Focusing the attention within the body or away of the body is the difference between using internal cues versus external cues. They each have advantages and disadvantages, let's take a look.
It is a very interesting balance to coach movements, by their nature internalized, but using external cues! It's a shame when some skip the process and start teaching outcomes directly!
The internal cues focus attention within the body, on how to move a body part and/or how it feels. They rely on feelings for feedback, such as "the crunch" or muscle use, pressure etc.
These are vague by their nature, since everyone's perception of stress and pressure is different and dependent on the situation, conditioning, experience etc. The brain also tends to exaggerate when on edge, among other things that make the internal cues less useful.
It is one thing to direct attention towards a specific movement, such as ankle inversion, or tipping the ankle, but quite another to focus feedback on "how it feels".
While good to foster learning and easy for the brain to register (you don't have to look at your leg to feel the pressure), the internal cues are not good to drive improvement on their own. They are often wrong and could lead us in the wrong direction, and we need to complement them with good feedback, from a good coach or video or external cues, to make sure we're in the right direction.
Some common internal cues for skiing include:
The external cues are preferable, to build precision and range into one's movements as well as to drive improvement independent of how it feels that day or such.
In contrast to the internal cues, the external cues are those cues that direct attention outside of the body. You can see them or feel them (e.g. touch the outside boot) or just attempt doing (push snow up the hill). These are the best to create feedback loops that speed up learning.
Take for instance the Picture frame drill. In every turn you have some very precise external cues: are the poles still vertical to the snow, still in front of you and is the same object still framed?
If not, you can adjust immediately or in the next turn and do it right, so it makes for instant feedback, increasing the rate of correct repetitions and lead to much faster improvements.
The external cues, as opposed to internal cues, do not rely on feelings and are generally unambiguous, like "keep the poles level".
A coach's challenge is to find proper external cues and teach skiers to teach themselves, for continuous improvement.
Some external cues for skiing:
Often these two are bundled together when discussing cues, but they are slightly different things: it's the difference between instruction and feedback.
An internal focus of attention would direct the skier on the actual movements and body parts, like:
Just like internal cues, these have their place in ski instruction and we certainly must pay attention to them while learning the basics, but external cues and focus of attention are, again, recommended:
Focusing on the outcome of the mini-movements allows the brain to learn and perfect and coordinate the micro-movements needed to achieve a good result. Of course, we can't exaggerate with this - remember, the brain likes to take shortcuts, to the basic movements must be learned to some extent before. Also, the environment must not be very challenging, or the brain will start taking shortcuts again.
Internal cues are not that good at diagnosing equipment issues like alignment and canting - this is best done with video with a knowledgeable coach's help.
How to coach good internal cues and what are good external cues.