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A tale of two initiations

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
This photo of the Mahres caught my eye:

Is the difference between Twin #1 and Twin #2 lifting and lightening?
post #2 of 13
Look closer, they both have the inside ski off the snow.
post #3 of 13
They look identical to me.

Ha ha.

Ah, I crack myself up.


Seriously though, the turn initiation really does look pretty similar to me except for slightly more tilting of the inside ski by the back skier. I'll be interested to see what the technicians have to say.
post #4 of 13
Do ya think their Mom always dressed them the same?

Seems similar...having fun on courdaroy. What about their hands? Too low?? As I say, having fun , not "driving" forward.
post #5 of 13

Your comment about the hands intrigued me a little bit - enough to do a bit of a Google search and look through several photos of Phil and Steve free skiing. It's interesting because they *do* seem to carry their hands lower and closer to their side than a lot of excellent skiers.

That observation got me to thinking. I've always intuitively felt that having the hands a bit wider (and higher?) was a function of better balance. But when you think about it, we all carry our hands low and next to our sides when we're relaxed and walking down the street. We typically (generalizing here) only raise and spread them when we need some help with balance.

So the question is, are Phil and Steve *so* balanced when on skis that they don't NEED to carry their hands any higher/wider? Are they so balanced that most free-skiing for them is like walking down the street for me? Just wondering.

I've had the enormous privilege to free-ski with Phil on a couple of occasions and I don't know that I've ever seen anyone more solid and relaxed-looking on a pair of skis.

post #6 of 13
Very valid comment about the twins. I haven't had the chance to ski with them, but have seem them in many clips.

I viewed the photo two ways. The first...having fun cruising. They are obvioiusly in balance, so the hands don't seem to effect them. Second...if they were racing (the comment I made about driving forward), the hand position is more critical (you're right about the balance).

Do you have any shots of them racing? I'm sure the hand position would be different than the one posted.
post #7 of 13
Here's the only site I could come up with on short notice:

Phil Mahre's Hands

Looks a little like he used his hands a bit for balance in WC races.

post #8 of 13
Hi all--

I regret that I don't have much time here--my "trusty" computer is now undergoing major surgery at its IBM birthplace, after 1 1/2 weeks of attempts to fix it over the phone, and I'm on borrowed time.

But since I worked with Phil and Steve for nearly 15 years as a coach of the Mahre Training Center at Keystone, I will toss out a couple comments here. First, remember that the Mahres raced in '70's and '80's, and race techniques of the time relied heavily on steps and various 100% weight transfers at turn initiation. Stepping and lifting a ski are deeply ingrained in their muscle memory, and you can see it in this picture.

On the other hand, I remember maybe 12 years ago, during a MTC camp, when Phil INSISTED that he does not lift his inside ski! A few camp participants had observed the lift, and inquired as to its importance, and Phil denied even doing it. Then he skied a few turns to see, and sure enough, he noticed his ski coming off the snow. He was surprised!

That says a lot. "Lifting" the inside ski was not an intentional move, even then. Transferring the weight TO the new outside ski as he crossed over into the new turn was something he focused on, but lifting the inside ski "just happened."

Indeed, this whole incident arose when the Mahres were emphasizing that the body should flow DOWNHILL, crossing over into the new turn, while many of the camp participants were moving UPHILL in an effort to transfer weight. We had done a lot of exercises involving distinct weight transfers and steps to the new ski, and in this sense, those exercises backfired.

This is precisely the reason I am critical of emphasizing "lifting" the downhill ski to release and initiate a turn. Even in the Mahre Training Center, where Phil and Steve remain adamant about the importance of weight transfer in good skiing, we started to soften this focus, way back then, especially for intermediate and lower skiers. Where we had tried to get everyone to be able to balance exclusively on the outside ski from turn start to finish, we started to emphasize a 2-footed balance to start the turn, becoming fully committed to the outside ski only for the second half of the turn. The results were much better flow and turn linkage, and as speeds increased, the commitment to the outside ski naturally occurred earlier in the turn, as it should.

As I've often said, weight transfer is largely a RESULT of a turn, not a CAUSE. It results from the forces of gravity and centrifugal force that increasingly conspire to pull us to the outside as the turn progresses. More speed means more centrifugal force, so the pull to the outside happens earlier at higher speeds.

