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Comments on Lito/Harb teaching method?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone here - this is my first post.

I started skiing last season and have been up maybe 6 times (I know, not a lot :-(). I'm doing parallel turns fairly consistently and linking them with some rhythm. The main problems I have are wobbling of the unweighted ski (its wandering and too much skidding when ending turns.

I've read a lot of ski books and seen videos I checke dout of the library. All of them seemed to say pretty much the same thing - keep weight forward, keep upper torso still and headed down, angulate etc etc. All the lessons I've taken were pretty similar and none of them gave me any great insight - most of the things I learnt by reading and experimenting myself.

I recently happened to see Lito's Breakthrough on ski's video. It was a revelation! The idea of the Phantom Move -lifting up the free ski on _each_ turn while skiing (instead of just during a practice drill), and focusing on tipping the free leg instead of trying to pressure the outside ski - seems to me very natural and easy to follow!
I then checked out the review on amazon/usenet, and also Harald Harb's book "How anyone can be an expert skier" (which is the same system) and have yet to see a negative comment.

So why is it that all the instructors and books never made it this simple?! I wish I had access to this when I started learning, and I wish beginners aren't deluged with technical terms and a thousand different visual metaphors in ski school.
I haven't had a chance to try this out myself yet, but I'm confident it will help a lot.

What are your opinions/experiences?

post #2 of 15
Defcon (1, I hope. ),
The phantom foot technique actually is taught frequently these days. You probably just got unlucky and got an instructor who doesn't teach it, for whatever reason. Where the Lito and Harb methods differ from conventional teaching methods is that they don't emphasize rotary skills (turning and guiding the skis). Also, it seems like these methods are most effective in correcting bad habits that skiers pick up, replacing them with foolproof movements that actually ARE drills. These drills help you "get the feeling" of expert skiing, while bypassing some of the more confusing techniques. Presumably, the more advanced techniques will be naturally assimilated into your skiing. One very important thing Lito stresses is that you need to take the time (he suggests a whole week to be safe) to practice these movements ( the phantom foot move, riding the ouside ski, and dynamic anticipation), and that you practice them on GENTLE terrain. Do this, and you are almost guaranteed to be an advanced skier. Unless your leg alignment is seriously messed up. Good luck! It really can be that simple!
post #3 of 15
I admit that I have only seen the Harb site and reviewed the instructors card pack, never the videos, but here are my concerns.

Three catagories of students who may be in a beginner class: Puffs, Jocks and Naturals.

Of the ten students in my last class, three (the jocks), probably would have been great Harb candidates (I'm guessing here). They were male, young (18 to 25) and couldn't center over the skis to do a simple wedge. They had to lean.... despite urging coaxing and even skiing backwards with them...they were going to lean period! They were all over the place and never in the right place and would probably give up at the end of an hour or two... i.e., washout.

The next three were "puffs" who said they did "Ty Bo" but had no tone and were gonna wash out... suburban, 40'ish, and so outta shape (though they were slim and appeared in shape). The sad part was they had no spirit after the first few minutes.

The remainder could do a nice series of wedge turns at the end of the lesson, folks of mixed shapes, ages and sizes...but who, my suspicion is, were not "athletic" enough to handle the Harb system.

No...I do not have, nor do I give up on the "puffs" or "jocks"....I actually try to concentrate on them and the others seem to do OK by themselves, with minimal care.

My concern is that the Naturals might also be washouts in a Harb program.

<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by yuki (edited January 09, 2001).]</FONT>
post #4 of 15
First, Welcome aboard to skiing as well as the bears.. New uncluttered minds often bring some of the best insight.

On to instruction, Yuki mentioned something that triggers another though, If you are in group lessons and the instructor is working with several types of students, the "phantom edge" concept may not sink in and cause more problems so a good instructor may not bring that one up even if one person may benefit from it because of the harm it can cause if you don't quite get the concept. The reason I know this is the first time I tried to do it (everything seemed to make sense) I didn't have the confidence that the outside ski will turn(read Litos comments on "the confidence not to turn") and got my weight out a little to far. instant body slam. and I considered myself a fairly good skier (25+years of skiing) and I am usually real good at visualizing what I'm doing. I understand the phantom edge concept and can perform it quite well but I can also understand how it may not be best for everyone. A different visualization may work better for different people. Try it out, Watch the tapes, and the next time you take a lesson ask the instructor.

