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5-year checkup

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

One of our epic pros posed an intriguing question 5 years ago this month.  I'd be interested in what our current generation of epic pros has to say about it.  Any takers?



(originally from  http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/8797/learning-curve )


It only takes folks a little while from their first day on skis to be knocking on the door of the dynamic parallel turn. Then it seems that the majority spend the rest of their days on skis knocking and never getting in.

Why is it that so many start out and so few become dynamic skiers?

What do the haves have that the have-nots do not?

post #2 of 7

I'll take a shot at it from my perspective as an instructor.  I believe that there are two primary reasons:


  1. For most skiers, learning to ski dynamically is a lot of work and practice.  Unlike many people who come to this forum who have a big commitment to their skiing development, I believe that in most cases the interest in continuing to learn / practice starts to wane after the skier has gained some sense that they can control their skis and ski the runs and conditions they enjoy.
  2. From a skill perspective, I believe that those skiers who fail to attain the dynamic parallel level never learn to balance properly on their edges.


I'm sure that others will pitch in.




post #3 of 7

I'll offer a slightly different take than Mike's. We have two classes of "haves": those who have picked it up via natural gift and those who have worked at it. My theory is that a major contributing factor is that for a majority of new skiers "knocking on the door" is a lot of fun and therefore "close enough". They aren't going to get it by natural gift (because that's posessed by a small minority) and they aren't motivated to work at it to get any better.


I like amusement parks, but I don't go very often. Riding a coaster with no hands seems to involve a modicum of skill, but I'm not going to get any better going once every 5 years and when I'm already better than 80% of the people on the ride, my skill level is good enough to not need to get better.


That said, my perception is that the majority of first time skiers are not quickly knocking on the door to dynamic parallel (as defined by skiing black runs with parallel turns within 3 visits). I agree that it's possible for this to happen. It may be happening in small batches. But on a nationwide scale, where the lastest stats say that only 16% who try skiing become 3 time per season or greater skiers, this "knocking at the door thing" ain't happening.

post #4 of 7

To quote a friend, "most skiers don't think like experts, therefore they don't act like experts". Which should tell you a lot about the average skier's motivation and willingness to invest in the learning process. I've had a few students willing and able enough to learn at a fast rate and ski dynamic parallel turns on black runs after just a few days on skis. Even then they don't have the time available to actually groove the movement so they can maintain that high level of accuracy in their movements.


A coach from the Air Force Academy did some work about a decade ago concerning how to maintain peak performance levels in his athletes. One of his finding was that periodization training can help an athlete focus on a small time window where they can perform at their maximum potential. Outside of that window they were able to perform repeatedly at about 90-95 percent of their personal best performance level. His idea was to coach to that level instead of asking his athletes to exceed their personal best performance every time they competed. Another interesting finding was that some of their timing and refinement of their skill levels eroded after about 72 hours between practices.


Bringing this into the realm of recreational skiing and ski coaching/teaching, it suggests that if we ski (and train) every third day our skills can remain relatively the same. How that relates to improving our skills is another matter. I can't say I've seen a study on the time requirements for coaching for improvement and retention of those improvements. I would suspect at minimum it would be at least every third day, if not every other day. So while an immersion clinic can produce profound improvements, I wonder how much of that is going to be retained once the clinic is over? Especially when "active skiers" may only ski weekends. I hate to sound so negative but without investing the time and energy it is hard to hang onto any improvement for more than a few days. Then again it is a good selling point for tune up lessons. 


What do the haves have? An aptitude for skiing (usually some past activity that transfers well to snow skiing, like skating and hockey) and the attitude (confidence) to perform quickly at a relatively high level.

What do the have nots lack? Yes they want to perform that well, that quickly but something physically or mentally is standing in their way. Overcoming that obstacle is the key to raising their performance level.


One more though process that I think seperates the haves, and the have nots...

The haves understand how a lack of participation erodes their timing and the accuracy of their movements. They are more likely to take a refresher lesson on the first day of their vacation just to help them get back their timing and accuracy.


Edited by justanotherskipro - 2/20/2009 at 02:09 am
post #5 of 7

It's really a very simple issue.  First everybody needs to understand that not every skier WANTS to get better.  Most are recreational skiers who are fine with their skill levels but may want to try a tougher trail ( for personal satisfaction or bragging rights) now and then.


From a technical standpoint here is what separates this skier from the dynamic skier.  It's the use of Internal forces (what we have the ability to do with our bodies) and External forces (laws of Physics etc etc)  (Little forces and Big forces as it's known elsewhere)  We begin to become dynamic when we learn to use pressure and edging more, and in a way that helps us to utilize all the stuff Issac Newton told us about.  Most skiers never make this change.  They use their muscles and bone structure to effect their turns and fight the laws of physics that surround us.


If an instructor teaches movements that teach a student to GO instead of stop, there is a better chance a skier will become dynamic (assuming they have the physical ability).  Teach movements that don't support that and the student may have a longer journey to get to dynamic skiing.  The right movements taught early (along with continued lessons) is a big help.  This applies no  matter what "system" you subscribe to.

post #6 of 7

UL, I agree that not all skiers feel the need to improve. After all it's just skiing. My impression of the question reaches further than that though.

  • Mechanically it's usually a matter of  a greater range of motion being performed in a more dynamic situation. The DIRT if you will. This also includes our level of physical fitness and our ability to actually do the task. 
  • Tactically it's a willingness to ski offensively as much as possible, Not that every turn needs to be aggressive, even racers need to ski conservatively at times just to stay in the course. What I'm trying to say is timidity produces fearful defensive skiing and those movements have a distinct quality of reluctance to them. Compare that to the racer who is looking for opportunities to find more speed, or a faster line through the gates. The two skiers will make different tactical choices because they want different outcomes.  
  • Mentally, it's a matter of confidence and a willingness to take risks that more timid skiers would try to avoid. How ofter do you hear from a newbie "We're not going to ski that!" as they look at a black run from the chairlift? Our performance level is directly influenced by our self-concept in that we will set arbitrary performance parameters based on our past experiences. I know this sounds simplistic but the haves believe in themselves and their ability to create a positive outcome. The have nots lack that level of confidence in their abilities. Helping them build more self confidence is often the key to helping them improve their performance level. 


post #7 of 7

Posts by members that are not in the "Hot Tub" were moved to the Learning Curve thread.


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