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Practicing failure on purpose

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#1
I just ran across a short essay about the benefits of deliberately practicing failure.
https://fs.blog/2021/01/practice-failure/
This short article references Amelia Earhart' autobiography The Fun of It, and includes several quotes from her book.

Here's how the article begins:
We learn valuable lessons when we experience failure and setbacks. Most of us wait for those failures to happen to us, however, instead of seeking them out. But deliberately making mistakes can give us the knowledge we need to more easily overcome obstacles in the future.

Does anybody here intentionally practice failure in your skiing in order to increase your skill level? Thoughts?
 

Pequenita

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
I’m not sure I agree with the general premise when it comes to a skill that is movement based and for many people builds on muscle memory. Essentially, it would be ingraining bad habits. I do think that it is helpful to understand the difference that body position has in low consequence situations, so as to learn the correct one. Something that comes to mind is, when on a traverse, understanding the difference in control and speed when facing (hips included) “forward” on a traverse (across the slope) vs opening the hips and upper body downhill vs uphill. But I don’t think I would intentionally practice, I don’t know, weighting my uphill ski or turning my body uphill on a traverse to get better at controlling my speed on a traverse. ‍ :noidea:
 
#3
A few thoughts come to mind. I agree in general with @Pequenita as seeking to do something incorrectly makes little sense.

This makes me ask the question: what is failure when skiing? I can imagine as many answers as there are reasons for why we love to ski.

I personally envision 3 scenarios where intentional failure would make sense to me.

1. Knowingly going into a run, conditions, etc..., with the understanding that for whatever reason we will not consider the outcome a success, yet accepting poor skiing performance, aka failure, as a means to learning to actually enjoy not skiing perfectly all the time.

2. We do, when it is relevant, teach our guests how to self arrest in a mock slide for life scenario. This is a very specific aspect to teaching how to manage what many would describe as failure.

3. I often have guests explore the extremes of their movement range, knowing full well that it will result in failure. This fail until it works approach helps each athlete discover their optimal performance range.

Cool and thought provoking question, with obvious safety reasons for approaching it with forethought and some degree of moderation!
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
#5
I've often heard people say "if you don't fall, that means you aren't trying hard enough" in the sense that some people think they need to be skiing on terrain that a bit too much of a challenge on a regular basis in order to improve. That seems to fit the idea of "skiing to failure" since they expect to fall. I've never believed that was a good idea.

I'd say what I've done in the last decade is to follow a progression of increasing difficulty and duration. But I was not trying to reach "failure" in the sense of a fall or making turns that were purely defensive. Ten years ago, that meant doing "adventure runs" in the morning and sticking to groomers after lunch. Often I would quit for the day by 3:00 at big mountains out west (lifts usually close at 4:00 or 4:30). As I skied Alta during late season more regularly, I would usually finish the afternoon with a run on Lower Rustler. Pretty empty by that time and I was often skiing solo for that section as my friends either went in a run earlier or took the blue groomer to finish their ski day. Lower Rustler is a bump run that used to have a cat track thru it so I could just explore the lower section that's not as steep. Sometimes all I did was traverse to practice absorption and extension. They stopped grooming the road several years ago so the cat track has become a bumpy, wide traverse. I used to take the traverse slow and stop often. Now I use it as a way to practice short turns. During a recent lesson, the instructor told my ski buddy to "keep your skis on the snow" as we did the traverse so that's another factor I keep in mind.

I've been working on improving technique for skiing bumps for the past 6-7 years. I continue to use Lower Rustler in assorted ways depending on snow conditions. But definitely not trying to go so fast or so far that I'm at risk of a fall or getting out of control. At the same time, I've been learning how to practice fundamentals on the short groomed trails at my home hill (Massanutten, VA) where the goal is to feel what muscles are used with the most efficient technique since the all the terrain is relatively mellow.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#6
I don't think there's value in trying to fail, but there's value in failing itself, just as there's value in the trying.
+1

It's also a big advantage to not be a perfectionist. In general, I'm not a worrier. So if a few turns feel off that doesn't really make that much difference. I used to stop and re-group as needed. That could mean every 3-4 turns during an adventure run, but there wasn't a lasting feeling that it was a bad run because I had to stop. More a sense of accomplishment of just finishing. Always like to stop and look back at the run.

