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PSIA vs. Racers?

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 
I began racing last year at 24yrs (late), attending our resort's open practice/coaching sessions twice a week. In getting to know the coaches/other racers, it occurred to me that there is a substantial difference between high-level race technique and high-level PSIA skiing. I've asked both coaches and instructors about this, but they seem only able to gruffly acknowlege the other's presence rather than discuss the nature of their differences.

Has anyone else noticed this "split"? If so, where along an instructor/coach's development do techniques start to diverge?
post #2 of 47

There is not really a lot of difference in the techniques involved the real difference is in the goals. Coaches/racers are only interestedd in getting down the hill in the shortest possible time following a predetermined path. Instructors/students are interested in getting down the hill with the biggest smiles on their faces following the path of their own choosing. These different goals lead to emphasis on different aspects of sound skiing technique.

By the way if the smile comes from getting down a race course faster than that's what I'll give them.

Seems to me that because of this difference in goals instructors are forced to be more versitle than coaches. What do you others think.


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 05, 2001 10:06 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Ydnar ]</font>
post #3 of 47

I'm neither a coach nor an instructor, but I've been a student of each type through the years.

One major source of difference between the two is inherent, I think. It's the goals and followup on the part of the students.

I don't think it's too much of a generalization to say that *most* race students are far more serious about learning than *most* recreational skiers. Also, racers tend to be far more involved in drilling/training/developing than recreational students.

Most recreational skiers seem to take an occasional (or rare) lesson, work a little bit on what they're shown, maybe incorporate a movement or two into their free skiing, and then go on having fun. Racers, on the other hand, have that annoying thing called the clock that tells them whether they're improving or falling behind. If they don't work - hard - they drop further and further back in the pack.

A consequence of that, I think, is that race coaches kind of dismiss recreational instruction as something catering to a clientele that isn't really very committed. Instructors, otoh, look at racers and coaches as single-minded and not very versatile.

It's an interesting question and I'm curious to see what kind of responses you get.

post #4 of 47
Yeah I can agree with that Peters!

If I may add my thoughts.

PSIA is focused on STYLE and our RACE teams are focused on TECHNICAL SUPREMACY!

Not the PSIA has no concern about the Technique on the contrary Technique as we discussed in other threads is what produces STYLE. (Style = several Techniques used to produce a given affect)

Race as Bob P said is about getting from point A to point B as fast as possible.

What is interesting is that again for me it is A and B. The course setter will dictate what Technical expertise will be required to make the next POINT or GATE of the race. At times a nice arc is present, at other times the course may require the racer to get over to it by methods which although TECHNICAL are not Astetic or considered good STYLE. (an agressive step up to attain the line for the gate would be an example)

It was interesting that the BATTLE OF THE SKI SCHOOLS this year included RACE for the FIRST TIME.

It has always been a area of contention.

Bob Barnes in anothre thread said to ski a hard run well you need to ski a easy run hard. Or something like that BOB don't shoot me (or Puck me) for that one. THis I would offer is what a good run on a set of gates can gain the instructor. All too many instructors are skiing basicly ONE way, for STYLE. Being challenged to MAKE the Course pushes the skier to a higher level of Technical SKill!

That is my thought I could be wrong, what do you think?
post #5 of 47
This polarization of PSIA VS. Racing is silly. There are many, many people who are both certified with the PSIA and the USSCA (United States Ski Coaches Association . . . racing). I don't know how the current rules are, but when I was first certified with the USSCA you HAD to be PSIA full-certified to qualify for USSCA levels II and up.

Great PSIA educated instructors DO NOT have "style" as the focus of their teaching. They teach effeciency, just like USSCA coaches do. If you are effecient, then you will be powerful, you will be capable of speed, and you will have "style" anyways!
post #6 of 47
I expect to get alot of flames for that one, but....

I think that the divergence of the teaching approach is there from the day one. It maybe insignificant and unnoticable at that stage, but does make a difference in a long run.

