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What's easier?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
The thread on expert skiing got me to wondering. is it easier to become an all mountain skier if you ski a breaking type turn rather than a "go" type of turn. It seems to me that most self defined "expert, all mountain skiers" do become more and more obviously defensive (breaking) as the terrain gets steeper and the conditions get sketchier.

Thoughts anyone,

post #2 of 16

If by "easier" you mean - less physically demanding. I'd have to say no, it is not "easier" to ski the breaks.

If by "easier" you mean - how rapidly one can go from first ever strapping on a pair of skis to surviving whatever happens to exist on the mountain. Well, maybe ...... I imagine a reasonably fit, athletic type, with good coordination could pretty quickly learn to sling'em around and check. Could they smooth this out to the point they're a "self defined all mountain expert" before they could become "an all mountain skier" under the watchful eye of you pro's ..... I doubt it.

If by "easier" you mean - BELIEVE that after I point them down the hill they will COME AROUND before I am careening hopelessly out of control while accelerating to limb loosing speed. Yep, breaking is the easier way!

I think the last one is what you're observing "as the terrain gets steeper and sketchier". But I don't think it is reserved to a resistance to a "go type of turn". My roots are traditional technique (and maybe I don't have the correct terminology here [anxiously awaiting a copy of the new encyclopedia when it's done!], but read that as skiing straight down the fall-line with head and shoulders facing down the fall-line) and although a different approach, and maybe not as much "go" with some methods, the same resistance or hesitation is always present ........ the mental barrier that stops one from just: pointing 'em down the hill .... letting go ... going with it ...... allowing .....

In any event, there's two more cents for the pot!

post #3 of 16
Could you really become an "all mountain" skier if your only used just the gas pedal or just the brake pedal?

Wouldn't you need to know how to use both, and when each was appropriate?

How "easy" would it be to only one instead of for the other if you lack options to switch?

But if you are asking is it easier to start with one and then learn the other, learn the "go" movements, and then adapt them to become "go slow" movements.

As I teacher I've always found it much easier to teach braking to a carver than carving to a braker.

[ August 25, 2003, 08:03 PM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #4 of 16

Arc pretty much hit this dead on. There is no perfect turn for every situation. One must have a number of tricks up their sleeve. The snow changes, terrain changes, you can't make the same turn on every condition.

Unless you are a superhero, making a "go" turn in some places will get you killed. Braking turns can be your friend.

post #5 of 16
Originally posted by BobMc:

Unless you are a superhero, making a "go" turn in some places will get you killed...

post #6 of 16
(old thread, somewhat related)

so-called braking turns have allowed me to explore more of the steeper parts of the mountain. i know i don't have the skills to "carve" turns on hardpack 35-degree slopes, unless i want turns that get pretty big and fast, quick. that "bringing the tails around" to a set, or semi-set (hesitation, then release into turn) might not be "expert" skiing but it helps me work toward something smoother, tighter and, i guess, more edged than skidded.

the DV lesson i had aimed at better skiing on steeper terrain was almost entirely about flattening the tails and bringing the tails around (flatten, float, set, etc.), which might not be the desired end result but was useful in implementing some clues as to getting there.

[ August 26, 2003, 08:33 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #7 of 16
Originally posted by Bob.Peters:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by BobMc:

Unless you are a superhero, making a "go" turn in some places will get you killed...

Amen.</font>[/quote]On the other hand learning to handle "go" turns in tough places is a big part of the thrill. The issue becomes one of good (or bad) judgement.

As I watched my son ski off with two world class extreme skiers in JH this past year after being invited on a run with them I knew he would be making "go" turns. The only thing I wondered was if he would survive.
post #8 of 16
There are no such things as turns. There are only skills, which when blended produces the desired amount of control and direction.

The idea is to master the skills, and you then master the mountain. The 4 basic skills are balance, rotary (steering), pressure, and edge. You need to balance and blend these skills according to terrain, snow conditions, etc... Of course what I call the 5th skill is mental. Knowing when to push your evelope without going too far.

Once you have the skills it's easy to choose when to let the skis run by turning down the rotary, or to crank up the rotary and edging allowing the skis to check.

Becoming a one trick pony will only limit you in the end. Get some good coaching, and have some fun doing it.
post #9 of 16
Great discussion starter, Yd!

Is it EASIER to become an all-mountain skier by learning a defensive, braking technique? Wow--there's lots to that question, depending on how you interpret it, as CGeib has pointed out!

