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Can you/should you teach yourself to ski?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I think that the advantage when you first put on skis if you have skated before is that you can balance.

When I first tried cross country skiing in Sweden a few years back (before I skied), I took to it like a duck to water.

There was another lady in the group who simply could not stand up on skis. She only lasted 5 minutes.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
The improvements in technology mean that it is now much easier for people to get around the mountain and think they are doing it correctly. If you actually want to do it properly, then I think it is highly unlikely that you will achieve this without the help of an experienced teacher. I am not saying that you should be in ski school ever minute of every holiday, however if you want to make the transition from just skidding about to being technically proficient then you are going to need some kind of input at some point.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Skiing is largely counter-intuitive especially for people who haven't done similar balance sports in the past. Even the lingo can be confusing. Probably it's easier for young children to self-learn, but I think adults should start with lessons.
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Quote:

I think that the advantage when you first put on skis if you have skated before is that you can balance.


Yep, with skating experience it's very easy to feel where your weight is. I have been ice-skating since I was 3, when I started skiing I didn't have a backseat issue even as a complete beginner. If anything I thought balancing on skis was easy:) Of course it's not everything, but proper balance facilitates the control.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Yes, that dynamic balance, @never summer, also that sliding is not alien.
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@mtsuit, mentioned
Quote:

If you can do the individual practice/falling over without being a danger to others/yourself


As another skier on the mountain, this is the bit that often concerns me. I wonder how much danger folks put themselves and others in by not taking, at least, early formative instruction? Is it like helmets should basic instruction be encouraged for reasons of safety? I have no doubt that this is as controversial a question as the helmet debate, and I am just playing devil's advocate to see folks views. I am in no way suggesting that folks are obliged to get the equivalent of CBT before they are let loose on skis, but it is a requirement of indoor ski domes that a certain level of competence is required to use the main slope (no doubt driven by the confined space, but some slopes on the hill can be similarly narrow).
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@under a new name, I think you will still find that my originally slightly mischievous statement stands. It all depends on how you define skiing as just going down on a pair of skis as most do or using the skis effectively as they were designed to be used. I suspect that someone living on the continent has more ski lessons and more technique because if you have more opportunity to ski then people are understandably more willing to invest more time and money in ski lessons. Typically most people do some lessons at the start and then stop once they can get around. I don't think ski lessons should be obligatory as not practical but should be encourages as the better you get the safer and more fun you have.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I've posted on this topic many times before but in short
a) it's much easier if you achieve a base level of understanding and technique with some early instruction
b) after that, what works for the individual depends on how they learn best, their awareness of how their body really moves (how accurate is their minds eye view) and the availability of good role models to copy and provide some feedback

What this discussion misses is the concept of "conscious practice". Matthew Syed (Time journalist, former UK No 1 table tennis player) wrote a book called (I think) "Bounce" - he was developing the idea that "genius" is really just 10000 hours of practice. He made the point that practice isn't enough, you need to not just be repeating stuff but constantly trying new things, pushing your ability, failing but getting closer, finding new things that work and rejecting things that don't. He compares driving - which like most people he has done a lot of but hasn't really got that much better at because he is not focused on constant improvement while he drives - and table tennis where every hour he spent he was working out how to be better. He also pointed out that the world's best gymnasts and figure skaters fall MORE in practice than most professionals - because they are always pushing their boundaries.

He takes the view that talent is highly over rated and it's all about applied practice. I don't really agree - I (not very talented) played sport with people who didn't practice harder than me but could simply do things that I could not do - talent matters too.

That said I think this concept of conscious practice is very helpful in understanding while some people "teach" themselves to ski well and others don't. I think it is tough to reach a decent standard with minimal instruction unless you really enjoy consciously focusing on getting better all the time you are on skis.
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pam w wrote:
Yes and No.


This Smile

I've had a lot of total beginners join us over the years. I vastly prefer when they agree to two full weeks of lesson to start off and most people reach a point they do opt in for some more lesson later, but I've seen one or two do fine for with nothing more than pointers from friends, and quite a few with nothing after some inital dry slopes lessons. Usually athletic guys with a lot of other sports experience, good balance and a competetive spirit. The fastest improvers are those who've taken more instruction, but it's not remotely necessary imo to do so to be happy swooshing around the mountain on piste as long as you are fit enough (if like me you are not fit, technique is more vital to enjoyment Smile)


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Wed 19-11-14 13:08; edited 2 times in total
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gary wrote:
saying that people can't learn or improve without lessons is just people wanting to justify their own experiences as they do not want to accept that some people may be better skiers than them without having gone through the formality of lessons.


