Project Canada – A Research Mission on Skiing

It took me almost 5 years to learn how to ski. From never ever to acquiring the skills and confidence to ski any natural terrain on a mountain and more importantly having fun doing it. This include steeps, ice, bumps, powder, crud, trees and any of those combined. So here’s the thought. Knowing what I know now both as a skier and an instructor, I have a belief that if I could go back in time and teach myself from the beginning, I would have likely achieved the same result in a fraction of that time.

Left: More recent skiing days. Right: Very first day of skiing not so long ago.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my own personal journey of discovery in learning how to ski (I’m still learning plenty!). It was heaps of fun and lots of falls later (and I mean a lot), I don’t regret a single moment of it all. But I think there’s a lot of fluff out there that can confuse and delay a person’s progression in ski improvement. It still takes time but minus all that fluff, hopefully just not as much time. So therein lies the hope for a teaching method that is simpler and quicker for all aspiring technical skiers.

So I set off to Canada with the aim of finding my own universal and simplified teaching methodology that would work for everyone. A month later and back in the tropics, I sit down and gather all the material accumulated. There’s still more to work on but I did achieve some pretty amazing results and insights.

In collaboration with a former colleague, we tested ourselves and the methods on terrain that was steeper as well as constantly new teaching terrain (no home mountain knowledge advantage). The gist of if all was that I’ve managed to further categorise and succint the sessions into understanding of turn shape, physical movements and tactics & strategies. Some of these sessions had to be conducted on mountain but a lot of them were more conducive when conducted indoors and out of ski gear. Even many of the physical movement sessions began indoors and out of boots. 

Every system has their own way of breaking
up the turn 
into sections. This is just another one. 

The comprehension of finishing a turn to manage speed and understanding the importance of the ‘faster’ half of the turn seemed to be essentials. It seemed more difficult to perform the matching physical movements if the mind did not fully understand those concepts. 

I’ve also taken the approach of breaking down skiing into a set of several active physical movements. They are each simple movements that can be performed by almost anybody instantly. Even the rapidity and range of motion seem very achievable for most people. The challenging part is that they are all connected and at some stage must either be performed simultaneously or consecutively. The naturally athletic have an advantage here in immediately combining the movements but it’s definitely not impossible for the rest of us. Thus far, they seem best to be learnt individually and in a particular order for the quickest and most effective results. The good news is most of the movements are learnt in sets, which make for fewer sessions. While it will take practice and mileage to fully develop each set of movements, the teaching of each set of movements is easily introduced and communicable in one session. 

Each circle represents a single session those movements would be taught.

Tactics on the other hand are mind frames when actually skiing. They aren’t conceptual theories but they are very effective mental approaches when skiing. For example the tactic of skiing the middle of a turn to another (as opposed to skiing one end of a turn to another) showed incredible difference in a person’s skiing without the teaching of any new physical skill or concept. Skiers tend to spend less time in the transition and more time down the fall line. This mind set seems to allow for more technically correct movement by stretching a skier’s turn shape vertically (spending more time in the fall line) and compressing their transitions.

Left: Skiing one round turn to another.
Right: Skiing middle to middle. 

Strategies involve the overall plan of action one can take to improve their skiing. Regular stretching to reduce damage and increase flexibility would be an example of a strategy to improve one’s skiing. Creating the habit of working on a movement when skiing on flat trails is also an improvement strategy. Cross training in certain other disciplines would be another strategy. Ice skating is great to build feet awareness and efficient skating technique. (Just don’t take their stance to skiing. The diminished centripetal forces due to flatter terrain allow ice skaters to fold at their hips a lot more than skiers can.)

This post is a bit of a ramble (more than usual anyway) but I do have a cool video to show at the end of it all! It’s not an instructional video (that wouldn’t be cool at all). Just sharing a few scenes from Canada with some music for a bit of fun. Hope you enjoy it! All Rights Reserved. 

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