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Please help.....Learning to ski and "The Snow Plough" is hurting me!

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hi all.  I am learning to ski in the UK.  I am learning on a local dry ski slope, although my first lesson it was snowing and my other 3 lessons it was icy, which is good in my opinion.   I have had 4 lessons so far all with different instructors. 

I am more confident on my skis now and have learnt to relax a bit more.  The problem is this:  when I get into the snow plough position at the begining of a run, it hurts and is such an effort for me to get as wide a plough as the instructor says I need.  I am then told to relax .  With this icy weather and the slope being quite a steep one I go down quite quickly and I can't hold the snow plough any longer.  My ski's flatten (yeah, I know it's my feet doing the flattening )  I can't seem to get my ski edges back up to form the plough.  After loads of abrupt meetings with the crash net at the bottom of the slope I decide on my 4th lesson to find my own way of stopping (or at least slow down)  as my attempt at the snow plough whilst moving is so bad.  So when nearing the bottom of the slope I swing ONE  foot sharply inwards.  It works for me and feels more natural but it's not what I am being taught.  The instructors keep telling me about the angle of the ski and why the snow plough works and to watch other people, but I know how it works and I know what a wedge looks like, so this does not help me.

Why does the snow plough hurt me so much?  It feels so unatural a position.  When I mentioned this to one instructor, he said it is a very natural position!, but  I don't see many people standing around with their toes pointing inwards and knees bent!  hehe!  For a few days after my lesson I have hip and knee aches and sometimes my back.

I am told my stance is getting better and one instructor said I look more confident but my last instructor said I need to control my speed.  I agree with him.  Everyone else seems to progress much faster than me and has no problem with the snow plough position.

My first instructor told me that footballers and men with very muscular legs can find this position difficult.  I do have quite muscular legs compared to the rest of me but, even so I try not to let this stop me trying.

I don't know how things are taught in the USA or anywhere else but is there another way I can learn to ski without having to start with the snow plough?  I have done a search on google and I have come across some instructors who think the snow plough is a bad thing to start learning, although it can be useful as an emergency stop in certain situations.  I sometimes wish I never read this as it gives me an excuse to not like the snow plough even more.

I am so frustrated that I have felt like giving up because at the moment to me, skiing means pain.  The only reason I have not given up is that I can see improvements in my confidence and I believe I can ski one day.

Thank you in advance,
Ben
post #2 of 28
Welcome to Epic Ben!

Although we don't have many folks on Epic with dry slope experience, much of our experience and knowledge will apply to your situation. The snow plow position is a "pigeon toed" position that is not a natural stance position for most of the population. Although most people can comfortably hold this position while skiing on beginner slopes, when it is used to control speed on steeper slopes it can be tiring or even painful. The big problem with using the "plough" to control speed is that the faster you go, the wider you need to make the plough to slow down (in order to get on higher edge angles) and the more mucular effort it takes. This makes it harder to turn so you end up using the plough as the only means to control speed.

In the US we don't teach the "snowplow" any more. Many places teach a "wedge" which looks like a plow, but is actually a narrower shape. With the narrower shape, the wedge does not slow you down very much because the skis don't get on high edge angles. This makes it easier to turn the skis and use turn shape to control speed instead of high edge angles. This is a much less tiring and less painful way to control speed than the "plough". As you start going faster with the wedge and narrowing the wedge even more, the skis will naturally match up to a parallel relationship as you complete the turn. This reduces the effort even more. Eventually, you learn to keep the skis parallel all the time.

Some places here will teach people to ski with parallel skis directly from day one. This approach works better when there is softer snow and more room for teaching. That may explain why it's not used on your dry slope. My personal preference is to teach this way when I can, but most of the time I teach first timers using the wedge.

