Making breakthroughs

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Making breakthroughs

Postby Jeff Markham » Sat Apr 03, 2004 11:07 am

My day-to-day skiing progress (hopefully, I don't regress) is usually fairly indetectible. However, when I consider slopes that I previously found difficult but are now easy, I realize that progress is occurring. There are other things which help me to realize that improvement is occurring.

However, I find myself hoping for breakthroughs. It's not that I am motivated by immediate gratification - I understand the benefits of slow, patient work and have seen them in my skiing. However, apart from immediate gratification, breakthoughs can really help with motivation.

My question is: How can I change my skiing so that breakthroughs happen more frequently? There must be sports literature somewhere on this subject. What can one do to maximize the potential for a breakthrough?

As I said in a much earlier post, I experienced a breakthrough with the release one day when I just got pissed at myself and just let the stance leg collapse (i.e., abruptly flex). However, it's probably not a good idea for me to be skiing around pissed off all the time. :wink:

FWIW, Lito's book title is "Breakthrough on the New Skis", but it really doesn't go into the mystery of breakthroughs as a phenomenon.

I find that variation in my routine (e.g., varying my exercises, terrain, etc.) helps with the rate of progress, but I'm not sure that it helps with breakthroughs themselves.

Anyone have any thoughts on this subject?
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Postby jclayton » Sat Apr 03, 2004 1:21 pm

this is an interesting subject , a phenomenon that occurs in any field . It is not something that can be forced and is nearly always a result of a lot of hard work and patience . You can be struggling away at something for a while and suddenly you will see an aspect in a different light and everything will come together .

What has been called lateral thinking is a useful tool i.e. taking a set of parameters of a given subject and inverting ( or subverting ) the way you look at them .

One of the beauty's of breakthroughs is the way they sneak up on you , their unpredictability . Learn to accept insecurity , it's a part of our existence , security is an unobtainable myth , be a little daring , overextend yourself ( within limits ) , take a few falls , but always remember the work on basics has to be there .

J.C. waxing philosophical after a long day and a few beers .
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measuring accomplishment

Postby JimR » Sat Apr 03, 2004 2:16 pm

I think it runs deeper than just achieving breakthroughs. I hear people say "I've got a ton of work to do, I never seem to get anything done." I have them make a list and cross things off as they complete tasks, and they are amazed at how much they "got done." I think our basic personality take for granted (even t minimize) what we can do and to focus on what we have yet to achieve. This leads to a conclusion that there hasn't been progress or breakthroughs. My guess is that Jeff has spent a lot less time marveling at his breakthrough rather than focusing on moving to another level. To some degree, it's as much perception as reality.

I also believe that a lot of "breakthroughs" are just the result of lots of little progress. Edison had a tremendous breakthrough with the light bulb; YEAH, after he had 97 failures with other lightbulbs. I've also seen people amazed with their new, faster computers and a week later complaining about the slowness. They have adapted and "taken as norm" the progress that amazed them just a week earlier.

I think your macro approach, noting where you are now and where you were a year ago is a pretty valid way (maybe a more valid way) of seeing and realizing that there has been progress. Perhaps creating a list of things to improve or things to accomplish will provide a focus on drills and a measure of accomplishment.

JimR waxing philosophical suffering from a lousy cold after a few doses on NightQuil (sp?)

Postby jclayton » Sun Apr 04, 2004 8:48 am

I tend to agree , I always like quoting the Chines saying " one success is mad up of 100 failures " . However I think you are downplaying them a bit . I aways remember my first waterstart in windsurfing , I can do it now far better than then but I can never reproduce that feeling of satisfaction I had . Or the first time I strung together 16 powder turns in knee deep fresh . I still remember the number of turns and the feeling af satisfaction as I was repeatedly the only one getting on the lift in a snowstorm .

Focussing on day to day stuff you can see lots of little breakthroughs,
articulating the ankle a bit more in the Von Gruenigen turn and feeling the ski whip around just that little bit quicker , slightly extending the float as the skis curve toward the fall line ( stil flat on the snow ) . This would fit in with your " macro approach ".

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Postby John Mason » Sun Apr 04, 2004 12:02 pm

I'm so new to skiing I have experience the "breakthru" effect often and in my recent memory. I suppose the "breakthru" experience will lesson with time as my skiing improves.

Recently I experienced my first true carved turns from top to bottom of linked turns. Until I had done that, I had carved the bottoms but not so much the tops and my bottoms were often smeared. That was a breakthru for me because I had read about it, seen others "lines in the snow" but I didn't have this except for at high speed. On a green or gentle blue I was not doing this at all. Now I can and it's a blast. (who would think you can get so much speed going on an easy blue!)

Other breakthru's were the first time I had any type of actual alignment done. It was nothing as good as what I have now, but going from no alignment to maybe 80 percent aligned was such a jump. All of a sudden I wasn't fighting my skis wanting to cross their tips in a parallel turn. It was a major breakthru in my skiing.

