LF, Those are all the right questions to be asking! I voted 'Both' for a number of reasons.
For starters, we'll acknowledge that a ski bends based purely on mechanical coercion and therefore such bending is always 'active' when considered in that isolated context. Only when considering deliberate input
to changes in the speed or degree of bending do we open the doorway for evaluating bending patterns as either passive or active.
That said, I often intentionally manage the degree to which each ski bends.
Depending on the needs of a specific moment I may deliberately ...
- 'pull' a foot back to force that ski's tip to bend further (or perhaps sooner).
- slide a foot forward to permit that ski's tip to unbend a bit.
- 'pull' both feet back (via dorsiflexion / hip action / knee action - even waist action) to get both tips to bend a bit more.
- slide both feet forward (see previous list) to relieve a bit of bend.
- drive one or both skis laterally with a heel-push to quickly 'crush' the skis into a bend.
- use ILS to apply added torque to one or both skis already on edge (forces tip's edge deeper, bending it more).
Do I ever just let the skis bend passively (unmanaged - just letting the skis bend based strictly on ski-snow interaction)? Sure.
Many turns work out perfectly with no adjustment effort required. As I tip the ski, ski-snow interaction does its thing and the ski bends on its own with no added management effort on my part. I think most turns on easy terrain fall into this category - at least at initiation.
Thinking back to classic stiff ski designs the only way to get high performance was to actively bend the ski into its curvature. This required something extra at turn entry to make it work. Perhaps a firm heel-push would do it. Or active up & down motion (bounding or unweighting/weighting). Maybe even a deliberate effort to lever forward onto the tips. (Heck, maybe all three!)
** "Is there a technical advantage in allowing the skis to bend, rather than making them bend?" **
From a purely mechanical standpoint, yep. "Efficiency" (meaning conservation of energy/effort required) is often considered a technical advantage so any time we're imparting an extra 'something' to make things happen were expending more energy than if we'd simply allowed them to happen on their own. Unfortunately, that measurement is often misapplied by measuring the energy expended in a single portion of a single turn without regard to follow-on consequences. In reality, it's not very "efficient" to let our skis slowly bend on their own - and end up going off a cliff because it took too long...
"WHEN & WHERE? --hard snow, ice, gates? --soft snow, trees, chutes? --groomers, bumps?"
I'd say we're much more active managing
the bend in our skis (beyond mere control of the tipping angle) any time turn radius needs close management.
We're always 'active' about it when tipping alone can't solve a directional problem fast enough (like when someone cuts you off). Here an intermediate skier will resort to a quick and simple heel-push while an advanced skier might either lever the tips more (a F/A adjustment) or use some extra torque via ILS along with some rapidly-added tipping.
I think skiing in soft snow on stiff skis requires a much more active approach. Typically, our skis will simply trench themselves into a long radius turn while our body takes the short radius turn path (
)... that is, unless we use an active method to bend our skis right at turn entry.
For a Simple Answer: Any time our forward progress through the snow isn't sufficient to bend our skis (to the degree necessary for our intent) we're stuck implementing an active means to get the skis bent enough for our intent. Otherwise, we can save a little energy by letting typical ski-snow interaction take care of it for us.
.maEdited by michaelA - 11/19/10 at 4:05pm