Skiing should be fun, not painful. In the UK, your options are somewhat limited. Alternatives may be more expensive. Once you've had a glimpse into how much fun skiing can be, the draw to keep trying can be powerful. Part of the fun is overcoming challenges. This challenge should be easy to overcome.
post #3 of 28
heya...I'm not expert but, being English, more the point Southern English :p no slopes...so off I went to Southhampton many years ago to learn to ski on their dry slopes. I think I took a once a week course for about  8 to 12 weeks  during which I learned nothing but swow plough, how to use a t-bar and the bits inbetween. I can't help with advice on stance or style but I can say that when I eventually made it to snow...man!! it was sooooooooooo much easier and I found that the skiiing experience I'd had (albeit very limited and on dry slopes) helped me to make the most of my proper skiiing time (which for most of us brits is limited to a week or two year eh?).

Sounds cliched...OK..it is cliched..but stick with it, regard it as hard core practice, and get to real snow ASAP.

Falling on dry slopes still as painful as it was 20 years ago? Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge "carpet" burns and yeah, I remember that crash net without any fondness :)
post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hi Rusty and Catweasel.

Thank you for your replies.  I apologise as I think I should have posted my thread in the beginners forum. 

Rusty, what you say is very interesting and I am pleased that the snow plough route is not taught in The USA. I suppose, the very lose snow plough I attempt as I descend the slope is the "wedge" you speak of.   I guess, all I can do is ask the ski school if they are willing/able to teach me another way.  If not, then I won't continue with lessons as like you say, skiing should be enjoyable.  I feel it would be a great shame though as I can see my improvement in other areas. :(   We shall see.

Catweasel, the slope I go to is made of a type of play carpet an it is quite soft to land on.  I am told it is faster than the usual bristly honeycomb dry ski slopes. 
post #5 of 28
Ben, welcome to the wonderful world of skiing and Epic.  You are doing the hardest part now.

Taught some on carpets back when Jesus wore short pants; it was tougher learning then and probably still is.  Think that you will find the snow plow a much easier maneuver on snow.  The resistance will give you a much different feel on snow.  You will find yourself doing a parallel turn on snow quickly when you get there.  Reading about your problem edging made me wonder about the fit of your boots; if your upper buckles are loose, they won't give good lateral support.  Try tightening them if possible and see what happens, it may help.

Take heart, as your learning progresses, the wedge position will become MUCH less critical. 
post #6 of 28
+ have someone look at how much you're pronating within the boot.

Pigeon-toed folk are the ones with really strong medial shin muscles.
post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 
What's strange is - I can stand with my heels together (without wearing skis of course) and toes pointing out AT 180 degrees like a ballet dancer!!!     I can do this without much effort at all. Not many people seem to be able to do that.  This is the total opposite of the snow plough!  Maybe I'm made wrong!

Thanks for the advice on boots. I will try them a bit tighter on the top buckles. 

I was asked by one instructor to "jump" into the snow plough position whilst on the flat surface and I could do this with no problem.  It's just the pushing out bit I am in agony with when on the slope.

I will try call in to the club and have a word with one of the instructors.

Thanks to you all! 
post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Watmough View Post

What's strange is - I can stand with my heels together (without wearing skis of course) and toes pointing out AT 180 degrees like a ballet dancer!!!     I can do this without much effort at all. Not many people seem to be able to do that.  This is the total opposite of the snow plough!  Maybe I'm made wrong!

This surprises me - not one bit.

I have never been able to do that or get more than 110 degrees (but I can "snowplough" to a stop from 25mph on inline skates )

Tightening them up on the top buckle is _not_ what I'm talking about, fwiw, because it won't change a thing about how your ankle and foot behave inside the boot, and your knees will therefore still hurt.
post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Watmough View Post

Hi Rusty and Catweasel.

Thank you for your replies.  I apologise as I think I should have posted my thread in the beginners forum. 