Pole planting and upper body alignment is another one. Till I started doing this, even though I was doing proper PMTS foot movements, I was still "throwing" my shoulder into the turn completely overpowering the subtle balance moves that should have been making my turns for me.

I'm sure I'll have other ones. Here are a few breakthrus I hope to have in my 2nd ski year:

1. Effortless powder skiing. (only had a pow day once and have not worked out how to even my ski balance out yet with the weighted release. I just sank right down on my stance ski)
2. Doing linked turns on one ski (I'm working on this tommorrow in fact)
3. Now that I carve the full turn, refining fore and aft balance which I'm still sorting out. (though the carvers are a great help in this. You deal with your fore aft balance or you will fall.)
4. Seeing how much of a pure carve I can bring to the steeps. Not sure if you can (or if I should anyway). I'm sure you can always make the turns rounder to control speed, but I still like letting the edges flatten a tad so I brush the carve in the steeps to bleed the speed off.
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Postby Jeff Markham » Sun Apr 04, 2004 12:49 pm

I think that I'll have to settle for being more Zen-like in my hope for breakthroughs. Maybe it's like having a pretty girl smile at you -- nice when it happens but goes away when you push the issue. :) :cry: Damn, I'm deep...

Still, breakthroughs are exciting when they happen and are a motivating factor.

Alignment provides a rare breakthrough -- you can control if, when, and where it happens and your skiing will immediately improve. Come to think of it, "Anybody Can Be An Expert Skier" catalyzed a similar breakthrough when I first hit the slope after reading it.

I think that a lot of skiers expect breakthroughs via the purchase of a new ski or boot. This expectation is something that I suspect the ski manufacturers are well aware of. :wink:

For me, I'm still waiting for my powder breakthrough. <sigh> :oops: :cry:
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Postby piggyslayer » Mon Apr 05, 2004 8:10 am

Here are some of my thoughts.

1. I like the fact that I do not know or can do everything.
I think if I ever achieve full expertise in skiing (full expertise =: I will decide that I have learned whatever I could) it will be the end of skiing for me.
Learning is fun, for me it is what skiing is about, and I hope I will never hit the ceiling of expertise, I hope that such ceiling simply does not exist.

2. Frequency of learning.
Now, everyone will think that I am a complete weirdo. I have notices that some of my ski improvements comes from summer. I have noticed that many years ago. It is not about rollerskating in the summer (I did not do any this year or last year). It is more about having time to think things through. Sort of digest the implications of analysis of my current skiing.

I do improve after couple of days on slopes. Each time we take a ski vacation I will notice improvements in balance and execution of turns after couple of days. This is normal and only natural for someone who can squeeze only some 20 days each year.
But I do think I get more systematic improvement if I distribute my skiing more sparsely, say once a week.

I know now everyone thinks that ?weird? would be a complement for piggyslayer.
The concept of overtraining is quite well known in other sports. I think that some of us on this forum have a very intellectual approach to skiing. This approach requires time to digest the information, familiarize with the mental representation for sequence of actions in the turn. It helpes me a lot to simply imagine perfect turn, think of sensations I should expect when executing it. I can do that at home, I can do that during the week, I can do that during summer. However, I need time to do that. If I don?t I will just go and ski the way I did yesterday. And this is no breakthrough. It is stagnation.

Many of us (me included) can get overwhelmed when introduced to new concept in skiing. My wife had a hard time on one of the camps and started ?falling apart? when Harald stared working with the group on pole plant (by the way, now her pole plant is great!, it just took more time to sink in). Taking it slow maybe what we need.

I see and know may skiers who have done 100+ days of skiing per year (takes me 5 years to do that) and they skiing has a lot of problems (problems obvious to me). It is not necessary the time on slopes which makes you perfect. It is time well spend, and for some this requires more time in-between.

3. To improve, don?t regress.
Sound trivial. It happened to me. When I looked at pictures from 7-8 years ago (still on skinny skis) I see a guy with decent pole plant (and obviously no piggy-even hard to say I have 2 legs not a one fat one :cry: ). The pole is not dragged far behind, nice anticipation, arms up and stable, good separation of arms and torso.
Then I started rollerblading a lot. I did it without poles (decided I will look stupid with them). No need to keep your hands up if you have no poles (I would look even more stupid). Last season my pole plant suck.
I think it is important to keep checking on all aspects of your skiing. Harald used an analogy of dialing a different radio station. So keep turning your dial and dial to ?check strong arm?, ?check my tipping?, ?check my fore-aft?, ?check if no direction change between turns?, ?check arm position?, ?check pole-plant?, etc.

