Spot the glider – in the bright central cloud…
Today’s session began with a warm up and brief revision of yesterday’s dynamics. The idea was to focus on the Centre of Mass and execute things in the following order…
Katariina expressed her need for more control on steeps, ice and bumps. Improved dynamics is the key to most of this so this would be our target for today. Skating aspects and pivoting skills are also really important – but most benefit would be taken from taking the dynamics forward at this stage.
Katariina’s default way of skiing is currently based on looking at the mountain as “uphill” and “downhill”. She faces downhill and tries to get into a new turn by quickly getting the skis around the first part and back down beneath her to brake sideways. This all has to change and the first stage is to begin to understand “perpendicularity”.
When we ski on the flat or across a hill the skis are horizontal to gravity and the body vertical – while being perpendicular to both skis and the ground. When the skis turn off downhill they are no longer horizontal – but the body must be adjusted to remain perpendicular to the ground and the skis. Some of gravity now accelerates us downhill and most of it still pulls us directly into the ground and overall we should feel no difference standing perpendicular to the skis either across the hill or sliding downhill. We can relax and start to eliminate the fear of “uphill and downhill” and just see the slope as “flat” – with motion of the centre of mass lateral to the skis being the critical action we need to exploit.
The aim is to get the ski to grip from the very start of a new turn and not to rush the start of the turn. Perpendicularity is a basic principle of dynamics.
Katariina took quite some time to get her head around this issue! She just couldn’t see it initially – but did get it in the end. There are two parts to dynamics – falling into a turn – then getting back out of the turn. So far we had only worked on part one. A motorbike falls into a turn but has to come back up out of the turn exactly like a skier. The end of the turn is where this happens. Pressure builds up on the outside ski as it crosses the fall line and then resists gravity and so as the turn develops the pressure becomes much greater and this means the lifting up power of the ski is greater. When the turn is nearing completion the skier then uses this pressure and lifting power to let the ski lift the body out of the turn right over beyond the vertical into the perpendicular – with the skis flat on the snow as they travel across the hill. This momentary position is called “neutral”. The body then continues to fall from there downhill into the next turn and the support leg switches spontaneously and naturally. The turn transition all the way to perpendicular is carried out on the downhil ski.
I demonstrated “Hanger Turns” executing exaggerated full transitions on the downhill ski with the other ski visibly held in the air – entering the next turn each time still on the downhill ski – as is seen commonly with giant slalom racing at high speed. Katariina still couldn’t recognise what was going on so I then skied linked pivoted turns on one ski so that it was really clear that the body was going over downhill ski particularly when it was the right ski and I was turning to the right on it. It was after this that Katariina seemed to get it.
End of Turn Dynamics is critical to bring skiing with dynamics into the perpendicular and to allow flow from one trun to the next without skidding and braking.
Speed control and grip come from using the skis all the way through the turn – from beginning to end. Speed is controlled by “line” and direction – not by braking. This is normally learned through racing development. Race courses are set to very strict rules – with rhythms, breaking of rhythm and gate spacing to control speed. Good siers ski faster but over slower lines.
Part of Katariina’s probelem with this part of dynamics was that she was not driving her Centre of Mass into the turn after initiating it. The Centre of Mass must be forced in towards the centre actively until there is enough pressure at the end to fully control direction and speed – then this solid platform on the downhill ski is used as a support to lift up and out of the turn. Without that support the turn is not “worked” or developed and there is no platform for directing the centre of mass – no way to support the body coming over the downhill ski and no way to get confidently into the next turn.
When Katariina understood all of this she was able to work at controlling her speed by using both parts of dynamics on a steep black slope – video clip 2.
The video clip of the “foot forward” technique is fairly self-explanatory. This action tightens the turn radius when combined with dynamics and it improves angulation – which is naturally derived from skating – thus making tighter turns and grip more efficient on steeper terrain. When terrain is very steep and dynamics have to be quite big then a more rapid pushing forwards of the foot ensures a more powerful and rapid turn. The combination of dynamics and pushing the foot forwards is how we alter turn radius (when not pivoting!)
