Miles--I'll tell you a story. Earlier this season I was leading a clinic at Telluride for Full-Certified instructors training for "Trainer Accreditation," our "level 4" in the Rocky Mountains. We were standing on a blue run, watching skiers and throwing ideas around about their skiing and about what they might "need."
One of the skiers we watched was a woman showing all the moves of classic "pre-sidecut" skiing, at a high level of skill. Down--UP--and around, with a blocking pole plant, pushing off the platform of a strongly-set edge into each turn, throwing the tails out into a skid, sometimes both at once, sometimes one-at-a-time, well-balanced, but "back" because of the braking action of her skis. Her speed control came entirely from the braking/skidding effect of her edges scraping away speed, refusing to glide. The instructors were throwing out ideas of how her movements would need to change to make "better," more contemporary turns.
"She'll need to adjust her stance more forward." "Stop making that blocking pole plant and replace it with a smooth swing into the turn." "RELEASE her edges and guide her tips downhill into the turn, rather than pushing her tails out." "Stop rotating her upper body and become more active with her feet." "Move her center-of-mass into the turn, rather than pushing it uphill." "Balance over her skis, rather than bracing against them." And so on.... All these observations were correct.
"But it will be VERY hard to get her to make any of these changes," one of them said. "She's obviously been skiing like this for a long time, and her habits are deeply ingrained."
I told them that I could get her to make ALL the changes they recommended, instantly, with only two words.
We were standing at the end of a flatter section, above a slightly steeper roll, so I knew she would stop where we were. I told her that we were all instructors, and asked her if she would mind participating in a little experiement with us. She looked a little quizzical, but she agreed.
I was standing just below her on the hill, and I simply said, "come here," and waved her down the hill with me as I moved away quickly. What do you suppose she did, in response to my two words?
She moved her whole body down the hill toward me--"forward" over her feet. She stepped her skis, downhill ski first, down the hill toward me, which of course required her to release its edge ("left tip left to go left"). Her arms and poles swung smoothly toward me too, naturally, helping with the flow of motion in the direction she was trying to GO.
No blocking pole plant. No edgeset. No pushoff. No upper body rotation. Active feet and legs steering both skis into the new direction. Every movement she made moved in the direction she was going--toward me. No pushing of the tails. All the changes we thought she should make, she made.
And I had said absolutely NOTHING about technique--not a single word about HOW to do it. All I did was create a situation that put her in the offensive state of mind where she wanted to GO THAT WAY, rather than her usual intent to STOP GOING THIS WAY. Her movements followed suit.
Obviously, I had not created any new skills whatsoever in this woman. Developing skills, or improving skills, takes time and practice. But I DID create an immediate, fundamental, qualitative change in her movements, simply by changing her intent. A very small amount of explanation to her about what had happened was all it took to make lightbulbs flash! That is the breakthrough that can happen in a lesson.
Very little actual motor-learning takes place in a 2-hour lesson--that comes from continued hours of practicing the "right stuff." But enormous breakthroughs can, indeed, occur in an instant!
Conversely, trying to make all--or ANY--of those technical changes without first changing her defensive intent, would be another lesson in frustration for both of us! Try to get someone who wants to slow down (which, remember, is why most people turn) to release his edges and point his skis straight down the hill. Just try! It is a complete conflict between offensive movements and defensive intent. It doesn't work! Change the intent, and the movements take care of themselves, to whatever level of skill the skier has. Help him understand the difference, and the breakthrough has been accomplished!