Featured A Fundamental Paradox in Skiing

Discussion in 'New to Skiing?' started by Mendieta, Sep 10, 2018.

  1. Mendieta

    Mendieta Master of Snowplow Moderator

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    par·a·dox
    noun
    1. a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
    The safest way to ski is counter to human intuition, so it becomes a struggle for those of us who are newer skiers. We need to embrace what appears to be danger, and launch our bodies downhill.

    20180304_123059 (1).jpg

    Let's pause here for a second and picture the situation. We are on our skis, ready to start a run. Downhill from us is a slope that could accelerate us toward an out-of-control slide and injury, or worse. We know that. Our brain knows that. We are new, or relatively new, to skiing, so we still don't feel confident enough on skis. However, behind us, is what we perceive as safety: the hill. Land. Something to hold on to, and avoid sliding. So we fall back to the hill, away from downhill.

    Now, you may wonder: how can it be that leaning downhill is safer? The answer is quite simple. It allows us to distribute pressure effectively along our skis and use the skis to control our speed, or even stop when needed. This is where instruction is so important. A ski instructor will teach us different techniques, such as using our edges to hockey stop, shave some speed, or, in favorable situations, control our speed by choosing a turn shape consistent with the speeds we are comfortable skiing.

    In contrast, when we stay away from the downhill direction, we fall into what instructors call the "back seat.” The problem is that at that point, two things happen. The skis tend to shoot ahead fast, and then we have no way to turn them. With our body weight in the back, we can't edge skis for a clean (carved) turn, and we can't really steer them, either. The skis are now in the driver's seat.

    Now, this is something that happens often, to most of us. However, the less we make the mistake, the faster we can progress into safe, fun skiing, and the more the mountain will open up to us.

    Which brings the next question: what can we do, besides taking lessons?

    I submit that the best we can do is to avoid terrain that is beyond our current capabilities. Cutting to the chase: we ski because we want to go around the mountain; ideally, we'll be able to go everywhere. But here is an unfortunate catch-22. If we slide down a trail that is too advanced for us, we'll fall into the back seat and acquire bad habits that will take a lot of training to eradicate. I know that well, as I am fighting with that myself.

    Very early in my skiing path as an adult learner, I started to go to relatively steep runs. I probably felt that I needed to prove something by skiing on advanced slopes. Long story short, I wasn't skiing them — I was coming down them in a really ugly way. It wasn't enjoyable. But, even more regrettable, I acquired movement patterns that I am still working to get rid of.

    My hope is that you are a little smarter than I was, so here are my two cents. Go out there, and have fun, but move to a more difficult run only when the current run feels almost too easy. You should be able to take that run, under control, at any speed that pleases you, with any turn shape you desire. Then you move on, and the next difficulty level should be close enough to the current one that you are still under control, but with some caution. Oh, and take lessons. Doing these two things will go a long way in enabling you to ski the whole mountain much sooner than if you try to rush it.
     
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  2. Andy Mink

    Andy Mink I am a half fast skier. Moderator Pugski Ski Tester

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    Good take, @Mendieta. I have experience with the "too big, too fast" thing. Another thought to keep in mind is just because you skied a run well one day doesn't mean it'll be the same run the next day! Learn to read the hill and honestly assess how you feel on any given day, both mentally and physically.
     
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  3. oldschoolskier

    oldschoolskier Out on the slopes Skier

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    I’m going to give you a concept that will counter 99% of those issues leaving with only 1% to deal with.

    If in doubt attack, if it kills you it was the wrong decision.

    Before anyone jumps on this statement negatively, for most (99.9999%) self preservation tends to prevent you from attacking in the wrong moment. Hence the rest is just self doubt that you are over coming allowing you to do what’s needed provided you have the skill set but not the confidence to us it.

    That 1% is where you need a good instructor to help you acquire the balance of the skill set.

    Practically a good instructor can also be the voice (and artificial confidence) that can convince you to attack.
     
