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Levels for Skiers: What exactly do they mean? - Page 2

post #31 of 109
A small hijack but relevant to the East West thing. 

My teaching days were from long ago in the the A to F days.  At that time it was fairly easy to asses the region a skier came from by technique of the skier,especially at intermediate levels.  You folks currently teaching do you feel this is still true?  The biggest tells then were angulation, forward lean, and weight transfer; Eastern skiers had it, Westerners not so much.  Then it seemed easier to teach the Easterner loose snow, than the westerner to ski ice.  

Still true?

A to F system was very similar to your current system, and very radical for the time.  It was a first attempt to standardize class ability levels, and was very turn based.  A was the never ever,  B had wedge and wedge turns down. C stem turns and traverse .... F short swing. 
post #32 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by PimpinPanda View Post




Who here is a moderator???  The above post by skimangojazz is a Spinal Tap (a movie) reference.  In reply I quoted the lyrics for the movies funniest song big bottoms.  Tqsqared not only deleted it but threatened to ban me!  For a song on spinal tap, a movie that In 2002, This Is Spinal Tap was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever.

me and SMJ = Clever. PP = stupid.

BTW on topic Bob Barnes has yet another great post.
post #33 of 109
I am a moderator. See the label under my user name?

The Mona Lisa and Michelangelo's David are culturally significant, but neither are relative to the discussion at hand. Childhood pictures of me naked are precious family mementos to my parents but become illegal child pornography when distributed to others. Just because I've mentioned these things does not make them OK to discuss further in this thread. We try to provide a lot of leeway on the rules, but this is not TGR. In general, when we see posts that are possibly offensive to a significant portion of our community and not materially relevant to the conversation, we will moderate. As a policy we do not discuss specific moderation actions in public forums. There are pros and cons for these policies. They are what they are.

The last time I checked this was a thread about skier levels. Let's please go back to that topic.
post #34 of 109
Well it's hard to argue with the guy who wrote the book! Thanks for sharing Bob.

.

I would only add that in our culture we grade everything, so I understand the feeling of accomplishment when you are told you progressed to a new level. That being said, I personally don't offer grades based on the lesson level scale because they can be so subjective and a year from now how you skied today isn't a good measure of how you will ski then. I talk instead about what we worked on, what discoveries we made, and how much more of the mountain we can ski as a result of all the work we did today. The only time I use the lesson level scale is when we are trying to figure out what sign to meet at the next day (assuming it';s a group lesson).
post #35 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes View Post
........

The problem is that few skiers have had the good fortune of continued great coaching from the beginning. Few recreational skiers have more than a cursory and superficial understanding of the fundamentals of great skiing. So they "improve," and become "competent" at increasing speeds and on increasingly difficult terrain, even as their fundamental movements and tactics may vary widely. Indeed, the vast majority of intermediate and advanced skiers at most resorts ski fast on challenging terrain, but demonstrate techniques and tactics that differ fundamentally (less efficient, less versatile, typically defensive and braking or with limited control of line/turn shape) from the skiing of true experts. As they continue to "get better at bad skiing," the challenge of fitting them into a universal ability-level scale grows immensely!
..........

As PSIA instructors we pay very close attention to clean execution of "fundamental movements" and "efficient" skiing.  In other words our goal is to have every student move exactly the same way...If you will look at people walking down the street, they will all walk using slightly different movements...Why? Because they are built differently, weight differently and psychologically different. In fact they are all experts in walking.

What is efficient for one person is not necessarily efficient for another. Some of us, me including, had to undergo extensive boot alignment, which allowed us to move “PSIA efficiently”. Look at extreme Free Skiers and Racers – they all ski different, because they are different…

 

If you teach young hockey player, then offensive high speed turns with line control and extreme knee angulation (that is what we call efficient today) will work wonders...

Imagine you teach overweight middle aged person with sedentary job and slight arthritis. Will our PSIA "efficient" technique work wonders for that person? I do not think so! However, some energy conserving and slightly defensive skiing can go very long way in terms of building skills and confidence through control! But this person will always control his speed and will never produce perfect knee angulation. This is the only way to teach this type of person to experience the mountain!

May I ask what is our goal? Enable people safely experience the whole mountain and enjoy the sport or creep over "fundamental movements" that might not be actually efficient for their body and psychology and in many cases prevent them from progressing?

What I am trying to say, is that PSIA list of fundamental and efficient moves is too long, it has too many moves that are not fundamental and/or universal for everybody at all! As an example, I would say upper/lower body separation in fundamental, while offensive skiing is not, it is only desirable.

post #36 of 109
 Back on topic.  I have watched my own progress for a number of years and the levels have a lot of meaning to me in that regards.  I was stuck at Level 7 for a lonnnggg time.  Becoming a Level 8 has been my goal for a number of years.  I believe I'm there finally, but a low level 8 probably.

