Where do you see most performance plateaus occur?

bud heishman

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I would imagine almost every skier reaches a performance plateau in their skiing careers. Where do you see most of the plateaus occur? What causes plateaus? How do you help skiers break through these plateaus?
 

Fuller

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For me it was a failure of my imagination. I've never been limited by physical ability or desire but found myself stuck in an intermediate Ground Hog Day existence for quite a while. I can't identify a particular time or place when it changed but eventually I could imagine in my own mind how a turn should feel. After that it was just reinforcing the movements.
 

SSSdave

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Not an instructor but as an advanced enthusiast's example, where one doesn't care about improving much beyond because one has reached a skiing level that is enough fun to just go out smiling skiing for enjoyment. But the first decade, it was more a realization I was on poor equipment so needed to improve that in all those ways before it was worth bothering to improve technique.
 

Seldomski

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Getting my own boots was a big help. That got me off one plateau. Getting my own skis helped some also, but not as much as the boots.

Other than that, it's just getting more time on snow. I don't think I can get off my current plateau without getting more mileage per season (currently at 15-20 days each year).
 

tch

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I've had a few plateaus in my skiing life. Some breakthroughs revolved around equipment (my first pair of really well-fitted boots); some revolved around changes in understanding (when I suddenly realized how a ski turns and works in a carved turn); some of them locational (skiing off-piste in the west is really different than skiing off-piste in the east).

For a long time, I aspired to improve and break through plateaus, and I guess I still have some aspirations. But I've also reached a point at 67 where I'm kinda content to enjoy myself. Taking on more challenges (very steep terrain) or improving weak areas (moguls) is beginning to take a back seat to simply skiing where and what I like. I can go to almost any mountain and enjoy myself fairly stylishly on 75-85% of the terrain; why make it hard on myself working on the things that are so hard for me?

So one thing to consider: does everyone WANT to move beyond a certain plateau?
Certainly we all know very average folks who go out there and really enjoy themselves despite their limitations in ability.
 

graham418

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Plateaus happen in everything. A person acquires new skills, and progresses quite quickly in an endeavour. A a point , they can't go further until they consolidate and refine the skills they just learned. Then they can learn a new skill set and go to the next plateau, where they dwell for a while as they consolidate and refine those new skills. Some people are content to stay at one level, while others constantly want to challenge themselves and progress.
 

newboots

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So one thing to consider: does everyone WANT to move beyond a certain plateau?
Certainly we all know very average folks who go out there and really enjoy themselves despite their limitations in ability.

I'm a solid intermediate, recently found myself carving (what a surprise!) (indoor skiing). Starting late in life, I want to learn to ski well enough that I can stay in control, as completely in control as possible. If that turns out to be limited to blue trails, that would be too bad. If I can venture on blacks that would be best. I have no need to rip Outer Limits or Corbett's. But I would like to ski in the woods, too.

I have skied black trails at the milder mountains (Okemo and a local hill here south of the Catskills), but not with deep assurance. I hope to keep skiing for many years, and I hope to widen that part of the mountain that I can comfortably ski.

I think I'm somewhere between accepting limitations and wanting to progress. And who knows? Maybe after I reach the next plateau, I'll want to keep improving!
 
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bud heishman

bud heishman

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It seems a common thread is skiers reach a point where they are comfortable on the terrain they choose and are enjoying their experience. Consequently, they may not have aspirations beyond that point. This makes sense but a bit surprising to me coming from avid skiers here on Pugski. Improving or breaking through a plateau doesn't necessarily mean skiing steeper terrain or off piste or faster. It means skiing with more efficiency, using less effort and finding more fluidity in our turns down the hill.

I am lazy!
Therefore I want to ski with the least amount of effort and be able to ski til I die. I continually search for efficiency that taxes my joints and muscles the least. I want to dance with the mountain rather than fight it. I want to minimize braking, scraping, edge setting, stemming in favor of keeping my mass flowing smoothly down the mountain controlling my speed by direction rather than friction.

I see many skiers stuck in their progression to effortless skiing because they are fighting gravity rather than dancing with it. Exploring one's intent to turn can be a game changer and help bust through that plateau without ever working on technique specifically. What does "intent to turn" mean? How does an offensive intent differ from a defensive intent. How can we break the braking habit?
 

Bad Bob

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Every level has platues, believe they deminish as your skills increase. For a neverever everyting is new and they are moving through platues every few minuets. The intermediate sees them less and less frequently, they have more skills in their toolbox and milage starts to be a bigger key for getting off to the next platue.
Your personal definition of advanced skier and getting on to that bench is perhaps the longest in my mind. Understanding and using moving your COM down the hill through a turn (the infinity move) and controlled separation are the skills that let you punch your way into advanced skier level or at least my besotted little mind.
At this point everything matters and if you are going there your dedication is a platue of its very own.
I believe i willgo there and get another beer.
 