I think people have very different interpretations of what a"good" skier is as well. I see a lot of people skiing quite fast long radius turns almost straight down the fall line on piste, I would imagine quite a lot of them think they are good skiers because they go faster than most of the other people on the same piste as them. I see a fair amount of people going pretty fast down steeper pistes, again without turning very much, they might think they are good skiers because they ski all the black pistes in a resort. I see a lot less people skiing bumps really smoothly, carving proper arc to arc turns or or skiing smoothly in heavy off piste conditions.

I'm a scientist, labs have to publish their methods with their results so in theory everyone should be able to replicate their work. In practice I can say that nothing beats learning something from someone more skilled than you, who has umpteen tricks to help when things aren't quite going to plan. Of course this all depends on what you want to get out of skiing but I find it quite strange when people who, by their own admission have no or limited experience of something feel confident that it is absolutely useless for them.
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gary wrote:
saying that people can't learn or improve without lessons is just people wanting to justify their own experiences as they do not want to accept that some people may be better skiers than them without having gone through the formality of lessons.


Or that some folks can't grasp people that are happy being just good-enough not the-best-they-can-be. Instruction clearly HELPS, but it's not necessary after the first few techniques if all you want to do is trundle around on red runs once a year.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
There are 2 types of people commenting on this thread, people who want to get better & better at skiing until they reach near perfection, and people who want to go skiing on holidays. I'm the latter.
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Quote:

Or that some folks can't grasp people that are happy being just good-enough not the-best-they-can-be. Instruction clearly HELPS, but it's not necessary after the first few techniques if all you want to do is trundle around on red runs once a year.



Absolutely.

I'd skied 5 weeks before my ski season. I was better after the first month of that season than some colleagues who had been skiing since they were kids and were working their fourth season. Was that because I was brilliant and they were rubbish? Not at all, they just weren't bothered about getting better and I was. Skiing totally works as something to do with friends, in the fresh air, amidst beautiful scenery between visits to mountain restaurants. It doesn't have to be a sporting challenge.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:

There are 2 types of people commenting on this thread, people who want to get better & better at skiing until they reach near perfection, and people who want to go skiing on holidays. I'm the latter.


Whereas I am both Very Happy One does not preclude the other.

Although the more capable I get the more I understand the gap to people who are REALLY good - "near perfection" is not a remotely credible goal.

A better goal is - you ski with a new Guide on a powder day, who after the first run when he checking out what sort of material he is going to working with, has a big grin on his face and says "Yeah, you guys can ski, we're going to have a great day"
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Getting good at any sport (or musical instrument) requires a mix of instruction and practice time.
To become skilled you ideally need to reach an awareness level where you can coach yourself and work on your own faults.
Even as an intermediate skier you should for example have a good concept about what a good parallel turn feels like.
You should also be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses (do you find skiing bumps hard).

The difference with skiing is that, due to the environment, most people have limited time on skis.
Plus some people see it as a sport, while for others it is just a once a year holiday activity.

Either way there is no substitute for getting miles under your skis whatever level you are at.
So the answer to the original question is actually that you need lessons AND also time to teach yourself.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@jedster, +1
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Quote:

So the answer to the original question is actually that you need lessons AND also time to teach yourself


yep
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
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@gary, They are not mutually exclusive. Improvement has obvious benefits in that a better skier is less limited in his choice of resorts, terrain and conditions to ski. So he can actually go on holidays to ski without being plagued by typical concerns - how busy/icy/bumpy/slushy/steep particular destination is.
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@never summer, indeed the more lessons I have, the better I get and the more fun I have more of the time for instance when mountain empties in a white-out but then retiring to the bar can also be fun. One of the things you learn from lessons is greater self awareness so that you are also better teach yourself. The progression is endless and does not have to completely one or the other -its whatever is safe and fun for the individual.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I taught (and am still teaching) myself to SKi. I keep up with all my friends and mates who were in ski school as kids and no one notices (anymore). I'm pretty good at picking stuff up and athletic - I've taught myself to ride dirtbikes/motrobikes with no lessons, ride horses on Safari and water ski and past my driving test after 4 hours of lessons. So I think you can teach yourself but then more experience is so key to development, I research lots, forums, youtube, books etc. I am also not against lessons - I looked into 3 hrs one on one to hone my technique this Christmas at Val Thorens but at 156 euro its too expensive for me.