FYI I have read the Breakthrough on skis book in it's first edition and revised edition and have all 3 tapes so I think I am safe in saying I understand his concept pretty well. Teaching someone these concepts in 1 or 2 lessons is a totally different thing. That's probably why his clinic is 5 days including some lecture/evaluation at nights.

Keep it up and keep questioning. We all learn from these posts.
Milesb, The teaching style is a little unconventional and makes sense after a bit of skiing. Like you said it requires lots of work on easy groomers and practice. There are probably a lot of skiers (jocks as Yuki put it) that would leave the class if the instructor said we are going to spend 1 hour on this easy beginner run to do these skills so the instructor has to weigh the benefits and make a decision accordingly. Good post Milesb.

Oh yeah, Alignment. There is an exercise on Lito's last video that talks about skiing on one ski on flat hill to see how hard it is to run straight. If you can't do this, Better get your alignment checked. this will make a huge difference <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by dchan (edited January 09, 2001).]</FONT>
post #5 of 15
As dchan says, decent equipment, especially boots that fit well, is an essential prerequisite for Lito & Harald's techniques.

The advantage of teaching the wedge is that anybody, with any kind of equipment, with an hour of any quality of instruction can get down a beginner slope with some kind of control and safety.

If your boots fit, if you're willing to try something new as well as doing the drills, Lito & Harald's stuff will probably improve anyone's skiing.

Lito made an interesting statement in his December column http://www.breakthroughonskis.com/Pa...struction.html that with modern technique and equipment the skis turn the skier, not vice versa.
post #6 of 15
I have read both books and videos and think there is a lot to glean from both Harold and Lito but it truly is nothing new. Focus on the inside leg has been a focul point in teaching for years. They have done an excellent job to repackage it and promote their concepts. I do disagree with lifting of the inside leg. by tipping and turning the leg on the snow it allows for enhanced balance. It also and help pull the outside leg through the desired arc. Try standing up in your skiing width stance. First pick up your left leg and tip and pull it into your stance leg as Harb talks about. Notice what happens. Now leave both on the ground and tip the ankle by making the big toe higher and tip the thigh of your left leg away from your stance foot(right leg) compare the different feelings you get. Take it on the hill. On the hill make sure as you tip the foot and leg keep flexing the ankle forward so you continue to move with your skis.
post #7 of 15
I think time is the big constraint on equipment evaluation. It would take a lot away from the 2 1/2 hour lessons most people sign up for. At the good multiday clinics they usually have time for some evaluation or at least discussion. They had a fitter/equipment specialist come in to the Lito clinic to talk to them about this. In a few of my smaller lessons the instructor has mentioned getting this checked out but not much more than that.
post #8 of 15

First, welcome

Second, since I, too, hopped into the books as I wanted to complement what I was learning (well, still/always learning) on the hill, I'd recommend a book that I found of great assistance (dare I say slight inspiration), due not only to the easy-to-get technical advice but also because of a particularly vibrant sensibility; namely, Warren Witherell's (sp?) THE ATHLETIC SKIER. Best of luck to you. This is a great site and you are assurred of getting sound advice from good (if occassionally argumentative - in the best sense, of course - folks.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
This IS a great site
I've been browsing thru some of the older threads and there is a ton of good advice and most importantly, different people explain things in different ways, so there's bound to be some description that just *clicks* and leaves a lasting mental image to try out on the slopes.

When I was learning, instructors kept telling us to 'pressure the big toe of the turning ski' and all of us newbies kept trying to do that by leaning more on that leg. We were told 'you should have so much weight on that leg that you can lift your other leg during turns'. Of course, I would then try to press down on one foot and see if I could lift the other one, and I now realize that in doing so I always ended up shifting weight to the inside ski.
Stupid me , never realized then (and was never told) that lifting the inside leg was the *same* thing as weighting the outside ski (as Lito says). This was a key breakthrough that I think I made on my own sometime later, and would have made an immeasurable difference earlier for all us newbies. Similarly, no one ever mentioned that the inside ski was *supposed* to be free and could be moved closer to the other leg/tipped at will. My skis used to wobble and cross over all the time, and I used to look wistfully at all the hotshots skiing with feet together.