I've used this analogy before, but will again.  Each level is a wide range.  So looking at a test score, there are 80's and 89's.  One is a B-, the other is a B+.  

It has meaning to me.  For me to consider myself a Level 8 skier means not only can I ski groomed terrain with good form, good edge angles, lack of excess upper body motion, etc. etc.  It also means I can ski moderate bumps, powder and crud.

As long as the bumps were my nemesis I never felt like I could call myself a Level 8.  (See BWPA's signature.)

I still am not very good in the bumps, but I've finally made enough progress that I'd give myself that B-.

So besides being a way to divide students into groups, the levels are a useful tool for self evaluation and for setting goals.  It's hard to have a goal without some kind of a benchmark to reach.  Just "losing weight" is not a goal.  "Losing 10 pounds of fat" is a goal.


By the way, I think I need to be more like an 83 to get my PSIA Level II - and I will be there soon I believe.
post #37 of 109
Quote (Stroller, post #37):

 As PSIA instructors we pay very close attention to clean execution of "fundamental movements" and "efficient" skiing.  In other words our goal is to have every student move exactly the same way

Hmm....while I agree with you, Stroller, that we do pay very close attention to ... fundamental movements, I could not agree less with your second sentence here (and much of the rest of your post). Indeed, you have highlighted the critical difference between "principles or fundamentals" and "characteristics." When people move fundamentally the same way--as in walking, for example--they may actually look quite different, as you have described, due to characteristics of body type, shoe type, fitness, speed, ground surface, and so on--not to mention skill (are 2 year olds doing something fundamentally different from 20 year olds when they walk?). The instructor's job is to recognize the difference between fundamentals--which can  appear quite different even when they are the same, and characteristics--which may appear similar in some respects, especially to the untrained eye, even when they are fundamentally different!

A skiing case in point is the tired "wedge" vs. "parallel" issue. To the untrained eye, all "parallel" turns may appear similar, and may appear fundamentally different from "wedge turns." But someone with deeper understanding will look far beyond the easily-observable characteristic of wedge or parallel skis, recognize that it is extremely superficial (merely the result the skis turning at sometimes slightly different rates), and see underlying fundamental movement patterns and intent. Both wedge turns and parallel turns can be 100% offensive, or 100% defensive. Inherent in some wedge turns is all of the important fundamental movements, tactics, and intent of the great turns of experts, while some "beginner" parallel turns have virtually nothing in common with great skiing habits.

So it is anything but "a look" that great instructors strive for. No competent instructor would expect two skiers to look or move exactly the same way--even as they work on the same fundamentals. Fundamentals are about function, efficiency, effectiveness toward an outcome--hardly about "a look." And I would argue that your "overweight middle aged person with sedentary job and slight arthritis" will benefit--actually needs--efficiency even more than the top athlete. What is "efficiency" if not "energy conserving"?

Good technique--and some of the fundamentals and principles that good instructors emphasize--is about gliding--"glissement," in the words of the great French technician, Georges Joubert. It's about dancing with the mountain and the laws of physics, instead of fighting against them. It's about movements that keep the feet moving the direction they're pointing as much as possible instead of skidding sideways and braking most of the time. Needless to say (?), skis moving the direction they're pointed are considerably more stable, less work to manage, faster on any given line, able to carve on hard snow, glide through powder, slice through crud, and caress bumps. That habit--along with the skill (and judgment) to brake as much as needed whenever necessary--is a fundamental shared by all great skiers--at any level of skill.

It has nothing to do with the characteristic you describe of "extreme knee angulation" (which can just as easily describe aggressive braking--fundamentally the opposite of what I've described)! Likewise "upper-lower body separation"--an easily observable (and yes--desirable) characteristic (like "parallel") shared by good skiers and bad hacks alike!

It is a common misconception that good instructors are after "a look," and that good technique is simply an arbitrary definition of some movements du jour. Could not be further from the truth!

Best regards,
Bob
post #38 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by SavoirFaire View Post

Well, according to Vail, I'm a level 5 skier. I would have thought I was lower, given this was just my first year, but I think I got about 15-20 days in and I'm fairly athletic. Ice skating helped; I am a frequent skater and I find the theory and movements are nearly identical. I can already ski switch for fairly long distances and green runs, including turning, so there's that.

I guess I will look into pole planting and black (Midwest) runs next year before I go somewhere "real". I'm looking at going to Snowshoe in WV and either Steamboat or somewhere in Utah as well.
 
Hey, me too!

"LEVEL 6


Description: You are comfortable and confident on any groomed “blue square” terrain, and capable of skiing or riding easiest ungroomed and moguled blue terrain. You can link turns of varying size at moderate speed. If you are a skier, you are usually parallel, and you may use a pole swing or plant in most of your turns. Snowboarders are beginning to skid less, with the tail of the board following the tip, for more control of their line."

