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"The hardest skill to master..." - Page 2

post #31 of 80
Originally posted by WVSkier:
There are many ways to skin a cat...

For me, I never thought about teaching crossover. I always thought of it as the result of completing one turn and beginning the other. When you teach getting the skis away from the body, thus creating angles and forces, the rebound creates the crossover/under automatically. Don't you think?
I forgot to answer this one. No. I teach some form of commitment quite a bit. I don't think rebound creates crossover. I find that rebound (in the pure sense of the word) makes people move their mass up the hill. How would you teach a level 3 skier to use corresponding edges? I'm not saying you need to use the terms commitment or crossover/under, etc., with the student, but you do need to teach them to get their CM downhill of the skis.
post #32 of 80
Thread Starter 

I like to ski on the edges of de feet.

You can make turns by merely tipping your head. (But not a lot of turns...)

Ever done tuck turns? Skiing on one ski only? Going from the inside to the outside edge: that's "crossover."

Maybe my peevishness about this issue is because I lived through the era of "skiing with the CM" and I blame it for the park'n'ride technique I see in so many young racers.

Again, I think it's not and eithor/or but both/and: both the feet and the body must tip. Which goes first may be a personal preference. In teaching, however, I find that people respond more confidently to a foot-focused rather than a CM-focused approach.
post #33 of 80
Quote from Si:
[The problem with committment, cross over, etc. is an instintive reflexive reaction to avoid a fall (fear of falling). This actually originates with sensory input from the visual and vestibular systems. Given this source of the problem, best to focus on a solution as far away as possible, the feet! ]

This problem is the reason I enjoy skiing!

Ultimatly it is the head (empty as it is) that is being taken for the ride. Some times when my skis get "caught up" and lag a bit. I get this smug little bit of confidence that says everything will work out fine. Sometimes I fall , sometimes not!

Since a youngster, I have described running as a controlled fall. Each step "catching" just before disaster. Perhaps I ski the same way. For sure, if my feet were to come to a short stop, they would need to walk many steps down hill to pick up the rest of my gear!

The cross-over feeling is distinct from the cross-under, rather like a stick that can be balanced from it's lower end, or hung from it's upper end. Once you have felt it, there has to be an appreciation for the sensations. Then it is back to the pressure, rotory, edge and balance, to keep the smiles going.

I am not sure "balance" can be "learned" as a technique. Not like the other aspects. I wish it could, for it is one aspect I have recognized as deficient in my physical performance.

I am sure many will support that balance can be enhanced by appropriate activities. These activities may be analyzed for their application and effect. But can I learn "balance" through language?

This may be very difficult to "master".

post #34 of 80

Sorry I am so late returning to this thread. I doubt my dubious expertise was missed.

You said, “JohnH and Maddog: How would you describe crossover from the perspective of the skis?”

I think this montage of Herman Maier tell the story better than I ever could: http://www.ronlemaster.com/miscPictu...ier-PCGS-3.htm . Remember that I am not a ski professional and I have little familiarity with the buzzwords of ski instructing, so I may be using the wrong term(s) (crossover).

Photo 4, Maier is about centered in his stance. He has just made his pole plant and a vertical line drawn between his skis would bisect his torso. The skis are still lightly weighted to a counter clockwise turn.

Photo 5, Maier’s CM is now a few degrees to the downhill of vertical. His skis are unweighted except for the tail of the left ski. A line through vertical would pass through Maier’s left shoulder or left upper arm. He has just achieved crossover, since his CM is downhill and his skis are off the snow. He is hanging it out, with the belief that he can make the skis turn under his CM and save his bacon.

Photo 6, Maier is really hanging it out, with the skis still off the snow and his CM now far to the downhill of vertical. A line through vertical would pass through Maier’s left hand. This is the penultimate position of crossover. Either he has the skill to pull this off or he crashes to the downhill. No amount of flailing will help him now.

Photo 7, Maier now engages his ski tips, by tipping, rotating the ankles, and forward pressure on the ski tips. Little angulation is used at this stage. It is not necessary since he has little weight on the ski and the tipping, rotation and pressure will make the ski begin to turn under him. A line through vertical would place his CM about one third of the way down his left pole. But his skis are biting in the snow and he is again able to begin to calculate the centrifugal force which will tell him how much angulation will be necessary to lock and pressure the inside ski edge. His skis are slightly weighted to a clockwise turn. This is the ultimate position of crossover, the end, salvation or fall.

Photo 8, Maier is positioning himself to drop into the knee and hip angulation we see in photo 1.

Linking turns at high speed requires the CM to pass downhill of the downhill ski. If the skier stops at this point, he will fall. The Maier montage shows that the ski “action” occurs long after the crossover occurs, ok, a few tenths of a second later. But it is this crossover, which separates the intermediate from the expert, not edge control or pressure regulation or anything else.

