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Question for instructors and self taught skiers

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
As a level 5 skier at Whistler I'm exposed to two schools of thought when it comes to how to optimize my learning. The minority (I'm in this group) think it's best to solidify good basic habits on easy terrain rather than spend the whole day exploring on challenging terrain. My wife and instructors seem to think we should be on tougher terrain (all blues some black).
I know for a fact that my wife and I look ok on easy and look like we're coping on tough. My concern is we will ingrain bad "survival" technique instead of good basic skills that will enable greater progress later. I get little satisfaction out of "making it down a run" but get much out of skiing well down a run no matter how easy.
I'm pretty much self taught in golf and remember well wondering why I had to start out with proper basics as it was tougher than just winging it. It paid of with a very low handicap years later. My friends who never did learn these basics continue to flail and I don't want the skiing version of this to happen to me.
I realize golf is different in that only my ball dies if I screw up. Any thoughts on this? skidoc
post #2 of 24
During our level 1 exam we talked about this very subject. PSIA or the "new" PSIA is apparently trying to teach more movements and movement patterns and less "ski this way" much like PMTS teaches Primary Movements. These movements if perfected at slow speeds and on easy slopes will follow you all the way up the skill levels. If you learn them wrong (defensive moves because the terrain is harder) then they will be with you in the rest of your skiing. By the way these efficient movements are much harder to do at slow speeds and will take more effort to do correctly when moving slowly. Some will feel awkward at first. If you video someone at slow speeds/easy slopes and take note of what is missing in their skiing then video them on steep challanging runs you will most likely notice that the same movement patterns are missing there as well. These are the patterns that will make it harder and more work to ski the steeps.

So I would answer your question as Learn them on the easy slopes, get someone with a good eye (yes pay for the good instructor) even if it's just for an hour. Practice the exercises they give you on easy slopes. Learn what the good movements feel like and try to duplicate them in all your skiing. The rewards are great when it all comes together on that epic ski day.

But don't forget to go have fun too.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 25, 2002 04:44 PM: Message edited 1 time, by dchan ]</font>
post #3 of 24
Run from any instructor who says you need to be on the tough stuff in order to learn faster. You are a smart man. You will be rippin past them when the going gets tough latter.
post #4 of 24
I have yet to know of anyone who after a first lesson at anyting was an expert.

We learn from experence. I've only been sking for almost a year now. Here's my usual routine for a day on the slops. Warm up runs for the first hour. Technique, speed, and basics. Move up to harder runs. At about 12:30 ski a run just above ski level then lunch. After lunch, several runs to warm up again. Then a tough run or two again. At about 3:00p.m. Go back to the easy slope and work on technique and relish the day.

I am now up to blues/blacks/blues & moguls on various show types.

You have to find what works for you and then add the instruction. After the fist time class.
post #5 of 24
I spend most of my time skiing on relatively easy slopes working on skills. There really aren't any especially difficult trails at Bretton Woods anyway, except for glades. I think that going slow to perfect your technique is a compelling way to learn. Later you can take these skills to the tough trails. If I want to challenge my skills, then I just go faster. Currently, I'm working on carving through the apex of turns, preparatory to starting NASTAR. I've had some outstanding advice from the posters here. At the other extreme, at Gray Rocks we get challenged on double black mogul runs and to be honest, I'm not sure I've gotten that much from it except to realize what I still don't know.
post #6 of 24
WAStook the words right out of my mouth. New skill, old terrain (easy terrain) old skill, new terrain. Learn on easy terrain, perfect it on easy terrain, but keep advancing your skills and movements by practicing on gradually harder terrain. Going from green terrain to black doesn't make much sence. It's to drastic a step. But staying on easy terrain seems like a cop-out. You do have to push yourself and test your ability. Get a little uncomfortable.

That's my $0.02
post #7 of 24
To repeat all the other posters here, you learn to ski on the easy slope where you can try a new move without putting yourself into a survival situation. And you really don't have to go to super steep terrain to challenge your self. One of the hardest turns to make is a smooth parallel turn at low speed on an almost flat, smooth run.
post #8 of 24
Always learn on slopes that do not impede your progress by you worrying more about the terrain rather than the skill you are working on. However skiing needs to be fun and somewhat challenging so I would encourage you to work on the less challenging slope, move to a little more challenging slope, and if that impedes your progress return to comfortable terrain. If you continue not to challenge yourself how will you know when you arrive? Sometimes more is less if you get my drift.

post #9 of 24
You gotta do both! As you have suggested, and others have supported, spending all your time on challenging terrain or at high speeds will reinforce "survival" movements and defensive tactics and techniques. Spending too much time on easy stuff will develop discipline, but will stifle the versatility and ability to react at speed to various conditions and situations.

Develop the habit of working hardest, technically, on the easiest terrain. Don't just straight run those flat cat-tracks, in other words--WORK on something! If you don't know what to work on--if you can't find something worthwhile to challenge yourself with when schussing down a green run, then you are past due for a good lesson!

