Teaching Turn Initiation to Upper Int. & Advanced Skiers

Discussion in 'Ski School' started by Suzski, May 17, 2019 at 7:27 AM.

  1. Suzski

    Suzski Putting on skis Skier

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    This issue came up during a “ski babble” session w/some ski buddies (something we do to get through the summer). We were discussing how PSIA now teaches turn initiation for upper intermediate/advanced skiers (in the course of the conversation it was noted that PSIA does run clinics for instructors on teaching upper level skiers, which is encouraging).

    At any rate, is there a set PSIA method for teaching initiation or is it skier-dependent? For purposes of this discussion, assume this is basic initiation technique for groomed blue terrain w/packed powder (not particularly icy).

    Among the questions we were mulling – is there a sequence, i.e., ankles/COM/hips or are movements ideally timed simultaneously? The books we’ve read on the issue can be contradictory, which is why I volunteered to ask the question here at the risk of starting a fire-storm.

    Amazing how one can participate in this sport for decades and not know how to explain the basics to someone. BTW, none of us are instructors but we do take lessons frequently.
     
  2. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    Great question. As far as I know, PSIA does not promote any particular "one size fits all" turn initiation for people skiing parallel.

    PSIA documents have in the past talked about rotating the skis when in a wedge, I think. This is a vague memory, so I can't document this initiation strategy as the "one" promoted by PSIA. I do know that many trainers talk about starting a turn in a wedge by rotating the skis, rotating the toes to point in the turn's direction, or rotating the femurs. Take that onto blue terrain with a new parallel skier who isn't interested in taking more lessons and what do you get? Conclusion: we need more than that one turn strategy.

    When I took my LII exams, "extend-to-release" was a popular phrase, so I used it. I passed. My interpretation of "extend-to-release" is to lengthen the new outside leg, starting with its little toe edge engaged. I did not get that from any PSIA document, however. I did hear clinicians talking about extend-to-release for several years, usually without any explanation of what it meant specifically. Training is so very different one ski school to another.

    In a more recent Level III prep clinic for the skiing exam, our clinic leader, who served as a selector the the National Team last time around, said a "retraction turn" was what PSIA wanted to see us doing in the exam. I expect what he meant was "flex-to-release" ... shorten the new inside leg to start the turn. But he did not elaborate. My understanding of "retraction turn" is quite specific, involving bringing both feet/skis up under the body and putting them down on edge on the other side, prompting the skis to offer rebound. I am fairly sure he was not talking about that as the go-to turn initiation for personal skiing.

    Seems like if LIII skiers are supposed to flex-to-release, keeping their bodies low between turns, in their personal skiing, that should mean that teaching advanced intermediates to flex the new inside leg to start a turn (instead of rotating both skis, or extending the new outside leg, or tipping the new inside ski onto its little toe edge, or whatever) would be the promoted PSIA initiation. You ask about ankle/legs. I suspect he meant by "retraction turn" a leg flexing movement, not a foot movement, but that's me reading into it. If this is what he and the other selectors were looking for in the candidates for the Demo Team, I still doubt PSIA is ever going to put that in writing for the general population of ski instructors.

    When I read the last Alpine Manual a couple of years ago, I looked especially hard for any description of how to initiate a turn. Any turn. Couldn't find any. I looked again last summer to see if I missed it. I couldn't find anything on that second look. Maybe it's there and I keep passing it over. Don't think so, though.

    I've been wanting PSIA to list different ways of initiation turns and when/where they might best be used, but when I approach people who seem to be in positions of power or influence, they don't want to do it. BERP and the new Five Fundamentals are structured to avoid saying anything specific like how to initiate a turn. This is on purpose. It's because PSIA's philosophical approach to its educational materials, for some reason, is to write "principles" that will apply to all turns, on all terrain, in all conditions, using all gear. In other words, they intentionally water everything down to broad generalities. This means they intentionally avoid discussing what to do at the start, middle, and finish of a turn on a groomer, in bumps, in a narrow couloir with yesterday's now-crusty snow, etc.