I don't need no schtinking pole plants!  I'll never get to level 6.

Of course the level 9 description fits too.


LEVEL 9


Description: You can ski or ride almost anywhere, almost any time, with confidence, flair, efficiency, and offensive movements and tactics. You fear no terrain. The challenge is no longer merely to survive, but to continue to improve, and you can challenge yourself on even the easiest green, groomed runs. You are becoming a true virtuoso, enticingly close to earning the title “expert.”

Moral.
Unless you are signing up for a lesson, forgetaboutit!

 

post #39 of 109
 Efficiency transcends body type.  Don't get distracted by individual movement patterns dictated by individual body structure.  Instead, start by observing how the skis interact with the snow.  If you see issues there, look up to find the origin.  

Also, what efficiency looks like depends on what the skier is striving to do.  It's not a singular theme.  

Finally, pure efficiency does not have to be the governing commodity. Skiers have every right to opt for skiing how they do simply for the fun of it, efficiency be damned.  Expert skiers do that often.  Note; that differs from lesser skilled skiers who display inefficient skiing simply for lacking the ability to employ more efficient options.   
post #40 of 109
All I know is that the next time I try to write descriptions, I'm going to label them "0.5, 1.5, 2.5, 3.5," and so on. Virtually everyone reads these 1-9 descriptions and concludes that they are "between a 6 and a 7," or "a 3 and a 4," or whatever. So I'll give in and create 6 1/2 and 3 1/2!



Best regards,
Bob
post #41 of 109
Quote:

 Skiers have every right to opt for skiing how they do simply for the fun of it, efficiency be damned.  Expert skiers do that often.  Note; that differs from lesser skilled skiers who display inefficient skiing simply for lacking the ability to employ more efficient options.

Well said, Rick! Efficiency is the default. Great skiers possess the full spectrum of movements and tactics, and employ whatever they need, or whatever they feel like, whenever they want. But they do it by choice--because they can, not because they don't know any better!
post #42 of 109
...and back to the topic: moving up through the levels requires both more skill and more versatility and adaptability, to perform in an ever broader variety of speeds, conditions, terrain, and mood.

Best,
Bob
post #43 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post



Hey, me too!

"LEVEL 6


Description: You are comfortable and confident on any groomed “blue square” terrain, and capable of skiing or riding easiest ungroomed and moguled blue terrain. You can link turns of varying size at moderate speed. If you are a skier, you are usually parallel, and you may use a pole swing or plant in most of your turns. Snowboarders are beginning to skid less, with the tail of the board following the tip, for more control of their line."

I don't need no schtinking pole plants!  I'll never get to level 6.

Of course the level 9 description fits too.


LEVEL 9


Description: You can ski or ride almost anywhere, almost any time, with confidence, flair, efficiency, and offensive movements and tactics. You fear no terrain. The challenge is no longer merely to survive, but to continue to improve, and you can challenge yourself on even the easiest green, groomed runs. You are becoming a true virtuoso, enticingly close to earning the title “expert.”

Moral.
Unless you are signing up for a lesson, forgetaboutit!

 


 

sorry but I am sure other on here would love to ski bumps on SG skis with out pole touches.

Why havent we started a ghost to the gathering fund yet?
post #44 of 109
post #45 of 109
post #46 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes View Post




Inherent in some wedge turns is all of the important fundamental movements, tactics, and intent of the great turns of experts....

Stated as a fact, but open to question.  For example, John Clendenin -- former 2 time world freestyle champion -- would deny this statement and has a name for the wedge turn, "skier's flu", which indicates his view of your statement.  He continues to use the name skier's flu as recently as the 2009-2010 season revision of his book, so this is a current reflection of his understanding of the fundamentals of skiing.  As the top freestyle skier in the world for 2 years in his heydey, it's reasonable to believe he has firsthand knowledge of the "great turns of experts" that you refer to.

JC is not alone among elite skiers in his disagreement with your view.  It's not how well the wedge is performed that they view as the problem; it is that it is performed at all.  And they make the great turns of experts   
post #47 of 109
No, Sharp--it has absolutely nothing to do with how well a wedge turn is performed. It has to do simply with how it is performed--in other words, what fundamental movements are involved, and what intent dictates them. Generally speaking, a wedge turn is NOT done well, almost by definition. It is done by beginning skiers! An accurate wedge turn is skiing's version of the first teetering steps of a toddler learning to walk. It is what it is, not because it's done wrong, or done well, but because it is done at very low speed by skiers with "emerging" skill. There is a chasm of differnce between "teaching wedge turns" and simply recognizing that beginning skiers have a strong tendency to make wedge turns. There is no reason to turn this discussion of skier levels into a debate over teaching methodology.

