Tuesday, February 5, 2008

How to be sure you will become an Expert Skier

Philosophical about skiing It’ s easy for me to be philosophical about ski instruction, it’s been my life in one form or another for 40 years. The legacy of main stream ski instruction is definitely consistent and continues to stay on the same course, leading skiers in the wrong direction. It boils down to the TTS organizations (traditional ski systems)not understanding efficiency of movement. Ski instruction split into factions decades ago. The racers and coaches accepted and understood that skis must be put on edge to make speed. This was greatly due to Warren Witherell’s book, “How the Racers Ski”. The instructor world stayed in the same place even in the face of overwhelming proof that skiing works better with skis on edge, rather than with skis twisting. So TTS (traditional ski systems) continued to teach maneuvers and outcomes that conflict with expert skiing and skier efficiency. This was in total contradiction to expert movements, what skiers used called "efficiency". Unfortunately, the systems that move skiers toward inefficiency are still dominating the world of ski instruction.

I’m sure skiers don’t know this about ski instruction and if they knew; I’m sure they would say it’s about time that ski instruction changed.
It is important for the TTS to keep instructors and the skiing public dumb, to avoid discovery. The inefficiencies in TTS become very obvious when you watch skiers struggling with Wedge Christie movements, when they should be skiing parallel, the first step to becoming an expert. It’s hard, but I try to justify traditional instructional approaches in my mind. Since most national ski instruction systems still, not only teach, but reinforce the Wedge Christie in skiers. I can only guess they don‘t see the long term damage done. They still believe in the short term results the wedge teaching system produces. However the residual effects are damaging, as they result in skiers and instructors stuck with a wedge and a wedge movement pattern. Rather than changing to a system that brings skiers to ski with less effort and that makes them look like skiers that people see in the movies, skiers stay clumsy and unbalanced. In an earlier Blog, I wrote that I often teach intermediate skiers. I watch them struggle with the wedge opening and body rotation needed to get around the bracing stance ski, big toe edge, that the wedge creates. Skiers taught this way can’t find a way to release the outside ski. They have to move into the next turn with an interruption of movements that otherwise, with an efficient approach, would easily connect turns.

After decades of opportunity for change, skiing may still be the only sport that teaches completely different movements than those used by expert skiers.

Hence the popularity and growth of Snowboarding, especially with the image conscious youth? I find these traditional approaches to skiing so pervasive there is no one pointing out the deficiencies in the national systems; everyone is bought in. Therefore there is no motivation for them to even consider a change. Why is it that in this day and age, national systems have yet to investigate their systems and the outcomes they produce for skiers? The fact that they aren’t researching their results, evaluating their performance, and addressing these issues and outcomes, keeps them believing old school teaching methods are still justified. But unfortunately they are a major deterrent to skiing growth and enjoyment for the general public? Skiing as an industry has to pull together and confront this debilitating insidious problem. We have to introduce efficiency into ski teaching. The only biomechanically efficient teaching program in the world is PMTS. PMTS teaches toward efficiency and national teaching systems teach away from efficacy. To understand this completely we have to know what is meant by efficient skiing and what is not. Inefficient skiing, blocks the body from moving naturally with or in the direction of the natural and developed forces that help move the body from turn to turn. Anytime a skier resists the natural forces, as thousands do with the wedge, it causes defensive core movement approaches. Defensive movements block and brace against the natural elements that would smoothly move the body toward the new turn. These defensive reactions are caused by movements like: leg extension, which moves the body back uphill, body rotation that moves the body around the blocking wedged out ski, the obstacle. In all of these cases, the obstacle is the planted big toe edge of the wedged out, stance ski. If that edge is holding, the ski can’t release; therefore the body can’t move into the new turn. If anyone isn’t grasping what I’m saying, I’m saying traditional teaching systems don’t intend or know they produce these results, but the fact is their wedge based inefficient movements and dead-end accompanying movements result in dissatisfaction. Humans are very crafty at developing movements getting them around skiing obstacles. When there is a technical barrier that creates difficult situations the body adapts. When skiers begin using adaptive movements they stop progressing and basically survive. These adaptive ways don’t move skiers toward expert skiing. Two of the movements that result from inefficiency and adaptive needs; I described earlier, actually become stronger and reinforced in skiers as they ski. Every time a skier uses these habits, wrong movements become more ingrained and this dependence becomes powerful. It’s very logical and easy to see how every time skiers ski with inefficient movements they move further away from efficiency, making the road back, increasingly difficult. I teach skiers using PMTS, which teaches only efficient movements, and I can reverse inefficient movements with my PMTS Direct Parallel system. The reversal can take a day or a week, depending on a skiers dedication and persistence. Teaching toward efficiency is a completely different way of teaching skiing. PMTS teaches efficiency from the first time a skier hits the snow. Because there is no bracing big toe edge wedge or stems taught in PMTS. The problems that plague skiers from other systems are never developed and the skier is never dependant on the stem and wedge as a crutch. Skiing with Efficiency
The problems TTS produce become very clear when you have to teach skiers who are stuck in the movements of the national systems. Fortunately, with PMTS getting the results from efficient movements, doesn’t take long. How is this done? It’s done with an emphasis on balance transfer and releasing movements, rather than with Stem Christie movements. Every skier who uses Stem Turns develops bracing and body rotating dependencies. The strength of the PMTS system is the versatility taught to skiers early in the system. PMTS skiers learn how to relax into a new turn by using movements that allow the body to move without pushing against the slope and gravity .