Rusty, what you say is very interesting and I am pleased that the snow plough route is not taught in The USA. I suppose, the very lose snow plough I attempt as I descend the slope is the "wedge" you speak of.   I guess, all I can do is ask the ski school if they are willing/able to teach me another way.  If not, then I won't continue with lessons as like you say, skiing should be enjoyable.  I feel it would be a great shame though as I can see my improvement in other areas. :(   We shall see.

Catweasel, the slope I go to is made of a type of play carpet an it is quite soft to land on.  I am told it is faster than the usual bristly honeycomb dry ski slopes. 

The difference between the 'snowplow' and 'wedge' is really pretty small, they are both the same shape. The difference is just with a 'wedge' you're not generally taught to use it to stop on steeper slopes. Don't give up on lessons just because they call it a different name.

Have your instructors talked about turning yet? How steep a slope are you plowing on? If it's anything other than the flattest slope at the centre, go back to the flattest slope and get your stance dialled there, see if you can start turning there. You don't have to go straight to parallel turning, turning in a smaller wedge will still be easier on your legs than going straight in a mega plow!

I first skied on dryslope, and raced on it whilst I was at uni (Southampton dryslope too Catweasel), it's rubbish and I hope never to return to it, but if it's all you've got it'll help you a ton before you get to some real snow, where you will understand what proper skiing is all about!
post #10 of 28
Ben
Here is my two cents and it might not be worth a dime.  Sounds like the "snow plow" is not for you.  Althought a wedge is a great way to help beginner start controling their speed and turning, when it grows to the size you are talking about you have almost no chance of turning.  Here is the problem... skis are easy to turn, twist and or pivot when they are flat on the snow.  But when in the "plow" they are no where close to flat.  However without a "plow" to control your speed that net invades your personal space quick.  
I suggest you spend some time making traverses with your skis both in a SMALL wedge and parallel.  The down hill ski will have some edge angle and that is ok.  You can still steer that ski in the direction you want to go to turn and control your speed.  When you traverse with your skis parallel gain a feel for the inside ski flat on the snow.  If you can steer the tip uphill you got it if that ski gets caught on the snow and you are unable to turn it it is not flat.
Also where possible learn to side slip with your skis parallel.  This will teach you edge control.
Turning is about steering, twisting, guiding, pointing your skis where you want to go.  A wedge is a great place to start for most but if it don't work fix it a different way.
Good luck 
The Rusty is worth listening to.
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
Jim, yes the instructors have got everyone who has plowed properly to do plow turns.  I have not even attempted this yet as I have not got to grips with the plow.

Rogue skier, this sounds great in theory but I am under the control of the instructor and cannot spend any time doing my own thing.  To ski recreationally, you have to be signed off, ie, up to a certain standard.  So I can only have lessons at the moment.  I will try to find somewhere else where I can do some experimenting on my own.  There are some terms you used that I don't understand such as "traversing".  Remember I am a beginner   I think you are right in saying the snow plough is not for me.  But a friend of mine says... everyone else can do it, why can't you?

Thanks guys
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Watmough View Post

 But a friend of mine says... everyone else can do it, why can't you?
 

Ben,

There's a difference between can't and won't. But I do love this attitude.

In the US, we teach our instructors to recognize that everyone is different and that different people learn in different ways. We still have everyone pretty much learning the same thing in groups, but we recognize that some people may have physical differences (e.g. knee problems) that may necessitate change to the program. It's not easy to do this and some instructors are better at it than others,.

It's important to understand that the wedge is like a training wheel for a bicycle. We use it to aid balance while we get used to sliding and controlling those monstrous things attached to our feet. When we're comfortable riding, the training wheels come off. Some training wheels may need adjustment and some people are better off learning without them. When you're back out on the dry slope, explain to your next instructor about your pain and ask if you can try making smaller ploughs (tails about as wide apart as your bum), start off going more across the slope (than straight down it) and finish your turns going uphill. If you happen to come to a stop with your skis parallel instead of in a plough, my bet is that your instructor won't complain and you will feel better.