First, for those who have joined these forums more recently, we've had many discussions in the past about "offensive vs. defensive" skiing. The difference may not be intuitive, and it may not be what you think it is. Most importantly, it's critical to understand that offensive is not the same as aggressive, and defensive is not the same as "timid." Offensive does not necessarily mean fast, and defensive does not necessarily mean slow. Offensive does not equate to "expert," and defensive does not mean "unskilled." Beginning skiers can learn offensive movements and tactics from the start. And many of the most aggressive, high-risk-taking "extreme mountain" skiers ski with mostly defensive technique. You can get "good" (skilled) at both. But I maintain that the BEST skiers, in ANY situation, can ski either way when they need or choose to, but that they are heavily biased toward OFFENSIVE "GO!" movements and tactics.

What DO the terms "offensive" and "defensive" mean, then (at least in the context of skiing)? Ironically, they both refer to ways of controlling speed. You can either try to STOP GOING downhill, or you can try to GO uphill--both will slow you down, but clearly "stop going this way" is a very defensive thought, while "go that way" is offensive. "Stop going" causes us to hit the brake pedal. "Go" means the accelerator, or the steering wheel. Even stopping can come from a "go as fast as you can" thought--if you go UPHILL.

Two skiers can reach the bottom in the exact same time, while one skis a very straight line with the brakes on (lots of skidding) and the other skis a series of very complete turns--perhaps even curving back uphill with each one. The first (defensive) skier scrubs off speed by using his edges primarily as scrapers, increasing resistance (reducing glide). The second (offensive) skier maximizes glide, using the edges to hold the line and shape turns as desired. The first skier skis a faster line, with the brakes on ("the fast line slow"), while the second skier skis a slower line, gliding with as little braking as possible (the "slow line fast"). The offensive skier's skis go the direction they're pointed; the defensive skier's skis go sideways. The defensive skier uses braking movements to control speed directly. The offensive skier uses purer turning (direction-changing) movements to control speed indirectly--or more accurately, he uses turns to AVOID THE NEED for speed control. The defensive skier controls speed; the offensive skier controls line. And both reach the bottom at the same time.

Hence my favorite line: Good skiing means skiing a slow enough line as fast as you can (when you can). The best skiers--at any skill level--are offensive when they can be, defensive when they have to be (or choose to be). They control speed with direction, rather than friction (when they can). They turn to control LINE (to "go that way") rather then to control SPEED ("stop going this way"), and they ski a line that minimizes the need to control speed.

But that isn't what Ydnar's question was, is it? He didn't ask which way was "better"--he asked which way was "easier." As CGeib suggests, offensive technique is almost always easier on the body (less demanding and punishing) than defensive, all else being equal. But offensive technique takes considerably more skill, again all else being equal, so it is hardly easier or quicker to learn.

For an athletic, energetic skier, I would have to admit that the QUICKEST way to learn to ski the steep and deep with some degree of control, is to learn to brake really well. Defensive skiing, while athletically demanding, is technically very easy (and offensive skiing is the opposite). Braking is the quickest route to the steeps, but it's also a SURE route to the dreaded "intermediate plateau." It's a quick route, but it's a dead end--a shortcut to ultimate mediocrity.

Technically, it isn't very difficult to learn to throw the skis sideways into a skid, especially for a strong athlete. Parallel braking moves, usually coming from the upper body, are perhaps the most instinctual tendencies of athletic men learning to ski--and they can get "good" at them quite quickly!

But brakes have their limits. And those limits become more obvious (and painful) as speed rises and conditions deteriorate. Ironically, the faster you go, the more dangerous it becomes to hit the brakes! And making skis skid sideways in deep, heavy crud is difficult at best; CONTROLLING them once you GET them sideways is virtually impossible.

One of the beautiful challenges of skiing comes from the fact that skis work very well as both direction control tools and brakes--BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME. The movements are as contradictory and incompatible as the "go/stop" thoughts that produce them. The more a ski goes the direction it's pointed, the better it holds its line and helps control direction, but the less it brakes. And the more a ski skids sideways, the better it brakes, but the more it sacrifices control of line. Pure TURNING and pure BRAKING exist on opposite ends of the spectrum of skiing movements--and skier intents. Few skiers even understand the difference, and most "turns" are hopeless mish-mashes of contradictory movements lost in the gray area, controlling neither speed nor direction with much efficiency or effectiveness. But experts are acutely aware of the difference, and they are able to apply movements intentionally across the entire spectrum as needed, and as they desire.

