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Int'l Ski Technique: NoSpag? Robin? Others?

post #1 of 57
Thread Starter 
The short turn thread turned into a compare-and-contrast re technique espoused in different schools, different countries. I enjoyed being the fly on the wall. I'd like it to continue.

(I believe) Spag said (paraphrase) the Euros had it nailed, the U.S. is playing catch-up, etc. Spag. I know about a/millionth of what you do about it but it did seem that SOME progress had been made last year. The guy from Tahoe is an obvious example but Fleischer seemed to be stepping up late. Dunno. I defer to you.

Question is, though: HOW can such basics as technique - not just in racing but recreationally, too - be kept "secret" from others, when it's producing succcess? I mean, people can watch, listen, read, etc. And there's word-of-mouth amongst what I'd think would be a fairly "share-and-share" environment; more so, I guess, re recreational skiers. But even within the racing community, is it really that easy to keep what works "to yourself"? <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by ryan (edited August 29, 2001).]</FONT>
post #2 of 57
For the most part, with some exceptions, national technique at the World Cup level is mute, the technical aspects of ski racing is becoming more homogenous. Most teams train year round now, together in S. hemisphere etc. Euros are racing in North America in college and at elite FIS races, north americans are racing Euro Cup. Many european coaches work for non european teams, science is shared, equiptment pools etc.
What I will say, and this should start some controversy, is that the talent pools and motivations are not similar.
The european grassroots sports selection and development is incredible. Obviously, small countries like Austria (8 million people)are highly motivated to produce deep systems. Countries like France send all school aged kids on ski trips. This is all regardless of economic class. In north america, skiing is a elite niche sport with lots of cheaper competition for athletes.
The US team coaches have long been frustrated with uninspired, spoiled uniform wearers from affluent, niche-communties. The goal here is to get on the team and maybe see more of Europe...the holistic experience etc. There is little competetive fire in the belly. In europe, winning is non negotiable.
My experience racing in Canada was probably better than would have been in the states. A winter sports oriented country (30 so million), skiing, I believe is the 3rd most watched and participated sport. As I have stated before, the Female Athlete of the Millenium was N. Greene, a skier. Canada has as many certified ski instructors and coaches as the states, with one tenth the population. The Nancy Greene League is a dynamic, well funded, grassroots introductory racing program.
But even in Canada, on a personal level, my career was cut short due to funding (and injury...talent...dubious but fair). When I returned to coaching in Panorama, thing had not changed. I coached some talented middle class kids, but many times they were unable to get to races, get the training, equipt. etc. I watched a lot of brats with personal equipt. sherpas, who couldn't buy a turn make every points race...follow the rabbits to move up, go to private academies etc. Their parents could afford to rent a condo for the 4-5 days at a speed event for training etc. then travel across what is a large country to the next. If you ain't got the dough, you don't go! Where is the motivation?
I remember Nancy Greene telling me how after winning the inaugral WC overall in '67, she still had to go door to door in Rossland to collect enough to make it to Grenolbe in '68 where she won a gold and silver. She had the fire in her belly!
I am not saying competing with the euros with government funds is the answer, it lies in the import we put on the sport (not just every 4 yrs)and the motivation of hungry athletes.
Sorry if I offended anyone, also for not getting into the specifics of technique, but they are all driving the same car...not with the same head.

