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The terrain variable

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
With all this talk of skills, we have overlooked a very important variable in the development of a confident, skilled skier, and that is terrain.

Horst Abraham tells of the famous experiment in the '70s (I believe it was in Austria by the famous Kruckenhauser) where two groups of beginners were given two treatments and then assessed. The first group got the best instruction available at the time, ordinary rentals, and ordinary terrain and amenities for beginning students. The second group had no instruction, equipment designed for beginning skiers, and a terrain garden designed for experience-based learning.

Which group progressed the most by the end of the trial period?

You guys know the answer! I'll bet it wasn't even very hard.

So then I ask the hard question, why do we not spend AT LEAST as much attention on how to mold terrain that teaches as we do on the people who teach?

I am reminded of the perfect bumps the talented grooming crew at Targhee would build for the public. Every bump as like the next one as if they came from the same DNA. What a fabulous teaching tool!
post #2 of 11
You need to get out of the sticks! That's happening almost everywhere in LA.
post #3 of 11

Loon Mt has realigned lifts, and trails and re-graded slopes just for their beginners. They built a handle tow lift on their maintenance building, the roof has a slight pitch, for the beginners (the maintenance building is built into the side of the hill.) Loon also builds terrain gardens for novice skiers and installed an additional handle tow just to access the terrain garden. Loon tries to build bumps for bump competitions, but as some of the folks that participate here stated they have a long way to go.

I’m not sure if that’s what you mean. I know some ski areas do try to create an enjoyable learning experience. The beginner lifts at Loon are on the lower mountain out of the way of the main mountain. The beginner areas are segregated enough so one doesn’t have to worry about “experts” bombing through. The west handle tow slope is only accessible by taking the tow or walking up. The beginner lift is adjacent to the handle tow, but you can’t ski from the chair directly to the top of the handle tow area. One must also take this chair to access the slope.

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Ydnar says that it is necessary to teach the wedge at DV because of the terrain. I have given clinics at areas up here in the sticks, a far cry from L.A., where the poor hapless beginner who didn't make the turn to the rope tow ended up like land tuna in an orange net, which was preferable to flying off the bluff on the other side of the net.

If defensive skiing is necessary because of the terrain, I say, do something about the terrain!

But more than that, how about sculpting the terrain into a learning park for beginners with swales, banked curves, runouts, etc.

Not only that, but teach instructors how to use terrain. It's becoming a lost art.
post #5 of 11

I gotta agree with you. While my area is not sculpted, it is chair lift served. We don't put the beginner in the fall line until it is very flat. We also use cross-hill garlands so that there is no terror issues. There are ski areas where I won't teach, because there is no appropriate beginner terrain.
post #6 of 11

i don't want to give the wrong impression about out beginner terrain. It is not necessary to teach defensive skiing. Its just that from a gliding wedge platform and a using a rotary based approach the student has greater control of their line (turn shape) sooner than with the direct to parallel methods I have seen. This allows the student to control their speed through completion of their turns rather than through some form of breaking. I actually like our beginner terrain because it is varied enough to provide a challange for the student for their whole first day on skis.

post #7 of 11
I'm a bit obsessed with the idea of ensuring my students don't feel fear (I think it holds them back, and results in defensive bad habits). The two US hills I've taught at so far had bunny hills that were just far too steep, in my opinion.
Mt Snow used to have a great bunny hill, they told me, but then built their Grand Summit Hotel on it. Keystone's hill was very similar - too steep. The idea of teaching straight to parallel on such terrain is ludicrous.

At Mt Snow, they got the groomers to build little mounds on the flat bit at the bottom, and this was quite good for those first glides and turns without too much effort. Keystone had a flat area with a snowbank at the bottom (to stop out of control people ending up in the carpark), and the snowbank was quite useful for getting a bit of elevation for sliding.

Adult beginners really hate having to climb up the hill, but everywhere I've been, the first lift they'll use takes them too high for the first sliding experience.

Progessions are important too, here in Oz Thredbo have made a great beginner area, it's almost flat! Well-thought-out lifts, big, gentle, you name it. You also have the kids play/learn stuff in the same bit, and I think that probably helps ot relax the nervous adults a bit.

But the progression is up to the Merrits area, it's just too big a jump. I suspect it undoes a lot of the good work done down at the learning area.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
It's true, ant. As they say, land goes to its highest value, so it makes perfect sense to take a beginner paradise and put up a grand hotel (with European spa!).
post #9 of 11
I guess we're just lucky they didn't put up a parking lot there (although come to think of it they built plenty of parking around the hotel).

That place was jerry-built, I saw them taking off the chimneys at one point, and the insides were pine framing and plywood!!!!
post #10 of 11
I have to agree with you...when starting out just
as the lifts open..I'm ready for ungroomed Blue trails by 10am... Sure wish the ASC resorts here in NewEngland would keep the bombardiers away from
some trails as soon as they get enough cover.
When NewEngland gets dumped on...and the snow gets
heavier over a few days, I still see lots of intermediates to beginners with big grins trying
to make their way through the stuff.
I don't think the groomers would get overcrowded
at all and IMHO, I think you'd see an increase in the number of private lessons requested....as well as opening up another NEEDED realm for PerfectTurn...etc. :
post #11 of 11
Has anyone tried teaching beginners in a giant half-pipe? If they felt out of control they could just point 'em up the other side. Then they'd be learning to use the terrain to control speed from the get-go. Kids would probably like it too since skiing the "real" half-pipe might be their goal anyway.
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