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Please HELP - Learning Speed!

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I am 6'0 220lb beginner male skier skiing K2 2008 Apache Crossfire 181. Longer skiis work better for me then shorter skiis especially when turning. Wonder why?

I got the basics and am a slow skier now, skiing in Vermont. Usually get 1pm half day ticket. The problem I am having is speed. I am not mentally prepared to "let it go" and pick up speed. I keep curving and turning to slow myself down for comfort. I am comfortable on the green but the issue is transition to blue and the steeper slope angle.

When I gain speed my curving technique is not effective to keep me at a comfortable speed. I simply, mentaly afraid of speed and loosing control. If you really understand me, any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance...
post #2 of 16

Hey Clubber!

Shorter skis are easier to turn for most skiers. If you are skidding a lot and have your weight behind your heels, then that might explain why longer skis make it easier for you turn. With video it would be easier to answer your question. At your skill level, height, weight and skiing locations I'd normally prefer to see you on a 150-160cm ski.
"I keep curving and turning to slow myself down for comfort" is a good place to start your quest for steeper terrain. This is using turn shape to control speed and it's a good thing. The trick is to not use your feet to "curve" the skis. You need to tip the skis on edge more and let the skis turn you. This way you can shape your turns a little uphill to finish your turns and control speed that way. Also, when you get your skis to "bite" more (e.g. carving) instead of skid, you will have a much better feeling of control that will let you ski faster without fear.

When you start to ski faster, staying balanced becomes more difficult.  There are two balance directions to work on: fore/aft and side to side. For fore/aft balance you need to learn to move your upper body to stay over your skis. If you practice stepping from one foot to the other (lifting a ski just a little off the snow, then putting it down and lifting the other) constantly through a turn, you will "automatically"  be staying fore/aft balanced over your skis. First start doing this from a traverse and stepping uphill until you stop. Then start facing more and more downhill. When you can start straight down the hill and step to an uphill stop, you are ready to try stepping through a whole turn. When you can easily step through a whole turn, you've learned how to stay centered over your skis.

To maintain side to side balance as you turn faster, you need to have your hips and shoulders turned slightly to face down hill as you finish your turns. As you go across a slope and tip your knees into the hill to get the skis on edge, looking downhill with your hips and shoulders will help you stay in side to side balance (i.e. not fall over). This is called a "countered" position (upper and lower body faces different directions). If you create the most amount of counter just before you start your next turn, the "torque" can help to create the next turn as your lower body tries to move in the direction the upper body is facing. You want your ski tips, hips and shoulders all facing the same direction when you are going straight down the hill and then start creating counter again as you finish the bottom of a turn.

This is a lot do work on on your own. I taught 3 lessons yesterday to similar skiers. I got them all confidently skiing faster and on blue runs in 90 minutes. A lesson could help you short cut days worth of efforts into hours. If you do decide to take a lesson, I recommend renting a pair of 130cm skis. Very short skis can help accelerate the learning process for skiers at your level. Yes we know that longer skis work better for you, but a pro can teach you new movements faster on shorter skis because they give you more feedback than longer skis do (which is probably why you don't like them - they are screaming "ouch"). After the lesson, you can use those new movements on your longer skis and soon both you and your skis will be saying "ahhhhhh".

Good luck!

post #3 of 16
Rusty, thanks!!

post #4 of 16
Rusty's two points are very important.  If the skier is either back on their heels or heavy on the uphill ski for a false sense of security, nothing can work right.

Yes, get skis that will curve under your weight more easily.  I'm not sure about the 130cm skis, but try anything.  If you rent at the hill, you can always exchange.  I think a 165cm might be about the max for you at this stage.

You need your center of mass, somewhere in the abdoment, out over the toes of your foot that is on the outside of the turn.  If you have a hard time getting here, try this--on a comfortable slope, traverse across with your uphill ski tail lifted off the snow an inch or two and tip sliding on the snow, and the foot pulled back pretty strongly--ski tips almost even.  When you can traverse this way, get to know that feeling of balance.  When you lose the feeling, stop.  Tell yourself that you're out of correct balance, get where you need to be, and ski away.  You want your hands and arms in the natural position your body puts them in for balance when walking across a slippery surface, head up, back almost straight, hips and torso slightly twisted toward the outside of the turn.  When you're ready to turn, switch feet.  Lift the tail of the downhill ski an inch off the snow then turn and keep it off the snow.  When you get this drill working well on comfortable slopes, do it just lightening the foot, not lifting it.  When this works, gradually increase the difficulty of the slopes.  If you are correctly balanced, you will ski smoothly and ski well.  If we are not correctly balanced, no one can ski well.