The hard truth is if you cannot crossover, you cannot link higher speed turns. It is for the same reason that high-speed motorcycle riders must transfer their weight to the inside of the bike before initiating the turn. If they don’t they will not be able to make the sharp turn desired and they will not turn sharply enough to avoid the oncoming traffic. I learned this by riding with a novice motorcycle rider on the back. We came into a fast turn and I shifted my weight, but she did not. Even worse, she felt the bike was going to fall to the inside of the turn, so she counter leaned trying to right the bike. Her action turned the 120’ radius turn into a 160’ radius turn and targeted us for the oncoming lane of heavy traffic unless I could slow down (not an option, no time to slow down enough), or the shrink the turn radius. I was able to lower the bike enough (shrink the turn radius) to make the turn. We stopped and I explained the problem, but she was not able to stop herself from trying the same thing at every turn. We slowly drove home and I understood why it was so hard for intermediates, older ones particularly to become experts.
Why crossover? The centrifugal force on a counter clockwise turn requires the skier’s CM to be to the left of the center of his skis. The clockwise turn requires the skier’s CM to be to the right of the center of his skis. Crossover is the ability of the skier to seamlessly, move his CM from the one extreme, over the center of his skis and then on to the opposite extreme, in a choreographed “fall.” To paraphrase Douglas Adams, you just throw yourself at the ground and miss. Crossover is hard because you must place your body in the position where it has no support and trust that the skis will indeed turn under your CM and rescue you from a sure fall. I don’t care whether you teach this from the feet, the head, torso or any other body part. Adult skiers will not be fooled. They know, or their brains know, you are telling them they must do something that will cause them to fall, unless the skis turn. Ergo inability to crossover is the reason +85% of all skiers are intermediates or below. The lack of mastery of no other skill holds so many skiers back. It is the most difficult skill to master, the numbers don’t lie.

I hope this clarified and didn’t muddle the issue.

[ June 19, 2002, 04:32 PM: Message edited by: Maddog1959 ]
post #35 of 80
Where to begin?

John, Maddog,

You are both right that "crossover" as you both use the term is probably the hardest thing to teach. So I, like Nolo, simply avoid the problem by not teaching it. The body moving from one side of the skis to the other is not the cause of a "turn" but the outcome of placing my feet and Cm on different paths. I never have to tell a student that they have to let themselves "fall" down the hill or "throw" themselves or "dive" down the hill. I simply tell them to relax their legs and use their feet to tip the skis onto the new set of edges. The body and feet switch sides and no "fear of falling" has been introduced either by my words or by the sensations experienced by the student. Another of the wonderful things about this approach is that the outcome (how far to the inside of the feet the body moves) is almost always (I want to say always because my experience is that it is always) just the right amount for the speed, terrain, and turn size/shape that the student is making. Refining this basic movement pattern will allow the skier to expierence either the floating/ freefall sensation that Cal and many others love so much or the feeling of skis that are "on rails" throughout a series of turns constantly supplying the force that I need to change the path of my body down and across the hill. As an interesting aside here while you are experiencing the float/freefall sensation your body is moving in a straight line hence you are not by definition "linking turns" but making a turn followed by a short traverse followed by another turn.


I too survived the "ski with your CM" and still battle against it. It not only lead to the "park and ride" syndrome (with a little help from shaped skis), but also created a lot of "bank and rotate" skiers. Not that "bank and rotate" is bad, I spent a couple weeks a few seasons ago learning to bank and rotate turns because it is such a gas to do on extreme carving skis but unfortunately for many it was all that they were trained to do.

Thanks for letting me stir the pot,
post #36 of 80
Nolo- The words before the passage you quoted I think give some insight as to why I would say such a thing. " Rotary is so misunderstood & the most misused" I find that the major population of skiers you see out on the hill over twist the ski or body to try to contol speed or change direction. You may disagree? I do agree it is very hard to single out any skill as they are so related and require to be used in harmony. It is the blend that when used correctly produces the elegancy free skiing, or the power of ski racing, dynamics of moguls. So maybe I overstated in that it is not that simple but I hold by my believe that the rotary skill is truly a master skill and the hardest to get people to do correctly as you quoted me. It is to easy for people to twist and it accomplishes somewhat there desire! As for your comment on pressure control. To me pressure control is simple it is a result of edging, balance and rotary and is the easiest to teach but just having people DO NOTHING. The skiers that I encounter with problems on pressure control is because they are trying to do something. If we let pressure go where it wants as we tip and guide the ski in dynamic balance things turn out ok. The idea of staying in balance requires us to manage pressure thru the opening and closing of our joints. As you stated the american language as many meanings, this is where the art of teaching comes in, to find the meaning for you student. To often I see pressure interperated as weight change, that is why I would rather leave it alone and focus on balance, rotary and edging.

I so agree that skiing, work, sports, music it takes a team effort, but just like in order to win the Stanley Cup you need a hot golie. The orchestra you described needed that conductor. Rotary serves as my conductor to help get all the other skills to work together in harmony otherwise rotary ends up being the out of tune tuba that won't stop blowing and blowing being to LOUD and not allowing anyone to appreciate the rest of the orchastra.

[ June 20, 2002, 01:12 PM: Message edited by: Todo ]
post #37 of 80
Thread Starter 
Sorry, Todo. I see an opening and I go for it. I thought a side trip might shed light on some of the other topics under discussion...

What's your opinion of this statement:

Let the skis turn you.

