Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Beginner Skiers Second Lesson Notes and Tips

SFS    FAST Slow Slow to Stop
Beginner skiers must learn to control speed, to stop and to turn.  This requires you to make your skis slide sideways to the direction that you are going.  You sort of scrape the snow with the edges of your skis. The harder you scrape by increasing the angle the slower you go.  If you scrape hard enough, you will stop. This is shown in the sketch to the left, Fast Slow and Slow to Stop.  Your first 2 lessons using my method are all about this scraping process.
The next picture shows me in the stop position.  Legs apart and almost straight, tip of skis close but not touching. Ski back ends spread wide. Me bent forward at the waist and arms wide.  Poles dragging.  A beginners stance for maximum scraping effect.

Beginners Stance

The last pictures show the effect or pattern in fresh snow of going fast and slow.  Where the pattern is narrow I was picking up speed, less scraping effect; and slowing down where the pattern is wide, more scraping effect.  You can see this in motion by clicking on the Free ski lessons video 

Slow Fast Slow 
Tip:  The first few lessons are performed in slower motion, about walking speed.  The closer you can come to a stop without stopping will give you a measure of your skill development. The theory is that it is best  to learn first how to do a particular move and the necessary skills slowly and well, before you apply any speed.

Notes:  For a beginner to stop on a beginner hill the legs must be pushed as far apart as possible.  If you can't stop then using this method, then the hill is too steep for a beginner or you may be bowlegged like me. In order to get the maximum ability to stop it is necessary to have at least one ski at 90 degrees to the direction you are travelling, lesson 3. 

Eventually when you have finished the six lessons and can ski parallel with some confidence then try stopping with both feet side by side, a so called hockey stop. Stopping with two feet is by far the best way to stop and takes the least amount of effort and energy

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Good News, Video and Trip

East Glacier Park, Montana, 2 days from home.
      In my last post in the spring, I promised a video of my lessons.  Andreas Ruttkiewicz, my collaborator in this venture, finished tuning the final cut and so it is now Public on YouTube.  I am really pleased with his work. For fun, he added my bloopers.  Here is the link Video: Learn to Ski, AlanR Method . The site is a work-in-progress and fine tuning will continue.  
My process for learning how to  ski is now complete. You can see and try each lesson.  You can reinforce each lesson by reading the manual for details. You can reinforce what you learn in the lessons by reading and understanding the third section of the manual. In this last section, you can find the answers to many of the Why questions.
There are some differences between the manual and the video which I will edit over the next year.  I like the part in the first lesson on mobility.  For going around in a circle, I show how to push out with your heel in order to turn your skis.  This is a fundamental move which includes 4 of the basic skills and is repeated often in different forms in the following lessons.  In lesson 3, you continue the first portion of alternate stopping but instead of stopping you just slow down to almost a stop and then continue with the next partial stop. I forgot to video this last portion of lesson 3. We will work on it.  
I know the current trend is to let the student try and explore and to learn by experience.  But I am old school in that I believe that skiing is potentially a dangerous sport and some basics should be learned before any attempt at open-field skiing.  I also believe in introducing the 5 most important skills in the very first session.  People stall out at the intermediate stage because some of the skills were not emphasized.  Pivoting is a good example.  
My trip home was wet for a couple of days. But Ontario to BC in 8 days, on a large scooter and camping along the way, is not bad ( 4400 km). The next day after the above picture was taken, it rained for 2 hours in the morning, going from Troy, Montana to Osoyoos, BC. The last day through the mountains of southern BC was spectacular. 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Taking a Break

Late Spring Morning in the Mountains
The season has ended and time to give skiing a break.  
The season ended well for me with two highlights.
One, Andreas Ruttkiewicz, a cohort in VISAS, offered to video my lessons.  It turned out that he became my mentor, director, story board creator, camera man, and editor.  We did some preliminary takes one afternoon to find out what we needed to make it work.  Then we spent a day doing the video.  Andreas, who has an Ultralight Flight School, is putting together the final video in his  precious spare time. I am waiting on pins and needles for the result.  If all goes well we should publish in plenty of time for the new season. Who knows? It may be on YouTube for those down under this winter season, July?
And the other highlight involved a mother and her  two kids, boy about 8, and girl 10.  The mom I found, just starting down the beginner hill, fallen on the snow and two snowboarders trying to help her up. It was a cluster problem, so I swooped down and offered to help.  The two kids were in a similar situation just further down the hill.  
Because I love the opportunity to teach, I offered them a lesson and was accepted.  They had arrived too late for Snow School lessons and thought that they could muddle through on their own, being good hockey players. My progression took 2 hours and by the end, they were racing down the cat track at full speed under complete control.  The girl is a natural athlete who did everything I showed her perfectly first time. The boy was a little awkward, trying to make the skis act like his hockey skates.  He fell a few times but once he learned how to get up he just popped up.  The mom was happy because this saved their Spring break holiday.  As I have mentioned before, hockey  players are the easiest to teach and it is still true.
For me it was another great, enjoyable, feel-good situation.
My skiing related goals for the summer are to publish the video and make some minor manual revisions. Like in the manual, re-arranging lesson one and putting the alpine instead of the cross country skiing code, etc.
Anyway, have a good summer, keep in shape. I'll contact again in the fall. 

