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The Most Neglected Skill

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Following up on Nolo's post "The Hardest Habits to Break " I am curious about the root of these problems. Instructors are taught to focus on 3 basic skills ( In my opinion "Balance" is not a skill, it is the result of implementing skills properly )these being: Rotary ( turning the feet and legs ) , Edging, and Pressure Control ( I prefer "Pressure Management").The expert has mastered each of these skills and knows exactly the right blend to use for variable terrain and snow conditions. The expert skier is able to maintain a balance 'zone' that enables free flowing movement from one turn into the next. This movement pattern looks quite different than the 'linked recoveries' most intermediate skiers practice.What I have observed among intermediate / advanced skiers is the total lack of understanding about how to use the edges and benefit from the ski's design. The most common thing that I see is the 'pivot and skid ' which begins with upper body rotation and ends with the legs extended, pushing the skis and scraping snow.
Instructors: What do you think the most common weak or neglected skill area is and what exercises do you use to help your students improve?
Non-Instructors: Do you have a movement pattern that seems to be an ingrained and keeps you from skiing the way you want to?
Remember Freud's definition of insanity for skiers: repeat the same movement patterns again and again expecting different results. :
post #2 of 17
[quote]Originally posted by snowdancer:
( In my opinion "Balance" is not a skill, it is the result of implementing skills properly )QUOTE]

Snowdancer - Better balance is something that can be coached/learned and dynamic balance, which is the balance a skier requires, is also something that can be be coached/learned/improved/aquired with proper practice. Therefore I am curious why you would not consider dynamic balance a skill? What would concren me if as an instructor I do not look at dynamic balance as a skill, I will ignore it, my students will not understand dynamic balance can be learned, and therefore the student will never work towards improving dynamic balance as a goal. Without improvement in dynamic balance, and you may have seen my reply where I stated dynamic balance is one of the major skills I see lacking in students, the student can never improve any phase of their skiing. I believe it is one of the first skills a student needs to learn which is one reason new skiers learn to walk and glide on one ski and then two skis. :

Have a GREAT day! [img]smile.gif[/img]

post #3 of 17
I'm obviously not a ski instructor, but from the point of view of straight biomechanics, you can get into some circular reasoning here.

While EDGE,PRESSURE, ROTARY skills performed correctly may enhance dynamic balance, it may be impossible to implement these skills if dynamic balance is not present.

There is a good deal of research being done in Sports Medicine nowadays regarding over compensation, and its consequences. If someone has poor dynamic balance, they may over compensate by using exterior muscular, as opposed to internal stabilizers. Although they may not be falling down every minute, they will be improperly executing the basic skills of skiing.
post #4 of 17
I'd like to see this balance thing pursued further, but that may interfere with the original intent of this thread. Therefore, Lisamarie, I'll start another thread in the skiing instruction and technique forum, because I have some questions about this subject. See you over there, and if another thread has already discussed this, please pm me and point me there.

Depending on the information I get, I may return here with some remarks.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Some good points being made here. I neglected to mention above the importance of teaching Stance, Hand Position, Angulation and other things that lead the student to achieve Balance. I still believe that balance is not a skill, it would be like trying to teach an aspiring musician to hear. The two things are related, coincidentally, to the mechanism in the inner ear. John mentioned dynamic balance, which is balance in motion- impossible to achieve if the student tries to maintain a 'static' postion while sliding. Constant adjustments must be made by using flexing and extending movements, edging and pressure control movements , and steering in order for a skier to maintain balance. My definition of skiing would be the art of balancing on a moving platform, achieving that balance is the goal. Is it possible to teach someone to 'be in balance' ? Of course! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

[ September 14, 2002, 05:34 PM: Message edited by: snowdancer ]
post #6 of 17

I would venture that an intermediate's inability to use the ski as a tool signifies someone at the gross motor stage of skiing, who will probably not use the ski as its designer intended until there has been considerable refinement of all the skills. In fact, your description of the pivot-skid style of intermediate skiing encompasses all the skills.

But you're right: intermediates do not use the ski as a tool. That's why teaching intermediates on a properly sized, forgiving shaped ski is the ski teaching equivalent of a bunny shot. If the student is balanced/aligned in his/her boots, it's a slam dunk.
post #7 of 17

Speaking as someone with NO NATURAL BALANCE - I can tell you that balance is VERY MUCH a SKILL! For you that may be natural & a natural consequence of doing a movement may be 'adjusting balance' for me the consequence is FALL DOWN! My instructors in the past have spent VAST AMOUNTS of time & energy teaching me as best they can how to be balanced statically & how to attempt to achieve some dynamic balance. I personally believe that some of the 'terminally poor skiers' you guys moan about may in fact simply be suffering from having lessons from those who - having naturally strong natural balance skills themselves - believe that balance does NOT NEED to be both TAUGHT & TRAINED!

