Survival Reactions are subconcious reactions to perceived dangers, reactions we have usually little control of. "Fight or flight" kind of thing: they pop into our subconcious and control our body, without us even being aware of that occuring.
Survival Reactions are related to Fear, Amygdala, Fight-or-flight_response. As the Bene_gesserit#Litany_against_fear says, "Fear is the mind killer" - these reactions need to be controlled. There are ways to train yourself, if not to remove these reactions altogether, to at least increase the thresholds at which they kick in and recognize when they occur.
Survival Reactions are not always your friend... especially on a motorcycle. Their effects on motorcycle riding and racing are discussed at length in Keith Code's book A Twist Of The Wrist II.
Applying the same ideas to skiing as well, Survival Reactions are often responsible for bad skiing, like getting back, pushing and bracing against the skis, pizza slices and pivoting etc... likely also the deadlocks that skiers find themselves, perhaps in that fabled "intermediate plateau".
Some Survival Reactions triggers in skiing could be (generally lack of confidence):
Some of the reactions most often include:
The way to work through and get past these is to engrain new movements, practice and grow your confidence and that will make it possible for you to have a better response in tense situations... so when you do get on that ice patch unexpectedly, instead of locking up and reducing the edge angle, you'll instead angulate more, lift the inside ski and completely dig that outside ski into the ice!
Let's take a closer look at a few o them.
Tensing up is a natural response to getting out of balance and other stimuli, but it also tends to co-contract many muscles and the body becomes quite locked, unable to move.
Often, flexibility is what we need to react to balance challenges and that requires a relaxed body.
How relaxed? Well... not very relaxed - certainly, a pre-tensioned muscle will activate faster and react faster than a muscle that's in a total state of relaxation, so certainly we need to maintain some functional tension while avoiding locking up the body and impairing re-balancing.
How do we train that? Volume of skiing in random conditions! This is one where knowledge helps only so much, volume and confidence do the rest...
Also, dynamic drills like the Hourglass etc.
One manifestation of this reaction is rotating with the skis instead of loosening up the core and allowing for all important separation.
What do you do when you lose balance and slide away on ice? You immediately get into a wide stance, to distribute the center of mass over a wide area of support and hope that will reduce the chance of the resultant force vector falling outside the base of support, which will result in falling.
Yeah, I know - too much physics, but necessary to understand why we do it.
Now let's consider the case of a skier, trying to turn, on ice. First reaction of most skiers when encountering a patch of ice is to stand up and get wide. It was after all trained into our subconscious over a lifetime of surviving slips on slides.
It is completely the wrong thing to do, on skis, especially on ice, as it will:
...and will result in a fall, most likely.
We need to change this reaction into getting low and on the outside ski. Getting low will make you stable and at the same time increase the edge angles of the outside ski and narrow will allow you to direct pressure to the outside ski.