After reading this post once, it should be said that there are some working class heros here too. The Mahres, Cochrans, Roffe, Armstrong etc....they make it to the very top of the world from desire...but most happened to grow up at ski areas. Below that iconic class of determined athlete, though the ranks are full of paid for talent with little fire. I will now duck!<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Robin (edited August 29, 2001).]</FONT>
post #3 of 57
Right on Robin
I was going to post last night on this but computor "glitched".
The real problem here in the US is all the other sports that get the best athletes. We are very chauvenistic about our "local" sports. Football, Baseball and to some degree Basketball. Not many people in the US know who the worlds highest paid athlete, Michael Schuemacher, is or what he does.
Phil Mahre said that if he would have been bigger he never would have been a skier. His favorite sport is football. He also said that any kid with a body like Herman Maier or Lasse Kjus would be crazy not to play football because of the difference in earning power. <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by SLATZ (edited August 29, 2001).]</FONT>
post #4 of 57
Thread Starter 
you'll also notice when looking at the rosters of university-level alpine programs the high percentage of foreign students who've come here to compete.
post #5 of 57
It is true. At the University of New Mexico, a great program headed by George Brooks (and always in the top 5 NCAA)there is typically one native new mexican on scholarship.
Mostly Swedes and Norse. They are not typically top competitors from their home country, but get a scholarship and kick the crap out of homegrowns.
They usually are in tough academic courses for student athletes and are a year older (cause of their school system) than our guys. If it wasn't for the boost they give the athletic department with their grade point average, I don't know what would happen to the basketball team.
post #6 of 57
Just read your post Slatz. When I was coaching in northern NM, I had a few kids go to JO's. In an community surrounded by mountains where it takes 45 minutes in snowy, curvy road to get the bus to school, they busted my kids for missing some friday afternoons to go to ski races...not so for volleyball, baseball, track (and other sports synonymous with alpine communities(sarcasim)). They lost out on scholarships and burseries, lettering and caught sh*t, yet were greater athletes than the hacks playing on losing hick baseball teams. The school board called us elitist and unaccessible. When I tried to initiate a district championship, with complete donations from areas, they balked. Coaches wouldn't let multi-discipline athletes ski for fear of injury.
Gee, how come there are no world class skiers here, and we fill our college teams with europes second string. We are subsidizing the european talent pool and producing a bunch of under-educated twits with hoop-dreams!
post #7 of 57
Yeah, I fight the same battles here. Coaches won't let kids ski because they're afraid their star is going to get hurt and they won't look as good. My stepdaughter was told she couldn't miss school for a "ski vacation" to go to JO's. The highschools won't allow ski teams because it isn't "accessable". One of my kids won the local high school league and the principal would not let him put the trophy in the school case. The same principal last year called the race chair of the State Championships off the hill to tell her that no athletes could represent Madison West High School. What a bunch of BS.
Of course the coverage by NBC of the Women's GS at Nagano was non exsistant. About 30 sec while Deborah Campangoni made one turn and was being interveiwed. Fortunatly one of my coaches taped the Canadian feed and I even got to see Kat Tichy ski.
post #8 of 57
It is the state of affairs.
One other dynamic at foot also is the free ski hype. Our culture has drawn kids to the "image" of sport rather than it's pursuit of excellence. The image of "being a hucker" is stronger than a finely tuned athlete. The trend is so strong, even the most gifted don't compete! While there is merit in free skiing and the "free spirit", it is not PC to quantitatively compete. Just like the emphasis on self esteem and the dumbingdown of america, competition has boiled down to style and car ownership.
Add to that, that uninspired racers become uninspired club coaches and the fact that every square inch of race hill is slowly being converted into terrain parks....yeeesh!
post #9 of 57
I have been away from racing for some time. However, if memory serves me, almost all of the kids came from the local community of Wrightwood, CA. There were a couple of kids from Monrovia. But for the most part, they were locals.

There was limited lighting at Mountain High in those days, 1979-82. We had a dimly lit trail through the trees to Lower Wild Bill, where we trained. But the kids had fun.

When we would go to Snow Summit or Snow Valley for a race, the race organizers dreaded to see me. I made them stick to the FIS rules. It seems they had their own! Courses were never right and don't protest! Jury? What jury?

The upshot of this story is ski racing can be run well, or it can be shoddy, as in the case of Snow Summit in those days. The kids lose interest when they don't have a chance against the "home team." Moreover, surrounding communities are reluctant to push skiing at all. The community that I live in now is 45 miles from Steamboat Springs and we don't have a ski club!

As to developing world-class racers; until we get wide-spread "foot/eye" sports, like soccer, we won't see it. Team sports, like baseball, just don't develop rounded athletes as do soccer and hockey.

