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The Ski, the Length, or Me?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Decided to demo the Volant Vertex 66 at my 3 day workshop at Okemo. Since the shop will not let the same ski out for 3 days, I had to be on a different brand ski each day.

Some background. When I first purchased my Volkl Carver xscapes a few years ago, the shortest length was 163.

By the first run out on the Volants, which were 155cm, I realized already that my Volks are probably too long. At first, I was skiing a bit defensively, since the ski "seemed to be moving" much faster than my Volkls. Then I sort of got into it.

Some people who were in class with me last year said that I looked so good, that did not realize I was the same person.

BUT>>>> I also had an instructor who was really good at the subtlety of skill refinement. I seemed to be able to respond to her corrections rather quickly.
Not to mention the fact that I had spent the prior weekend at Sunday River cleaning up a few technical flaws.

The next day they had me on Salomon Pilot vers. These were 150cm. Turning seemed extremely easy. But since I was in class with a decent teacher, my skills were also improving.

Till the end of the day. Second to last run of the day, going down a sort of steep into a cattrack. I decided to let the skis run straight, to get over my fear of speed.

I wiped out the the freakin cattrack!
MOI!!!!!! The girl who almost never wipes out! WHAT KIND OF DORK WIPES OUT ON A CATTRACK????? :

Then, on the last run of the day.....I wiped out on another cattrack.

I decided that at 150cm, the ski is not that stable at speed, at least for my current skill set.

Day 3, they had me on Nordica Gel drivers. Did not like them on my first run. My instructor told me I was probably still beating myself up for falling the day before. Then, after awhile, I found it was amazingly easy to put those babies on edge.
And then, the weirdest thing, complete strangers coming up to me telling me how beautifully I was skiing. People don't just say this to intermediate skiers.
The caveat is that the Nordicas have a 65 waist. my instructor, who had her alignment done at Green mountain orthotics, told me that anyone with a tendency towards knock knees should be in nothing shorter than 66.

So what's my point? Many of the topics here tend to turn into a debate as to what is the most important thing for good skiing. But I believe there are so many factors that are involved in the process. What's most important, isthat these factors are coherent and cohesive with each other.

[ January 12, 2003, 11:27 PM: Message edited by: Lisamarie ]
post #2 of 19
Wothwhile comments LM. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

With time and development my experience has been that I can much more easily get on a ski and make it work. It used to be that I found narrower waisted racing skis very difficulty and didn't like them. This year I got a second pair (I've now got a quiver ) of racing slaloms that are now like candy to me on the groomed.

What I now look for in a ski (or tennis racquet for that matter) is one that will respond well and thus give me appropriate feedback for positive changes in my skiing. For example, my Pocket Rockets felt great from the start but I recognized I wasn't getting all I could out of them. Over a week or two I felt myself adapting to a more centered fore-aft balance point and my performance with them rose. This change carried over to other skis including the slalom racers when I got them. They, however, additionally reward angulation, are very sensitive to input, and help keep me from getting sloppy (if I get sloppy it is pretty easy to catch an edge and get slapped down by them).

Another issue that I think is understated and not well understood is the binding mounting point. Skis vary considerably in their recommendations for mounting. After skiing the Pocket Rockets I let my daughter test drive them for a day (she subsequently got a pair as well) and went back to my Volant Ti Powers (which I previously had found to be my favorite ski) and was very unhappy on them. My impression was that the mounting point, which was was back, did not let me ski with the kind of balance I found on the Pocket Rockets (or eventually the slalom racers). I would really like to do an experiment and move the bindings up so that the ball of my foot is on the center of the running surface (one rule of thumb that is comonly used) and ski them again but I doubt I will bother.

Because of this experience I am a bit skeptical of the concept of lower level skiers choosing skis based on short term demo experiences. I think they are most likely to choose a ski that rewards current skill level and habits instead of rewarding improvement.
post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally posted by Lisamarie:
...

I wiped out the the freakin cattrack!
MOI!!!!!! The girl who almost never wipes out! WHAT KIND OF DORK WIPES OUT ON A CATTRACK????? :

ME!

I've wiped out on them, onto them, off them, and from them. I've been doodling down cattracks and been on my face/back/side so fast I wondered what hit me. They're the most dangerous part of the mountain, IMHO.

In all seriousness, the fact that you fell a couple of times may indicate that - consciously or unconsciously - you're starting to experiment with active edging a little more. A shorter, more responsive ski will "catch" more quickly if you distribute your weight such a way as to actively engage the edge. This isn't all bad - falls teach us a lot if we let them.

