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October 28, 2005

DIY: How to Ski

Today's "How to" article courtesy of English-blog contributor Sam H.:

The Great Fall Down: Learning How to Ski

Skiing is an adventurous sport and is always a thrill to those who have mastered the skill. Skiing can be as painful as it is fun, but once the skier learns a few basic skills the experience will become much more enjoyable. The first thing to keep in mind when learning to ski is patience. If the skier were to give up after the first try, how would they expect to improve? Patience is key; be sure to get back up every time and keep on trying. The only way to learn in skiing is to fall.

The first step to skiing is learning . . .

. . . how to turn. When most people begin skiing and are told to turn they think that they only need to turn a little bit to slow down while they go down the hill, which in the case of an expert skier might be true; but for a beginner it’s not wise to do it this way. Turns for the beginner skier need to be long and cover a wide span of the slope. If the skier were to take little turns he/she would end up loosing balance and falling. Skiing is nothing more than a bunch of turns.

There are three basic ski positions to a turn: perpendicular to the mountain, parallel to the mountain, then perpendicular again. When the skier takes turns it is important to go almost perpendicular to the mountain until it feels like he/she is in control. Then, turn again facing straight down the mountain for a second and keep going through the turn until the skis are almost perpendicular to the mountain again. This process continues until the skier reaches the bottom of the mountain. Once the skier becomes more confident with this ability it will be possible to take shorter turns and go down the mountain quicker. The skier should always be sure to keep in mind there is a guarantee that the skier will fall at some point. There are a few ways to turn: the “pizza wedge” and the parallel turn methods. If the skier wishes to be safer and build up more confidence before trying the harder turn than they should go with the “pizza wedge.”

The “pizza wedge” is the most widely used turn when teaching someone how to ski because it’s easy and it will get the skier on the hill and actually skiing the fastest. The skis are placed exactly how the name implies. When placing the skis in the V shape, friction is created on a larger plane than if it were only on the tips. This allows the skier to have more control over speed when going down the hill. To turn using the “pizza wedge” method all the skier needs to do is put more or less pressure on the appropriate ski. Professional skiers are never seen putting their skis in a “pizza wedge” shape when they take their pinpoint turns. This is because they use an alternative method: the parallel ski turn.
In the parallel ski turn the skis are placed more or less parallel to one another throughout the turn. To beginning skiers this is a hard concept to master, but if they were to master it early on it would be to their advantage later. Most, however, are satisfied with the “pizza wedge” turn because it is simple and there is a lot less falling involved in learning it this way. The parallel ski turn is a lot more complicated and the skier must get a feel for how it turns and the only way to do that is trial and error, which means falling. Also, this method tends to make the skier go a lot faster and out of control because there is not that “pizza wedge” slowing them down when they are facing straight down the hill. Usually in the parallel ski turn the skier picks up the leg that is furthest from the direction he wants to turn and pivots with the other one. The skier doesn’t want to pick up the leg a whole lot though. It’s only a little lift and a pivot then put the leg back down. This takes a lot of practice and patience, but is easily mastered within a few visits to the resort. Turning is quite easy once the skier gets the hang of it. It’s important to remember to only turn when the skier feels like he/she is in control otherwise it puts other skiers in danger.

Once the skier becomes confident with his/her ability to complete the turns he/she can move on to larger parts of the mountain. Choosing where an individual wants to ski is really up to the skier. The skier has to be confident in his/her ability to go down the slope. Going down the beginner slopes is always the best way to learn. If a skier were to try to learn on a more advanced slope they would probably have a terrible time and end up quitting skiing all together and never return to the mountain again. The beginner slopes offer a great learning environment because they are not as steep. The skier does not feel like it’s too much and the terrain is usually flat so there are no obstacles in the way. These slopes are represented by a blue square. The beginner courses are where the skier wants to master the basics of turning and stopping. Once the skier is able to go down these hills without falling or has gained enough confidence to move on he/she can test the skills they have learned on some more advanced hills. Keep in mind that if a skier is having trouble on an advanced hill and is losing confidence he/she can always come back to the beginner hills to polish his/her skills. The only drawback to the beginner hills is that they are infamous for their long lines, slow lifts, and skiers down falling down if front of other skiers that are trying to learn.