[ June 20, 2002, 01:13 PM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #38 of 80
I do NOT think that the rotary skill is all that difficult to "master," any more so than the other skills, and I do not think it needs to be difficult to introduce appropriate rotary concepts and movements even to beginners. I DO agree that it is probably the most misunderstood, and the most consistently misapplied skill, with the most devastating consequences.

Like Todo, I think that these are reasons why we SHOULD address it from the beginning. Skilled instructors with thorough understanding have no difficulty introducing appropriate rotary movements. (Skilled instructors, with high levels of understanding, are, unfortunately, rare, but that is another discussion!)

Rotary movements affect far more than just the direction the skis point. We've discussed the value of appropriate rotary movements in shaping turns precisely, as well as their important roles in braking. Pure carving, too, requires a high level of rotary SKILL--even as it involves virtually no active (muscular) rotary input to the skis.

But beyond these things, rotary movements have profound effects on all other body movements and positions. These, in turn, affect our ability to move athletically in general, our ability to control edging and pressure, and most importantly, our ability to deal safely with the intense (read "dangerous") stresses that high-level skiing produces.

Rotary movements are an essential skill. The concept of "teaching for transfer" therefore REQUIRES that we address them from the beginning, along with the other basic skills. We should not "emphasize" them--that would violate the concept of transfer. But as instructors, we must be aware of them, especially when we observe the (highly likely) rudiments of BAD rotary habits starting to form in beginning skiers.

Of course, again, what I've just said is a moot point for experienced, knowledgeable, skilled instructors. They DO this, regardless of their affiliation.

For new instructors, until their understanding reaches the level needed to CREATE effective lessons, the only solution is to make sure that the initial teaching progressions they use ("copy") address all the skills necessary. To me, it makes no sense whatsoever to say "regardless of its importance, because rotary is complicated, new instructors should avoid it." There are very simple teaching progressions that introduce effective rotary movements, along with the other skills of edging and pressure control.

I've said it many times before: those first turns should not be some sort of "beginners' turns"--they must be an introduction to the turns of experts. Anything else--any teaching progression that ignores an essential skill--cheats the student with no more than a shortcut to mediocrity. It's inexcusable!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #39 of 80
Thread Starter 
This seems to be the heart of the controversy: Can the wedge be taught as a springboard to the beginning parallel turn? Or does the wedge create an obstacle to the parallel turn?

In the context of this thread, does the skills blend in the wedge, being active in the rotary movement we call pivoting and passive in the other skills, create a skier who muscles the skis around?

Is a skier who learns to turn the skis handicapped when it comes time to "let the skis turn you?"

I am sincerely interested in all views on this matter.

[ June 21, 2002, 06:38 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #40 of 80
Without any offense intented, the early steps of a progression described by ant are the antithesis of what I consider to be on the road towards effective and efficient skiing movmements. I see a direct link between a focus on these kinds of concepts and movements and the "dead end" syndrome.

I know that Bob Barnes can argue that a "proper" wedge progression provides a solid foundation for skier development it just doesn't match my observations of other skiers or my own experiences. I have read closely what he has written on this subject and can understand how I could (already understanding a bit about where I wanted to end up) readily follow the progression he describes. However, knowing the kind of movements that have come into play (for the better and the worse) in my own development I don't envision that it could work for me as effectively as others were I to be starting all over. My observations also suggest this is true for many other skiers.

Bottom line - the things I think are critical in a progression are:

1) Start right away with movements that involve dynamic balance and stick with them along the way. (Of course early movements should at the same time be simple and not require a great deal of skill).

2) Avoid positions of stable equilibrium that give any sense of bracing against a downhill fall or braking (no matter how you do it the wedge fits this bill to some extent).

3) Start with movements that focus on tipping and edging and the development of a sense of the ski as a turning machine which can do most or all of the turning work.

I know I'm going to get blasted on this from some but I'll still be interested in learning from any response I get. Thanks.
post #41 of 80
Isn't the main purpose of beginner skis ( big sidecut and short length and soft flex) to make a nice short turn that the student will feel comfortable with, with minimal or no steering?
post #42 of 80
Nollo- No sorry needed I enjoy your insight, knowledge and acting as a facilitator to get some further dialoge going on these issues.

I agree with Bob that teaching rotary can be easy with a new skier, Where I think it becomes one of the harder to teach and was refering to in my comment is with the skier that has been out a few times skiing terrain that they learned the balistic twist of the extremity's can at some point accomplish there desire to slow down.

SI- I don't know if you will get blasted or not but not by me. I liked your comments and agree we should be teaching people to move not brace. I disagree that the wedge when done correctly causes this. Although I like the wedge and use it at higher level skiing for tasks and drills. I NEVER TEACH IT! The wedge is a result of steering, edging, balance and pressure control just like parallel is a result of these movements. Some people wedge some don't. Some spend 50 turns with it some none and some 100's.
post #43 of 80
Nolo- You asked what I think of the comment: Let the ski's turn you?

