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The hierarchy of skiing benefits

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Let's play around with Maslow. I'll submit that there is a hierarchy of escalating benefits that reinforce greater participation in the sport. The first level of benefit is (obviously) survival. Second is (hmmm) comfort--having the equipment fit properly and to feel relatively safe. Third is feeling like you are a real skier and "belong" in the sport. Fourth is getting to "know thyself"--with respect to your CAPabilities and developing the CAPacity to cope with increasingly challenging situations. The fifth and highest level is being in the Zone.

I have heard the Zone called many things: the out of body experience, flow, being one with the mountain (nature), experiencing pure animal pleasure...being in the moment... Maslow called it "self-actualization."

Few are continuously in the Zone. Oftentimes it is a situational thing, which lends credence to Oz's comment in another thread about much travel being key to the development of great coaches. The more situations you triumph over as a skier, the stronger and more versatile you become. This would also be true of teachers.

There's a lot of specialization in the world of skiing--mogulists, aerialists, slalom specialists, downhillers, etc. Of course, good skiers are good skiers, and Jonny Mosely, for instance, might be able to ski a fair slalom race, but he's far more likely to be "in the Zone" doing his specialty.

Even Olympic champions have room to grow to fully actualize their potential as skiers.

This matter of our limitless potential to squeeze ever-greater rewards from a day of skiing is no small thing. I don't respond to challenges like the one SCSA made in another thread. My skiing is personal. My intent is to achieve something like self-actualization, not "esteem from others," which is two levels down the hierarchy of needs (in with belonging). This is not to say that getting esteem from others is a bad thing, but if it's THE PRIZE, then no Zone is going to be involved whatsoever and that's a devolution of the intent behind the skiing.

If once you've tasted one level, you want more, then the benefits of skiing will satisfy you as (almost) nothing else in life.
post #2 of 20
For me it started out just being fun. Then I wanted control over what I was doing on the mountain, although the unexpected was interesting. Finally, I wanted to be able to explore the entire mountain including the back country in all conditions. Still working on this one.
Ahh the power of avalanches.
post #3 of 20
You left out the benefit of feeling superior to others who cannot afford to participate. Ah, exclusivity!
post #4 of 20
Nice analogy, Nolo! I suspect that this is exactly what Maslow meant--his hierarchy describes MOTIVATIONS.

Maslow's hierarchy has one main, significant division. The lower level needs operate on "negative feedback"--satisfying the need eliminates the need. If you're hungry, eating will end the hunger. The highest levels--feeling good about yourself, accomplishment, self-actualization, "the Zone," whatever--create positive feedback loops. They feed on themselves, and once you've tasted them, you want more and more!

In skiing, as in life, few people ever experience these higher levels with any consistency. How many skiers out there are primarily motivated by safety and the desire for more "control"? In our ongoing quest to define "expert skier," I would suggest this possibility: few experts worry about safety or control.

I don't know how many times I've been asked, usually by kids, "can you ski black diamonds?" I've always found that question curious, and hard to answer. On the one hand, of COURSE I can ski them, without the least concern about being in control or surviving the run. The challenge is much different for me than for them. The challenge itself is motivating. They want "safety and control" because they feel challenged. I want challenge, because my need for safety and control is satisfied. My motivations and concerns would be with how much ENJOYMENT I can get out of skiing black diamonds--and I have the same concerns on green and blue runs. My emphasis is much different than theirs--they ask "can you ski BLACK DIAMONDS?" while my concern is "can you SKI black diamonds?" "Ski, to them, means "survive." To me, it means "find the zone."

"Can you self-actualize on black diamonds?" Now there's a question! And the irony is that satisfying THIS motivation may actually be LESS challenging on black diamonds than on green runs! You have to be really REALLY good to attain self-actualization on a green run!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #5 of 20
To followup, I hereby define "expert skier" as one who has come full circle: First, the challenge was green runs, then blue, then black. Then the challenge was "self-actualizing," which is easiest on blacks for most "good" skiers. This is the level that many good, athletic skiers top out at. The next level is to self-actualize on blue runs, and finally, on green runs!

Certainly, the challenge of skiing green runs, for an expert, is not one of survival. But--I've said this before--anyone who cannot find a challenge on a green run still has much to learn.

I define expert, then, as one who can SELF-ACTUALIZE anywhere on the mountain, including green runs. This is an order of magnitude beyond the skier who can merely ski double black diamonds!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #6 of 20

From a personal perspective I used to feel that to achieve "the zone" was the goal. I don't think I do any longer. While the "high" of being in the zone is great it is not what directly motivates me. What I enjoy most is making the effort end learning more about how I can reach "the zone." Once there, I pretty much want to go find a new or different environment where I can start the process over again.

Perhaps what I am saying is that the ultimate "zone" for me has become the revelation of learning (even when I fail!). This is not a very mystical or magical place, rather a very comfortable and rewarding place where it's easy to hang out most of the time (except perhaps when anxiety or frustration rear their ugly head - not too often for me in the winter mountain environemnt).
post #7 of 20
Follow up:

I guess for me how one defines expert skier is becoming somewhat moot (at least I hope so). I personally get my best high's from working on improvement and understanding.