People give me tuition once I ask for free, advice from friends and family when Skiing so I think you can teach yourself, but its depends how far you want to go. When I can get affordable tuition (not ski school) then I will take it!
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One of the unfair things in life is that some people are able to pick up skills a lot easier than others and some are very good at watching others and have enough self awareness to be able to learn from them.
I have certainly met skiers who ski to a very decent standard who claim either never to have had lessons or only had beginner lessons. They are though a minority. Equally I know quite a few people who have had a lot of lessons but are still pretty mediocre skiers.
I suspect lessons will help a lot of people but there are some for who their own natural ceiling is pretty low unless they are able to devote a lot more time to skiing than most.
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I think of course you can teach yourself to ski to some extent but it also depends, inter alia, on age, circumstances, balance sport experience, natural ability, how you learn and want you want to achieve. So for me personally books and videos were a complete waste of time and money and learning from friends and family was also not a good idea as they had no idea what they were doing or how to teach. Generally I personally find group lessons much better value as I find that most people have the same things to work on to varying degree. So I think it really does depend on the individual but also I suspect there is a good reason why the best skiers in the world still use coaches.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
My sum total of lessons consists of (a) a half-day group lesson in 1994 and (b) a one-hour individual lesson in 1995.

When my kids started racing in 2008 I got involved with our club on the coaching side. I have had a bit of informal coaching when I run gates myself in our club and I've since been on level 1 and 2 race coach courses.

As a professional educator in my normal job, I'm fully for coaching and lessons. However, a key to good lessons in my view is to teach someone how to learn and improve by themselves. Most people spend much more ski time not in lessons than in lessons, so it's important to make that time count too. I spend days on the hill specifically training myself - having a goal or theme for the day and trying out different things. It's not unknown for me to be on my own and set a race course just for myself. That's also a great way to try out ideas as a coach.
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rob@rar wrote:
capability wrote:
I have had no lessons
Just out of interest, no lessons whatsoever? What did you do for the first few days? Ski with friends, or just strap on a pair of skis and start sliding down the hill?


Yep none at all. Myself and a friend who had never skied went to a small section of slope walked up and slid down. We did that three times then headed to Tignes. Straight up Palafour for a bit of a sketchy run down - we soon got the hang of it!
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@capability, I tend to hope said run was somewhat quiet at the time.
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lynseyf wrote:
under a new name wrote:
I don't think you can simply acquire ski kit and reasonably teach youself to use it effectively, efficiently and painlessly.



I saw a guy doing this at Glenshee once, it was pretty funny. He traversed across the piste then flung himself on the ground, got up and began again facing the other way, it may not have been entirely painless.....


Wimp surely the army way would be to head straight downhill.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
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lampygirl wrote:
As a seasoned ice hockey player the similarity...


I met a Canadian instructor who said the only person he'd never really needed to teach was a retired NHL star (obviously never allowed to ski in season). On the same count I was blown away snowboarding by the ability of a guy staying in the same hostel as me who was on his second day ever. He was a Hawaiian North shore native and said it was a lot easier being strapped in with the ground not moving.

But these are exceptions rather than rules..
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
There is no doubt that mates get around fine most of the time with limited basic instruction and some are getting better by just watching. But if a level 2 instructor has a basic level of technical competence, level 3 is a good advanced skier and level 4 is an expert skier then generally they will not have taught themselves to ski.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:

I suspect that someone living on the continent has more ski lessons and more technique because if you have more opportunity to ski then people are understandably more willing to invest more time and money in ski lessons.

You can ski in the UK too.

@Dave of the Marmottes, one of the funniest sights I have had skiing involved army guys at Cairngorm, when I was still at school. It must have been their first day on skis going by the group ability. They took it in turn to straightline it down, wobbling all over the shop, aiming for a patch of heather. Their bindings were undone and when the skis stopped dead on the heather they were flung through the air. The object was to see who could fly the farthest. They went flailing through the air for a fair distance.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@dode, fair comment, some really great skiers from Scotland and artificial slopes are a great place to learn and develop. I know I will never be anywhere as good as those whose school sports lessons take place on the slopes or grew up skiing in local race clubs so I think it helps.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Of course the answer to the original question is "yes", otherwise if you think about it there would be no such thing as skiing. Those ancient hunters didn't have lessons, they just figured it out. It is perfectly feasible for a novice to follow in their footsteps, and it has to be observed that the novice today will have the significant advantage of proper kit instead of the strips of rough pine that the ancient hunter had to make do with.

