Crossover skills between snow and other sports – ALC how to ski series
Chapter 7 Similarities between Snow & Other Sports
Relating crossover skills-Snowsports to other Sports/Activities
..or the other way round
In this chapter I will endeavour to help you find some link or common ground to YOUR other interest or sport that you or your teacher can use to help your Skiing/Telemarking.
Can skills can crossover between different sports and or activities that seem to have NO link whatsoever? I believe that although there is an argument to support both yes and no, it seems to me that it can help and has helped my students in the past and present, even if it just helps them to understand a concept, either visually or intellectually.
This may then enable them to say “I know nothing about skiing/Telemarking but I know how to …..I now see this has a similar idea behind it……”
When riding a horse, the rider uses different stances that relate to the horses four gaits of walk, trot, canter and gallop. In walk and trot the stance or posture riders use is seated & could be considered a little up-right for skiing (flat back and shoulders above seat/hips) but when cantering or galloping & unseated, it is very similar; shoulders above or even in front of knees and feet.
Whenever I get an equestrian for a ski lesson, being a keen horseman in my youth I’m always really happy, there are so many crossovers/similarities:
- They stand in a very ski oriented way when cantering or galloping
- Although they stand toward the toes or on the balls of their feet, on the stirrup, they also keep their heels down
So the pressure would be shared by the whole foot if on the ground
- Whatever stance they’re in, walk, sitting trot, rising trot, canter or gallop, they are constantly moving or being moved (micro-adjustments/balancing)
- They are using their joints; ankles, knees, hips and spines similarly
- The stances change due to changes in speed and terrain, like in skiing-dynamism and balancing
- They realise that there are many aids to controlling a horse
Many lay-people would believe that you steer a horse with the reins; pull left to go left/pull right to go right. This is a very simplistic idea of this sport. Horse-riders use leg-on, which is contact with the horse around the calf and lower leg (boot). Watch a well schooled horse and rider (able bodied or not) that do amazing things without reins! Changing leg-on to light shin-on can be an easy idea for a rider to grasp.
- These aids or inputs are almost invisible to the untrained eye! Very similar to skiing as some of the important movements and adjustments are made inside the ski-boot
Subtle changes in their seat; where the rider places and therefore the horse feels pressure or weight and driving the horse forward with use of the hips and buttocks along with moving the upper body in anticipation toward the new turn along with leg-on.
See Different pleasures in Racers perspective for another horse analogy.
This is the classic way to describe skiing stance and is very easy to transfer. Here are some similarities and differences:
- Tennis players and goalkeepers may tend to be on the balls of the feet (said to be on their toes) so as to be able to move quickly, remember skiers need to use the whole foot
- Goalkeepers in a penalty situation and tennis players receiving serve tend to be lower and their stance will be wider (before moving) and more like a skier in a racing tuck for speed
- Golfers can be deemed to be more upright than the other 2
- Golfers learn to read the greens/terrain (good skiers do the same)
- Golfers edge one foot during their backswing (I’ve used this as an edging drill on snow for a golfer)
- If you’ve played golf, without skill, finesse and timing you won’t hit the ball very far or have any accuracy
Lesser golfers will identify with this last point, why? Tension is interfering with the timing-so relax and use some finesse instead of strength or add the strength to the finesse. This is also because any club, bat or thing that you hit a ball with has a Sweetspot too and when you hit it from out of the sweetspot it feels sweet (accuracy).
- In golf, tiny changes in things like the way you’re holding or gripping the club, or stance will change the outcome of the way the ball travels and your handicap (progression or Learning Curves)
All of these are trying to do the same thing within their sport, i.e. save the ball, serve the ball or put the ball nearer or in the hole however, many have developed their own way or style of doing it.
For example every golfer swings the club, however: Nick Faldo among many others has a swing that could be considered classic or normal, Lee Travino on the other hand had a completely different or individual style swing that most coaches would say not to copy. Despite this they were both successful golfers with different builds and development backgrounds. We are all individuals and need to tailor a general technique or approach to suit our build and background with an eye on what is considered the most effective. Learn the basics, then with time and patience you can build your own way.
