Ever feel like you’re trying darn hard to edge your ski but it still isn’t doing what it’s told? Or all your instructors are telling you the same thing, but no matter how hard you try your technique still isn't changing? It sounds like you have hit a learning plateau. This is where your skiing is pretty good, but you’re just struggling to find the key to make that next step in your improvement.
“There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.” Thanks Bruce Lee, but I don’t think we have to take it to that extreme, let’s look at what could be causing a straight, flat, line in your learning prowess.
The quick and steady gains you often make when starting something new keeps you motivated and moving forward. It’s exciting to see the steps you take and how much more of the mountain you can explore with each leap you make in your skiing. But when you get a to a certain level, the improvements are going to be smaller and harder to see. This can cause a lack in motivation and a drop in enthusiasm as people often think they’ve hit their limit of capability. But this is where you take a dollop of Bruce Lee and get motivated again by whatever means possible – check out the local race kids for some inspiration, or watch a ski movie (High society 2 or Claim! Both by Matchstick Productions are oldies but sure to fire up you ski stoke!). Find that ski skill that freaks you out (maybe it’s a steep run with jump turns) and plan small steps to tackle it.
My 4 year old last year was motivated by his ski school card with a list of skills that would get a tick once he mastered it. Getting ticks got him from snow ploughing at the beginning of the season, to ripping the moguls parallel by the end. We spent two weeks And that elusive moguls tick was the one he worked hardest for. And he achieved it and was thrilled. Maybe you need some ticks too? Stick a list on your fridge, screen saver on your phone whatever it takes.
But motivation may not be your issue. It might be more that you get to ski one to two weeks a year and you feel like the movements you need to make aren’t “natural” for you. Well, that’s where you need some advice from a pro. A private lesson with an instructor that you are on the same wave-length with can be invaluable. Having someone to help you break ingrained habits you didn’t even know you had can be very tough, but also enlightening. Just remember that it can feel like your ski technique is being smashed apart before it is built back up. That’s where trust in your instructor is a must, try a few different people if you need to. Ask around for recommendations. But have faith in the process. Even if it feels like you’re now more Gumby than you are Tomba, it’s likely you’re on your way to improving. Breaking habits is hard, but oh so worth it.
Fear, fitness and time on skis might be the obvious causes for a learning plateau, but what if it’s something else? Well look no further than your equipment. Now this is not a cop out. Sometimes, you can blame your equipment.
If you’re getting consistent feedback from your different instructors, but you still can’t make your ski do what it’s told, then it is time to take a look at your equipment. Ski boots are set up to fit what the manufacturers think will fit the “masses”. But are you the mass? No, you’re an individual and individual set-up for ski boots is crucial in having control of your skis.
Your ski boots dictate how you stand and how much you can move- pretty cruciual factors in being able to ski well. A simple example could be that most people have one leg ever so slightly longer than the other (we’re talking around 5mm). Whilst a lot of people won’t notice this small difference in everyday life, for some it can mean turning to the left is far easier than turning to the right. You need your equipment adjusted to compensate for this and make turning both ways feel good.
Perhaps the forward lean of your boot is too much and pushing you into a position on your skis that is far too forward and aggressive for your skiing. Or perhaps the cuff alignment isn’t allowing for your bowed legs, and instead of getting on your inside edge, pushing your leg inwards just makes your skis flat and out of control. Perhaps your boot is too stiff and in order to control your ski you need to sit in the back seat and steer with the ball of your foot – painful and exhausting. The list goes on and on and on and on, but you see what I’m saying? Boots have a massive impact on your skiing. A really simple test is how you go riding up a T-bar – do you have to work hard to keep your skis straight? Sounds like a professional ski boot assessment is in order
But what about skis? Well yes, absolutely, different skis will affect your skiing too. Skis need to fit the conditions and type of skiing you’re doing. A fat ski designed for deepish snow with 110mm base underfoot and a sidecut radius of 28m+ can be more than a little challenging when used on Australian hard pack snow, and leave your technique crying in your wooshy-wake.
A good ski boot fitter or a ski instructor can help you with equipment issues. When the two work as a team to guide you, well, you’ve got magic and you’ll be back on the steeps of a learning curve in no time.