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What is the "Epic standard" for turns?

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
This one might help pass the time.

After all this time, I really think there's a certain style that we all consider to be TRUE expert skiing. Although I'm remiss to use the term expert, because I think it's watered down, it works for us, knowing we have a higher definition for it here.

Would anyone care to kick off what I'll call the "Epic standard" for expert skiing? Barnes?

Then, I'm hoping we can bottle it, for future reference.


[ June 09, 2002, 11:57 AM: Message edited by: SCSA ]
post #2 of 41

In an effort to keep this thread on some sort of track, we need to clarify the question. Your title refers to the "Epic standard" for TURNS. The text of your message refers to the "Epic standard" for "EXPERT SKIING." These are two different things. Expert skiers can certainly make great turns. But great turns alone do not make an expert skier!

Turns are but a small part of what expert skiing involves. And before we can have a meaningful discussion of the technique of even the "perfect turn," we need to define first what we mean by "turn." As you know, it has long been a peeve of mine that we skiers tend to describe just about everything we do as "a turn." So we have skidded "turns," pure-carved "turns," "turns" for braking, "turns" for nothing but show, "turns" for avoiding obstacles, "turns" for controlling precisely where we go, "turns" we make just because they feel good, and even the seeming contradiction of "turns" that take us STRAIGHT down the fall line. Every one of these "turns" has its place, experts can do them all well, and every one we could measure on a scale from poor to perfect--to "Epic"!

So--what do you mean by "turn"? Before we can describe HOW to make a perfect turn, we have to agree on what a perfect turn IS. What is its purpose? What is its intended outcome? Why are we making it--what do we intend for it to accomplish? What is it meant to control?

As I've often said, INTENT governs TECHNIQUE. And the only real measure of the quality of a "turn" is its outcome, relative to the intent of the skier who makes it!

To me, it only makes sense to define "turning" as something we do to go where we want to go. A turn is what we do to control DIRECTION--to go precisely where we choose to go. That's why we turn a car, isn't it? That's why we turn when we're walking down the street, riding a bicycle, and pretty much everything else. We do not turn to control speed--that's BRAKING. (We may turn to go uphill, to eliminate the need for braking and speed control--but that is another story.)

Once we narrow the definition of "turning" sufficiently, it becomes very easy to determine what movements are "correct." If the movement helps us go where we want to go, it's a good turning movement. If it doesn't, it isn't--very simple.

But narrowing the definition so also makes it clear that there ARE lots of things besides "turning" that go into expert skiing. Yes, we NEED brakes sometimes. We need to be able to control direction, and we need to be able to control speed. Sometimes we don't need either of these things, so we are free to just play--to use our skis to create sensations purely for fun. The "Epic Expert" skier can do all of these things, well, and at will.

Unfortunately, because "turning" can mean so many things, there is no simple answer to the question "what's the best way to do it?" Narrow the question, though, and the answer can indeed become simple.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #3 of 41
Thread Starter 

Okay, how about we lose the word "turns" and boil it down to expert skiing?

How would we describe what makes up the true, expert skier?

Somewhere you have a check list of what you believe is true expert skiing, how it should be done. You have movements you look for and a certain style that you look for - "That person, is a great skier".

Don't you? Don't others here (vsp, weems, Your Highness, etc.)?

post #4 of 41
Originally posted by SCSA:

Would anyone care to kick off what I'll call the "Epic standard" for expert skiing?
It's it obvious SCSA ? (3% better than you).

post #5 of 41
Expert skiing applies all that's necessary for a given situation, and no more.
post #6 of 41
Grasshopper, when you can snatch the pebble from my hand... >(
post #7 of 41
Thread Starter 
If we can't describe expert skiing, and we can't point anyone to pictures of expert skiing, how then, do we become expert skiers? :

[ June 09, 2002, 04:22 PM: Message edited by: SCSA ]
post #8 of 41
I was speaking for myself, SCSA. When I am skiing at my best, I am efficient: no wasted motion, no noise, just flowing down the hill.

It looks like nothing special, it feels natural, it sounds quiet, it leaves just a trace, it is experienced as both loose and tight, soft and fluid, yet powerful.

My attention is future-oriented, my eyes are looking both ahead and peripherally, and sometimes I have to sing because it feels so good!
post #9 of 41
Personally I think the definition of any expert is somebody who can make a difficult task look easy. I don't think skiing is any different.
post #10 of 41
If you meld the definitions per nolo & milesb, then it's .......

