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Speed and Instruction

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Do they ever go together?
If so, under what circumstances will you employ "fast skiing"? To what end?

Race coaches,

At what speeds do you begin to separate young skiers who want to go faster from those for whom serious racing will not be happening?
post #2 of 28
I'm not sure I understand the first question (but then I'm not an instructor). In general, I've found that in lessons we almost never go anything like as fast as I often do by myself. On a related note, if following the instructor we also tend to do a lot more turns on one piece of slope than I would do alone. I can see the point of this, as if we are practising a particular point of technique (e.g. pole plants) the time should be spent working on that technique. Certainly the only time any part of a lesson has actually concentrated on speed is when giving tips on how to schuss.

However, speaking entirely personally, I've no interest in being taught directly how to ski faster. The more I carve & the less I skid the faster I move. As my technique & confidence improve, I've noticed my overall speed (however measured) increasing along with my enjoyment, but I'm not at all interested in racing as such.
post #3 of 28

One of the things that speed does is mask a range of skill deficiencies. For this reason most effective instructors will ask their students to slow things down. There are many people out there who can't "turn" until they "get going fast enough" because its impossible to make a push-on-the-skis-skided-turn at slow speeds. Many people are astounded when I do short turns at low speeds on gentle terrain, but that particular demo usually gets the students to buy into what I will be teaching them. It even works with testosterone laden teenage boys if I proceed it with a run where I show that I can also ski very fast.

One of the unfortunate things that I see and hear about are the situations where an instructor has encouraged their students to ski faster because it makes the inefficient technique of their students work a little better. I've even ran into cases where the instructor was teaching the inefficient technique and encouraging the students to ski faster to help them "get it"

Skiing faster is an outcome of skiing better so by the end of a lesson my students tend to be skiing faster than they were at the start. What's interesting is that many of them don't realize that they are going faster because they feel more stable at the same time.

As an aside here one of the guestions that I sometimes use to evaluate a student that I've never seen ski is "Do you have to build up some speed before you can start skiing?" If the answer is yes then I know an awful lot abotu how that person will ski.

Hope this answer is what you were after,

post #4 of 28
I've never told a kid they won't make it. Everyone has their own motives and goals.
Usually in order to go faster you have to slow down and make some "program" changes. Not always, some have lots of athleticism, but usually. Some things that "feel" fast aren't. It's hard to convince some kids otherwise.
post #5 of 28
In the CSIA we have a saying: "Maximum speeed on minimum terrain." Basically, you want to find terrain that your students are going to be comfortable going faster on. When a student is going too slow a wide range of difficulties present themselves. I compare it to driving a car without power steering. It's pretty tough to turn the steering wheel when you're going at parking lot speeds, but it handles great on the highway. Same thing with your skis, when you're going too slow you have to force them to turn which causes problems, mainly rotation, but when you get them up to speed they will turn a bit easier. It's a matter of friction. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #6 of 28
Regarding separation of the kids in the race programs, most hills will have two teams.

The Development Team starts the kids off and the concentration is on skill building. Kids will run gates perhaps 10% to 20% of the on snow training, the NASTAR course can be used here for a part of the day. The emphasis is on fun and sound skiing. If the kid shows progress and has the will, they can move to a Travel Team. At this level, they are USSA members and are competing against other hills/teams.

Once you hit the travel circuit some of the training will be kicked up a notch. Slalom is introduced and many of the nuances such as thru gates, flushes etc.

Most of the training is done at "GS speeds" that will approximate race speeds. It would be rare to have any of the Juniors training at Super G and DH speeds and I have not seen this done, though it is an emerging issue for the older kids (16 and 17 year olds) and I think some of the programs in the Rockies have started.

On a sad note, a 14 year old boy was killed two weeks ago training GS at Mt. Hood.
post #7 of 28
Originally posted by Ydnar:

One of the things that speed does is mask a range of skill deficiencies. For this reason most effective instructors will ask their students to slow things down.

Super comment.