Very important...we ski with our feet.  Our upper body movements just amplify the movements of our feet.  If you're twisting your arms and shoulders around to start your turns or make your turns stronger, STOP IT!  Learn to ski with your feet.
post #5 of 16
VipClubber,  I'd tell you to go a little faster each time you go.  Then each time you get going faster than you have been STOP.   Practice this right, and left.    OK, now you feel better because you can stop.   Then I would tell you to stay on a mellow pitch, let the skis run on edge without trying to slow down at all.  Take up the whole width of the run as you make wide turns.  This should get you to carving the ski after a while.   Watch the bodies of those doing it, and do it like them.  You can't be scared.  (falling is part of learning)  Speed is your friend when it comes to getting a ski to do what it's made to do.   If you are always checking speed, you will only get a work out, and get tired too quick.  
Stay on a mellow slope.  Let them go.  SPEED IS YOUR FRIEND.  ( but always practice your stops!)
Never go fast until you have skied the run first!  No matter how easy it may seem.  Every day is different than the other.  Good luck from a ski bum.
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks for advice. Here is what I would like to say. First, if you read between the lines my number one problem is mental not technical.

Second, I agree that the technique is very important but it seems that I get some conflicting advice. when i was taught how to ski I was told to keep feet together and simply shift the weight balance from one leg to another to turn. I was also told to make longer and wider turns - good advice and i think i have mastered that on the green slower slopes. The problem is all this does not work for me on a steeper blue slope. When I try to make wide turns on steeper slopes my turns are incomplete and instead of turning I am breaking and stopping dead.

If I simply fly down fast on a quick segment of slope I dont turn at all I just keep feet together and sit down by bending knees but this only works on short speed segments that eventually come to an easy slopes. However, bending my knees and sitting down helps.

I am turning with my feet but its a workout. Its getting easier because I am becoming very familir with my routes but i still have a work out by trying to slow down and its killing my knees.

I will probably get a lesson but i was wondering what I can think of for now?

2 quick points - when i observe other expert skiiers on blue slopes it seems that they simply go straight down without any turning/carving at all.
Antoher point, I tried other skis and other lenghts and K2 in 180s was the only one that made it easier to ski in for me.

PS. i also think that on steeper blue slope I am trying to make shorter turns and thus my turns are not complete and not linked together and I am ending up at the end of the turn almost going horizontal relevant to the base of the mount not able to initiate next turn. Go figure ??
Edited by VipClubber - 1/14/10 at 3:34am
post #7 of 16
It could be equipment, but I think it's technique.  I think you are turning your skis to turn you.  Stop it!

It's really quite simple.  Tip your skis onto their right edges to turn right; tip your skis onto their left edges to turn left.  When the skis turn stay balanced along thier edges.  The sidecut and decambering of the ski causes it to turn.  You riding the edges without falling over them causes you to turn.

Now if your are keeping your skis flat and not tipping them you have very little edge force available for the above to work, and you compensate by turning the skis so that the little edge you have works at a greater direction to your direction of motion.  That will only take you so far.

If you are on a pair of "beginner" skis, the skis only have so much grip and even if you do things right it will only get you so much turn force.

If you are on a pair of short radius skis making long radius turns you won't be able to make a good edge-locked turn, the type of turn with the most grip.  However, I suspect that you aren't tipping your skis enough to be making edge locked turns.  A good short radius ski will still turn.  That being said, there are some skis that just weren't made for fast skiing, regardless of their radius.

Remember tip skis to turn.  If you can't seem to tip your skis, there are a number of ways to fool your body into making the proper movements.
post #8 of 16
when i was taught how to ski I was told to keep feet together and simply shift the weight balance from one leg to another to turn.

Who told you this?

You are pretty big so 180 is not awful but is a bit long for a beginner. 

#2  Make sure your edges are in good shape.
#3  When learning, it is not so much a "weight shift" as stepping on a bug.

OPEN your stance and think about slowly crushing a bug with your BIG TOE on the downhill ski.  Keep crushing the bug harder and harder with your big toe until the DOWNHILL ski's inner edge starts to hook up.  Now you are carving.

Crush the bug with the other toe.

Use the whole hill.  Aim at the trees.  Reverse. Aim at the other trees.

Remember this Maxim - "Too fast or too slow - reverse your turn."

As far as speed goes...
Confidence in your ability to hook up and carve a turn and STOP when you want will lead you down the hill faster and faster.

For many people a helmet gives confidence with higher speeds.  Somehting to think about but I am a helmet evangelist.

Good luck and have fun.
post #9 of 16

You say you ski in the pm.  Most VT Mts are pretty banged up in the PM especially on weekends - Blown off, scraped off, icy and or piles of heavy sugar or mashed potatos everywhere. Try an early morning on fresh groomed corduroy.

post #10 of 16
I'll add a couple points.

The 130s are a great balance finder as there is little room for poor fore/aft balance without tipping over. They also either carve or not at speed so you learn quickly how to maintain a carve because not carving at speed on them is scary.