    From a past Demo Team member this last April, I heard that the reason our Demo Team does a not-so-good job at Interski with its synchro-skiing is because of this resistance to choosing one turn mechanism to use. Austria, on the other hand, has all its DTeam members skiing the exact same turn in those performances. The skiers are all on the same skis, too. Their synchro skiing is exemplary. Ours ... not. Our skiers are on different skis, using their favorite movement patterns. Matching what each other does can't work well given those facts. Diversity doesn't look so hot in synchro-skiing.

    So probably the USA's embracing of diversity is at the heart of the issue. I can't see that embracing diversity necessitates avoiding talking about different initiation strategies, though. Maybe it's just politics; the old guard vs the new, and the philosophy masks that conflict.

    If someone knows I'm wrong about there being no PSIA guide delineating how to initiate any particular type of turn, please provide a link. I'd be very interested.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019 at 7:08 PM
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  3. Sibhusky

    Sibhusky Making fresh tracks Skier

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    ^^^ OMG. This is why I don't read these threads. Or take lessons.

    Need an eye glazing over emoticon.
     
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  4. Seldomski

    Seldomski Paralysis by analysis Skier

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    At advanced level, you start to get into developing turns for specific terrain/snow. There are fundamentals that 'work' for everything. Then there are nuances that are particularly good for doing a particular thing - the 'bag of tricks.' So you will hear some differences in a lesson that is focused on carving vs one that is off piste. You can see these differences in technique if you watch professional skiing: WC racing vs. moguls vs. freeride all look different in turns. Even within WC racing, slalom vs. downhill vs. GS are pretty different.
     
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  5. Ski&ride

    Ski&ride Putting on skis Skier

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    :roflmao:

    I take lessons. I even read technique threads from time to time. :cool:

    I read the technique thread but tend to “glaze over” the majority. Though occasionally there’re a few that I can understand and are applicable to me.

    My experience with lessons are equally mixed. Some are wasted. But I had enough success in just SOME of the lessons that helped considerably. Enough to take my chance from time to time.

    A good teacher doesn’t teach his/her own favorite way, or some “official standard” way. A good teacher has a vast repertoire of teaching methods to suit the student’s need.

    (I was a teacher in my early career. But I left the profession because I couldn’t stand the dogmatic “best” teaching method that seems to change depending on who’s in power)
     


  6. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    As @LiquidFeet said above, PSIA explicitly does NOT have a methodology, but does have fundamentals that describe what is good skiing. Why is that? Let's take your question as an example. There are different methods to initiate a turn that can have similar ski performance, and yet there are different methods that are appropriate depending on intent. What's an appropriate and efficient method for skiing slalom gates maybe very different from what's an appropriate method for initiating a turn in the half pipe, or moguls. In the US, we have folk who ski at short hills with very hard snow and folk who ski at big hills with little groomed terrain. One size does not fit all. Take that dynamic short turn for slalom into a narrow steep couloir and see how far it gets you.

    If you watch the Italians ski, they often use an extend to release and initiate the turn process. The Japanese and New Zealanders generally use a flex to release method. Flex to release is usually faster in racing. Extend to release can be a bit problematic as often students will push the skis around rather than establishing an edge that can accept the pressure of the turn and allowing the ski to bite and redirect the skier.

    Perhaps it is true that the lack of a method diminishes the synchronized skiing of the US demo team, but I think the bigger issue is that they simply do not ski together enough to gel into similarity of movements or even sufficiently learning the patterns of the synchronized drill.

    Mike
     
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  7. David Chan

    David Chan getting after it! Instructor

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    Some good responses here. As far as I know, PSIA does NOT have a set teaching methodology or set progression for teaching "initiation of a turn" at upper levels. As mentioned by both @Mike King and @LiquidFeet. At the upper levels, better instructors look at the intent of the skier, snow conditions, type of turn they are trying to make, and build lessons from that. One method is not the most efficient in all turns, conditions or intent.

