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Are ski drills a waste of time?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I read an article by a ski instructor who said that ski drills are a waste of time and instead of getting people out of their comfort zone we should be keeping them well inside it.

Quote:
The movements that underlie skiing can be broken down and explained step by step. You need someone who understands those movements, who can read your movements and then guide you to the correct movements.

What you don’t need is to spend time practicing inherently incorrect movements via drills


Now this debate has transitioned into other areas such as swimming drills (school kids that can sort of swim unlearning how to with swimming drills) and even reading and writing (I remember those dreadful flash cards and ITA at school).

So drills, or just focussing on what people can do and going with that?
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I dunno if I’d go as far as saying they’re a waste of time, but some drills certainly leave me more confused than before I started Confused I had a lesson recently (cheap, big group, not particularly focused, did it for something to do) where the instructor had us going down the slope in big turns with the weight entirely on the outside ski and the other one in the air. Then entirely on the inside ski etc. By the end of it, I couldn’t remember where on earth my weight was supposed to be and had to turn my brain off before I could ski again!

Deconstructing stuff is sometimes helpful, but you’ve got to explain how to put it back together again before you go home.
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I suppose, it depends on the drill, how it's used and who it's used on.
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I always used to Be Nice please! up coaches by asking what is this drill trying to achieve? If they didn't know or couldn't explain then they shouldn't be using it. If they could then great, let's get on with it.
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Took a couple of trips where drills were the daily grind - I now have lessons on Bashes.

Most recent lesson (with an Instructor I hadn’t skied with before):
i outlined what I perceived as my issues that I wanted to improve on (feet too close together being the most commonly pointed out issue).

Inst: “Does it work for you?”
Me: “Seems to, has worked well for years.”
Isnt: “There are other things that we can work on.”

Had a great session & last trip I’m pretty sure my feet were further apart for no better reason than I had stopped thinking about the proximity of my feet & focussing on other things.
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Even if a drill doesn't apparently have much relevance, trying to do it increases one's skill level. Not necessarily a specific skill, just the ability to make your skis do different things, which increases your level of control and awareness of what you are doing when you ski normally. Maybe...
Once had a coach on a refresher course say that the better an instructor is, the further he can take your skiing from, quote, 'the righteous path', with drills, bring about a change, and then bring you back to the righteous path, ie conventional skiing technique.
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In my experience they can be a waste of time. They can also be transformative. Depends on whether the drill selected matches what you have (hopefully successfully) identified as something which needs to be changed or improved. The drill then needs to be set up so the skier performs it correctly. You need to stick with the drill so you get in to a phase where underlying movement patterns are being changed rather than just learning to do the drill, but without boring the skier to death. You then need to consider whether you need to develop the drill further by making it a bit tougher. At some point you need to structure how you move back in to regular skiing, but retain as much of the progress as possible made when focusing on the drill. For those reasons I don't think there's a single answer to the question 'are drills a waste of time', although I hope it's obvious why simply listing random drills when people ask for suggestions without providing any context is generally unhelpful.
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@rob@rar, good reply, and I'd also add that all you need to do is change the context. Drills in any sport are generally useful, if done correctly, and can lead to improvements in technique, stamina, results, etc. Why would it be any different in skiing?
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musher wrote:
I always used to up coaches by asking what is this drill trying to achieve? If they didn't know or couldn't explain then they shouldn't be using it. If they could then great, let's get on with it.
Exactly right.
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@rob@rar, that reply exemplifies why you're such a good teacher
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Hurtle wrote:
@rob@rar, that reply exemplifies why you're such a good teacher
Thanks, that's kind of you to say. I've been on the receiving end of instructors seemingly throwing random drills at me, with no structure, no progress, no plan, so I can easily agree with the suggestion that they can be a waste of time. But I've also seen a bit of time spent with a drill make significant and permanent improvements to a skier's skills base. When skimottaret and I set up IOS we spent hours and hours, days and days really, running through drill progressions, challenging any ideas we came up with for our coaching plans about why a drill might work, what we would look for in terms of the signs that the skier was (or wasn't) making progress with it, etc. I think it's fair to say that as we have become more experienced we select from those drills and those coaching plans more sparingly, but hopefully with greater effect.

