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How do you make a perfect turn?

post #1 of 59
Thread Starter 
Since Barnes probably has blue balls by now from holding this in....

[ June 11, 2002, 12:58 PM: Message edited by: milesb ]
post #2 of 59
First you have to define "perfect". Then you have to define "turn". Then you may even have to firm up your definition of "make", just in case it is confused with "ski" or "generate" or "produce" or "show". Then you need to ask AC for several GB of space on the server to accommodate all the theories on making the perfect turn. AC may even have to go bankrupt to host the tons of video on various perfect turns.

Seriously, I doubt that the perfect turn can be described in words. In fact I doubt it exists. I doubt that even Mr. Barnes, who is great with the written word, can describe the perfect turn. When aesthetics must be judged, there is no "perfect".

Maybe we have to start talking about efficient turns, good-enough turns, expert-like turns, situation specific turns, feel-good turns. Maybe we need fuzzy logic for this stuff. In other words, we need to describe a turn that is "optimum" in the sense that some set of goals are obtained while observing a simultaneous set of constraints. There, that should be easier!

[ June 11, 2002, 02:29 PM: Message edited by: TomB ]
post #3 of 59
ya change directions without fallin' down!
post #4 of 59
maybe How do YOU initiate YOUR Perfect Turn, with an accompanying sequence of events.

post #5 of 59
First you'd have to assume that it was important.

Second you'd have to assume that any of us has done enough of them to have any idea how it happened or with such certainty that the turns were really, truly perfect, or merely excellent or good.

But if you want conjecture, I'm sure you will get plenty of that!
post #6 of 59
Since I do not accept the premise of "pure carved turns" or "parallel turns"...."perfect turns" also do not exist!
True, you must establish defined parameters...there are alot of ugly goals in hockey...off the rim and in ain't like nothin but net!
I have never heard a winning run in World Cup described by it's author as perfect.
post #7 of 59
Originally posted by Robin:
ya change directions without fallin' down!
So, you think a one-liner is going to cheat us out of several pages of finely crafted detailed exposition, eh? No way! Fer starters, ya better define which sort of "direction" yer talking about:

a) "the direction you are facing" (bzzzzt! WRONG!)

b) "the direction you are going" (Yeaaah!!!)

(...as if everybody didn't know this already...)

From there, you can move on to defining "falling down". After all, I hear this is what good turns are supposed to feel like.

Tom / PM

PS (in edit) - Whoops - didn't see TomB's earlier Clintonesque "define all words" post. Great minds and all that ...

[ June 11, 2002, 03:47 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #8 of 59
Hey, I'm a man...I don't even read directions...I will defer all flipancy and allow the melee to ensue!
post #9 of 59
A PSIA examiner told me this year that he liked my short swing turns on the steeps and my basic and advanced christies, but he said I need to improve my wedge turns and he warned me that my open parallel turns were barely passable. Can anyone tell me how I can go about perfecting my turns? :
post #10 of 59
graagh. Open Parallel, I can't do them for toffee and don't even understand really what they're all about. Wedge Christies used to be the big mystery, now I reckon it's open parallel.

Shaped skis make it hard to ski un-dynamically, it's almost an effort of will to not-edge.
post #11 of 59
Geez--I thought you'd never ask....!

(I did not set out to write an "epic" post, and I apologize for not having time to make this shorter! But there should be plenty to discuss and argue about here.... If you want the "simple answer," skip to the summary. For detailed background explanation, please read on!)

Seriously, I doubt that the perfect turn can be described in words. In fact I doubt it exists. I doubt that even Mr. Barnes, who is great with the written word, can describe the perfect turn. When aesthetics must be judged, there is no "perfect".
Thanks for the compliment, Tom, but I think perfection in turns does actually exist, and it can be defined, described, observed, and understood very simply. While there's always some room for individual style, the fundamentals of the perfect turn are black and white. Or perhaps I should say, "left and right."


First remember that I am defining "turn" strictly and MUCH more restrictively than most skiers do. "Turning" is something I do when I intend to control direction, to go where I want to go. It is an offensive activity, a "go thought." It is to control line. It is NOT to control SPEED. If you answer the question "why do you turn" with something like "to control my speed," then I am not talking about those "turns." I call those things "braking." They are no less important, can also be "good"--maybe even "perfect"--but they are not what I'm calling "turning."

I'm also not, in this discussion, describing "pure carving," which has a different name, and is a different thing too. Turns control line. Braking controls speed. Carving controls neither! (But it's FUN, and it, too, can approach "perfection.")

DIGRESSION, for anyone who has not followed our discussions on these matters in the past (skip it if you'd like):

I am very aware that what I said above contradicts some of the most commonly accepted "conventional wisdom" of the sport of skiing. Most skiers DO turn to control speed--ask them and they'll tell you. Watch them, and their movements and tactics back it up. And their turns, as a result, are FAR from the "perfect turns" I'm about to describe. Most people's "turns" are defensive, meant not to "go that way," but to "stop going this way." That's not why they turn their cars, but for some reason that IS why they "turn" their skis.

Yes, turns AFFECT speed--although all else being equal, a better turn will affect it LESS than a poorer turn. A well-chosen and well-skied line eliminates the NEED for speed control--and skiing this "slow line fast" as a habit is the signature of great skiers everywhere. Likewise, braking (intentional skidding) usually affects direction, so most habitual brakers do have SOME ability to choose their paths--roughly! It's easy for them to get confused and believe that the braking movements they make are actually turns. But they're not! They're made for an entirely different reason than turns, made to control something quite distinct from "direction."