Finally, with all their emphasis on weight transfer, it is ironic--but instructive--that the turn the Mahres made famous--the "White Pass Turn," named after the family-owned ski area in Washington where they grew up--involves an initiation 100% balanced on the DOWNHILL (inside) ski, with the weight transfer delayed entirely until maybe half-way through the turn. Often the UPHILL (outside) ski would be lifted for the first half of the turn. This turn, too, was not something they "did" intentionally--they'll swear up and down to that! It is the result of world class athletes with incredibly trained skills showing the versatility and adaptability that is the hallmark of all great skiing! They claim to have laughed when all the up and coming racers of their day started PRACTICING White Pass Turs--which they had never practiced themselves--and applying it as the "right" way to ski--when it is still USUALLY the "wrong" way! It would be like the all of us trying to perfect the "Bode Miller hand motion" he demonstrates when he is teetering on the razor's edge of disaster!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

PS--By-the-way, surprising as it may be, the Mahres are fraternal, not identical twins. They look nearly identical, but they aren't (sorry, Bob Peters!).
post #9 of 13
When Mario Matt lifts his inside ski in a Slalom course is it a mistake? Or is it a mistake when Herman Maier lifts his outside ski in the begining of a GS turn?
I have photo sequences of both and it doesn't appear to slow them down or mess up their turns. Both are could be adaption of technique to terrain. Or they may simply be moves within the balance envelope of high level skiers.
The White Pass turn (or a modern version of it) is not something I teach, but I have been noticing the faster racers in our program usually do it at some point. It gets them off balance sometimes, but it's like a stepping stone to getting better. It may show that they are learning to maximize their CG movement into the next turn. I'm still trying to figure this one out, because most think it's a mistake, while I think it's a sign of future success.
post #10 of 13
The inside ski comes up naturally either as a result of extention on the new outside ski or to balance a very dynamic turn. It's not a mistake nor is it intentional. It's just athletic skiing. The same can be said for the White Pass Turn(weighted release?). I have seen Alberto Tomba do it many times as well as most top racers. Again, it's not a mistake nor intentional.It's just getting the mass down the hill as quickly as possible.
Remember, it's not up to us to say what's right or wrong, just figure out why it's fast and try to teach it.

[ July 24, 2002, 09:22 PM: Message edited by: SLATZ ]
post #11 of 13
It was emphasized to us at camp that lifting a ski isn't necessarily a mistake, but it might be a less efficient way of using current technology. Most of us in the group had been into 100% weight transfer, with very little active role for the inside ski other than lifting and tipping. With a more two-footed stance, you have more of a platform from which to react to varying conditions. If the inside ski is lifted from the snow and the outside ski loses contact, any re-engagement of edges will result in skidding to some extent, or at the very least a loss of control for an instant. Compare that with a skier who only has to shift an ounce or so of weight to maintain balance and snow contact.

As Bob said, muscle memory is a very tough thing to unlearn. To see where technique is headed, it's probably best to pay attention to the newer World Cup racers instead of the established ones.
post #12 of 13
"...not a mistake...and not intentional..."

Well said, guys. This is an absolute key point for instructors to take away from this discussion.

Underlying so many of our discussions here at EpicSki is the sometimes contradictory distinction between "what is the right way to ski" and "what is good to teach/practice." The Mahres and their coaches originally saw the "White Pass Turn" as a MISTAKE--something clearly "wrong" that they should work to fix--except that they often won races with it.

They never practiced it, and their coaches never "taught" it to them. But they DID-obviously--have the skills, both physical and perceptive, to do it when the situation demanded. Which brings me around to the point I have long been so adamant about: great instructors teach SKILLS. Not turns. Not certain "correct" movements, stances, or techniques. SKILLS! No movement is categorically "right" or "wrong" for skiing. (Please note the important distinction between "skiing" and specific types of turns in certain situations, such as the "perfect turns" that we've discussed, which are narrowly defined, and thus very different from "skiing"!)

How did the Mahres acquire those skills, beyond their supreme natural athletic talent? One of the three basic moves that they recognize as essential to good skiing is weight transfer/balance over the outside ski ("like walking--you balance on one foot, then the other..."). How do they develop that skill--both for themselves and for the participants of their camps? They practice balancing on the outside ski, of course. They also practice balancing on the INSIDE ski. They practice traverses on the downhill ski and on the uphill ski. They practice balancing on both skis, skiing with one ski off, transferring weight at various points of the turn, stepping from ski-to-ski throughout the turn ("Thousand Steps"), transferring weight to the inside edge, outside edge, and flat base of the new ski, converging, diverging, and parallel steps, and every other sort of challenging balance drill you can imagine.

ALL of these things are good to teach, and to practice. NONE of them is "the right way to ski"!

"Not a mistake...and not intentional...." The difference between the unintended, spontaneous White Pass Turn--or the "lift" of the inside ski in Nolo's picture above--and one where the skier TRIES to do it because it is "right"--is huge!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ July 25, 2002, 09:22 AM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #13 of 13
Bob B:

I actually did know that they're fraternal, but they look more alike to me than a couple of identical sets that I know. In photos (with ski clothes and hats), I can't even hope to tell one from the other.

I really enjoyed your analysis of the way they turn (and the intentional or unintentional lifting of the inside ski). It makes me want to get out on the snow and try to figure out how I do turns. I wish it would snow.

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