..... when I can ski without leaving tracks ...

post #11 of 41

It is possible, during the winter solstice on a north-facing slope, to achieve this incredible lightness of being.

Oh yes, and the snow has to be cold smoke.
post #12 of 41
You're right, SCSA-
This one is going to be interesting!

I agree with BB that we don't want to evaluate "turns" per se', but as you suggest- the activities of an "expert skier".
As Pete stated, "the ability to make a difficult task, look easy".

Nolo has started the ball rolling by mentioning efficiency. That is very high on my list.
To me, that relates to the use of the body, the equipment, and the mountain.


Effectiveness- are you managing the above in a way which results in achieving certain goals?

Tactics- are you applying the above in a manner which allows maximum utilization of the terrain/ hill?

Style- This you might laugh at, but I believe that an "expert" has a style which is unique to his/her own body type and how they express their passion for skiing!

Can a skier become an "expert" with out passion?

"How can you ski, if you do not feel your soul?" - Jean-Claude Killy


[ June 09, 2002, 07:42 PM: Message edited by: vail snopro ]
post #13 of 41
Expertise is something that is gained via experience.

It is not obtained via video or from a book.

It is not derived in a series of lessons.

Think of it in these terms. Is the average airline captain an expert? He is certainly qualified. An expert is an authority who has dabbled in something for a very long time. Expertise infers YEARS of experience. Perhaps we have hit upon the fatal flaw in any text or video that promises to make a student an expert.

I will be entering my 40th year of skiing this winter. I have taught full time for two years. I have a level II certification via PSIA. I hope to gain my level III certification in the next few years. Will that make me an expert skier?

The answer is no.
post #14 of 41
A while back Weems wrote that there's a continuum of skiing excellence that is beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, and GOOD. I like that he leaves something for experts to aspire to.

Someone else told me that he feels he skis well about 20% of the time, and that he reckons that is within the intermediate range of skill. By percentages, what's an expert? What's GOOD?

What is "expert" but a label, really, granted subjectively by the observer? So an expert is who we say is one.

I think what disturbs instructors is the sense they get that the uninitiated do not have an eye for experts and may emulate the wrong excellence models. Personally, I believe excellence is one of Plato's forms that is inside all of us, and that we have an innate understanding of quality.

I like what Juris Vagners said, "My great aunt in the nursing home can tell out of a field of skiers who the experts are."

It's a good question, SCSA. It asks us to define what we are aiming for. But skiing is a lifelong sport for a reason--you never get as good as you could be, because you're mortal. I imagine Zeus and his children are probably pretty GOOD by now. I doubt I will have the time to get there.
post #15 of 41
Thread Starter 
vsp and Your Highness,

I dunno, I was just thinking (I know that's dangerous).

If a skier shows up and has aspirations of being; great, an expert, a master, whatever label we come up with, it seems to me they have nothing to point to. And even worse, an instructor can't easily reference anything either. There's Harb's system and I think it does well to point out what expert skiing is. And, I think Harald is an excellent "model" for expert skiing, if you were to look at his turns from a pure technical point of view. And of course there are many more than HH to use as models as well.

I'm thinking out loud, but shouldn't there be some sort of model to shoot for?

One thing that I really got out of HH's system is that every day, I had something to refer back to; what my turns should look like, what I was aiming for. And it was all-mountain. I was in heaven!

Now on one hand, I truly enjoy, for pure selfish reasons, being where I am in skiing. It's a gas. Maybe that's the way I want it for here and ever more.

But from a business point of view, and getting back to my original thought, for visitors here, I just think that it should be very easy to point skiers to "expert skiing".

Sure, vsp, Barnes, many others here can tell skiers what expert skiing is (or can they?). But a skier can't carry around this website with them all the time. And, a skier shouldn't have to be on the hook for thousands of dollars in lessons, all to find out that they still don't know what expert skiing is.

Give Harb credit (and this is not a shameless plug). He's defined expert skiing, he's given skiers a clear map, and he's providing them with all the support to get there. And they're not on the hook for thousands in lessons. Some here may not agree with his definitions, but that's besides the point.

As pro skiers, it'd be bad karma to keep skiers from reaching their goals, or not giving them all they can to get there. The more you give, the more you get back. Don't get me wrong, I love uncrowded slopes and I love being where I am.

But this much I've learned. In the early days, circa 1962 in Vail, expert skiing was only for a few. If you were a great skier, but not a millionaire, you had just as much clout - if not more, than the millionaires in town. To a certain degree it's still that way, as vsp so elegantly pointed out in a thread here.