Robin, I worked at Mountain High when Dick Woodworth owned it and Chuck Morse was marketing and Benno Nager was SSD. I was coursesetter and coached the III, IV and Vs I left whe Terry Tognazzini bought it, as did most of the staff. It just was not fun anymore with Terry in charge.

post #10 of 57
The team as it stands here is defunct. Even Wildcard, the only homologated SG course in Socal is a terrain park. 80% snowboarders here. I haven't the time or inclination to rebuild the team. You know how it goes, by the time the one parent/board "gets it" the kid graduates and you are back to rebuilding with well intentioned but "new" parents. Alway the conflict of private operators on the hill...should the resort run it or a club, what about workers comp....blah, blah! Got my hands full with a long neglected ski school.
Mt. High though has gone through a renassance since Terry T left, lots of defered issues, but should see good captial infusion here soon. That's why I was recruited, to help with the Master Plan Development and growing the skier services side.
Wrightwood is nice, but I rarely go down the hill...too scary. Strange for an old British Columbia/New Mexico boy here.
post #11 of 57
Thread Starter 
you ain't missin' much "down the hill."
post #12 of 57
Gee, I'd join in here, but it's already been said. I somehow just knew that Robin would have entire tomes of knowledge here. Very educational and eye-opening. (now I sound like a Kiss-a**)

Spag's quote of the day:
"Some say that England and America are two countries separated by the Atlantic Ocean... and that's true."
- Eddie Izzard -
post #13 of 57
Our hill wouldn't be open if it weren't for snowboarders and the half pipe/terrain. Fortunatly management feels we provide a good number of skier days and is interested in pleasing as many as possible. The hill is diveded into thirds. One third pipe/terrain, one third race and one third free ride/carve. The last section is new and really good. I'd love to set some gates over there but "a deals a deal". I make the kids warm up in the steep bumps before SL training. Two of our athletes went to Whistler this year. Not too bad for a small hill and small program.
post #14 of 57
Then there's psia. What's up with them? Not only could they give a damn about racing, they seem to actively discriminate against coaches and skiers with race backgrounds going for exams. If the main organization for instruction could careless and actually seem to dislike racing then how the hell can we expect any progress with the general public?
I don't understand this so if someone can explain it go ahead. Every ski school has had in it's begining a foundation of instruction baced on racing. It seems as if we've left that behind. Meanwhile, I don't think Europe feels this way at all. Certainly it's not a surprise that they're so dominant and things haven't changed.

I don't get it, but for this attitude psia will receive my unremitting scorn.
post #15 of 57
Things were different with the PSIA years ago - there was a tight relationship between the USSCA and PSIA, and cross-overs in certification even. Things have changed, and I agree with you Tog that it is not a good change. However, the PSIA is not a faceless monolith - there are *thousands* of members who agree with you and I that racing should be an integral part of the PSIA's curriculum, however there are also thousands of members who could not give a damn . . . for reasons that Robin and Slatz outlined well. I'm USSCA and PSIA certified, and they have each been valuable to the other for me.

Unfortunately, American skiers don't like gates very much - - because (IMHO): **timers don't lie** . . . racecourses ruin that delusional self-centered fantasy that "I'm the best in the world"!! Not having that fantasy however is integral to becoming better, you've got to first see that there are mountaintops above you before you can try to climb them.
post #16 of 57
For the record, I am one of the thousands who does give a damn. I think timed GS performed within a % of a pacesetter should be part of CERT II & III. Also, race theory, tactics and course setting at III.
post #17 of 57
I agree with Robin and Todd.
post #18 of 57
Thread Starter 
I agree with Lucky.
post #19 of 57
I don't know about this but I get the impression that there's much less separation and animosity between "freeskiers" and racers in Europe. It seems there's much more mutual respect. Perhaps this is because skiing "radical" terrain has been more of a given there for years? It's just part of the backyard. Ski patrol skis terrain in conditions and at a speed -carrying a sled- that would qualify them as "rad" skiers if they cared. It's no big deal though because they've been doing it for years and it's just expected.