Ryan, let me give you an example of how this can even influence instructors. Last winter I had a group of level 1 and 2 candidates out in a clinic. We were working on and videoing the infamous wedge christies. Very intentionally I took them to some of the flattest terrain at Copper. All of them had difficulty with the manuever and almost uniformly commented "we can't go fast enough to do the manuever". Their "homework" before the next clinic was to prepare an on snow presentation for the group demonstrating the differences in doing wedge christies on the flattest and gradually steepening terrain. Funny how they came to realize the problem was not the terrain but the "terrainee".
post #8 of 28
Can only speak as a student - but YES I regularly have 'go faster' lessons (also known as attitude lessons)

Spent all of the weekend just gone pretty much being forced to ski faster(outside my comfort zone)
This is quite common as after we have worked on technique for a bit & cemented that in my thick head we need to adjust my 'top' speed again to fit the new technical skills I have.

& before someone asks - NO - I would never attempt to ski faster on my own
post #9 of 28
>>>In my students the hardest habit to break was going fast. Since all, but especially intermediate maneuvers are easier when going fast and speed masks many sins of sloppy skiing, I would try to slow them down and add precision, well, lots of luck.<<<

Several days ago I made the above comment in the 'break a habit' thread and it is one of my pet peeves. Skiers who ski very fast tell me that they love speed, which is all well and good as long as they can ski ANY speed. Now and then I ask some of them to ski behind me and I ski my normal speed, not slow, and after a few turns they blow past me, using that very speed as a turning force.

The single biggest drawback on that is that they don't finish their turns, many barely moving out of the fall line. Speed is fine as long as you can ski well at ALL speeds, slow to fast, with precision and in control.

post #10 of 28
WOW! I'm not the only one with that problem. : (didn't really think I was)
I'm with you Ott. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #11 of 28
: Aaaaarrrrggghh! Some of the comments in here are a ski school directors worst nightmare! If you're teaching a lesson and skiers of the same or similar ability to your client are zipping past you on a run because you're "slowing" things down you're going too slow. I would hazzard to guess that one of the most common phrases in these same lessons is "follow me people!". So you ski your clients down in a lame-assed snake, going so slow that the people at the back of the group are all over the show, trying to slow down so they don't run over the person in front of them while the "pro" up front does his best pose. Who's learning here?

Next time you people are out teaching try to remember that skiing is supposed to be FUN! Ask yourself why you ski. What makes it fun for you? I seriously doubt that it's going painfully slow perfecting your wedge turns. What makes you think that your clients want to?

Going too slow is one of the biggest mistakes we can make as instructors. Not only is learning inhibited but we continue the stereotype of a boring "follow me" ski lesson.
post #12 of 28
>>> Now and then I ask some of them to ski behind me and I ski my normal speed, not slow,<<<

Ski professor, note that I said NOT SLOW, and this is not during a lesson, since I retired, after 25 years of teaching, a dozen years ago.

The problem as I see it is that skiers keep gaining a little speed with every turn until they go so fast that just by throwing an arm the skis will change direction, and they think that is cool.

In my opinion you can't teach technique at that speed.

post #13 of 28
Ski Prof - I understand the point you are trying to make, but there are a bunch of solutions to the problem of students not liking slower skiing exercises, being passed by skiers of similar ability not in lessons, etc.

Assuming we are talking about adult students, the most obvious is to explain carefully to them exactly how they will benefit from this exercise, what "success" in it really means (ie, "my purpose is not to train skiers to ski slowly but ...")

An important adjunct to this is to alternate these slower exercises with skiing on steeper terrain that is just above the comfort zone of the students (ie, so that it will be *very* clear to them the purpose of control of line and speed). Demonstrate how some kid that flew by in a ragged braking wedge on a low blue will look on a high blue or low black.

Finally, and most obviously, for those that are indeed comfortable with speed (and some are not), let 'em rip & have fun for part of the lesson on comfortable terrain, exactly like you suggested (and tell them why that too is important).

Tom / PM

PS - With kids, forget all of the above. Fun is all-important.
post #14 of 28
Ski Professor,

No one actually said that we required our students to ski slowly. We have just been making the point that it is often necessary to have the student ski slower in order to make changes in their skiing. Interestingly enough one of the main things that I am working for when “slowing things down” is to teach the student to get rid of the breaking movement patterns that I see in their skiing. These are often students who have come to the lesson because they have found that when the terrain gets steep they end up going faster and faster until they have to throw out an anchor in the form of a pronounced hockey stop/slide. And if in the process of teaching the student to ski an arced turn instead of the pivoty slidey turn that they were making before we are passed by others of the same “level” who are still making a series of linked hockey slides that is great. It allows me to point out to the student the differences between how they used to ski and what they are learning to do now. My students also find that what I am teaching them is a more fun way to ski. Or at least that is what they tell me. We are not helping our students if all we do is help them to become more comfortable at higher speeds on the same skidy unstable platform, I want to actually teach the student to ski the way I do on a slicing stable platform and to do this it is necessary to slow them down a bit or sometimes a lot.