The "girl who almost never wipes out" might be getting comfortable enough on skis to give up total control a little more often. Letting the skis run and feeling the input is a good thing. "Bad" input (like falling on a cattrack) is still very useful in the long run.

Bob
post #4 of 19
OK, in the spirit of true confessions I broke my leg on a cat track a number of years ago. It was covered in very heavy powder and my skis decided to turn one way while my body turned the towards the other. Because it was a relatively slow gradual thing, my binding didn't release before my fibula snapped near the ankle. I was turned off to Marker bindings after that. (BTW if you've got to break a long bone the fibula is the one to pick. It is only a few percent weight bearing, the tibia handles almost the entire load).
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
You both bring up some good points. I did notice, that after a few moments of hesitation with each ski, it became a fun game to figure out what dynamics of my skiing needed to be emphasized to suit that particular ski. I almost wonder if it would be a good idea to occaisionally demo, even if you do not intend to buy. Just to break out of the norm.

Bob, you are probably correct about my being a bit braver about using my edges. This is something I have been working on!

[ January 13, 2003, 11:24 AM: Message edited by: Lisamarie ]
post #6 of 19
It takes practice to make short skis stable while running flat. But it's worth doing.

[ January 13, 2003, 04:15 PM: Message edited by: milesb ]
post #7 of 19
It's easier to fall on a cat track or other flat area than on the steeps, in my own experience. Edging on steeper areas is easy, while edging on flat areas is more difficult, and the angle used to edge can tip a person over. One very likely place for me to embarrass myself is right beside the lift line!
post #8 of 19
P.S. Yes, Lisamarie, demoing skis ALL THE TIME is a way of life for some people.
post #9 of 19
'on your left', 'on your right' is all I hear on cat tracks because I, and Ann and my friends NEVER let the skis run straight on a cat track.

You are asking for a fall when ruts, even gentle ruts steer your skis and deflect one in the direction it is going which may be diverging from the direction you are going.

Second, never stop skiing until you are completely stopped. So may skiers when they get on the flat outruns to the lifts or on a cat track RELAX, a very dangerous thing to do. Ski the darn thing, you are still moving, so ski it.

...Ott
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Saints Be Praised, Ott and BLESS YOU!! For once, one darn aspect of skiing has been intuitive. My instinct on the tracks is to practice very short turns, or just transfering my weight from edge to edge, but people are always telling me to let the skis run. It feels awful to do that!
post #11 of 19
Ott Gangl: Second, never stop skiing until you are completely stopped. So may skiers when they get on the flat outruns to the lifts or on a cat track RELAX, a very dangerous thing to do. Ski the darn thing, you are still moving, so ski it.

DM: Good advice Ott. It isn't over until you come to a full stop. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
Cat tracks can be one of the most dangerous places on a ski hill.

Also beware LM that short skis with big sidecuts can and will deflect right out from underneath so fast you won't know what hit you.
post #12 of 19
Si:
Quote:
Because of this experience I am a bit skeptical of the concept of lower level skiers choosing skis based on short term demo experiences. I think they are most likely to choose a ski that rewards current skill level and habits instead of rewarding improvement.
Bravo Si, I have said this repeatedly in this forum over the last four years.

Lisamarie:
Quote:
You both bring up some good points. I did notice, that after a few moments of hesitation with each ski, it became a fun game to figure out what dynamics of my skiing needed to be emphasized to suit that particular ski. I almost wonder if it would be a good idea to occaisionally demo, even if you do not intend to buy. Just to break out of the norm.
Yeah, thats not a bad idea if for no other reason than to upset the norm. [img]smile.gif[/img]

[ January 13, 2003, 07:22 PM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #13 of 19
>...because I, and Ann and my friends NEVER let the skis run straight on a cat track...

Ditto.

Another possibility is to use the cat track to practice your fore-aft balance by doing the first hundred yards or so in a very shallow (but definitely edged) fast sideslip to one side, and then another hundred yards sideslipping fast while pointed a few degrees to the other side. As you get better, you will be able to keep yourself in an extremely narrow corridor while keeping your speed absolutely constant.

This is an *extremely* useful skill to have in your bag of tricks for lots of other situations on the mtn as well (including some PSIA exams).