As stated by others there is a difference in goals, though my perception of this difference is this.
When a person new to skiing goes for PSIA lesson, what he/she is looking for (sometime unconsciously) is instant gratification. They want to leave the lesson perceiving themselves as better skiers (which actually may not necesserily be the case), and that what instructors try to deliver. All the different teaching systems are more about better ways of providing instant gratification (carved turns in three days : ) than teaching fundamentals of skiing. (Fire away, people). Hence the methods employed by ski instructors, who do need to make a living and do know that their students most probably won't be back for the second lesson if they did not feel improvement after the first one. As a result we have a huge number of people who have the ability to get down the slopes comfortably, but are stuck in their advancement as skiers. Skipping over fundamentals and modifying them (ever heard an expression "racing turn vs. ski instructor turn"?) to fit an average customer (sort of American version of Chineese cuisine) does allow to reach a plato faster, but that plato is rather low on a grand scale and it hinders the further progress. I'm not bashing ski instructors here, just giving my view on the way things are.

In racing "instant gratification" plays little role. The goals are to make sure that solid tecnique is learnt at the muscle memory level. On a race course you can not think about what do I do to make that turn. And that takes time. On the world cup most athletes peak at 25-30. Even when adjusting to new equipment sometimes it has to get much worse before it can get any better (borrowing this line from some movie, forgot which one). Those getting into ski racing has to accept the fact that the road to perfection is endless and every step on it is hard work. And only those who are patient enough to cross the first barrier can understand the value of reward. The rest are left with perception that racing is too much of boring work - let them be.

..ok boss is here...

post #7 of 47

Then answer the question.

You don not know thsi and this or that is not it.

Well give us some enlightinment?

Thanks for posting anyway!
post #8 of 47
I would say the problem is in the question. It's not PSIA vs. racing, it's instruction vs. coaching. If racing was half of the dichotomy, the other half would be recreational skiing. IF the question is instruction vs. coaching I would say this: they differ in the desired outcome of the customer. The different outcomes dictate different methodology and technique. As far as the fundamentals of efficient skiing, there is no difference. That is why USSCA and PSIA should be one organization or at least very closely aligned. USSCA members get The Professional Skier as a member benefit: USSCA pays PSIA fair market value to give their members this benefit. The reason is fundamental.

To say that "style" is a difference is to perpetuate the "instructor as show dog" and the "coach as working dog" split. There's aspects of show and work to both job descriptions.

How many of you folks are both USSCA and PSIA certified? The president of AASI/PSIA is a Level 5 race coach (of which there are a handful) and PSIA Level III. He went from running the Mammoth Race Department to running the Snow Sports School. Tim Ross of USSCA started as a ski instructor.

As in most things, they are more alike than different.
post #9 of 47
Dr. Go, I love you, man , but quit beating up on my instructor! He said:

"Great PSIA educated instructors DO NOT have "style" as the focus of their teaching. They teach effeciency, just like USSCA coaches do. If you are effecient, then you will be powerful, you will be capable of speed, and you will have "style" anyways!"

Pretty clear to me. Also, not all students want to race. Some {like me} are phobic around any sort of competition. A good instructor can teach the EFFICIENCY involved in racing technique, without having the student have to race. {if they don't want to}

post #10 of 47
Hmmmm - having a bad day Doc?

Question answered: as pointed out by Nolobolono and Lisamarie.

>>How many of you folks are both USSCA and PSIA certified?<<

I am, and I don't know what Bob Barnes official standing with USSCA is but the amount of time he spent doing work for the Mahre brothers puts his race grounding right up with (or above) most coaches I suspect.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 05, 2001 02:27 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd Murchison ]</font>
post #11 of 47
Thread Starter 
I guess to clarify things a little, I really did mean to draw attention to the different techniques that seem to be emphasized in PSIA and race-style skiing, and not just the teaching/coaching methods.

I know plenty of instructors who can rip a GS course, but when they free-ski, they tend to make those "PSIA" (scarve) turns, rather than a really clean race-turn. In addition, when I ski with them and listen to them critique one another, that very distinct turn style is what they aspire to, again not the perfection of the race carve.

