Books, videos and reference material
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Introduction to book-reading
Any good instructor will have developed a library for his/her own reference - and Nordic skiing is not short of reference material. Since there are so many skiing countries in the world, books are often written with the skiing conditions of one country in mind. Are there any books written for Australian skiers in particular?
It is difficult to put a national flavour on Australian Nordic skiing, as every State exhibits its own distinctive approach to the activity. One might say that we have a blend of many nations, especially those with historical links to our ski history. The few books printed to date in Australia have been aimed at the recreational tourer - one has to look at overseas publications for books suitable for use by instructors. To get the most out of the plethora of books available, it is wise to understand the nature of skiing: it has had different interpretations depending upon the author's background and perceived audience. If it appears that some manuals contradict one another not only in nature, but specific techniques, then do not assume that one must be wrong and one must be right. This is also true of the other media available (videos, magazines, etc) on Nordic skiing.
Used wisely, all books written, and videos produced, can be put to good use. It is all too easy to rubbish that which seems foreign, unusual, or even just badly written. Nordic skiing is an activity that demands physical prowess: translating movements onto the printed page, even with copious pictures, is only one small part of the whole story. There are many good books written with barely a mention of specific ski techniques, but rather how to get the mind into activity. Look for the different approaches, look for the books that show different ways of doing the same old thing, and above all, avoid those books that state 'this is how it is done, and will always be done'' Luckily, there are mercifully few of this latter genre around these days. Dogma has become a dirty word (and not altogether avoidable unfortunately!).
Why Alpine skiing books are good' and bad
Alpine (or Downhill) skiing has many similarities to Nordic skiing - the aim is to slap two (most often) boards onto your feet and slide about, and point them (most often) downhill, yet some technique differences still exist.
The Alpine skier attempt to retard speed, whilst the Nordic skier desires to generate speed. Yet, the Nordic skier spends a lot of time descending hills using similar equipment to that of the Alpine skier, and especially so if you consider the Alpine ski equipment of 25 years ago! The older Alpine skiing texts could be considered quite appropriate for XCD skills, and although technology has altered today, the art of instruction is much the same. However, Alpine ski instructors tend to operate in a slightly different frame of reference and set of conditions, and these factors should not be dismissed lightly when reading Alpine skiing material.
Some of the major differences involve the nature of the activity - and the constraints that are placed on the movement of ski classes within a resort area, or out of it. Alpine ski instructors usually have the luxury of easy access to suitable terrain, and rescue services. Because of this, they also tend to operate in more crowded areas, and with more facilities to enhance their task. Repetition of practice runs are more easily achieved with an uplift facility metres away. Be aware of the differences, and experiment with the techniques discussed in Alpine ski books - you will be surprised how many of them are useful.
The use of videos in ski technique improvement
Video cameras have only recently become readily-available for technique improvement, rather than just at select training schools. Nowadays, it is almost as rare not to see a camera being used for the purposes of ski technique improvement.
However, using a camera in the snow is not as easy as the camera-makers tell you - the contrast between snow and the skier is so great that preparation is needed to make it all worthwhile. Ultimately, long-distance shots with a zoom lens provide the best views for technique analysis. Perhaps due to the novelty of seeing themselves on TV, most students see a video picture of themselves in a very self-conscious way, which hinders any real chances of improving their technique through watching and analysing. It is important to make the 'star' feel relaxed, not only when filming, but also afterwards whilst viewing the film. If this can be achieved, then the task of using the video pictures for constructive criticism is much simpler.
Some skiers cannot understand why their technique looks so different from the way that their role-model skis, and unless they are prepared to understand that their perception can often be wrong, and that all skiers have their own style, they will quickly withdraw from the proceedings. Many skiers are often confused by what they see on video - especially when the operator dutifully slows the machine speed right down for maximum effect (when, in many cases, they would show more by speeding it up beyond normal speed!).
It is generally easier to make snap impressions from the video picture and focus on those immediately - hopefully by jumping right back onto the snow again straight afterwards whilst the image is strong. And yet nine out of ten video users record endlessly until the batteries run flat, then depart for the comfort of a lodge later that evening when everyone wants to look at themselves - hours too late to remember what they were doing, and with little chance of getting onto the snow until next morning.
The use of books in ski technique improvement
Books are a difficult medium to use for the purposes of ski instruction and technique improvement - how many people do you see out on the snow holding a manual in their hands? It is most likely that the book in question is sitting at home by the bedside, whilst the reader must struggle on with memories of fuzzy line-drawings or out-of-focus pictures, mingled with nearly incomprehensible text.
A good book on skiing will capture the spirit of a technique, avoiding the need for copious explanation. Whilst the old adage of remembering a tenth of what you read, and half of what you do, is true, a book must provide you with key words and clear mental pictures of exercises to try when out on the snow. There are well over one hundred books written on ski instruction in circulation today, and yet more are being pumped out onto the unsuspecting learner - surely it must end somewhere? Not necessarily so. New techniques are being developed all of the time, and equipment is trying to keep up with these techniques. Consequently there is a need for books to be written on the subject.
It is unfortunate that books can only pass information one way, just as a bad instructor does. The prime limitation of a book is that you cannot get feedback, either during the activity, or after. However, there are plenty of books in circulation, all with a slightly-different style, so it only becomes a matter of hit-and-miss! By extending your reading, as an instructor, you will quickly become aware of those books written by instructors, and those written by skiers who dabble in instruction (but who still might have good ideas), and there are many students ready to ask your opinion of one book or another. Be careful (clear) when giving your answer, and others will benefit from your knowledge.
©2013 Ivan Trundle
[ Contents | Preface | Organisation | Teaching | Techniques | Equipment | Resources | Appendices | Glossary | Index ]