Ask Hermann Maier or Picabo Street or Bode Miller why they turn (in a race course)--clearly it isn't to slow down! They turn to ski the line they choose down the race course. Line is critical in most races--a foot either way can make the difference between champion and chump. So they, by necessity, make the kind of turns that I will describe. Sometimes even these guys aren't so concerned with their line, particularly in high speed downhill races. In these cases, racers too will do something fundamentally unlike the turns I'm describing. They'll go straight, or make "pure carves" when the line is not so critical. They'll hit their brakes when they need to. Most of the time, though, they strive for "the perfect turn."

So there are many other things we can do on skis--well, poorly, or theoretically "perfectly"--besides turning. We'll save those for other discusions.

TURNING is the direct result of the intent to control the direction I'm going, precisely. Any other intent will produce fundamentally different movements and have a different measure of perfection. You may not like my definition, which is fine, but you will have to understand it to make sense of the rest of this post!


Now then, THE PERFECT TURN.... (drum roll, please)

Guys, imagine that you are walking along the street and suddenly an irresistible goddess (ladies, feel free to switch the sexes here, if it makes the point easier to grasp!) off to your left waves at you, smiles, and says "come here." (Yes, it's OK to fantasize for a moment....) What do you do? Think about the movements, in slow motion. Your left foot and leg turn and move toward her. Your arms probably also swing in that direction, leading the direction change and movement of your entire body in the "desired direction." There are lots of movements involved, but they all have one thing in common: everything you move (intentionally) moves toward the goddess. Nothing goes the other way--unless you make a mistake--skid on the loose gravel, for example (or have a change of intent).

How vigorously you make the various movements depends on a few things. How abruptly do you need to change direction to go where you want to go? How badly and quickly do you need or want to get there? These things can alter the timing and intensity of the movements, but they don't change that one fundamental thing--everything you move when you turn left goes left; nothing goes right.

Now, let's imagine that we're walking down the same street when suddenly you see someone to whom you owe money. "Come here," he commands. But you don't want to go that way, this time! What happens? This time it's your right foot and leg--your OTHER foot and leg--that move first, and they move in the opposite direction, AWAY from where you DON'T want to go. And everything else moves away too--nothing moves left when you don't want to go left!

Intent, here, clearly dictates movements. The "go that way" intent produces movements of one type. The "don't go that way" intent produces the opposite. For lack of better terms, I call movements in the direction you want to go "positive movements" and movements the other way "negative movements."

Turns on skis, as I've defined them, are what I do when I want to "go that way." So the appropriate movements of turns on skis are also "positive movements." Negative movements are very simply wrong (for turning)--because they literally move me in the wrong direction. If the only kind of moves you know how to make when that goddess calls "come hither" are negative movements--you are not going to get a date!

Simple so far? Two fundamental kinds of movements, one (and only one) of which is correct for "turning."

How does this actually look, then, on skis? First, what options do you have with your skis? There aren't many--with your feet, you can turn them (pivot them) left and right, and point them in any direction you choose. You can tip them at various angles or flat on the snow. And you can push or pull on them, in various places. That's about it, isn't it? With the rest of your body, you can make all kinds of movements, but they're really only significant as far as how they affect these three things. Instructors traditionally call these three things "rotary," "edging," and "pressure control," and we spend our lives trying to improve these skills in ourselves and others.

So...imagine now that you're skiing along across the hill--a traverse from left to right (downhill is to your left). There's the goddess, down there, to the left. It's not too steep, you aren't already going too fast, and you need a date, so there's nothing to stop you. YOU WANT TO GO THAT WAY! Congratulations--a turn is in order, preferably a good one (you do want to look like an expert, right?) What do you do?

You turn your skis to the left, tip your skis to the left, and move the rest of your body to the left (not necessarily in that, or any other, order).

To turn your skis left, you first have to let go of their grip on the mountain. You have to reduce their edge angle, by tipping them to the left until they release. Probably it was the downhill ski that had most of your weight and provided the main grip on the mountain (it's only natural--a car crossing a hill would have most of the weight on the downhill tires, too). So the turn begins when you release the edge of the downhill ski with tipping movements--"positive" ones, in the direction you're trying to go. Besides, you can't very well tip the UPhill ski down the hill without moving your downhill leg out of its way. So it all begins with a TIPPING movement of the downhill foot and leg to flatten the ski and release its edge.

That might be enough, too. Release that grip, and you're like a bowling ball--gravity will pull you down the hill. Keep tipping the skis into the turn, and the curved left edges will engage, pulling you around like steel rails pull a train. But of course, that bowling ball and that locomotive have no CONTROL of their line, so they're turning, but they aren't really making "the perfect turn." Let's say you REALLY want to get down that hill, and gravity's gentle arc isn't tight enough for you. YOU want to control your line--you can't wait for gravity and sidecut to do it. What do you do? You TURN your skis--as much as you need to.

Your skis point across the hill. You want them to point DOWN the hill, to your left. How do you do it? You can point an arrow to the left two ways (or a combination)--you can move its tip to the left, or you can move its feathered tail to the right. Both result in the same direction of pointing, but one involves POSITIVE movement, the other NEGATIVE. So, like the arrow, "the perfect turn" involves steering the TIPS of the skis INTO the turn. Any movements that push or twist the TAILS of the skis OUT of the turn are negative movements, and are therefore incompatible with the "perfect turn."

What does this mean? Again, you can't steer the tip of the right ski left first, because the left tip is in its way. So again, we have to start the movement with the left (downhill) ski tip, to go left. Turn the left tip left to go left; turn the right tip right to go right--how many times have I said these words here in the Forum?

