Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why skiing isn't growing?

Many think it's the cost of the first time lesson that holds people back. However the obstacles are enormous and they go much deeper and further than cost. Without seeing and addressing the obstacles first, the ski industry will never solve it's most daunting challenge, retaining skiers.

Let's begin this discussion with the first time ski experience:

It's not the price or availability of the first time experience that's the deterrent. There are plenty of first timers coming out for lessons, it's "retention" of those first time participants that's the issue. Even the ski industry's own reports show, it's about the effective lesson not happening. If 1.5 first timers out of 10, ever return to the sport, it has to do with what is being taught and whether or not it was fun enough to pay the big next step price, which is: skis, boots, travel, ski clothes, seasons passes, or lift tickets, a minimum $2000 entry level  package. Skiing is a commitment and you have to sacrifice and dedicate yourself before it becomes fun. This means by normal standards, it requires at least three or four lessons to become reasonably proficient. Most first timers experience results only in a one time lesson that didn't work. The ski instruction industry has to look internally, for solutions, resort marketing departments can't keep producing the way they have, while the results aren't forth coming from the lessons.

I will provide examples of the challenges and solutions in forth coming installments.

Here is the response from the Vice President of Mountain Services at Welch Village, Ski Resort near Minnesota.  

"This is exactly why we no longer use traditional teaching methods (PSIA via ATS) because they are ineffective when compared to PMTS Direct Parallel. PSIA is a national organization that attempts to offer a cookie cutter solution to a widely diverse group of instructors, guests, demographics, and business models. It's a potluck approach that lacks a logical system for learning. Yes, price, marketing, communication, social media are all factors. But at the end of the day, the system of teaching guests how to use their "shaped" skis in a clear and guest-centered way is what brings people back. In my opinion, you don't convert someone for life my teaching them how to wedge down a hill with shaped skis."  Peter Zotalis

Stay tuned, More coming!!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A flexing release "Like the world Cup Skiers use"!

Few skiers have the expert ability to change edges this quickly. Why do I mention this? Because if you are fascinated by powder, bumps or carving type skiing, this is the only way to become not only proficient, but more than adequate. Why is it not already in your skiing? This is due to the methods by which you learned and you have probably never changed. 

Teaching skiing and learning skiing that is taught does not get you to the expert level of skiing. That is why there are so few expert skiers. Here is an example of a flexing release, this is what we teach from the beginning level, in the Harb Ski Systems, PMTS, "direct parallel" method. Want to become an expert skier?  Get on board. It's easy to do, read, view and practice the PMTS Direct Parallel System. Available through Harb Ski Systems Ski camps and Welch Village, Ski School in Minneapolis, Minn.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Versatility of Teaching and Learning methods in PMTS create success!

Weighted Release and Von Gruenegen Turns:

With the same movements, yet different timing and pressure adjustments make your skiing perfect for every situation.

 PMTS ways, which are based on moving with most efficiency, are not derived from any one person's skiing or one movement. Expert instructors use and teach movements and build on movements that create balance, and actions that create natural reactions. An efficient skiing system is built on the easiest ways to learn naturally how to mastery these principles through movement:
 - Move your lower body, build the kinetic chain
 - Move to stay in balance
 - Define and expand your edge awareness
 - Use ski design, in a gravity environment


In this process, a skier has to develop knowledge and familiarity with and for all four edges of the skis. A skier at some point in their development must be able to stand in balance on any edge at any time. A skier must be able to stand on both edges and vary the pressure on either edge or ski from one foot to the other to maintain balance and create movements to benefit every situation. Much of this is intuitive in naturally gifted skiers, but it can be learned and taught to skiers who come to the sport later in life.

 Example: If at the beginning of a turn I lean into the turn and pressure the inside ski with sixty percent of my balance and pressure, I will probably be over committed. As the turn develops I can readjust to balance needs and the forces as the radius changes. As the turn progresses I can come back to dominant balance on the outside ski and even become ninety percent pressured on that ski. I can even come back to one hundred percent of my weight on the outside ski at the most demanding part of the turn, to hold and carve an edge. This ability develops over decades of skiing. The sense of where the body and CG are relative to the skis is second nature. What do you call this, balance and anticipation of where balance should be and what you should do to achieve it? PMTS has evolved to include development of these abilities with varies exercise for intermediates and advanced skiers alike. I'm constantly being pressed to write a new book; much of it will be devoted to these developments.

