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Show me, don't tell me...

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
This post is sort of an aside to Rusty's thoughts on good skiers or good teachers.

My skiing has improved more over the past 6 weeks or so than it has over the past 2 years. As a race coach I'm current on technique and training, watch a lot of video, attend summer race camps and both see and ski with a bunch of accomplished racers, young and old. But none of these things have led to a "breakthrough" where I really feel like my skiing has been kicked up a notch. What has made all of the difference in the world is an image that I have of someone I saw skiing.

I was in Cleveland this past Christmas and went to a little 250 vert. hill called Boston Mills. I saw a guy there who skied soooooooo smoooooothly that I had no choice but to watch in slack-jawed awe (most other people on the lift followed him with their eyes the whole way down as well). He was rediculously athletic and dynamic. You could see both skis bend into some crazy amount of could tell that there was serious power being transmitted to the edges. The thing that caught my eye was how mother f-----g easy, efficient, simple and natural he made it all look. No matter if it was a short turn or a long turn, his rhythm, tempo, control and ease that he skied with never seemed to change. His balance was nothing short perfect. No matter what conditions he hit or if he caught a little air, he would land in the middle of the ski in a perfect carve like he never left the ground. Beautiful. He had no extranious moving parts, his joints were perfectly lined up, his skis were perfectly paralel and frighteningly far out from underneath him and his hip was inches from the snow in the middle of his turns. His skills are so refined that you can either get frustrated or inspired by his skiing. I was and still am quite inspired. He skis exactly like I WANT to ski. To my eye his skiing looked damn near perfect...or as perfect as I could ever hope to be. His tracks were so clean and flawless that it looked like a machine had laid them down. Is he a World Cup skier...obviously not if he is at Boston Mills. But if he was freeskiing with a group of World Cupers and I didn't know who was who, there is no way that I could tell that he didn't belong. He was that clean. I learned more from one day of just watching that guy than I have in quite some time.

Notice that I have not mentioned his hand position, edge angle (which seemed to defy gravity), hip angulation, etc. I didn't notice any of those things. The overall graceful flow and ease that he skied with is what has stayed with me. To this day, I have the image of that guy making turns in my head and i try my best to imitate his tempo. By simply mimicking the mental picture I have, my skiing has become soooo much better.

My point is that a lot instructors read their manuals and try to teach their students specific positions and movements without themselves fully understanding that skiing is ONE fluid and dynamic movement...not a series of A-B-C precise individual movements linked together. Nobody is good enough to consciously assemble each position that they have been taught into one cohesive whole. When a student is obsessing about his left hand or his lower shoulder, etc, then any hope of achieving the beautiful rhythm and power of the guy I mentioned above is all but gone. Instructors need to get their students to strive for FLOW and refinement in their skiing. And a student will be unable to understand what flow is if his instructor is not capable of demonstrating it (which most are certainly not). In all seriousness, I would rather ski behind the gentleman at Boston Mills all day long and try to copy him than to have Hermann Maier TELL me how to ski like he does without properly showing me.

I would rather find the best skier on the mountain and watch and follow him all day without saying a word to him, than to spend a month with the worlds greatest teacher if he could not ski. A picture is worth a thousand words. In short, give me a great skier over a great teacher ANY DAY. If you find a great skier who is also a great teacher, well, count your blessings.

I'm curious to know if others here feel the same way that I do about placing far greater importance on seeing what should be done rather than being told what should be done.

PS. In an earlier rant I posted about the conditions at Boston Mills I mentioned this same gentleman and someone said that his name was Mike and that he is also a member of Epicski. If some of you Boston Mills Bears know this guy, which I'm sure you do (he had racestock Elan SLX's), ask him to post on this thread. I would love to pick his brain and find out what he thinks about when he skis. My guess is that with skiing that smooth, powerful and refined that he thinks about very little. He looks too natural and fluid to be worrying about technique. If you BM'ers are anything like me and can learn from watching others, I'll bet that entire resort can rip some pretty sweet turns by now just from copying him. Anyway, my thanks to him for giving me something to shoot for.
post #2 of 26
I would say that I strongly agree. One of the reasons I believe that the academy helped so many people improve, was the fact that there were so many good skiers, both coaches and students, present. At times, I would slow down just to watch some of the bears. I also mentioned in a few other threads that at Snowbasin, I was able to get down some terrain that was not making me happy, simply by mimicing Si.
post #3 of 26
Originally posted by +mike+:

I'm curious to know if others here feel the same way that I do about placing far greater importance on seeing what should be done rather than being told what should be done.
YES!!! while many of the instructors here will certainly take offense (because they probably can't ski as well as they'd like), i KNOW that i've learned MUCH more from watching and following great skiers than from being told by a PSIA instructor what to do with my left index finger at the apex of a right turn, etc.

following world cup mogul skiers down multiple runs took my bump skiing to a new level. watching those guys RIP gave me inspiration to practice.

[ February 11, 2003, 01:01 PM: Message edited by: Adema ]
post #4 of 26

but then I am NOT a visual learner - I know it works well for my friends who are...

My instructor makes me figure 8 his turns to help me with tempo - I just can't draw good tracks unless I get it right....
post #5 of 26
I didn't know that Stein Erickson was moonlighting at Boston Mills !
post #6 of 26
During a recent clinic, my trainer(friend) had me ski without talking!!! That's hard for me, because I am a "watcher-thinker". He wanted me to get more into the "doer-feeler" mode. It took some time, but I'm catching on.

Versitility is important, and finding a good match between instructor and student is needed.

Sounds like some of you are "watcher-doer" types. For me, when I see a picture, I have to think about it (way tooooo much) before just doing it.
post #7 of 26
+mike+, I'll tell Mike what you said either tomorrow or Thursday. I ride up the chair with him quit a bit and sometimes follow him down, which is fun but makes the run sooo short because to do those high powered turns you have to ski quite fast, and our hill is so short that playing on it rather than ripping pays off more, so I rip just about every fifth run or so or when I ski with rippers. It sure puts a smile on your face.

I am not aware that he is here on the forum but I'll ask him.

You also noticed that he skis in a wider stance and lower to the ground than most anyone else even though he stands about 6'4".

Yeah, you can pick out his tracks on the hill anytime from the chair [img]smile.gif[/img] .He is not an instructor but likes to race GS.

post #8 of 26
+mike+ I will pass your comments onto Mike but I don't think he is a regular on Epicski. Mike is a Pro golfer in the summer months. You are correct that he dosen't think about much when he skis, he just likes to rip. He skis nearly every day in the mornings.
You are only partially correct that many people try to emulate him. Most skiers wish but assume they can't do it and won't try. Others try but do not posses equipment with even a semblence of the capability of Mike's gear. Still others take face plants and give up. Some come in for lessons and say I want to rip like that guy out on the hill in a one hour lesson.
There are others at BM/BW that can rip like Mike. Many are in the race programs.
I cannot duplicate what Mike does. I can get as low and rip turns as tight as Mike but I cannot ski tight turns using the technique that Mike uses. Mike is an incredible athelete and laterally goes quickly from edge to edge. He is in a somewhat crouched position that is not extremely conducive to taking G forces. Mike on the other hand is strong enough to ski in this position and control the G forces without being forced into the back seat. He likes to ski that way and why not.
I am not strong enough to do anything close to what Mike does. I have to initiate my turns smoothly, extend diagonally and keep my inside hip and outside leg in a power position in order to take the g forces. My margin for error is much smaller than what Mike's margin for error is. The minute that I drop my hips and crouch even a little bit I end up in the toilet recovering my turn with contortions. Athletic strength increases one's margin for error greatly. If Mike adopted a better alignment technique I would love to see how totally ridiculous his skiing could get. He would have to go to a different resort though as BM/BW does not offer the vertical that is necessary to get to ridiculous G forces and angles. BM simply does not have the vertical to overpower his present technique. None the less he is still fun to watch.
As far as learning a lot from watching. People have different learning styles. Some are watchers, some are thinkers, some are feelers and some are just doers. Most people are a combination of at least two learning styles. I am one of those thinker touchy feely types. Watching doesn't go all that far with me unless I can watch myself on video and compare it to someone else.
One a these days I am going to get into shape :
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter least a couple of respected BM regulars can verify that the guy can rip so I don't look like a gushing fool (well, maybe less of a gushing fool ).