Just some of my thoughts. Some weird, I do admit that. So take it with grain of salt or a glass of good red wine (I prefer the second).
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Postby Tonka » Tue Apr 06, 2004 2:10 pm

J. Clayton, I hope you are wrong:

the Chines saying " one success is mad up of 100 failures "

Right now I am working on inline skating and trying to get real good at it, I cannot fall 100 times, I do not have enough skin to give!
I really hope success comes MUCH faster than your Chinese saying! :cry:

Postby Bluey » Wed Apr 07, 2004 5:58 am

Every breakthrough is a recognisable point in time ......its the point when you recognise that the preparation, and possibly hard work, together with the ingredient of luck has brought you to a position whereby you have made or can make a quantum leapt .

A breakthrugh doesn't just happen...its brought to fulfilment by a person's/culture's background and its allowed to happen/flower by the providence of luck and by some form of tangible committment/dedication on the part of the skier.

A breakthrough without passion, fun and friendship is merely a discovery.....and of little true value.

In my skiing I could not see clearly how I was going to achieve my breakthrough.....I fell at least a 100 times...if not more........but I was always spurred on by the fun and a passion to achieve.....

Every person has to find their own way down the slopes but its the sharing of advice from friends along the way that make the breakthroughs that much easier to find........


PS My wife gets "aligned", footbedded and picks up her new ski boots next week.......we're excited.

So we come.... :D
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Postby -- SCSA » Wed Apr 07, 2004 7:32 am

Hiya Bluey!

Just a reminder. Don't confuse falling with failure.

If I've skiied hard that day and don't fall, fine. But if I do, whatever. Sure, I try to think about why it happened. But I don't fret about it.

Like Snokarver always used to tell me that he only fell like 3 times all year (i think he/she/it was smokin some of that cheapo Slummit County bush schwag :wink: ). I guess that might be true -- since he's an instructor and all. After all, all they do is stand around all day! :)

But falling as an indicator of skills? Nah. Everybody, falls.

Postby jclayton » Wed Apr 07, 2004 10:55 am

C'mon Bluey,
getting a bit huggy/sentimental here I thought you Sydney/Bondi types were a bit tougher than that . A real breakthrough is very personal and transcends just "fun" , passion ? sure .

As for the Chinese , inscrutible blighters , never underestimate them , that saying is for us clumsy foreigners .

Someone mentioned Zen , this is a philosophy/religion of oneness with our surroundings . A real breakthrough has this element in spades . What they call Satori .

Austrian saying " if Herminator falls it's O.K. for me ".

By the way Bluey , keep us posted on conditions out there for an ex-pat .
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Postby BigE » Wed Apr 07, 2004 12:31 pm

Jeff Markham wrote:I think that I'll have to settle for being more Zen-like in my hope for breakthroughs. Maybe it's like having a pretty girl smile at you -- nice when it happens but goes away when you push the issue.

My breakthroughs occur when I am trying my hardest: all attempts at nailing a move involve total mental and physical commitment. So much so that I can watch and feel myself do the action while doing it, and not be afraid of the slope or self conscious in any other ways. Kind of being in "the zone". Not necessarily "at one with my skis" but in "the zone".

This memorable one happened while I was teaching a beginner, and going over and over the same simple skills on an easy green. So were on the way to another lift, and went down a very short but somewhat steeper pitch, at the end of a cat track. On the narrow cat track we were both trying to make rhythmic short radius turns to control speed. When we got do the steeper pitch I just dropped into it with the exact same rhythm, increased the angulation, and magically "got it" as I felt the skis do their work.

The rhythmic pre-programming of the movements and consciously doing them correctly on the flatter slope translated into a real "aha" moment as the pressure built and was released under my skis on the steeper slope. The easy style of the short radius turns on the flat was almost effortlessly maintained on the short steep. The beginners eyes were as wide a saucers. The turns were as close to perfect as I've ever made.

The fear of commitment was abandoned on that run. For a breakthrough to occur, it is essential to commit to the move. Even more likely to get breakthroughs, if you remain supple and relaxed.

No breakthrough can happen when you are tense -- a golfer never hits well when he is tense on the grip. A hockey player never plays well if they are squeezing the stick. Same with skiing. Moves need to be allowed to happen -- they need your commitment.

A "breakthrough" that happens when you are not looking is still a fluke.

Reaffirming it through effort and being able to call on it when required or on command is the mark of a true breakthrough. When you can finally say "Hey guys, I got it! Watch this!" and do the move, you've got yourself a breakthrough -- same when you can do it right under a chair. If you wipe out when you do the move, you've only taken a peek through the door. Breakthroughs take work - they signify lasting changes. My breakthrough that day translated flawlessly onto the blacks and double black pitches.

Breakthroughs take work!
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Postby Bluey » Wed Apr 07, 2004 4:21 pm


Sorry, definitely not the Sydney/Bondi type..... more the Cronulla type........but its been decades since I've been to Cronulla beach where I spent my summer weekends as a youth.

Falling is part of the fun of skiing......some of my best memories/stories are from the spills I've taken........but after the proverbial 100 spills it was getting a bit breakthrough came after a week-long ski camp and for various reasons I was lucky that it was a PMTS camp....

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