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My third day on skis (long)

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Yesterday I had the chance to ski a half day for what would probably be my last day of the season so I jumped at it. The conditions were fair, with the snow slightly on the slushy side because of the exceedingly warm weather.

A brief recap of my prior two days: day 1 - Elan PSX learning skis 133. I felt like a stud. Skiing parallel, making turns. The short length was problematic though. Day 2 - a pair of borrowed straight Olins, 190. I felt like a chump. Could only effectively turn to my right, felt very unstable.

I got rental skis, partly because many people here urged me to hold off on skiing on my Merlins and mainly because I haven't had a chance to have the local shop adjust the bindings' DIN level, which are currently set a little below "bone-break" stiffness (>10). The rentals were Elan SCX 183s and the boots were these rear-entry Salomon abominations with no inserts. The first thing I noticed when I put on my gear was how loose the boots felt, no matter how tight I made them. I literally had to lift my foot half an inch before the ski would disengage from the snow.

Just to make sure my first day wasn't a fluke, I tried the bunny slope first. No problem with the longer skis. Next I tackled an easy blue. A little dicey on my first run, but getting the hang of the balance on my second. Still skiing parallel. I decided to spend the rest of the day on moderate and difficult blues. Here are some of the things I learned:

- When I had trouble turning, I remembered something I saw on Harald Harb's website - "tip the light inside ski onto the toe edge". It's the only thing I remember from his site, but it did wonders for my turns at the beginning of my day. However, once I went to some steeper terrain it didn't help very much.

- Had a little trouble with getting behind my skis. Then I tried countering, similar to what is described on Al Hobart's site as the "gorilla turn". This helped tremendously in keeping the outside ski back thus remaining centered or slightly ahead, in addition to being angled at the hip and in an anticipated position for the next turn.

- When cruising on easy terrain, it was very simple and easy going from edge to edge - just shift my weight from one foot to another. But on more difficult and steeper terrain, it wasn't so easy. I had to do some weighting/unweighting by pushing off my old outside foot at the end of turns. Or sometimes, I used a small bump in the snow to switch feet.

- The pole plant. On my previous days, I tried to keep my outside hand as far forward as possible to help steer around the turn. Yesterday, I found that it was more effective and smooth to gradually swing the outside hand around progressively through the turn. Hand starts at my side at the beginning of the turn, it slowly comes around in the middle and finally end up in front for a plant.

- Turning on steeps (still on the blues though). I had a lot of trouble with this in the beginning and finally found a way to turn. I had to reach out and down, well in front for the next pole plant. This assured that my weight was going downhill. That was by far the most crucial breakthrough, to reach out and down and aggressively make the plant. However, on the run when I first had this revelation, I hit my chin on the top of the pole coming around, right as I was making the plant. That hurt real bad. I almost knocked myself out. Cold.

- Steeps continued - once my skis arced past the fall line, I had to angle sharply at the hip to get the edges into the snow (this also helped keep my chin safely away from the downhill pole), weight/unweight my skis for the next edge and aggressively reach out and down for the next turn. I found that it was imperative to keep a steady rhythm to smoothly make turns. Any break in rhythm would just throw me off. My thighs were burning bad.

- The uphill ski and how to keep from doing the splits. I intially had this problem turning on the steeps - my downhill would be edged down from my body, my uphill would be edge uphill somewhere. So I found that if I were to draw a line straight down from my center of mass into the snow, I had to keep my uphill ski at least downhill from that point. Kind of obvious, but it took a couple of runs for me to realize.

- A word about the equipment. The SCX was very easy to turn but felt very unstable. I would be going very fast, then I would edge the ski, pressuring forward to make the turn. There was a significant microsecond delay before it would start turning. Even worse, the ski would bend very sharply and make a sharp turn, then would bounce back straightening the turn and then bend, etc. It felt very chattery at high speeds. I think I need a ski with a more gradual flex pattern, something stiffer. I might actually give my Merlins a try if I get the chance to ski again this season. The rental SCX was just too floppy.