I made it a point to time my rides up the chair so I could watch him ski down. I obviously couldn't see his alignment from the chair so I wonder what problems you see. You know the guy so I implicitly trust your assesment. The only "evidence" of his alignment that I can speak to are his tracks. Believe me, I looked closely at them from the chair and I have NEVER seen more even and consistent tracks. You can see both trenches get progressively deeper throughout the turn until they virtually disappear (the transition) and then BANG! two perfect, deep and round trenches in the other direction. If his alignment is indeed way off (and I believe you if you say so), he's pretty talented to be able to compensate for a gross problem. Take a shovel and hit him over the head and tell him to fix it [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]

Pierre, a bit off topic, no, way off topic, if he came to you as a student what would you work on? As a coach, if he came to me I would be very afraid to change anything because his technique is so efficient, fast and powerful and would just kill a race course. I just don't see any glaring flaws with his skiing. I would have to video tape him and look for a mistake. I'm in a similar situation this year with a new 16 and 17 year old racer who I am coaching for the first time. They have been trained so well and are such solid racers that I don't critique them unless I see 1) a consistent flaw or 2)a new flaw. These kids seem to be able to recognize and correct their own mistakes before I can. I think that seems to be the norm with most good skiers.

How do you instructors feel about teaching better skiers than yourselves? What if Bob Barnes came to you for a lesson? What do you work on with a guy like that? (I haven't seen him ski but by all accounts it's quite impressive).
post #10 of 26
First of +mike+ we are talking small changes. Mike has no glaring alignment problems and small changes are what is needed. Small changes at the upper levels can yeild big differences in ability to generate power. Changing your skiing at the upper levels is like watching paint dry. Mike has never asked me and seems quite satisfied and having fun with his skiing. No harm in that.

We can all improve our skiing. Any one of the examiner coaches at the academy could take apart my skiing and make me feel as if I was a rank beginner unworthy of posting again on Epicski. Little picky things can seem like big mistakes when delivered wrong. Likewise I can take apart there skiing.

Ha Hah, thats is why we get little feedback on our own skiing. Our level 3 egos will simply not allow our peers to take apart our skiing. Just kidding but for some this is all too true.

[ February 11, 2003, 04:34 PM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #11 of 26
well . . . [heavy sigh here] . . . I wish I could watch and learn. I need to "get it" - understand what's happening first - and then I need to feel it.

My son is a natural. He learned to ski by watching videos and other skiers. I envy him.

Meanwhile, I need to do my homework - think, think, think. I wish it were otherwise.
post #12 of 26
Have not you just answered your own question/comment about teaching? To make an improvment to the skier you're talking about requires a very indepth knowledge and understanding. That's why we get into all this detail, no?

Just because you can't rip as well, doesn't mean you couldn't point flaws out. There he wouldn't be learning from watching though, but possibly from assimilating knowledge or doing slow speed turns and really feeling the movements.

When I was in France 2 years ago the coach of Isolde Kostner was there. (quite a character-smoking while skiing without poles and watching everything like a hawk) Isolde wasn't there, but I heard from our Italian coach that she had worked on wedge turns for almost four days. (what exactly they did I don't know) Other things they did was work on perceptual skills-feeling the snow by taking her goggles and scratching them up so she couldn't see real well.

He certainly didn't ski as well as she did....
post #13 of 26
My 3-1/2 y.o. daughter said after a full day of skiing with us, "I just watched other people make turns and I did it". No, she prefers skiing clutched to the Daddy's hand (when there are only 2 hours left until the lifts close and she had been on skis since 10:00am), but she did make a couple of good parallel linked turnes that I saw (with an edgie-wedgie attached to her ski tips, just to make sure she wouldn't end up in a split). My wife said she had seen a lot more than a couple. I guess that's a totally different side of ski instruction, but how do you NATURALLY teach a young kid to ski?

