Getting Off The Intermediate Plateau


Expanding your comfort zone to take your skiing to the next level

For those skiers who feel they're stuck on a development plateau, and are not happy about it, I have a suggestion. Expand your performance repertoire.

Most skiers who find themselves in this stagnation boat have something in common: they have a very limited selection of methods by which to get down the hill. Their skiing has, by skill lacking necessity, a very consistent look to it. The manner in which they use there edges is very consistent, as is the shape of their turns, the stance they maintain on their skis, their state of balance, and the method they use to go from one turn to the next.

As long as they can remain in this narrow technical box, they feel semi-secure. But the moment something jars them out of this comfort zone, they find themselves in waters their boat is not designed to navigate. The result is a fall, or if that can be avoided, an anxiety laden scramble back to their personal status quo comfort zone.

These skiers find moving off their development plateau challenging on two fronts: First, fear of being jostled out of their limited comfort zone discourages the exploration of new challenges, be they in the form of more advanced forms of execution, or more challenging terrain. Second, their lack of skill diversity legitimizes their fears. Stray from their standard manner of skiing, and that comfort zone destruction is a likely outcome.

So how does one get out of this catch 22? It requires a step back to fundamentals. In small, non-intimidating steps, drills must be practiced that gently nudge a person out of their standard manner of skiing. Out of their narrow comfort zone. In this manner that zone can be expanded. As that zone expands, the person's confidence and ability to explore new ways of skiing grows. As that happens, new skills become more easily acquired, and the movement up the development ladder mushrooms. It's a self feeding process.

So what are the comfort zone nudging drills? The areas I focus most on to do this are balance, turn shape, and edging. I do each in small steps, not trying to take either skill area to far independent of the others. Balance is addressed both in a fore-aft (forward, back) and lateral (side to side) sense. Help the student become comfortable moving around on their skis, moving their weight forward, back, inside, outside,,, and becoming confident skiing and turning in those new states of balance. That is a biggy. The more confidence that can be gained in this area, the less the student will fear finding themselves suddenly being thrust into these less than optimal balance states when attempting other new skills. It's a state of confidence that is liberating.

Balance skill expansion is accompanied with turn shape alteration. The status quo turn shape is abandoned, and a buffet of new turn shapes are introduced. This not only allows the student to experience new ways to play with the falline, it leads them into the area of edge usage, requiring new manners of edge utilization to enable creation of the new turn shapes. From here, new varieties of steering and carving can be explored within each new turn shape, resulting in an assortment of new types of turns suddenly at the disposal of the developing skier. With this new repertoire of turns available, balance can be returned to, and refined again within these new turns, to an even higher level. And the process just keeps leap frogging in this manner, with each technical skill area (balance, edging, turn shape, transitions, etc) getting ever more advanced and refined, in harmony with each other.

Why am I writing this? Just to encourage those who might feel frustrated with a feeling that their development has stalled. There is a way to get that development back into gear again, and it will work for anyone. Yes, anyone! It's just a matter of coming to understand the steps that must be taken to make it happen, and then committing to doing them.

This has been a general explanation of the process. I'm sure some are out there wondering about the specifics. What are the drills, man? Well, we're approaching the new ski season now, and if there's an interest, I be happy to introduce real drills here for people to take to the slopes and work on as we move through the year.

By Rick Schnellmann

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