MissySki

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I feel I’ve been on a plateau in bumps and trees for awhile now. I’ve made a bit of progress the last couple of season, but it feels so sloooooooow. During the season I spend most of my time in this terrain practicing, take lots of lessons, can get down pretty much whatever I want to in control, but I haven’t been able to get past a lower level of speed/fluidity/confidence in this terrain. And I REALLY want to!

I aspire to ski everything and anything on a mountain, AND look good doing it, someday. I just have no idea how long it’ll take to actually get there or what else to do besides lessons and time on snow. :doh:
 

fatbob

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I feel like I'm a downward slope - need a fitness and ski days reboot really to get back up and that was before being out of skiing for 18 months.

I don't think it's a thing instruction can really help- sure it can give me snagging of some bad habits but until I feel I'm " on it" it would just be a waste of money.
 

LiquidFeet

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I see many skiers stuck in their progression to effortless skiing because they are fighting gravity rather than dancing with it. Exploring one's intent to turn can be a game changer and help bust through that plateau without ever working on technique specifically. What does "intent to turn" mean? How does an offensive intent differ from a defensive intent. How can we break the braking habit?
I think the braking intent happens naturally in first day beginner adults. They show up all eager to learn to ski. But as soon as they click into those skis and discover how slippery they are, then discover that not only are the skis super slippery on the flats but they are even more slippery on a slope, their fear sets in and that overpowers their eagerness. Their attitude shifts fast to wanting to feel secure and safe. I can talk about the bliss of sliding, but they will hear my words through the filter of fear.

Most beginner adults I teach don't have experience feeling secure and safe while sliding, so stopping the sliding or at least slowing down is what they think they need. They want to delete that slippery lack of control and feel a solid connection to the snow beneath their feet.

So how we deal with that first day beginner class matters. They will deeply embed the memory of what they were doing when they first find confidence and security in that lesson. If it's bracing against the snow, then that's what they will turn to as they ski the next day, and for seasons after that.

Bracing against the downward slide is what a first straight run in a wedge gives them. That bracing, with skis scraping against the snow, offers them confidence that they can control speed and stop. So bracing against gravity will be what they remember and rely on as they progress - if a straight run is what they are taught first. I try to avoid teaching it, but if terrain and time constrict what I can do in that first lesson, I will do it.

An override can come later, if they get instruction, but so many don't keep taking lessons. When intermediates finally book a lesson because they are frustrated at their progress, I usually find that they have deeply embedded turn mechanics that are based on scraping against the snow.
 
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LiquidFeet

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These are the realities I face with frustrated intermediates here in New England: skiing consistently back seat, skiing without separation, edging the skis by leaning in, extension with a pivoted tail to start the turn, bracing at the bottom of the turn as skis skid downhill without adequate engagement.

A technical solution is called for to replace those mechanics if these skiers are to gain a sense of security and have more control. There's a lot to replace when such screwed up fundamentals cause the plateau.

I teach these intermediates a new way to initiate their turns that replaces the quick unweighted pivot-and-brace. They pick up this pivot-and-brace type of turn on their own because it's easy to do if they have been taught to extend their new outside leg at initiation, or if they have been taught to "stand tall" to start a turn. When these skiers head up to steep-to-them terrain after their first lesson teaches them "how to ski," they easily morph that extension into an outward thrust of the tails. They add a fast pivot so they can speedily "get around the corner" to avoid speed build-up in the fall line. After the pivot, there's nothing to do but brace against gravity at the bottom of the turn to slow down.

My solution is to teach them to release by shortening/flexing/bending the new inside leg. That's it. There are a few things that can enhance this flexion initiation that I won't go into here, since the flex-release is the basic thing I teach them. This means they will stay low between turns instead of getting tall. Don't stand tall, don't extend the new outside leg, don't push the ski's tail out there, just bend the new inside leg instead. The skis will come around. Fully complete the turn before starting the next. The skis will be engaged and track across the slope.

When the skier releases the ski's hold by flexing the new inside leg, their embedded top-of-turn pivot is much less likely to happen because now their focus is on the new inside ski and leg. The skis will have grip at the bottom of the turn since the non-pivoted skis will begin engaging above the fall line. Any unwanted downward travel speed will be controlled by fully completing the turns without all that slippage they used to have.