If you can get a chance (e.g. before or after your lesson), find a spot at the bottom of the slope where you can walk up and slide down no more than 15 feet and finish on a flat spot. Practice sliding that distance and changing the plough size from big to small and back. If you can slide that distance slowly with your toes, knees and nose in a vertical line, my guess is it won't hurt.
post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hi Rusty, I guess I am a "wont" .  Reason being I can physically get into this position. 

I will ask about maybe going more across the slope and ask about other ways of stopping.  I was told by one instructor on one frosty lesson that the snow plough would not stop me anyway.  He was not "our" instructor that night he was just assisting.  Our actual instructor was trying to get us to come to a stop in front of him.  The kids seemed to manage this but the adults or anyone with any weight to them didn't. 

You have all given me some hope.  Cheers!

Ben
post #14 of 28
Ben, I'm not an instructor, but I did learn to do the "snowplow" way back in the dawn of prehistory.   Not knowing any better, I taught my daughter to ski trough the snowplow and she did fine.  When I went skiing a couple of weeks ago with a never-ever, we decided he needed professional help.  Despite the professional, his first lesson was a also snowplow lesson. 

The snowplow position is very uncomfortable and hard to do if you are doing it right, that is tipping both skis onto their (IMPORTANT EDIT) outside inside (big toe) edges - a lot, while pushing tails out and pointing the tips together.  Tipping them puts your knees together pushing your heels out keeps the wedge shape.

My guess is that the problem with your snow plow is that you are likely not tipping the skis enough.  A flat ski won't stop anything, a ski tipped on edge has a chance.  Even a well done snow plow will only go so far though, and the more mass you have to stop the harder it is.  That's why it's important to learn the hockey stop as soon as you have the balance skills to do it. 

Some people are knock-kneed and some people are bow-legged.   Tipping both skis onto their outside edges to the degree required may require some boot adjustments in your case.


Never give up!  Never surrender!
Edited by Ghost - 3/6/10 at 7:14am
post #15 of 28
Rusty nailed this in post #2, the first response, the snowplow and the wedge are not the same position or the same turn.  The OP says it hurts him to do a snowplow.  Why would anyone suggest to this man to use a wide wedge shape with a high edge angle that puts him in a knock kneed stance?  It hurts me just thinking about it.  I don't like skiing in a wedge position because it burns my legs after a while.  A modern wedge turn is done on a mostly flat ski to promote turning through pressure and lower leg steering.  Speed control is achieved through turn shape rather than edge angle.  A wide edge locked snowplow stance fails to provide the speed control needed as soon as the slope gets steeper and doesn't provide useful movement patterns to take into the parallel turn.  A narrow wedge flatter ski stance promotes better edge release through a mild directional movement.  This movement flattens the inside ski which allows it to follow the outside ski and eventually match it.  It also directs more pressure to the outside ski as the turn is shaped which encourages some independent leg movements.  It's also easy to introduce some turn anticipation which helps with upper and lower body separation and the beginning of rotatory forces in the lower body.  WOW.  All of that in a First Day Beginner lesson.  My point is that it's possible to learn these skills from day 1 and not have to unlearn bad habits later.  It's sad that so many people hate the wedge and blame the wedge for being terminal intermediates with inefficient wedge based movement patterns.  Properly taught a FDB student should be matching the skis after the fall line on green terrain at the end of an all day lesson.  A few more lessons and the wedge should be gone.  It's also possible that there are a lot of ski instructors out there that don't fully understand the technical aspect of what they are teaching.  A wedge is really nothing more than a wider more stable platform to use while learning the moments used in more advanced skiing.  

BTW Although there may be an alignment issue, particularly with rental boots at a dry land area, the wedge and the snowplough are both performed on the inside edges of the skis.

Never give up, never surrender
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post

Ben, I'm not an instructor, but I did learn to do the "snowplow" way back in the dawn of prehistory.   Not knowing any better, I taught my daughter to ski trough the snowplow and she did fine.  When I went skiing a couple of weeks ago with a never-ever, we decided he needed professional help.  Despite the professional, his first lesson was a also snowplow lesson. 