Interestingly (at least to me), though, even the "parallel" turns of the best and most skillful skiers will become wedge turns in some circumstances--particularly, very short radius turns at very low speed. That is, they will unless they resort to some very uncouth movements in order to keep 'em parallel. Yes, that includes your "friends." Yes, I can prove it, and I have done so many times, even with the most strident "DTP" desciples.

Frankly, what I have just described is the real definition of a basic, offensive wedge turn. It is a typical, recognizable milestone of skill development. It is NOT a fundamentally different "beginner's" turn. The wedge need not happen on purpose. It isn't even (necessarily) something we teach. What we teach are the fundamental movement patterns of great offensive turns. And the wedge (often) happens. A wedge turn describes--by definition--a characteristic of a beginner's attempt to make a "parallel" turn. That's why a description of the lowest levels typically involves wedge turns--not because they're what's taught, but because they're what happens in the real world with skiers at that skill level. And it matters little how the skier was taught, or whether he/she is fundamentally offensive or defensive. Wedge turns of some sort "happen" either way. 
 

(Of course, all skiers become defensive at times, out of necessity, and the braking wedge is ubiquitous in good skiing--on cat tracks, lift mazes, in-runs to jumps, and elsewhere. And good instructors teach braking too, when needed--but they don't call it turning. In any case, these braking wedge turns are not what I'm describing.)

These things are not opinions. They are easily observable and demonstrable facts. But you have to understand offensive and defensive movements (and intent) to get it. Wedge turns should not form a "step" in a teaching progression--good progressions focus on movements and fundamentals, not final forms, superficial poses, or "a look." They do not preclude beginner drills and progressions that don't involve wedges--like stepping and skating, balancing on the edge of one ski to experience 'pure carved arcs," and other staples of great beginner progressions. Indeed, beginners will make wedge turns of some sort whether they are ever taught to make wedge turns or not! A nearly inevitable trait of beginners when they ski, "wedge" is a natural when describing skier levels.

As skiers progress in skill, speed, and confidence--whether they are developing accurate offensive movement patterns or defensive braking habits--wedges tend to fade away--often quickly. First, skiers become parallel by the end of the turn. Later, they become parallel earlier in the turn. Eventually, they will be able to make most turns--at least where they are comfortable and "offensive"--parallel from start to finish. Again, these are not steps in a teaching progression--they simply reflect what happens as people learn to ski. (There are simple reasons why these things happen, but I'll save that explanation for another time.) So the wedge--or its disappearance--are characteristics well-suited to describing typical skiers' stages of early skill development.

This is not just my opinion. The best of the so-called "direct-to-parallel" beginner programs (Aspen's "Beginner Magic" program comes to mind) may not actively teach a wedge as a part of a turning progression, but they do recognize that wedges "happen"--and they allow them to, where they result from "good" movements. (Three guesses who wrote these words: [We] "unequivocally understand and acknowledge that a wedge stance may result, even when skiers are taught Direct [to] Parallel. Often, the torque created through leg alignment twists the skis to a wedge....")

Imagine if they didn't recognize this fact: imagine doing everything right in a turn, and a wedge happens. You think it's "wrong"--some sort of evil error--so what do you do? If you pull your inside tail out toward the outside ski to make them parallel, you will successfully eliminate the wedge, but only by making a defensive "negative" (toward the outside of the turn) movement that has no place in accurate, offensive turns. Congratulations--you've created a turn with the superficial characteristic of "parallel," using fundamentally wrong movements! You're 'parallel"--yeah!--but you're headed down a dead-end path.


So, again, trendy "direct to parallel" teaching progressions notwithstanding, the wedge remains a typical characteristic of beginning skiers--and a not uncommon occurence even in experts. This is not a philosophical debate about teaching methodologies. It is certainly possible to teach an effective beginner progression that never explicitly teaches a wedge. And it's possible to incorporate a wedge--both braking and gliding--into an effective progression as well. Either way, beginning skiers are going to use a wedge--a lot sometimes--when skiing (if not when doing the drills they've been taught).

On the other hand, today's short, deep-sidecut learning skis--combined with effective teaching methodologies--can greatly accelerate the learning process. It is not unusual for beginning skiers to progress through Level 4 or even 5 (linked "parallel" turns in easy conditions) in a day or two. When the Levels 1-9 first came about--in the days of longer, straighter skis--they represented more distinct stages of development, and it would generally take skiers at least a few days to reach Level 4. Today's skis can abbreviate the wedge- and wedge christie-phases so much that they may go unnoticed. For practical purposes, modern skis may justify the idea of (almost) "direct-to-parallel."

