Are You Improving?

It should be the most natural thing in the world, getting better. So if you are not getting better where could it be going wrong?

Phil Smith, director and founder of Snoworks Ski Courses gives 10 of his reasons why you may not be improving or not improving as fast as you would like.

1. INSTRUCTION

We all believe it to be useful but if it is so useful why are many skiers struggling to improve when getting to a certain level. The most profound learning comes from experience rather than instruction. I’m not suggesting instruction is not useful. On the contrary it can be really useful, essential. But research shows us that the biggest changes in learning are made when discovering things for ourselves so the instructor can be an invaluable tool in helping create learning experiences, ‘coaching’ rather than ‘instructing’. They may sound the same but coaching is a journey where the experiences along that journey are as important as reaching the destination itself. If you are not improving then it may be that you are being instructed rather than coached and may be attempting to mimic simple perceived outcomes rather than enjoying the whole learning process. Read more about experiential learning.

2. EQUIPMENT

We all know the saying a “A bad workman blames his tools” but the other saying is as important if not more so. “A good workman cannot produce their best with bad tools”. A change of ski equipment can make an immediate and profound difference. Many times I have had more success in the time taken to change someones skis than 100 hours of instruction. A 10 minute trip to the ski shop armed with really good advice or 100 hours of flogging a dead horse.

3. FITNESS

You have to be fit. No question about it if you want to improve. Crouching low and moving your limbs requires effort. The fitter you are the easier it is to improve. Many skiers will hit plateaus due to their fitness and continue investing 100’s if not 1’000’s of euros into lessons to little or no avail. I’m not suggesting you become a super athlete entering ironman contests, just a reasonable level of fitness will suffice. Walk, run, swim, cycle.

4. SELF ESTEEM

You have to accept the way you are, how you ski and the speed at which you will improve. Everyone’s different and acceptance is one of the most important ingredients in getting better. Don’t compare against others.

Compete against others you become bitter, compete against yourself you become better

Don’t try to be someone else, don’t try to ski like someone else, don’t try to learn as quickly as someone else. It’s you and the mountain and your relationship with the mountain is unique. As Oscar Wilde famously said:

Be yourself as everyone else is already taken.

5. GO OPEN

One of the biggest reasons skiers hit plateaus at the Black run stage. It’s called the ‘Intermediate Plateau’ and is where the terrain and snow conditions go from predictable and consistent to unpredictable and inconsistent. Skiers who have learnt closed will always struggle moving into an open environment. If you are not improving then it’s definitely time to ‘go open’. Read more.

6. PITCH YOUR SKIING AT THE RIGHT LEVEL

It’s a skill in itself, pitching your skiing at the right level. If you are not improving then it could be that you are attempting to ski terrain that is too difficult, skiing with friends and partners who are far better. It could also be that you are skiing terrain that is too easy and skiing with friends and partners who are well below your level. Unless of course it’s fun and you want to. If improvement is your priority then you’ve got to pitch the level just right and that’s a huge skill in itself. The instructor/coach should be really good at helping with this. Knowing the mountain and helping make decisions about the snow, weather and terrain and leading you into terrain which is pitched just at the right level for you.

7. AGE

Oh yes, sorry but this one we are not going to be able to leave out. It doesn’t matter how determined you are. Time catches up with everyone at some point. The good news if time is catching up with you or has already caught up with you then you can begin to accept it rather than refuse to acknowledge it and adjust goals accordingly. You can still improve but in different ways than when you were young. We all have to go through this at some point. Yes including me.

  • Work more technically rather than battering down the slopes.
  • Develop feel, touch, sensitivity rather than aggression and force.
  • Work with the snow rather than batting the living daylights out of it.
  • Stop when fatigued, take a break.
  • Enjoy your skiing rather than being on a mission.

I know as I’ve been through this myself. I’ve had to adjust goals, change the way that I ski, manage injuries. But I’m enjoying my skiing as much now if not more than I have ever done.

I’m not saying sit back and accept the advancement of time. You still have to remain motivated, keep yourself fit, have goals, be determined but you can adjust your goals accordingly. Change how you ski, change your relationship with the mountain, change your relationship with yourself.

8. FEAR

Oh yes, a big one. Fear can manifest itself in many ways.

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of injury
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of being watched

You’ll need to learn to manage all these. Select slopes and terrain at the right level which we dealt with earlier, learn open skills to cope with varied conditions, accept how you ski and how quickly you improve, don’t compare to others, enjoy the process rather than the result. Fear can be managed like any technical skill.

9. TIME

Ski once a year and you you may find yourself just getting to the point at the end of the week where you left off the year before. You get good by ‘doing’ and if you’re not ‘doing’ enough then you may need to work out ways of ‘doing’ more. There are a lot of cross over skills from sport to sport, activity to activity. If you only get one ski holiday a year and are desperate to improve here are a few simple things you can do.
Keep fit, visit the snowdome or dry slope more regularly, play more sport.

10. LEARN FROM MISTAKES

Embrace mistakes as part of the learning process. Not being willing to make mistakes and not accepting mistakes as part of learning is one of the main reasons why people stop improving. So called mistakes are integral to learning. See David Kolbs Experiential Learning Cycle. See ‘Mistakes, What Mistakes’. Enjoy the process of learning. rather than the result.

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