At least in my case, I find that I learn much better from books/technical instruction, and that the quality of the instructor makes a huge difference in the initial perception of skiing. My friend, who isn't as persistent (I tend to be perfectionist and stick with something until I get reasonably good at it), gave up because of the lack of progress she made.

Well, thanks to everybody! I'm glad I doscovered this place.
post #10 of 15
Brian: Welcome back! How was your trip? My learning experience was similar to yours. Boots killed my feet. Extremely fit, former marathon runner, but no balance skills.
I was recently at a workshop, where I discovered that the reason I have trouble with short radius turns, is excessive upper torso rotation. In my case, it came from dance training. It was amazing, a little bit of torso stability, and I was able to ski one of those classic New England narrow trails, that have been my nemesis till now.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #11 of 15
Good to hear your skiing experience has been getting better.
It looks like you got it on the boot fitting. The longer multiday courses will almost always talk about fit/alignment. otherwise if you are renting boots, The best bet is to rent your equipment at the resort you are skiing at. and go back to the shop and swap them if they hurt!
Better yet, after you are hooked, break down and purchase boots and have a quality fitting. Sport/rec boots are not too expensive, and an orthotic/custom foot bed will follow you through several pairs of boots unless your feet change a lot.
post #12 of 15
Dangerous Brian:

How was Austria?

I hate puting students in boxes. That was just a snapshot of my last class.

The success came with the least likley group who had no notion of how to ski, but, they had the ability to listen. I should not have used the term "naturals".

This group would have been the washouts in a Harb class. They probably could not have withstood the "gorilla" turn.

The "jocks".. fit males at prime age would have done well (big guess here) in a Harb course. They had the preconception that you had to lean, not wedge, and nothing was going to change that. But, they never did succeed at making one single turn...they fell every time.

The sad thing here is that if you could split the two groups, you would have twice the success.

Like in karate, some of my "worst", turn out to be the best and many of the most difficult are my favorites as long as they keep on going and don't quit. I was/am not a natural so I appreciate their pain and never take it for granted.
post #13 of 15

What we're seeing here is the classic progression of teaching ski skills. In the beginning, you learn about the outside ski or turning ski. As an intermediate, you learn more about the outside ski and how to get it on edge, as well as how to relax the inside ski (it gets a little squirly when you don't weight it or press on the shin of that boot. When you're advanced, you learn to control the inside ski with a little forward pressure. When you enter the advanced-expert ranks, you learn to fully weight the inside ski (and actually how to ski only on the inside ski).

In the end, expert skiing is verymuch about being able to manage the pressure on the inside ski more than the outside. The outside ski is the easy part. Moving your hips forward and inside the turn puts more weight over the inside ski. It allows you to pressure the tips of both skis.

Learn one thing at a time. Your instructors will eventually get you to where you want to be. I'd suggest you always ask for a PSIA level 3 by the way, we've had many threads about it here. You're paying, so get the best.

Part of advancement requires experience on snow. The more you have, the more comfortable you'll be. At the higher levels, mental comfort: being able to relax, will be key. Isolated muscle control in limited amounts is a basis for precision skiing.

People usually try too hard when they ski (true in every sport actually). Really precise skiing on groomers (non-bumps) is actually not taxing at all. It's graceful, and doesn't require much work. Gravity is pulling you down the hill. It's not like we propel ourselves (provided your ski's have been waxed ). I've been working more and more with my instructor on learning racing form. The more we practice, the less work it becomes. Now going down steep blacks is easy, and unrushed, even though we're bothing going at 40+ mph.

GF<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by GF (edited January 11, 2001).]</FONT><FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by GF (edited January 11, 2001).]</FONT>
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>When you enter the advanced-expert ranks, you learn to fully weight the inside ski (and actually how to ski only on the inside ski).<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

What ?? I've never heard this before, in the books I've read or the forums here. My understanding was that you ski primarily on the outside ski, but in powder (e.g.) a little more weight goes on the inside ski to balance things.
But skiing only on the inside ski? If that's true then I guess I'm confused again - I'm reading Lito's book these days and he stresses repeatedly that 'experts ski exclusively on the outside ski'.
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hey Jim,

That sounds like a great exercise! Thanks, I'll definitely try that one out. I think it'll esp. help me with my right turns, since they are much weaker than right turns, and I can't make really sharp turns on my left leg. I think its mostly a balance thing.
I have turned on the inside ski, but unintentionally
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