But I'd still prefer to call good teaching "direct to expert." "Parallel" is such an insignificant characteristic in modern skiing. Clearly, if skiers can ski parallel on their first or second day, it is hardly a sign of expert skiing. But there are certainly fundamental movements and principles inherent in expert skiing (most of us would agree) that can be introduced to beginners. If the quest for "parallel" overshadows the quest for great fundamental movements, the student loses. 

I don't necessarily find fault with John Clendenin's teaching progressions--or others that are similar. And I fully agree with John that the way some instructors teach "wedge turns" and "wedge-based progressions" is reprehensible. But many wedge-avoiding progressions and instructors teach equally bad--or worse--movements. And I do think it's unfortunate that John finds it necessary to market his progression by villifying the innocent and inevitable wedge. There's no reason to do that--and many reasons not to.

Regardless, show me a first- or second-day skier skiing on the hill (as opposed to "doing drills"), and I'll show you a bunch of wedges and wedge turns. Some may be "good" offensive turns; some may be otherwise. But wedges will happen. And that's the point, in this thread!

Best regards,
Bob

PS--And I have never, ever, suggested that being a good skier necessarily makes someone understand good skiing's fundamentals--much less able to express or explain them. Many great skiers are "unconsciously competent," with very little understanding of the fundamentals that they, themselves, have mastered. But that's another story.... Understanding is not a requirement for great skiing (especially if you have a great coach)--although MISunderstanding can sure screw you up!
post #48 of 109
Great posting Bob. Unconsciously competent is a great expression. Its very good to make demos of lower level skiing true to the level of the students. They will better relate to task at hand.

The question of wedge or not to wedge comes up quite frequently. I remember reading this book on direct to parallel from the 80s or something and there was explained in detail how to start skiing without a wedge. It was aimed at adults and for students that took lessons for a week in a row. However, there was a turn they called something else but it was a wedge. That sounds kind of pointless to me. But its a good way of publishing a book and standing out. Is wedging a flue? The guy that said that is entiteld to his opinion and it would seem quite pointless to make jet annother book about wedging. I have a hard time believing its functional to ski the whole mountain at expert level and never wedge. Count out all the racers since its a key technique in their training.
post #49 of 109
Bob,

I like your phrase "direct to expert!"  I'll take a double shot of that, please ...  And sure, a few natural athletes have unconscious competence and perform well, even at the highest levels of the sport, without intellectual understanding of how their personal skiing style works.

D'ya care to show the rest of that HH quote or willl you continue to take it out of context?

For those who don't have time to track down this old quote,  the gist of it is that many skiers can't balance properly on one ski until they are aligned and they use this torque (and resulting wedge) as a crutch to compensate for their poor alignment ... a better alternative than falling down for sure    

I think you're splitting hairs with the "how well" vs "how" distinction.  If the "how" ain't good, then it ain't done "well."  When I wrote "how well" my intent was to capture the subset of wedges that you approve of and refer to in your earlier post. 

I found your choice of words, uncouth, an interesting one.  I usually think of the e-words to describe this instead:  elegant, efficient, expert.  Word association tests often reveal interesting things!

Anyway, it's not about wedge vs parallel.  It's about whether some wedges include "all of the important fundamental movements ... of the great turns of experts" as you assert or whether those fundamental movements properly executed preclude the wedge.  Some skiing luminaries believe the latter and might apply your word uncouth differently.

Back to the skier level discussion, do PSIA or any of the ski schools have online video clips of skiers at the different levels?  I've seen demos of the different levels made by high level instructors, but that's quite different from seeing an actual skier at that level warts and all. 
post #50 of 109
Quote:

 I found your choice of words, uncouth, an interesting one.  I usually think of the e-words to describe this instead:  elegant, efficient, expert.  Word association tests often reveal interesting things!
 

Indeed they do. If you call rotating or counter-rotating the upper body, or driving the pole in hard in order to twist both skis into a parallel skid "elegant," "efficient," or "expert," then your definition of good turning movements certainly differs from mine (which is fine--like beauty, expertise lies largely in the eye of the beholder). If the intent is to make offensive direction-controlling turns instead of braking skids, and you don't recognize that pulling the inside ski tail out toward the outside ski to create "parallel" (see full page image and descriptions starting on page 41 of Harald's first book) is an inefficient "negative" movement to that end, then your desired outcome is clearly different from mine.

Regardless, Sharp, again I will not engage in a philosophical debate over teaching methodologies in this thread. That ground has been well-covered, and in the context of this discussion, it does not matter. Beginners--and even experts making tight turns at low enough speeds--will inevitably revert to offensive wedge turns in many situations--not to mention the defensive wedge turns that all skiers use situationally--regardless of their instructional background. This is not philosophical--it is easily observable, and there are very simple reasons for it. Among those reasons can be misalignment, but it is hardly the only one.