We have a saying here at Epic Ski “Ski as slow a line as is necessary as fast as you can.”. Not only does this lead to safer more controlled skiing but it also leads to faster skiing because when you have a slope to yourself then the slowest line necessary can be SuperG arcs down the fall line. Also, when a student learns this then the need to employ breaking movements is eliminated and the hockey stop becomes an emergency stop which is just what it should have been in the first rather than a way to turn.

Finally, friction is a factor only if the skier makes a breaking type turn. When taught a gliding, arced turn where the skier and the skis are constantly moving forward through the turn together the slight friction that does exist creates little or no problems. My reaction is that if an instructor has to get their student to ski faster in order to make what they are teaching the student work better then they are not teaching the student to ski efficiently.

Speed does not equal good skiing and slow does not equal good skiing. Going precisely where you want to go at the speed you want to go at equals good skiing.

post #15 of 28
>... Going precisely where you want to go at the speed you want to go at equals good skiing.

KEEPER ! You may have just out-Barnes'ed Barnes in the turn-of-phrase department.

Tom / PM
post #16 of 28
Ott's point is right on. These "speed freaks" don't "finish" their turns. Therefore they don't control their speed and can't stay behind the instructor.
I agree that the "snake line" is not effective teaching. I never use it. Instead I use syncronized skiing. That way the student emulates the instructor. A picture is worth a thousand words.
post #17 of 28
I was just thinking about this topic the other night. How can i get my students to go faster? They have very good technique, but there always seems to be something holding them back from going faster. Each student has their own little problems they need to work on, but as a whole my team(Jr.II's)ski/race pretty well.
I think at some point speed has to be addressed as a race coach. At the beginer levels good technique and line are stressed over and over again to set a pattern in their little minds, which is definitly necessary. But, once racers have entered the upper levels and the "men are separated from the boys" so to say, technique and line have to be manipulated into finding the fastest way down the coarse. I've also found that older racers that are not experienced at the older level hold back too much. They do not commit their bodies to the fall line, or down the hill. Once they commit themselves to do this, speed is inevitable. There is obviously more things involved than just commitment down the hill that makes a fa st racer, but i think this is a huge problem in jr. racing.
post #18 of 28
Over 90% of speed comes from where? It ain't where you hold your hands. Witherell said over 25 years ago that it's to learn to eliminate braking. Blink your eyes = approx 1 tenth of a second. In a race course - 30 gates - if a skier is losing a .10 seconds per turn = 3 seconds per run x 2 runs
= 6 SECONDS, at least. So, if you can find .10/sec per turn, the athlete will be participating in an entirely level of competition.

Touch, Feel, Snow/Ski Awareness, accuracy. Watch the snow/ski interaction CLOSELY. It will tell you everything the skier understands about knowing how to go fast.

Is speed an element of skiing? Yes. Create siuations to nurture it. But, some people prefer moguls. It's all about the joy of gravity.
post #19 of 28
I think it's true. Racers are born, not made.
As far as teaching goes, the White Pass turn gets the center of mass across the ski and down the hill. I use it,along with one ski skiing to get that across.
Still, the good ones seem to figure it out by themselves.
post #20 of 28
While I don't disagree with Yd's or other's comments on speed here I think that we are neglecting to talk about both sides of the equation. Yes, there are many situations and environments where too much speed just encourages bad habits. Yes, you can try to eliminate braking by slowing down, working on technique, and building speed up slowly. But ...

Speed is also a tremendous tool for teaching. The best "lessons" I have ever had are following a couple of different friends (who happen to be renowned world class skiers). Usually my goal is just to keep them in sight as they ski very fast in ALL terrain (moguls, steeps, trees, drop-offs, etc.). Of course motivation is very high to do this as they are really fun people and a blast to ski with. In this situation I find myself assume a much more agressive way of skiing where I need to connect one turn with the next EVERY time. Even a slight bit of braking leaves me FAR behind so every time I do so I get great feedback about my mistakes.

