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What is the terminal intermediate plateau? And how do I avoid getting stuck there?

#41
I agree with liquidfeet that most skiers who are “stuck” ski in the back seat. If you are not centered, it become difficult to release your edges to start the turn. You then must use something other than your legs to turn.

These types of turns work ok on the groomers but do not work ok in steeps, bumps, trees and crud.

Changing your stance can change your skiing.
That's why I'm going back to Taos. I'm not an intermediate but definitely could use some more solid instruction. Did a Taos ski week in 2018 that focused on fundamentals as there wasn't really any steep terrain open. It had been probably decades since i had any instruction so had developed some habits for sure! Going again in 2020 for more feedback and hopefully more challenging terrain.
 
#42
Back to the OP's initial question... what is the terminal intermediate plateau?

Here in the North East, it's a common way of skiing groomers that prohibits further progress. Doing these turns "better" does not improve control over line nor speed on hard snow groomers, and does not help the skier do bumps or trees with increasing control. In spring when the snow is soft and gloppy, it doesn't work.

Why is this way of making turns terminal? Because adding to this movement pattern, or doing it "better," does not produce progress. It's a dead end. Fixing it means replacing it. Replacing a habit is like going on a diet. It's hard and unpleasant to do, for many skiers.

How did this happen? Well, some essential fundamentals got missed as the skier moved from beginner to novice to intermediate and moved to skiing blues and blacks regularly with friends. Things seemed to be working OK when conditions are good, so repetition embedded the movements deeply into muscle memory.

Those missing fundamental movements need to be learned if the skier is ever to get off the plateau, but there are already habitual movements in place that seem to be working. On a good day, when the conditions are just right, the current turns feel great. It's really hard to replace those habitual movements. The skier needs to go back down onto low pitch terrain and do the new movement pattern with the missing fundamentals so often that it starts getting embedded, then slowly take it up the mountain onto green then blue terrain. If the skier continues to "ski just for fun" on normal terrain daily, with only a bit of practice with the new movements, that just makes the old movements harder to overwrite. People don't want to do drills and ski slowly on beginner terrain until their bodies get habituated to new movements. It feels awkward, and it's a challenge. They want to ski with their friends. Thus... terminal.
Well said. When I started taking lessons with a very experienced L3 instructor at my home mountain, he said from the start that it would take at least a season, if not two, to learn new a new movement to replace when he was seeing that I was doing that wasn't efficient. The advantage of not having any ungroomed or challenging terrain is that practicing is actually more fun than just short 3-min cruising runs followed by a 7-min lift ride.
 
#43
So what are the terminal movements and what should they be instead? It can be different for different people. I'm speaking for New England skiing on hard snow here. I can't speak for skiers out west at big mountains. Any of these in combination can get a skier stuck on the plateau. . . .
What I've found is that improving technique on mid-Atlantic slopes does carry over to skiing on soft snow out west, and vice-versa.

I'm not an instructor. But at this point by watching a skier's hands I have a pretty good idea of how strong their grasp is of certain fundamentals. Part of the multi-week group lesson program at Massanutten included an introduction to "movement analysis." I found that to be useful.
 
#44
Back to the OP's initial question... what is the terminal intermediate plateau?

Here in the North East, it's a common way of skiing groomers that prohibits further progress. Doing these turns "better" does not improve control over line nor speed on hard snow groomers, and does not help the skier do bumps or trees with increasing control. In spring when the snow is soft and gloppy, it doesn't work.

Why is this way of making turns terminal? Because adding to this movement pattern, or doing it "better," does not produce progress. It's a dead end. Fixing it means replacing it. Replacing a habit is like going on a diet. It's hard and unpleasant to do, for many skiers.

How did this happen? Well, some essential fundamentals got missed as the skier moved from beginner to novice to intermediate and moved to skiing blues and blacks regularly with friends. Things seemed to be working OK when conditions are good, so repetition embedded the movements deeply into muscle memory.

Those missing fundamental movements need to be learned if the skier is ever to get off the plateau, but there are already habitual movements in place that seem to be working. On a good day, when the conditions are just right, the current turns feel great. It's really hard to replace those habitual movements. The skier needs to go back down onto low pitch terrain and do the new movement pattern with the missing fundamentals so often that it starts getting embedded, then slowly take it up the mountain onto green then blue terrain. If the skier continues to "ski just for fun" on normal terrain daily, with only a bit of practice with the new movements, that just makes the old movements harder to overwrite. People don't want to do drills and ski slowly on beginner terrain until their bodies get habituated to new movements. It feels awkward, and it's a challenge. They want to ski with their friends. Thus... terminal.