Now there are several possible ways to turn our skis (besides just letting them turn). We can jerk them both around by turning the upper body, or some part of it, first, in a "one-two" action--the classic technique known as "rotation." We can twist the upper and lower body quickly in opposite directions--known as "counter-rotation." We can jam a pole into the snow and crank our whole body and skis around by pushing on it--the ubiquitous "blocking pole plant." But all these techniques cause the tails to twist out, throwing the skis into a skid. They all involve negative movements. There must be a better way!

The only way you can actively turn the tip of your left ski to the left, without twisting its tail to the right, is to use your left leg and only your left leg. So, just like the movements you made walking toward the goddess, you turn your left foot and leg left to go left. As the left ski turns, you can simultaneously turn the RIGHT tip left, with your right foot and leg. The legs rotate independently of each other, beneath the pelvis and the upper body. Nothing goes right. Positive movements only.

How active should these movements be? The "perfect turn," of course, by definition, allows me to control my turn shape, to make any possible shape or size turn, MY choice. So I make these movements as vigorously and powerfully as they need to be to accomplish the task. It's very much like steering a car with the steering wheel--you turn it as smoothly as possible, as little as possible, but as much as necessary. Sometimes you might even hold it straight, making the turn BIGGER than the "natural" gravity/carved turn. And you even steer your car when you're going straight (except when talking on the cell phone and eating a Big Mac), so "steering the feet and legs" is something that happens continuously, with varying intensity, throughout all "perfect turns."

Let's look at WEIGHT TRANSFER. Conventional wisdom has long held that we "should" ski on the left ski when turning right, and transfer weight (or balance, pressure, or "stance foot" if you prefer) to the right ski when turning left. Here too, skiing is like driving a car--weight moves to the outside in a turn. But has anyone ever told you that you "should" or "must" transfer weight to drive a car? Do you tell your passengers "everyone lean to the right now so we can turn left"? Somehow I doubt it!

What really happens on skis? Let's go back to that left turn from a traverse on a not-steep hill. In fact, let's go all the way back to the example of walking down the street. "Come here" she says. Everything you move, moves to the left. And where does your weight go? To the right foot, of course, immediately, even as you move left, away from it!

Now back to the skis. You release its edge and turn the left tip downhill, and your whole body moves downhill with it. If you do it quickly and accurately, your weight MAY move to the uphill ski--or it may not. If the hill is steep, your balance may remain on the downhill ski as you release its edge and steer it into the turn. As the turn progresses, though, eventually the right ski becomes the downhill ski, and your weight will naturally move there, aided by the centrifugal force that results from the turn--as in the car. So yes, there is a weight transfer in most "perfect turns," if we're balanced, and we allow it to happen.

HOWEVER--if you decide that you "should" transfer your weight to the uphill ski from the start, something else happens. Back to the fantasy: you're traversing again, left to right, balanced naturally mostly on the downhill ski. The Gravity Goddess beckons.... What happens if you "transfer your weight" to the uphill ski? You have to move something--or everything--UP THE HILL--away from the turn, away from the Goddess, in a negative direction, and your chances for a date are the only things that go downhill.

So the weight transfer is a natural outcome of a "perfect turn." It is result, NOT a cause of turns, and not a necessity! Weight transfer results from accurate movements, good balance, and the forces of the turn itself. In some conditions--notably deep powder--the identical movements will NOT produce a weight transfer. Clearly, there are fundamental movement patterns that characterize "the perfect turn," and these often result in a weight transfer, but the weight transfer itself is hardly a fundamental requirement!

Missing this point can have unfortunate consequences, at any level. Yes, because "weight transfer happens," the ability to balance on one foot is an essential skill of the expert skier. But the advice to lift the downhill ski--or even lighten it--before other turning movements, results in negative movements. Of course, the wider your stance, the MORE you have to move uphill in order to balance over the uphill ski. A very narrow stance minimizes the negative effects of an active, "early" weight transfer. But it doesn't eliminate them, and two wrongs don't make a right (or a left).

Furthermore, with either a very narrow stance, or with all your weight on one foot, you lose the important ability to steer your legs independently. The only way you can turn your right tip left when you have all your weight on it is to use your upper body--rotation, counter-rotation, and/or blocking pole plant--or to wait patiently while gravity turns it for you. None of these options, as we've already discussed, represents our "perfect turn."

What about UNWEIGHTING? Unweighting--intentionally lifting your skis off or almost off the snow, usually with some sort of "up" move or hop--accomplishes one thing very well. It makes it easier to twist the skis or displace them sideways into a skid. Since, like a car airborne over a frost heave, we have no control of our direction when we're in the air, unweighting is NOT part of "the perfect turn." And since skidding--as in "skidding off the road"--isn't much help in our quest for precise line control, there are two strikes against any intentional unweighting move.

But there are exceptions (naturally--it was getting too simple). Like a car again, we can only turn so tight. If you HAVE to turn a car more tightly than it's tightest turning circle, the only way to do it is to move the BACK end OUT. And the only way to do that, besides putting it in reverse, is to lift the back end and move it sideways, or lift the whole car and pivot it. Not easy. Not usually desirable. A negative movement. But if you HAVE to do it, if you can't follow "your" line without it....