Now I'm not saying this can work for everyone all of the time. But I would say that when the attitude, environment, and motivations is right, the breakthrough's that are possible greatly overshadow anything that can be accomplished with a more methodical approach.

I think this is perhaps a corollary to what Ski Professor was talking about. Going fast can be a major part of skiing fun for some (many?) people even if they have to employ some braking maneuvers. However, learning to connect turns while going fast in more diificult terrain (always relative to the skiers ability) can be an unrivaled revelation.
post #21 of 28
When I go fast I want to be a guided missile. Nothing scares me more than the unguided missiles out there who want speed without paying the dues it takes for precision.
post #22 of 28
Thread Starter 
Pretty scary to see that, too.
I remember a kid at Heavenly going very fast and without the least semblance of control. I kept waiting for him to get a clue and just lay it down but he didn't; he kept going till his skis finally did come out from under him. He rolled and tumbled quite a distance, miraculously missing a few groups of two and three as if they were gates he'd somehow made. And he wasn't saying a word so he'd've creamed 'em blind.
When he finally came to a stop I went over to him and gave him a word of advice. Plus a little editorial. He seemed too taken with the fact that he was still alive to hear much of what I was saying.
But you see it very often; skiers skiing fast and seeming to be okay but upon closer inspection you know they don't have the skills to react to something sudden. The least disturbance, or a lazy edge, and it's going to get ugly.

[ September 20, 2002, 09:40 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #23 of 28

I totally agreey with you that once a skier has escaped the braking turn dead end that they need to be challenged to use their new skills in different terrain at higher speeds. And one of the best ways to do this is to chase a higher skill skier. This is one of the activities that I try to include in every lesson but you wouldn't believe the difficulties involved in working it in safely. I don't want to do it right at the end of the lesson because fatigue on the students part can make it a poor decision. Yet, I don't want to do it to soon because nothing will bring back braking movements quicker than a students feeling 'too fast'. It is easiest to work into multi-day lessons where you can do it early in a lesson on one of the later days. Then it works gangbusters because not only is the student better prepared for it but you have time to follow up on it with feedback and further learning.

Another difficulity in doing it in lessons is gauging just what is' fast' for that particular student. If you get to far ahead then sometimes the student gets too caught up in just trying to keep up and all form and technique (and sometimes safety) goes out the window. Someone like you is a great candidate for this to work well with because you are very aware of when things aren't 'right'. Also at your level I wouldn't worry about my going too fast,I'd just go as fast as I wanted after telling you we'd meet at the lift.

I don't want to give the idea that my lessons are exercises in slow skiing. Far from it, in almost all my lessons the students end up skiing faster than they ever have before. But, faster isn't the goal its one of the by products. One of my great delights is turning the skier that everyone used to wait for into the one who is first back to the lift.

Thanks for giving me the spur to clear up that point, if it needed clearing up.


PS. I'm really looking forward to skiing with you this year, we can explore the speed issue at length and never have tosay a word.
post #24 of 28
Yd, based on our previous interactions I didn't expect you would disagree. Just wanted to balance the discussion.
post #25 of 28
Can a ski student (recreational, not a racer) check in here with my experience in speed?

I think for myself, the problem is that I have a bit of a "carving threshold," if you will. I can turn at minimum speeds, but it has to be a skidded turn. I don't need much more speed to make a carved turn. That is, I generally can't carve right off the lift onto the level summit, but once I've started down even a very gentle slope, it isn't much of a problem. Anyway, as I start carving I often run into the problem described here of constantly gaining speed until I need to make a breaking turn. I HATE braking at high speed. It's unstable, and feels very dangerous to me, so learning to maintain a constant, comfortable speed is a goal for the me in the coming season. So, for me at least, I don't want to learn to ski faster, per se, I want to learn how to ski comfortably at whatever speed I want.

All of my experiences with out-of-control speed have been very scary, enough to make me very strongly want to never make those mistakes again. I had problems in my first day of skiing, when I didn't know that my control and speed problems were due to being in the back seat constantly. I could barely turn. Once I learned to make carved turns from an in-control stance, I made the mistake once of following a friend down a moderately steep slope and tucking down at the bottom, straightlining to the bottom. All of a sudden, I felt myself beginning to slide sideways. In my position and at my speed, I didn't know how to stop it, so I tried to turn back to my direction of travel, caught the outside edge and BOOM! I landed face-first on the snow. I can say pretty confidently that speed was an enemy there - but only because I didn't know how to go fast safely, not because going fast is inherently wrong. So, I want to learn how to ski slow - but I also want to learn how to ski fast, so that when I do, I am in control.