So what are the terminal movements and what should they be instead? It can be different for different people. I'm speaking for New England skiing on hard snow here. I can't speak for skiers out west at big mountains. Any of these in combination can get a skier stuck on the plateau.
--the skier's upper body always points in the direction the skis are going (in shorter turns, the skier needs to allow the skis to turn more than the upper body). This upper body rotation sometimes follows the skis, and sometimes precedes them.
--the skier tilts their whole body as a unit to edge the skis (the skier needs to edge the skis with the legs, not the whole body)
--the skier rotates the skis quickly at the start of the turn so that they point across the hill in the opposite direction (skier needs to be able to get skis on new edges at top of turn at will)
--the skier does not allow their body to cross over the skis at turn entry.
--the skier swings arms with pole plants, or holds arms at the side of the body, or plants poles cosmetically rather than with purpose, or crosses the body with hands with each pole plant (pole baskets should swing, not arms, elbows should be ahead of side-seams on jacket, hands should not cross left-right in front of body, pole plants or touches provide timing sues for turns)
--the skier pushes the new outside ski out to edge it (too many words are needed to explain the better option)
--the skier leans in while pushing that outside leg outward, with shoulders tilted, inside shoulder low, making the outside shoulder to outside foot a long, straight, strong unit. This is called bracing (too many words needed to explain its replacement)
--the skier does not know how to manipulate edge angle with ankles and lower legs, instead using the whole leg and maybe even the upper body.
--the skier does not know how to fully complete turns for speed control
--because of some combination of these missing things, the skier has one habitual turn which simply won't work in all conditions on all terrain. (skier needs to be versatile enough to make short turns, medium turns, long turns, completed turns, incompleted turns, all at will)

There are probably more parts to this, but I've got to get out on snow.
wow, thanks for the detailed reply, I'm sure that only after a season of skiing I have many things that I still need to work on. I keep trying to work on some of these things from what I remember during my lessons last year. I definitely need more information on how to use poles effectively. Can't wait to get some more lessons this season!
 
#45
Back to the OP's initial question... what is the terminal intermediate plateau?

Here in the North East, it's a common way of skiing groomers that prohibits further progress. Doing these turns "better" does not improve control over line nor speed on hard snow groomers, and does not help the skier do bumps or trees with increasing control. In spring when the snow is soft and gloppy, it doesn't work.

Why is this way of making turns terminal? Because adding to this movement pattern, or doing it "better," does not produce progress. It's a dead end. Fixing it means replacing it. Replacing a habit is like going on a diet. It's hard and unpleasant to do, for many skiers.

How did this happen? Well, some essential fundamentals got missed as the skier moved from beginner to novice to intermediate and moved to skiing blues and blacks regularly with friends. Things seemed to be working OK when conditions are good, so repetition embedded the movements deeply into muscle memory.

Those missing fundamental movements need to be learned if the skier is ever to get off the plateau, but there are already habitual movements in place that seem to be working. On a good day, when the conditions are just right, the current turns feel great. It's really hard to replace those habitual movements. The skier needs to go back down onto low pitch terrain and do the new movement pattern with the missing fundamentals so often that it starts getting embedded, then slowly take it up the mountain onto green then blue terrain. If the skier continues to "ski just for fun" on normal terrain daily, with only a bit of practice with the new movements, that just makes the old movements harder to overwrite. People don't want to do drills and ski slowly on beginner terrain until their bodies get habituated to new movements. It feels awkward, and it's a challenge. They want to ski with their friends. Thus... terminal.

So what are the terminal movements and what should they be instead? It can be different for different people. I'm speaking for New England skiing on hard snow here. I can't speak for skiers out west at big mountains. Any of these in combination can get a skier stuck on the plateau.
--the skier's upper body always points in the direction the skis are going (in shorter turns, the skier needs to allow the skis to turn more than the upper body). This upper body rotation sometimes follows the skis, and sometimes precedes them.
--the skier tilts their whole body as a unit to edge the skis (the skier needs to edge the skis with the legs, not the whole body)
--the skier rotates the skis quickly at the start of the turn so that they point across the hill in the opposite direction (skier needs to be able to get skis on new edges at top of turn at will)
--the skier does not allow their body to cross over the skis at turn entry.
--the skier swings arms with pole plants, or holds arms at the side of the body, or plants poles cosmetically rather than with purpose, or crosses the body with hands with each pole plant (pole baskets should swing, not arms, elbows should be ahead of side-seams on jacket, hands should not cross left-right in front of body, pole plants or touches provide timing sues for turns)
--the skier pushes the new outside ski out to edge it (too many words are needed to explain the better option)
--the skier leans in while pushing that outside leg outward, with shoulders tilted, inside shoulder low, making the outside shoulder to outside foot a long, straight, strong unit. This is called bracing (too many words needed to explain its replacement)
--the skier does not know how to manipulate edge angle with ankles and lower legs, instead using the whole leg and maybe even the upper body.
--the skier does not know how to fully complete turns for speed control
--because of some combination of these missing things, the skier has one habitual turn which simply won't work in all conditions on all terrain. (skier needs to be versatile enough to make short turns, medium turns, long turns, completed turns, incompleted turns, all at will)

There are probably more parts to this, but I've got to get out on snow.