  4. cbk

    cbk AKA Carl ... Ski with great élan! Skier

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    Be a ranger, face the danger!
     
  5. Missile Bandits

    Missile Bandits At the base lodge Skier

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    All these things are happening while you are NOT downhill from your skis. You go downhill at initiation which allows the setup for these things to happen later. But there is a time to be ahead and a time to be balanced over. The "fore / aft" thing is a totally different subject. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
     


  6. Mendieta

    Mendieta Master of Snowplow Moderator

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    I appreciate what you mean. But keep in mind that this is a post aimed at new skiers (this is what his particular subforum is for :), and it aims at conveying a sole, clear message. You comments are aimed at more advanced skiers. There are some wonderful posts and threads in Ski School about the mechanics of proper balance. I'll try to add some links to more advanced conversation later on. Thanks!
     
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  7. mister moose

    mister moose Instigator Skier

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    Except that many backseat skiers not only turn that way, they do it continuously. They just can't turn as effectively, and are prone to the oft seen back seat spin-out.

    I think that is asking too much of any adolescent skier, and will hold any skier back for too long. I think it's a fine thing to ski a slightly harder trail once a day or so to test what you've learned, find your weak spots, feel the wind in your hair, seek adventure. Take what you discovered back to your "confident" terrain. I do agree that skiing a trail that is so far beyond your ability such that you are in survival mode teaches nothing worth learning.
     
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  8. Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two wheels. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    This is topic I bring up a lot when bootfitting. The majority of the time, when a skier's toes are hitting the front of the boot, they are in the backseat...thus in a defensive position and accelerating. When the heel is solidly in the pocket, knees are bent, the tips are pressured, they are in an offensive position and controlling their speed.
     
  9. François Pugh

    François Pugh Out on the slopes Skier

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    I agree with this attack the hill approach, with one very important exception. If you can't see where you're going, you have to go slow (e.g. fog, heavy snow or narrow turning chute with potential slow moving or stopped people ahead).

    My solution for these situations put a lot of effort into "attacking" the technique so as to get that nailed. (e.g. nail that short radius turn, bicycle turn, or jump turn).
     
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  10. Corgski

    Corgski Putting on skis Skier

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    I am still an early stage skier so I do relate. Personally I found the right cues and shifting to a feet first perspective to be key. The pressure the tongue of boot advice I received in an early lesson was a setback in my skiing for a while. Experimenting with the lift and tip helped as lifting the tail of the ski became impossible if I was too far back. Finally it was shifting focus from leaning forward to pulling feet back/keep feet under hips/ankle dorsiflexion (however you want to describe it) that finally worked for me. Over terraining does not change this, if my feet are under me and my tails are not locked up, I know an aggressive lighten and tip can get me across the slope into a stable position where I can hockey stop or side slip or fall onto the uphill side of the slope. The ugliest possible implementation of those techniques but does work. Important thing in this context is that I am no longer thinking about leaning down scary hill, my focus has shifted to keeping control over my feet and skis.
     
  11. Andy Mink

    Andy Mink I am a half fast skier. Moderator Pugski Ski Tester

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    One of the things that helped me years ago to understand being centered on the ski was to bend my ankles, not my knees. When most people bend their knees they get closer to a seated position. Bending the ankles brings them forward. There is obviously much more to proper balance over a ski at any given slope angle but the ankle thing is a good place to start and easy to understand and demonstrate.
     