Not being a perfectionist also makes it easier to mix up runs or sections of runs between those that involve practicing something specific and those that are "wheee, skiing is fun!" when I don't care exactly what's happening. Did help a lot to be skiing with someone who is a better skier on adventure runs.

Lots of different ways to enjoy skiing so not sure my experience applies to others.
 
#7
I need to work on self-arrest! I remembered that after choosing the wrong trail at Thunder Ridge last week. I got over-confident on their black trails and chose a new one to try unwisely.

In many things, I think it's valuable to practice failure. I advised a friend who was horribly anxious about failing her oral comprehensive Ph.D. exam to answer one question incorrectly, on purpose. (This is a peculiar psychological technique designed to knock one's perspective ["I have to be perfect. They are in complete control and I am helpless"] sideways, and knock the fear off center.) The funny thing is, you don't have to do it. Just considering it makes the whole experience much less frightening.
 
#8
I like to challenge myself while skiing.... can't say I want to set myself up for failure. I'm usually the one who says, "why not, let's do it "..... that's not setting myself up for failure but acknowledging I may be trying something outside my comfort level and there's a chance I may not succeed.
 

vickie

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#9
I thought the article was weird. They're not talking about practicing failure, but rather simulating failure and then practicing the response ... practicing for failure or in case of failure.

I do not practice it in skiing for the very reasons @Pequenita mentioned -- muscle memory.

I can see a parallel in learning self-arrest in skiing, but again, that is practicing in case of failure.
 
#10
They're not talking about practicing failure, but rather simulating failure and then practicing the response ... practicing for failure or in case of failure.
Hmm, the only failure situation I can see value in practicing is falling over . . . carefully . . . on purpose in order to practice how to get up. Meaning initially on flat terrain, and then increasingly steep terrain and in varying snow conditions. Same for popping out of skis on steep terrain or in deep powder in order to practice how to get back into the bindings. However, for putting on skis on steep terrain I can practice the "cross feet" approach on flat terrain. So that's about practicing a skill in case of failure.

Does anybody here intentionally practice failure in your skiing in order to increase your skill level?
Can you come up with an example of a skiing failure related to skill level?
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
@marzNC, you ask about an example of a skiing failure related to skill level.
....
3. I often have guests explore the extremes of their movement range, knowing full well that it will result in failure. This fail until it works approach helps each athlete discover their optimal performance range.....
^^This. I'll throw out some examples. I bet @snoWYmonkey has some good ones that have proven to work well with her clients.

For a familiar example, make turns from an extreme back seat stance. Now make turns from an extreme forward stance. Now make turns from a centered stance. Evaluate effectiveness of each. Can you get as far backseat as that skier I'm pointing to there? Evaluate how this affects the turns that skier is making, and come up with a solution for that skier. What's the failure? Skiing too far forward or aft to make good turns. There shouldn't be any safety issue with this task except fallling from an aft position and snapping your ACL.

Another example: how low to the snow can you get your hip (for advanced skiers only)? Go so low you scrape the snow with your inside hand and maybe even with your boot (boot-out) or hip, getting as close as you dare to losing the turn (crashing). Choose where to do this and at what speed so you don't hurt yourself or others. Now subtract some of that lowness and do it again. Now subtract some more, speeding up. Evaluate what distortions you used to get low and how your turns suffered, and at what point in the progression from low to not-so-low you regained good control of your turns. What's the potential failure you are playing with? Crashing.

One more: test how fast are you willing to go in a tuck. Head straight downhill in a tuck, no turning, gaining speed. Do this where there is no one else skiing. Go as fast as you are willing to go, then a weee bit faster. Then abort. Do it again. Purge the fear, but stay safe. What's the failure? Either your courage fails when you could have safely gone faster, or not and when you stopped you made a wise choice; you were at the edge of being unsafe. Evaluate whether you stopped before you had to, or for unwarranted fear. Try again. Find that tipping point where it's not going to be safe any more.
 