Check out the thread, "HOW TO IMPROVE (and still have fun!)," which addresses this issue specifically with the "20-60-20" rule.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys for the interesting info. I do get private lessons every few days or so but interestingly enough they are the ones telling me to stay off the greens unless I'm tired. Maybe Canada doesn't have as many lawyers or something but one instructor actually took us through bumps in the trees, had us catch mini-airs, etc. It was a bit scary at times but since I lived it was a blast. At the same time I 'm pretty sure I'd learn some pretty bad habits if I did that all day. You're advice on occasionally upping the anty is reasonable. The advice about slow speed drills is absolutely true. The only time I ever got seriously injured was practicing slow speed edging drills. Ski patrol had a hard time believing my wife when she told em where to pick me up. While speed is fun, moderate amounts of it sure can hide flaws in technique! Thanks again skidoc [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #11 of 24
Also getting on harder stuff works for me as validation of what I learned on easier runs. E.g. my most recent deiscovery was that I drop my vision/stare at my skis when I was skiing through trees/moguls. I have never had this problem on easier terrain, or never noticed it. So going through a challenging run helped me identify areas that I need to work on when I am skiing easier stuff. Don't just expect to move from blue groomer to a chopped black diamond and ski it with ease. Going back in forth works the best for me. Sometimes I would go back on easier run to regain the rythm that I may have on lost on previous challenging runs.
post #12 of 24
eug, I have come up with a new way to prevent you from staring at you're skis. A full line bifocal with a +2.50 on the bottom. Cured me permanently.
Its not perfect though. We were doing some syncronized skiing on Sunday and I had a heck of a time with the crossover. The skier that I was crossing behind went in and out of focus on every turn. [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #13 of 24
That is great. Dan Egan had another way - ski with your eyes closed. You think I am kidding... luckily we did it on a wide open groomer. All balance mistakes amplified by an order of 10.
post #14 of 24
Although I'm not am instructor, hopefully I can add some insight. A few times at Fernie, I ended up on a few runs where I needed to use "survival skiing". I developed a plan. If this happened at the end of the day, I wanted to make sure that this sort of technique was not the last thing I practiced. So, immediately afterwards, I would find a very easy slope, and practice good technique.

BTW, my experience at Whistler ski school is that they do focus on trying to get you to ski the hardest terrain that you can tolerate.
post #15 of 24
Note to self:

Practice skiing with eyes closed. Wow! A new drill - groovy!
post #16 of 24
It could be said that everyone is self-taught, even if you take lessons. The lessons are not really where the learning happens. The lesson is just a tool that you have to apply to the job of teaching yourself to ski.

We humans are accomplished users of tools. We have tools for almost any concievable physical task. We assess the tasks on our plates and choose appropriate tools for the job.

Why should learning to ski be any different?


Define your wants. Tell your instructor what they are. This can be as vague as "I would like to ski like that guy over there", but come up with something. Study the factors that keep you from reaching your goals.

Usually, we are held back by one of two things: lack of confidence or lack of physical understanding. We either have more brains than balls or more balls than brains. There's some real world learner types for ya!

A skilled instructor will recognize the need to balance the terrain choices to favor both types of learner.

If you are lacking confidence, you might assume you will ski on gentle groomed runs in a lesson. And you might... progressing slowly and taking little steps definitely builds confidence. You might also practice under challenge, where your instructor "guides" you down more challenging terrain or difficult snow conditions, not really "teaching" you anything, but rather, coaching you down with gentle encouragement. Once you have challenged your confidence and won, then you can begin to challenge your skills.

If you are very confident and "ski anywhere", you may need to accept some time on the groomed refining skills, defining a specific technical focus and then taking that focus back to the gnarl.

There is always a balance to be sought, and you have a big part to play as the lesson taker. Your ski instructor doesn't teach you how to ski, YOU teach you how to ski. The instructor is a tool you rent to make it easier.

I got me a screw driver
but it just won't screw
unless I take it my hands
and tell it what to do.
post #17 of 24
Bob Barnes is right, do both. I like to setup a run with students with a taste of the more difficult stuff, and skills and drills on the easier stuff.

Going back and forth from new movements on the easy stuff, then taking it to the tougher terrain usually works very well, unless you overdo the harder stuff for your students. Push 'em out of the nest, but gently!

Balance excersises on green runs can be amazingly difficult at first, even for a fairly high level skier. A lot of skiers go a long way on bad habits, and poor balance.

BTW, after a six month experience working a full-time job in the computer industry, I was sacked along with the web developer at the small company I was working for.

Much to my great relief and happiness, I returned to full time teaching at Breckenridge. Lots of work, and the ski school here was very glad to have me back.

The truth is, I'll never be happy in the winter if I am not teaching skiing. It's truly more of a calling for me than being a "bit-brain".