Movements for weighted release transition:

 If I can finish a turn with balance and an angulated body with ninety percent of my pressure on the stance ski, I have many options, I can stay on the outside ski, bend, flex or collapse the stance leg and allow my Center of Gravity to travel into the new turn center, while still balancing on the old stance ski, which changes edges and becomes the inside ski. At this point, I can extend the outside leg and gain stance on it while I retract the inside leg. This makes and re-establishes my balance and stance leg, the outside ski. This is a weighted release or Von Gruenegen Turn, depending on how much force or speed is involved. The release of the stance leg snaps the body into the next turn. The skis come very quickly off their edges during this phase. If the skier has strength enough to hold the body over the releasing old stance leg, while bending the stance leg the whole body will pendulum over the lower stance leg and become inclined for the new turn. If this is done quickly and the old stance leg stays the stance leg during the transition and the beginning of the turn, you have a weighted release or Von Greunegen.

 Phantom Move transition:

 I can also change the release to transfer balance to the new ski and little toe edge, before the edge change. This involves keeping contact and tipping at the end of the turn. The little toe edge of the inside ski must be tipped onto it's little toe out side edge. This is the inside ski and the edge of this ski is in the snow. The boot or foot on this ski must be back almost even with the outside ski (minimal lead of inside ski) , or balance will be difficult to achieve for the transition and beginning of the new turn. Flex/bend the stance leg, quickly, to make it collapse or become shorter. This action transfers pressure and balance momentarily to the up hill little toe edge. I say momentarily because this ski, which is now on the little toe edge, the newly weighted ski, will transition to its big toe edge side almost immediately. If I keep retracting the old stance leg, it will eventually become completely un-pressured. The options of turn entry using slight pressure variations from one foot to the other, with these movements are virtually limitless.

 Balance First:

 In an efficient skiing system the student is introduced to many of these options only after they have practiced and achieved one footed balance with skiing exercises, comprised of standing on single edges. This type of skiing and ski teaching offers the student a true sense of what is required to evolve as a skier. The student soon realizes that balance and some strength to support balance is necessary.

 This approach to "Balance First" also gives the expert well trained instructor many opportunities to evaluate a student's alignment and ski boot performance. If you are skiing with an instructor who doesn't do this, and your motivation is to become a better skier, you might do better by asking for an instructor with alignment training. Without such a coach you can struggle for a long time without results.

Alignment evaluation with instruction can change your skiing immediately. Instructors who still think they are effective without alignment understanding and its ability to transform skiers are limiting their upside opportunities regarding satisfying clients. If an instructor is not motivated to provide the best product and get with the training that produces the best product, he will only be successful when he has excellent students, with perfect alignment. That leaves me out. I am relating this based on the standards we set and follow at Harb Ski Systems. Regular ski instruction has not identified needs for this level of instruction. Maybe they believe there are not enough skiers who want or deserve this level of competence. Many instructors tell me about their ski schools that have bus loads of students with 1 hour lessons. Just measure the failed opportunities to turn everyone of these kids into skiers. It normally 1.5 out of 10. That is dismal!

Fortunately that's not the whole world of skiing. There are over ten million skier visits in Colorado alone every year. High end instruction is a multi million dollar business, so why does it need to? Be better? Why do we stay the same? I find skiers who have plateaued, often they don't realize it isn't due to lack of movement, talent or knowledge, or is it is due to lack of strength in certain muscle groups.

I point out some muscle groups that lack attention, such muscle groups as the hip flexors, especially important, as they keep the torso stable and balanced in one leg balanced skiing, as do the abdominals and erector spinae muscles. These muscles are all involved in the rowing activity that is popular at many gyms. We have seen more success with training this exercise than with solely concentrating on quads and leg muscles. The gluts (muscles of the butt) are part of this equation, and usually the limiting factor for strength needed for great skiing. There is much talk about core strength these days and I'm not sure people really understand it. The core ranges from the upper thigh to the area below the shoulder blades and chest. Both front and back of the body are involved. The core must be able to hold you from collapsing under load. It also makes adjustments to foot balancing activity. If there isn't sufficient strength or range of motion in the core, the upper body can become a liability in a hurry. It will have the tendency to rotate, over flex, lean and become stiff, when it is weak. In addition, if the skier is over weight or out of shape generally, their skiing will plateau at some point sooner, than later. These physical limitations don't exclude people from skiing, but they will exclude skiers from becoming advanced all mountain skiers.