Thanks for taking the time to post this...and I think I have a lot to work on. I may print this to bring with me to a lesson. :smile:
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#46
Thanks for taking the time to post this...and I think I have a lot to work on. I may print this to bring with me to a lesson. :smile:
The advantage of taking a few lessons is that a good instructor can help you understand which the 1-2 fundamental skills to work on first. Improvement to another level requires a progression and it's hard to know where to start.
 
#47
wow, thanks for the detailed reply, I'm sure that only after a season of skiing I have many things that I still need to work on. I keep trying to work on some of these things from what I remember during my lessons last year. I definitely need more information on how to use poles effectively. Can't wait to get some more lessons this season!
Yeah when people talk about a plateau, it usually means they are stuck there for good, or until they make an extraordinary effort to get out of it. There are a ton of people that advance to the point of being able to ski blue groomers, and never move on. And that's perfectly fine as long as they're happy doing that. Don't worry about being stuck on a plateau if you've only been skiing a year or two.
 

NYSnowflake

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#48
Thanks for taking the time to post this...and I think I have a lot to work on. I may print this to bring with me to a lesson. :smile:
Yes thank you very much Liquidfeet for this extremely informative response! I read this carefully a few times and kept these ideas in mind during my lesson at Mount Snow and powder day at Hunter. To be continued…
 
#49
Yes thank you very much Liquidfeet for this extremely informative response! I read this carefully a few times and kept these ideas in mind during my lesson at Mount Snow and powder day at Hunter. To be continued…
Who did you have your lesson with at mount Snow, and what did you think of the instructor?
 

NYSnowflake

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#50
Who did you have your lesson with at mount Snow, and what did you think of the instructor?
I had a half day private lesson with Keith, for free!! It was through my OC Ski Club, not Mount Snow. He was superb! I learned a ton and we had lots of fun. Mark, an instructor in training shadowed the lesson. I was the only person in the club who signed up for a blue lesson that day so I got a private lesson which was amazing!
 

Bookworm

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#53
Yeah when people talk about a plateau, it usually means they are stuck there for good, or until they make an extraordinary effort to get out of it. There are a ton of people that advance to the point of being able to ski blue groomers, and never move on. And that's perfectly fine as long as they're happy doing that. Don't worry about being stuck on a plateau if you've only been skiing a year or two.
That's why I'm going back to Taos. I'm not an intermediate but definitely could use some more solid instruction. Did a Taos ski week in 2018 that focused on fundamentals as there wasn't really any steep terrain open. It had been probably decades since i had any instruction so had developed some habits for sure! Going again in 2020 for more feedback and hopefully more challenging terrain.
This is exactly why I am going to Taos as well. I need to tackle terrain which challenges me with an instructor.
 
#54
@NYSnowflake : was looking at Alta Ski School website to check out the 2019-20 prices and decided to re-read the descriptions for the Intermediate Group Lessons. Includes a short list of topics covered for adventurous intermediates who are looking to ski ungroomed terrain in Utah. Wouldn't be much different than in the northeast, although practicing carving on soft snow seems a lot easier than on hardpack or icy conditions after a thaw/freeze or r***/freeze period in New England.

When I practice short radius turns on short slopes in the southeast, I'm usually counting "1, 2, 1, 2" in order to keep a good rhythm. The only difference now compared to a few years ago is that I count faster. (A black in NC/VA/WV is more like a blue in the northeast or out west.)

Beyond the Blues
Ski groomed blue and black slopes as you develop the skills necessary to move beyond intermediate skiing. Short radius turns, carving, pole use, rhythm and gaining confidence are common lesson themes. The average adult takes two to four 2-hour classes and independent practice to move into the advanced zone.
 
#55
Remembered a common saying among experienced ski instructors about "practice." Here's the extended version.
Practice does not make perfect.
Practice makes permanent.
Only perfect practice makes perfect.
Every moment you are on your skis you are "practicing." Ski and move accordingly.
After my first lesson at Alta with a L3 instructor with 25+ years experience, he told me to be sure to practice the correct stance, even on cat tracks, for the rest of the day. He'd taught me a drill involving poles to help find the correct fore-aft position. I was mostly skiing groomers in the afternoons at that point.
 
