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post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
The threads about experts, persistent mistakes, and the like have got me thinking deeply about skiing. What distinguishes error-filled from error-free performance, I have come to believe, is the continuous, confident flow of movement that achieves its purpose as naturally as an acorn becomes an oak. The expert's actions have an air of inevitability. The observer, who may be an Aborigine from the wilderness for all it matters, is amazed and delighted, because everybody recognizes this unique Quality of expert performance of a complex skill.

This leads me to think that impeding flow is the heart of error. What distinguishes less-skilled performance from highly-skilled performance is jerkiness, stops-and-starts, driving with the brakes on instead of opening up the throttle and going for it.

I think it may be a principle of the universe. Down deep at the atomic level, all substance is in constant flow. What we see is an illusion of static being--an apple or a chair--but all anything really is is a collection of subatomic particles arranged into particular, consistent forms. All varieties of apple have a common form or they would not be apples.

All of skiing--all of snowsliding on apparatuses--concerns a flow pattern that is consistent from variation to variation. We might say that the flow pattern can be transferred from snowsport to snowsport. The flow pattern of Alpine skiing is also consistent across the subdisciplines and skill levels, which is why the wedge turn is a valid test of a skier's skill: what shows up in the person's off-piste skiing also shows up in the person's wedge turns. Conversely, teachers of beginners should be concerned about the student's performance of elementary skills because it will carry forward.

This also explains why a great racer can, with a bit of preparation, reasonably expect to be an equally excellent competitor in moguls, Powder-8s, or Big Mountain skiing competitions. An expert at any of these subdisciplines lets the skiing flow. They aren't forcing it or holding it back, just going with the flow.

My hypothesis is that fine skiing is like a work of art where all the stuff that is impeding flow is removed until all the movements are cleanly flowing. If this is true, then improvement is a matter of identifying the stops, finding the underlying cause for each stop and eliminating it. It sounds easy, but it's sufficiently difficult that relatively few achieve skiing that flows cleanly.

What makes it so difficult, I believe, is that we become attached to the stops, or some of the stops. We "need" them to ski, or so we tell ourselves. "I rotate, so what? I get down the hill better than 97% of the other skiers." That sort of stuff can be the biggest stopper of all.
post #2 of 40

and all

These physical attributes of "expert perfection" are most likely the result of familiarity. The brain, nerves, and muscles of the participant become accustomed to performing the "right actions" at the right time. Thought and "consideration" can only get in the way by taking time.

I have been "learning" to play soccer over the last two years.(picking up the game at 50 years young). This has given me another perspective on physical performance. There is much to be said for how individule practice such as juggling, improves ones abilities on the field. I am fortunate to have an 11 year old to encourage me to "kick the ball around".
Following up on this through "coaching" methods, I find that there is just no replacement for hours spent with the activity. In soccer it is the ball, and running with rapid changes of direction or velocity. Tennis players may hit hundreds of serves, LaCross players spend hours manipulating the crosses without loosing the ball, Musicians "practice. Each "performer" gets very comfortable whith the medium with which they "create" their art.

We all appreciate the "skills" demonstrated. These "skills" come from patterns of familiarity. Perfect practice engrains perfection.

The thing with skiing, is it can be difficult to get the miles in. And when we do, we often do not "practice", but just go for a ride.

One aspect of practice that is useful is the idea of "going slow so you can go fast". That is, practice the moves under slow and controlled conditions such that the "right" moves are regestered. How many of us tolerate "slow skiing" while "free skiing".

Just some thoughts on this theme.


post #3 of 40
Those sports you mentioned are also team sports. I agree with your thoughts on the necessity of practice. However, when one practices skiing, especially doing drills or going slow, boredom sets in. This is really the truth when there is a whole mountain to ski, and one is on the behinner hill (or other groomer) doing phantom turns etc.
When playing soccer or lacrosse et al, there is one field, and there is little distraction from practice. And, like with your son, there is almost always a teammate there to push you to get better for the team's sake.
In skiing, I have found it very difficult to find a partner to do drills with, who would rather be out skiing bumps or steeps etc. Plus, since skiing is an individual sport, there is little incentive for a partner to help you/me improve.
I agree totally that practice makes perfect for everybody, but I think that, for the reasons stated above, very few advanced/expert skiers attempt to get better by doing drilles or even taking a lesson.
post #4 of 40
like your 11 yr old son, or daughter, sorry.
post #5 of 40
from OffPisteMag...on "Flow"


"Some people can never learn to ski powder snow without exerting tremendous effort and strength because they allow their rational, left-brain hemisphere to control the entire situation."

- Dolores LaChapelle

[ August 25, 2003, 12:44 PM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #6 of 40
perhaps a topic for another thread, But, it just hit me that in skiing, one is always "on". That is on display. We want to ski like a pro (read "over our heads") from our very first day, with the only option is to "take a lesson". Even here, we are being watched.

