Philosophy on starting the ski season

Yep, I am bored, thus the new topics created.
So when the weather breaks, how do you start the season?
Go directly to your appropriate speed and rope feed in the course?
Free ski? Slow the boat, lengthen the rope in the course? Shadow buoys in the course?

I will free ski @28 off, 34.2 MPH. I will do this at least 4-6 sets BEFORE I put my course in.
I intentionally keep the course out of the water until I complete the 4-6 sets of free skiing. Once course goes in, its on.

@Papawskier, I also start at 34.2 open 28 off. I am on the river so we go for miles of open water in the beginning of the season to get in shape. I have to wait till after flood season before I put my course in. I have probably lost at least 10 courses in the last 20 or so years. 5 of them in one year.
Do you need any help putting yours in this year, if so I would be available to help.

@Riverrat, OMG free skiing like that on a river is awesome. When we had our houses at Norris, my wife and I would get up very early and free ski for as long as we could physically go. There is nothing like that.
I am fortunate, my lake is approximately 100 acres, so I do get a pretty good free ski set. I still let down at each end but I can get a really good number of quality pulls in from corner to corner. I am not really good at turning at each end. I would rather sit and take a quick break and ski with proper technique than to get tired and crash. Cold water crashes are not fun.
Thanks for your generous offer, but my wife and I have it pretty much down to a science. Depending on water temp, I will take two days putting it in. We have a pontoon which really is an excellent way of maneuvering to the subs and having her toss me a buoy.
Three years ago, I was adamant about getting the course in all in one day, water was 47. Well bad news, I ended up getting hypothermic. I really didn’t know I was but with about 5 buoys left, my wife noticed I quit talking and my answers to her questions stopped making sense. She was none to happy.
Live and learn.

@Papawskier, Last year removal, thank God for the old pontoon boat

OMG. That is miserable. I am really so grateful when i see stuff like that. I will not share my experience with putting the course in and taking it out. However, it is nothing like what i see pictured. You my friend are truly wanting to course slalom ski.

@Papawskier, My Ohio river with mini course, comes with barges, white caps, floods, large currents, trees, rollers and fun for everyone!
To have your own lake and private ski site must be heavenly.

@Riverrat
That pic looks pretty skiable. I’m not good with people, so I probably wouldn’t do very well when a fisherman or jet ski was hanging around in the course.

We do know how fortunate we are to have what we have.

So the “putting the course” in basically is me hanging off the ladder on the pontoon, and my wife drags me from buoy to buoy. She tosses me a buoy with new tubing on it, i dive down and attach to the sub. All the buoys on the course have their own anchor. Taking it down in the fall is basically the same, except i toss the buoys to her or my son in the pontoon.

Did you have to get a permit for the course on the Ohio river?

Well at least you have a course.

@Riverrat this is the worst thing we have to deal with in the lake.


This is the neighbors son. He’s quite the fisherman. This isn’t the biggest one he’s caught in our lake.
I used to skinny dip in the lake until he started showing me pics of these monsters. Yikes.

@Papawskier that’s a nice Pike! I wouldn’t worry too much about them though. They won’t bug 'ya. I’ll bring tackle when I visit.

For me I start at 34.2, course, -22 off. Just get rolling same as it was! I have a potentially irrational fear of “getting used to” any slower speed or longer line than that.

@joel, I’ve never been advocate of slowing boat down. I was recommended that early on when I started skiing 35 and 38. Slow boat down to 32.8 or 33.2. Never helped me. The cheater loop in the rope actually helped me more.
55 degrees today and 64 Tomorrow. If the ice wasn’t on majority of lake, I’d pull the boat out for some free skiing. Getting close.

The Professor is back by popular demand! Here is a classic from many years ago that is very timely for this time of year. Best to all.

Greetings, class. Let us start today’s lesson with 2 statements that have proven the test of time:

Truth #1. The unexamined life is not worth living.
Truth #2. Practicing failure nearly always results in failure.

The first is a tad heavy, and you may be wondering where I can possibly go with it in relation to skiing. Stick with me. The second is rather self-evident, but can still make so little difference in behavior for so many skiers, even veterans.

I have spent over 35 years of Springs, and no few Winters, watching so many skiers completely defy these two timeless truths that I start to question their sanity. I am talking about extremely smart people in the workplace, very successful in all phases of their life, but are completely insane when it comes to skiing.