So, I'm baaaack! I have been lurking from time to time, but had no time to post here, as well as really slow internet access at the place I was living in for the past few months. I'll be a bit more active here, now.

I've missed the Bears!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 27, 2002 07:41 AM: Message edited 1 time, by SnoKarver ]</font>
post #18 of 24
My experience is that if the proper work is done on the groomed/non-threatening terrain then the student won't even notice it when I sneak them onto challanging terrain. Its great fun too watch their eyes get big when they realize just what they skied down.


When you ski with your eyes closed do it on a day when you have a buddy with you to act as a guide. You can ski much further that way without having to open your eyes for safety reasons.


Welcome back, I too realized that not teaching full time in the winter leaves me missing something. Will be teaching a lot again in March. Thanks for the encouraging words last fall.

post #19 of 24
I am relatively new to skiing (2nd season) and find that the biggest thing holding me back is fear, resulting in defensive skiing. I know that I can ski reasonably steep terrain well, but find that I get apprehensive when the speed builds.

I found that the approach that works best for me is to start the day with easy runs and really work on my technique. I then move on to some steep terrain where my technique basically goes out the door, but where I get down safely and at a reasonable speed. After having done that, somewhat steep terrain that would scare me at the start of the day looks flat, and I find that I can ski the fall line aggresively (and in control), making nice carved turns all the way down. It's all in the head!

For those familiar with Cannon Mt: a day could be starting with Jasper's hideaway, followed by Paulie's Folly and Zoomer and end on Rocket, Gary and Avalanche. (However, if I'm not interested in improving my technique you'll find me at different sections of the mountain, I just love the narrow trails such as the hardscrabbles and upper Cannon)

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 28, 2002 07:56 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Semmed ]</font>
post #20 of 24
welcome home SnoKarver.
post #21 of 24
You gotta mix it up.
If you can't do it on the groomed how the heck you ever going to be able to do it in conditions?

I agree that you must master something on an easy slope before implementing it to it's full potential off the beaten path.

I do think the key is to mix it up. Work on it on the groomed, try it it conditions, back to the groomed to refine, back into the crud to try it again.

You want to challenge and push yourself. Ski with better skiers, watch them, emulate them, ask them what you are doing RIGHT first, then ask what you are doing wrong. Hone in on what you are doing right, correct what your doing wrong.

I my be stating the obvious, but sometimes that is what goes undetected.
post #22 of 24
Terrain is not the only consideration. Also consider speed and snow conditions.

o Skiing faster or slower on any given trail will make it more or less challenging.

o Skiing in crud or powder or ice will be much different than skiing the corduroy.

o Skiing easy bumps on an easy trail versus skiing groomed on a steep black.

All are variations that can make you a better skier.

post #23 of 24
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by WVSkier:
Terrain is not the only consideration. Also consider speed and snow conditions.

Also play with different ways to initiateand make turns. The "one turn quiver" has been discussed in other posts. The more variables you can play with the broader your experience and the more "weapons" you have at your disposal as you go to mere challenging terrain.
post #24 of 24
I know for a fact that my wife and I look ok on easy and look like we're coping on tough. My concern is we will ingrain bad "survival" technique instead of good basic skills that will enable greater progress later. I get little satisfaction out of "making it down a run" but get much out of skiing well down a run no matter how easy.

skidoc, your first sentence above says it all. you talk about "looking okay." that really doesn't matter. once I learned about the proper movements of excellent skiing, I started realizing that skiers who "look good" rarely are so. I also realized why lots of folks stick to groomers - it's easier to "look good" on a groomed run, because there's nothing there to challenge your fundamentals. A happy hacker can look smooth to most folks.

Most of the people I see now who make me think "she's a good skier" are people whose turns aren't classically picturesque, but rather, are people whose turns are powerful and centered and balanced. Usually they look like racers but are freeskiing.

One of the few legitimate criticisms of PSIA's various members is that many instructors try to teach "beautiful turns" or "beautiful technique." Maybe this is a market-driven response, but it's not the best thing for making skiers hunger for improvement and hunger for future lessons. Ask a race coach what he/she thinks about the local ski school, and you just might hear the criticism that the instructors are too concerned about how their turns look, rather than how well they work.

CAVEAT: I'm not saying that every PSIA-certified pro is a geeky self-gratifying beauty skier. Not at all. I'm just pointing out what distinguishes race-oriented instruction from typical instruction given Joe and Ethel Sixpack on their once-a-year 3-day ski vacation.

There are some books available that have been written by ski school directors and PSIA pros that are VERY useful. My favorite "how to" is one by R. Mark Elling, former director of the ski school at Snowbowl, my local ski hill. Elling's primary focus is on the tools useful to strong all-mountain skiing. He does not emphasize beautiful technique, but instead focuses on powerful, stable, efficient technique. THe book's called The All-Mountain Skier.
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