    BTW a retraction turn is not specifically a L3 exam thing or expected in all turns. Most of the "tasks" given to ski instructor Candidates at all levels (1-3 and beyond) are tasks that highlight some very specific movement patterns and allow the examiners a way to evaluate what is going on with your skiing. They show very often deficiencies in our skiing, or areas where we need to improve to become more efficient skiers. Choice of what turn we make should be a combination/blend of all the skills and movements to affect a specific outcome and turn type or shape, in certain conditions.

    @Mike King mentioned "fundamentals". PSIA uses this new terminology "Five Fundamentals" as a way to describe good skiing. These five things are present in all good skiing, regardless of what level turns a skier is making. From a properly made wedge turn, Wedge cristy, all the way up to a high performance super dynamic Super G turn. When any of these "fundamentals" are lacking, usually something strange is going on with the skiing and really point's out what a skier (or instructor) might want to focus on in a lesson or coaching session.

    RE Demo team syncro, If they really want to perform that specific task real well, they would need to consider getting on the same ski (or at least a ski with very similar properties) and go out and really practice a lot. The fact that they can do the syncro skiing as well as they do, just shows how dialed in they are to their own skiing and blend of skills. To all be able to make extremely similar turns that quickly and still be able blend all these skills while on different radius/flex skis, says a lot.

    If you ever want to see just how hard that can be, Follow a real good skier and challenge them to make a variety of turns, turn size and turn shape, etc.. Then just get behind them and try to duplicate their turns. Try to stay the same distance behind them all the time and make the same size shape turns as they do. Don't run them over, and don't get left behind.
     
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  8. David Chan

    David Chan getting after it! Instructor

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    To respond to the OP @Suzski post directly,. Yes we take clinics out to teach instructors to be better teachers at all levels. As a trainer, I do get to work not only on my fellow instructors skiing but also their teaching skills at all levels.

    As to my methodology, at the upper levels it's all about working with the skier/guest and using what their understanding of how to make a turn, and enhancing their knowledge and skill set to make them more efficient or maybe a better word would be more versatile. Usually on a warm up run, I often ask my client/guest to try to describe to me "How do you effect a direction change?" And before they answer, I tell them "let's go ski it, so you can figure out what you do" I also let them know there is "NO WRONG ANSWER" because clearly they are making direction changes. But it gives me insight as to how they think, how they move, feel, etc. Then I can tailor their lesson and draw on what they are already doing and feeling. It often gives me insight to what kind of learner they are as well.
     
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  9. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    Someone had telemarkers on their demonstration ski team. Synchro isn't really the right word for those maneuvers. Does anyone really care? Not in the US.

    As for initiation, the key word is release. You do need the parts in roughly the right place though. Merely flattening the downhill ski can release one into a new turn, but only if you're in the right position. If you're uphill, it's not going to do much. Same with flexing or softening that leg. Too far uphill and nothing happens.

    Many people simply do not want to fall downhill for the brief period of release. They go to overly steep terrain and develop all sorts of compensating habits. Overly steep can mean an easy blue or steep green. They just get better at compensating. It's likely they're terrible at simply side slipping.
    We won't release, but we will do something to get the skis around.
     
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  10. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    I agree that good instructors need to read the client's needs and teach appropriately. To do that, instructors climbing the certification ladder need to learn and become proficient with different ways of initiating turns, shaping turns, finishing turns. I'm with James that the key to a turn start is the release, and that it needs to be timed well and the upper body needs to be in the right place and so on.

    If PSIA declines to promote these different ways of releasing, shaping, and finishing turns to its instructors, if it declines to name those different releases, if it declines to describe how to shape turns differently, and how to complete them differently, then how is an instructor to get proficient with all those different turn mechanics? The answer I've gotten from important demo team members when I've asked this question is ... find a good mentor.

    How about that?
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019 at 2:09 AM
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  11. mister moose

    mister moose Instigator Skier

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    Turn initiation can be as simple as discussing weight transfer. Or any number of other things. If there's anything to be set on in teaching initiation it's not to be set on something. People ski differently and have different skillsets.

    I'll go one step farther in what I've observed - turn initiation for many skiers should start in good turn finishing, ie being in a stable, balanced, ready position from which to easily flow into the next turn. Many intermediate skiers don't have that, and when you're still hanging onto the last turn you'll have trouble being able to flow to the next turn at will.
     
