forward. We agree it's the tail. I explain that the tail just skids, which is ineffective. This leads us to some exercises that EXAGGERATE the ski movements we have just discussed.

It's AMAZING! Why? Because we overcame the mental hurdle first.

Your questions/comments are welcome.
kiersten

[ November 21, 2003, 07:24 PM: Message edited by: kieli ]
post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally posted by John Dowling:
That's exactly the problem. Until you actually have the experience of dynamic skiing, your body instinctively rebels against doing it. The only solution is to develop the necessary skills in less intimidating terrain and then gradually experiment with those skills in steeper and steeper terrain. There is no shortcut, and no new skis, new boots or footbeds are a substitute for skills.

Regards, John[/QB]
John has hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Skiers should have the opportunity to learn and develop effective stance and dynamic movement patterns gradually and from their earliest days on skis. Unfortunately students often do not get this in ski lessons. When students are not taught movement patterns consistent with a progression to advanced skiing, the type of skiing they are shown is adopted as the core of their technique. When their skills are not sufficient, human nature kicks in and the need for survival asserts itself. Skiers thus acquire the defensive posture that hinders their control and inhibits their development. Gross body movemnts which they teach themselves in desparation provide the turning ability they need for speed control.

I can say that most of the intermediate lessons I have taught were primarily remedial in nature, attempting to address the shortcomings of early learning and consequent flawed development. Its ironic that most of my level 2 and three students were better skiers, albeit inexperienced and undeveloped, than the majority of level 6,7 students with years of experience that I saw.

I think there is often a lack of understanding of skiing mechanics among instructors and lack of skill in movement analysis that I see evidence of even here. I read of results confused with causes and things like weight shift confused with generated forces and many other misconceptions. There is a tendency to relegate the teaching of the movement pattern we refer to as "crossover" to advanced intermediate skiers when it can and should be taught from the first day on skis, albeit at very slight and at first, almost imperceptible levels. Instead of teaching a blend of skills to produce the turns that manage speed instructors often teach deflection turns and foot-pushing movements. Skiing is essentially a balancing game of dynamic movement and yet we persist in teaching forms as if they were practically static positions. I watched instructors teaching wedge turns last winter, for example, that looked like demonstrations of rigor mortis. If there is any one characterisic fault that seems to appear naturally in skiing it is poor fore and aft stance. I think its fair to say that all of us are a little in the back seat at least some of the time. Its a natural fault that is a response to sliding and which is accentuated by the fear that new skiers often experience, particularly when they "progress" faster than their skills. When you think of the bad habits that develop from this one fault alone you realize that correcting this one error is practically key to all progress and yet how often it is neglected while we deal with the results or focus upon minutiae like hand position and pole swing! All too frequently, ski instructors misunderstand edging and the development of lateral forces. We often see instructors teaching edging as movements of the knees and feet from an essentially vertical stance instead of cultivating lateral movements that develop edge angle and effective stance. Instead of coaching students to gradually develop these lateral movements and become accustomed to experience and manage increasingly larger lateral forces we unwittingly encourage them to ski in essentially vertical stance and push the skis out. Then, after perhaps several years of this, we suddenly expect them to begin learning to balance againts the inside edge of the outside ski. Comfortable stretching and flexing of the legs from the very earliest days on skis can not only train skiers to develop these lateral movements but can enable then to develop the habit of moving into the new turn on terrain that is non threatening. The oft maligned and oft misunderstood wedge is a wonderful platform for cultivating these movements in concert with development of the other skills. Incidently, if you think this kind of dynamic movement and balancing is too challenging for our inexperienced and un-atletic students, consider for a moment what is involved in the simple act of walking down the stairs, something virtually all our students can do. Instead of teaching these skills and movements we are apt to play instead on our students natural reluctance to move out of the vertical plane. Then, after perhaps years of this, we suddenly expect them pitch their bodies over the skis and down the hill in what has been aptly described as a "leap of faith".

The solution is to teach skiing correctly from the very first day and be relentless in addressing and correcting the basic faults which are the cause of so much mis-development. Instructors should try to teach each lesson with a clear view of the progression from whatever level the students are at clear through to advanced skiing.
post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally posted by kieli:
...Because we overcame the mental hurdle first...
I agree that this is the way to go, but I've got problems with the particular example / explanation you gave.