Off the top it does little for me. They need input. Also see many skiers that do just that and therefor can not ski bumps, crud, ice, steeps, change direction at will and show many different turn shapes. They become a static figure, a 1 trick pony that does not play effectively with the mountain. I could see it's use and have used such comments but not a favorite!
post #44 of 80

What Ant is teaching will lead to confident, controlled skiers in a very short period of time. About half of the beginners that she teaches using this method will be skiing more or less parallel within a two hour period. Most of the rest will be skiing with a gliding wedge using turn shape to control their speed and being able to go any where they want on the beginner hill. All these people will have big smiles on their faces and will basically be hooked on skiing, all in two hours rather than the three days that the industry says it takes to "capture" a new skier. Why can I say these things? Because what she describes is very close to what I do and after many years of doing it I know pretty well what the outcome will be, and in my case I'm working with a beginner hill that is a little on the steep side. A direct to parallel on our hill would be very difficult to teach. Even the PMTS advocates on our staff use a wedge progression for beginners because the terrain demands it.

Intrestingly enough what usually leads to a pivioty, braking style of skiing is emphasis on pressure and edge poorly taught. A student is taught that to turn they have to put the ski on edge and apply pressure to it. Now without careful attention from the instructor to whats going on most people learn that the easiest way to put the ski on edge is to push it away from their body. And whats the natural human way of putting pressure on something? You push on it. So what happens is you develop a skier who trys to turn by pushing on the ski creating a skidded braking "turn" and a skier who is constantly out of balance because they are pushing their base of support out from under them. This pattern isn't just confined to beginners. For many years onr of the questions thta I asked my students was, "What do you do to make your skis turn?". The answer was almost always some variation of pressure and edge and I knew how they would ski before I ever watched them make a turn. And the solution to their "problem"? Carefully taught rotary skills. I emphasised "turn the feet" back in the days of traditional skis which evolved into "guide the skis where you want them to go with the feet and legs" as skis became more shaped and have incorporated "tiny tips using the foot inside the boot to help guide the skis" over the past few seasons. And I have always taught left ski/foot leads left right ski/foot leads right even back in the days of traditional skis.

Sorry for the long winded reply to your post but I just had to get on my soapbox and defend Ant's "point your toes where you wants to goes" type of lesson.

post #45 of 80
Nice Yd! I agree. Know the enviornment that envokes a sponateous christie and then create it! Edge and pressure invariably leads to push off!
post #46 of 80
I have taught a lot of beginnners for the past couple of seasons. Numerically, level 1s are the majority of who I teach.

Before they get skis on, we do boot stuff, mimicking the things they'll do on skis.
One thing we do is bow ties; they twist their boot in the snow, using the whole leg, aiming ot make a farfalle or bow tie shape in the snow.

They are told that the femur moves but the hip does not, and that this is the move they'll use to turn their skis. If it's hard for them, standing on the tails of their skis can make it easier. I've heard of people standing on the toepieces of their bindings, but reckon this is a bit ambitious for beginners.

Later, with one ski on, we try to do this again (resulting in hourglasses in the snow). If it's hard, one trick is to put a ski pole under their foot, as a pivot point.
They are also learning about edged vs flat skis, and experiment with this concept before putting on 2 skis (we play with what happens when you roll your foot over, vs flattening it out).

I try to get a turn happening very early, hopefully during the first gentle glide on a very slight incline.
I just ask them to point their wedge towards a target point to the right or left. Nothing about edging or weight transfer, I just ask them to stay in their wedge, and see what happens.
After they've done their turn, we talk about what happened, and the weight shift to the outside ski comes out in that. The edging has happened easily, due to their staying in the wedge (very bowlegged people might need assistance here).

I've found this really effective for most of my beginners, and to my way of thinking, the focus is very much on the rotary thing.

I could be very wrong here, but if beginners edge too much and too early when they try to do their first turns, the ski will get locked in the snow and it won't turn.
post #47 of 80
Maybe somebody can explain rotary movements a bit more to me. What confuses me is their effect on the ski. If the ski is flat on the snow (no edging) rotary movement turns it, like the hourglass exercise. But in a real turn, the ski is edged, so what does rotary movement do then? If you are making a turn to the left, your right (stance) ski is edged, a leftward rotary movement will dig the tip edge further into the snow, won't it? I can see that this would tighten the turn, since the ski radius is sharper near the tip, but is that all it does? Does it tighten the turn in other ways as well?
post #48 of 80
(Sorry, what I intended only as a brief comment on the discussion meandered dangerously close to the edge of a minor rant. Such is life!)

The beauty of Ant's progression is that she does address, early on, the actual MOVEMENTS of rotary that go on in good turns. Specifically, she makes skiers aware of the rotation of the legs in the hip sockets, beneath the pelvis. This mechanism is perhaps the most essential element of contemporary skiing, distinguishing it from most of the techniques of the past that relied on pivoting the skis with the upper body (ie. the French Arlberg technique, or the Austrians' Reverse Shoulder). This rotation of the legs occurs whether the legs turn the skis--an "active turn"--or the skis turn the legs--a "passive" or "pure-carved" turn. And it occurs in both offensive direction-control turns and defensive braking skids, when done well.

In addressing the movement, Ant is not suggesting that forcefully twisting the skis must happen in all turns, any more than a driving instructor pointing out the steering wheel suggests that the driver should yank the wheel all over the place. It is simply a fundamental movement of good skiing, that happens in varying degrees, and contrasts drastically with the highly intuitive and technically devastating tendency of skiers to twist their upper bodies. By introducing this movement, Ant creates understanding, introduces appropriate movements and sensations, and creates a baseline that she can use for further critique and feedback throughout the lesson.