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  12. scott43

    scott43 Making fresh tracks Skier

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    Dratem do oka... (that's Slovak by the way...) :eek::D
     
  13. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    One thing I'd say is a pretty good thought in terms of sequence is to think that everything starts from the ground and progresses up -- unless you are in the half pipe or throwing moves in the park with a lot of rotation. So, feet tip followed by tipping from the lower leg, etc. Generally works in almost all skiing!
     
  14. crgildart

    crgildart Gravity Slave Skier

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    Initiation all begins with the pole plant (or tap for you youngsters :-P) Whether you're unweighting or shifting over as you begin to plant/tap it is the trigger that kicks everything else in motion for a new turn.
     
  15. David Chan

    David Chan getting after it! Instructor

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    In my mind, It’s not that PSIA doesn’t “teach” release to turn, or multiple ways to “release” it’s that we don’t advocate only one way to initiate a turn. Clinics aimed specifically at turn mechanics, not drills and skills would be what you are looking for. Clinics on movement analysis would also be huge. You don’t necessarily want ”how to prescribe fixes” but you really need to dig down and understand what movements affect the ski/snow interaction. When you learn and truly understand these things, then you will really begin to be able to break down what movements you see, and the ski/snow interaction, and know how to explain and prescribe fixes to these things.

    For an instructor trying to “climb the certification” ladder, I have to agree with your demo team members you have asked. You need to find a mentor, and embrace it ALL. But I would take it way past that. Change your approach to how you train. If you are going to progress past L2, you will need to really understand how body movements, affect ski/snow interaction. You have to stop thinking about “how to pass the exam” skiing and teaching both. You have to really embrace the notion of really learning, and owning it all.

    When you can get past the “I failed because I didn’t do ”XYZ” “ or “the examiner wasn’t clear” or “I have never been taught that” and really embrace the understanding you will be able to take that knowledge, and form lesson plans based on that understanding. Then the real learning happens for the instructors that want to progress.

    As a trainer, I’m comfortable in saying PSIA teaches many ways to “release” and many more ways to initiate a turn. Almost all of them have some “name or drill” attached to them. Shaping a turn, tightening a turn, edging a ski, etc, all need to be learned and practiced. If all you want is someone to “lead you” through all of it, then you have a very long journey ahead of you.

    Sorry if it seems harsh but there’s a reason the L3 is such a high bar. Find a mentor, and a learning partner to join you in training and embrace the journey. You will get there.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019 at 10:38 PM
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  16. Rod9301

    Rod9301 Getting off the lift Skier

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    That's pretty stupid.
    Look at racers today. In gs or slalom, you see only one release. Flex to release.
    To say that she release is valid doesn't make sense.
    I used to release by up extending, moved to flex to release and i can say it's vastly Superior in all conditions, except perhaps in steep couloirs where 99.9 percent of do skiers not venture, and where you need to do pedal turns.
     
  17. David Chan

    David Chan getting after it! Instructor

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    Well I guess if the only tool you have in your tool box is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail..
     
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  18. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    She just wants to initiate a basic turn, not pass level 3. Or 2, or 1.

    Hah. Keep looking.
     
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  19. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    Not true.

     
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  20. tball

    tball Zipped up Skier

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    Thanks for that Mike. I was doing a lot of up and down in powder in the first video I've seen of myself skiing in a long while from A-basin a couple of weeks ago. Feeling good about that now. :D

    [I'd post the video here but there are a bunch of other pugskiers in it that shouldn't be MAed without request. If @nay is OK with me cutting it up and reposting, I'll throw it up for fodder.]

    My skiing felt good and initiating with an up move was useful getting my relatively narrow skis out of the snow to turn, but I wasn't sure if I was doing too much up/down when looking at the video. It's interesting that initiating by (whatever that's called) works in both powder and on the race course.

    I think on my fat skis I probably would skied it differently, more tipping and riding the skis. Conditions, skis, and a whole lot more determine what to pull out of your bag of tricks to initiate a turn. I think mileage and skiing all conditions and terrain eventually make it instinctual.
     

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