It's also a constant worry that even though you can see progress is being made, the skier will become bored with the artificial nature of the drill and the rigour needed to do it correctly and consistently. So you need to balance good intentions & good progress with a more varied skiing diet. It's one of the reasons why I think a week-long course in a group is a better option that a couple of hours one-on-one.
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You should also consider the different ways in which you can use drills. Two of the most obvious are as a way of isolating a particular movement that you are trying to change / improve; another is the virtue of doing something tricky because it challenges you and that's a good thing. I'm more inclined to use a drill as a way of changing a movement pattern or introducing something new, but sometimes running through a progression of a couple of drills because they are difficult is a good thing, and when you achieve them they make you a better, more confident skier.
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Drills are very useful. Allow skiers to focus on specific skills (say rotational seperation).

Imagine football, hockey or rugby. You don't get better by just playing matches. Rather you focus on coaching the skills : passing, tackling, shooting etc using drills. Then you put it back into game environment.

Similarly with skiing - you don't get better just by skiing. Isolating the skills is good coaching.
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I think a combination of drills (but important to tell some people why the drills are important, some don’t need / want to know), and a combination of having fun

That comes from teaching guitar to various people - they can get bored , switched off really quick unless you teach them and allow them to do some fun stuff in lessons as well
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I once spent a morning at the English Institute of Sport watching Jessica Ennis train. 100% drills. In a couple of hours she went over about 5 hurdles. Maybe she was also training for other events, it was hard to tell.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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If the goal is to kill off the last elements of joy remaining in your skiing, then drills are great. Nothing can sap the fun of any activity than knowing that we're someone to be judging you for it, you would be deemed "doing it wrong"
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@Richard_Sideways, i couldn't disagree more. What's going to kill off any joy most is feeling scared, out of ones depth, ill-equipped to tackle the terrain, falling and possibly hurting oneself. If drills can help overcome these issues, then thats adding to the joy, not taking it away.
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Depends on the drill, depends on the individual, depends on the terrain, depends on the instructor.
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@Riccardo, @Sitter, +1
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Richard_Sideways wrote:
If the goal is to kill off the last elements of joy remaining in your skiing, then drills are great. Nothing can sap the fun of any activity than knowing that we're someone to be judging you for it, you would be deemed "doing it wrong"


Interesting, when I've lost the joy, the love, feel out of sorts with the terrain or conditions, I usually do a few drills to refocus. Most of the time the joy returns Cool
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As a beginner, back in the 90s, ESF drills without an explanation as to what they were designed to achieve, had me completely flummoxed.
However, if an instructor explains what I am doing wrong and or what it is about the drill that can help change the fundamentals, I’m in. A really good instructor can also tell if it’s not working for you and suggest something else, be it a drill or an explanation.
So..I get javelin turns and understood the dynamics of the turn they designed change-I can feel what they are doing to improve my feeble attempts at separation on carved turns.
However, braquage...god help me..I felt like a contortionist, but i think the reason I failed to get to grips with them was partly that, at the time I was being taught them, I had no sense of what the purpose was..
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robrar is bang on. But I want to add something. My research is on learning. We have learned something when it results in a persistent change in knowledge or behaviour. The problem with skiing is that most people do it seldom. But for something to be acquired so that it is automatic (and that's essential) then a large amount of conscious repetition is needed. This shifts the behaviour from a surface, conscious level in the brain to a deeper, more embedded level - literally hard-wired (I can do it and I don't need to think about it). If you only ski for a short time each year, there is a very small window to effect what is a slow physiological process of growing new neural connections....literally re-wiring your brain. Drills (well-chosen, after good diagnosis of a problem) are the means to rapidly embed the behaviour in unconscious action - so that when you go onto the steeps it happens without thinking, so that when the viz is zero it happens without thinking. Bearing in mind that skiing (says Dave Morris) is about unlearning bad habits acquired in the first few days of skiing but then are hard-wired, drills are a vital means of overcoming previous behaviours. It has taken me years to really ram my edges in on ice. Drill after drill. It's nearly automatic now. For ValaisGrom its always been totally automatic, because he was taught properly in the first place, age 3. Hence him putting in a time around 1sec slower than any other skier on a timed slalom run. One second slower than the fastest time? That's totally unimpressive...er, nope....they were on razor edge slalom race skis, he was on fat, soft Line Tom Wallisch park skis...the other people around were gobsmacked. 'I'll just drop into the line....' he said....
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@valais2, Good post.
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Quote:

I'll just drop into the line..

And that's my point. With hours and hours and years more time invested, Grom could shave that second down, but that turns the joyful experience they've learned into a fundamentally different one. I've poked plenty of comments at Lindsey Vonn on here before, but that kind of sums up my point - she took something she loved and honed itto the point of not liking it. Any error is failure, perfection is near unobtainable, and only victory acts as a temporary sticking - plaster.

Grom has it nailed down in that old brain, and wired in while their brain is still nice and plastic. We, as old farty types we are now innately going to find it hard to rewrite those pathways to accept new learned behaviour. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it's much easier with a young dog.
The majority of us spend so little time in the mountains, we'll never accrue the hours, so take the time to enjoy your experience than fretting over some arbitrary definition of 'better'. None of us go skiing seeking to find a way to leave the mountains.
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Richard_Sideways wrote:
The majority of us spend so little time in the mountains, we'll never accrue the hours, so take the time to enjoy your experience than fretting over some arbitrary definition of 'better'. None of us go skiing seeking to find a way to leave the mountains.
I certainly agree with the point that inappropriate use of drills can be less than a joyful experience. If you don't want to improve your skiing or riding because you are happy with the level you are at, what is the point in doing lessons of any kind? But if you do want to get better then having some lessons, which might well include a bit of time developing or refining core skills through the use of specific drills, is a good way to improve.

As a side point, is the definition of better "arbitrary"? Yesterday I skied terrain and snow which I would not have been capable of (technically, tactically or psychologically) had I not improved my skiing through lessons. It was a truly joyful day, made possible by becoming a better skier than I was when I gave up ski school after a few weeks when I started skiing as a kid. There's no doubt that my enjoyment of skiing has increased significantly as I became a better skier, and the process of becoming a better skier was enjoyable in its own right. Some of the coaching weeks I've done, as a student, have been amongst my most enjoyable time on skis.

I think you use of Vonn as an example why recreational skiers and boarders shouldn't get ski lessons is well wide of the mark. Sure, she's turned her passion in to a (for her, very lucrative) job and in doing so had to dedicate herself to finding the final few percent in her performance, losing the joy and the freedom to enjoy skiing recreationally. That has no relevance to the rest of us. Vonn is in the enviable position of having the rest of her life to devote to skiing, and whatever else she wants to do, spending her considerable wealth which is truly deserved by her dedication to ski racing, which no doubt included a huge amount of time doing ski drills.
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@Richard_Sideways, Hi Richard ... nice reflection. You are right about time. I think that’s why day 2 coaching can be really important. That is, one day of intense work on a specific part of technique, then the rest of the vacation dedicating some of the time to the technique. For me recently it has been really symmetrical angulation, to get the edges in tramline-like. And I have some good news. Kurt Fischer has done some of the best work on the physiological mechanisms involved in learning - and has found that development of more complex brain structures (and therefore complex knowledge and skills) continues through adulthood. As long as you don’t have any degenerative brain disease, there’s no reason why you can’t learn new tricks at 70. But if you are trying to change deeply embedded skills (aka bad habits) then it will take time and focus. Most ‘older’ people assume that they can’t change and so don’t do the drills. And so think that it’s hopeless. It isn’t. I’m (cough cough) a bit North of Ancient but really focus on skill improvement in cycling and skiing and it does still work. Takes time, but the re-wiring still happens.
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musher wrote:
I always used to up coaches by asking what is this drill trying to achieve? If they didn't know or couldn't explain then they shouldn't be using it. If they could then great, let's get on with it.