Quote:
...I explain that IDEALLY as the slope becomes steeper, the skier will move their body to maintain the 90 degree angle... I refer to the "pole diagram" and ask them where their weight will be on the ski if they don't lean forward. We agree it's the tail.
I understand what you are trying to do and that you are simply trying to exaggerate concepts to get them across to students, but if you really held a 90 degree angle on some 45 degree double black where you are looking right down the chimney of the lodge, your CM would actually be waaay too far forward, ie, directly above the tips of your skis, whereas all you really want to do is have it go a bit forward. Look at side view photos of true expert skiers coming down steep chutes at the apex of their turns. It appears as if most of them are sitting back with their knees bent and their boots tucked back up under them, but in actuality, their CM's are still slightly in front of the toe of their boots. With their CM's in this position, their tips are still loaded appropriately.

If I was a student in your class, I would also question your statement, "...I explain that IDEALLY as the slope becomes steeper, the skier will move their body to maintain the 90 degree angle..."

The first thought that would cross my mind is that here we are standing around chatting on this steep double black, and as I look around, it would be abundently clear that everybody's CM is just about directly above the inner edge of their downhill ski, and so the angle that you are talking about is anything but 90 deg. I would then wonder (but probably not question you) what's special about the traverse, especially since you seemed to present your 90 degree "rule" without any qualifications whatsoever.

I bring up these objections not because they are some big-deal technical error, but to show that unless an instructor uses *really* solid examples, making an error like these can send some people (like me) into mental gyrations and effectively lose them for the rest of the lesson as they are trying to sort out what was just said. I picked a technical example of an instructor's statement that I had a problem with, but the things that can cause a listener's mind to "lock-up" can be almost anything that they don't understand or agree with.

Tom / PM

PS - I fully realize that you almost certainly didn't have double blacks in mind when you gave your 90 deg example, but (a) you didn't put any qualifications or restrictions on your suggestion to maintain that 90 degree angle, and (b) my arguments still hold for skiers on shallow slopes, but the effects that I am worried about are more easily seen on steeper hills.

[ November 21, 2003, 11:59 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #10 of 24
My guess would be that it's the rare instructor that hasn't used their poles to get this concept across at some time or other. But just as important for me is giving skiers a focus that will help them get there with their bodies for the first time. We learn by doing, and we can't feel it until we do it.

Understanding why and giving students a focused way to achieve the movements are equally important.

Tom/PM, and Disski, hopefully you would be comfortable enough with your instructor to ask for clarification. If it raises questions in your mind thats a good thing, it means your thinking about what's being discussed. Where this becomes a problem as I see it, is if the instructor doesn't check for understanding, if the student doesn't ask for clarification, or the instructor doesn't know enough to answer. There really isn't one perfect way to present this is there?

Besides, you wouldn't want to deprive your instructor from learning from your doubts about what was said or your need for clarification would you?

[ November 22, 2003, 05:48 AM: Message edited by: Ric B ]
post #11 of 24
I like what arcadie said here:
Quote:
If there is any one characterisic fault that seems to appear naturally in skiing it is poor fore and aft stance. I think its fair to say that all of us are a little in the back seat at least some of the time. Its a natural fault that is a response to sliding and which is accentuated by the fear that new skiers often experience, particularly when they "progress" faster than their skills. When you think of the bad habits that develop from this one fault alone you realize that correcting this one error is practically key to all progress and yet how often it is neglected while we deal with the results or focus upon minutiae like hand position and pole swing!
Even folks who regularly take lessons teach themselves 97% of the time. Every time we take a step we planter flex (push down and spring off the forefoot} in response to moveing forward. Stand still and lean forward and you will find yourself pushing down on the front of you're feet to remain upright. Do this is ski boots and you end up smack dab on the back of the boot cuff because the boot is rigid and hooked to the ski.

This one natural response of pushing down on the forefoot to maintain balance is so ingrained in everyday life that all people naturally carry it over to skiing. Simply telling a person to rest the shins on the tongue of their boots will not break this well ingrained response. You must replace it with a new movement pattern that is not natural.

