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Are ski drills a waste of time?

 Poster: A snowHead
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WindOfChange wrote:
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Hurtle wrote:
Old Fartbag wrote:
Hurtle wrote:
@Old Fartbag,
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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]

You make a good point (with evidence).....but I still think, on balance, I'm Right!! Toofy Grin
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I’ve written down salient notes from the lessons that I’ve had. I use drills a lot on my first day of each holiday to speed up getting back to the level that I was at 10 months ago when I last skied. I’m of the mind-set where I’m always looking for improvement. I understand that for many skiers that isn’t their goal. I have been given drills to do that haven’t worked. In one case every student didn’t get the drill and the instructor soon found another which did work. You’ve got to try them all in order to find out which ones work for you and which ones do not. Obviously yo only use the ones that do...
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
There people who just enjoy learning. Then there're people who just enjoy doing, however badly. The whole population of course, span the whole spectrum between those extremes.

For those who enjoy learning, drills are THE JOY of skiing (or swimming, or tennis, whatever!). Movements are somewhat non-intuitive, perfect setup for lots of drills and plenty of revelation that comes with it.

But a lot more people aren't like that. They just want to be in the mountains. They cruise around looking at scenery, or hunting for the next bar/restaurants. They may take a lesson when the visibility is poor and nothing to see. Or just fill the time till Apres. But otherwise are happy enough not to do boring drills.

Granted, even for people who don't find drills "enjoyable", if they get instant benefits (that "Aha!" moment), they maybe more receptive to more drills.

For the "born learners", drills are anything but "waste of time". But for the "doers", yes. For the rest of us in between? It's a waste of time unless it's clearly helpful at the time and can be taken to regular skiing.

This is not to be confused to the professionals who NEED to be at their best in doing what they do. They get paid for doing it, lest not forget.
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Great discussion.

@valais2 interesting you talk about the time involved and repetition involved in learning. I've heard comparisons about blocks of learning (ie how we do ski lessons on holiday) vs more spread out sessions over a period of, say, weeks. The blocks of sessions tend to get you good quickly, but the learning isn't as permenent. The more spread out sessions tend to impart more in-grained learning. I'd be interested to know if there's any research on that?

I guess if there is, then that demonstrates the power of using local dry or indoor slopes.

Of course there will be other factors at play too (motivation to learn, enjoyment, quality of instructuon/practice etc...)

D
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It's interesting as an instructor to see other peoples points of view on this!

I think, like all things in life, it's down to having drills in moderation. But it also very much depends on the instructor giving the drills. A bad instructor can easily fill a 2-hour lesson with the same drills over and over. They don't have to think or be creative, a lot of the time they don't even have to respond to a guests ability. If they've signed up for a certain level of class great, just do these drills with them all day. That's not to say it won't work, in fact, the guest will often improve to some extent. If they didn't we wouldn't have instructor qualifications based on lesson plans which rely on the use of set drills in set orders. However, this is seen as a bit old fashioned nowadays and to me does feel like lazy instructing.

A bad instructor will offer little feedback on the drills. The problem here is that often a drill performed incorrectly can be detrimental to a skiers technical progress (not to mention potentially dangerous), and we all know practice makes permanent, not necessarily perfect.

Take for example the common drill of lifting up the tails of the uphill ski whilst traversing. I've seen plenty of instructors just lead a group with this, not watching their class behind them, with some attempting to lift the downhill ski instead. Disastrous! Some fall, others will just get entirely confused about which foot to be placing their weight on, they loose confidence in themselves, the lesson, and don't come back!

But in the hands of a GOOD instructor drills are a crucial part of a lesson. I don't think I have ever taught a lesson without some form of drill for at least one run. You can see the difference in approach to drills by the depth of explanation that comes with it - they can be applied well when it is explained to the guest not only what you will be doing but why. Highlighting why the drill works engages the guest and should be done in two steps. Firstly how the drill aides a certain technique, and then how this technique will aid their skiing experience. Following this, the instructor should closely watch the guests performing the drill until they can recreate the movements correctly. Picking the correct drill for a class can be hard! Often a group will have mixed abilities and issues, and sometimes we have a limited choice of drills that we know! But being able to watch a class ski and then pick a suitable drill is a skill all instructors need to have. I'd be wary of any lesson where the drill was given without any analysis of technique first!
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Quote:

when it is explained to the guest not only what you will be doing but why

So few instructors do this (in any sport).
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True but it's disappointing. Just a minute or two of effort from an instructors side can completely change the outcome.
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The OP's first sentence included: "...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."

