- NW Snowsports Instructor
- Tech Zone
- Who We Are
by Rick Lyons photos & illustration by Tyler Barnes
In 2007 the PSIA-NW Technical Team crafted the feedback model to help with the organization of information while assessing skiing/riding performance and to provide clearer, concise feedback. We introduced the model on a coaster, if you recall. That was a big hit, as people remember “the coaster” for some strange reason. Funny how that works. Maybe we should put my wedding anniversary or my wife’s birthday on a coaster, too!
What you may, or may not recall, is the article published in October 2007 in the Early Winter Issue of the NW Snowsports Instructor describing the feedback model and how you could use it.
We have now been working with and using the feedback model going into our 4th season. Let’s “reload” that article and update it with lessons learned and how the adoption of the model has progressed thus far.
Throughout the rest of the article I will add comments and notes to the originally published 2007 article. Here we go.
The model does not tell you how to conduct movement analysis in the sense of a method of observation (i.e. top down, bottom to top, whole to parts, or parts to whole, etc.). Its design is to help with what to do with the information after you have gathered it. Much of the information will sound familiar or something you already do; the goal of utilizing the model is consistency in your organization of information regarding and surrounding the areas of tool performance, movement patterns and desired outcomes and the delivery of that information.
At first glance the model (or feedback tool as many on the team also refer to it) may seem rather simple and you may ask yourself “How do I use it?” To answer this question let’s look at the components that make up the tool. Like the skills concept diagram, there is no prescribed way to start, no single concept is more important than another and you cannot rely solely on one concept to be successful in your analysis and subsequent teaching or coaching. The model is cyclical and you may begin the process at any of the bubbles. For this discussion let’s follow the order of Communication-> Desired Outcome –> Tool/Snow Interaction-> Movements. We’ve found this to be a nice introduction to the process and one you may be able to utilize more quickly.
Reloaded: I have found that sharing the concept of the model with my students, early in the lesson, can really help establish the lines of communication. I may not use the language described in the model directly but definitely the ideas. I find myself drawing the model in the snow on a regular basis with my students, this way we both know the areas the feedback will touch.
Without good communication the model breaks down. If we are not connecting, even the most accurate feedback will have little or no effect. The challenge with this bubble is “Leverage the Positive.” If you have been teaching for years you may be familiar with other language like, “error detection, fault correction or ineffective cues.” We have been trained for years to look for issues and give information like “stop that”, “don’t do this” or “you are still doing that thing.”
For some, pointing out what is wrong is the preferred feedback. For most of our clients this is likely not the case and if the feedback has a negative tone, especially at the beginning, we may be shutting down the lines of communication and in fact may cause them to stop doing what is working well. The concept of “leverage the positive” is to look for what is working well and enhancing it such that it helps reduce the issues. If you do in fact prefer to be told what you are doing wrong, communicating that to your coach would be considered leveraging a positive relationship.
Reloaded: Don’t forget communication is not just verbal. We receive information from Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic means. I have found that touch can not only give my student feedback but I too get feedback that they understand. Ever ask you student to press their shins into the tongues of their boots? Ever stick your fingers in their boots to have them squish? You can even touch that muscle on the outside of the shin and ask them to “fire it” and “relax it” as the movement you are asking them to make facilitating the contact. Now you both know the muscle is firing. That’s communication!
Have you ever been working on a specific movement and have someone give you feedback, out of the blue, about something completely different? If we don’t know the student’s intent, then giving feedback may have little or no meaning. If the student’s goal is to work on steering the feet and legs under the body and he receives feedback about hands, carving or edging, if that feedback is not tied back to the goal then it is ineffective. This falls right in line with good teaching; we always try to determine/establish goals with our students and often need to adjust those goals or create sub goals as a path to achieving the larger goal. Likewise, when providing feedback, if we tie it back to the desired outcome then the receiver will be more willing to accept and understand the feedback we provide.
Reloaded: If you are working to develop movements/skills, having clearly defined outcomes is paramount. As my use of the model has grown I have found myself getting more and more specific at defining the desired outcome. When presenting the drill or task, if I describe and show the outcome to the student, then have the student describe the desired outcome with me demonstrating it, this can really help anchor the concept. Then I help them with their demonstration of the desired outcome until they can perform it by themselves.
This could be termed the “Effect” bubble. What did the ski or board actually do in the snow? Was the turn round? What do the tracks look like? At what part of the turn do the edge(s) engage? Is the turn skidded, slipping or carved? Looking for the effects can lead us towards more accurately assessing achievement of the desired outcome. For example, if the desired outcome is a carved turn in which the edge(s) are engaged immediately, then we should be looking at the top of the turn as well as the fall-line and finish. Do the tips lead the tails? Is the turn “C” shaped where the top matches the bottom? Is the track generally the same width top to bottom? If so, great! If not, where was it good and when did the good begin and end? Armed with this information we can now move into determining the cause.