Note, by the way, that Ant's static (standing in one place) foot-steering exercises have nothing whatsoever to do with a wedge, or a parallel stance. Nor do the movements she's introducing. Because her students have learned to enjoy gliding in a wedge, her "point the wedge toward a target" is a simple, effective instruction. But if her students were gliding happily with an open parallel stance, the instruction "point your skis toward the target" would produce identical results.

If her students were gliding with a CLOSED parallel stance, however, or on one foot, the only way they could make a turn (short of a pure passive carve--a scary proposition indeed for beginners, and one that no "direct parallel" progression purports to teach, that I'm aware of) would be to twist their upper bodies. Rotation into the turn, counter-rotation away from the turn, and/or flailing pole stabs are the only ways to muscularly turn the skis from a closed or one-footed stance. Ironically, the open stance--wedge or parallel--IS the stance of "dynamic balance" for turns--the feet are out from beneath the body. "Inclination" is built-in, balance is enabled, and weight transfer takes place, even with the safety net of the wide platform. A gliding wedge--or open parallel--involves balance, not "bracing against." By definition.

There's a lot of good stuff that happens when students follow Ant's simple directions. "Pointing the wedge toward a target" to me, and to most students, presents an image of turning the tips into the turn, rather than pushing the tails away. Point your finger at something--I'll bet you moved your finger toward it, rather than your elbow away from it! Being attached to your feet, turning the wedge means turning your feet and legs. It entails, without further instruction, turning the inside ski first, and requires releasing its edge. It PRODUCES a weight transfer, as Ant described, rather than inducing one artificially with inappropriate movements. And it suggests the all-important notion that turns are meant to GO somewhere--toward a target--rather than to skid and brake. And again, it really does not require a wedge, although the arrow-shape of a wedge does help with the image ("point the arrow"). All this from a VERY simple instruction--"point your wedge...."

Obviously, Ant's one-minute description of her progression represents only a bare skeleton of the actual lesson she would teach. No progression works, or fails, all by itself. How she would flesh out the skeleton, add this, skip that, and all the while provide essential feedback to make sure the students are actually doing the right things, she has left to our imagination, but we can be sure that there's more to it than she described. That is the art of teaching, and the absolutely essential role of the instructor.

But contrast her progression with the following, an example of what can go wrong with a "direct parallel" progression, poorly executed:

The skier is in a traverse across a very gentle, non-threatening slope. The instruction is to transfer the weight to the uphill ski and balance on it, then to tip the downhill ski toward its downhill edge to initiate the "kinetic chain" of movements that will involve the body moving into the turn and the outside (uphill) ski rolling to its inside edge and engaging to help shape and carve the turn. Sound good?

Think about it! That first move--to balance on the uphill ski--requires that the whole body move uphill, away from the turn--what I have called a "negative movement." That is assuming a fair amount of athleticism and "go-for-it"-ness to accomplish this balancing feat in the first place. Many beginners can do it. A few of those will. But the average American beginning skier is already out of the comfort zone on TWO skis!

Anyway, let's give them the benefit of the doubt, and say they succeed at this initial weight transfer. If they just stand there patiently, balanced on a flat ski, and they don't care how long it takes, or exactly what path their skis take, gravity will initiate the turn for them. Eventually (remember, it's very flat here!).

Let's say they succeed here, too. What does this have to do with the intent to "go where you want to go"? It is purely a mechanical focus, at best, isolated from the intent that produces "perfect turns" in the first place. Indeed, it is not the movement pattern they--or I--would make if we really did want to go down that hill. I wouldn't move right to go left. Would you?

The negative, uphill movement of the body is exaggerated with a wider stance, and minimized with a narrow stance. So let's get our fledgling skiers to traverse in a very narrow stance, to reduce the problem. Maybe they can....

Again, let's say they can, and do (they're superstars!). But either or both of the following happens. Either they want to turn more quickly than that patient "forever" gravity-induced drift, or they lose their balance by moving too far to the inside of the turn, requiring a tighter turn to recover. How do they do it? Like I said, with the one-footed stance, or a locked two-footed stance, their only options are "bad" ones--they have to twist their upper bodies or flail with their poles. Whichever option they choose, they all have the same outcome--they twist the tails into a skid.

This instructor has introduced NO correct movements, several INcorrect movements, and literally taken away even the OPTION of steering with the feet, and of independent leg action.

Talk about dead ends! And this is for the SUCCESSFUL athletic, motivated, well-equipped students who can pull off these moves! How do these "successful" students leave the lesson? They leave with the notion of a turn as a series of mechanical moves, rather than the simple holistic response to certain INTENTS that it is for experts. They leave having been introduced to many of the sport's most insidious bad habits. And they leave not only with zero understanding or skill in appropriate rotary mechanics, but with the groundwork fully in place for all the WRONG rotary mechanics!

What I've describe here is not the outcome of good, effective teaching by qualified instructors. It is not the goal of any well-intentioned "direct parallel" progression. But it IS the outcome that I've observed, time after time, both in watching lessons and in dealing with students who have been subjected to them.