On the second point.... well that is no doubt dependent on the individual, and a good teacher will sense, or test, what will work. I'd guess that a mixture of both inside and outside would work best: push someone and make them fail, then do some flattering stuff to build confidence and to make sure they're having enough fun to keep on with it?
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On the second point.... well that is no doubt dependent on the individual, and a good teacher will sense, or test, what will work. I'd guess that a mixture of both inside and outside would work best: push someone and make them fail, then do some flattering stuff to build confidence and to make sure they're having enough fun to keep on with it?[/quote]

The issue with going outside the "comfort" zone is ensuring that you are still within the ability zone. If you push a student outside of their comfort zone it can be an issue, they might not have a high enough skill level or maybe they do, but their fear from being outside their comfort zone means they are unable to utilise it. I've seen so many lessons go awry when a group is pushed outside their comfort zone and it proves too much for one member. (Myself included! I attended a backcountry session 5 years ago where we were encouraged to go "outside our comfort zone" but our abilities were not properly assessed, I ended up dislocating my knee and rupturing my ligaments so badly I was in recovery and out of skiing for 3 years)

Personally I like to keep my guests well within their comfort zone for the majority of their lesson, really improve technique, then take them somewhere slightly outside and show them they can perform well with their new skills, before pushing it out a little more at a time. They get to experience new terrain at the end of the lesson and finish on a high note, without having risked injury.

Potentially my own experiences in this area have affected my judgement and I probably err on the side of caution a bit more than most!
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philwig wrote:
I'd guess that a mixture of both inside and outside would work best: push someone and make them fail, then do some flattering stuff to build confidence and to make sure they're having enough fun to keep on with it?
I like to think of it as making changes when the conditions (snow, terrain, speed, weather, etc) are not so challenging that the skier has to give most of their attention to coping; then pushing a little beyond the comfort zone to test those changes. Plus it's fun to be pushed, providing it's not so far that you're terrified.
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I'm a terrible person because I hate drills. Part of it is that I'm a visual/doer learner. The other part is that I'm actually afraid of the standard monkey tricks of drills like the one footed balance tricks as being on one foot deliberately is a faster track to fecking up a knee again.

So I'm kinda cool that I ski much better on Day 20 of the season than Day 1/2 anyway and though I'll never be a super technician I can ski most of ehat I want to ski anyway.
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Where to begin... @rob@rar, and @Dave of the Marmottes, touch on things close to my heart, as does the OP. I also hate drills. But, that's kinda the whole point. You're not supposed to like them. Let me start with the 'comfort zone' thing.

With any given skill there are two groups of movements: the ones you can make and the ones you can't. If you stay in your comfort zone all the time, you are simply repeating movements you can already make. You can't learn a new movement by repeating (practising) the ones you already know. So, you have to practice the movements you can't do. Errm... bit tricky that! How can you repeatedly make a movement you can't make? Learning happens at the borderline between those two places: the things you can do and the things you can't. It's a very, very narrow borderline. Hence the risk of injury when 'pushing your comfort zone'. The huge value of drills is to ride that boundary between what you can do and what you can't. That's why I hate them. That's why I do them. I hate them because they are difficult, uncomfortable, testing. I hate them because I fail at them 19 times out of 20, then 18 times out of 20, then 17 times out of 20. After many attempts, repetitions and failures, I finally mostly manage. Then comes the challenge of integrating that new skill into my general skiing. More practice; more riding the edge of that comfort zone.

The skill of a good instructor in choosing the right drills for a specific person can't be underestimated. A drill has to exactly match the point the learner has developed to, has to match the faults they exhibit, the issues they are having. Perhaps two examples to illustrate. Day 1 for young Tom on skis. He's having trouble just gliding in a straight line, struggling with balance both sideways and fore-aft. I asked him to hold the strap of my ski pole and took some time just gently pulling him along on the flat. A very simple thing but right on the edge of his ability. Happy to say it did the trick. Same drill for @rob@rar, would be utterly pointless. He's perfectly able to glide in a straight line. Let's say we watched Rob skiing and picked up on a minor fault. We might propose trying some javelin turns to work on it, as it might be appropriate to that specific observation in that skier. Whereas telling Tom to do javelin turns... Hello?