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  12. Bad Bob

    Bad Bob old n' slow Skier

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    This issue is as old as skiing and has been a challenge for generations. I taught for many years on a hill that went from a nice green to a pretty dark blue with nearly nothing in between.
    Developed a teaching pattern of during the transition from the greens would discuss and instill in students in the virtues of completing a turn to control their speed. A part of that was showing the students that when turned across the hill they were in essence creating a flat area where the speed would be controlled, and the lower support held them solidly on the hill (the downhill ski). Spending a little time learning what happened with different pressures on the ski helped a lot too, weight back the tips turned into the fall line weight forward they turned up the hills. I tried to let the student DISCOVER the benefit of standing solidly on the lowest support (downhill or outside ski as the turn progressed), it worked pretty well.
    3 other points that I tried to instill in my aspiring intermediates, often on terrain that was really too steep for them: keep turning to control your speed. Shopping for turns was a great way to find yourself in a defensive mode. keep your bellybutton pointed at the lodge so you only have 1/2 as much of your body to turn. Look down the hill, if you see your skis you will be on the back of your skis and turning down the hill.

    This stuff ain't rocket surgery, you just need to show your brain why it is a really good idea, and make it a subconscious activity.
     
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  13. HDSkiing

    HDSkiing SUCK—At The Highest Level Skier

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    At the risk of sounding overly simplistic—Ski More.

    Fore/aft is a virtually universal problem that we see in skiers. It is often more pronounced in some of those advanced intermediates, even though they know better. As they feel more confident in their skiing they seek out more challenging terrain and even though they may be able to recite the mechanics of how we stay centered, or forward, basic human nature drives them to to a place of comfort, back toward the hill (same is true with inclination where they don’t want to release that uphill ski and drop into a wedge) so the idea of staying within your level of terrain is good advice, but sooner or later you will want to challenge yourself.

    I don’t know what the average days are for a typical recreational skier but I suspect they are in the area of a dozen days a season, less than two weeks give or take a few days. In that limited time it is difficult to build the muscle memory and instincts that kick in automatically. It is also difficult if not impossible to build stability, where even though your technique is not necessarily advanced you ski very strong at your level allowing you to recover more easily and quicker from that aft position or other predicaments.

    That aside, get video, you will be surprised to see how far back you might be even though you insist that’s not the case, always an eye opener.

    Ski with someone who is accomplished, mimicking can work wonders we see it with kids all the time.​

    Keep in mind that skiing is a physically demanding endeavor that is a building block process where form, strength, instincts and muscle memory all meet. There is really no substitute for time on snow.​
     
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  14. Andy Mink

    Andy Mink I am a half fast skier. Moderator Pugski Ski Tester

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    Video is an eye opener. I *felt* like I was much closer to the snow on several hero groomer days, just carving turns. Yeah, Ted Ligety I'm not! Feel and actual are two entirely different things and, until you can actually see what you're doing, it's hard to believe your not.
     
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  15. Missile Bandits

    Missile Bandits At the base lodge Skier

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    You can practice at home in the living room while watching tv. stand and turn. counter. look where you are going. stay on the downhill foot. Throw some mags on the floor, call them "bumps" and "ski" around them. Turn on each step going up stairs. Be careful turning down stairs. If you do it right , with the forward lean. you should fall down the stairs. So either just do it going up. or just use the bottom step coming down.
    The main problem I see in the "folks having trouble" is that they are not LOOKING down hill. or where they want to go. Don't look at your feet. Don't look uphill. Don't look across. Look diagonally down, a little more down than you want to go.
     
  16. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Same here.
    There are times when I feel like a rock star, until I see the video or photo evidence.
     
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  17. Missile Bandits

    Missile Bandits At the base lodge Skier

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    The easiest way to see if you are forward or back is to look at the front of the ski to the knee. If it is an acute (less than 90) angle than you are forward. A picture looking across at you as you go by is best. Try to keep the camera plumb when taking ski pictures. Is there an app for that?
     
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  18. slowrider

    slowrider Out on the slopes Skier

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    Unbuckle your boots......dare ya. ;-)
     
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  19. Kneale Brownson

    Kneale Brownson Out on the slopes Instructor

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    Loosen, maybe. NEVER ski with boots that could come off your feet in a fall unless the skis are hooked to your legs with a tether.
     
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  20. Kneale Brownson

    Kneale Brownson Out on the slopes Instructor

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    Feel the bottoms of both feet when you initiate a turn.
     
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