If a definition for insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, yet expecting a different result, then the two skiers in the following examples have their picture in the dictionary.

The Professor skied with some friends this Spring who are running slalom at 90%, or greater, FAILURE rate. I’m talking veterans, decades of slalom skiing, who never consider Truth #1 and, therefore, are a victim of Truth #2. Let’s take a look at some real numbers from some real people.

Skier A loves to Winter ski, which is quite easy in _____, his home. He even agrees that Winter skiing, averaging once a week, should involve running passes and staying dry. Falling is to be avoided. So what does he do? From October through February he runs about 40 sets, at least 6 passes per set. He has completed, actually run, no more than 15 passes, some sets not making a single pass. He has either trailed, or fallen, over 220 passes. That is over a 90% failure rate according to my slide rule.

Plus, he refuses to slow the boat or lengthen the rope.

Class, this is insanity; his approach to skiing goes without examination (Truth #1) and, therefore, he does nothing but practice failure (Truth #2).

Skier B does no Winter skiing, but comes out in February to begin the season. He steps right out of his vehicle, onto the dock, puts his ski on, and starts with his usual opener. No warmup, no free skiing, no shadowing, just automatically resuming everything from a few months ago when he last skied.

He does not run a pass the first set (6 tries), runs a very shaky pass the second set, and immediately shortens the rope. Shall we guess the results? So the first day back after at least 4 months of no skiing, skier B is 1 for 12. In case you are keeping score at home, that, too, is over 90% failure.

Unfortunately for Skier B, this is repeated about 10 days later, his second time back. Now he is still sore from the first time and figures he needs to ski to get back in shape. But instead of skiing, he practices falling. No warmups to get the juices flowing, no slowing the boat to actually run some passes, no lengthening the rope to actually build up some rhythm, no shadowing to actually ski the length of the lake to build a little stamina, no free skiing at all.

In other words, he approaches his skiing UNLIKE any other phase of his life – totally unexamined, and (let’s say it together) spends his time practicing failure.

Class, I would say this is insanity, but I would be repeating myself.

The Professor has been with skier B the 10 sets he attempted this Spring. Our skier is 4 for 60, yet the next time he skis he will repeat the same process. In fact, skier B is beyond upset that things are not like they were just a few short months ago and he is beginning to think that

skiing is just not that much fun anymore.

Class, if the fun in slalom is going around the balls, then I can understand our two skier’s frustrations. They are always trailing or falling, and how much fun is that? Of course skiing is supposed to be fun! But, we forget that it is an extremely athletic event that takes some real attention to detail. Could we, by chance, learn a little something from the people who do this skiing thing for a living?

There is not a professional skier in the world who does not do some kind of warmup activity. I’m not talking about the Winter months of weights or gym or cycling (hit a sore spot, anybody?). I’m talking about 10 minutes before their turn to ski. Hopping out of your vehicle and onto the water just makes no sense. Would our skiers approach any other sport this way? (Well, bowling, perhaps, but don’t distract The Professor.)

I know, class, that you have read countless articles on returning to the water after a long Winter of no skiing. They all encourage slowing the boat, lengthening the line, shadowing the balls the first few sets, establishing some rhythm by free skiing. But when is the last time you saw that employed? Certainly not from our examples above, and remember, skiers A and B are veterans of decades of skiing. They should know better than anyone.

How do our pros approach training? They run passes! A big part of their sessions are what we call muscle memory sets. They run the same pass, at least two or three below their money pass, until they are blue in the face. Then they run it some more until they are sick of it, only they never get sick of it because they are building confidence and training muscles with repetition. Going around the balls has never been known to make one sick.

Class, I hope you get my point. Examine what you are doing. Don’t practice failure. Don’t reinforce bad habits. Do whatever it takes to go around those balls. Run a ton of passes before that next loop. Reinforce success. Practice good technique, consistently.

You will be glad you did, and when you cruise around 6 ball and out the gate, you will always be reminded of why our sport is so great and so much fun.

A Good Ski Season To All,
The Professor

@khoover, I did not know you skied at the same sites I ski. I preach this stuff ALL the time. All I get is push back from skier A and B. In fact there are times when Skier A or B will ask me to ride in the boat to coach or watch and I say no. Why they ask? I don’t want to feed Insanity!!