- Finally, fatherhood makes one fat and out of shape.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by ajax (edited April 16, 2001).]</FONT>
post #2 of 12
The next time you are renting boots, spend a few minutes with the adjustments and if they don't fit take them back to the counter and get a different size.

And, as you are aware........ it's time to buy boots.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Actually, I do have a pair of boots which I haven't worn on the slopes yet. A pair of almost new Nordica Grand Prix Racing boots (that I got at a steal) which fit great with inserts. It's just that many people on this forum told me to hold off on using the boots until I got a little better.

Considering how floppy those rentals felt, I might try the GPs next time. The increased control might be a welcome relief.
post #4 of 12

Am I assuming correctly that you have your own boots with custom footbeds, and that you are properly aligned ?

If not, this is something to consider, and the sooner the better, while your feet are still in shape from this present ski season.

This all could lead to some realy.......

Happy Happy skiing next season.
post #5 of 12
Ajax- It seems you are on the right track! That Harold hard twist is called the phantom move. Why it didn't work on a faster slope is because the snow was heavy and wet. it will still work but be a little more agressive with it, like lift and twist inward just a bit more. Your pole plants are doing fine. Make sure you don't have too long a pole! Keep reaching with the pole. And do a touch and go instead of a hard pole plant. This means you barely tap the pole on the snow as you go into your turn. if you plant hard at a reasonable speed, the pole goes by you so fast it pulls your shoulder back, then you're sitting in the 'backseat'. This brings the tips out of the snow, and you can't turn!
PSX are soft. Go to your Merlins now. The Merlin is a fine intermediate ski. You can handle them. You are advancing too fast to be on entry level skis anymore!
AJAX- Try this- Arms are half bent, thumbs pointing downhill, keeping your hands half way between your waist and shoulders. Do this on a moderate hill first. Don't worry, this won't make you look like a beginner at all. Notice how steady the tips of your skis are. Now, bring your hands down to your sides. Notice now how the tips seem to be floating around on you! Now, go back into teh above mentioned position. Notice how the tips suddenly came right back together! Neat huh?!!! This isn't the whole solution, but it does help keep you slightly forward. many times we properly have our shins against teh tongue of the boot, but we are still 'sitting back' and don't know it!
If your new boots are the proper fit, use them, but get them deflexed. Too many people, especially men, think they need a racing boot. They think a stiffer boot like this will make them ski better. Also they think they are 'cool' if they have a racing boot.
FACT- Racing boots are for racing. The stiffness is needed for the higher speeds at 50 mph and higher for the stiffer rebound action to work properly. Without this higher speed and the forces involved the stiffness doesn't allow you to get forward very well. Also, the rebound effect of the boot rebounds too fast and too much, throwing you into the back seat. I've been through this myself. The stiffest boot I have seen so far is a flex index of 150. My Salomon SuperForce Performa 9 Equipes had a flex indew of 115! They were like steel. I explained the problems I was having on the hill to my boot fitter. The first thing out of his mouth was, "Let's deflex these puppies." This made a world of difference in my skiing. I am an advaced skier. Been skiing since the 5th grade. I'm 55 now. Before the deflex I looked like a low intermediate again. Afterwards I'm back to where I was years ago when I had softer boots. I can now ski the way I know how.

FACT- Today's shaped ski requires a softer flexed boot.
Reading the other posts here these guys ae giving you very good advice. They are excellent skiers and know their stuff. Heed their advice and try this or that on the hill. See what works for you.
If you wish, e-mail me at jyarddog@spiritone.com This is so we can talk at length without my hoging the thread here. I tend to be a motor mouth sometimes.
I will send you an article I wrote on how to wax and tune your skis. It's very detailed, telling you what you need at the store to detailed instructions and step by step procedure on how to get your skis ready. It's quite a process yet it's the basics. There is so much to the art of waxing and tuning. This will make your skis glide easier and be more controlable.
I have other tips to help too. I would also like to hear from you with any tips you have learned so far. This way I can help others as well.
I am a teacher; I sell skis etc at Gartsports in Beaverton, Or. I am Marker certified in mounting skis.
It's great you found this website. The people here are a cut above most! They are mature, regardless of age, helpful, and a great sense of humor- except when it comes to my jokes! hahahaha!
Where do you hail from? I ski at Mt. Hood where the snow is known as Cascade Cement!
Hope to hear from you. Bob

Life's a pain... then you nap. Cat philosphy
post #6 of 12
Welcome back, Ajax. I was wondering how you were doing with the transition from snowboarding to skiing.