Just as the quickest way to learn to ski "extreme" terrain is to focus on braking, the surest way to become a defensive, terminally mediocre skier is to rush to more difficult terrain too quickly! Europeans, who tend to appreciate good ski technique more than most Americans, have a general rule for learning to ski: "Keep it fast and flat." Especially for children, who may aspire to become the next Hermann Maier or Bode Miller, they would rather have them ski flatter terrain, focusing on gliding and going faster, then steeper terrain, focusing on going slower. The reason is obvious: that's good ski technique! Ultimately, good technique will allow you ski ANYTHING, with a degree of efficiency, control, confidence, safety, and speed that the defensive hacks can only envy.

While I agree with Arcmeister that it's easier to teach a good carver to skid than a gross skidder to carve, and I strongly believe that beginners' first turns should be offensive, the reality is that the best instructors teach SKILLS--not TURNS. Those skills, even from the start, allow skiers to explore the entire spectrum of skiing movements--and to be aware of it. The difference is really not so much one of technique learned, but of TACTICS. INTENT DICTATES TECHNIQUE. The ideal solution is to teach the skills of versatile skiing, while encouraging the offensive INTENT that defines experts!

So yes--defensive braking is the quickest (easiest?) route to the steeps, without a doubt. But but you have to sell your soul! Skidded "turns" are the quickest way to gain "control" downhill, but perhaps the American Heritage Dictionary puts it better: "SKIDDING: on a downward path to ruin, failure, or depravity."

Next: what is the difference between offensive and defensive skiing, TECHNICALLY--how do you do it?

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ August 26, 2003, 12:24 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #10 of 16
And speaking of offensive/defensive, go/brake, take a look at the image on this page and try to decide how you would ski it... :


Give the image a chance to load.

post #11 of 16
Originally posted by Bob.Peters:
And speaking of offensive/defensive, go/brake, take a look at the image on this page and try to decide how you would ski it... :


Give the image a chance to load.

It would be "Go turns" for me all the way. As in "turn around and GO home before I kill myself".
post #12 of 16
Once again Bob beat me to the punch and left no stone unturned.

Grrrrrrrreat job maestro
post #13 of 16
Hmmmm. It looks wide enough for carved turns. It could be done, using DavidM's method, if one could handle the speed.
post #14 of 16
IF one had Chubbs.

[ August 26, 2003, 01:39 PM: Message edited by: Mescalero ]
post #15 of 16
I am going to answer this one from the obvious implied look at what's on the hill observation. It's far easier and more intuitive to learn and understand braking defensive skiing. You can also achieve a high level of ability to handle steep terrain in so doing provided that you are athletic and strong. I myself became an expert all mountain defensive skier for 30+ years without the need for lessons. At the end of the day I was sometimes carried off the hill due to exhaustion and the inability to stand up once the skis were off. Did I have fun? You bet I did, damn the lessons full speed ahead.

If you are 50 and out of shape I will just about guarantee you that you will have an easier time learning to ski using offensive go type movements. Your chances of getting above lower intermediate are about nil without athleticism and illegal pain killers. The key here for someone out of shape and 50 is their ability to listen then do and harder still, their ability to get an instructor who knows the difference between offensive and defensive skiing. The odd's at present, are not with the average couch potato in the real world of skiing.

Oh and as far as expert status goes. I fell out of expert status the minute that I started formal training. Not far though, expert status has crept up to keep just one notch ahead of me. Isn't that fitting. A moving living breathing definition of expert. Fancy that.
post #16 of 16
I just want to support Bob Barnes and Pierre comments. The defensive or skidding/braking mode is the default mode of every skier and does not need to be emphasized or learned. It is intuitive and learned by practive. Offensive skiing is not as intuitive and therefore need to be consciouly emphasised. If you are too defensive on very steep hill like the one shown earlier your edges will not release simultaneously at the start of your turn and you are in for a ride you will not forget! As he was skiing slowly in practice and skier were passing him full speed, Ingemar Steinmark used to say that if you can ski something slow and well you can ski it fast and well. Coming from him it must be true. Speed control can come from finishing a cleanly arc turn. To get back to the picture though I would probably resort to some braking at some point.
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