The snowplow position is very uncomfortable and hard to do if you are doing it right, that is tipping both skis onto their outside edges - a lot, while pushing tails out and pointing the tips together.  Tipping them puts your knees together pushing your heels out keeps the wedge shape.

My guess is that the problem with your snow plow is that you are likely not tipping the skis enough.  A flat ski won't stop anything, a ski tipped on edge has a chance.  Even a well done snow plow will only go so far though, and the more mass you have to stop the harder it is.  That's why it's important to learn the hockey stop as soon as you have the balance skills to do it. 

Some people are knock-kneed and some people are bow-legged.   Tipping both skis onto their outside edges to the degree required may require some boot adjustments in your case.


Never give up!  Never surrender!
post #16 of 28
Quite right, inside edges!.

that gliding wedge might work on teton powder, but the thing is a nearly untilted ski will not control anything on a carpet, or on ice on hardpack that isn't very flat; there is not a cushion of snow to resist against.  The edges have to applied.  The movement may be more painful for him, due to him having to go to extremes to tilt the skis due to his anatomy.  If so, boot canting is in order.  He doesn't need a super wide wedge, just a lot of tilting of the ski.

"  Properly taught a FDB student should be matching the skis after the fall line on green terrain at the end of an all day lesson.  A few more lessons and the wedge should be gone"  Agree.
post #17 of 28
 Ghost...  I think you missed my point.  It's not the edging that gives the speed control, it's the shape of the turn and that turn is skidded on a flattened ski not carved on a high edge angle.  The gliding wedge is closer to what you describe as the edge angles must be higher for it to work.  A wedge that turns will happen on a flatter ski and a smaller wedge shape.  How I wish the Tetons had nothing but powder.  The wedge works on hard snow too.  In fact it doesn't work well in powder and starts to fail as the pitch increases.  It's hard to get high (inside) edge angles with a small wedge without getting very knock kneed and pigeon toed.  This is not a useful position for higher level skiing and IMO leads to the terminal intermediate wedge skier because, under pressure, most skiers revert to what they know.  NOW is a high angled edge locked snowplow better than a wedge turn which when taught properly is basically a parallel turn with training wheels?
post #18 of 28
Effectiveness of wedge depends on slope.  Lots of excellent skiers started out in a snowplow.  It is not a guaranteed ticket to intermediate plateau. 
post #19 of 28
I started out in a snowplow and I turned out OK.  I guess.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post

Effectiveness of wedge depends on slope.  Lots of excellent skiers started out in a snowplow.  It is not a guaranteed ticket to intermediate plateau. 
post #20 of 28
Thread Starter 
Well, yesterday I went to another dry ski slope where you can recreational ski.  They just asked if I can control my speed and direction.  I said yes .  I told her I had only 4 lessons so she said well you can use the main slope if you like and just get off at the first stop and take it easy.   Well I can control my speed using the plow/wedge but direction?  hmmm.

The ski lift....... Well at my local club, at the first stop the surface has been levelled in order for you to get of the lift safely without sliding back down the hill.  Well yesterday was a bit of a shock as I was epecting the same luxury!  It was the same gradient as the slope.  First time off. ... I went sliding back down! ready to be knocked out by the next person on the lift   With practice I got the hang of this and managed to time it perfectly by swinging my slope side ski out with an edge then follow with the other ski.

The slope there is made of brstles and is a honeycomb formation.  This seemed a lot slower than the soft carpet I'm used to, mind you my lessons have been either on snowy days or its been a bit icy.  The gradient was as steep or maybe steeper than my usual.  My friend got me to do more parallel skiing to pick up speed and only use plow to control it near the bottom of the slope.  It was much more enjoyable not having the restraints of an instructor!  On this surface, only a narrow and pain free wedge/plow was needed to hold me still on the start of the run and I semmed to need to get my skis almost parallel in order to start moving.  The plow I was using on the way down was a good tool to slow me down.