good point
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For people at my level (intermediate) who only ski one week a year it is important that we actually enjoy our lessons as well as feeling we are benefiting from them. Drills can be useful if we understand their purpose and we can do them after the the lesson as well to help improve muscle memory.
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Rabbie wrote:
For people at my level (intermediate) who only ski one week a year it is important that we actually enjoy our lessons as well as feeling we are benefiting from them. Drills can be useful if we understand their purpose and we can do them after the the lesson as well to help improve muscle memory.
Agree 100%. Early is my skiing experience I had lessons which were not especially enjoyable and didn't seem to improve my ability to ski. I was young and inexperienced so assumed all ski lessons were like that, so stopped signing up for lessons and just focused on enjoying my ski holidays. Which was fine, especially as money was a bit tight, but what I didn't realise until it was too late was that I spend the next decade or more perfecting my bad (skiing) habits which ultimately would limit my enjoyment of skiing as I grew more and more frustrated about not being able to ski the things I wanted.

Fortunately for me I discovered that not all ski lessons need to be less than enjoyable, and good instructors can help you to become better skier and to enjoy your skiing more and more. If you're not enjoying your ski lessons it's probably a good idea to look at other ski schools. If you're not enjoying your ski lessons and you don't feel like you are improving your ability to ski how you would like, you definitely need to look at other ski schools. Or decide that you're happy with how you ski, so why bother with ski lessons at all?
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valais2 wrote:
robrar is bang on. But I want to add something. My research is on learning. We have learned something when it results in a persistent change in knowledge or behaviour. The problem with skiing is that most people do it seldom. But for something to be acquired so that it is automatic (and that's essential) then a large amount of conscious repetition is needed. This shifts the behaviour from a surface, conscious level in the brain to a deeper, more embedded level - literally hard-wired (I can do it and I don't need to think about it). If you only ski for a short time each year, there is a very small window to effect what is a slow physiological process of growing new neural connections....literally re-wiring your brain. Drills (well-chosen, after good diagnosis of a problem) are the means to rapidly embed the behaviour in unconscious action - so that when you go onto the steeps it happens without thinking, so that when the viz is zero it happens without thinking. Bearing in mind that skiing (says Dave Morris) is about unlearning bad habits acquired in the first few days of skiing but then are hard-wired, drills are a vital means of overcoming previous behaviours. It has taken me years to really ram my edges in on ice. Drill after drill. It's nearly automatic now. For ValaisGrom its always been totally automatic, because he was taught properly in the first place, age 3. Hence him putting in a time around 1sec slower than any other skier on a timed slalom run. One second slower than the fastest time? That's totally unimpressive...er, nope....they were on razor edge slalom race skis, he was on fat, soft Line Tom Wallisch park skis...the other people around were gobsmacked. 'I'll just drop into the line....' he said....