One last thing on golf, Gary Player, one of my favourites was told how “lucky” he was at Golf. His answer is well known (although sometimes attributed to others), “the harder I practice the luckier I get”, nothing can replace dedicated perfect practice. My dad saw him deliver a bunker session in person and after knocking 10 balls out onto the green, 1 or 2 in the hole, the rest very near, a guy in the audience said “yeah, but you placed them on the sand, sometimes they get plugged”. Player then asked his caddy for 10 new balls (back then wrapped individually in Cellophane or paper that he didn’t remove). He then angrily stamped each ball down into the sand and very quickly he produced a similar result as before!! (See An Example in Learning Curves for another story on Golf).
What similarities can there possibly be??
- You cannot throw a dart or hit a snooker ball effectively or accurately without good stance/balancing skills
Just because the stance is different don’t just discard it without thinking about this important point. Some might say these are not sports but just because some might look down upon them, there is still a big element of skill going on
- Over stretched and out of balance and you might still hit the bullseye or pot the ball but it will be through luck not through a skill that can reproduced time and time again
- Too tight a grip (tension) on the cue or dart will not help with accuracy
- There are almost invisible inputs (to the novice eye) in snooker
For example, where the ball is being struck with the cue; top, middle or bottom and left or right side to create different outcomes of where the cue and object ball then travel.
Hang on I’m sitting down! Just think though, if you hire or borrow a car how many things are you going to change if the previous person is a different size and shape to you?
- Rear view mirror
- Side mirrors
- Seat position up/down and in/out
- Steering wheel position
This could be said to be finding the Sweetspot. You can drive without doing this but after a long drive, it could be painful or at the very least uncomfortable. Each driver will have his or her own style and preferred sitting position either closer or further away from the wheel – ask Lewis Hamilton to drive Jenson Button’s car without changing anything…
You can also think about being the vehicle or parts of it rather than the driver:
- For instance, imagine your legs are really shock absorbers/suspension units when skiing
Stiff suspension gives an uncomfortable but accurate ride which may be good for racing/speed. Soft suspension is more forgiving and therefore better for comfort and absorbing bumps in the terrain/road. Most modern cars have onboard computers to enable this, along with switches that allow you to change this “set-up”. Our on-board computer is better or at least equal to any of these, whatever the cost, (Bugati Veyron?) enabling us to constantly select the best suspension with dedicated practice.
- Watch the way that a car/suspension deals with cornering
This is very similar to Alpine skiers with the pressure mainly to the outside set of tyres and the body of the car tipping toward the outside. The constantly changing shape and stresses on the car, tyres and springs.
- When driving on ice, the inputs should be accurate and progressive
Aggressive breaking, steering or accelerating will cause problems and loss of control. Similarly aggressive use of the Steering inputs when skiing will cause problems so subtlety is required.
Can you remember your first go at driving? It’s a complicated and complex process; press the indicator, press that lever with this foot, push that lever with your hand, press that foot down while lifting the other one all the while whilst looking in the rear view mirror, side mirrors and moving the steering wheel!! There can be lots to think about and loads of co-ordination to deal with but with dedicated practice you end up doing it all without thinking about it. To go to another level of advanced driving you may then have to re-enter the learning loop and start re-learning and changing the task or thought process to progress. (See Learning Curves).
Think of this finally; when you learn to drive it is one of the more obvious physical skills lots of people learn as adults, normally after leaving school, making this an easier topic for communicating common ground and analogies. Also you learn a set way of doing it to pass the driving test. Once you’ve passed most people adopt their own way – let’s be honest, how many people hold the steering wheel the way they were told to, at 10 to 2 for example or feed the wheel through? Most folk steer with one hand.
The outcomes when driving and skiing are very similar and use similar descriptive words;
- Drifting and Over-steering = Slipping, over rotating
- Gripping, Squealing tyres = Scraping, spraying snow
- Under-steer = Carving
Differing Ski radii; large number 25 m = Stretch Limousine – large turning circle, 12 m = London Black Taxi – very short turning circle (Savoy Hotel).
Can there be anything that demonstrates balancing or constantly rebalancing on a moving surface better than surfing? I love watching it but unfortunately once again I’m not any good at it at all! But as a youngster one of my heroes was the Silver Surfer in comics.
They use all the same or similar inputs;
- 3 dimensional pressure distribution
- Edging control
- Rotational control
They also share similar blends of these to create outcomes; different types of turns and speeds.