So it is with skiing, even in the perfect turn. To make a very quick, sharp direction change, we DO have to pivot the skis sometimes. Pivot quickly, then engage the edges to grip. To do that, unweighting helps. The very tight turns that racers sometimes make, especially in slalom, often involve unweighting. It may be subtle, often just a result of "rebound" as the skier releases the pressures of the last turn and the skis and legs spring back. But those who argue "never unweight" and/or "never twist the skis" in a turn, forsake the option of truly tight direction changes.

POLES and the Perfect Turn
Planting the pole on the downhill side may look like a positive movement. But if you put any pressure on it, which way does it push you? The blocking pole plant, which we've already discounted as a way to turn the skis into the turn, also pushes your body the "wrong way." It is a negative movement.

SWINGING the pole down the hill, though, can help lead and direct the rest of the body's movements into the turn. An active pole SWING, with perhaps just a light touch for timing, is appropriate in "perfect turns." Here too, though, it depends on the speed and intensity of your movements. Poles extend our arms, and the pole swing is the skier's version of the arm swing that we envisioned in the walking direction change fantasy. Casual, slow walking may involve no arm swing--I often have my hands in my pockets. But RUNNING brings them out, and the faster I run, the more actively I involve my arms. Skiing is the same. Active pole swings are an affectation at low speeds with gentle direction changes, but they become increasingly important as things get "dynamic."

Pressuring the tip of an edged ski causes it to engage more stongly, and to bend into a tighter arc. Of course, it also causes the TAIL to lose some grip, and to straighten out. So, while we CAN tighten the arc of a turn to some degree by "levering," it does NOT make a cleaner, less-skidded turn. Most "perfect turns," therefore, involve pressure centered over the ski's "sweet spot" throughout the turn. However, maintaining this centered pressure distribution requires a lot of fore-aft movement by the skier! Just remaining in balance on skis, as they speed up and slow down, travel downhill, across the hill, up the hill, around turns, over moguls and through changing condtions, requires vigorous, continuous, and skillful adjustment forward and back. This seems to be a big debating point--should we move forward and back on today's skis, or not? Yes, we move fore-and-aft, but no, we don't (usually) need to shift the pressure on our skis along their length! "Perfect turns" happen in the center, in balance, "cuff neutral" in the boots.

The perfect turn is simple and clear, and it is easy to learn to identify movements that are appropriate, or inappropriate, at any skill level. It is a question of fundamental movement types, not of a stratospheric level of expertise and athleticism. "Positive movements" are the single, defining characteristic of the intent to go where you want to go. To turn left, nothing should move intentionally to the right. While there may be some inevitable skidding, there is no INTENTIONAL skidding in a "perfect turn," from the introductory (wedge turn or basic parallel) level to the expert's dynamic turns. But it is not necessarily a "pure carve" either. Active steering of both skis INTO the turn, throughout the turn, gives the skier the precise control of the direction the skis point, and of the shape of the turn, that DEFINE the "perfect turn."

To boil the technique down to its simplest essence, remember this one simple thought: to go left, turn the left tip left. To go right, turn the right tip right. This simple movement, of course, requires a good, functional stance, and good balance. Because it entails other essential fundamentals, such as releasing the edge of the downhill ski, and because it emphasizes movements at the bottom of the "kinetic chain," this simple little instruction is often enough!. You CAN'T turn the left tip left without first releasing its edge, so "release the edge" may even be an unnecessary instruction!

In PSIA terms, this "perfect turn" is what the "Center Line" of our skiing model depicts, at various levels. It is the movement pattern and skill blend that results inevitably from the intent to control direction, to follow a precise line either of my own or someone else's choosiing. Even a first-time beginner, asked to (try to) follow a curvy line drawn on the flats, will blend rotary, edging, and pressure control skills, weak though they may be, to accomplish the task. And even an expert would not be able to follow that curvy line without the help of all three skills. No one would be able to (or likely to try to) follow that curvy line with "negative movements." No matter how hard you do it, pushing your tails to the right won't move you to the left!

Despite its perfection, the "perfect turn" is only A goal, not THE goal, of great skiing. There are lots of times when I don't care about my line, when pinpoint control of my direction is unnecessary. Cruising down a wide open groomed run, speed is no concern, line is no concern, so I'm free to relax and just play with the mountain and my skis. Pure carved turns--the pursuit of g-forces--let go of the wheel, tip 'em up on edge and let the skis run with no active steering--that's "perfection" in these conditions. But park a snowcat below a roll in front of me, or add a crowd, and my priorities change--I've got to either GO around them--with a "perfect turn", or STOP before I hit them, with "perfect braking." Pure-carving involves simply tipping and balancing on skis--no rotary, and no skidding. Braking is the opposite of turning--it involves all NEGATIVE MOVEMENTS and INTENTIONAL skidding. Great skiing involves mastery of the entire spectrum from pure carving to straight-line braking.

There are many great ways to get down a mountain on skis--but only ONE way to make "a perfect turn!"

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

(PS--by-the-way, neither I nor my description of the "perfect turn" have any connection whatsoever with the American Skiing Company's "PERFECT TURN" (TM) ski school program. If there is any similarity between "my" perfect turns and their "PERFECT TURN (TM)," it is purely coincidental!
post #12 of 59
Bob - As always, this was an exposition of turns that should be understandable by almost anyone. It was almost as if I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on one of your classes/clinics.

However, there are a couple of places where a bit of clarification might be in order so as to not allow any confusion whatsoever in the listener:

1) "...The only way you can actively turn the tip of your left ski to the left, without twisting its tail to the right, is to use your left leg and only your left leg. ... As the left ski turns, you can simultaneously turn the RIGHT tip left, with your right foot and leg. ..."