Monday, 29 February 2016

One Thought At a Time

It can be lonely on a foggy day.
I was reminded by Andreas, a fellow skier, that, as a ski instructor, one should give the student just one thought at a time.  So in my manual lessons, you could filter out the details and background information (often the whys of doing) to concentrate on the primary thought.  For example, in the first lesson, the primary thought is feeling your feet. This should be top of mind in the rest of the lesson, making a wedge, getting mobile on the flats, learning how to snowplow-stop and slow fast slow. 
Making a wedge requires more pressure on the heel in order to make the back of the ski spread the snow like a fan shape.  Similarly when turning during the mobility exercise you push with your heel to turn.  During the snowplow, to stop, you must press on your heel in order to push your heel wide enough to stop.  To go fast and slow and fast, you must modulate from low pressure to higher pressure and then low pressure repeatedly. This control of extra pressure on the heel is how you control your speed, the amount you turn and how you stop. All of this requires awareness of your feet. 
The third lesson is about the start of the turn, where pressure is concentrated on the toe pad. While skiing, your pressure is constantly changing from toe to heel. 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Leaning to Ski is not Rocket Science

 Basically, skiing is about turning and stopping.  When I learned to ski the first time, there were only wooden skis and the way you turned was either a semi snowplow or a telemark turn. No such thing as steel edges or parabolic shapes. The first big improvement was the addition of steel edges which greatly increased the number of days you could ski. The skill of edging became important and skiing became easier. Over the years our skiing techniques changed mostly as a result of ski equipment improvement. It has always been a challenge to explore and adapt to these changes.  The most significant change recently for recreational skiing has been the parabolic shaped ski. All of a sudden this invention changed the time it takes to learning how to ski from weeks and year to a few hour and days.  Unfortunately, some of the teaching methods are still catching up.

My frustration as a ski instructor was that we are still teaching skiing the way we did 30 years ago. But I couldn't find a better way out until I finally discovered, that the transition from one turn to the next is the most important part of skiing.  It is the end of one turn and the start of the next, and this is where I started.  
My first attempt at a manual was really a collection of notes, about 150 pages. Much too long and disjointed.  I knew that I had all the information and parts but I needed to find the basics of moves and skills.  Mike McPeek  first showed me a rough sketch of the diagram above which I believe is a snapshot of the important first skills to learn and their relationship. If you examine my lessons closely you will see a trend. If you examine even further the lessons mirror the transition between turns. 
There is a progression. The first lesson starts from the outside ring and move directly into very rudimentary core of control skills and blending.   The subsequent lessons then concentrate on embellishing and finessing these skill and are arranged in a sequence of increasing difficulty.  
I'm continuously testing my method to find ways of improving or vindicating that my process is valid.
 Last week I saw a beginner give a most spectacular display of athletics, arms and legs all moving in different directions. What I  really saw was great balance and determination.  I couldn't resist and offered my services. Within 2 hours he was parallel skiing.  When that happens I think I am the most spectacular instructor but in reality it is the student that makes the difference.  In this case the student was a boarder, an quick learner and as I said has great balance and determination.   It is not rocket science.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Balance is the primary skill in skiing.

Pressure scale
Balancing on your toes and heels
Balance is the primary skill in skiing.

I took these sketches from my manual , as this is a good place to start the season. 
When on the hill, an instructor will tell you to have a good centered stance. Translated, this is shown as Neutral in the above left diagram with your weight spread equally on all 4 pressure points on your feet.
The purpose of the exercise here is to feel your weight change concentrated on these pressure points. 
You can practice the following on a hard surface in your bare feet or anywhere else with your shoes on. 
  • It is best to first spread your feet apart until you feel pressure only on the pressure points of both feet shown in the diagram. 
  • Then move your weight front to back, left to right on both feet, balancing on your toe and heels to feel the pressure change on 2 pressure points at a time.  
  • Finally, apply full weight on each of the 4 pressure points. Note how you have to shape your body to make this happen.
  • Experiment a bit with your arms out, at your sides and forward; they make a big difference.
You will only be applying pressure one foot at a time; the other foot is used for balance. Balancing is finessing where you shift your body, arms and legs, to apply pressure to your feet.  

Later, when on the snow in your skis and boots, repeat the above with the tops of your boots loose, both standing still and moving.  Boots are different from bare feet and shoes because it is possible to push on the tongue when putting pressure on the toe and on the boot back when applying pressure on the heel.  For a centered stance there should be almost  no pressing on the tongue or boot back. Your body position should be bent at the waist, both forward and to the sides.

When skiing, this exercise is equivalent to what you  feel when tilting your knees in the direction you wish to go. In order to turn quickly and efficiently, you start the turn on your toe pad and finish the turn on your heel. This is a much better method than trying to rotate your skis with your leg. It is called steering and takes a little practice. Maybe a season?  
Balance is the primary skill in skiing. This is just the start.