What is GOOD about the progression above? Well, it does support and perpetuate the myth that "parallel" is somehow more important than anything else in skiing, including proper mechanics. For students who want to "ski parallel" for whatever reason, at any cost, it is the way to go!

And in requiring students to balance with a narrow stance, or on one foot, it does "force" them to develop "dynamic balance"--or fall trying. No, they'll never get "stuck" bracing within a wide platform if we never let them use one. But they may learn to hate the alternative!

Does it prevent the bad habit of riding the brakes? No--the inevitable upper body gyrations CAUSE braking skids. And the sensation (and reality) of being out of control when you just LET gravity pull you down the hill, and just LET the skis carve around the turn (if you get that far), while exciting for experts and the occasional adrenaline-junky beginner, are hardly confidence-inspiring for those beginners with survival instincts.

Does it lead more directly to carved turns? Ironically, no! It leads to grotesque, upper-body-induced skids!

And this last point is the real problem! IF you decide that, with our new cool super-sidecut skis, skidding is bad, dead, an obsolete relic of the past, THEN you could argue successfully that a wedge is truly a dead end. With its gently brushing skis, ever so slightly turned at an angle to the skier's direction of travel, the wedge makes learning to shape a smooth, steered turn very easy indeed, taking full advantage of the skis' design.

But if you would prefer to begin on a direct track to pure-carved arcs, with their signature razor-thin tracks, then the wedge is out! Begin on the flats, exploring tipping movements, pushing around with skis tipped on edge, observing the nice little furrows they carve in the snow. Do the same uphill from a gentle traverse, then from a straight run on very gentle, wide terrain. Never twist the skis, ever, at all--it will only erase their tracks. Learn to ride those arcs, and to balance on them. It could be done!

But it shouldn't be, at least not exclusively. In fact, I usually do all the things I just described in the course of a beginner lesson. It's fun. It's instructive. But it certainly isn't sufficient!

Nevertheless, if you buy the argument (I obviously don't) that skidding, shaping, steering, and so on are bad, and to be avoided at all costs, and that carving is all there is, then you have a valid argument for avoiding the wedge. But the top "direct parallel" schools do not make this argument! PMTS trainers insist that their "goal," like mine, is to develop the ability to make gentle, smooth, shaped turns. With that goal in mind, there is NO way to support the claim that either the wedge necessarily leads to dead ends (yes, it can), or that "direct parallel" necessarily does NOT lead to dead ends (I've described a "bad" direct parallel progression that does just that above).

Anyway, I didn't intend to drift around to the "wedge vs. parallel" thing again--we've thrashed that one thoroughly in the past--but it did come up, and it is relevant. Back to the thread topic, Ant's progression, incomplete as it is, does present some clear and valid ideas for introducing the rotary concepts that we've discussed--the independent steering movements of the feet and legs. In isolation, these exercises (skis off, and so on) certainly do not produce ski turns. But for the purpose of addressing the issues of this thread, they're right on!

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! The days get shorter from here on out. Enjoy the summer--while it lasts!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #49 of 80
There's no way I could fit my standard beginner lesson into this format - i'd need pages and pages! Like Bob said, the bit I put in was the "rotary bit". It's quite a small part of the lesson. Anyone who teaches beginners in groups regularly will know all the other stuff that has to be done.

If it's a large, diverse group, it might be a good 30 minutes before they get 2 skis on (and if it's 25 Texans from ages 8 to 60, I make no guarantees!).

Teaching groups of adult beginners is, IMO, the most demanding and mentally draining thing in ski insruction (and yes, I teach groups of 4 year olds too!).

At some point in the season I'll ask for a discussion on teaching beginners! I'll wanna see what Si et al do with theirs, as I'm a sponge when it comes to useful info.

This gliding wedge, btw, results in the confident moving into spontaneous parallel turns within the lesson, the cautious being able to make wedge turns (using turn shape ot control speed) and the very-unhappy-about-skiing people deciding they might come out after lunch and do some more of it.
post #50 of 80
After reading what Barnes has to say, I might shock the world.

I will now say that if teaching some sort of a wedge results in a successful skier and that skier didn't have to unlearn any movements taught, then I guess I'm for it.

Now I just have to decide which hat I'm going to eat.

post #51 of 80
Hey SCSA--and I've already said that if teaching WITHOUT a wedge "results in a successful skier and that skier didn't have to unlearn any movements taught," then I'm all for that, too!

How 'bout we skip the hats, and just have another beer sometime?

post #52 of 80
Hey, if you two good ole boys keep talking like that, you'll be sent back to the Blue Oyster Club, or told to get a room.

Look, I know it's the off season, but what happened to scathing criticism?
Has this place turned into some 60s love-in or something?

post #53 of 80

This forum is about the finer points of skiing. We're here to discuss them all.

I know that sounds crazy, coming from me. And no, there's been no change to my medication. Well, none that I'll admit to anyway.

post #54 of 80
I think the old bracing/braking wedge (or snowplough, as they still teach here in Australia, but not at the place I'm going to!) does slow down the progression to parallel, a lot. I hate teaching it, and seldom do.

