Escaping The Intermediate Plateau Level 3 Courses

Photo: Nick Quinn, Snoworks Instructor with group.

Snoworks has built its reputation on courses for all-mountain skiing and for many skiers looking at Snoworks courses it may seem daunting. But did you know Snoworks also specialise in courses for intermediate skiers? It’s called Ski Skills for Level 3.

Snoworks level 3: blue and red run skiers.

Most intermediate skiers are quite happy skiing blue and red runs that are well groomed with good snow and clear visibility. But it’s when conditions begin to change that things become more challenging. This level is often referred to as the INTERMEDIATE PLATEAU.

The Intermediate Plateau is the point at which skiers arrive where they no longer appear to improve. It’s really simple to understand why it occurs and why it’s really easy to overcome. First of all you need to understand the difference between ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ sports. ‘Closed’ sports are where the environment is constant. ‘Open’ sports are where the environment is always changing. Now you see where the Intermediate Plateau in skiing lies. When the environment moves from ‘Closed’ to ‘Open’. Constant to varied. The red black run stage. Ice, steeper slopes, narrow slopes, bumps, paths, poor visibility, slush, fresh snow.

Once you understand the difference between open and closed you then need to learn SKILLS, rather than set movement patterns. Traditional ski coaching can focus on developing rigid set movement patterns. Stand up, sink down, plant your pole here, face your shoulders here, put your weight here, bend like this and so on. This is all very well when the terrain is constant – ‘closed’. But when the terrain becomes variable – ‘open’, set movement patterns just do not work. You have to learn skills that you can adjust to a changing mountain. An ‘Open’ environment. Are you able to vary your skiing? Look at the following examples to see if there is any variable.

Stand up
Sink down
Weight forwards
Face down hill
Plant your pole
More weight on the outside ski

Can you imagine the equivalent of driving a car or riding a bike and making the same movement patterns all the time? You would be a danger to yourself and others and only be able to cycle on deserted cycle paths or drive on empty aerodromes. Can you imagine riding a bike where you turn the handlebars the same amount all the time? Laughable I know, but that’s exactly what thousands of skiers are doing on the slopes.

Above are standard instructions that many intermediate skiers are taught. None of them have a variable. So when the terrain becomes varied, none work. Hence the Intermediate Plateau. Skiers stay where the terrain is constant. Well prepared blue and red runs. Poor vis, forget it! Ice, no chance! Bumps, no way! Black run? LOL only after a wrong turn. Fresh snow, head to the restaurant.

The skills below on the other hand are all variable. Infinitely variable. So with practice they can be matched to anything that comes your way.
Edge Control
Pressure Control
Control of Rotation
Control of Speed
Control of Line
and of course the Snoworks skill of Snow Displacement or moving snow.

Just to name a few.

The difference between learning set movement patterns and skills is a universe apart. To begin with it can seem daunting learning things that are variable. It can throw you. But stick with it. Suddenly it will all begin to make sense, just like riding a bike or driving a car. Suddenly you’ll begin to realise you can adjust what you do to things that come your way. Slow down and speed up at will, adjust to a change in snow texture. It’s exciting. Every run is different, every turn is unique.

For many intermediate skiers the bit that can make or break their holiday, what actually happens on the snow, the instruction, is left to chance. Booked at the last minute on a bus to the ski resort with no idea who is going to teach you, or their philosophy. It’s absolute chance. It may work or not. It’s no wonder why so many skiers hit the Intermediate Plateau with no idea how to move past it. Best to research your instructor and their philosophy. Take your development into your own hands. You can start by learning about open and closed sports and open and closed skills.

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