As for you equipment, I think you should just go ahead and start next season on the Merlins and your boots. You may find that the boots are a little too stiff and uncomfortable (a lot of racing boots are), but they'll give you a lot more edge control than any rental. The skis may be long, but from what I remember you're a big guy, so that may be the ticket for you.

Here's my advice: Next season spend the first day getting used to the skis again. Stick to easy trails and concentrate on smooth turns of varying size to get the feel again. The second day on the slopes get a lesson. Picking of tips here and there and trying to apply them out of sequence and context can lead to slower progress. I can explain a certain technique ten different ways, but if you don't have the background you might not understand any of them or you might not be at the point to effectively apply them.

You're beyond the snowplow, more based on your experiences on the snowboard than on skis, but where exactly are you? I can assume from your descriptions that you do a standard intermediate skid to control speed. Nothing wrong there, when you consider you've been on skis 3 days. I know a lot of guys who have skied for 10 years and still skid every turn, thinking they are skiing well. What is generally a snowboarder's concept of carving is a what a skier considers a skidded turn. It's another tool and another step. The skidded effect almost disappears the faster and straighter you go, which leads a lot of people to assume their technique is correct, but the smaller the turn the more they notice the skis sliding sideways. While it does achieve the desired effect (turning or stopping) to some degree of accuracy, it is less efficient and less precise than a turn that makes effective use of the edges. Constant skidding wears you out quicker, which is something to consider for those of us out of our 20s. A good instructor could analyze your skiing and help you progress past this to a more controlled and efficient style. I know lessons cost a bunch, but they usually result in more time spent on the mountain skiing well and less time spent in survival mode.

Congratulations on your progress thus far, and keep trying to improve. If you need a little inspiration for next Fall, Lito Tejada-Flores' Breakthrough on Skis videos always help put me in a good mindset just before the season starts. While probably not the most technically correct skiing demonstration, it's a lot better than watching extreme skiing videos looking for tips.

Have fun and good luck next season!
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the advice.


Hopefully I won't have to have my boots deflexed. They seem to be pretty flexable going forward but they're stiff side to side. I'll see what the shop says.

Maybe you can post your tuning/waxing tips here. There doesn't seem to be much activity going. Nevertheless, my email is ajax_sf@yahoo.com

Alaska Mike-

I agree with you that the vast majority of snowboarders cannot carve. However, I spent a lot of time learning how to carve. I can lay out some pretty radical carves, get pretty close to horizontal, with virtually no lateral travel.

I certainly hope that I'm carving on skis. I actually find that it's easier to carve that to skid turns. Maybe not technically easier, but it takes less effort. You to understand that I am in terrible shape. I just didn't have the energy to take my outside ski and force it across the direction of travel. I consciously tried to ride the arc and transition smoothly to the new stance foot coupled with a weight shift to the inside of the new turn.

However, while I seem to have no problem getting my skis to the outside and laying some clean arcs on easy blue terrain, on steep blues/black terrain my turns start looking more windshield wipery. I guess I could carve these steeper parts but I'd pick up some serious speed. I'm not really afraid of going fast but at Kirkwood, you don't go very far before you reach converging trails. I just know that the ONE TIME I decide to open it up and scream across those areas, there's gonna be SOME guy who decides he wants to ski/board straight across the trail and take my head off. Any advice?

I'll look into Lito's videos. Right now, I have a couple of Scot Schmidt videos that I watch almost every day. He just has the most beautiful, most effortless technique. I always pick up something new. It's inspiring.