Reloaded: Overlooked? For sure! Ask yourself – “Did I relate that to tool/snow interaction?” After integrating the model into my feedback process I have an increased awareness of tool/snow interaction feedback usage. I have observed it being used less in intermediate and advanced zone lessons, whereas the beginner zone tends to discuss this interaction much more frequently. “Tip your ski to step sideways up the hill.” “Step you skis across the hill.” “Can you make your skis into the shape of a slice of pizza?”
This bubble is where a large number of tools exist we are familiar with: The Skills Concept, Functional Movement Patterns, Skiing/Riding Concepts, Fundamental Movements and more. In our previous example, the carved turn, we can start looking for movements associated with the effects we noted. Let’s say the track was not quite “C” shaped and the top width was wider than the bottom. This would indicate the top part of the turn was being twisted of steered off. Knowing this we could start looking for movements that would cause the twisting/steered top. Or to “leverage the positive” look for the movements when the track is achieving the goal, then keying on those “good” movements change the Duration, Rate, Timing or Intensity to help achieve the goal throughout the turn.
Reloaded: Most instructors and students want feedback in the “Movements” bubble, this is the how part of the puzzle, so spending time in this area is required. Don’t forget the other “bubbles,” in fact leveraging them will strengthen your feedback.
It is important to understand the model is a balance and blend of the three concepts: Desired Outcome, Tool/Snow Interaction and Movements and that they are always changing depending on the student and the situation presented to you as an instructor. It is your understanding of that information which makes this model work. From the new instructor to the seasoned pro, the Feedback Model allows each to apply the information received and use it successfully. As your knowledge base and experience grows so too will the level you are able to use and apply the model.
We’re not trying to recreate the wheel, in fact these concepts have been around for many years and have been brought together and organized in such a way so they can be used effectively while consistently giving well rounded feedback to those you are working with.
Reloaded: The Feedback Model has helped me grow into a much more effective instructor and coach. It may be more appropriately named “The Feedback Tool” because it is something in my toolkit that I utilize on a daily basis.[connections_list id=11 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]
by Ed Kane
Last season I was at Winter Park resort with the North American Ski Journalists. I got there just as the SIA on snow demos were ending and just before a storm blew in so that we could enjoy some new snow over packed powder. The highlight of the trip, however, was the opportunity to spend the day with a role model from the past and to try out what could turn out to be the next advancement in ski technology. The role model is Wayne Wong and the new twist in skis is the “Anton Ski Active Suspension System.”
I started skiing seriously in the early 1960s and started teaching in the mid 60s. This was a very creative time period in the history of skiing in the US. PSIA was becoming actively involved in creating guidelines and materials that would unify the teaching approach throughout the country and the world was becoming aware of our instructional philosophy through our involvement in the semiannual international Interski meetings. Skiing for the general public was also beginning to mature and grow through the influence of magazine publications, films and TV. In this latter venue much of the material was provided by a small group of very imaginative and high energy skiers known at that time as “Freestylers.”
One of the most colorful of these was Wayne Wong a Northwestern native (if you count BC as part of the Northwest). His long black hair, sun glasses, bandanna, winning smile and flashy skiing caught the imagination of the skiing public including me. I spent a lot of time in the early ‘70s trying to master his style and tricks (the worm turn was about my only success). Wayne was Certified by the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance at the age of 16 and in 1975 he was part of the Canadian Inter-Ski Demo team. He won the first “Freestyler of the Year” award in 1972, was Europa Cup champion in 1973, Rocky Mountain freestyle champ in 1973 and Japan International Freestyle champion in 1975. If you check out the latest Winter 2011 issue of 32 Degrees you’ll see some vintage photos of that era. He was inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame in April 2009 for his influence on skiing culture. Wayne continues to be actively involved in the ski industry and hasn’t lost much of his ability, stability and flash over all the years as can be seen in the accompanying photos. It was truly a memorable experience skiing with him for the day.
The reason we were able to spend the day with Wayne was that he is promoting a ski line that is viewed as the next step into the future of skiing. He and Anton Wilson were at Winter Park for the SIA show demonstrating their new line of skis (www.antonskis.com). To be perfectly correct, they would be better described as a ski with a built in suspension system shown in the photo below. This was developed by Anton in an effort to get a better ride on skis and to enable the user to more easily make carved turns. The ski is a shaped wood core wet glass wrap which is quite soft in both flex and torsion. A suspension system is mounted to this ski which consists of an adjustable base plate upon which the bindings are mounted and a composite spring system anchored near the tip and tail of the ski. The base plate can be adjusted to put more load into the tip and tail which also increases the camber of the unloaded ski. The combination is an adjustable ski with a range of characteristics intended to make the ride smother and keep more of the ski in contact with the snow especially while turning.