Early in this quote, you say to use "only your left leg". This implies that it is moved first. However, you go on to say that "you [then] can simultaneously turn the RIGHT tip". To me, the time delay you seem to be describing (albeit small) clearly will result in a small degree of tip divergence. While this sort of motion works as a turn, I don't think you meant to imply that this was required for a "perfect turn". Obviously, it comes down to a distinction between "simultaneous" and "virtually simultaneous", but perhaps there is a way to avoid this sort of expositional problem.

2) "... The legs rotate independently of each other, beneath the pelvis and the upper body. Nothing goes right. ..."

When you say "nothing goes right", I presume you mean, "nothing goes to the right of the skier". In physics terms, I presume this means that you are viewing things in the reference frame of the skier.

If this is the case, and the center of rotation of each leg is directly under the skier's pelvis, then, if the tips go left, the tails *MUST* go to the skier's right. There is absolutely no way around it if a skier does *exactly* what you said (ie, pure rotary & nothing else going on).

To visualize this, just imagine doing a twisting maneuver while standing still on flat, frictionless ice while clicked into a pr of skis. In either a narrow OR a wide stance, if the tips go left, the tails must go to the right.

The only way to keep the tails from going right is to hop up a bit and pivot on them (ie, instead of pivoting under the skier). Again, I know that this clearly is not what you mean. Thus, I think a bit of clarification is needed here as well.

Finally, #3)

"... First, remember that I am defining "turn" strictly and MUCH more restrictively than most skiers do. ..."

I think that this more restrictive definition of an extremely common word contributes to much misunderstanding, and requires a lot of time and reiteration on the part of the instructor to make sure that the student is always on the same page with respect to definitions. As an example, how many times you have had to repeat this distinction, even on this forum of technically inclined skiers.

I think it would be MUCH better if the word, "turn" could be left to its common usage of meaning both "changes in the direction you are facing", as well as "changes in the direction you are moving", but always use specific technical terms or phrases (ugh) for each of the two distinct meanings.

Unfortunately, I can't think of anything more terse than the phrases above. However, all in all, even tho a bit more wordy, in the long run, it may be simpler and more effective to say things like, "...to change the direction you are going, first flatten blah blah...", instead of the shorter but ambiguous "to turn, first flatten...".

Then, when you want to talk about braking moves, you simply switch to, "...OTOH, to change the direction your skis are pointed, in preparation for an emergency stop, jump up and twist them ...". With just a few more words, you avoid this whole problem and I think you'll spend less time in the long run and communicate the ideas better. Obviously, an even better solution would be to come up with two appropriate single words instead of two phrases, but I can't think of any.

In summary, the problem with breaking down a movement into minute pieces (as you have done) is that it encourages/allows extremely literal (almost algorithmic) thinking by the student / listener. Thus, if you make the slightest error or gloss over some detail, they get confused, in part because everything else "sounded so clear".

Instructors in elementary physics courses are faced with exactly the same problem, and as far as I can tell, the only way around this is to be ultra-precise in your explanations and examples (with the appropriate students).

Just my $0.02,

Tom / PM

[ June 12, 2002, 09:11 AM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #13 of 59
Hey Bob,

Make your post required reading for next seasons MA sessions!!! We could have hours and hours of fun.
post #14 of 59
Good Grief! Now that's a post!! Should make the "P" section of the 4th Edition lengthy!
post #15 of 59
Thread Starter 
Wow, Bob, you certainly blew your load on that post! Glad I could be of help.
Tom/PM, I understand what you are saying regarding pivoting the ski around the center, but doesn't that all change when the ski is already on edge and bent? Then the tail does not HAVE to (although it still can) move to the right of the skier. Of course, that has alot to do with snow conditions, and could be an East/West thing..

[ June 12, 2002, 11:16 AM: Message edited by: milesb ]
post #16 of 59
Thread Starter 
Bob Barnes could write a book called "Anyone can be a perfect turner". Actually, I guess he just did.
post #17 of 59
"How do you make a perfect turn?"
I looked up my copy of Nigella Lawson's "Cooking for Skiing and Sex"

In it she says:
"To make a perfect turn, you need three ingredients:

1. The perfect skier
2. The perfect skis
3. The perfect conditions

Once you have all three of these, blend them together effortlessly and with style."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

post #18 of 59
First you need a glove. Insert glove between boots. Ski. Ski fast.

Hmmmm, a graphic may be a better option. See, http://www.harbskisystems.com/olku3.htm this should help even the neophyte become the perfect turner.

Edit. Posted under the wrong identity, again. Arggggghhhhhh!!!

[ June 12, 2002, 12:08 PM: Message edited by: Maddog1959 ]
post #19 of 59
With all due respect, is there some kind of $ per word count program at Epic that I don't know about? I thought brevity was elegant; simplicity, sublime.

The written word is the most inefficient, ineffective tool to use to discuss skiing.
post #20 of 59
Excellent points, Tom. Thanks for taking the time to read and reply to my post. You have described well the pitfalls of oversimplification. There are exceptions, nuances, shades of gray, and even the simplest of words ("turn") can have enough different meanings to make the whole description meaningless. When someone asks for a "simple explanation" of something, he must consider these caveats, and take on the responsibility to fill in the gaps himself, ask questions where it is confusing or seems contradictory, and make a greater effort to understand. As you point out, it is all too easy to pick apart a "simplified" explanation. And it is inappropriate, too. The intent of any simplified explanation is to START a conversation, not to be the "last word," to plant seeds that may well grow into confusion and need pruning and further explanation. When you describe something in "simple" terms, using everyday, imprecise or ambiguous phrases, you have to trust that your audience will try to make sense of it, rather than trying to find the exceptions! The audience has to cooperate and participate in the understanding. Hostile audiences require--and deserve--legalese and detailed, dry, unambiguous explication of everything that they could possibly misconstrue!