I also agree with John Dowling, once you show a person the movement patterns to have their shins remain in contact with the tongue of their boots its necessary to proceed on very easy terrain for a considerable amount of time until this movement pattern seems natural. Any anxiety, exitement or fear will trigger the flight response and that is, push down on the forefoot and lose contact of the shins on the tongue of the boots. There is no quick easy way to make these changes permenant.
post #12 of 24
I work with upper level students. I think they would agree that their chief failing is "making it happen" when they should have "let it happen." Patience, baby! Let the skis turn you.
post #13 of 24
nolo make a good point with:
Quote:
." Patience, baby! Let the skis turn you.
This has two positive effects. Patience lets a skier catch up with their feet at crossover if they are slightly back and cuts down substantially on upper body rotation as a means of turning.

Her quote is also the best advice a person can get for sking moguls. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #14 of 24
Merci, Pierre.

Kieli,

Another way to get the point across is to get down on the snow with one of your skis, holding up the brake so the ski can slide, in order to show what gliding and skidding look like from the ski's perspective. Ask them to describe where the body needs to be in relationship to the ski to enable it to interact with the snow the way it was designed. (It helps if the group can remember how much their skis cost.)

The cafeteria at Bridger used to give away plastic stir sticks that were little skis. I swiped a bunch of them so we could play with them in class.
post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally posted by PhysicsMan:
[QB]If I was a student in your class, I would also question your statement, "...I explain that IDEALLY as the slope becomes steeper, the skier will move their body to maintain the 90 degree angle..."

The first thought that would cross my mind is that here we are standing around chatting on this steep double black, and as I look around, it would be abundently clear that everybody's CM is just about directly above the inner edge of their downhill ski, and so the angle that you are talking about is anything but 90 deg. I would then wonder (but probably not question you) what's special about the traverse, especially since you seemed to present your 90 degree "rule" without any qualifications whatsoever. [QB]
Thanks Tom, your post made LOL... you're right. In my haste I didn't discuss the conditions in which I use that "visual", how it was somewhat exaggerated, and the applicability of it. Before you wonder what I was smoking last night, heh!... I can assure you that I DON'T say that it's an ABSOLUTE rule, nor do I use it on blacks or double blacks. HECK! Anyone that needs the physics lesson doesn't belong on the blacks (in a lesson) IMHO.

Thanks again for keeping me honest and giving me a good chuckle!!

Nolo - I'd like to hear more about the "show the ski glide and skid" ...

Thanks,
kiersten
post #16 of 24
Yeah Tom - I thought the same thing but didn't type it straight off.... I was at work

One of my BIG problems was that I maintained a 90degree angle.... right up every damn windlip.... I would then proceed to scream VERY LOUDLY & start shaking & insist I was falling (my inner ear works quite well thankyou)....

Only that my instructor thought hard enough to LISTEN to me & then stand & watch the circus.... then he had to stand on each one (side on) & call queues for me to tell me when to move my weight... until I eventually started to learn to do it on my own... Also until I learnt the speed & quantity I needed to move he had to give me feedback on each "performance" ....
Pretty funny seeing an instructor stand next to a windlip yelling "more, earlier" or "now" or etc etc etc
post #17 of 24
BTW kieli - this is the sort of stuff I will return from another lesson with & ask my instructor "why did xxxx say yyyy" then he has to "fix it" for me.... you can see why most of the time it is tricky for me to ski with another instructor....
post #18 of 24
Yes Tom - I am often WAAAAAAYYYY to literal.....

the problem comes not when I am learning more "mental" skills - then I can translate my way around the problem...

but when I am tackling a physical task I have no idea if the "awkward" feeling I am feeling is how it "should" feel.... so I rely on that "literal" message VERY strongly... if it is WRONG I am stuffed....
post #19 of 24
Quote:
Nolo - I'd like to hear more about the "show the ski glide and skid" ...
It's a hands-on demonstration of how the ski is designed to describe an arc in the snow and how a skier can promote or impede the design of the ski. I might use this as a context for discussion of forces at play (or not). Mostly it's an eye-opener, because few have ever considered skiing from the ski's point of view and what it needs from its master to perform to specifications.