But now, the call, lead by Harb, is "Anyone can be an Expert Skier". I think it sends shivers up some peoples spines and that's the primary reason why things are the way they are. That expert skiing is still, for the most part, this mythical thang that no one seems to agree on. Because if they did, it'd make it that much easier to get there? And who wants that?

Back to you Jane,

[ June 10, 2002, 09:07 AM: Message edited by: SCSA ]
post #16 of 41
An expert skier is one who can ski any slope, in any condition, at any speed with control, skill, and élan (read reasonable into the definition). Under the Weems definition, a “good” skier is an expert who skis with modesty and humility.
post #17 of 41

It helps immensely if I am the model my students aspire to ski like, because they will.

Other than that, I completely buy what Maddog said. The other thing about an expert is continual improvement: a true expert does not rest on his or her laurels, but always ups the ante and challenges the limits of personal best.

I am reading the PMTS manual. I must say I agree with most of what Harb and Kim say, though the acronyms drive me crazy. I think any PSIA member who wants to be an expert teacher owes it to him or herself to know the field, and Harb is part of the field.
post #18 of 41
SCSA, if you're an expert, other people will tell you so.

They will yell from the chair, stop you in the lodge, catch up to tell you on the hill, and, will even tell you in the parking lot at the end of the day. They will tell you sitting next to you on the chair, at the top of a hill, at the bottom of a hill, and in the middle of a hill. They will introduce you to their family. They will ask to ski behind you. They will point, they will stare, and they will gape.

I'm not saying you cause a riot, I'm just saying that you'll get at least one compliment per ski day in one of these forms. It's the coolest thing in the world baaaaaaby!

One the other hand, who knows. For every compliment, maybe there are 10 others thinking, “he/she sucks," but polite enough not to say it. Who cares. Bottom line – YOU determine the expert model. Get there and ski the way YOU like. If it's Harb's course that gets you there, great! But, you must always express yourself.
post #19 of 41

You asked about Expert SKIING, and decided to steer (is that a rotary move? ) away from expert TURNS. Then you come back saying you want pictures of what an expert turn is, and you want to get into the business and marketing of the sport. You'll never achieve a Zen-like state of expert skiing if you keep focusing on the view from the chairlift and the dollars in the bank.

Pretend you were learning to drive. Your driving instructor could show you pictures of hands at 10 and 2, feet on the pedals, and a 5 point harness. But getting out there and feeling the car enter an off ramp at 75mph and guiding it through a 4 wheel drift all the way around the ramp is something you have to experience, not something someone can just tell you to do by referring to a manual.

John's note: I had to bring up cars because I saw my dream car on Sunday. A perfect 1965 (with historic plates) 427 AC Cobra. It was all white with a chrome roll bar behind the driver's side. Big arse side pipes and the most wonderful exhaust note I've ever heard. I'd never actually heard a 427 side oiler before, and I was lucky enough to be stopped next to it at a traffic light. It was quieter than I had imagined. [/drool]
post #20 of 41
This thread started out as a request for a definition of expert skiing that could be bottled for future reference. Later the thread originator suggests that HH already has the answer
Give Harb credit (and this is not a shameless plug). He's defined expert skiing, he's given skiers a clear map, and he's providing them with all the support to get there
I know summer is coming but it seems to me that the original question is merely a troll whether it was intended as such or not. It seems to me that the originator already has the answer he is looking for.
post #21 of 41
Thread Starter 

You may be right. But let me clarify something. There was no malicious intent and I wouldn't call this trolling. I have too much respect for the contributors here.

I really did think that someone would be able to step up and say, "Here's what we look for in turns, here's what we define expert skiing as". But no one did.

And I think it brings out what I feel is a key point. If we can't describe what great turns are, how do we expect anyone to achieve them? I used the word turns, but then Barnes didn't like the word - I was trying to engage him. To me, turns is slang for skiing - "Hey HealPusher. Let's go make some turns".

If skiing really is a sport that's all about self expression, then why do we argue so much about what's right and what's wrong?

Or, if there really is a "modern skiing model", how come no one can define it? That's, where I bring in Harb. He's gone out and said, "This is what expert skiing is, here's how you get there".