So again, I thank you for participating in this quest for the "simple truth"! Let's discuss your points, one at a time.

1) You have described one of my favorite dilemmas! If the movement starts with the inside ski, and the outside ski follows, how can it be simultaneous? Does it entail some degree of tip divergence? And I think you have answered the question--the skis turn virtually simultaneously, and they are virtually parallel. The difference between "zero" and "infinitely small" is, well, virtually non-existent! But I had hoped to avoid the need to explain calculus in this "simple" discussion of skiing!

Perhaps the best all-around exercise for developing the "positive movements" of "perfect turns" is the one known as "THOUSAND STEPS." This exercise involves simply stepping from ski-to-ski continuously throughout a series of turns. It describes the movements of beginners stepping at walking speed around a circle in the flats, or it can be a high-speed, highly dynamic challenge for advanced skiers. The key, of course, is that each step begins with the INSIDE ski tip being turned INTO the turn, FOLLOWED by the outside tip--"left tip left to go left," etc. The skis form the letter "V" with each step, as you look down at them--never the letter "A." Clearly, this exercise involves sequential movements, and creates obvious divergence of the skis.

You'll find "thousand steps" in the bag of tricks of virtually every instructor. But let's take it "a step" farther! "Two-thousand Steps"--the exact same movement pattern, but now the steps are only half the size, and twice as quick. Nothing else changes--"V's, not A's," positive movements only, and the intent is (must be) to GO where you want to GO--not to brake. Got it? How about now "4000 Steps"? Half the size again, and twice as quick. The divergence is now minimal, the time delay between the sequential movements very small. "8000 Steps"--the feet move in a blur, the steps are almost unobservable, the divergence and time delay nearly unnoticeable, and the tracks look round and almost smooth. "16,000 Steps"--and so on--you get the point! Why not "INFINITE STEPS"?

The "perfect turn" IS infinite steps! The "V's" are infinitely small. The time delay is infinitely brief. But the amount and intensity of all the movements remains the same as it was in the original Thousand Steps--just broken into infinitely tiny chunks. The movements and all activities are continuous and smooth, "virtually simultaneous" and "virtually parallel." The question of whether the turn is simultaneous or sequential becomes one for bored mathematicians--it is a moot point for skiing!

2) Nothing went to the right in those Thousand/Infinite Steps to the left, did it? Thousand Steps clearly involve very active rotary movements of the feet and legs--the skis turn with every step, and the tails never twist out. (Yes, as with most descriptions of ski technique, I am describing these movements from the point of view of the skier, not the point of view of a "stationary" observer. But the path the skis take on the slope is obviously relative to the observer. Simple explanations try to steer clear of the need to explain the theory of relativity, unless necessary--but the failure to do so can indeed lead to confusion!) You did NOT need to "hop up a bit and pivot on [the tails]," either, to accomplish these Thousand Steps. But you DO need to be balanced appropriately, not pressing down on the tips. Forward leverage (pressing on the boot tongues) is incompatible with Thousand Steps--and "perfect turns"--as I described in my previous post. Forward leverage causes tails-out skidding.

The center of rotation of each leg is NOT necessarily directly beneath the skier's pelvis. Think of the "V." Indeed, these steering movements I've described rely on appropriate edging movements, balance, and pressure control. You could not, obviously, make a Thousand Step turn flying through space. If we isolate the rotary movements of the legs alone--standing still in one spot, or turning the skis while they hang beneath us on a chairlift--the pivot point is the axis of the leg. But real turns involve a blend of all the skills--we cannot isolate just one and expect the same outcome.

There are two more points to consider here. First, as I said, "perfect turns" are NOT necessarily "pure carves." Largely because of the points you have brought up here, there WILL be some amount of skidding as we apply active rotary movements. But it is never an intentional pushing of the tails. I've been careful to say that "positive moment" involve nothing moving INTENTIONALLY to the right when turning left--but some UNintentional skidding or slipping is often inevitable. The INTENT is to pull the tips into the turn. The outcome is...whatever happens! Minimizing the skid is a product of better skills, better equipment, better tuning, better snow....

Second, this is where the design of the skis comes in! Yes, if we pivot our feet on a point directly beneath them, the tails twist out. But in actual turns, the skis bend, sometimes a LOT, eliminating much, if not all, of the "negative" movement of the tails. This is why we can actually make fairly tight turns WITHOUT active rotary movements of the pressured, edged ski--the "pure-carve" on today's skis is a useful tool. And this is why many instructors today try to de-emphasize the rotary skill. My point is simply that true control over turn shape ("the perfect turn") often requires active rotary--and it may well involve more skidding than the pure carve as a result. You have described why this is!

3) You are right--my definition of "turning" is more restrictive than the typical and conventional understanding of most skiers. That is why I had to explain it first.

But the fact is, I think my definition comes closer to the way most people--skiers excepted--use the term. Over the years, skiers have come to accept some very weird notions of the word "turn"--as evidenced by the mogul skiers who insist that they are "turning" when they ski STRAIGHT down the fall line. Neither the direction they're moving, nor the direction they're facing, varies, yet they get judged on their "turns." We describe "carved turns" and "skidded turns" on skis. But when you're sitting in the ditch off the road in your car, you don't say, "I made a skidded turn"--you say, "I MISSED the turn."