A long time ago as a low end instructor I asked a friend who was a very good surfer: “surely if a surfer could get their feet into some straps or boots on the board, they would be more powerful?” his answer transformed my skiing, “no you can create all the power you need through the base of your feet”.
My wish is that ski boots will evolve into trainer type affairs or someone will invent a “barefoot” snow ski boot that can deal with -20 degrees.
When diving into the pool swimmers visit a ski stance albeit momentarily but once again might be more towards their toes/balls of feet.
Modern swim racers could be said to be in a Telemark stance at the start.
I can swim quite well but the same friend had me trying to breathe on both sides when doing front crawl. This totally ruined my stroke for a while and I swallowed lots of water until I mastered it. Sometimes to get better we have to get worse! (See Learning Curves).
Another thought, there is more than one way to swim, freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and under water, which could be said to equate to the differences in either styles of skiing or conditions.
This is the best one for Telemark: think of a weightlifter performing the clean and jerk! The weightlifter cannot get the bar from the ground to the ultimate stacked and aligned upright stance immediately, so goes to a slightly compromised halfway house (splitting the feet in the fore/aft plane) before then walking them back to side by side but hip or shoulder width apart.
Power obviously comes from strength but also is made easier with great timing, technique and skeletal alignment.
A boxer’s foot work can once again be more to the toes/balls of the feet. As a very low end sparring boxer in my youth I discovered something a lot of people will be surprised to know; that a boxer’s power doesn’t come all from their arm strength!! It comes from transferring it from their feet, hips, and lower body through good timing and co-ordination.
When first shown by the trainer (a small guy that came up to my shoulder, about sixty years old) at the gym I used to go to in London how to hit the heavy bag. He said, “Try to hurt the bag this time” I tried with all my 74 kilos to “hurt” the bag. Result “no, come on now son, don’t just tickle it!” He then, with his fly/bantam weight of 55 kilos or less and just with jabs, not haymakers, had this bag almost jumping off the chain, totally impressive and humiliating in equal measure.
Each boxer has developed his or her style, from regular to southpaw (left or right hand lead) to defensive or offensive strategies! Watch Ali, Sugar Ray (Leonard or Robinson) and compare their styles and then compare them to Jake LaMotta or Roberto Duran, similar to Faldo v Travino in golf.
Once again sports I played at in my youth and later too. There are obvious crossovers to do with balancing and being centred on the feet. The difference between Ice skating and skiing is the terrain, tilt an ice rink up and its skiing!
Learning to skate on skis can seem daunting but is very useful; it starts off on the flat doing the duck-walk or herring-boning (the pattern left on the snow resembling a skeleton of a fish) up a slight rise or hill. It is great for getting across the flat or creating speed at the start of a race and is exactly the same as ice skating apart from the length of the “skate”, so requires great co-ordination. Waddling like an ugly duckling soon turns into a graceful swan and the progression may be;
- Slippy – skis are relatively flat and ineffectual
- Grippy – edges are being used more effectively and co-ordination is growing
- And finally, Rippy – the skis are carving along their length and are creating forward speed
In all of these sports/activities the ski (blade/rollers) is shorter and therefore requires more skill and balancing to stay on the sweetspot and not reach the end of support of the equipment and so end up with the “ouch” factor.
The steering inputs are the same, differing blends of guiding, edging and pressing will create recognisable different outcomes; short, long, grippy or skidded turns. Skiing could be said to be skating downhill, imagine what figure skaters do – drawing different lines and shapes in the ice.
I used to ski and Telemark on rollerblades in the summer on un-used roads and car parks (be careful, be safe) sometimes even racing with slalom poles inserted into holes in the tarmac. Although not exactly like Telemark as the rear skate is up on the toe and there’s no bellows to flex but it was great fun and certainly improved my balancing.
Another sport I’m not that good at, although I can stand up! Mainly on 2 skis, I never really mastered mono & am not at home in the sea. Here are some thoughts on similarities/differences;
They lean back surely?