If you are truly inquisitive, then the simple fact that unintentional wedges happen--often, in all two-legged skiers, regardless of how or what they've been taught and what they believe in--should inspire you to seek to understand why, rather than denying the obvious and quoting methodological dogma. Please knock the chip off your shoulder and join the discussion, rather than trying to reopen a long-dead and pointless philosophical debate. If all you want to do is quote dogma, do it elsewhere.

For what it's worth, if anyone wants to read the rest of Harald's words that I quoted in my previous post, you'll find it in the "library" on his site. There is no "out of context" intent on my part--what is relevant is that Harald, a vocal proponent of avoiding teaching wedge turns, understands and accepts that wedges do happen. And I agree with him. The reasons they happen, while important and interesting to some, are irrelevant to this discussion--it is the simple fact that they do happen that matters. Yes, among those reasons is poor teaching, which can "stem" (pun intended) from many sources. Misalignment is another contributor. Defensiveness can cause wedges (but it can as easily cause braking parallel turns). Physiology and biomechanics--the fact that rotating both legs at the same rate requires sophisticated skill and practice, as one rotates internally in the hip socket, the other externally--plays a large role. Physics are involved--at low speed, there is very little force pulling a skier toward the outside ski, which means that either the skier must use an open stance "training wheel" (typically a wedge) to support some of the weight as the new outside ski is tipped and the body moves inside the turn, or the skier must move almost directly over the outside ski for balance, making tipping it significantly a challenge, or the skier must "fall" to the inside, necessitating a coarse twisting move to keep from falling over, or ....

Any way you look at it, anywhere you start, wedges are likely. They...simply...happen. The alternatives include gross twisting "parallel" skids, "closing" the inside ski out toward the outside ski (either after a wedge has happened, or continuously to prevent the wedge from happening--either way, it's a negative, skidding movement), edge-locked carved long-radius arcs, or various useful drills that can help develop balance and fundamental movements--that can constitute excellent teaching and practice, but that I would hardly call "skiing."

When beginners ski, they wedge, almost always, at least briefly and at the earliest stages. Yes, there are teaching methodologies that emphasize minimizing this stage, and I support many of them. But that does not deny the reality that...wedges happen. Indeed, if they did not happen, why would instructors devote so much energy to teaching and promoting methodologies aimed at avoiding them? They happen. Really!

SO...the beginning levels on a realistic skier ability scale must allow for wedge turns--whether anyone likes it, or teaches it, or not. The scale is an acknowledgement of what is--not a prescription for what should be, or what should be taught. Those who seek to minimize or eliminate wedge turns are free to do so--no problem! But beware of the pitfalls I have described--the reality that all parallel turns (like all wedge turns) are not created equal, and that many ways to create "parallel" involve very non-expert-like movements.

To be simple, then, looking strictly at the characteristic of wedge or parallel, to differentiate typical skiers on the hill by level of skill development (and regardless of offensive or defensive intent):
  • Levels 1-2-3: Wedge turns are common
  • Levels 4-5-6: Wedge diminishes, skiers becoming parallel most of the time
  • Levels 7-8-9: Parallel turns are the rule; wedges are situational

Yes, it's cool that with good teaching and good equipment and setup, many skiers can move into the "parallel levels" very quickly--if not almost immediately. Moving up in ability and avoiding deadends, plateaus, and backward steps is a worthy goal for both skiers and teachers. How best to do that? Another discussion!

Best regards,
Bob
post #51 of 109
 SE. I'm not sure why the whole PMTS vs PSIA crap needs to surface here. It's a tired old discussion you are trying to re-open. Fundamental movements can mean many things to many different organizations but in the long run villifying a wedge to sell a program doesn't make sense when you consider that just about every skier uses one. Even you state it has a valid use, so I don't understand why we need to villify it.
Is it overused? Probably, but to be honest if a skier is happy doing that, who are we to suggest they should change. If they come to me seeking change sure I'll work on building better fundamentals and in most cases the wedge disappears and they adopt a more parallel skiing style. Although it's not because I stress adopting a parallel stance, it will occur as a function of the speed and the use of the same fundamental turning movements we learned while performing a gliding wedging. All that changes is the inside ski usage.
Edited by justanotherskipro - 4/22/10 at 10:26am
post #52 of 109
As someone who Knows John and has skied with John, you are confusing STEMMING and a wedge movement. IJohn's use of "Skiers flu" is in reference to stemming.   I use wedge's in tight trees and off-piste areas where there they are very useful and effecient, if you can't wedge you are missing a valuable tool.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sharpedges View Post




Stated as a fact, but open to question.  For example, John Clendenin -- former 2 time world freestyle champion -- would deny this statement and has a name for the wedge turn, "skier's flu", which indicates his view of your statement.  He continues to use the name skier's flu as recently as the 2009-2010 season revision of his book, so this is a current reflection of his understanding of the fundamentals of skiing.  As the top freestyle skier in the world for 2 years in his heydey, it's reasonable to believe he has firsthand knowledge of the "great turns of experts" that you refer to.