For me, this enviornment is never the best for self improvement.

BP, It is my son, though my daughter is a player as well. The team aspect is there, but no player gets good unless they put in their time,Usually this is alone. The practice I was suggesting is time spent developing personal skills, not team skills. With the U-12 team I am now coaching, I send each of the kids away from practice with "home work". A personal skill they can and must work on in their own time.

I count myself lucky with skiing. As my children were growing and learning, they selected runs that were fun for them. I was able to spend many hours, nearly alone, working on the mechanics of turns on very moderate terrain. Just close enough to keep an eye on the youngsters.


post #7 of 40

although I rarely take the time to read all the way through many posts around here these days I couldn't help but take a look at Flow...

Since that is what it takes, and all it takes, to truly ski at any level.

But flow is not error free. Experts of the highest order never ski error free for long, but they do flow through their errors well. A technical error need not make one lose, crash or stop. Indeed it is the ability and instinct to flow through everything, errors included, that sets some skiers apart from others.

Some of the most exciting DH wins of all time involved substantial errors. Franz Klammer, Bill Johnson for ex.

Of course Bode makes errors and still wins (sometimes)

If a skier can go with the flow of an error for a bit, until they can get it back under their direction, all is better.

Nice to think about flowing down the mountain again. The mornings are getting cooler.
post #8 of 40
Originally posted by Roto:
If a skier can go with the flow of an error for a bit, until they can get it back under their direction, all is better.

Nice to think about flowing down the mountain again...
This last sentence sparked off a memory in my brain of a time too long ago in one sense, but in another, something I wish I had heard when I started skiing...
A wise teacher asked "If you could ski like anything, what would it be?"
I can't remember my reply, but I can always remember what the teacher said... "I would like to ski like water - like a stream flowing down the mountain"

It's that thought of a stream - sometimes it's slow, sometimes fast, sometimes even cascading, but always flowing smoothly and freely, and seemingly effortlessly on its course down the mountain.
post #9 of 40
What a coincidence! I am currently reading a book by Susan Jackson called "Flow State in Sports". I was about to post something about this book, and then, voila!
Jackson describes what she calls the "fundaMentals" of flow"

The Challenge-Skills Balance

"It is not enough for challenges to equal skills, both factors need to be expanding the person, stretching then to new levels."

Action-Awareness Merging

"Instead of the mind looking at the body from the outside, the mind and body fuse into one".

There are 8 of these components.

I think that a skier who is in "flow state" skis with fluidity. This is why it is pleasing for us to watch. The skiers movements
reflect a state of mind that we want to visit. In observing the skier, we arrive there, vicariously.
post #10 of 40
This reminds me of the racer who is looking 3 gates ahead. His/her turns through the gates are fluid and continuous because they have been mapped out in advance. The actual turn is done from an internalized program. There is a disconnect or interval between conscuous thought and muscle movement.
post #11 of 40
Great topic!

I think one of the "flow" aspects that you see with experts is that they "allow" things to follow a natural course of action without always trying to manipulate, force, or restrict what is efficient.

Even the most skilled skiers are always adjusting and adapting.
When things dont't go as planned, experts simply "let go" of a goof'd turn, release (flow) into the falline and get a better one going, lesser skilled skiers spend too much effort fighting with their mistakes and making major projects out them that results in skiing a single turn at a time instead of a continous run.

This is very evident in racers, the fast let go of their mistakes, the slow milk them and multiply them.
post #12 of 40
From my way of thinking flow is much more mental than physical. Sure it takes movement skills to achieve a state of flow (the zone?) but I believe that perceptual and mental factors are even more critical. For example the saying that "practice makes perfect" can be easily misinterpreted. Because you can execute movements in practice does not at all guarantee you can perform them under pressure. In skiing, the fear of falling, speed, or collision can make well trained movements diappear in an instance. As another example, take tennis or golf, where the pressure of competition or fear of failure can do the same.

If, while skiing, doubt or fear creeps in there is little chance to achieve or maintain flow. Similarly in tennis, if doubt creeps in as the ball approaches, either about where to hit it or one's ability to cleanly return the ball, chances are that an error of some sort will occur. Many people practice skiing movements but never practice the "letting go" and the building of confidence it takes to achieve a true state of flow.

While specific development of movement skills may be important, I have certainly observed (both for myself and others) instances where, by "mentally" achieving a state of flow, new high level movement patterns appeared without any specific intent or conscious effort.

From my observation the perceptual and mental side of working toward flow can definitely be worked on and developed. It is also my observation, however, that this component is under-emphasized (or even absent for the most part) in much of sports instruction. The choice of appropriate goals is an improtant component towards a balanced approach to learning. However approaches that focus too much on motor skills are often limiting.