It seems to me that some instructors and coaches just mean different things when they refer to a "carve".
post #12 of 47
Let's return to objectives. What is the key criterion for racing? What is the key criterion for recreation?
post #13 of 47
I find this subject very intriguing. My observations/questions/train-of-thought:

1. What I hear from PSIA is "Efficient vs. Inefficient movements" (I occasionally hear something about fun, but the implication is if you're executing efficient movements - you must be having fun).

2. PSIA tells me that efficient movements are very fluid/smooth/controlled/continuous movements.

3 Efficient must mean a you're maximizing performance per unit work.

4 If you are working very hard, while performing efficient movements, I would think you would be going very fast.

5. Suppose your're performing very high speed, efficient, varying radii, short radius turns; since your turns are efficient - they must be fluid/smooth/controlled/continuous

If the above train-of-thought was correct, I would expect that the turns described in "step 5", would look like the turns I see slalom racers executing. However, at least to me, the racers that I watch don't look like that. Obviously, they are much faster than anyone I've seen performing "step 5" turns, and have to be skiing VERY efficiently.

Where does my logic break down?
post #14 of 47
I agree LH, we know that there are many instructors who have a race background as well - who definately lay trench with the best of them (and not *just* in GS courses [img]smile.gif[/img] ). But many instructors indeed strive for an altogether different ideal. Of course since the goals of their students also vary greatly, we just hope that in the long run the students match up with instructors who methods match their personal goals.
post #15 of 47
>>What is the key criterion for racing?<<

Winning of course, though for most its also a pathway to a great lifestyle and adrenaline rush. The nice thing about racing is that your fullfillment of the criterion for being good is very clear, timers don't lie.

>>What is the key criterion for recreation? <<

Ideally for fun, but I would say that for many its "winning" as well. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on viewpoint) the measure of "victory" is entirely subjective here . . . meaning that for the truly ego-motivated, they each get to think they are the BEST! [img]smile.gif[/img] Which as the owner of a ski area told me once in a discussion along these lines "Thats fine, let those kids think they are the best in the world, as long as they keep buying lift tickets"!
post #16 of 47
Let me throw something else in.

I am an instructor, so I look for efficent consistant turns and controlling my speed over different terrain. Looking pretty and making skiing look easy.

I am a coach, so I look for efficent consistant turns that create speed through a defined course. Grunting, and being exhausted at the end of the run is permitted.

I am a ski patroller. STAY IN YOUR CAR!!!! DON"T GO SO FAST!!!!

Different goals, different mind set from the participant, but hopefully all having fun.

Sometimes a member of one group will feel superior to another ("I can do something you can't do"), but that is really only a different skill being demonstrated. We saw this in a thread about ski patroller skills.

If you think that you are superior to someone else while skiing, my you wait in a lift line while people walk over your skiis, and use your boots for ski pole holders.

Being a family site I thought the above would be acceptable as a version of an Irish curse.
post #17 of 47
If you want to know what most race coaches think of PSIA, just read the relevant chapter in The Athletic Skier -- Warren says it far better (and more entertainingly) than I can. (Even if you don't want to know what that chapter has to say, you should read the rest of the book anyway.)
Almost keep in mind that just because a coach also has PSIA certification does not mean that the coach has many kind words for PSIA.
post #18 of 47
As a current instructor and a former coach, I have a couple of comments.

As an instructor, I teach my students the fundamentals of efficient skiing. As a coach, I taught my racers the fundamentals of efficiant skiing. Recreational skiers do not advance as fast as racers, because of the time dedicated to training. One of the key goals of a lot of coaches, ski team included, is quality free skiing.

Remember, a turn is a turn. The difference is the efficiency of the turn.
post #19 of 47
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Dr.GO:
Yeah I can agree with that Peters!
Not the PSIA has no concern about the Technique on the contrary Technique as we discussed in other threads is what produces STYLE. (Style = several Techniques used to produce a given affect)
That is my thought I could be wrong, what do you think?

OK Murch, Sorry I did not want to go BACK to my original quote but here is a clip of it anyway.

You can not SITE me for calling PSIA STYLE with out focus to Techinque.

One of the big issues here as some hae pointed out is that PSIA is teaching the enjoyment and technique of skiing. BUT that skier will be FREESKIING where thye pick the line. If fact chooseing your line is part of the PSIA book.