JC is not alone among elite skiers in his disagreement with your view.  It's not how well the wedge is performed that they view as the problem; it is that it is performed at all.  And they make the great turns of experts   

 

Edited by Finndog - 4/22/10 at 10:54am
post #53 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by sharpedges View Post
Back to the skier level discussion, do PSIA or any of the ski schools have online video clips of skiers at the different levels?  I've seen demos of the different levels made by high level instructors, but that's quite different from seeing an actual skier at that level warts and all.  
 
If there were such online videos, they would beg to be taken out of context. You'd have to have multiple skiers (demonstrating different warts) at each level (except for level 1) in order for a pattern of abilities to become more visible than a pattern of warts.

PSIA did include demos of skiing at the various levels in an older version of the Alpine technical video, but they have no free equivalent online. The Movement Matrix may evolve to hold such demos, but this is a pay service.

Maybe Epic can assemble a video library of level'd skiers?
post #54 of 109
Quote:
I am pretty sure John's use of Skiers flu is in reference to stemming.  

Thanks Finn. I'm quite certain that you're right!

And I agree completely with him. Stemming--while still an important arrow in the quiver as a situational move--is a bad habit. I'd even go beyond calling it simply a "flu." Stemming as a habit runs rampant in skiing--on the level of an epidemic. And if the habit of stemming results from teaching, it points to bad teaching.

By definition, "stemming" means pushing out of one or both ski tails, implying a pivot point at or near the ski tips. Stems can be intentional--usually as a braking/checking move, or to recover balance--or not, as in the "abstem" that denotes the slipping out of the downhill/outside tail at the bottom of a turn, commonly associated with upper body rotation.

Some wedges involve stemming--but not all. The difference--and a defining fundamental movement of offensive turns (including parallel)--is that in a "real" wedge turn, both ski tips are guided into the turn, with pivot points not forward of the centers of the feet. The wedge results simply from the difficulty of turning both skis at the same rate. And it becomes increasingly likely the smaller the turn radius--which requires more active steering of the skis.

Conversely, one way to minimize or eliminate the wedge is to open up the turn radius, allowing the skis to "carve" the turn with minimal active (muscular) leg steering. The problem is that for many beginners, even on "green" terrain, longer radius turns result in too much speed gain before the turn is complete. So, they'll either turn more tightly than their skis can carve--which often results in an offensive wedge turn--or they'll brake as they turn down the hill, either with a braking wedge, or a braking hockey-stop-like parallel skid.

On the right (meaning, very flat) terrain, many beginners can learn to carve or brush gentle, longer-radius parallel turns with the help of modern learning skis and effective coaching. But few mountains are that flat for very long! Tip it down a little, or add a little speed, and that fragile parallel technique either deteriorates to lousy parallel braking, or reverts to tighter radius and more complete offensive wedge turns (or some of each--including braking wedge turns). (On a methodological note, it's worth remembering that any hill, no matter how steep, is flat if you go across it!)

I certainly advocate a lot of mileage and practice in the "offensive zone" of flatter learning terrain and tactics to ingrain the offensive habits of great skiing. But we have to accept--and even encourage--skiers to venture out sometimes, explore new horizons, and push their limits. That's where versatility lives, where skiers learn to blend skills and movements to create varied turn shapes and sizes, and even learn to use their brakes effectively, when needed. Wedges happen!

"Offensiveness" happens only when skiers literally, from deep down in their cores, want to go faster, not slower--when they want to glide, not brake. That state of mind--that I call the "GO! factor"--is the pre-requisite for great offensive turns at any level of skill. We learn to maintain the GO! factor in increasingly challenging situations, largely by adjusting our line and tactics--as in shorter, more complete turns when the terrain gets steeper.

The result may seem paradoxical to some--we "need" to control speed, so we attempt to ski a line on which we constantly try to go as fast as we can. (This way, even the desire to stop can involve "going as fast as I can"--uphill.) But that is the essence of skiing the "slow line fast." It is perhaps the single most important fundamental principle of great skiing--the critical intent that dictates the technique of great turns.

And that offensive intent can produce parallel turns or wedge turns--as can its opposite. The fundamental movements of offensive and defensive turns are as opposite as their intents--and far transcend in significance the superficial characteristics of parallel and wedge!

But whether skiers learn offensive habits or defensive habits, as they progress along these divergent paths they will tend to demonstrate wedges more consistently as beginners, and parallel skis as they develop skill, speed, and confidence.

Best regards,
Bob
post #55 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post

If there were such online videos, they would beg to be taken out of context. You'd have to have multiple skiers (demonstrating different warts) at each level (except for level 1) in order for a pattern of abilities to become more visible than a pattern of warts.