Next post from the Professor… provide us a list of passes, sets and reps. In other words, how many passes at a line length completed before moving to next line? then do you recommend Cheater loop? Slow boat? How many passes or sets does one try at the harder line before going back to muscle memory technique?
How far down the course is considered improvement and getting on to the new/harder pass? ( consistently getting to 4 or 5 buoy?)

Papawskier, your questions are right on the money, but really need to be tailored per skier, per their environment, per their available time on the water. For instance, I understand someone wanting to do nothing but run balls as they get out only once a week, or less. Last thing on their mind is to run drills or build stamina. That is not an optimal way to progress, but understandable, as long as they are having fun.

Or perhaps a public laker spends half their time setting and tearing down the course and is not about to free ski! Understandable.

Here is another column The Professor wrote that might be of interest. Be glad to entertain more questions afterward and thanks for paying attention! As Richard Nixon would say, trust me, I know of what I speak. Yall do know Richard Nixon, right? He was the President…oh, never mind. Just showing my age!

Greetings from The Professor, class. I see my musings from the previous post have stirred a few comments and that is always good. The Professor, wishing to remain (mostly) anonymous, does wish to protect the guilty parties he described from any further self-inflicted abuse. He (She?) can also assure you of sterling, if not sparkling credentials from the all too distant past. So, examine the message and don’t focus on the messenger.

That being said, most of the replies were right on the money; skiers, just like any other sport, MUST pay attention to training methods in order to improve. And those training methods MUST facilitate and encourage correct, repetitive movements that ensure success, not failure. And we know too many skiers who ignore reality.

If some of you have not run into these folks who refuse to check their egos at the dock, you just haven’t skied long enough. Several of you had stories of just such people and, sadly, they are doomed to never improving. Now, The Professor agrees that fun can be achieved in different ways on the same ski, but we are limiting our discussion to tourney skiers, or at least course skiers, who are diligently searching for that next PB.

Class, let me repeat my theme about practicing failure; STOP IT!! Let’s look at the pros in other sports and take note how they practice to get better at their chosen game. They do it by repeating fundamentals, pretty much on a daily basis.

Do Dirk Nowitzski or LeBron James just play basketball every day of practice? NO, of course not. They run drills that reinforce success and train muscles to “memorize” certain movements.

Do Derek Jeter or Miguel Cabrera just play baseball every single day of practice? NO, of course not. For crying out loud, you can see them hitting off of a tee, a drill I daresay some of our ski buddies would liken to lengthening the rope or slowing the boat or even free skiing. Heaven Forbid! The Horror!

Who are known to be two of the hardest working golfers on the driving range, sometimes going days without playing a single hole of golf? That would be Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Reckon they know a thing or two about consistent, muscle memory practice?

Class, constantly skiing for a PB every set is anathema to improving your skiing. The Professor is into real people and real numbers, so let’s look at some successful skiers. Understanding not all excellent skiers train the same way, you can bet the rent they do not seek a PB every time they put their ski in the water.

Skier A is a former National Champion in Men3, and if anyone ever upset your boat concerning practice, it would be him. He loves to run a set of nothing but spins. Six passes to improve his strength, he says, never sitting down on either end. Or starting 1 pass below his opener and running passes with both hands on the handle. Yep, BOTH hands on the handle at all times. Or a set of free skiing at the balls (he calls it pre-shadowing) while working on his most difficult loop. He figures he skis a tourney set about every third, maybe fourth set, but is always thinking correct technique.

Skier B is a former National and World champion. She could never be confused for associating slalom with muscle strength. Barely tipping the scales at 110 lbs, her entire practice regimen is to ensure correct technique, then to hone that technique through repetition. She recognizes that slalom is one of the most tiring sports one can engage, being pretty much an isometric exercise. Therefore, her practice sessions rarely involve more than 6 passes per set, and never more than two sets per day, never more than 3 days a week. Those sessions included running the loop 2 cuts below her money pass the entire set. In fact, the week of a tourney she NEVER runs a tourney set. Only technique enhancing, muscle memory, fundamental enforcing, successful mindset practices for this champion.

As you might tell, The Professor can be rather loquacious about this subject, but passion rules and I want to see all of you good people improve in the sport we love so much. Heaven knows, you are free to ignore The Professor, but do so at your own peril. With improvement, the fun increases, and more fun is what our beloved sport is all about, so

Cheers,
The Professor