Don't get me wrong, all the other levels you've talked about are still present to some extent. However, over time I have found the time spent in those "earlier" stages are diminishing the more I develop the learner in me.
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the great additions to the thread.

Can you imagine a situation where a beginner could be said to be in the Zone, self-actualizing, and all that? Or is this just the realm of experts?

Another thought I had was that the highest level of terrain may not be lift-served, but a part of the wilderness where only a few have the skills to ski with any modicum of safety. Avalanche terrain. The habitat of cranky animals, hungry after their winter nap. Remote terrain where rescue is inconvenient and first aid is basic. Where tree wells are yawning tombs and gullies can be ticking time bombs waiting for your trigger. Where maybe even "you fall, you die" is an possibility.

I remember the tale of Matt Mosteller, race coach and ski school director at The Bgi Mountain, who was skiing the backcountry in Glacier with a friend. Stopping to take a picture, Mosteller noticed his friend waving frantically. Matt turned around to see a grizzly sow in hot pursuit. He poled away in the nick of time. When he and his friend regrouped they saw the claw marks on the tails of his skis. Would an experience like that be Zonal?

When I was sailing at about fourteen I got caught in a big storm and it took every ounce of my skill and courage to bring the boat to shore safely, which two other passengers depended on me to do. I think the experience bonded me to the sport as the context for a highest moment. Skiing is like that too.
post #9 of 20
Bob B.

I like your definitions. Is it this pursuit of self actualization in all terrain what drives instuctors to constantly work/drill in varied terrain, not just as an excersice to make better turns(of any type.)


I have often compared sailing to skiing. ONe of the many things they have in common is that any body can participate at any level they desire and have the same, maximum amount of fun. Do Jonny Mosely or Alberto Tomba have more fun than you or I? Do we have more fun than the terminal intermediate who skiis as much as they possibly can. Also in both sports humans have to face nature and realize that they can live within it and enjoy its challenges, but they will eventually learn that we are subservient to it and can never over power mother nature.

[ August 06, 2002, 06:43 PM: Message edited by: Tom Burch ]
post #10 of 20
This is a great question for me, nolo, because skiing has been taking one more step up, doing something that I have not done before, and achieving comfort and joy at that level . . . and then taking another step up. In order to be "in the Zone", in addition to comfort and joy, I need to feel that I have extended myself - my courage and my capabilites - to their limit at that moment.

I remember once I was in the Zone during a tennis match. My opponent, who had been my opponent on a number of occasions, also felt in the Zone. It was a three set match. . . and I lost, 6-4, 6-4. But we talked about it afterward. It was a true test, because we both felt comfort and joy, and we both had extended our capabilities and courage to their limits at that time. That was a few years ago, and we still remember it and talk about it. What a great experience!

In skiing, my opponent is "where I am now", and I "win" when I am fully entended and ready to take . . . one more step, and go where I have never gone before. That's what makes skiing, for me, a near religious experience - no, not near, a religious experience, and so very, very soul satisfying.

Thanks for asking.
post #11 of 20

I love your posts.I will first have to admit one of my motivations has always been to have others be impressed. Perhaps my mother never told me I was a good boy.

I did begin to think about swimming. I'm a new swimmer. Oh,I have always been able to swim. I mean, I live in Boulder where everyone is a dualathlete or triathlete.

So now I have goggles and a drag suit. No speedo. That's another sermon concerning equipment. That didn't make me feel like a swimmer.

I've been at it for a month. I have been a runner for a while. Swimming is a different deal.

Today.....for the first time.....it was easy.

I FEEL like a swimmer. I got out of the pool and felt I belong.

It's different than skiing. I could care less what others thought about my stroke or my time. I felt like Mark Spitz.

(edit for spelling)

[ August 06, 2002, 08:57 PM: Message edited by: Rusty Guy ]
post #12 of 20
I think Barnes made a great observation about green runs.

I know I've skied green runs and got jazzed - like what Barnes was saying. On green runs, I'm working on one footed skiing or something like that. So when it goes well, I'm jazzed, even though I just skied the easiest run on the mountain. The fact that it's a green run means nothing. I started skiing the run with a goal and if I've met my goal or exceeded it, I'm thrilled.

So a skier, any skier, can get in the zone on super black runs, or super green runs.

Even though I've talked about being competitive skiing, my best days have been when no one else is around.

I can't go as far as to say that a great day of skiing is better than anything, because that'd put my family in second place. But, a great day of skiing is, no doubt, a real "high".

I've had a lot of great days, but one day really sticks out from last year. One day, I skied Highline at Vail, the whole run, without stopping. Not only that, I nailed/ripped the toughest part of Highline, the bumps section.

I felt, like king of the world. I skied Highline a bunch of times before that day and never really nailed it. But on that day, I nailed it and it was a helluva feeling.

So sure, there's big benefits to be had from a day on the slopes or the pool, like what Rusty said. You do well, you feel great.
post #13 of 20
SCSA--I'm getting concerned about you. You've been awfully nice lately, and your posts have been lucid, thoughtful, even insightful and technically accurate! Are you feelin' all right?