This is not an argument against drills - I suspect they are important/valuable - but another approach to the limited time problem is to ALWAYS BE WORKING ON SOMETHING when you are skiing. IME you can turn the play of skiing into "purposeful practice" by focusing on something on nearly every run you do. Obviously the thing will vary depending on the snow, the angle, the skis, etc but you can always find some aspect of skiing to be polishing up or experimenting with.
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jedster wrote:
This is not an argument against drills - I suspect they are important/valuable - but another approach to the limited time problem is to ALWAYS BE WORKING ON SOMETHING when you are skiing.
I don't think there is a right or wrong answer about this, but I take the opposite view. If you want to get better then definitely dedicate some time to getting better, working with focus on whatever you want / need to work on. But other times you should just ski. Not thinking about changing anything, just get in to the zone and enjoy the privilege of being in the mountains and making the most of whatever abilities you have to slide downhill on snow.
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rob@rar wrote:
jedster wrote:
This is not an argument against drills - I suspect they are important/valuable - but another approach to the limited time problem is to ALWAYS BE WORKING ON SOMETHING when you are skiing.
I don't think there is a right or wrong answer about this, but I take the opposite view. If you want to get better then definitely dedicate some time to getting better, working with focus on whatever you want / need to work on. But other times you should just ski. Not thinking about changing anything, just get in to the zone and enjoy the privilege of being in the mountains and making the most of whatever abilities you have to slide downhill on snow.


I certainly think that is the case if you find that focusing on something interferes with the pleasure of skiing. I find that it doesn't - I can always find something that is sympathetic with enjoying myself. e.g., standing looking down at a nicely angled slope after a foot of fresh scattered with bushes, small trees and terrain features - perfect situation for pure enjoyment. I might think "right, let's wind my way through those bushes, reacting to the terrain, I want to be nice and low in the ready position, soft knees, just flow - smooth , soft, gentle". Ski it then reflect on how it went, what worked and what didn't, on the chairlift. I don't find that kills the fun at all, in some ways the intent and reflection makes it all more vivid and memorable.
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I'm guessing that most people don't ski completely mindlessly - that could be dangerous - so one might just as well use one's mind productively. wink
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Hurtle wrote:
I'm guessing that most people don't ski completely mindlessly - that could be dangerous - so one might just as well use one's mind productively. wink
I try to ski with a 'quiet mind', in that I don't want an internal running commentary on what I have or haven't done well. I don't think that means I disregard speed and line, just that I find it easier to be in tune with my internal feedback of the forces I'm feeling when I make turns ebb and flow. The last thing I want is a little voice in my head saying "do this; do that; that was a bit rubbish; nice turn boy; when's lunch; hey stupid, stand on the outside ski; hey stupid, stop standing on the outside ski; etc".
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@rob@rar, when you put it like that... Very Happy Trouble is my more zen-like state leads me to ski like a bag of spanners, at least I've often been told so. Sad
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I always try to be working on something, as well attempting to analyse my own skiing (not easy). I'm constantly striving for improvement. When it's not natural and flowing, I try to work out why. Personally, I think this is a rather obsessive blokey thing. If I'm given an instruction by a Pro, I want to know both the how and the why.

My Wife and Daughter are the exact opposite. They are not interested in constantly working on something, or continually improving. If an Instructor starts giving a technical explanation, they both glaze over. They just want to be told what to do, without going into the whys and wherefores.

A good Instructor will pick up on this and tailor their lesson teaching method accordingly.

We all learn differently, have different goals and get our enjoyment from different aspects of skiing.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Mon 2-03-20 13:50; edited 1 time in total
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@Old Fartbag,
Quote:

I think this is a rather obsessive blokey thing.

Just obsessive, not necessarily blokey. wink
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Hurtle wrote:
@Old Fartbag,
Quote:

I think this is a rather obsessive blokey thing.

Just obsessive, not necessarily blokey. wink

True - but IME Blokes are generally more obsessive about their passions and hobbies than the Fairer Sex, who usually take a more rational approach....just browse the various hobby forums.
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Old Fartbag wrote:
Hurtle wrote:
@Old Fartbag,
Quote:

I think this is a rather obsessive blokey thing.

Just obsessive, not necessarily blokey. wink

True - but IME Blokes are generally more obsessive about their passions and hobbies than the Fairer Sex, who usually take a more rational approach....just browse the various hobby forums.
Randomly, I'm guessing that most quilters are members of "the Fairer Sex" (wha-a-at?!) - take a look at this, obsessive doesn't even begin to cover it: https://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1/
[Sorry, thread drift]
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