Saturday, January 21, 2017

How mental is great skiing?

This always has been a huge and hard-to-answer question. First it must be said that out of all learning phases, the beginning part of skiing is as much physical as it is mental. I'd say 50/50 for both.

Learning movements, remembering sensations, finding the right balance and doing more than one thing at once fills up the physical side of the equation while overcoming fear, remembering terminology and basic gestures, takes care of the mental balance.

As a skier's set of skills evolves and develops, most of them become second-nature and season after season, just like the act of riding a bike, skiers remember these skills and build on them.

It's only when skiers get close to the apex of their learning curve that they seem to reach the law of diminishing returns and that even an inordinate amount of extra practice fails to deliver the tiniest improvement.

That's were the mind locks itself up and won't seem to cooperate any further. One of the reasons for that mental block is that there are some gestures and mental imaging that stubbornly resist becoming second-nature.

The skier will have to consciously invoke them in order to be able to use them. They don't come with the usual recorded set of skills and if skiers forget them, they may be headed up for some trouble.

Specifically, I think of concrete actions like systematically anticipating each turn or holding a picture of the ideal way of skiing or the mental image of a mentor. It does work, try it, and when you've reached the “10,000 hour law”, this may the only ammunition left to either get better or stop the decline...

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