I think I'm going to take up inline skating to do some off-season training. Has anyone else done this? Is it worthwhile?
post #8 of 12
Alaska Mike gave some great ideas there! Notice his comments about your hands and poles? That goes along with what I was saying about hand and arm position.
It's always tough with many converging trails. Be aware of your periferral vision so if someone comes ripping out of an adjacent trail you can take evasive action because you know he won't! <G>
You say your boots are stiff side to side. That is good. These are latteral boots instead of rotational boots. If you deflex them, they will still be stiff side to side. It's the forward flex that gets softened up.
I can't post the was thing here. It's four pages long. I tend to explain every detail. In college I continued my Judo classes. part of our term assignments were to write down every move in such detail that if our teacher wanted to know how to do a move, he could read our essay on it and learn how! That was a toughy, explaining what all the muscles are doing etc.
I'm out of shape too. I think in line skating would be a good off season activity. Gawd! There's more money to spend! Maybe I'll find some old metal skates you clamped on to your tennis shoes with a skate key. Anyone remember those death traps? They always came off when you hit mach 2!

Life's a pain... then you nap. Cat philosphy
post #9 of 12
Practice completing your turns- that's the key to slowing yourself. It's easier to carve a shallow turn than a deep, round one, but the end result is increased speed. Big, fat, s-shapes on the hill are what you need to effectively control your speed. After you master that, pretty much anything at most resorts is manageable.
Forget about planting your poles. At this stage keep your hands in front of you instead of at your sides and forget about using them. Your hands weigh more than you realize (being mostly bone), and coupled with the poles make excellent outriggers. Being aggressive with them at this stage can lead the body to develop countering positions that are not only unnatural, but counter-productive. Develop the quiet upper body and proper edging technique. Once that's mastered, add a gentle pole TOUCH to signal the end of a turn and the start of another. Sking is all about what happens on the snow, not what happens above it. North Americans usally focus more on the upper body to make things happen, and it's reflected in our sports (basketball, baseball...). However, in skiing the lower body is what makes things happen while the upper body remains relatively sedate.
Lito's 1st and 3rd Breakthrough on Skis videos would probably be the most useful to you. The first explains his basic technique and the third just has the best footage to illustrate it. They aren't a magic bullet to expert skiing, but they point you in pretty much the right direction. His teaching style and website are a little "Zen and the Art of Skiing", but I find it useful.
post #10 of 12
BobB - Thank you for the correction on boots. Perhaps my main problem with my boots was the lack of volumn thereby numbing my feet into terrible, and I mean terrible pain. Perhaps I didn't need them deflexed.
They are Salomon Superforce Performa 9 Equipes with a flex index of 115. Before deflexing I had skied with former instructors who told me I ski very well; good hip positioning, edging, etc. But the combination of pani/numbness and a stiff flex would rebound me into the back seat when I hit heavy snow. There's quite a forward lean on these boots but the rebound effect would throw me backwards even when I was ready for it. They are now deflexed noticeably, but I can instantly sense my balance and weight transfer and the effect on my skis. Would a flex of 70-90 be appropriate for most advanced skiers? Is 115 flex desirable for non-racers? I don't advocate a mushy boot. I see the wisdom in the transfer of what the body/leg does to the boot and then to the ski. The less loss of energy tranmitted the better, but 115? <G> I still wonder about the use of a race boot if we aren't racing.
When I sell boots I always try to match the boot to the customer's ability. I therefore ask a lot of questions. it sets some off until they realize I have their intersts at heart - not just trying to "sell up" as they say in retail. Bob

Life's a pain... then you nap. Cat philosphy
post #11 of 12
I guess I gave the wrong impression about Lito's videos and how I use them. He does say one thing then do another, but some of the skiers in his videos seem to have proper form (to me, at least).
What I thought Ajax would get out of the videos is a model of a round turn shape with a clear explanation of why a ski turns. I was hoping a qualified instructor could then turn that information into a solid turn.
post #12 of 12
By the way, I was told today on a lift that next year's race boots are going to be a softer forward flex (Atomic was the brand under discussion). Could this be related to that comment about softer-flexing boots? Anyone know anything about this?

~Michelle H.
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