I hope you realize my tongue is firmly in my cheek here, SCSA. Thanks, sincerely, for some great posts, and as always, for keeping things going! I believe that you may well have an "expert" in you after all--wouldn't have said that a couple years ago! Onward--to Utah!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #14 of 20

What a great question. Thanks...

When I first read the questions I started thinking that to be really self-actualized I had to be skiing for experience not performance. My rationale was that if one skis for performance then there is an unattainable goal that's set before you get there.

That's why Bob B says "of course I can ski it, but can I SKI it?". My guess is that's because he sets a different level of performance for him than for others.

Oh, BTW, I don't buy it that self-actualized = being in The Zone. I think that The Zone is a level of performance, and is externally focused. I've seen Larry Bird score 65 points in a game and every time he touched the ball he'd shoot and every one of them went in. That's The Zone. Could he be there if he was only hitting 50%? I doubt it.

But, I think that's different from self-actualization where there is no standard for performance other than one's own internal scorecard. That's why I agree that one can be self-actualized on a lower task, such as skiing an intermediate groomer versus a double-black bump run.

But, when skiing for experience, even on green runs you can be self-actualized. To me, this means skiing at a level of not being aware of your body, totally instinctively, simply enjoying the experience of it. Is this different or the same concept as "automaticity" where we no longer have to think about things to accomplish them. My guess is that each one of you does that while driving.

So, does driving qualify as self-actualization? If it is done totally instinctively so that you don't think about it (other than to think about whether you take a right or a left at that upcoming intersection.)

So, I think I might have raised more questions than I've answered:

Is Self-Actualization REALLY the same as The Zone?

Is Self-Actualization similar to Automaticity?

Is Self-Actualization nothing more than measuring yourself against an internal standard versus an external standard ---- or, is it where you measure yourself agains NO standard?

Where does the ego fit into all this? Does skiing with others help feed one's ego? Does it do damage to your ego when you ski badly?

So many philosophical questions, so little time.


ps, it was in the 40's in the Boston area last night and at 6:00 last evening it was 37 at the top of Mt Washington. Days are getting shorter, it's starting to get exciting.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
WV Skier,

Yes, I think the Zone is when you are unequivocally "all that you can be" in the given moment, which is how I would describe self-actualization.


I am seeing that the context doesn't matter, but that there are some types of activities that are more conducive to experiencing the rewards of self-mastery than others. Skiing is without a doubt one of these activities.

Before I started this thread, I was actually been wondering whether exercises and progressions are necessary to sound instructional practice. Hmmm, I thought, there certainly appear to be some macro progressions, like this one of progressive emotional entanglement that seems to follow Maslow's hierarchy.

Not to change the subject, not entirely anyway, but what of that: how well do exercises and progressions carry a student from point A to point Z in skiing? Does standard instructional practice address self-actualization as THE PRIZE or does it set its sights lower in the hierarchy of benefits, and this explain the reason students tend to drop out of ski school when they arrive at their level of comfort?
post #16 of 20

I changed my medication - per your recommendation. It's working pretty good, eh?

post #17 of 20
Nolo, the essence of my questions were regarding measures

Is Self-Actualization nothing more than measuring yourself against an internal standard versus an external standard ---- or, is it where you measure yourself agains NO standard?
"Being all you can be" is still too amorphous for me. Is it simply where you exceed all standards, even the highest ones you hold out for yourself?

post #18 of 20
Your Highness has taught thousands of lessons and has years of experience. How am I to question her?

But, I really disagree with her, that exercises don't belong in ski teaching. Every sport, teaches exercises. Exercises are central to training - no matter, what a person is training for.

Are ski students "training"? Sure they are. They're there to take lessons, to learn how to get "better". They're training, to get "better". Their event is "better". Lance Armstrongs event is the Tour de France. Both train, with a goal in mind.

Now, this assumes that a student shows up to learn and get better, not to kill time while on vacation.

Now I suppose the pundits will say, "Wait, SCSA. Students don't always show up to get better. Some just show up to learn how to enjoy themselves more". Yeah, but it falls under the category of "better".

post #19 of 20
Good point, SCSA. The key for all instructors to remember--ALWAYS--is that it is our STUDENTS' definition of "better" that matters in the lesson they are paying for. Their definition may be different than ours, and it may change during the lesson, especially as their understanding changes--that's OK too. But whatever it is, it's what they want, by definition.

It's also true that, in many cases, a "better turn" is exactly what will satisfy many diverse individual needs. Sometimes it's the job of the instructor to shine the light on this connection. When the students "see the light," their motivations change, and those exercises attain some value.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 

I think you read into my question...

How well do exercises and progressions carry a student from point A to point Z in skiing?

...an answer:

"that exercises don't belong in ski teaching."

When I was just raising the question. I don't know the answer myself. I do have some thoughts to contribute by and by, but I'd like to get some input from others, such as you have given us (minus the assumption that I ask questions that I have already answered on my own)...

WV Skier,

It seems to me that self-actualization can only be measured internally, for how can I evaluate anyone's self-actualization but my own?
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