Skiing to Failure

At least a couple of times per year, I hear tell of a legendary skier who is "so good he never falls down." I always get a kick out of this because with the exception of some elderly folks (I've skied with some people in their 80s), I've never known a really good skier who didn't take at least a few spills on a typical ski day. To me, saying someone is such a good skier that he never falls is like saying someone is such a good artist that he always stays inside the lines and never fails to match the right paint with the right number. Picasso didn't get to be a great artist without pushing the limits, and no skier does either.

Want proof that good skiers fall regularly? If you watch some World Cup races, you'll see some spills, even in Downhill where the consequences are high. Even allowing that nowdays some of the best skiers in the world opt for other venues, like big mountain skiing, I think you can still safely say that in a World Cup race you're watching 50 of the top 100 skiers in the world (and probably more like 50 of the top 55 skiers in the world). And I just finished watching the 2008/2009 Freeride World Championships and there were some pretty stunning falls in that one too. And I can't even watch the top park and pipe riders because I feel sore all over watching them take repeated spills into the rails. Ouch!

The simple fact is that in order to progress, you need to push your limits a little and when you push your limits, you're going to take some falls. My wife and a friend both said that one of the things that helped them break through on skis (wife) and snowboard (friend), was watching me learn to snowboard. Was it because of my grace and skill? Nope. It was because of the repeated and collossal falls I took. They were both plateaued out, self-limited by their fear of pushing a little harder. When they saw me tumbling down the hill with a smile, they realized they could push a little harder.

At 75% of capacity, you may hardly be challenging yourself. Take a weight you can press 10 times. Now subtract 25%. How much strength gain do you think you'll make by pressing that weight ten times? I can answer that: almost none. If you're not lifting to failure, that means you'll make slow, incremental gains in strength. If you're a well-trained athlete, you may actually lose strength. If you're not skiing to failure, that is skiing to the point where your body parts other than the feet make contact with the snow, you'll only see incremental gains or none at all.

So get out there and push it a little. Stay safe of course. Don't embrace trees at high speed. But don't fear ground contact!