My favourite collection of instructors are all prepared to spend lots of time teaching me VERY BASIC SKILLS - such as how to be balanced on landing after going up in the air about 2 inches!
How to NOT be off balance when you get to the top of a wind lip! Without this help I would be very much stuck on groomed runs for life!
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
I wouldn't think any offense need be taken from my definition of 'balance'. In the 14 years that I have been teaching skiing, I've seen plenty of folks with 'natural balance' and plenty like the way you describe yourself, Disski. It is no coincidence that the ones with the 'natural balance' are usually gifted athetes in other areas as well. I remember one particularly outstanding student who breezed right through the fundamentals of walking, gliding straight runs and wedge turns. By the afternoon of the second day, she was making nice parallel turns down blue terrain. Believe me, there was nothing I could teach her about 'balance'. It was clear that she had training in another area and when I asked what it was she told me of 20 years as a gymnast and ballet dancer. For her, learning to ski was just transfering the skills she had into a new area. I have taught pro football players who were absolutely awful as skiers and couldn't shake their habits of using their huge upper bodies to start their movements. On the playing field , however, they have excellent dynamic balance. Of course, the greatest example of "learning" balance would probably be riding a bike. Can training wheels teach balance? My son, at age three, never used training wheels and to my amazement, simply got on his little bike and started riding. He never fell. He is also a gifted athlete who has achieved his 2nd degree black belt in Taekwondo at age 13. I have tried to teach him to ski, but finally gave up and now we just ski together ( as long as I promise to keep my mouth shut...). His balance is amazing on skis as well. He did not inherit his ability from me, I can assure you. I watched other instructors pass their certification exams easily ( the skiing part ) while I failed time after time. And it wasn't because I didn't do any training, it just took longer for me to 'get it'. So I am well aware of how frustrating it can be to work very hard at something and make progress at a snail's pace. In another thread it was stated that ( ydnar,I think) he wanted to know the reason WHY he was making a particular movement. To break it down, we can look at movement analysis as cause and effect. Effect: The skier IS OUT OF BALANCE. Why? He is throwing his arms out wide and leaning back up the hill. Why? He is seeking balance. How does he get back in balance ? By applying the skills necessary to keep his center of gravity over his feet, something almost everyone knows how to do naturally.....It's called walking. So, should I correct this person's hand position and send him on his way or is there more going on here? The skier is lacking in one or more skills and/or the ability to sufficiently blend these skills. The result: OUT OF BALANCE.
I may be splitting hairs here, but I still maintain that balance is not a skill, but according to Webster: " a state of equilibrium or equipoise, bodily stability ". A skill is " great ability or proficiency, expertness that comes from training and practice ". Balance is the goal, learning skills is the paradigm for achieving it. However we want to define it, I think we can all agree that it is the single most important aspect of skiing.

[ September 15, 2002, 01:06 PM: Message edited by: snowdancer ]
post #9 of 17
Originally posted by snowdancer:
By applying the skills necessary to keep his center of gravity over his feet, something almost everyone knows how to do naturally.....It's called walking.
But for someone like me that skill is NOT AT ALL NATURAL.... that is why I spent years falling up kerbs, steps etc & tripping on 1/2 inch pebbles...

What then of those with LOW END proprioceptive skills???? While I may KNOW I have to work on balance - who will TEACH these people???
post #10 of 17
I'd agree that balance is when the whole system is in (split-second) equilibrium. I know that studies have shown that pressure between points along the bottom of the feet and the boot is not predictable--apparently we make subtle balance adjustments all the time and move pressure all over the sole of the foot. Expert skiers don't pressure tip-center-tail as I was taught in the early '80s. One of the rewards of lots of work on your skiing is to experience balance that doesn't feel haphazard or momentary, but solid from start to finish. I feel bulletproof 97% of the time, and I credit the "cause" of that feeling to oneness between me and the skis, or as I said above, the whole system is in equilibrium--or as the systems people say, it is a balanced feedback loop.

It's the same feeling I get sometimes on a running horse. I know that under his hooves are gopher holes, badger holes, sagebrush, etc. But we're going together, he's placing his feet, and I'm just assisting by moving my head, hands, hips and feet with him so he won't feel any resistance to throw him off his line. He sees the field. I have to trust that.