Clearly, most skiers describe things they do on skis as "turns" which they would never call "turns" in any other situation. When I ask students why they make turns (on skis), they almost ALWAYS say it is to control speed--a defensive braking intent which absolutely governs their movements and prevents them from ever making "the perfect turn." When I ask the same students why they make turns in their cars, they NEVER say "to control speed"--they say something like "to go where I want to go." Same thing for walking, running, riding a bicycle, swimming, paddling, ... living! Speed control comes from BRAKING, not turning. And that's what skiers' "turns" become when they make them for speed control, no matter WHAT they call them!

So yes, whether we use different words, or nonstandard definitions of common words, we must explain! There's no way around it. But light bulbs do turn on when skiers realize that their paradigm of "turning" is different on skis than it is everywhere else. And their skiing changes monumentally when they bring these paradigms in line. This much I know from experience!

Finally, you are right about the pitfalls of breaking complex movements into tiny, sequential pieces. Anyone who tries to APPLY these pieces, in a linear, sequential, conscious fashion, is doomed to ski like a robot, at best. This is why I have accompanied all the analysis here with real-life, holistic examples. It is far better to DO (or at least visualize doing) "Thousand Steps" and "Infinite Steps," and THEN analyze them for understanding, than try to understand them first, and then apply the individual steps. You'd never finish the first turn!

While my post was mostly explanatory and analytical, the few actual instructions in it were holistic and simple. "Left tip left to go left." Do it, keep doing it, until it's time to go right! There is, of course, far more to it than this, but this idea is the trigger thought that, if done without excessive analysis, allowing the body to do what comes naturally, will lead to some great turns.

As the great Horst Abraham has wisely warned about technical analysis,

All this will enable you to see clearly as a teacher, but don't forget that for the student, all the contemplations are reduced to just one simple thing:
"Turn both feet."
Thanks again, Tom!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ June 12, 2002, 12:52 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #21 of 59
Hi Who--like I said, read the analysis only if you want to. Understanding the technical nuances of ski technique has as much to do with skiing as analyzing the score of a symphony has to do with enjoying music!

That is to say--for some people, it is fascinating. For instructors (and conductors), it is important. For everyone else, why bother?

Left tip left to go left.... If that's all you need, then skip the rest!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #22 of 59
Maddog--that little animation you linked to, of Harald Harb making turns while squeezing a glove between his boots, shows exactly what I'm talking about!

With the locked-narrow stance, and the lack of independent leg steering, Harb has to wash his tails to the outside, into a gentle skid, to start the "turn." You can't see his upper body, although there is a clue to what it's doing in the uphill hand that drops down into the picture just before the start of each turn, and in the blocking pole plant on the downhill side. These turns begin with upper body rotation and a blocking pole plant, both done subtly, elegantly, and, depending on your definition, "well." They are nice movements, good skiing.

But they are NOT "perfect turns" as I have described them. And Harald would lose the glove, too, if he suddenly had to make a tighter, more abrupt direction change. Harb is as big a fan of the "Thousand Steps" exercise as I am, but even he can't do them while holding a glove between his boots!

Exercises--and "perfect turns"--are not expert skiing. They are merely ingredients....

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #23 of 59
MilesB--good point about the actual application of these isolated movements, combined in real turns with real skis. I discussed the same point in my second post.

And--sorry--you asked for it!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #24 of 59
Ahhh, well,er, I was just trolling for SCSA. I didn't know that little clip had anything to do with the discussion. But without SCSA this discussion will devolve into a serious discussion of turning, not the my dad can beat up your dad stuff we long for during the long months of summer.

I think I'd better shut-up now.
post #25 of 59
post #26 of 59
ALL clips have EVERYTHING to do with this discussion, Maddog!

I knew you were trolling, but it made a good point anyway.

I hope SCSA will join us here soon. And I hope that he will recognize that my use of the word "perfect" is not a value judgement, or even a statement of my own preference! Personally, I only make "perfect turns" when I have to. When I can, I carve. And with today's skis, I "can" a lot more often than I could in the past.

Years ago, a group of instructors from Keystone used to go out at night under the lights, back when few others skied at night. The freshly groomed slopes were all but deserted. We would spend hours trying to leave the deep, narrow, razor-thin tracks of the pure-carved turn. On our long, conventional skis with minimal sidecut, these carved turns were very large radius, and involved very high speeds. They were not "perfect turns," as the ski patrol would have loved to point out, had they been able to catch us! But they were--and are--fun!

Perfect turns are for controlling direction. They are not important when we don't need to control direction, or don't care exactly what line we ski. And their "perfection" is entirely lost when we need to hit the brakes!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #27 of 59
The only perfect turn I remember seeing is the panic turn. You know, the turn resulting from the out of control skier zooming out of the woods, directly into your path. At that point, any turn that places you out of danger from the OTC skier and all other skiers on the slope is a "perfect turn." I don't care if it was carved, feet together, wide stance, one ski, weight back, uphill edge, inside toe edge, tip edge, Texas Uphill, or anything else. It was perfect.

[ June 12, 2002, 04:10 PM: Message edited by: Maddog1959 ]
post #28 of 59
Hi Bob -

Thanks for your detailed response. I guess we both type fast, and I hope these long messages aren't off-putting to others. I'll respond in-line, below.

> ...The intent of any simplified explanation is to START a conversation,
> not to be the "last word," to plant seeds that may well grow into confusion
> and need pruning and further explanation. When you describe something
> in "simple" terms, using everyday, imprecise or ambiguous phrases, you
> have to trust that your audience will try to make sense of it, rather than
> trying to find the exceptions! The audience has to cooperate and participate
> in the understanding. Hostile audiences require--and deserve--legalese and
> detailed, dry, unambiguous explication of everything that they could possibly
> misconstrue!