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#12
For a familiar example, make turns from an extreme back seat stance. Now make turns from an extreme forward stance. Now make turns from a centered stance. Evaluate effectiveness of each. Can you get as far backseat as that skier I'm pointing to there? Evaluate how this affects the turns that skier is making, and come up with a solution for that skier. What's the failure? Skiing too far forward or aft to make good turns. There shouldn't be any safety issue with this task except fallling from an aft position and snapping your ACL.
Okay. For the way I approach skiing as a fun activity, that's too much work mentally. I've had an instructor ask to lean back and then lean forward but that was when standing still. Never had an instructor ask about making turns while too far forward or too far back.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
The amazing thing is that turns from the back seat feel very secure, even though they aren't. At least they do to me. Surprise! Or maybe not, since so many people ski from the back seat. But it limits significantly the radius and grip of those turns.
 
#14
For a familiar example, make turns from an extreme back seat stance. Now make turns from an extreme forward stance. Now make turns from a centered stance. Evaluate effectiveness of each. Can you get as far backseat as that skier I'm pointing to there? Evaluate how this affects the turns that skier is making, and come up with a solution for that skier. What's the failure? Skiing too far forward or aft to make good turns. There shouldn't be any safety issue with this task except fallling from an aft position and snapping your ACL.
Whoa! You had me until the end!
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#16
Thus the question. Does it make sense when talking about skiing? Is piloting an airplane like piloting skis?

Thinking about this right now... when a plane is starting to fall from the sky, there's a little bit of time to fix things. When a skier begins falling, there's far less time to fix things. It's actually too late if the skier is falling. The ground is closer.

So tempting fate deliberately while on skis may not be such a good idea.
 

Iwannaski

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
I just wanted to say I find this discussion fascinating. In learning, when we know that we don’t know, we often experience adverse emotions. Thus, getting comfortable with discomfort is part of being a lifelong learner (IMO). Is it practicing failure? Or getting comfortable with being uncomfortable? And then also knowing that that state is a transient state because nothing is fixed.

That’s growth mindset, right?
 

scandium

Certified Ski Diva
#18
The concept of 'practicing making mistakes' I believe is one that is used in sports psychology as well - it's not about deliberately ingraining incorrect movements, but about acknowledging that you aren't going to have the perfect movement pattern all the time and needing to know how to recover from this both mentally and physically, without the intent of endangering the athlete. This ranges from (for points-based sports) doing scenarios such as trying to score a certain number of points in 5 minutes, or for individual sports like golf, occasionally deliberately hitting your ball into the bunker and then seeing how it affects your later performance.
So for skiing, the application would not be about deliberately ignoring correct technique, but understanding how to recover and adapt technique when the mountain throws you a curveball or circumstances change so that you don't panic, leading to a higher chance of injury.
The "too far forward" and "too far back" drill is definitely one I've done before, and it lets you know what that actually feels like (which is useful if you are nearly always back seat so only know how a back seat turns feels - I swore blind to the instructor the first time I did this drill that I was 'just fine' in the back seat because that was most of what I knew). It's taking a controlled risk with an instructor supervising you, to hopefully improve your technique and mitigate the consequences of poor technique later.
 

BMR

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#19
In many things, I think it's valuable to practice failure. I advised a friend who was horribly anxious about failing her oral comprehensive Ph.D. exam to answer one question incorrectly, on purpose. (This is a peculiar psychological technique designed to knock one's perspective ["I have to be perfect. They are in complete control and I am helpless"] sideways, and knock the fear off center.) The funny thing is, you don't have to do it. Just considering it makes the whole experience much less frightening.
This for me is key. Mentally (not in real life) practicing failure by visualizing worst case scenarios and feeling that intense discomfort from the safety of my couch. I am a worrier by nature, and this method actually works. Play the scary movie in my head over and over and over again until it becomes... well... boring and not so scary anymore. For example, "I am going to get a terrible disease and my kids will be left without a mother and my husband will marry an evil step mom" or insert your worst fear here, and tell that fear to yourself in front of the mirror until bored to tears of it :smile:

With skiing I can see visualizing a terrible fall or something, but not sure it is actually directly applicable.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#20
How about this one...
Ski a run targeting most of your weight on the inside ski for each turn.
Now ski the same run targeting most of your weight on the outside ski for each turn.
Now ski the same run aiming for 50/50 weight distribution on each turn.
Evaluate what the differences are.

It doesn't seem like "failure" as a concept fits this exercise, but could it fall into the category we are discussing anyway?