Fast forward a few hundred years and a load of guys invented and taught themselves snowboarding.

So of course it can be done. How fast will you progress? Slower than if you took lessons. How skilful will you be? Probably less so than you would have been with lessons.

BUT, many of us are largely self taught in that we learnt the basics in a lesson then just applied and refined it. I had 20 minutes of snowboard instruction in the late 90s which gave me enough of an idea of the concept to get on with it. Then a few years back I had 1 1/2 hours lessons on a dry slope, and that has been sufficient to get to a reasonable level of skiing.

So there's a happy medium for everyone I'd say.
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@monkey, argument doesn't stand up.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
As always, whenever the question comes up on snowheads it's as polarising as the helmet question, and people see a lot more blacks and whites, than shades of grey.
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@moffatross, there are shades of grey, but it's not a normal distribution. And I think you'd be reasonably hard pressed to find anyone who'd genuinely learnt to ski well with absolutely no input from books, videos, you tube, friends or any one else.

Then again, the vast majority of the skiing public don't ski well. (Edit: for my value of "well")

Not even those from "Alpine" nations.

I mean, Parisiens? Jeez, they can't even manage the fashion side of things, let alone technique.

And it's a skewed distribution.

I know of quite a number of skiers who still can't ski well despite near religious adherence to sundry ski schools. A lack of mindfull, directed practice is often the culprit. Twisted Evil
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under a new name, I don't disagree with any of that (but I do know absolutely rien about 'la mode'). The more I ski 'well enough' to go places on planks that I could never dreamed of when I started out 12 years and 300 or so skiing days ago, the more I realise I'll never really ski well enough (if that makes sense). Some of the people I ski with are so many leagues ahead of me in terms of experience, prior training, self-discipline, baw size and technique etc that all I can do is watch in awe while hoping to learn something else from it other than that I was much too old when I started. Laughing
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@moffatross, indeed. Does baw size correlate with outright lunacy? I sometimes wonder Twisted Evil
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@under a new name,
Quote:

I know of quite a number of skiers who still can't ski well despite near religious adherence to sundry ski schools. A lack of mindfull, directed practice is often the culprit.

Damn, I didn't know you'd seen me ski. Embarassed Embarassed
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The answers to the original question depend very much on the type of person you are and your circumstances ie size of group, resort etc I did a lot of my early skiing in Soldeu, Andorra, usually just my brother and I, group lessons were about £35 for the week, the lift system was poor so we always did ski school for the social aspect and enjoyed the skiing much more for it.
Had I been going to France with a large group, I probably would have done without ski school beyond the basics, in fact, apart from UCPA I have never been in ski school outside of Andorra
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Pedantica wrote:
@under a new name,
Quote:

I know of quite a number of skiers who still can't ski well despite near religious adherence to sundry ski schools. A lack of mindfull, directed practice is often the culprit.

Damn, I didn't know you'd seen me ski. Embarassed Embarassed


I winced at that one too! Laughing
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jedster wrote:
I've posted on this topic many times before but in short
a) it's much easier if you achieve a base level of understanding and technique with some early instruction
b) after that, what works for the individual depends on how they learn best, their awareness of how their body really moves (how accurate is their minds eye view) and the availability of good role models to copy and provide some feedback

What this discussion misses is the concept of "conscious practice". Matthew Syed (Time journalist, former UK No 1 table tennis player) wrote a book called (I think) "Bounce" - he was developing the idea that "genius" is really just 10000 hours of practice. He made the point that practice isn't enough, you need to not just be repeating stuff but constantly trying new things, pushing your ability, failing but getting closer, finding new things that work and rejecting things that don't. He compares driving - which like most people he has done a lot of but hasn't really got that much better at because he is not focused on constant improvement while he drives - and table tennis where every hour he spent he was working out how to be better. He also pointed out that the world's best gymnasts and figure skaters fall MORE in practice than most professionals - because they are always pushing their boundaries.

He takes the view that talent is highly over rated and it's all about applied practice. I don't really agree - I (not very talented) played sport with people who didn't practice harder than me but could simply do things that I could not do - talent matters too.

That said I think this concept of conscious practice is very helpful in understanding while some people "teach" themselves to ski well and others don't. I think it is tough to reach a decent standard with minimal instruction unless you really enjoy consciously focusing on getting better all the time you are on skis.


The 10,000 hours thing was debunked by actual research some time ago:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289613000421
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