Many skiers find comfort leaning into the hill as they get uncomfortable. It doesn't matter if it is the speed, the pitch, the moguls, the snow depth; they lean in towards Mother Earth for comfort. You have to conciously keep your weight over your skis so that your edges, particularly on the downhill ski will work for you. That means conciously moving your body away from Mother and down the slope.
post #11 of 16
I have nothing to add on actual mechanic or technique that others have mentioned which I think are alll very relevant.

But regarding your comment, "number one problem is mental, not technical."  This is true and the two are of course integral.  If you are not confident and a bit fearful it is because you have doubts in your technique as well you should if you are new to the sport.  This is normal for beginners and as in many other areas of life is healthy.

Many may disagree with me but I liken skiing to walking.  It is a process of putting yourself forward and then catching yourself.  And just like when learning to walk it is a process of balance, technique, muscle memory, etc.  Give yourself time to learn to walk before you can run.  Eventually you will have some break through moments and you will be on your way.

Good luck and see you on the slopes!!
post #12 of 16
Like Buzz Lightyear said: 'I wasn't flying. I was falling with style.'
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Again thank you all for your hounest and helpful advices. I have some questions I would like to clarify:

1. How to properly TIP my skis? What movement of which part of the body acheves what desired angle to make that good edge-locked turn and get that bite? Do I tip BOTH of my skis or just mostly the Outside downhill ski?

2. What exacly do you mean by OPEN YOUR STANCE?

3. What EXACTLY turns me? My skiis, my feet, my body, my technique or stepping on the bug? (Really confused here)

4. LINKING QUESTION: PRESICELY How to properly link my complete turns to the next turn? The turn to turn transition question. This is where I have most problems...sometimes I get toomuch bite that brings me to complete stop.

I am beginnig to suspect that my problem lies in two areas my body leans backwards and linking the turns together. Mostly: LINKING turns together.
Edited by VipClubber - 1/15/10 at 1:14am
post #14 of 16
Open you stance means spread your feet about shoulder width.

Turning is a function of BENDING the ski into an arc.  Stepping on the bug bends the ski.

Transitioning in the turn involves unweighting the ski (stepping off the bug), rotating the skis in the other direction and stepping on the other bug.

At speed, stepping off the bug should result in a "pop" feeling where you become virtually weightless for a split second during which time you rotate the  skis and step back on the (opposite - downhill) bug.

As for the tipping, remember you step on the bug with your BIG TOE.    This will force the ski to "tip" and engage the inside edge.
post #15 of 16
How to tip your skis

Try this drill at home:
Stand facing a wall, about 6 inches greater than arms length
Fall into the wall catching yourself with your left arm straight (now you are leaning against the wall)
Turn your feet 45 degrees to the right
Lift up the big toe side of your left (inside) foot so that your foot goes on edge
Set your foot back flat on the ground
Lift up the little toe side of your right (outside) foot (if your left leg blocks movement, step wider apart)
Set your foot back flat on the ground
Repeat but use your knees to pull your feet onto edge instead of lifting big or little toe sides
Repeat using both knee pull and toe side lift
Move closer to the wall so that you can hold your palm flat against the wall while standing straight up
Repeat the steps and notice how you either automatically move your hips or moving your hips allows greater edge angles to happen

It does not matter how think you cause tipping to happen (e.g. lift toes, move knees or hips) as long as all three movements are a result. You want to tip both skis and tip them to equal edge angles at all times (but there are exceptions).

What exactly turns me
The edge of the ski is an arc shape. Carving occurs when the ski travels a path such that the tail of the ski travels over exactly the same spot in the snow that the tip of the ski traveled over. The ski can travel in that arc path because the edge of the ski grips the snow surface. Thus it is the combination of edge grip and the shape of the ski that turns you when you are carving. Skiers who are not carving typically twist their skis out of the direction of travel and then engage their edges to affect directional change. in this case, the engagement of the edges against the direction of travel causes directional change in addition to the shape of the ski. This technique changes directional alignment faster than carving, but is slower to change the directional path of travel (because of the skidding involved). You turn much faster when you let the skis turn you versus when you turn the skis. But you think you're turning faster when you twist your feet.

How to link turns
Linking turns involves continuous movements of edge angle changes, leg and ankle flexion, hip movement and upper/lower body separation, For example, if the skis are flat going across the fall line, they get tipped onto their new edges to start the next turn. They should gradually increase edge angle until "around" the fall line (i.e. the middle of the turn). Then the edge angle should start decreasing so that the skis are flat at the end of the turn. The speed of the change in edge angle stays the same as the skis roll from one edge through flat to the new edge. Thus starts the new turn (at least from the perspective of edge angle). Linking turns is easy when you do all the movements to stay in balance through each turn because most of the movements to start a new turn are just a continuation of movements used to finish the previous turn. Being in the back seat is one way to break the chain of continuous movements.
post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 
Please describe in step-by-step details how to make a proper transition (link) between the completion of the turn, transition and the beginnig of next turn. Thanks in advance and for your patience :)
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