It is a lot easier to teach though, and I inherited lots of new level 2s and 3s who'd learned it very thoroughly in their previous lesson.

But have a look at your true American wedge again. Notice the stuff about learning to pivot the foot on a fulcrum? This wedge is a steered platform, with the feet turning under the skiier. This wedge can (and does) become a parallel at any time, easily and naturally. And the learner has learned to steer the skis up the hill to control speed, rather than bracing against their skis.

There's a huge difference between the old snowplough wedge and the American wedge.
post #55 of 80
I'm not sure I even belong in this discussion as I don't regularly teach beginners (or anyone for that matter). But I thought I should at least further explain my objections to the rotary movements ant described and the difficulties I have with the gliding (or any other) wedge, even though I guess you could say it's mostly from a theoretical point of view as I have no where near the experience of others in this discussion.

I understand the purpose of the exercise ant described and absolutley agree that the rotation of the hip joint isolated from upper body twisting is a critical part of skiing movement. What I think is not especially effective is trying to work on that movement component in isolation. While it is perhaps debatable, there is good experimental evidence (from a variety of sports) in the literature of motor learning that this type of "explicit" learning is not nearly as effective as an "implicit" learning model where people work on the entire kinetic movement chain based on cues which help generate proper intitiation and measurable goals which provide feedback as to whether the movement was successfully achieved.

In the two sports in which I am mainly involved (tennis and skiing) I have worked to incorporate this concept into my own development and that of a few others that I have worked with. In tennis I have been somewhat on my own as I know of little reference material that is really designed around this premise. This, in spite of the fact that most tennis pros I talk to recognise the value of such an approach based on their own experiences and perceptions. The problem is they just don't have an approach designed along these lines available to them. In skiing I found an approach (PMTS) almost specifically designed around these ideas.

Now, my objections to the wedge. As I said before I think that "relexive" responses to fear of falling is one of the greatest barriers that exist to skiing proficiency. Thus, anything that is perceived as providing stability and security against such a fall is something skiers naturally and easily learn to rely on. The wedge, whether you are gliding or not, places the person in a stable position between the skis (at least for the most of the time) which is great for giving them comfort against their fears but unfortuantely is likely to be relied on whenever doubts arise. So while I understand there can be difference between snow plow and glidiing wedge both still teach (albeit not necessarily to the same extent) a "safe" position that a skier easily learns to rely on. While this percetual basis for a progression may not be well recognized, I believe that it is a very important consideration.
post #56 of 80
Si makes great comments. Anyone have a rebuttal?

post #57 of 80
Question for the wedge heads: Do any of youjust tell the students to do the "left tip left" thing in a fairly wide parallel stance, without demonstrating or even mentioning doing it in a wedge? Would many of your students be able to follow? I've played around with doing turns like this on greens (on straight skis!) at ridiculously slow speeds, and they seem to work no matter how the weight is distributed between the skis, which leads me to think that it can be done with minimal balance skills at more reasonable speeds on shaped skis.

[ June 23, 2002, 12:05 PM: Message edited by: milesb ]
post #58 of 80
Hi Si--

Do you believe that what you have described as "implicit learning" and "explicit learning" must be mutually exclusive?

Ant's progression contained vast amounts of both types--from the holistic movements that arise from her simple cue, "point the wedge toward a target," to the specific exercises designed explicitly to isolate the rotary components of skiing movements.

While the "big" outcome of learning--a better skiing experience--clearly relates to the holistic total mind-body-spirit combination (and as such, goes beyond even your description of "implicit learning"), there are times when it helps to isolate the components. All great instructors, since the beginning of time, I suspect, are able to combine both types of learning cues.

The goal of tennis is what? A better tennis experience? To clobber the competition? Whatever, either way, this goal suggests your "implicit learning." But to approach that goal, I'll bet you've spent some time focused on your grip. Your footwork. Your serve, forehand, backhand, overhead, backswing, follow through, and so on. Explicitly!

The age-old question (one of Horst Abraham's favorites) arises: "does a butterfly flap its wings up and down, or does a butterfly just fly?" Clearly, from its perspective, it just flies. But if it WANTED to fly, and did everything right except flap its wings up and down, it would be appropriate for its flight instructor to focus in on that one specific, explicit movement. Would it not?

I agree with your observation that there is a lot of "instruction" that focuses too much on the parts, and the mechanics, and the linear sequences of movements, rather than the natural kinetic chains that can arise from simple cues. But that's just bad instruction! It's not the fault of either type of "learning." Ant's progression, as I said, combines both the isolated focus on specific movements--the "how" ("flap your wings up and down," "turn your feet left and right"), and the "implicit" holistic focus on the whole movement--and its intent--the "what" ("fly!" "point your wedge where you want to go!").

If she does it well, and I suspect she does, Ant will combine these components masterfully, where needed, neither over-emphasizing nor underutilizing either. Some students, some days, will never receive a word of "explicit" instruction. Others, or other days, they may well focus on them.

Skiing, after all, is a HIGHLY technical sport. The problem with a totally "implicit" focus is that quite often, there is more than one chain of events that can follow from one given clue. "Lift and tip the downhill ski" MIGHT start the chain of movements into the turn that great turns involve. But it is at least as likely to cause the problematic movements the other way, that I've described above. If it does, it is time to address the explicit, specific movements. If the implicit instruction works as hoped, great! Success, on the first try!