One of my important influences was a guy who trained skiers and horses, who considers the skis as semi-sentient partners (the ride) which the skier needs to listen to, "because the skis will tell you what they need from you if you're sensitive to what they are trying to say."
post #20 of 24
Take a look at the book THE CENTERED RIDER. If you take away the word "horse" you would swear that its a book about ski technique!
post #21 of 24
Take a look at "The Centered Skier". Denise Mccluggage's (sp?) book was probably the inspiration for the book you refer to.
post #22 of 24
Yeah, I have that too. Since they are both, I believe, from the same part of Vermont, I wonder which one came first. Nonetheless, they are both truly marvelous books. Even though I don't ride horses, some of the imagery in Centered Rider works better for me than the Centered Skier images.
Go figure!
post #23 of 24
Tom - thanks. I guess I am used to it : because a very good friend of mine is a DEMON for TECHNICAL ACCURACY in everything that is said.

Not trying to excuse myself - I realize that I do have a tendancy to "dumb down" and to paint my canvass with broad strokes sometimes.

I think it's critical for the "instructor" in me to remember that not every person is uninformed or uninterested in the truly technical information.

So, thanks again!

kiersten
post #24 of 24
Disski:
> "... Yeah Tom - I thought the same thing but didn't type it straight off ..."

Thanks for the backup. I suspect that for better or worse, we are two of the most literal-minded skiers around. If Kieli had said something like, "Keep your belly-button in front of a vertical line up from your boot toes", I would have had no problems. It was the seemingly strict "90 degree" command that bothered me.
--------------

RicB:
> "... Tom/PM, and Disski, hopefully you would be comfortable enough with your instructor to ask for clarification. If it raises questions in your mind thats a good thing, it means your thinking about what's being discussed. Where this becomes a problem as I see it, is if the instructor doesn't check for understanding, if the student doesn't ask for clarification, or the instructor doesn't know enough to answer. ..."

Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens with some regularity to me, both on and off the hill: Namely, with me in earshot, a layman (to the field of physics) will make an obvious error in some extremely simple physics concept. I almost never say anything and just let such things pass because no one will be hurt by the error, its not all that important in the grand scheme of things, etc..

However, when it happens in a ski school class, I am more torn about what to do. I don't want to correct the instructor in front of the class, however, I know that a group of people will receive clearly wrong information, and this may influence their future skiing development, and possibly, even their safety. Often, the subject matter is not really suitable for a short "discussion" because it's a *real* basic error, and it's obvious that the instructor would need a lot more than a minute or two of "discussion" or "joint exploration" to bring them up to speed on the subject.

Usually, I let these sort of statements pass until class is over, and then, if I still think it's serious enough, privately bring it to the attention of the instructor. Often, this works, but every now and then, even with the most gentle and diplomatic (ie, "can we explore this issue") approach, I'll get someone who gets all huffy & defensive. Fortunately, one of the great things about EpicSki is that everybody on here is aware of the ground rule that says that any statement that is made is subject to question, discusion, and verification. In addition, almost all of the participants here are very good about not letting their egos get in the way of the pursuit of the accuracy and logic.
-------------

Kiersten - I think you would be amazed at how many people in the world would not take a "technical comment" (like the above) as gracefully and maturely as you did. Thank you.

[img]smile.gif[/img]

Tom / PM

PS - My plea to the instructors is to try to maintain as high a level of technical accuracy as possible with your students without overloading them with detail, jargon, pedantry, etc. While an advanced skier can detect a basic error in a statement by an instructor and simply ignore it and not let it interfere with their skiing, in my opinion, there is a surprisingly large number of non-technical people who will know intuitively that "something is wrong" with the instructor's statement, or say to themselves, "That's crazy!", but not be able to analyze it, articulate the problem, have the confidence/experience to put it in perspective. So, from what my friends tell me, what usually happens is that these students walk away from the lesson confused on that topic, and often with a reduced opinion of the particular instructor as well of ski instruction in general.

[ November 23, 2003, 09:25 AM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
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