Absolutely true, and as usual, you came up with a wonderful description of the process, to boot!!!!

However, what I was attempting to do was develop and fine tune the words used in the first presentation of this material so that the students can learn more in their first dose before they have to come back for clarification and elaboration.

> ... You have described one of my favorite dilemmas! If the movement starts
> with the inside ski, and the outside ski follows, how can it be simultaneous?
> Does it entail some degree of tip divergence? And I think you have answered
> the question--the skis turn virtually simultaneously, and they are virtually parallel.
> The difference between "zero" and "infinitely small" is, well, virtually non-existent!
> But I had hoped to avoid the need to explain calculus in this "simple" discussion of skiing!
> Perhaps the best all-around exercise for developing the "positive movements" of
> "perfect turns" is the one known as "THOUSAND STEPS." ...snip description of
> convergence of 10^3 discrete steps to a continuous process...

We are in complete agreement on the mechanics of what's going on. My earlier comment was not to say that there would actually be tip divergence, but to point out (by following the probable reasoning of a student) that if you decide to describe anything first as sequential, and then, without pausing for breath, say its really simultaneous (but very hard to comprehend), it leads the poor unsuspecting student head-first into a/this dilemma.

Unfortunately, while students are busy trying to decipher this puzzle, they probably are stopped totally dead-in-the-tracks with respect to learning, and in the back of their minds, they probably are now also trying to decide whether the instructor is a charlatan talking gibberish to snow them, a Zen-master who teaches by enigmas, or simply an expert trying to teach a difficult concept.

Rather, my earlier comment was precisely to urge you (or open the discussion) to find an approach and language that did not lead directly to this paralyzing dilemma, and I think there is a way to do this.

I would have the student go down an well-groomed, uncrowded very low angle slope, and have them attempt to make turns while keeping their inner ski at a constant (small) diverging angle to their outer ski. Unlike 1000 Steps, no stepping is allowed in this exercise, but they should be encouraged to constantly adjust the edging angle of the the inner ski (active inner leg), and to use a bit of muscular tension in their legs to keep the skis from diverging. They can start out with a light inner ski (to allow it to slide) and a significant divergence angle, but as they refine their technique, they should be encouraged to slowly decrease the V-angle and let the inside-outside weighting ratio go to its natural value (as dictated by centrifugal force). I think the end point of both teaching approaches is the same.

However, in contrast to the 1000 steps, IMHO, the above approach is more intuitive, involves clearer sensations and feedback mechanisms, and, perhaps most importantly, does not force the student to have to deal with something they might perceive as some weird calculus-like mind game. In addition, their "job" is simpler: "Keep the V-angle constant". This is in contrast to the 1000 steps where they start out with lots of diddly / unnecessary motion, and might even get sidetracked into doing a bunch of unnecessary L-R weight shifts (you did say "take steps" didn't you?).

#3) Definition of "turning"

> ...But the fact is, I think my definition comes closer to the way most people--skiers excepted--use the term. ...

We differ in our perception of this. As I said in my previous post, I think most people intuitively understand that there are at least two definitions, and don't distinguish between the two types of "turning" unless they are forced to. FWIW, I decided to go to www.dictionary.com and look up "turn". The first definition is: "To cause to move around an axis or center; cause to rotate or revolve.". On the other hand, you have to go all the way down to their tenth definition to find: "To change the direction or course of: turn the car to the left."

This is why (in skiing instruction) I advocated replacing most instances of this non-specific word with one of the two short phrases: "to change the direction your skis are pointed", OR "to change the direction you are traveling".

I know they seem awfully wordy, but unless someone comes up with something better, I think this is better than trying to temporarily redefine the term for the duration of the lesson (or article - grin).

Unfortunately, I'm running out of time and didn't get to our point #2, "how can the tips go L without the tails going R", but hopefully will do so later this evening.

I'm happy to see that at least two of us think this is a very important discussion. More later.

Cheers & thank YOU,

Tom / PM
post #29 of 59
Deserted night skiing at Keystone! That must have been a LONG time ago! This season, we had weekly training at night, and it was frankly, quite terrifying. Stopping and looking up the hill was one of the scariest things I've ever done, even worse for the trainer! Several of us were hit.

Thousand steps is a brilliant exercise, people reckoned it was for parallel skiiers, but one day I had a chap at around level 2 who was totally leg-locked. Worked with him for 2 days; early on we conceded that he liked being locked, so I taught him snowplough technique to get him turning. Then, light bulb! we did a thousand steps, and bingo, no more leg-lock. After that, I used it with quite a few people at that level, on the flat bottom bit of the bunny hill, and for 80% of them, it transformed their balance, movements and confidence.
The other 20% were highly suspicious of it (but I still reckon it helped them!).
post #30 of 59
I've always liked "mini shuffles" rather than thousand steps...probably similar in intent to Bob's 2000 steps. All good excercises are multiuse, multiskill and have a thousand (or 2000) variations and applications. I just feel shuffling is less static and moves people through neutral better....also less falline hesitation/stay-on-one-foot-for-a-second-and-change-edges-quickly-when-no-one-is-looking-cheating...if'n ya know what I mean!
It is truly a pleasure to watch two talented, verbose (in the nice context)and passionate gentlemen explore a topic together! Hope nobody screws this up...I am enjoying the discourse!
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