In racing the line is CHOOSEN for you. OR to qulaify the LINE chooses YOU!

SO, to be succesful where the line is choosen for you I submit that you must be TECHNICALY a much BETTER skier!

Now in choosing the line students as well as those who preform "Ski School Turns"
for a living are URGED to FLOW and CONSERVE MOTION.

Still sounds like STYLE to me!

Take a racer who is top in the field and an instructor who is top in the field. There may be a few exceptions. However I submit that it would be easier to teach the RACER to be STYLISH like a PSIA SKI SCHOOL TURNER. Than it would be to teach the INSTRUCTOR to RACE, and qualify above cut off!

Nuff said!

LM Murch is your Fav, I thought about three others in here had that designation?
post #20 of 47
Hmmm, not really relevant who my 'fav" is. Not doing my Lady Guineviere "Then You May take Me to the Fair" number at the moment.
But I have to wonder who you thought the other 3 were.

Back on topic, and this has come up before. Many 3 day ski school programs have a race at the end. I am always annoyed when NOTHING we have been taught the days before relates remotely to the kind of turns you would make when running gates.
post #21 of 47
Wow--this is turning into another "hot-button" issue! The answers are all there, in the above posts. Teaching and coaching are not necessarily the same thing. Recreational skiers come with an enormous spectrum of motivations, experiences, athletic levels and backgrounds--and instructors need to learn to deal with ALL of these. Surely no one would expect an instructor to teach a brand new middle-aged unathletic skier to cross-block gates! But if a racer shows up for a technique tune-up, instructors need to be able to help here too.

The skills are exactly the same. Great racers are ALWAYS great recreational skiers. Great recreational skiers can navigate a race course if they choose to, and some are very fast!

As Todd says, I don't ski any differently when I wear a Mahre Training Center uniform than when I wear a PSIA uniform. And Phil and Steve Mahre work on the exact same fundamentals when they work with any level of skier, from beginner through racer.

A. J. Kitt, the great retired American downhill racer, is a proud member of PSIA, and a working instructor. He claims only that he WISHES he knew some of what he's learned since joining PSIA when he was still competing. Debbie Armstrong, American GS Olympic Gold Medalist in 1984, has proudly ascended the PSIA certification ranks and last season she became an Accredited Trainer. She was at Breckenridge today and yesterday, skiing with the Rocky Mountain PSIA Fall Training groups. I didn't have the pleasure of having her in my group, but I'll bet she'd strongly object to any suggestion that she has to ski differently now because she's a PSIA instructor! She skis BETTER than most instructors, of course, but she's doing the same thing.

Again, it is unfortunate, but we have to remember that many instructors have not maintained their technique or their knowledge as skiing has evolved. THEY may do different things. And many instructors, even in PSIA ski schools, have absolutely NO PSIA training. PSIA can take neither the credit nor the blame for how they ski and teach. So many individual instructors may well ski and teach something contradictory to great racing technique, but it is a mistake to believe that they represent PSIA.

Finally (I'm probably going to catch Hell for this), I contend that many RACE COACHES are seriously lacking or misinformed in technical understanding and skills. They are human and individuals too, and some are much better than others. And the coaching community seems to me even more prone to wide swings of the "pendulum" when it comes to technical ideas. Three years ago "countering" and big "lead changes" were all the rage. Now they're into minimal lead and a somewhat squarer stance. PSIA, on the other hand, has maintained throughout that "slightly countered" is the optimal, and almost inevitable, arrangement as a result of basic movements.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #22 of 47
It's interesting that the USSCA has now decided that rotary skills are, after all, necessary, having banished them for a while. That one reminded me of some of the lamer stands of the Holy Roman Church. Do you suppose PMTS will recognize that the wedge turn serves a valid purpose one of these days too?
post #23 of 47

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:
[Surely no one would expect an instructor to teach a brand new middle-aged unathletic skier to cross-block gates! <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I have had this question in my mind for a while.

