Friday, February 11, 2011

Review of Ultimate Skiing

I just finished reading Ron LeMaster's Ultimate Skiing. Published last year, this book reworks some of the The Skier's Edge, LeMaster's 1998 book. Ultimate Skiing does a thorough job of clarifying the mechanics of skiing. It breaks down how we balance against the forces that develop in a turn, as well as how those forces are transferred through our equipment. A majority of this book uses racing as the arena in which to explain the mechanics of skiing. This is very effective.  The book would be a complete work if this were the extent of the content. But, LeMaster also explains how these concepts are affected by situational skiing, in addition to explaining how developing skiers may experience skiing.

Although racing is a small subset of the whole skier population, using ski racing photo montages with precise explanations seems like the simplest way to explain and diagram the forces involved in skiing. Using the PSIA Skills Concept, readers can look at obvious movement patterns in elite skiers and see how the skills blend is modified for different situations and populations. Overall, it maintains appropriate balance between foundation knowledge and situational considerations.

Ultimate Skiing, while discussing elements common to all levels of skiing, has a lean towards advanced and expert level skiing, and is easiest to understand in that context. Like any sport, the transition from advanced to expert and beyond often requires the most focus, humility, patience, and desire to learn of any phase in the learning curve. This book could be an integral tool for learners that can visualize these concepts and attempt to see them in their own skiing.  For coaches and advanced level instructors, the book could provide a very solid foundation from which they can perform effective movement analysis and create their own teaching concepts. If you have a grasp on elementary physics and love to geek-out on ski technique, than this book is a great read and an incredible resource.

Admitting my bias as a former ski racer and a full-cert alpine instructor, this book is awesome.  It gives reassuringly clear and indisputable explanation to what is truly going on (or not going on) when a skier makes a turn. The language is clear, concise, and only technical enough to avoid inaccuracies in descriptions. Also, the cover is awesome - an inspiring photo montage of Ligety skiing like a machine at Beaver Creek.

Skiers often witness cliche ski teaching analogies and ski marketing drivel having nothing to do with reality, but those who read this book will have a new set of eyes and ears to dispel those myths. For example, in four paragraphs and a couple of photos, LeMaster gives a simple explanation of how human anatomy and ski technology allows for a certain amount of inside ski lead - a common subject of debate among educators.

My hope is that more educators and ski industry professionals read this book to improve their understanding of how skiing really works.


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