We didn’t have time to go through pivoting because the dynamics had taken a bit longer that expected – but this was clearly useful and necessary. For bumps the key lies really with two footed pivoting – and the dynamcis are controlled through the use of a pole plant for the most part.
Most skiing is a blend of pivoting and dynamcis – bumps and carving being at the opposite extremes of each.
Working the turn, building and using the forces and developing the “line” – with conscious understanding of the principles – are key parts fo functional and mindful skiing. All of this is governed by directing the Centre of Mass and being aware of it – like the gymnast spinning or rolling around it. In skiing we use it more like the point of a pencil – drawing our line in 3D space.
Mont Blanc 4810m (Seen from Val d’Isère)
Today’s session began with a look at Ketariina’s current skiing. In the video below the first clip shows the skiing before working on anything. Clip two is a very good first attempt at “pivoting” and clip 3 shows Katariina using basic dynamics…
Katariina’s skiing was a typical “ski school” product. We discussed what she was doing and it is all visible in the video. The turns were started with an up movement and transfer of weight to the uphill ski and towards the outside of the turn. The upper body was kept facing downhill. Combining those things causes the body to remain very upright and static, the skis to be pushed outwards with the hips following in rotation and then a sideways drifting and irreversible instability to set in.
The fastest way to correct the worst aspects of the above is a direct introduction to “Dynamics”.
The above link takes you to the fixed page explaining dynamics and the exercises that we covered. Everything was standard protocol. The goal was not just to change physical actions but to bring about a fundamental change of understanding and perception as to how skiing works. Your job is to Fall Over – and the ski’s job is to lift you back up. The turn is a consequence of this “dissipative, feedback driven, disequilibrium system” as it is described in modern physics.
I took time to explain the underlying mistakes of physics (d’Alembert fictional forces) and how this leads to “Statics” (balance) being used by mistake in ski instruction instead of “Dynamics” – the physics of “Disequilibrium”.
The immediate feedback from Katariina was that she found it very relaxing to ski this way – but she seemed worried that it was too easy! Early on it is important to just follow the skis with the body and move laterally – as on a bicycle – because this is the development of a fundamental isolated basic component of skiing – a very critical one. Attempting to face the upper body downhill easily confuses the mind (spatially) and muddles the learning process. Katariina found this out for herself later on when we included some work on the hip and angulation. Relaxation comes about because the unnecessary battle between the body and the skis caused by “balancing” is removed. Forward motion – speed – is needed for the lifting effect of the ski to function. Comparisons with cycling and motorcycling are accurate.
After explaining that “centrifugal force” is a fiction and giving the example of the ball on a string being swung around the head – we translated this into skiing terms. The Centre of Mass moving into the turn is like the string giving a “centripetal” – “inwards” force on the ball. The skis maintain this inwards force but we have to do everything we can to help the ski – everything moving and pulling inwards – the exact opposite of what katariina is doing in her first video clip. When we work with the ski in this way there is no waste of energy or strength or conflict with the system – which is why if feels naturally relaxing.
Photo – overlooking the dam at Tignes
During the work on dynamics I explained that “timing” was “down/up” instead of “up/down” because we move the body like an upside down pendulum. A motorbike goes down into the turn not up! Skis have been manufactured since the 1960’s to function with this motion. Correct timing comes naturally from dynamics.
We needed a basic introduction to skating and after finding out that Katariina can skate we just went straight for a direct approach – skating straight downhill with the skis diverging and then falling inwards between the skis on each stride to create dynamics – morphing the skating into skiing. Katariina did manage to demonstrate a natural feel for the enhanced down/up timing with the combination of skating and dynamics. We aim for “resonance” here where the combined effects create even more power and stability. This timing of course is the complete opposite of the ancient and irrelevant up/down timing taught in ski schools – dating from a period when skis were totally dysfuctional and jumping was the only way to get them to do anything. Even then skis were never as bad as all that!
Part of the reason for skating is that it teaches the need to use the inside edges of the feet and the inside muscles in the legs (adductors) – a subject that we were about to go into more in depth.