Obviously, the above only technique works the best on snow that you can easily skid on (ie, normal groomers through ice). If you are in deep powder / oatmeal mush / crud / cut-up / etc. and absolutely have to be on a cat track, speed probably won't be a problem, but if it is, nobody is going to take points off if you do whatever you need to get where you are going (eg, opening up a bit of a wedge, etc.).

FWIW, under heavy snow conditions, if the terrain permits, one of my favorite cat track moves is to build up speed and climb the uphill wall a foot or so to slow down a bit, then release your edges and carve/drop back onto the cat track. Repeat as needed. From the side, your path will look like a sawtooth. The benefits of this approach is that you are mostly carving not skidding (so you can use it in heavy snow with impunity), most people are in the center of the cat track, so you are well away from them, and you can always pull an abrupt stop (eg, if someone falls ahead of you) by letting your tips simply ride up the uphill edge of the track (assuming it isn't a vertical wall).

Tom / PM

PS - Don't let BobB know I recommended the 100 yard sideslip, because its real name is "skiing the fast line slow" [img]tongue.gif[/img]

PS#2 - Also, don't try the 100 yard sideslip with your skis pointed towards the fall-away side of the cat track until you first get very good with them pointed into the mtn.

PS#3 - When you get very good and decide to let your ski tips hang off the downhill side of the cat track as you merrily sideslip away, make sure you pay attention to what's coming up ahead of you. I've seen more than one hotshot get themselves completely ensnared in crash netting while showing off their sideslipping skills this way. [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]
post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally posted by milesb:
It takes practice to make short skis stable while running flat. But it's worth doing.
WOOHOO! great point, miles. the next step is to find that even-balance point and make it work for you while moving downhill on a mild greenie... full pivots at the ankles to swing the tips & tails back & forth -- windshield wipers. you can't do that unless you know how to ride the ski perfectly underfoot, and that perfect underfoot is what will let you ride them in a figure 11 (albeit slightly modified)

this all comes back to the essential point -- most of the time, it's not the ski but instead is the skier. too many people are impatient and won't bother checking FIRST with the ski to see what kind of input the ski wants to perform Task A, what for Task B, which for Task C, et cetera.

Lazy humans! [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
"FWIW, under heavy snow conditions, if the terrain permits, one of my favorite cat track moves is to build up speed and climb the uphill wall a foot or so to slow down a bit, then release your edges and carve/drop back onto the cat track. Repeat as needed. From the side, your path will look like a sawtooth. The benefits of this approach is that you are mostly carving not skidding (so you can use it in heavy snow with impunity), most people are in the center of the cat track, so you are well away from them, and you can always pull an abrupt stop (eg, if someone falls ahead of you) by letting your tips simply ride up the uphill edge of the track (assuming it isn't a vertical wall)."

They taught us to do something like this at Whistler, where the cattracks are somewhat like being between Skylla and Charibdis {sp?} On one side, you have boarders jumping of the wall. On the other side, you have a cliff. YIKES!

For that reason, on Blackcomb, instructors end up putting even begining students on the Blues, which are really wide. There are some pros and cons to this. The pros: you are a first year skier, skiing blues in Western Canada. Ego gratification.
The cons: You do not really have the technique to ski this correctly, and keep in mind, I do not believe that just because you can get down SAFELY, does not mean that you are skiing in good form. As a result, you can sometimes develop defensive habits, if you do this too often.

I think there can be a benefit to occaisionally demoing to emphasize different aspects of technique. But if you demo a few different ones, you need to work out a logical sequence. For example, the Volants, from the first day, were stable at higher speeds { keep in mind "higher speeds" for me is a relative term} and relatively easy to steer and edge.

I only found out AFTER I came back that the Salomon Vers 10 have a reputation for being UNSTABLE at higher speeds. So after I had finally built up confidence to go faster, BOOM!!!
On the other hand, they responded well to steering.
Then, the Nordicas were excellent for getting up on edge. So the sequence was a bit off.

I do think that in the long run, you need to have some insight as to how much improvment is because of the ski or boot itself, or how much of it is based on the fact that you have worked very hard to improve some specific skills.

This particular ski program did video on the first morning, but paradoxically, we did not get to see it till the 3rd day.

My instructor told me that some of the errors that I may see in the video had been corrected by that afternoon, and by the 3rd day, they were totally irrelevant.

So, one could ask, did I improve so quickly because of the ski, or the instructor? Or is it the fact that I had spent 3 days the weekend prior to the ski spree being extremely focused on some things that needed improvemnet? Probably all of the above.

