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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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From Carnegie Hall to Courchevel

Posted on
January 4, 2013
From Carnegie Hall to Courchevel

The old story goes like this: a man carrying a violin case is walking up Seventh Avenue in New York when he spots another guy with a violin case. He stops and asks him “excuse me, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice!” comes the answer.

Having recently performed two concerts at Carnegie, i’ve been reminded of how relevant this story is to our own quest for improvement as skiers. It has always struck me that when i’ve taught musicians to ski they’ve improved faster than people from any other walk of life, apart from maybe dancers. Analysing this, i’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not that they’re a particularly talented section of society but that they understand the value of practice. It is my view that as a ski instructor there’s very little that i can actually teach someone after they’ve understood the basics; the rest of my role is to lead them into experiences suitable for their development. Musicians seem to understand this and then take responsibility for their own learning, going off on their own and practicing what they’ve done in their lesson.

Sometimes i’ve had the impression that skiers think there’s some magic formula to skiing that us ski teachers are unwilling to share with them. I can assure you there isn’t! We have all experienced the same stages of development; sometimes seeming to plateau, sometimes seeming to make breakthroughs and sometimes even thinking that we’re getting worse. This is entirely normal in learning any new skill. We just have to keep striving to improve.

In his book “Bounce” sub-titled “The Talent Myth”, Mathew Syed gives the example of a study done on violin students at the famed Berlin Academy of Music in 1991 by the eminent psychologist Anders Ericsson. The students were divided into three groups by their professors; first those who were regarded as outstanding, with projected careers as international soloists. The second group were extremely good students who were expected to end up as members of the world’s top orchestras and the third group were the average students who would probably end up as teachers.

Practice makes perfect - whether skiing or playing Carnegie Hall

Ericsson discovered that the historical biographies of all the students were remarkably similar and showed no systematic differences. There was one big difference though: the outstanding students had devoted many more hours to purposeful practice than the other groups. The best violinists had practised an average of 10,000 hours, more than 2,000 hours more than the extremely good students and more than 6,000 hours more than the students who were in the third grouping. Ericsson found that there were no exceptions to this pattern: nobody had reached the elite group without this amount of practice and nobody who had worked their socks off had failed to excel.

The above example works exactly the same for us as skiers. Let’s now get out there and start practising!!!

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