This new initiation can give skiers stuck on the intermediate plateau much more control. It opens up new terrain. They will be better able to ski snow that used to send them inside for the day. Their confidence will soar.
 
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Disinterested

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When it comes to plateaus, they seem to be mostly temporary blockages in learning that are very frustrating to people to have up until that point made a lot of progress. The reality is, any learning that occurs over a reasonable time-frame will have these stalls.

Why does learning stall? A lot of reasons, but big ones include:
1) Mistaken belief system to unravel
2) Temporary Injury Issues
3) Temporary mental issues (stress etc.)
4) Exorcising an ingrained habit
5) Working through the gap between having been told what you have to do and understanding what you have to do

etc. Sometimes, when you're dealing with people who have never learned a skill that has plateaued like this (or it did but they've got rose-tinted memories about it), the frustration can be enough to quit trying to fix the issue, and what could be a blockage for a few weeks becomes one that lasts for months or years for no good reason. It's true, though, that the stress of this is enough for some people to say 'look, I have enough fun in my skiing - I don't need this'.

The important thing with this kind of plateau is you have to lean in to it as hard as you can because the pay off will probably be explosive when it eventually arrives. And if you hold on to that belief and attitude, it'll also minimise your stress about not making short-term progress.

This video is worth watching as one way of thinking about the process learning physical skills.

-

On the other hand, there do seem to be people in our industry hitting firmer thresholds. For most of our guests it is 'I can make it down all of the terrain types I care to ski safely' or 'I can keep up with the kids well enough'. I think that's reasonable given the time investment they are making in to the sport and I don't want to dig too much deeper in to it, except to say: we have to keep giving them something to aspire to. That means that once they can ski everything, they need to care more about trying to improve the how. 'I want to look like that coming down', etc.

For people in the instruction business, I think the most common place to top out is at the PSIA L2 level.

I believe the L2 standard is attainable to essentially anyone who is mentally and physically capable of holding down a ski instruction job as long as they are willing to make at least some preparation. It's attainable for anyone with one season under their belt if they have a strong pre-existing skillset in the sport and/or are willing to make a continuous and dedicated training effort.

The L3 level (at least in RM) tends to hold people up more, and the why of that is straightforward - skiing sodbuster or prima/pronto in the fall line is an athletically demanding activity. That doesn't mean you need to be in prime athletic shape to do it - you don't - but you lack athleticism you are going to have to make up for it with stronger technique so that you can make consistent, fall-line turns in big bumps in 35->40 degree double black bump terrain without making major errors, probably on a bad snow day. That is where the majority of candidates in PSIA-RM get stuck.

They get stuck on other things too, but that seems to suck people in the most. Why? Well, a lot of it is things mentioned really in the first part of this post, particularly the first and last points: a lot of people have a lot invested in belief systems about their skiing that aren't really accurate, and that makes them poor listeners: they hear feedback, but they don't really hear it.

Having trained people at all these levels and having done all of this myself recently, here's what I see as the biggest underlying belief system that causes the problem:

Everyone in this business thinks they're awesome and attaches a lot of ego to the way they ski. And that's cool, and your god-given right as a ski instructor. But the effect of that is that it makes pros in our industry believe they only have to make a 'few small tweaks' or 'a slight adjustment' to attain success. No. You need to tear out a whole section of your book and rewrite it. You can't tweak your movement pattern, you need to create a brand new one. Build an entirely new initiation to your turn, or an entirely new finish. Start at first principles again.

To paraphrase someone else: it's all about embracing that you suck, and trying to suck at a higher level. That's what elite skiing is built on, imo.
 

Dave Marshak

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Plateaus occur in your mind. You are always learning skills but not always paying attention. Then something happens that makes you recognize your progress. For me that was making a perfect wrong foot turn to avoid hitting a tree, or making 10 perfect turns in a narrow chute after a cornice collapsed under me. Those were “breakthroughs “ but only in perception. The learning was continuous.
 

Mike Thomas

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Many (many many...) skiers performance plateau occurs at the upper lift terminal.
 

fatbob

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Everyone in this business thinks they're awesome and attaches a lot of ego to the way they ski. And that's cool, and your god-given right as a ski instructor. But the effect of that is that it makes pros in our industry believe they only have to make a 'few small tweaks' or 'a slight adjustment' to attain success. No. You need to tear out a whole section of your book and rewrite it. You can't tweak your movement pattern, you need to create a brand new one.


And if instructors consider themselves awesome how about leisure skiers. Most are content to get to a level that is fun for them. Maybe that means about the same as those they ski with. No one is ever going to sell the $6m man "we can rebuild him" package to those folks though the price tag in privates might end up similar;)
 
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