To ski correctly you have to learn a different set of movements.
The first step is learning and becoming comfortable with real balancing on all the edges of the skis. This is part of the core PMTS development program that is totally neglected in traditional national systems. How do you test that skiers have learned these core balancing abilities? Very simple approaches that involve traversing the slope on each of the four ski edges. If skiers can traverse a slope on both the little toe edge side of the uphill and the big toe edge side of the downhill ski; they can ski with parallel movements. When skiers learn this ability they tend and are much more likely to allow the body to move freely into the next arc, in balance. This is facilitated by the what you learn next in PMTS; relaxing and bending of the stance leg to change the ski edges for the new turn. Yes, these are expert skier movements. Who doesn’t want to learn using expert skier movements?

Isn‘t it logical that learning expert movements from the beginning, accelerates your skiing to an expert level?
It’s been more than ten years since my first article appeared in “Skiing Magazine“, called “Become Expert in a Day”

This article was widely criticized by traditional instructors, as being far too optimistic and unachievable.
The critics totally missed the point. I still stand by the name of the article and the results achieved by the movements. The meaning of the title is focused on the huge difference you can achieve for your skiing, in one day using PMTS to reverse the damaging movements. In one day you can change your skiing; and build it toward efficiency, rather than staying stuck in the rut that only deepens the frustration generated by the inefficient movement spiral. Becoming an expert skier in a day, is a reality, because with PMTS movements, the day you decide to learn with efficiency, will be your first day into the expert skiing world. Every time you ski with PMTS, expert movements are reinforced, rather than destroyed; and you came closer to the goal of becoming an expert skier.


MrT said...

Hi Harald.
Nice to realize that you are still fighting the good fight.
I just got back on skis after 2 years where I have not touched them. I started again by watching your videos. Hopefully will ski with you again in the near future.


H. Harb said...

Hope to ski with you as well. Thanks, HH

Icanski said...

hi Harald,
I have been trying to find the right word to describe all the inefficient movement patterns I see so many skiers make every day. "Adaptive" is the very succinct way of putting it. The many ways they try to get around the obstacle they put before themselves (or have been taught to put there): the wedge. It is incredible how pervasive it is, even in skiers who have only been skiing a short time; it becomes so ingrained and does provide a very defensive outlook to skiing. Even when cruising along, the wedge is often evident to some degree; like riding a bicycle with the handbrake squeezed the whole time.
The most consistent comment I get after teaching a PMTS lesson, especially to adults is: "my knees don't hurt anymore!" or "it feels so much easier!" and there is a discovery of how skiing with rather than against the mountain feels, and the freedom it brings.
John N.