Why does "cross blocking" work? My mind says that the motion should result in the gate being thrust in front of your body and resulting in an impedance to your progress. But it obviously does not hinder the racer as all are doing it---am I missing something?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 05, 2001 08:36 PM: Message edited 1 time, by skier_j ]</font>
post #24 of 47
They're going to have to "eat a lot of crow" when they finally admit that, Nolo. Anyone who has watched a World Cup race lately, especially GS and Slalom, and especially the men, can see that "rotary" skills are still alive and well. (That's not to imply that the women have any less skill than the men, but powerful rotary movements are more obvious in the men. The men often strongly re-direct their skis in the transition between turns, sometimes in the air, often with a powerful up-unweighting movement! They don't do it if they don't have to, but the demands of race courses bring out these skills very clearly.)

At the clinics at Breckenridge this past weekend, Katie Fry reported on her experiences with the USSCA over the summer. As you say, they are again recognizing the importance of rotary skills. She attended a training session for some of the top young racers--14-18. They were asked to do "pivot-slips" and apparently none of them could even come close! Skills are seriously lacking! Then Phil Mahre demonstrated the exercise to perfection.

The more things change....

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #25 of 47
Good question, Skier-J. Surely, you're right--knocking that gate down in front of you causes some amount of resistance. But the alternative--reaching way in to "clear" the gate to the inside of the turn--would involve such a stretch and so much movement of the arms and upper body that it would seriously interfere with the turn. Remember that only the racer's feet and skis need to make it around the gate. The entire body from below the knees up usually goes inside the gate, unlike the the technique of the old heavy, inflexible bamboo gates. Cross-blocking involves very little movement and allows the skier to maintain a functional stance and alignment. The benefits outweigh the costs.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #26 of 47

Good answer, but maybe one small correction. You said to "reach in" to clear the gate to the inside. Actually would it not involve reaching "out" to clear the gate to the inside, i.e. not crossblocking?
post #27 of 47
Ah, the advent of rapid/breakaway gates...much better! Bamboo gates really hurt to continuously smack them! Not to mention they were kind of hard on the goggles to boot! :
post #28 of 47
I find it curious that the USSA threw the baby out with the bathwater for a few years. And I'm glad to know that they have come back around.

In 1997 the USSA published a handbook called Alpine Athlete Competencies: one of the "markers" of the technical and tactical domains for ages 17-18 was sideslipping and pivots.

The USSA handbook was greatly influenced by Benjamin Bloom's study at the U. Chicago, which was published in a book titled Development of Talent in Young People (1985). I recommend both the handboook and Bloom's book to anyone, instructor or coach, who wants to learn more about developing athletic competencies.

As others have noted in this thread, the main difference between coaching and instructing is the (generally) greater commitment of the racer to improvement.

There are fads, even in the highest levels of sport. That's perhaps the strongest reason for gaining a good foothold in the fundamentals of good skiing, so you can decide for yourself what is "competence" and what is "smoke and mirrors."
post #29 of 47
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the insightful answers; they (maybe unintentionally) directly addressed my concerns. I would like to discuss your perspective on this, especially how the topic pertains to the Mahre program. Please email me if you get the chance @ lherndon@vailresorts.com.

post #30 of 47
On "cross-blocking" -

If the racer has the skill to carve a tight enough line that the path of the hips is inside the base of the gate, the (cross)block "happens" without reaching for it or the blocking hand needing to 'cross' the centerline of the body. The upper body remains upright facing the next gate and nothing gets disturbed.

Unfortunatly most club/jr/HS program coaches let kids cross-block before they can carve a turn that put them on the correct line to do benifit from doing so. The kids see that the really fast kids cross-block and (wrongly) assume it is part of the reason they are fast. If you watch most club/jr/HS racers (who can not carve on the hip inside the gate line) closely you will see:

the attempt to cross-block comes from reaching across with the arm,

which rotates and tips in the shoulders,

which moves the hip out and around,

which de-angulates the lower body,

which flattens the skis,

which then SKID further from the gate,

which encourages a more exagerated reach across,

etc, etc, etc.

If coaches clearly understood cause and effect they would teach the fundamentals of good skiing that lead to carved turn skills that allow the proper line to be skied BEFORE ALLOWING kids to cross block the problem would not be so prevalent.

Until then the kids will just do what they have been mistaught to do and their development will suffer. :
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