 


Good point, Rusty. With all of the variables of skill level, equipment, setup, physical morphology and condition, pitch, athleticism, intent, terrain, conditions, visibility, speed, motivation, versatility and adaptability, understanding (and misunderstanding), aggressiveness, fatigue, confidence, risk aversion, and more, there is hardly a "representative" skier that would define any particular level. While a skier may fit dead center in the description of a particular level, another skier who looks and skis very differently may also fit there.

When you look at all of these variables that influence how someone skis, it becomes obvious why it's impossible to fully characterize a skier with a single number.

It might be a good experiment to explore a scale that rates different aspects independently. I propose Weems's "Sports Diamond" as a starting point, with separate ratings in each category of "power," "purpose," "touch," and "will." I'm not sure how that will work, exactly, or how easily it would incorporate variables like terrain and conditions, speed, technical versatility ("lateral learning"), and others. But it could be an interesting project!

Best regards,
Bob
post #56 of 109
Here is a quote from the web:

When assessing a student for promotion, karate instructors also consider intangible qualities. Senseis want to see an evolution of a student's confidence, maturity, discipline and leadership. By the time a karate student reaches the black belt level, she has had several years of karate training. Being promoted to black belt signifies that she is a serious student of the martial art. It also means she is qualified and expected to teach other karate students. A black belt can then pass along her expert insight to other students.

Dont you guys think that it kind of applies to skiing as well. A level 9 skier is like having a black belt. He has skied for several years and become confident in all kind of situations and conditions. He has and can ski pritty much anywhere on the mountain and be it bumps or powder, he is the master. A level 9 skier is not only technically skilled and offencsive but he is also disciplined and knows his limits. A true level 9 skier can also take his skiing further. He can pick up ski racing or he can try out for the national demo team with good ods of being chosen. He has potential of becomming better because his technique is solid and his mind is open. Can he wedge? Offcourse he can.

Then we have the professionals. The guys making movies or racing in the WC or in bump competitions. Also park skiers and extreme skiers belong in this category. They might be good in one thing but not in annother but it really does not matter because they are at such high level in what they do. World class athletes.
post #57 of 109
TDK - Yes and no.

A level 9 skier may have had several years of training and may display confidence, maturity, discipline and leadership, but these things are not necessary to become a level 9 skier. A level 9 skier is probably serious about the sport, but is neither qualified nor expected to teach other skiers.

In the US the average level 9 skier has very low probability of making the demo team. First, the average level 9 does not even teach. Secondly, my guess is that the tryout process weeds out over 90% of the candidates. It might be a tad easier in other countries, but probably not France or Austria.
post #58 of 109
 And I think that is a simple matter of definition. "Level 9," as it has been traditionally defined in this country, describes a very skilled and versatile skier, but not necessarily a world class athlete, high level technician or teacher, or truly elite skier in any arena. As I described Level 9 in the Vail descriptions, it is "a true virtuouso, enticingly close to earning the title, "expert." There is still a world of learning for a Level 9 skier, and most true Level 9's relish the opportunity to continue to learn. It's how they got there, and it's a curiosity and passion made stronger with new milestone. 

Since there is no higher level defined in our 1-9 system, you could say that the next level is "elite." Or you could recognize that, as SkiMangoJazz has pointed out, each level represents a range of abilities, and that an "entry-Level 9" meets the minimum requirements as defined, but that there is no upper limit. Personally, I like that description. It recognizes both a very high level of achievement, and yet unbounded opportunity to continue to grow.

A Level 9 skier should be exceedingly proud of his or her ability--but never satisfied!

But TDK, I truly like your description of a level of skiing and dedication to the sport that is akin to a Black Belt in martial arts. Whether it defines all Level 9 skiers, just a small subset, or something beyond, it's a great description any way you look at it!

Best regards,
Bob
post #59 of 109
quote by bob barnes: 

"The problem is that few skiers have had the good fortune of continued great coaching from the beginning. Few recreational skiers have more than a cursory and superficial understanding of the fundamentals of great skiing. So they "improve," and become "competent" at increasing speeds and on increasingly difficult terrain, even as their fundamental movements and tactics may vary widely. Indeed, the vast majority of intermediate and advanced skiers at most resorts ski fast on challenging terrain, but demonstrate techniques and tactics that differ fundamentally (less efficient, less versatile, typically defensive and braking or with limited control of line/turn shape) from the skiing of true experts. As they continue to "get better at bad skiing," the challenge of fitting them into a universal ability-level scale grows immensely!"

I believe this paragraph states the challenge of categorizing skiers very concisely!

post #60 of 109
Bob, I agree with you. Its quite difficult to compare martial arts to skiing due to the differences in how they are practissed. Still I like the thaught of level 9 being like a black belt, the entrence into expert skiing.
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