Excellent discussion everyone! This is the first time I've had a chance to read through this stuff. Just a couple thoughts (and I added some comments yesterday about the "slow line fast" in general in the other current thread, "To Ski Or Not To Ski The Slow Line Fast."
First, the notion of "the slow line fast," as I employ it, most definitely DOES apply off piste. It's just that a "slow enough line" in "slow snow" is much straighter than it would be in faster conditions. Tip Nolo's parking lot up to a higher angle and you have exactly three choices: go faster, ski a slower line (i.e. more complete turns), or brake. If you were going way too slowly before, the "faster" option is good. If you were already going just the right speed, and you want to maintain it, the choice of skiing a slower line is usually more elegant, more efficient, safer, and more fun than hacking away with your skis as brakes.
Indeed, as Holiday suggests, the braking option doesn't even work reliably off piste. Forcing skis sideways in deep or heavy snow is a lot of work at best, and GETTING them sideways is a risky proposition, especially in inconsistent conditions! Remember--it is IMPOSSIBLE to catch an edge if your skis are pointing the direction they're going!
As I stated in the other thread, it is essential to understand that "the slow line fast" really means "a slow ENOUGH line, as fast AS YOU CAN."
"Slow enough" does NOT mean, necessarily, SLOW. And "as fast as you can" need not be FAST! "Too fast" and "too slow" on skis are states of mind--not speeds (the ski patrol notwithstanding). Too fast for one skier is too slow for another, and vice-versa.
As Cal has rightly said, slow enough lines "exist everywhere, on any trail, under any conditions." They can involve very short turns, very long turns, or anything in between. They may involve the use of moguls, gullies, and other terrain features, or they may simply be a matter of completeness of turns. Even a straight run down the fall line may be "slow enough" depending on the skier, the slope, and the conditions. Yes, we may well ski a faster line in deep powder, but it must still be "slow enough" if we expect to continue to enjoy the glide!
Sometimes the slow enough line requires more skill than we have, so we must resort to braking. And EXTREMELY narrow chutes, where the skis can barely fit sideways, pretty much require braking moves. Everywhere else, it's just a question of trying to GO UPHILL to slow down, rather than trying to STOP GOING DOWNHILL! You don't even have to succeed--it's the intent, the mindset, that counts, and that affects the movements. In steep powder, it's unlikely that the skis will actually take you back uphill, but the skier who tries to slice through the snow looks very different from the one who tries to brake.
The "implicit vs. explicit learning" issue is integrally related to the concept of the "slow line fast." The whole key to "perfect turns" is very simple: focus on your line.
The fundamental movements of these turns will happen, regardless of skill level, whenever a skier truly focuses on skiing a precise, specific line. Rank beginners, on skis their very first time, will make these movements instinctively if they try to follow a path you draw on the snow (on the flats). They will not try to throw their skis sideways, or hit the brakes, either with a parallel skid or a braking wedge. They won't fall into the back seat, or remain static. They WILL move their feet and skis in the right direction, and move their bodies in the right direction. They will make what I call "positive movements"--movements in the direction they're trying to go. And they will do it with NO "explicit" instruction telling them how!
Of course, they won't do these things very skillfully at first. There may need to be some explicit instructions along the way to help develop the skills, but the fundamental nature of their movements will be identical to the fundamentals of Hermann Maier's movements as he follows HIS chosen line down a course. In that both are trying to GO on a specific line, both are doing THE SAME THING!
The moment you tip the world of these beginners up a bit, though, you risk adding the need for speed control and survival, which trumps the need to follow a particular line. Now they aren't trying to GO anymore--they're trying to slow down. Their movements change fundamentally, unless they've already learned to choose a slow enough line, and trust themselves to ski it. No amount of "explicit instruction" to "roll your ankles downhill, let go of the mountain, and point your skis straight down the fall line to start a turn" is going to work when the last thing they want is to point their skis straight down the fall line!
The entire key to great turns is to make sure you are trying to CONTROL LINE--NOT SPEED! You MUST ski "a slow enough line" so that you eliminate the NEED for speed control, otherwise it won't happen, no matter how skillful you are, and no matter what instructions some instructor is shouting at you.
The implications of "the slow line fast" on much conventional wisdom are enormous. Almost everyone turns to slow down, but if you want to make great turns, I say you must only turn when you want to GAIN SPEED! After all, when you release your edges and turn your skis downhill without the brakes on, they WILL gain speed--so good turns are INCOMPATIBLE with the intent to slow down! You HAVE to want to gain speed when you turn, otherwise your "turns" will really be "brakes."
To make great turns, you have to want to GO FASTER, ALL THE TIME! In other words, you have to make sure you are always going a speed that is "too slow"--for you, at any given moment. That's why Disski's instructors have been so effective. As she says, they have led her on a VERY slow line as fast as they can ski it--a line so slow that Disski had no need to slow down. A line that, because Disski was trying to follow it without the distraction of needing to slow down, causes her INEVITABLY to make the basic fundamental movements of great turns.
So the slow line fast is not really a choice. It is a matter of fact. You HAVE to ski "a slow enough line as fast as you can" to make the type of turns that result ONLY from this intent. You certainly have the option of skiing faster lines, but the moment you ski a line that is not "slow enough," the fundamental nature of your movements will change. There's nothing right or wrong about that, and no value judgement implied--it's simply a statement of fact! If you value the type of gliding, sensuous, precise, efficient (but not necessarily pure-carved) turns that result, you have no choice but to ski a line slow enough that you can make them.
Well, I didn't expect to write something this long, but this issue is so fundamental, and so essential to great skiing, that I got carried away (as usual).
Learning to ski the slow line fast, to adopt the habit of an OFFENSIVE state of mind (not necessarily an AGGRESSIVE state of mind), involves a true paradigm shift for most skiers. If you "turn" to slow down, you haven't made this shift yet--that alone is a defensive thought. It is an all-encompassing change, and it may not make sense until you've arrived at it! But it is a change that will not only make your on-piste turns smoother, more effortless, more elegant, and more carved, but it will give you an entirely new sense of control everywhere, and it will make off-piste skiing not only possible, but enjoyable! It will allow you to ski ANY line faster, and with more control. It, and it alone, will put you on the path to expert skiing--the slow line is the ONLY line that takes you there!
It's worth pursuing!
Bob Barnes[ November 10, 2002, 02:12 AM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]