With proper approach and goals it is pretty amazing to watch the frequency with which the body genius can learn new movements and skills. I don't think this is exclusively true for the better, more coordinated athlete as I have also observed how the right approach and goals can work effectively for lesser skilled athletes.
post #13 of 40
Originally posted by Wear the fox hat:

It's that thought of a stream - sometimes it's slow, sometimes fast, sometimes even cascading, but always flowing smoothly and freely, and seemingly effortlessly on its course down the mountain.
And sometimes, it's on snowlerblades?
post #14 of 40
mmmmmm... flow...

flow is a peculiar thing to describe, a rare thing to experience, and truly amazing to watch.

flow can be haphazard, a series of linked near-falls... after all, all downhill movement is merely controlled falling. the "flow" of Bill "Ski to Die" Johnson, Bode "Cowboy Up!" Miller, or Franz "no control" Klammer is the roughest sort, a very unrefined flow, but flow nonetheless. it's sort of like Coors Light on a hot, dry summer day - you drink it for its refreshing coolness, not for its rarefied brewing.

expert flow exists in many sports. my two favorite ones, alpine skiing and mtn biking, have good examples. Wade Simmons and Von Williams are two riders that represent unity with the terrain, an "at-home" feel that allows them free range for playing with the variables to reflect their personalities.

in alpine skiing, the last skier I recall with expert flow was Ingemar Stenmark -- but I'm first to admit I don't watch much competitive skiing these days. I'd bet that some of the big mtn skiers like Micah Black and Seth Morrison are smooth when skiing "small mtn" stuff. Local Missoula skier Donovan Power is pretty amazing.

there's a magazine covering freeride mtn biking, it's called flow. I think that pretty well describes what freeride is about, and it's what I strive for in mtn bike riding and in skiing.

but I can't accurately describe it [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]
post #15 of 40
Thread Starter 
But flow is not error free.
Very good point, Roto, about experts flowing through their inevitable errors and the unexpected whoopdedos on the way. Error in skiing is kind of a misnomer anyway, and I should have steered clear of it, but hey, I was on a roll. It's not an error in skiing, it's just inefficient.

I'd still maintain that the most efficient skiing is also the most flowing.
post #16 of 40
Nolo, flow is what's in the dream in every skiers head. I can't define it exactly but I know it when I see it. Flow is what I saw at ESA 1 in one skier in particular, YOU.
post #17 of 40
Thread Starter 
Wow. Thank you for the nice compliment, Pierre.

I do like the image of the mountain stream, Fox. In an eighties Warren Miller movie, there was a memorable telemark skier, a beautiful woman with a glorious halo of hair, who said, "I want to ski on the edge. Not on the edge of disaster, but on the edge of total relaxation." I watched her segment in the movie over and over, burned it into my brain, and I still ski with her words and image in the back of my mind.
post #18 of 40
To my way of thinking, what you are describing is a sort of internalized program, a kind of automatically functioning device, achieved through repetitive practice and imprinting (?), requiring only the input of data to function. In a sense it is the internalization and assimilation of imagery or a dream, if you will. Conscious thought is only remotely at the controls. You can imagine the dream and the little black box does the rest.

Really, it works for me and I'm not even on drugs!

On the other hand, I may be thinking of something completely different from what you are describing.
post #19 of 40
Thread Starter 
I don't know if you're talking to me, Arcadie, but I would agree that it is a "state of flow" we are after in skiing, and that it is something all beings come equipped with, but that is ordinarily overwhelmed by the "fight or flight" responses triggered by daily life, or so I surmise.

Actually, drugs and alcohol tend to interfere with this state by creating a false positive--one is relaxed without readiness (drugs delay your reaction time).

Another insidious interference to flow is judgment: can't be in flow if you're skiing for an audience or engaging in judgmental self-talk. Flow is pure doing, not evaluating how you're doing, or doing once removed--e.g., needing to ask "How'd I do?"
post #20 of 40
Flow worries me.

If I have flow I generally seek a fresh pair of boxers. Particularly if I have a little fire in my belly. It's my version of psychocybergastroenterology.

[ August 27, 2003, 07:27 AM: Message edited by: Rusty Guy ]
post #21 of 40
By Nolo: "Another insidious interference to flow is judgment: can't be in flow if you're skiing for an audience or engaging in judgmental self-talk. "

Nolo can you explain this thought to me a bit more? I want to know where you are coming from before I disagree with this statement.
post #22 of 40
The current Powder runs a story called "Flow" (by Keith Carlsen, page 48) that quickly redefines the notion of flow in terms of style.
Perhaps one's personal skiing style is an expression of flow when the skills are so ingrained that skiing is more dance than thought.
The writer asks current "Big Mountain" skiers to talk about style. One replies that his own is "power-driven."