We started working on the feet a little bit before skating but afterwarrds we looked properly at this indoors over a relaxing drink.
When skiing we have the overal motion of the body concerned with directing the centre of mass – then all the detailed internal aspects. The more we focus on all of this the more we develop awareness. Along with awareness comes a form of “mindfulness” which pushes distractions out of the mind and keeps us focused on our acts. This surprisingly increases our ability to deal with the external environment – it’s like all the instruments are switched on and all sensors functioning.
Visualisation can only function in the mind when actions make “sense”. Once we understand the right patterns of movements and feelings then we can reinforce this through active visualisation.
The above link gives full detailed demonstrations of pivoting. I demonstrated one in front of Katariina and asked her to try to spot what is different from other skiing issues – but predictably this was impossible for her to spot.
Katariina had a very brief introduction to pivoting and did extremely well with this – a subject that most people find intensely frustrating. I assisted her through one single pivot and then explained how to use the pole for support instead of me and she immediately executed a good pivot first time – better than when I brought out the camera!
When skiing with dynamics the ski moves forwards and the speed allows it to lift the centre of mass and create support and interaction. When pivoting the ski does not move forwards and so the pole is used for supporting the centre of mass. The centre of mass still controls the turn and and the same muscular actions as used in dynamics are once again exploited here.
Part of the goal here was to reinforce the “pulling in” muscular actions and coordination common to all effective skiing.
We spent some time on an introduction to “angulation” and the use of a counter rotation of the pelvis in skiing instead of “facing the shoulders downhill”. I carried out a “load test” with Katariina where she stood side on to me and turned her shoulders to me and tried to lift my weight – feeling it in her lower back. Then instead of turning the shoulders she turned the pelvis towards me – and when taking the load this caused a spontaneous reflex contraction of the lower abdominals to protect her back. Failure to pull back the hip during the turn causes the hip to rotate (pull around) in front of the ribs and for posture to collapse. This in Katariina’s case is exacerbated by her habitual tendency to tilt the pelvis downwards at the front.
Changing the “hips” takes place during the turn transitions – but as we have not worked on turn transitions yet it was not surprising that she found this a bit confusing at this stage. My point was that angulation and hip rotation control are critical for developing higher levels and better control on bumps and in tight turns and on ice – particular concerns of Katariina.
We used a few small bumps to get the ski tips in the air and then exploit this for easy pivoting.
Basak only managed to get around to having a session on her final day – when there was a major storm and when taking care of a knee injury from earlier on in the week. Despite all of those disadvantages, including poor visibility and lumpy snow she did manage to change her vision of skiing in a single session. Erdem, a first week beginner also responded very well.
The video first shows Basak sking with “statics”, pushing the leg out (stemming) and moving the centre of mass to the outside of the turn – this was prior to any explanations of dynamics or skating. Two slow motion turns are included to show this more clearly. Next up is Erdem making a good job of using dynamics and skiing parallel – prior to working on his fore/aft stance (unfortunately he wasn’t filmed prior to instruction). The final clip is Basak using dynamics – though still tentatively at this stage.
Considering the howling blizzard and Basak’s knee problem we decided to start the lesson with a complete basic introduction indoors in warmth and shelter – where it could all begin with the feet.
First of all I checked the alignment of Basak’s ski boots and found that she was slightly under-edged. Someone had canted the shafts of her boots inwards to match her slighlty knockkneed stance. The problem is that this is a habitual stance – not her bone structure. Checking the legs unloaded – legs completely straight and looking at the soles of the boots shows that this adjustment is in error and not respecting her structural morphology. Unfortunately I had misplaced my key for making such adjustments – but the canting should definitely be returned to neutral before using those boots again. The error that exists makes skating and gripping correctly harder – and makes snowplough and stemming easier or even difficult to avoid.
Here is a list of the main points…
Both Basak and Erdem were previously standing on the middle to fronts of the feet and collapsing the ankles when flexing – which is disguised by leaning on the ski boots but leads to many support and coordination problems.
The feet were explained within the overall context of dynamics so that lengthy explanations would be avoided outdoors in the blizzard!