[ September 20, 2002, 08:06 PM: Message edited by: Grolby ]
post #26 of 28
[quote]Originally posted by Grolby:
Can a ski student (recreational, not a racer) check in here with my experience in speed?

I think for myself, the problem is that I have a bit of a "carving threshold," if you will. I can turn at minimum speeds, but it has to be a skidded turn. I don't need much more speed to make a carved turn. That is, I generally can't carve right off the lift onto the level summit, but once I've started down even a very gentle slope, it isn't much of a problem. Anyway, as I start carving I often run into the problem described here of constantly gaining speed until I need to make a breaking turn. QUOTE]

Grolby – Thanks for checking in. The forum is for and about the skier and not the instructor so WELCOME!

Let me make a couple of suggestions or give you a couple of things to think about that may help.

First and foremost it is the shape of a turn that allows a skier to go fast or slow or maintain the same speed from turn to turn. Think of it this way, if a skier makes what we call a “Z” shaped turn, just as the term implies, the turn just by the shape keeps the ski tips pointed downhill 99% of the time. It is a “straight lining” of the skis downhill. Because the skier feels a deviation at the beginning and ending of the “Z” where the skier thinks they “turn” and really skids or slides as a braking action, usually with a hip pivot or shoulder thrust to get the skis to move a little sideways, the skier believes they made a turn. Actually the tips of the skis hardly stop pointing straight down the hill. The skier goes faster from turn to turn so in attempt to control the speed the skier will start putting in larger skids and or slides, more thrust of the body, more to the back seat etc. This is “Z” turn as opposed to making the round 0 shape turn of a skier that maintains a constant speed down the hill or from turn to turn. Visualizing a round 0 shaped turn the tip of the skis will turn around and across the fall line no matter what size the turn is which allows the speed in a skiers turns to be constant from turn to turn. The skier chooses their speed and the speed they choose follows around their turns. Of course you can do linked slides to control your speed and that allows you to point your tips out of the fall line but visually they suck. Make your turns nice and round and work on carving the shape, tail follows tip through and around the turn, and you will gain control of your turns. Remember a carved turn will have some skidding so don’t let that throw you. Skidding is not all bad.

As for starting off downhill, DON'T. You outlined your own problem. Find terrain you can warm up on and start making turns with say a small wedge, then maybe a wedge Christy, then open parallel. Set yourself up for success! Of course the problem is your friends want to “hit” the slopes and won’t wait. OK so help them choose a moderate slope you can warm up on. The first couple of runs they may wait for you at the lift but after you warm up you will wait them. In the mornings I start my first run with a few wedge hops to get the blood flowing, then some slow large turns, and then I will move up to some higher speed turns etc.

I hope this helps a little. Shape is the game if you want to ski fast or slow in control.

Have a GREAT day!

post #27 of 28

Originally posted by Grolby:

Anyway, as I start carving I often run into the problem described here of constantly gaining speed until I need to make a breaking turn.
Let me ask a question that requires think back in your ski experiences: If you viewed a ski slope as the face of a clock with 6 O'Clock being straight downhill, where are the tips of your skis facing when you begin the transition to your next turn? Are they at the 7 or 5 position, maybe 8 or 4? Your description is indicative of not completing the turn sufficiently to allow gravity to slow you down prior to transitioning to the next turn. When this happens the speed up can be quite exhilarating and discomforting.

One of the images I like to use with students is guiding the tips of their skis to the 3 or 9 O'clock positions, or even the 2 and 10 positions to develop the feeling for going back uphill prior to going downhill. Uphill christies or guided uphill arcs are great for learning this skill. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #28 of 28

Please do checkin here whenever you look. All input is good input.

The "trick" to skiing at a constant velocity while carving is to make sure you don't start to the next turn until you want to go faster, Keep turning, even if it means going uphill. Look at some of these threads the slow line, Pure Carve - Parallel Shins and How to make a Perfect Turn

[ September 21, 2002, 07:20 AM: Message edited by: Tom Burch ]
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