Not by telling them to get into those awkward pizza stances, that's for sure... (Not to offend the instructors here, but pizza is not a beginner tool; very hard on the quads too.)

Does it take 2 parents, one skiing ahead showing what to do and the other behind holding the leash to make sure the kid doesn't go off-piste?

[ February 11, 2003, 06:33 PM: Message edited by: AlexG ]
post #14 of 26
How do you instructors feel about teaching better skiers than yourselves? What if Bob Barnes came to you for a lesson? What do you work on with a guy like that? (I haven't seen him ski but by all accounts it's quite impressive).
Through the very in depth discussions that we instructors get into here and elsewhere, we eventually develop a very deep understanding of the mechanics behind efficient skiing. After really digging deep and questioning everything we think we know, we finally come to a level of understanding at which two instructors who have done the same indepth study will see the same problems in a skiers technique.

I am pretty sure that I can look at a skiers technique and will pick out the same problems that Bob Barnes, Vail Sno Pro, Arcmeister, nolo or Weems will pick out. Its also very likely that we will zero in on the same problem to work on that will make the biggest difference in that persons skiing. For those would be cert candidates this also means that these pros can flunk or pass a level 3 candidate in the first two wedge turns on green terrain but still have to go through with the entire exam session with a straight face.

When you reach this level, I think you can safely work on someones skiing who is better than you and not be afraid of possibly causing more harm than good. That may seem harsh but thats what I believe.

When I see myself ski on video, I can quickly pick out every stinkin little problem that I am exhibiting. The sinking feeling comes when you are sitting in the room with another pro who is also at the level where you know they see the same things that you do but CHOOSE to remain silent. YOU KNOW THEY KNOW BUT YOU CHOOSE NOT TO SAY ANYTHING JUST IN CASE THEY MISSED IT, BUT YOU STILL KNOW THEY KNOW! AND VIS VERSA. Thats part of the game of being at that level, you always feel a bit like your walking on glass around your peers so I ain't pickin on Bob Barnes. [img]graemlins/angel.gif[/img]

+mike+ I hope this answers your question.

[ February 11, 2003, 06:42 PM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #15 of 26
AlexG knowing something about the development of children at different ages helps a lot in communicating and teaching them. A child of the age of 3 1/2 will learn almost entirely by watching and imitating. They have little cognitive ability, no ability to process abstract ideas, little or no ability to tune into muscular feelings and have developed only gross motor function in the larger muscles. What they see is what they will do but only if they are not uncomfortable for some other reason. Simon says.
post #16 of 26
Pierre - I agree.

That's why commands like "shift your weight" -which is a must for making a wedge turn - are beyond her cognitive ability level at this age. That's another reason I cannot possibly comprehend why they teach young kids to ski in a pizza.

On the other hand, she has no problem with the actions used in parallel skiing like "lean your knees to me", or "lean your knees away from me", or even "lift your right (red) ski / lift your left (blue) ski" - that's when we are holding on to a long pole and skiing together. It is much easier for them than for us to learn to ski on parallel skis. They can learn just by looking.
post #17 of 26
scratch that..

[ February 11, 2003, 07:30 PM: Message edited by: AtomicMark ]
post #18 of 26
AlexG what you have got to be careful about in your conclusions about teaching young children is that when they get a little older they often seem to regress. Once they gain weight and cognitive ability they often revert back to a wedge and will not ski terrain that they have previously seemed to master. Mom and Dad are no longer always right and previously unseen dangers are suddenly very evident to them. I watched my own kid go through several stages in skiing. Some quick learning, some regression and some plateaus. The only time I was the perfect parent was after my daughter was conceived but before she was born.
post #19 of 26
+mike+ -
Like you, I'm a very visual learner. The level of understanding I have attained is a result of being trained by analytical mentors.

I have worked in the environment you have suggested- with World Cup racers. There areas you choose to work with usually fall into the same categories you, as a local or regional coach, will use. Technique, tactics, and strategies.
Understanding technique comes from hundreds of hours of evaluating the very best in the world, and integrating specific ideas into an athlete's performance. But part of that challenge is to determine what and how to add those ideas.