- Yes but they ARE standing in the middle of their feet and can influence where they are standing in all planes – fore/aft, lateral and vertical
- They are resisting being pulled by a very powerful and heavy boat and at speed on a rope so are upright to the resistance force
- The visual impression of posture could be said to be more to a snow skier in powder as the rear part of both types of skis are not visible (under the snow/water)
Mono or 2 skis
- On 2 skis I see more similarities and the differences are due to different forces
- Mono-skiing, because of the feet being one behind the other could be said to be akin to Telemark
Slalom or trick skier
- All the steering inputs are the same as are the outcomes in snow skiing; flat skis enabling rotational play or edged skis carving or cutting through water in a similar way to snow
The same could be said of wakeboarding being similar to snowboarding for all the above reasons.
Here’s a sport I’ve never played! I believe that the general stereotype of rugby players has long gone but in the past when teaching them I always found that they tried to use brute force or strength and this hindered their progress.
I struggled with trying to get them to use technique and softness rather than strength – we all have an Achilles heel and this was mine! Remember using strength on top of good technique is great but using strength without good technique will tire you really quickly and can be very ineffective.
There are too many different styles of dancing to go through them all, so I’ll lump them all together. Dancing encompasses many of the skills of skiing:
- Good posture (shape)
- Movement (all directions)
Good dancing usually displays great fluidity of movement.
Another similarity is that you can’t get it wrong (you can be off-beat and strange) and can do it at your level. We can’t all be Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers and although “Dad dancing” isn’t the pinnacle of dance the participant IS dancing.
Think of the amount of rehearsal and dedicated, quality, perfect practice that dancers put in before the actual performance.
Skiers don’t necessarily make good dancers, just look at some of my ski buddies, sorry, but you know who you are!
Another sport I’ve not done to any great degree (I do watch the Moto GP with interest) but there are lots of similarities;
- The centre of mass has to be inside the path the bike’s tyres takes when cornering
- The amount of this is dependent on your skill level as well as the speed you’re travelling at
- The body crosses over the bike or the bike crosses under the rider
- The rider moves about not only sideways but also fore/aft to pressure different tyres/create different outcomes
- The set up of the bike, steering, suspension can be equated to the legs of a skier
- The tyres slip, grip and carve
Think of the differing styles of rider and how every now and again someone comes along and re-writes the rule book with some new technique or style! This could be equated to Sir John Surtees, Barry Sheen, Valentino Rossi and Marc Marques being substituted for Ingemar Stenmark, Alberto Tomba, Bode Miller and Ted Ligety in the evolution of riding and ski technique.
You turn a bike by leaning it over not by turning the handlebars and in most cases counter steer when you lean.
Blending the Steering inputs could be said to be like following a recipe. With 3 similar ingredients; flour, butter, milk or oil and eggs you can make 3 different things:
It just depends on how you combine them as to the outcome.
You can also make different types of the same thing i.e. cake; lots of flour = dry cake. Whereas lots of eggs = rich soggy cake. In this instance you can get it wrong and make an inedible result, there’s arguably no right or wrong just different tastes of cake! (See more on Cooking in Toast in Blending the inputs). Create different flavours of turns and although you may prefer one flavour, try to appreciate the others out there!
Great for fitness, flexibility, co-ordination and body awareness, being flexible may help reduce the chance of injury, however you can never totally ensure against injury but you can do your best.
Many people focus on developing strength and overlook the advantages of flexibility.
Some yoga stances are brilliant balancing and strength tests.
Some styles of Yoga concentrate and put a heavy importance and emphasis on breathing, this may sound funny but learning to breathe properly can help in lots of instances:
- Reducing stress/fear
- Efficient use of oxygen
- Timing in many instances including powder or bumps
Sports people including skiers can end up being very in-flexible as the actions they use over and over shorten the muscles. Lots of people I know and ski with are in this club and one school of thought may be that this is what makes them so good at the sport. I sometimes wonder if they became more flexible, would it improve their performance.
Many sports will result in developing strength in the belly of the muscle only. By contrast regimes such as Yoga or Pilates develop strength throughout the entire length of the muscle. Without getting too technical this is whether an exercise requires concentric or eccentric contractions of muscles. Knowing your body and your sport and getting a balanced training programme is of obvious benefit. Please be careful and get professional help with any keep fit programme.
Apart from sport this was the only other thing at school I was any good at.
When we ski we draw shapes or patterns in the snow with our skis/feet, these shapes are generally rounded; circles, semi circles, J’s, l’s, commas, S’s, C’s, U’s and so on (unless going straight and doing I’s or eleven’s). Some will try to zigzag or draw Z’s, N’s and X’s when crossing the skis, these are much more effort so should be avoided especially at the beginning.