Last season saw a bit of a Damasecene conversion in me as regards drills. One thing that helped me re-form my view was having the privilege to spend some time with a legendary trainer in the autumn and seeing how specific his drill choice and observation was. What was also intriguing was that my general skiing and the drills really were two sides of the same coin. As I made changes to my skiing, the drills got easier. As I practised the drills, the skiing got better.
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Another angle - is skiing like golf? In golf there is an almost unlimited potential to tamper with a swing, geek out on the movements and dynamics and spend obscene amounts on coaching. Yet golf does not appeal to me at all other than in the rock up, smash a bucket at the driving range inconsistently or hack round a course badly sense - too much effort for limited payback in improving.
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@Dave of the Marmottes, I think the question is do you want to change your skiing skills, or are you happy with what you have got and want to use that to play in the terrain which you can cope with. I’d the answer that is yes, drills are a waste of time. If the answer is yes I’d like to change, then drills provide a good way of changing your movement patterns in a time effective manner. To be used appropriately and in conjunction with other teaching strategies. Obviously if your client has something like a duff knee you select a drill accordingly.
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@rob@rar, I think you are getting to the heart of it, drills are most worthwhile when you have a patient who actively wants to improve their condition in order to do more in the the future. Physiotherapy not robotics.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
@rob@rar, I think you are getting to the heart of it, drills are most worthwhile when you have a patient who actively wants to improve their condition in order to do more in the the future.
I think that's true of individual ski lessons or ongoing ski coaching, regardless of whether you use drills or not. If you are happy with the skiing you do, why spend time and money on lessons? If you're not happy and want to ski more of the mountain in a wider range of conditions then (good) ski lessons will help you achieve that, and within that drills are a time-efficient way of making changes, to be used as part of a wider range of teaching tools.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Another angle - is skiing like golf? In golf there is an almost unlimited potential to tamper with a swing,
geek out on the movements and dynamics and spend obscene amounts on coaching. Yet golf does not appeal to me at all ....
I think that's what the earlier post about arbitrary perfection may have been alluding to. None of my ski/snowboard mates (or mates generally) are golfers and it's not remotely about that, but perhaps golfing types think differently.

I think it's important not to confuse the simple examples of style which novices are taught to emulate with some sort of perfection.
That would be like confusing prescriptive novice driving lessons aimed at the driving test with competitive driving.

One of example of a drill which obviously works is from swimming, where holding a buoy is a great drill to help work on the power of paddling.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
So I'm kinda cool that I ski much better on Day 20 of the season than Day 1/2 anyway

Maybe some drills could mean that you were skiing your best by Day 5 of the season.
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rjs wrote:
Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
So I'm kinda cool that I ski much better on Day 20 of the season than Day 1/2 anyway

Maybe some drills could mean that you were skiing your best by Day 5 of the season.


Yeah maybe - but a lot feels to me that day 20 (or 10 etc) is a lot better than day 1 because of a) physical conditioning more adapted to skiing b) adaption to altitude as a lowlander and c) mental inhibitions change (i.e. From "you're skiing like shite better not go down that sketchy looking slope" to "yeah you're in the zone let's ski that total choss field cos you're a ski god").

I see a certain benefit to drills for reacquring feel - you can always spot a Wozza Smith cult member because they'll be sneaking in a little bit of bracquage on their first day. Personally the "best" first day of the season I had was one where through sheer dopiness I'd just forgotten my poles so was forced to isolate to legs and jazz hands only.
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I hate drills because I always seem to be the one that can't get it during the lesson, it's very uncomfortable and undermines all my confidence and ambition to be a good skier, but it just challenges me in a way I just keep going. I couldn't spend 2h (or less) skiing down Hemel Hempstead slope just for pure enjoyment, there is very little of that but give me drill I can't do I will stay until my lift pass expires.

I could also validate the same principle in the Alps where I spent about 3 months this season, there would be days I was tired, the snow was crap, I did not have anyone to ski or have a drink with but I always had ski drills to give me purpose.

I admit though some drills seem to create aha moments and others not really at all, I will never know if they actually changed my skiing but the few that have makes a huge difference.

Skiing with one leg was a late-season discovery that I had so much fun. Little fore-aft movement? You are not turning then! Toofy Grin
Moguls without poles is so hard Shocked


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Tue 2-06-20 10:34; edited 1 time in total
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Interesting to compare with snowboarding or teaching kids where drills are less of a thing.

It's not to say that they don't have their place, but perhaps there is a relationship between their use and a coaching v instructing approach.

For the UK instructing I suspect that the use of drills comes is encouraged by the environment i.e. dryslopes or snowdomes where the terrain is fairly regular and slopes short.
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AndAnotherThing.. wrote:
Interesting to compare with snowboarding ... where drills are less of a thing. ...
Other stuff, yes.
On this specific I'm not convinced that formal training is actually any different, although I'm too lazy to check the documentation.
I suspect fewer snowboarders progress once they can slide, hence fewer drills are done, but not because drills are any more or less effective etc.
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Once snowboarders can link a couple of turns together, they tend not to bother with lessons, and therefore you won't see as many doing drills. I certainly use them when teaching on a board.

I'll also do drills with kids, but dress them up to be more fun so they tend not to realise they are doing them (e.g. squashing spiders, shooting storm troopers, being different animals, follow the leader).
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