 Body and foot activity:

 If one is to be able to use the weighted release effectively, balance, pressure and increasing edge angles must be actively developed through the turn. Skiers often either give up or cease to actively increase tipping as the turn develops. Without this you can not learn a mechanically correct weighted release, the one that uses the natural forces and energy from the turn and mountain will elude you. Skiers seem too often satisfied by the angles and balance they develop initially and let the turn ride. A sign of a truly expert skier is one that can tighten the radius of the arc at the bottom. This requires mid body relaxation and articulation. (See more on this important topic, in the "Holding on ice" post on the PMTS forum)

As the forces build, the muscle rebound response, which is part of coordinating release timing, needs to be situated and pronounced. I am referring to the stretching and rebound of muscles on the inside of the body (the side inside the turn). This is achieved with angulation and inclination. It corresponds to early instruction in PMTS, the tipping phases, where we say, "Begin tipping at the start of the turn, increase it through the turn and get the most at the end of the turn." This must include the mid and upper body tipping at the higher levels of skiing. Racers can do this a forty miles per hour. At slower speeds intermediates and advanced skiers can learn to do a weighted release by following a progression of little toe edge balance and little toe edge turning. The little toe edge turning and balancing progressions are demonstrated in my Expert 2 video and the PMTS Instructor Manual. Since it sounds like the Weighted Release is a very technical and demanding move, there better be benefits. First, is it worth learning the Weighted Release before you can carve, balance and edge aggressively? Yes, as the confidence of knowing that you can stand on the outside edge in transition is invaluable. This may be a process for many skiers, a process that could take two seasons of dedication on and off the snow.

 I hope this provides some answers to the what, where and why the weighted release is important. Skiing has to be built, the approach fundamentally is systematic, and this doesn't mean it has to be predicable or linear. The teaching topics or tracks can change focus from one corresponding learning track to another, depending on a skier's strengths and weaknesses. It can become very complicated if you don't know where to go with your coaching. Building an expert skier can be very intricate.

 An instructor or coach must be able to read your learning ability and where the weakest link exists. If you continue on a track or development of capabilities to the exclusion of other capabilities and your instructor doesn't recognize they are missing, you will be spending a lot of time headed in the wrong direction. You have to know what you want and the instructor has to be able to tell you how he is going to get you there. Many instructors don't ask what the skier wants, they just go ahead. That is the safe way. Follow the system, do what you are supposed to do for that level of skier. There is a pat lesson for every situation, but it may not be the one you want or need. It is risky for the instructor to ask a skier what they want, because if the coach doesn't have the answers, he will probably be found out. That being said, any movement group whether it be tipping, balancing, bending, one edge balance or railed turns on two skis, requires certain capabilities or abilities. And the coach needs to be able to build a progression for each one and movements that create success for the student.

In releasing for example, the Super Phantom is on the far end of the releasing spectrum, the Weighted Release is on the other end. In between, is a mixture of weighting options with two footed fifty-fifty smack in the middle. I would not teach one end of the spectrum exclusively to any skiers or for any terrain or skiing surface. That approach limits skier development. As early as possible I introduce balancing on all four edges. The skier then has more abilities to develop turns, movements and intuitive learning. The skier then realizes that not every turn needs the same results with the same emphasis has many more options and can become versatile on their own when just out skiing for fun.

 I am not trying to defend any one method, or instruction approach, but  maybe approaching what  is an most important capability for  students first and then working on the versatility part later, is one way.

In Harb Ski Systems we do not offer a Bump only camp. We offer the All Mountain Camps, which require that a skier be versatile and well rounded.

 The reason for the Weighted Release "stems" from, no pun intended, the need for basic tools to rid skiers of habitual movements. This is also the same in racing gates.

We teach skiers from all over the world, and they come with varied skiing backgrounds and have followed many different systems. One of the dominant less versatile movements that skiers develop through skiing systems is the big toe edge engagement with the universal and pervasive push-off from the old downhill big toe edge. You can eliminate that movement pattern immediately, by teaching a weighted release. The skier no longer depends only on the edge to push if the are taught basic Weighted Releasing. The weighted release involves bending the very leg you finish the turn with, and flattening the very ski you are standing on; so pushing is eliminated and unnecessary. Now the one trick pony is evolved into a functional skier.

 Skiers who are in this state and have learned only this method of movement, are afraid to move the Cg into the turn, so they move it up the hill. This may not be the intent of traditional teaching, but it is what skiers end up with in their skiing. As you all know HArb Ski Systems and PMTS don't teach that way, so we never deal with the problem with PMTS developed skiers, only with skiers who started and dedicated themselves to TTS, which happens to be ninety-nine percent of our clients. A skier that can learn the weighted release can then easily move to the two footed release. Now such a skier has all ends of the spectrum in place. A bump skier without the bending and tipping ability of the weighted release will do what in a panic?A racer that has only this movement will always be slow. He will stem and steer the new outside ski away, because that is the ingrained default movement. If you watch any expert bump skier, racer or crud skier you will see, turns of every variety especially the faster and steeper the situation.

That is the goal of the Weighted Release and of Harb Ski Systems skiing overall.