#56
Remembered a common saying among experienced ski instructors about "practice." Here's the extended version.
Practice does not make perfect.
Practice makes permanent.
Only perfect practice makes perfect.
Every moment you are on your skis you are "practicing." Ski and move accordingly.
After my first lesson at Alta with a L3 instructor with 25+ years experience, he told me to be sure to practice the correct stance, even on cat tracks, for the rest of the day. He'd taught me a drill involving poles to help find the correct fore-aft position. I was mostly skiing groomers in the afternoons at that point.
I both agree and disagree with the saying. I mean, how can you ever learn anything new without practice before you perfect something..? :smile:

I’d be interested in the pole drill you mentioned for fore aft balance!
 
#57
I both agree and disagree with the saying. I mean, how can you ever learn anything new without practice before you perfect something..? :smile:

I’d be interested in the pole drill you mentioned for fore aft balance!
My take away is that it really does help to learn a new drill from someone who can help make sure you are doing it correctly from the start. Or at least get pointers to get closer to the correct form. I did Railroad Tracks for a couple seasons after my Massanutten coach first had me try to do it before I figured out that I wasn't doing them the best way. When a friend who was a L3 instructor saw me do it, he knew immediately that my form wasn't that great. Took another season or two before I really understood how to do RR tracks well.

I can show you what Arthur showed me using poles the next time we ski together. Not going to attempt to write a description. I still do it to get a ski day started. Not always but often enough that I haven't forgotten that drill.
 

volklgirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#59
I'd lke to add one other thing to @liquidfeet's explaination:

Truly advanced and expert skiing actually requires a total change in mindset as well. Begninners and intermediates "turn to slow down", while advanced and expert skiers "turn because they want to" and use the shape and duration of the turn, variations in terrain, and varying amounts of edging and pressure to control speed. It really is a whole different type of turn.
 

Cantabrigienne

Certified Ski Diva
#60
@NYSnowflake - I'm another Whistler weekend regular who's a terminal advanced intermediate...ski with me and you'll learn what makes people terminal intermediates! I won't be around till middle of Feb but should up there regularly in March.

The thing about Whistler is that even for the gnarly double blacks there is often an easier line into the bowl etc. If your husband was a host, he should know all of these routes, or at least your examiner friend will. Last year, I kept making the mistake of declining to join when a family friend who is a ski instructor in Switzerland and who does 20-50 days/season at Whistler too was taking my nephews on double blacks. He is really good with kids and knows their limits vs their egos and plans out elaborately how to get them in and out of places safely so they have the bragging rights w/o the danger. At least 2x last year they had a blast in uncrowded not too hard stretches of double blacks when I demurred and took the groomer around to meet them...and then had to pick my way through a busy icy bump run!!! I was able to see with my own eyes that, huh, I could've skiied that run after all.

I will second the recommendations for the North Face Women's camp - if you go, try to get into Esta Evan's group. She usually teaches level 4 = intermediates and is good at breaking down movement patterns per the issues that @liquidfeet pinpointed. It will also give you some compatible ski companions after camp! The Camp (former Dave Murray camp) also has really devoted fans - and it's even better in that it runs for 4 days so it'll give you more time to dial in new movement patterns etc. (Plus it's great value: C$750 for camp alone, C$900 with lift ticket, which sounds awesome when 4 day lift ticket is over $600 - if you ditched camp after 1 day you'd still be ahead over paying for a lift ticket and a full day Max 4 lesson)

Also: get your alignment checked out and custom orthotics etc for your boots. There are some biomechanical issues that can hold people back from putting into practice what they are being told to do (e.g. "release your edges" doesn't work if you are actually skiing knock-kneed because your feet pronate a certain way.) Working on your balance & body awareness via Pilates or similar will also help in terms of giving you tools to get yourself centred over your skis. (I imagine that riding should give you good core muscles, which also are a help...)

Btw, if you get disoriented in whiteout conditions, you need to psych yourself up for Whistler. Maybe you'll luck out w/ bluebird conditions, but it's common to have to ski in total fog for at least part of the day, even if only because the mountain is so huge that there's a cloudbelt lying on mid-mountain and you have to ski through it. In all seriousness, take a hard look at your husband's ski wardrobe if you have to follow him around etc - it helps if others are wearing at least one really bright item. (If either of you wears all black, get a fluorescent orange or pink helmet, say.) I've ended up getting completely dizzy up in the alpine and literally not knowing which was was up or down on some long rolling traverses after a steep stretch. (I'm prone to vertigo, I end up dragging my poles a lot in these situtations.)

(A random thought: as it sounds like you're willing to invest quite a bit in your skiing, if your breakthrough doesn't happen this year, think about doing a Warren Smith camp in the Alps next year. The pricing in the Alps is SO much cheaper - 5 day camp is only $800, 6 day lift ticket is $350 & hotels are definitely not any more expensive than in Whistler. The website for his academy is useful in terms of pinpointing biomechanical issues that can hold you back at different stages, in any case.)
 

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