Many times, just making an elite athlete aware of a particular issue, positive or negative, can be enough. For no change can be effected until awareness of the issue exists. Maybe it's a position, maybe a movement, maybe a sequence.

But undoubtedly, the first priority is that the coach have a very clear picture in his/ her mind of what the movement, (etc) should look like. Then the challenge is to get the athlete to "see" and accept that picture. Most elite athlete's have incredible kinesthetic awareness and discipline, and are capable of making even the most minute of changes readily.

But, just as with the average student, the meaningfulness of the "new/different" must be relayed and realized. For if it is not, the chances of the "new" idea sticking, are minimal.

post #20 of 26
...commands like "shift your weight" -which is a must for making a wedge turn.. -alex g
Alex, these "commands" are certainly not a must and with a 3 1/2 year old would not be used. As Pierre noted kids at this age certainly are in the "show me" category.

That's another reason I cannot possibly comprehend why they teach young kids to ski in a pizza.
I don't see the connection at all. They see you skiing pizza...
You're using a bar and having the child "ski" parallel. That's not a usual scenario nor is the leash.

[ February 12, 2003, 09:28 AM: Message edited by: Tog ]
post #21 of 26
Pierre, LOL!!!

Tog, at Alpine Meadows, the instructor was skiing with her using a bar that she grabbed on to. That was what prompted me to do the same (actually she asked me to use a bar, because she was not feeling comfortable without it).

As for leash, lately I see more and more grownups ski with kids this way. And they cannot possibly see me skiing pizza, because I don't. I think pizza is an intermediate and advanced technique to be used only as a teaching / training tool. Its simplicity and reliability causes it to become a habit forever if taught at early stages of ski learning. The problem is that the only line of progress from here is into stem, unless the student already has other tricks in the bag and is used to parallel skiing.
post #22 of 26
sounds like she's having fun and learning so nothing else really matters.
post #23 of 26
+mike+, today I skied and rode the chair with Mike the ripper and gave him a printout of your original message in this thread and though he rarely gets on the forums, he sold two pairs of skis to some folks on the equipment forum, he said he would come on now that he tore his ACL and is getting operated on next week.

He looked just as you described while skiing, in the lodge he could hardly walk, limping pretty bad. He signs on a Michael. I think if you asked him about his skiing he would better explain, he raced since he was a kid, 31 now, and usually spent his winters in Tahoe. He makes enough as a golf pro near Augusta so he can take the winters off.

I hope you two connect... ....Ott
post #24 of 26
Originally posted by AlexG:

Not by telling them to get into those awkward pizza stances, that's for sure... (Not to offend the instructors here, but pizza is not a beginner tool; very hard on the quads too.)

Does it take 2 parents, one skiing ahead showing what to do and the other behind holding the leash to make sure the kid doesn't go off-piste?
Hey Alex G - this is a great new thread idea... can you post it and then we can discuss this topic at length - separately!

post #25 of 26
+mike+... I wanted to reply to your original topic. Excellent comments have been made about different learning styles. Now, please don't : at me for "talking too much"... hahaha

Fundamentally, learning happens in 2 parts:
- Acquiring information
- Processing information

People tend to acquire either by talking/listening or by watching/doing. Processing is the practicing we do until something *clicks*. The idea being you have not learned until you understand it and can do it. Processing can be done in a sequential (orderly) fashion or totally randomly.

The most interesting deviation is that while people may have a particular learning style - it changes! Why is that? When folks learn something that is brand-new to them they tend to learn in one way, but when they have something to relate it to, they tend to learn in a different way. We sometimes feel like they are learning slower or faster. Really it has to do with experience - if they have something to relate to, then learning tends to happen faster. (example: it's easier to teach someone who played ice-hockey how to ski)

+mike+, as an advanced/expert skier, it's natural that you don't want to be "talked at"... because you have already acquired the information - you just want to process it.

I think one of the greatest challenges in instruction is figuring out how to GET THROUGH to a learner, because most people don't know/or communicate how they like to learn.

post #26 of 26
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