Photo by Kajetan Sumila on Unsplash

Here’s a new word for you – “Knowtice”.  It describes the mental process combining knowledge with noticingLearning to do this is essential to developing skill, including skiing skills.

No system can purposefully change without accurate, prompt, feedback. If feedback is delayed, inaccurate or simply not noticed, any change will be random, and probably short lived – perhaps thankfully!

 I have mentioned elsewhere of my own miserable experiences trying to become a better skier by spending three nights a week for years at a dismal artificial slope ski school in the West Midlands of the UK, and managing only to make slow progress. I came to believe that the fault must lie with me rather than with the instructors I worked with.

 Since I took up skiing around middle age, I became convinced that I must simply not be sufficiently athletic, or fit, or whatever it took to be a good skier. The fault obviously lay with the teachers, not with me.

 Then one year, in the Alps, again with not much expectation of improvement, in just one week I made huge transformations in my skiing. Just seven weeks later I went again with the same teacher, and again made terrific leaps forward. Indeed, immediately after this experience I started on my own journey through the instructor training program and on to coach and to be an instructor trainer. That’s how much impact one teacher can have.

 So what made the difference?

 It was the rare ability of an exceptional communicator and coach. But just what was it he did that was the essence of the difference? He put effort into making the whole thing simple not mysteriously arcane. He didn’t demonstrate or show-off; he explained that only I could effect the changes, but he took responsibility for helping me.

 What made the difference was noticing.

 He constantly and repeatedly encouraged us to “be aware” – of our toes, or perhaps our shins, or our legs, or our hands. For a long time I did not internalize the simple power of this. Only gradually did I begin to perceive that in all the practice before meeting him, the key element which none of my instructors had ever brought into the mix, was “to have a clearly defined intention, and to notice what I was getting

 Instructors had always told me to watch them and copy. When I was unable to emulate their own performance, they mostly got frustrated, or jeered, or urged me to try harder.  But it was pretty hopeless, and the reason was that I was never helped to develop an ability to notice what I was getting as a result of what I was doing, and why.

 Without that ability my development was all but completely stifled, and yours will be too. In my case the pain lasted eight years until I met this life-changing coach. The lack of the desired outcome was painfully obvious, but there was no connection in my mind between intention and outcome. Something was missing, and it wasn’t my mind. Does this in any way echo your own experiences?

 So, what is knowticing” and how is it done?

 To develop skill there is no better process than the “Intention-Attention Feedback Loop”.  It was developed by John Shedden and others and is now applied to almost all top level sports.

 “Knowticing” is the ability to become aware of one highly specific physical manifestation, through the medium of one selected sensory channel.  Sounds fancy, but it’s simple. For example, first you and your coach agree on one simple action you will do, such as  just flexing your ankle a bit more. Then – and this is key  – to become aware as you ski, of where there is pressure under your foot, or maybe your shin.  It’s simple and it’s powerful.

 You first decide jointly that “pressure under your foot”, or against your shin is the manifestation you will select, and the sense of touch, is how you will appreciate it. It is crucial to its successful application that only one manifestation is to be noticed, and that only one sensory channel is used to “knowtice” it with.

 Deciding what you’ll do is your intention, and the “know” bit of my new word gives you your attentional focus, and understanding. The “knowtice” bit comes from having made a conscious decision to employ one sensory channel – feeling, or seeing, or hearing, or one of your other senses.

 The “know” part is founded on an understanding of how skis work, and is expressed in the form of simple physical tasks or goals, such as the example above.

 If you employ this simple powerful model at least some of the time when you are skiing, you will begin to make significant changes to the way you ski, and also to your understanding of skiing, especially your own skiing.


  1. Richard Kavey says:

    Good article! The disconnect between how a person is oriented in space and how they think they are oriented can be huge. Proprioception, our sense of how are body parts are arrayed can be extremely misleading. Your description of what makes a coach effective is accurate: quick feedback and encouragement. Having the coach mold the student into the correct position and have them concentrate on the sensation is helpful. Then having the student move and attempt to stand correctly is essential and takes a number of tries usually before the student gets it right. Video feedback can be extremely helpful but the alpine environment is not video friendly. The more technically sound ones ski technique is the more a skier can enjoy skiing.

    • Dear Richard
      I’m not sure I’ve explained myself fully. The feedback a coach should offer, is best not done immediately.
      When a coach is involved, the optimal process is first to agree with the pupil the ONE action/behaviour the pupil will execute.
      Next, to jointly identify HOW that will be noticed – using WHICH sense (touch, sight, sound ….)
      Then, for the pupil to do it over a very short section, with the sole intention of NOTICING that sensory input.
      Once stopped, it is best for the coach to WAIT while the pupil internalises what happened and what they noticed. It might have been nothing, they might have not succeeded in being aware in real time. That is terrific information which will educate the next attempt.
      What really really matters is what the pupil FELT, or SAW or HEARD, not what the coach thought she saw. By all means offer than feedback, but not every time, and always qualify it be advising that what an external observer thinks they saw is fraught with potential mis-perception. Which is why what the skier THEMSELVES notice.
      Video in my view is useless – and frequently discourages. It’s an “instructor” approach. What goes on INSIDE the skier is what matters, all I can do as a coach is help them develop that ability within themselves.
      Best regards

  2. I’ve skied 49 years. When I was 38, I became visually impaired. Attending several sessions with instructors at Aspen’s school for visually impaired skiers, I was paired with this kind of instructor. He said things like “imagine your big toe pressing down on a grape,” “let your shins feel the pressing into the front of your boot,” and suddenly, I “got it!” I still focus on the things he taught me now that I am resuming skiing after a few years hiatus. Great article.

  3. Great explanation of an excellent way to simplify how the student can get meaningful feedback. I agree with you that a great instructor makes things simple for the student and does NOT show how much the instructor knows. I plan to look for your books on Amazon
    Doug Werner
    Instructor, Beaver Creek, Colorado
    PSIA cert 2

    • Dear Doug
      If ever you want to discuss one to one – just email me, any time. We may or may not always agree, but open discussion is never ever a bad thing.
      Best regards
      Bob T
      PS Skied Beaver Creek donkey’s years ago – loved it. Those back bowls !!

  4. I would love to see a video example of this technique and which ski instructors use this as well.

    • Dear Iris
      There is a plethora of videos on my Youtube channel – Ski in Control with Bobski – or access it via my website
      Hope this helps and if you want personal feedback on anything just email me.
      Kind regards

      • Dear Iris
        I missed your bit about which ski instructors use coaching techniques. Regrettably hardly any, and it’s not their fault – ski schools are in general so far behind that it’s tragic, and they insist their instructors (whom they largely train) use dreadful teaching models.
        Read my books for further explanation.
        Best regards
        Bob T

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