Slow me down.... that's all it did.  With my lessons in mind, I thought I'd better practice stopping on the slope on a gradient as asked to do so in the lesson.  This, I was not able to do!

Here are some things I noticed:

1)  Because I was using the ski lift all the time I was not getting exhausted like I do when side stepping.
2)  Because I was not in a lesson, there was no standing around trying not to slide down the slope whilst waiting for 6/7 others to take their turns.
3)  Maybe the answer to my problemns:  my mate noticed when I setepped up or down on the slope I was dragging the fronts of my skis instead of lifting the whole ski.  I knew exactly what he meant as I noticed it before.  Being less tired in the legs as I was not in a lesson I tried to correct this and felt better at feeling the whole ski (if that makes sense)
4) It did me good to practice in a different environment, different surface and without the restraints of the lesson.
5) I was nowhere near exhausted of 2hrs of this, yet in a 1.5 hour lesson, I'm ready to collapse and ache so much!

I actually think I could learn quicker on my own than be so contrained in a lesson that wont allow me to experiment.
Edited by FB User (Private) - 3/8/10 at 11:39am
post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post

Effectiveness of wedge depends on slope.  Lots of excellent skiers started out in a snowplow.  It is not a guaranteed ticket to intermediate plateau. 

You mean like the entire Austrian Ski Team?
post #22 of 28
When going really slow in a snowplow, you have to lean out over the outside (left if you are turning right) to get that ski to have more weight on it and make you turn.
post #23 of 28
 Or you could just release the edge of the inside ski.
post #24 of 28
Ben,
Let me just say, Bless you for sticking with it! You're a better man than I. Starting out on dry slopes in group lessons where it's not coming easily at first would send me straight to the nearest apres ski center. I am a beginner this year too, but was fortunate to learn on the white stuff on a quiet mountain with a lot of space. When you're a bit older, it's hard when we see the little ones getting the hang of it first thing, while we're stuck with gravity playing a practical joke on our mass. Keep at it, and you WILL look back on this one day and slopes that seem like Everest today will seem like flats tomorrow.
post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hey, thanks andyaxa! 

Yeah, of course I will stick at it. 
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post

When going really slow in a snowplow, you have to lean out over the outside (left if you are turning right) to get that ski to have more weight on it and make you turn.

Um... no.  You need to shift your hips/center of mass towards the inside of the turn.  This will tip the outside ski up onto its inside edge, and flatten the inside ski, and THAT will make you turn.  It's the same mechanics as a parallel turn.  The physics are the same no matter how fast or slow you're going.

If you're doing it right, this move will indirectly shift weight to the outside ski as you balance against the centrifugal force of the turn.  But just putting weight on the outside ski will not make you turn.  (If trying to do that makes you turn, it's because you're actually tipping the skis while shifting your weight.  But you'd turn better with your body moving into the turn instead.)
post #27 of 28
Thread Starter 
I don;t think we were told to "lean" onto the ski for turning but to use our feet by applying more pressure.  The rest of the class on the 2nd lesson were told to hold a ski stick horizontally as if it were a tray of drinks and not to spill any whilst turning.  Any leaning would cause the drinks to spill.

Anyway, I'm getting more confused by the minute now.
post #28 of 28
Baby steps!
Once you have the two ski tips pointing at each other and the skis on their big toe edges, they are both trying to control your direction.  The one with the most weight on it, assuming they are both on their edges to the same degree, will dominate and make you turn.  For now the easiest way to get that weight on the outside ski is to simply move your head and shoulders on top of it by leaning your upper body that way.  Once you get the feeling of having that edge work for you, you can experiment with all kinds of more efficient things, and once you get a little speed up inertial will transfer the weight for you.

TDK6, Wheres your video!
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