All this said, again, I usually prefer the holistic approach. I'll try it first, then focus in as much as needed. I love exercises where the task itself creates the desired specific movements, and I've described many of these scenarios throughout my posts. As I've often said, if we can create the appropriate INTENT, the correct movements will follow. Specifically, to make the "perfect turn" (a question of fundamentals, not skill level), all we need to do is come up with a situation in which the skier is truly focusing on trying to follow a specific line. If they succeed in following the line, they've done it! Any excess skidding, excess edging, or mismanaged pressure will cause them to lose the line. I just say "fly!"--and they flap their wings!

But if they don't....

One thing should be VERY clear: regardless of the teaching style used, and no matter how holistically based the lesson plan, the instructor MUST understand the explicit details and cause-effect relationships of ski technique. Even if we just say "fly!" we have to be able to discern whether or not they are flapping their wings. And if it matters, whether they are doing it correctly, or optimally.

If you need to correct your tennis grip, someone needs to first identify the need. Then you MIGHT be able to fix it with a holistic, implicit approach. The right situation could "trick" you into changing your grip. But, as Ant's earlier postings on the "guided discovery" style gone bad showed, sometimes it is far easier, and more appreciated, to just say, "hold your racket like this...."


As far as people getting "stuck" in a wedge--sure, it happens. It's one of a myriad of bad habits that people get stuck in, all the time. No more, no less. It can result from bad instruction, no instruction, incorrectly addressed fear, poor balancing skills, bad equipment, you name it! In this regard, it is no different from any of the other bad habits that plague skiers all over the mountain. It is definitely NOT the fault of the wedge itself! Nor is avoiding the wedge in any way a silver bullet to prevent the problem.

Indeed, your argument against the wedge has nothing to do with the wedge, but with the width of the stance. Even if I were to accept your argument, it applies equally to an open parallel stance--and would NOT apply to a very narrow wedge!

But I don't accept it. As I've described, skiers are at least as likely to fall too far to the inside of a turn from a narrow or one-footed stance as they are from an open stance. When you lose your balance, you've got to do SOMETHING, Si! The solution of using the inside ski to help regain balance is far preferable to the gyrations of the rest of the body, twisting of the skis, and the sacrifice of turn shape, that result from trying to recover without opening the stance! Standing on one foot DOES NOT CONSTITUTE BALANCE!

There are two legitimate arguments against the wedge, as I have noted. One follows if you believe that "parallel" is the be-all-end-all of skiing, and that the wedge is innately evil in itself. The other follows if "pure-carved turns" are your only goal in life. I accept neither of these premises, by a long shot!

Oh--and a third argument follows if you have a finacial stake in a "direct parallel" program!

Without these encumbrances, the wedge is no more than a tool that can be used well or misused, like any other. A wrench is precisely as useful as the nut on the end of its handle!

Si, with your insights and your passion for it, I think it would be great if you DID try your hand at actually teaching skiing. Get a job as a part-time instructor somewhere. You'll be amazed what your students will teach you!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #59 of 80
Originally posted by ant:
[QB]I have taught a lot of beginnners for the past couple of seasons. Numerically, level 1s are the majority of who I teach.
Ant, I teach mostly 3-12s. What age group are most of your beginners? Do you modify the stuff for the tiddlers if you teach them?

Most of my problems come form the parents wanting them to learn to ski and the kids sincerely wanting to staightline or wiggle as fast as possible with their friends! : [img]tongue.gif[/img] Most actually learn quite fast and well; they are just reluctant to be bothered to show it. I think it must be uncool or something. We only have a very short and narrow slope as I teach indoors and get most of them for only 1 hr , once a week or less.
post #60 of 80
Nettie, it must be really rough teaching in the UK. Whenever I feel hard-done-by, I think of you poor things!
Most of my beginners were adults: they are harder to teach as beginners, I think, because most of them are in the grip of varying amounts of fear.
(I learned to teach the season before, I taught kids but not too many sub-7s, thank god).

I think I teach kinesthetic/cognitive (the medical people at the numerous conferences seemed to like my style in particular!), whereas most kids seem to be more doer/watcher learners. So I have to tone down the explanations, and focus on doing stuff.

Most kids want to "go straight", and in fact often think they are turning when in fact they are going straight!
I have a variety of things for that, rules about not going past me is one.
The odd reward of a 'free ski' to a nominated point is another, so they can get their dose of "going straight".
Follow the leader is another, where the other kids get to rate how turny the run was, and then try to beat the last leader in doing turns during their run as leader.

I don't agonise too much about the kids' ski styles, I just make sure they can see me, as most of them are great imitators. I also tell them the main things we're aiming for, and occasionally let them know how they're doing at that (mostly when they get it right).

Parents can be a problem, especially when their idea of how the kids should ski is counter to modern notions of good skiing. I just talk to them about it, and give them things they can do when skiing with their kids to ensure the kid is still learning. They like that.

I had quite a few little kids for 1 hour privates, it's a very short time, but on the obverse, you can be incredibly energetic as it's only for a short while.
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