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Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors

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Can You Escape The Skiing Intermediate Plateau?

Posted on
February 9, 2019

Hi everybody, and welcome back to another post from your favourite blogging Méribel Ski Instructor. Today I thought that I would write about a subject that can dominate many skiers' holidays - the infamous 'Intermediate Plateau'. This description can be given to those skiers who are able to ski competently on blue and red pistes, in lovely weather and with good snow conditions. However when weather and snow conditions deteriorate, these skiers' performances and enjoyment level totally fall apart. A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled 'When The Skiing Stars Align', click here for the link if you missed it. In summary, it was about an epic day when the snow conditions and weather came together to perfection. And when it does, boy oh boy, life is great - even if people are stuck on the 'Intermediate Plateau'. By the way, I have taken all of these photos over the last few weeks, and the skiers that feature aren't on this plateau!

The view during my commute the other day, skiing down to Chaudanne and looking up to Mottaret

A number of things can affect the performance of a skier - poor visibility, bad weather, thick powder snow, icy pistes, bumps, slush, narrow paths and perhaps steepness can all trigger a vicious circle of reduced performance and enjoyment. Sometimes just one small thing can start the decline, which may soon escalate and end up with your body and mind feeling stressed, tense and then tired. It's not a fun place to be. Let's look at what can cause these issues.

There are four main skiing performance threads that can be used to recognise an area where a skier can develop their performance - Physical, Tactical, Technical and Psychological (excluding outside influences such as weather and snow conditions). I've spoken/blogged about this theory in the past, and perhaps I should revisit this subject again in the near future. However, let me summarise these four threads to help you understand and perhaps recognise them for you the next time you ski. 

Physical - perhaps the most obvious one here is feeling tired, especially in the legs. Skiers on the intermediate plateau tend to feel tired much quicker, especially when weather and snow conditions deteriorate. A skier who feels fatigue early on in the day often doesn't understand why it has happened, and how they can fix it.

Tactical - this is all about decision making. Choosing what line to ski down a piste, choosing how to ski around or over a bump, choosing how to ski over ice, choosing what type of turn you are going to make. Our decision making can become frazzled when weather and snow conditions change for the worse. In fact our brain will often tell us to do completely the wrong thing, for example if we can't see very well our brain will tell us to rush every turn, which really doesn't help matters. This is very common for those on the intermediate plateau.

Technical - ah, perhaps the most talked about subject within skiing. Skiers on the intermediate plateau will have a few 'areas of improvement' (a polite way of saying weaknesses) here, and most of the time they won't be aware of these. Over the course of time, habits become ingrained in their technique which - fingers crossed - will all be good. However sometimes they are not so good. The only way a skier with bad habits will improve is by having a trained eye observe them ski, then provide an appropriate development plan and choose the correct terrain to develop these new skills. A typical skier on the intermediate plateau will blame the change of weather and snow conditions (maybe even their own fitness), in place of thinking how their technique is affecting their enjoyment and performance.

Psychological - this is a whopping subject, and can I quickly state that I'm certainly no expert on this huge and sometimes complicated area. It is fair to say that I've observed many times, both up close and from a distance, situations where a skier's performance (and enjoyment, let's not forget that) is affected. A moment ago I mentioned that our brains can tell us to do the wrong things (often the complete opposite) to what is best. This results in us having unpleasant experiences on the mountain. We start to have internal arguments with ourselves; we feel peer pressure way more than is helpful, and life suddenly becomes a battle. Oh, and if there is a battle going on between ourselves and the mountain, us humble human beings don't tend to come out on top very often. The words 'I can't do this' are more often heard in poorer weather and snow conditions.

I hope that wasn't too theoretical, or too negative? However I wanted to describe what some skiers may experience on the mountain.

Back to my original question, and the title of this blog post - can you escape (or move beyond) the skiing intermediate plateau?

The answer is an unresounding yes - you betcha, damn right you can, of course you can and should - and what are you waiting for?

Over the years I've overheard people say categorically that if they only have one week's skiing holiday a year, then they won't improve. For many years I used to bite my lip because I didn't want to tell them how wrong they were and offend them. But I do believe that this thought process is total and utter tosh. You can definitely improve each week you ski, no question about that - I have complete faith in you.

Let me give you an example that will prove this. The last five winters I've skied with a lovely group of ladies who are members of a book club, and also have an annual long weekend away skiing here in Méribel. They ski for three days, and I've been lucky enough to ski with them for two of these three days every year. Three days, ladies and gents, that's half a week, not even a full week compared to most people's annual ski holiday. This winter I skied with them, and couldn't believe my eyes, they were skiing so well in relation to last year and certainly when I first skied with them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to blow my trumpet here, that's one thing I'm terrible at. Granted, I have a trained eye to observe them, I can develop a plan to help them and then choose the appropriate terrain to develop their skiing. But it is the girls who are skiing on their skis, they are the ones that are making the improvements, and it is their performance and enjoyment that is benefiting. And you should see it on their faces! It isn't only me that has spotted their improvement; they confirmed that they can feel it themselves. Three days, that's only three days every winter, and they are improving their skiing.

This is Phil, who isn't a member of the book club!

I really hope that this blog post isn't sounding like a rant, that's far from my intention. But if you think about it, if skiers only get to have one weeks ski holiday a year, that time is even more precious. In that case why not maximise your enjoyment by avoiding, and escaping, the dreaded 'Intermediate Plateau'. Treat yourself, and hire a trained eye who can observe your skiing, and then put in place an action plan to lift your skiing performance and enjoyment. Why settle for mediocrity when the sky is the limit?

In other news, the snow conditions continue to improve: we've had many snowfalls over the last couple of weeks with another due this weekend. This is perfect timing for the start of not only the French holidays, but also the British half-term holidays. If you are coming out skiing soon, I hope you have an amazing holiday. Live With Passion. Martin.

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With our skills- based system of learning, we give you the tools to safely negotiate any demands the mountains make on you, helping you to increase your comfort zone and ski in a wider range of conditions. Whether you are a nervous novice, a blue piste cruiser or an all mountain adventurer, we tailor your ski lessons to create a perfect fit. The question is, which one are you?

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With our skills- based system of learning, we give you the tools to safely negotiate any demands the mountains make on you, helping you to increase your comfort zone and ski in a wider range of conditions. Whether you are a nervous novice, a blue piste cruiser or an all mountain adventurer, we tailor your ski lessons to create a perfect fit. The question is, which one are you?

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