Ski instruction needs better descriptors

Ski instruction - get them on their edges

Is this the ultimate ski design?

Ski instruction is mostly delivered by ski schools and ski instructors.  Too many still use inappropriate words to convey the ideas that are most likely to help you to improve your skill.

The instructor knows what he/she means, but it’s no good if it puts the wrong idea into the pupil’s head.  Take the picture above, for example

Ski instruction #1 – “Get them on their edges”.

How often have you heard some ski racing commentator saying “She’s not getting an early enough edge”.  Or an instructor saying something like “You’ve got to get them more on their edges”.  “Make them ‘edge’ more” etc etc.  “Just get them on their edges, and remember, speed is your friend!”  Not very helpful is it?

Somewhere in there, deeply hidden, is a grain of truth (no more than a grain).  But it is too vague, too imprecise, and too inaccurately expressed to do anything other than confuse. It may  possibly frighten, and certainly will contribute to a limitation of further progress.

The fact is you cannot ski on the skis’ edges.  The idea is just baloney.  If it were true, then the engineers and designers of skis would by now have evolved skis to look like the picture at the top of the page.  You would be clipped on the back edges of the blades, and be skiing about on the sharp ones.  How do you fancy it?

The truth is vastly different.  Knowing it,  will make a huge difference to your enjoyment of skiing and your skill at it.   This blog post is not the place for me to explain, but trust me on this one.

Ski instruction #2 “Hands forward!”

This is another extract from the ski schools’ tacit dictionary.  The instructor will often combine this one with an exhortation to bend your knees.  There is a grain in there somewhere, deeply buried.  It will be better if it doesn’t germinate.

Unless you are careful you will end up looking like this young woman ( then again if I had I might have done better for myself ! ).  But it is no good as a skiing posture.

Ski instruction - hands forward, knees bent.

Keep your hands forward and bend your knees

When an instructor tells you this, she is responding to some postural element in your skiing that is sub-optimal.  She is doubtless trying to help you correct it.  Regrettably the cure may well be worse than the disease, and it can take years to uncover the truth.  It took me years anyway.

The instruction comes from the instructor addressing the symptom, not the underlying cause of the constraint to your progress.  It is lazy in my opinion.  Or just ignorance.  Again, this is not the place to elucidate, but be wary of ski instruction that says things like this.

Ski instruction #3 – “weight transfer” ?

Oh boy!  how long have you got?

Ski intruction about weight transfer

“Weight transfer”

The most regrettable aspect of this ski instruction, to “transfer your weight” (laterally), is that it will in many circumstances actually bring about some kind of rather ropey change in direction.

It is supposed to be a way of controlling your speed down a slope using the line you take down it.  Unfortunately, it is just about as poor a way of doing it as you could come up with.  If you practice this enough you will get good at it.  Then your best bet might be to give up skiing because you will never get any good at skilful skiing.

Once again, the instructor is trying to help you find something that will enable you to control your direction.  But this one will embed a really bad perception and habit that you will find difficult to eradicate later.

This post is not a lesson on skiing, and there is not the space to fully elucidate, but be very wary of ski instruction like this.  They will lead you to look like and ski like a beginner for ever.  And I should add that it will completely preclude getting proper control if ever you find yourself on something testing.


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