When we ski we have different end results or outcomes that can also be equated to drawing or painting.
- Carving could be said to be drawing with a pen, hard pencil or art knife
- Skidding or scraping is like scraping the paint off (a technique used in art) with a palette knife or small art trowel
- Slipping/spreading, like using a large brush painting a wall or applying paint with a palette knife across the canvass or paper
You have the choice of what to draw and what to draw it with, through practice.
Once again in the art world there is arguably no right or wrong just personal taste and although YOU may in your own opinion be a poor artist or practitioner you are still drawing! (For more on this see Spectrum in Blending the Inputs in How we Turn).
Just like a house build your stance from the foundations up!
Whether you’re an Electrician, Hairdresser, Carpenter, Tailor, Knitter, Model Maker or Plumber you have to use tools. Skis are basically tools and how you use them will impact on your work as will how you stand, if you’re unbalanced how can you cut the piece of wood correctly?
How the tool is being pressed, connected or aligned is important too, say a screwdriver not placed squarely into the slot in the screw will not enable it to be tightened or loosened well. Or imagine trying to saw a piece of wood using just the front 4 inches of the saw instead of all its length, good and necessary if in a confined space but not very efficient.
This is like leaning forward on the skis and just turning using the front of the ski or leaning back and only using the tail, good and necessary in a given instance but not the best thing for all turns.
To cut or scissor correctly an effective stance is very important (to avoid discomfort at the very least) also the shears need to be held in the hand in a balanced way too, to assist effective manipulation (my wife Barbara is a dog groomer).
“A bad workman blames his tools” but “a good workman has well prepared tools and plans”. The 7 P’s; proper prior preparation and practice, prevents poor performance. (phew! cleaned that up)
The skis make different sounds on the snow/ice and could be said to be music of a sort. Some of these noises we might not like but we should understand them. Scraping isn’t a pleasant noise on ice but without it we may be going a lot faster and out of control.
If you’re good at side slipping and checking the edges then try and to reproduce Queen’s, “We will rock you”, intro on the snow.
Learn to play the tune with your skis on the snow that gives you the control you want/need/like but, learn to appreciate different tunes too. (See Graphic equaliser).
Once again there is arguably no right or wrong just personal taste in music. Just watch or listen to different artists, Eric Clapton, Paco de Lucia, Ed Sheeran or Chet Atkins among so many others to be made aware of how they may play the same instrument but get a totally different sound or do it in a different style or method that they developed.
Musical instruments, I play the Guitar and when practising scales or a new song it is always a good idea to start slowly and build accuracy first and then let the speed build through time. Rather than trying to go too fast to begin with – trying to be Jimi Hendrix NOW – and becoming frustrated with the process, because of the mistakes and giving up as I have in the past. But it can be fun to try the whole thing now and again at full tilt to see where you are in the learning phases (See Learning Curves) loop of:
- “Nowhere near yet” just being made aware of how un-co-ordinated I am at this moment. To “nearly got it” being made aware of how close to getting better at this I am
- Practice, practice and more practice until the amount of rehearsal has me playing the piece without thinking about what I’m doing or looking at the fret-board. And moving into doing it autonomously, creating a reproducible performance
- Then with more practice and changing the task by adding singing or through improvisation and invention, revisiting the earlier stages of learning to refine the autonomous, into creative performance
These are the normal phases in any learning curve. There are many different ways to overcome the hurdles that you arrive at, for example;
- Simplifying the task – playing just the verse, refrain, pre chorus or chorus alone before putting them back together
- Playing in slow motion
- Playing along to the original track or backing track (or make your own)
In teaching we call these breakdowns and or rebuild methods; whole-part-whole, shaping and chaining performance.
I call these ideas and knowledge, finding the way in. When teaching, once I’ve found out what the student does in their spare time I can then use some common ground or similarities to help with my delivery and their learning. If someone’s interest isn’t on my list I just ask questions and try to find something to hang skiing on in their answers to suit their experience.
If I haven’t got your interest or activity here why not try to see if you can identify similarities that helps the crossover skills from your activity to skiing? I also hope that this will help you agree that there IS a useful crossover or link to others.