What that means is for the skier to describe but I'm wondering, do you ski instructors, or long-time skiers see the personalities of people you know emerge in their skiing as they progress to the point where their skills allow for more self-expression?

Lack of fear (tentativeness) and self-consciousness certainly put me more in what I'll call The Zone. My mind is more able to give over control to the body. But this increased trust has come because of mileage and increased familiarity with the brush (the skis) and the canvas (the mountain).

(Most of the time, though, I am still drawing dot-to-dot.)

[ August 27, 2003, 08:42 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #23 of 40
Thread Starter 
I probably should explain it then. This is not to say that a person can't get an assist performance-wise from having an audience watching closely, even evaluating. What I am warning about is something called downshifting, or sudden power loss due to brainfreeze, stage fright, or OHP (overhead pressure--why many skiers avoid skiing lift lines). Heisenberg said something to the effect that the observer changes the event--I presume the effect may be positive or negative, but never neutral or there would be no change.

At the highest echelons, I think performers have to be skiing from the inside-out not the outside-in, even if skiing for an audience is one aspect of it. Furthermore, good skiing is in the present. As soon as a performer starts second guessing what just happened, she is dwelling on the past and the future is going to catch her unready.

Flow is doing. If you are evaluating, you just stopped your flow.
post #24 of 40
By Ryan
"Lack of fear (tentativeness) and self-consciousness certainly put me more in what I'll call The Zone. My mind is more able to give over control to the body. But this increased trust has come because of mileage and increased familiarity with the brush (the skis) and the canvas (the mountain). (Most of the time, though, I am still drawing dot-to-dot.)"

Ryan I loved this analogy that you used. As I was a fine arts major in school I can relate to this very well.
*****(Most of the time, though, I am still drawing dot-to-dot.)****** I thought this was the best

By Nolo
"Flow is doing. If you are evaluating, you just stopped your flow. "

Thank you for explaining yourself. I agree now with what you have said. Especially this statement.
post #25 of 40
Flow is doing. If you are evaluating, you just stopped your flow.
Yes indeed!

Nice job, nolo. This should be copyrighted... heh heh heh.
post #26 of 40
I am pretty bored at work at the moment and was trying to think of analogy's.

When talking about Flow it can be likened to driving a manual car in a traffic jam. Imagine that it is a hot summer day and your air conditioning is broken in your car. You are about to get on the interstate to drive home from work but you notice that there is a huge traffic jam. You have two choices to make.

One, get on the interstate in traffic and tire you legs out from shifting from first gear to neutral stopping and going, feeling the heat from the hot pavement and smelling the exhaust gas building around you. BUT you think to yourself it is the most direct route home.

Or, though you know it is technically a longer distance for your car to go, you decide to take the back streets through neighborhoods in second or third gear, feeling the wind flow through your hair and only stopping for the occasional stop sign or person crossing the street.

Both of these choices will get you to your destination at about the same time, Which way would you prefer to go?
post #27 of 40
Thread Starter 
Why thank you, Gonzo. Rare praise is worth keeping.

I'm glad we're in agreement, Lu. I would take the road less trafficked. But of course, my analogy would involve driving through a herd of cows on the highway: they are flowing one direction, how do you go with or against their flow without losing your flow? (Actually, driving through cows is probably great cross training for skiing in variable terrain and trees. Too bad so few people get the experience. )
post #28 of 40
Was it Yogi Bera that said that half of this game is 90% mental?

I always understood the explanation as meaning that at the pro level, everyone possesses the skill and motivation, what differentiates is the attitude, the approach. If the mind is cluttered and over analytical, if you are in your head then the flow won't go.

I think this is true of all that participate in sports. All that is required is a level of comfort and confidence with the game and equipment. It is that flow, that zone, that moment unfettered that will take you to the next level, that will give you that peak experience and burn in your mind that perfect day. It is the stoke, the soul, the pure pleasure of the moment, the essence of our physical endeavor.

Flow is go.
post #29 of 40
Driving in a herd of cows?
Reminds me of that old Roger Miller one: You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd
post #30 of 40
Slatz. I thought it was "you can't get to Heaven on roller skates. You'll just roll right by." [img]graemlins/angel.gif[/img]

I've always thought that flow was most important when skiing through trees. Nolo's cow analogy sort of brought it to the surface for me. (After a summer of working in the mine, skiing has been quite far from my thoughts. Unfortunately) The use of targeting, strategy and anticipation (of both the snow and the terrain) all help to complement and create flow for me. Having objects like trees in the way only makes me work that much harder on the mental aspects of my skiing.

So how do you drive through a herd of beeves without interrupting flow. In my experience, just startling one sort of makes them create a flow of their own.

Good topic!
Spag :
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