I thought it would make for interesting discussion. I know that in my case, my turns are what they are and I'm thrilled. My skiing is, all about me, but I do have a standard that I follow, laid out by you-know-who.

post #22 of 41
Originally posted by SCSA:
As pro skiers, it'd be bad karma to keep skiers from reaching their goals, or not giving them all they can to get there. The more you give, the more you get back.
I might not word this right, but I believe you are getting "vision" and "goal" mixed up. A goal is a short term, measurable object, whereas a vision is a longer term desire.
My "vision" is to be a good skier. NOT and expert.
My goal for my next trip is to improve my confidence on and off piste, by being able to ski a black from top to bottom without stopping.
Now, notice what my goal is made up of: part of it is vision "to improve my confidence" - it is not scientifically measureable, but the results of it are. On the other hand, there is a definite target as well, a metric, that can be ticked off as complete: "to ski a black top to bottom"

If I get that goal, then I will be getting closer to my vision. Then I can set new goals for the next time. Vision is an intangible, long term thing. goals are short term, that you can look forward to hitting, and look back and tick them off.

It is good to give skiers goals that stretch them, but that are acheivable. The goal of being an expert is not something to give an intermediate - it's not something you can attach a timescale to, even once you define what an "expert" is, or can you tell me how long it will take for me to be an expert skier?

Help me with my vision, but help me to my goals first of all, then the vision will be easier to realise.

I've started to sound like a business manager!

post #23 of 41
Thread Starter 
I think what fox is saying that if he's able to master the mental aspects of skiing, he's an expert.

Fair enough.

Maybe, I'm thinking wrong about the expert tag. Or, maybe we should leave it up to each individuals preference, to make the sport as enjoyable as possible. After all, who wants to go skiing if they think they're being monitored based on some standard.

But if that's the case, if we do leave it up to each individual, doesn't that wipe out the market for professional ski instruction? Why would someone take a lesson then?

[ June 10, 2002, 04:03 PM: Message edited by: SCSA ]
post #24 of 41
Originally posted by SCSA:
But if that's the case, if we do leave it up to each individual, doesn't that wipe out the market for professional ski instruction? Why would someone take a lesson then?
Please re-read what I said, particularly the end:

Originally posted by me:
Help me with my vision, but help me to my goals first of all, then the vision will be easier to realise.
It's difficult to reach your goals on your own, and it's next to impossible to fulfill your vision. (in my opinion)
SCSA, I believe you are in business. Do you not have a vision, a strategy, and goals for the business? Do you not go to others "professionals" in their fields, and pay them to help you acheive those goals?

That's some of what I was trying to get at.

post #25 of 41
SCSA has a good point. How can one denigrate Harb's version of Expert Skiing while not having any examples of their own to show?
Even if you say "there's more than one way to skin a cat....", offer multiple examples, as Lito does (my favorite being Jerry Berg).
post #26 of 41
Thread Starter 
Jerry Berg rocks.
post #27 of 41
I have a hard time with people to aspire to BE something. It drives me nuts when I start a lesson with someone and they ask ....... "how long will it take me to".... They have placed themselves in a box of assigned parameters.

Relax and ski. Enjoy the snow, the view and the folks you are with.

Of all of the people who entered the dojo and asked the question ....... "how long will it take me to become an expert .... to get a black belt .... to MASTER a kata?" Not one of those folks ever made black belt. I have NEVER "mastered" a kata and I remain clueless as to what an expert actually is.

Like with skiing I'm still here for the ride, warts and all ...... happy idiot perhaps!
post #28 of 41

My definition of expert was not a troll. It is in its most distilled form the essence of skiing at the level you are discussing. While I could have essential turn shapes, skills and the like, that would require a book. The definition of the term does not require that level of specificity.

The road to expert skiing is always individual, for only the individual can define the goals, progression, and accomplishment that define expert skiing. Standardized definitions may be informative but they will never be definitive; each individual supplies their personal definition. The individual may or may not seek assistance from ski instructors, or others in the pursuit of expert skiing. That is up to the individual, but not necessary.

Did you want a book? I know HH wrote one of those. If not, what is HH’s definition of expert skiing? So far you have talked around it but never disclosed the secret.
post #29 of 41
I had the opportunity to ski this past winter with a 15 year old foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic. He Was An Expert. This "boy" was a master on skis. I watched him drop over the edge of a black run (granted, this was Iowa, but pitch was steep, albeit short) and Spin slowly in circles down it like it was nothing. He was as comfortable on skis as he was walking on the street.