For those skiers who are feeling a little more adventurous there are the intermediate courses. These courses are represented by a green circle and are a lot different from the beginner slopes. The intermediate slopes offer a greater variety of terrain and can be pleasing to most everyone from a cautious beginner to a thrill seeking expert. Usually these slopes try to combine their terrain with harder sections and easy sections to get around the harder ones. For example they may have a mogul field on the right, but easy terrain on the left for those who wish to skip it. Usually a group of skiers can meet the demands of everyone by sticking to the intermediate courses and still have a lot of fun. For the beginner skier these slopes are a great way to improve skills. It lets them begin to step out of the comfort zone that the beginner slopes provided and be exposed to steeper more difficult terrain. A lot of times jumping onto the intermediate slopes can strike fear in a beginner and they will lose their focus and forget what they learned about turning. Turning is still key even though the terrain is different and the skiers around them are more skilled and faster. If the skier just remembers to not get overwhelmed and continue to use what was learned on the beginner slopes there should be no problem with the conversion.

The expert slopes are an entirely different breed of terrain. Some provide hours of amusement and some are not even fun for people who have been skiing for a long time. It’s not recommended that a beginner goes on the expert courses until he/she is confident on the intermediate ones and can get down them many times without falling. Usually no one goes on the expert courses until their second or third season. There are a few different varieties of expert terrain and it’s not necessary for a beginner to know all about them other than that they exist and are something to look forward to when learning how to ski. These slopes are represented by black diamonds and can range from one to three diamonds depending on how hard the course is. Usually these courses are very steep and have a lot of moguls, jumps, and other obstacles. There are also terrain parks, which are dedicated to skiers who like to try tricks on rails and jumps. These courses are very fun to try once the skier has polished skills.
Skiing is one of the best winter sports and is also an easy sport to learn with time and dedication. What’s important to remember is to keep getting up and trying again because it is something most everyone can do. Skiing is also a very good activity to spend time with family and friends. So grab a pair of skis at take to the slopes.

~ Sam H.

*NOTE: For more English-Blog DIY or "How to . . ." articles, please click HERE!

Comments for Sam's article "The Great Fall Down: Learning How to Ski?" Please leave them below:

Posted by lhobbs at October 28, 2005 10:00 PM

Readers' Comments:

Dear Professor Hobbs,

Sam H’s article on “How to Ski”, was a very informative paper. He lets us know that, Skiing is an adventurous sport and is always a thrill to those who have mastered the skill. In this article Sam gives the impression that skiing is a process. In this process you have to go from not knowing anything to gaining skill slowly, to make it enjoyable. Along the way of gaining these skills you are going to fall and these are like obstacles, you have to get over them to get better and advance in the process. This article has very descriptive details of what should be done when skiing. It has very concise details of different ways to ski. It states some advantages of skiing and how fun it can be. Some areas of expertise in this article are when the author gives brief but detailed steps to skiing. I think that is an area of expertise because of how informative it is.

For someone complete ignorant to skiing, this expertise that he used in his paper wouldn’t be good for them. He didn’t start from the beginning of the process, like what you need to ski, where you can do this, and other details. With this change the article could have been a lot more informative. Without this change some one using this article to go skiing will be in the dark as how to start the process and get to where he started from. On the other hand, if someone had some knowledge on skiing, this article would be easily understood. I like the concept of this article and how he put it together. If Sam H would have begun the article with the very first step of skiing, this article could have been used as a guide for beginner skiers. Although the author uses a lot of expertise I’m not sure if the evidence used by the author is accurate or not. It was never stated in the article what the sources were. Because of the author’s absence of evidence, how can I come to the same conclusion?

Posted by: P.Beckles at April 10, 2006 01:48 PM

First off, there are several key mistakes in this article. A potentially disastrous error was telling the beginner that blue slopes are easier than green which is backwards. If a beginner skier were to try learning on a blue slope, which at times can be nasty in the wrong conditions, serious injury could occur. The second error was simply in the way the paper was written with a large amount of the writer's own opinion used instead of possibly using quotes from actual ski instructors. Other than that, I found this article quite helpful and I plan to use the information to help teach one of my friends how to ski this winter


Thanks John for your input. And, perhaps, it could be used as an example of how "not" to write a fact based paper.



Posted by: John at December 5, 2007 03:31 PM

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