This summer when I was in France I picked up a French ski magazine and was looking at an article about a freeskiing race at La Grave. I'm not sure where it was there or how long a "course" (5-7 km?) through ungroomed snow. The winning time was 5min46sec. So I'm looking at this and our Italian instructor sees it and says with awe, "It's incredible, unbelievable!It takes me almost half an hour to ski that." This from someone totally into racing and who once raced downhill.
Maybe a lot of the separation between freeskiing and racing is fueled by the media which has to make everything so "different" and "unique" so it's "special".

<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Tog (edited August 30, 2001).]</FONT>
post #20 of 57
It's because in Europe, they both wear Speedos to the beach.
post #21 of 57
Yes, for many international certifications it is part of the test. And some time ago running gates was part of the U.S. Full Cert. I think that the objectivity of gates is what makes them a helpful part of an exam. Timers don't lie, and any cries of "the Examiner hated me" and etc, don't hold any water when it comes to a time in the gates. Obviously however one can be a ripping skier (get a great time) and be a terrible teacher - so gates should just be one aspect of a diverse test.
post #22 of 57
hee hee! milesb

yes agreed Todd, it should only be a part.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Tog (edited August 30, 2001).]</FONT>
post #23 of 57
Yupper, running gates should be part of the test. Stick bashing is fun, and it improves your skiing.I used to enjoy old style bamboo slalom. Break aways are fun too, different line.

As a "bumper" more than a "stick chaser" racing is damn good training for me. Last few years, I have been suprised at how well I do when I focus. It's fun to go fast in a closed course, and it's safer too.

Visit me here &gt;&gt;&gt;SnoKarver
post #24 of 57
Hey why we're at it, how about some of that "ballet" stuff? Some of those things are pretty cool. And some air tricks?
Too bad "freestyle" comp. now means a specific mogul technique for a time.
post #25 of 57
The only time I ever did gates was at Whistler. My problem with it was the fact that nothing we had learned in the 3 days prior had taught us a thing about how to ski them. Big S shape turns don't translate well into fast short radius by instinct alone.
As a result, people just kind of bomb down, completly out of control. Usually, a bunch of folks get injured
post #26 of 57
that's no different than sending inexperienced people down a mogul field and saying "Alright, go for it!"
It's too bad that was your first experience. There'll be better ones...
post #27 of 57
Yeah, but if I find myself in a mogul field by accident, even though I don't know a darn thing about moguls, some of it is instinctual. Stay centered, let my legs absorb the movement. Feels good in a sick sort of way!

Of course, I can always get everyone wicked angry at me and just traverse them!

Nothing is instinctual about TURN QUICK NOW, especially if your legs feel two feet longer!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #28 of 57
Tog, for the record I recently took a PSIA exam with Debbie Armstrong, of Taos, NM. (1984 gold Medal, GS) Out of the 25 or so candidates for the trainer's accred. exam, she was one of two that passed that day. She scored huge and kicked the tar out of every PSIA Goob at the exam. Her scores rocketed above all others, even scoring a perfect mark on medium radius turns! I was more than impressed.

I sometimes get a little heady with my opinions of PSIA vs. Racing and am often dissapointed, like you. This was one case that Left me feeling pretty good about the whole system. She deserved to pass that exam and she really showed what it is to be a pro in this industry... racer or not. I guess the nice thing about being a pessimist is that you are either always proven right... or pleasantly surprised.
post #29 of 57
I've seen this dicussion a lot. It seems there should be some race element to level III. However, it appears that the majority of lessons are not at that level. I realize that PSIA has to provide something that suits the majority of their clients. Of the directors out there, how many racing lessons are requested or sold?
post #30 of 57
Former (recovering) Director here. My answer to Slatz: Very few. Though race clinics/camps always tend to sell well. Its something of a viscious circle here in America I think -- Americans hardly are exposed to any ski racing, so they are not interested . . . meaning they are exposed to even less of it . . .

So for the good of the sport it may be that the industry needs to bite the bullet and have lots of professionals interested in and trained in racing, to raise the visibility of it. I found that the more customers on my old mountain saw racing, the more interest there was in race programs. So even if it is initially a money losing proposition, I'll bet that as an investment in the future of the industry - higher profile racing would pay for itself many times over eventually.
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