Ted Ligety in a GS race
Often, in the many years I’ve taught skiing, a man brings in his children (and sometimes, his wife and children) to a lesson and tells me,
“I’ve booked a lesson for the family with you. Tomorrow, I want to ski the mountain with them.”
On one occasion, the paterfamilias brought in his family for a half day morning lesson, and informed me he planned to ski down the mountain with them that afternoon.
Usually, when I get the family for a day, I reply that some people learn more quickly, and others not as fast, but that the speed at which they pick up learning will depend on their previous athletic experience. After teaching former competitive ice skaters, and competitive ice hockey players, I’ve seen that professional athletes can pick up skiing very quickly. They already know how to balance against a moving edge, and they know how to turn their legs independently of their body.
But not all people learn that quickly. The paterfamilias who wanted to ski the mountain with his family, I cautioned,
“They may need more than three hours before they are ready to descend the mountain with you. We’ll progress at the speed of the slowest member of your family, and even if the strongest kids would be ready, I can’t take them on more challenging terrain until they can all go there.”
Learning to ski well is a little like learning to play a musical instrument — practice, practice, practice.
“Learning to play an instrument is like learning a foreign language“, says Babbage in the blog “Instruments of Mass Delight”. And continues, “it is easier to learn to play an instrument when a child—while the brain is still plastic enough for extra connections to be built between the auditory, visual and motor regions.”
As in skiing, where we build connections between visual and motor regions, and build muscle memory.
“Musicians who learned music at an early age reveal accumulations of white matter in the corpus callosum …such people are way above average at synchronising their limbs with cues from their eyes and ears.”
I remind my students - both parents and their children - that learning to ski is like learning to play an instrument - the more they practice, the more they’ll improve.
“Ultimately .. playing an instrument is more than just tapping, plucking, bowing or blowing the correct sequence of notes. No amount of … videos can embed such intimate appreciation into the muscles and memory. Only an insightful teacher with a lifetime’s experience can do that … get on with practicing scales. Tedious as they may seem, they are the key to mastering music.”
Often, in my lessons we do drills, such as skiing without poles. These drills, especially at the beginning of the season, will help us progress as the season unfolds. Even world cup skiers begin their season with drills.
Here are some recommended drills:
USSA programs - base training, core training
US ski team updates - stance, progressions, drills
Finding time for drills - includes Shlopy’s
Right now, I’m doing core training (plus rock climbing, of course!) This winter, we’ll start our ski time with a few drills, and then enjoy the rest of the mountain.