He had natural ability, grace, and style. I would love to have watched him ski anything else!!
He said he started to ski at age 7, and that it was never a challenge. When ya got it, ya got it. And it's a beautiful thing. :
post #30 of 41
Why this obsession with defining "expert," especially as something objective that could possibly be "bottled" with universal approval? Clearly, skiing is a complex activity, with an enormous range of movements, tactics, conditions, and intents possible. And, except for the tiny minority of skiers who live in gates, there is no score--it's a purely personal, aesthetic activity where one person's nirvana is another's anathema. Skiing is emotion, sensation, beauty, recreation, spirit, as well as technique. To reduce it to a few simple moves is a horrible injustice, and completely misses the point of what the sport is about for many people!

Skiing is freedom. You can't be free--you can't be an expert--if you are locked into a dogmatic "bottled" movement pattern--even if that movement pattern represents one type of "good turn."

"Expert" is a state of mind, and you can define it ANY WAY YOU WANT TO--for yourself. If you want to say "expert skiers make "X" moves, then by your definition, anyone who makes "X" moves is one. Just don't expect anyone else to agree with your definition! I've got my own ideas, my own goals and visions, but there is no reason anyone else should share them.

As far as technique goes, there are extraordinary skiers who specialize in one thing, and do little else well. Call them experts if you choose--or not. There are others who are extremely well-rounded, can do it all with grace and proficiency, show versatility in movements and tactics, and can change tactics, styles, equipment, and movements at will, as the spirit moves them. This versatile skier comes closer to my own vision of the true expert--but no one has to agree, and their skiing certainly can't be "bottled"!

Even racers, with their single, clear, measurable goals, do not practice "a turn." They do skill drills, lots of the them, all kinds. They learn to turn every which way. Because winning races requires it! "A turn" won't do.

Like I said in my previous post, expert skiing (my definition) entails turning when you need or want to turn, braking when you need or want to brake, riding the rails when you want to (I can't think of a time you'd NEED to make a pure-carved turn), and doing the Mambo or the Wedel when you feel like it. Experts can ski with their feet locked together if they want to, or with them far apart. They can make stem christies and wedge christies and carved, skidded, and drifted parallel turns. They can turn on one foot--either one--or both. They can turn their skis with rotation, counter-rotation, a blocking pole plant, rebound-unweighting, down-unweighting, up-unweighting, no unweighting, diverging, converging, and parallel steps, or none. They can ski forward, backwards, and sideways, and can spin in circles--if and when they want. And they use ALL these techniques whenever necessary, and whenever they feel like it.

So no--it would be absurd and arrogant to answer the question "what is an expert?"--or even more so "what does expert technique look like?" with a simple, clear picture of a movement or series of movements. Skiing is not unique here! What is "expert hockey technique"? What is "the move" that defines expert tennis? Soccer? Baseball? Car racing? Chess? Computer gaming? There is none! The measure of success in these sports is much clearer and more objective than that of skiing, yet even these sports defy a simple, bottled answer to the question. You CAN take pictures of experts at all these things. MANY--DIFFERENT--PICTURES.

Like I said, "what is an expert?" is not a clear question, so it cannot have a simple, universally accepted answer. HOWEVER...like I also said, make the question more concrete, more narrow, more objective, and simple answers can be forthcoming!

The "perfect turn" does not an expert make, any more than the "perfect brake." But ask me how to make that perfect turn (defined as I did above as an activity intended to precisely control line--to go where you want to go)--and there are few options to consider. It is (almost) black and white, yes or no, this not that, simple--and a formula that could indeed be "bottled." No one has asked this question yet....

SCSA--when I brought up the distinction between "expert skiing" and "turning," you said you wanted to discuss "expert skiing":

Okay, how about we lose the word "turns" and boil it down to expert skiing?
I would have gone the other way. If your defintion of "expert skiing" really is the "perfect turn" then your answer will lie in narrowing the discussion to that TURN. What are the "right movements" for (offensive, direction-control) TURNS? Simple.... I'll never agree that the perfect turn alone is sufficient to make an expert, but if that's what you want to discuss, just ask the question!

We don't HAVE to agree on the subjective stuff to discuss ski technique. Many aspects of ski technique, unlike the definition of "expert," are absolutely objective. Set the objective. A movement either accomplishes that objective, or it doesn't. One movement may do it better than another--but only after we define "better"!

There are many great ways to get down a snow-covered mountain on skis, but VERY FEW WAYS TO MAKE A PERFECT TURN!


Best regards,
Bob Barnes
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