Moral of the story: You gotta trust your ride and when you go, go together. No holding back in body, mind, and spirit. You will find that balance is not so difficult after all.
post #11 of 17
Since the topic of this thread is "The Most Neglected Skill", I can say that I know of many people who have given up on skiing right from the start when they realized how atrocious their balance skills were. The fact of the matter is, for various reasons that I've covered in different threads, some people have balance that is seriously impaired, as well as proprioceptive issues, which are related to balance.

I think that one of the major problems lies in the fact that for most ski insructors, balance is, and has always been, quite natural. I would even wager a guess on the possibility that if you tested them, they would have highly innervated transverse abdominals.

But when working with a student who for whatever reason has an impairment of balance, they are saying "C'mon, its natural!"

Sadly, this is not always so.
post #12 of 17
Hi Snowdancer, yours is an interesting viewpoint. I agree with you that balance is not a skill. That does not inherently divorce it from improvement by challenging it's weaknesses and soft spots at it's base level.( no pun intended). You yourself refered to it as the "Art" of balance, yet I don't know of a single artist that started out as one. I also don't know of any(except the rare idiot savant) that rose to the height of his/her ability without working on every aspect of their calling, from brush stroke to color sense to developing their 'eye' to delving into their own psyche in order to find the depths and widths of their passion and talent. In my own experience as a musician, I would say that exposing a child and peripherally guiding and exposing them to aural harmony(ear work and hearing accuracy curriculum) at an early age will do nothing but improve their musical comprehension and ability to hear later on. Giving kids or adults fun and challenging exercises for listening and learning how to BETTER hear is a proven way to improve the level of comprehension and enjoyment that they receive while experiencing music. I believe this applies appropriately to balance as well as other natural senses and abilities. You can improve, or at the very least, become more aware of, what nature gives you.

In reply to your actual post, I think Ydnar hits the closest to home regarding the biggest instructor/instructional shortcomings.Though I'm not a skiing instructor, I have taught music previously and I've taught martial arts for what I guess is a long, long time now. : The longer I teach the more I believe that a teachers effectivness is directly proportional to their ability to see past obvious and not so obvious symptoms and get to the root cause, as in base habit or set of activities,mental or physical, that results in the undesired outcome. Along with this must go the patience to not immediately grab onto the most obvious flaws, in the hope that without bringing up the "fault" and turning it into a "problem", it may take care of itself or morph into something else, all the while looking to see if they are able to perceive a consistent central problem that many of the symptoms stem from. OOps, used the word stem. But that is unfortunately a rare person, yet, after the beginning level it is this type of feedback and teaching that I believe gets the best results and creates the least roadblocks on the route to improvement. Getting better is the point, not working on every little detail ad nauseum. Having said that, obviously alot of that has to go on too, but I think it's deadended without the access to the deeper perspective. Interesting thread. Thanks.

post #13 of 17
Originally posted by Lisamarie:
But when working with a student who for whatever reason has an impairment of balance, they are saying "C'mon, its natural!"

Sadly, this is not always so.[/QB]
Yep LM - I'd love to test 'em all as well... I think we are looking at the top end of a population distribution - with those who feel they are "low" in fact sitting about mid-range normal.
post #14 of 17
The most basic transfer to skiing is from walking. If a person can walk, then theoretically they can ski. Can a person ski better than they can walk?

"I can tell how they're going to ski from the way they walk across the parking lot," is a comment I have heard from many ski instructors. That anecdotally suggests that a person's skiing ability is limited by the bodily-kinesthetic "IQ" a person is born with, of which balance is a part.

Joel talks about musical intelligence, one of Gardner's 7 intelligences. Any intelligence can be developed, but the naturals can credit their facility to inheritance.

To learn more about the Seven Intelligences see:
post #15 of 17
nolo-It's the same feeling I get sometimes on a running horse. I know that under his hooves are gopher holes, badger holes, sagebrush, etc. :
That's an accident looking to happen.
post #16 of 17

It'scary, but it beats a tongue lashing for letting a calf get away. Calves run surprisingly fast and they'll go all the way back to where they last nursed if you don't head 'em back to where mommy really is. You either run a short distance or walk a very long way and get snubbed for being a lousy cowboy and teammate.
post #17 of 17
My mistake pardner. You did not say you were a cowhand. That's a whole nother animal. Watch your top notch. :
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