Maria, who runs the program, says that women in particular have a tendency to give ALL the credit to their equipment, and take none for themselves. She likes to ask people if she would slide their skis down the hill without them standing on them, would they carve perfect turns?
post #16 of 19
Quote:
I only found out AFTER I came back that the Salomon Vers 10 have a reputation for being UNSTABLE at higher speeds. So after I had finally built up confidence to go faster, BOOM!!!
Sorry LM, but you confuse me here. Did the information unsettle you, or did you actually travel the 35-40mph necessary to implicate the instability?

BTW, for future reference -- When skis are said to be unstable at high speeds, the "high speeds" doesn't mean relative to the skier, it means objective high speeds. The Salomon X-Scream Series has a rep for being "floppy" at high speeds, but those speeds are VERY high indeed, compared to the top speed that 95% of skiers actually ever see themselves while traveling on snow.

I guess I'm trying to say, don't let information get in the way of experience. If TO YOU, the ski did not FEEL unstable at high speeds, then don't listen to someone else's appraisal of the ski. It's how it performs for YOU that matters most.

[img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Actually, the Salomon was the one that I did feel was unstable, and that was confirmed after the fact.
But again, it gets back to my original point. As you have pointed out, high speeds means really high speeds. So that may not have been the issue. Perhaps 150cm. borders on being too short for me. Or, was it 4:00 pm, and everything is getting scraped off, I've been concentrating all day, then I let my brain relax. Woops!

The point I'm making, is what I have seen happen recently in these discussions, is some people tend to get really polarized as to what will either enhance good skiing, or what would percipitate "bad skiing". The boot fitters will say its all in the boot, the guys in the ski shop who want you to buy the ski while you are there will say it has nothing to do with the fact that you had a good instructor, its the ski that does the skiing for you, the instructors will say its the instructors, and then there's those obnoxious fitness pros that always talk about alignment and core stability!

I think, in order to make improvments, people have to look at the big picture, and have an understanding as to how all these elements work in concert with each other.
I do of course realize that this is counter intuitive to many people's tendency to look for a "silver bullet", but IMHO, its a more realistic approach.
post #18 of 19
Hey LM,

Anyway, I am with Bob Peters, I hate the catwalks, they are dangerous , often too narrow, with all types of skiers. Beginners, to the "experts" that schuss the edge of the catwalk and pass by at unnerving speeds. Also, on one of your falls, it was at the end of the day, you were tired, so that may have had something to do with it, along with trying to ski too fast.

Frankly, I would rather download in a gondola [if possible ] than deal with beaten up catwalks at the end of the day. Catwalks are places where you need to be in ABSOLUTE control. Often they are tiring, and can quickly drain what reserves of energy you ahve left. I have even side sliped portions of them, when it is too icey. They are not the place to let skis run, unless you are confident that you are in COMPLETE control, and that you know no one else is around that could become injured.

As to your ski length, that decision is of course up to you. I cannot believe that you do have problems with a 160 ski. 150's seem a little short for you, unless of course you are short and a light weight [under 120 lbs and 5'4",] but you have never given that impression.

So in summary, a 160 ski should be fine. If you are going to compete in rapid gate racing,[this is NOT NASTAR,] you will need a 150 for that purpose only. Soon,the world cup women slalom racers will have to use at least a 155 ski. Besides, a realy short ski, provides no forgiveness, if you get in the backseat, which at times we all do.

Finally, you are not a DORK, for wiping out on one of the most dangerous areas of a ski slope. This assumes that you have learned the lessons of the Catwalks, which I beleive you have.
post #19 of 19
Totally agree about the hazards of cat tracks - a couple of random thoughts -

PMs suggestion about carving up the sides and dropping gently back on to the tracks is a good one. I find it particularly useful on off-piste traverses - you know, a long traverse gets you into an off-piste bowl, its been skied before so there is a path two skis (or a board wide) that is getting faster and faster, just carve into the powder and drift back to control speed.

On the topic of fiercest cat tracks - does anyone know the track into the Courchevel couloirs? Its great fun (?!?). It runs along a knife edge ridge with couloirs on both sides - picture a track a short skis length across with drops on both sides. The best skiers tend to wedel to control speed (takes some guts, catching an edge would be interesting). This tends to create moguls with only one line - fall-line or fall-off. You often see even very good skiers resorting to a desperate looking wedge to get across. After that the couloirs are light relief!

I often think that the resort uses it to put off the overconfident...

J
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