We got to spend the day skiing with Wayne and Anton exploring the design on the groomed runs, in the trees and in the bumps. During that time, Wayne spent time coaching some of the group on achieving more efficient movements to get more performance out of the skis. Midway through the day we started to play with the adjustment mechanism so that we could experience the performance differences. I found that on the softest setting the system was quite responsive and very stable at moderate speeds on soft snow and in the bumps. The turns for the most part were carved and required very little in the way of extreme stances or movements to hold a nice arced turn. However, at higher speeds on steeper terrain they tended to be a bit unstable, chattered a bit and it was difficult to hold the intended line. In the afternoon, after increasing the stiffness through the adjustments in the suspension system these latter turns in the steeper terrain were much more comfortable.
On the whole, the ski/suspension system seems to perform as described by Wayne and Anton. It is likely that, if these catch on, the general public may find something of this nature a less challenging way to experience efficient skiing movements early in their learning experience. Such innovations may be able to bring more growth and retention in the skiing population. However it must be noted that currently these skis are in the “designer” category of skis due to their high price point which is driven primarily by the intensive touch labor required to install the suspension system. I for one will watch the development and acceptance of these in the market place. In the meantime, I was lucky enough to spend the day experiencing a hint of the future.
[connections_list id=90 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]
Text by Greg Dixon Photos by Zack Jones
I was first introduced the term “flex drive” while in a track clinic with David Lawrence, currently a member of the PSIA National Nordic Team, a few years back. The topic at hand was that of propulsion, and how track skiers utilize both extension as well as flexion movements to create additional glide on their skis. Not having the benefit of constant vertical descent and thus often opposing gravitational forces, it is important that track skiers direct every movement they make in an efficient manner to maximize glide. The extension movement is a more obvious one. As you “push” off a leg or extend your arms to pole you move your body forward. As important as the extension movements are, they are only one half of the equation, and will only get you so far so fast. The flexing movements are the other half of the picture that need to be utilized in order to increase performance.
The mechanics behind the flex drive, as it pertains to track skiing, is that as the skier extends off one leg they transfer their body weight to the new leg. As they land on the new leg they use flexing movements from the ankle, knee, hip, and spine to drive the center of mass forward and create a longer, continuous glide. When performed correctly the skier is able to utilize every movement they make to create forward motion, thus increasing efficiency and limiting the use of excess energy.
In the downhill ski world less emphasis is placed on how much energy we utilize when skiing down a run. With gravity creating all the propulsion needed, the downhill skier is often more concerned with speed control and how to avoid an excessive pace on any given slope. Instead of using all of their movements for forward motion, the downhill skier often tries to resist the directional pull of gravity and will utilize braking movements that send their body back and away from the desired direction of travel.
As gravitational pull is resisted, more and more energy is consumed by the skier that will often lead to exhaustion and limiting performance. Other detriments in utilizing braking movements are that the skier will often put themselves out of balance as they push themselves away from their skis. While out of balance the skier’s ability to create adjustments for terrain and remain in control are compromised. A cycle of inefficiency is created, where the skier tends to fight their way down the hill rather than flow with it.
The track concept of flex drive is one that can be as useful to the downhill skier as it is to the track skier. All the movements that are made should direct the skiers mass towards, rather than away from the desired direction of travel. As the downhill skier creates extension movements from their joints, those movements should direct the center of mass forward in order to keep up with the pace and path that the skis are taking through the snow.
From this extended alignment, the skier is open to utilize flexing movements to continue their path through the turn and maintain travel with the skis. Flexing from the ankles, knees, hips, and spine the skier can direct their center of mass in a forward manner and create propulsion through the finishing part of the turn. This will allow for a smoother ride over terrain, as balance is maintained over top the skis, and the ability to make adjustments is enhanced.
Speed control is dictated by the path you direct your skis through the snow rather than the use of exhausting braking movements. The ability to flow takes over the desire to fight.
At a basic level, the use of properly timed and directed flexing movements, simply help to maintain balance while in motion and increase efficiency in our ride. Beyond that, these movements can be utilized to enhance the performance and dynamic capacity of our skiing. As the track skiers use the flex drive to create additional propulsion, the downhill skier can use the same movement to generate speed, and allow for quicker entry from turn to turn. The skier can use the flexing of the joints to propel their mass forward and actually drive the skis rather than just stay on top of them. A deep ankle bend will allow the skiers mass to move closer to the tips of the skis, the closer to the tip the skier moves their mass the more they are driving the ski forward.
If the skier works this forward motion diagonally across the skis, as opposed to just forward, they will also be able enter the next turn with less effort, and will have greater ability to dictate what path their skis take through the next turn. It is this continual drive forward that creates fast, fluid, and agile skiers.
The idea of flex drive embodies the concept of efficient movements. All the movements that we attempt to make while creating our path across the snow should be done with the direct intention that they are useful to us and do not hinder us from our desired outcome. Consider this as you are creating your own path, what decisions are you making to direct yourself along your path and are they truly moving you in the direction you want to go.
Special thanks to Zack Jones for the photos. See his work at www.zackjonesphoto.com
[connections_list id=59 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]