We covered most of the skating exercises up until replacing the actual skate with just the dynamics. The above link covers those exercises in complete detail. Basak in particular had to be taught how to skate but picked this up rapidly – thanks to the work done already on the feet and adductors.
Our lengthy explanation of dynamics is fully covered here in the above link – with the “Magic Wall” included and the exercises.
The deep snow was making learning dynamics a little tricky because the skis were threatening to overpower everyone and lift them out of each turn prematurely. Erdem had one significant fall with this early on. When developing a turn it is important to continue to drive the body into the turn right to the end Coming around the turn we have gravity changing from pulling us inwards to pulling us outwards so during the second half of the turn we must act against this if we want to stay in the turn. With basak standing across the hill and holding a ski pole across her body I had her try to pull me uphill. This is how hard you need to work against the forces pulling you up and out of the turn downhill – until you are ready to give the turn up. Both Basak and Erdem understood this and applied it well – improving dynamics.
Basak had a tendency to rotate her body when turning right and also to stem her left ski out. Simply focusing of rolling the foot on its inside edge and using the adductors and centre of mass managed to bring this under control – this being because both sets of movements are mutually exclusive.
Both Basak and Erdem being new to dynamics had to be made aware of the need for perpendicularity. Launching the body downhill across the skis brings it perpendicular to the mountain – ready for the skis to come around. Thsi is a critical movement in skiing because failure to get perpendicular causes you to end up on the backs of the ski boots. In the video clips both skers are still in the backs of the boots – but later on Erdem had made good progress in correcting this.
I mgave a very brief demonstration of pivoting to show that it did not matter what edge of the ski was used to begin a turn. My aim was to combat the brainwashing of the snowplough that forces people to think that they have to somehow get the ski onto its inside edge to turn. Pulling the ski inwards was also part of the demonstration – once again showing that everything goes inwards and nothing is ever forced outwards.
Basak very clearly explained how she had been taugh to come up – stem and then sink down around the turn – an up/down timing. Correct timing is “down/up” corresponding to a motorbike going down into a turn and back up out of it. The upright body is like an inverted pendulum and it swings down into a turn and back up out of it. We didn’t have time to specifically work on this but the point was to clarify that this happens naturally through using dynamics and it suffices for the moment to simply avoid trying to create an up/down timing.
When you use the correct movements you can apply all your focus to them and this pulls your attention inside of your body. The connection internally with your body then provides calmness and freedom from distraction and anxiety – making your interaction with the environment more reflexive and efficient. This is what skiing should really be about – but without the correct details and mechanics it is impossible.
Wade was out before the start with a twinging knee from yesterday’s misadventure. Fortunately it doesn’t appear to be anything serious but it’s best to aim for rest and recovery – with lots of ice!
Photograph on the Pissalias glacier…
For my own homework I had to find out what “Motte” means regarding La Grande Motte. It’s just French for a flat topped mound. Also the origin of the English “moat” where a castle is built on a mound with water surrounding it.
Wikipedia had the answer for the meaning of “Isère” from Val d’Isère…
[Quote]… The name Isère was first recorded under the form Isara, which means "the impetuous one, the swift one." Not originally a Celtic word, it was very likely assimilated by the Celts in ancient times. This word is related to the Indo-European *isərós, meaning "impetuous, quick, vigorous," which is similar to the Sanskrit isiráh with the same definition. It was probably based on the reconstructed Indo-European root *eis(ə) (and not *is), which incidentally has not been found in the Celtic languages of the British Isles.
The word Isara figures in the etymology of many other river names, from ancient Gaul and its neighboring lands. Examples of this are the Isar River in Germany, the small Franco-Belgian Yser River, or even the ancient name of the Oise River, Isara (the French adjective isarien still exists in the language and continues to describe anything related to the Oise). In non-Celtic countries, we find the Isarco, a river in Northern Italy, the Éisra and Istrà in Lithuania, and the Jizera in the Czech Republic.
The Isère's course measures 286 kilometers (178 miles) and runs through a wide variety of landscapes: from its source near the Italian border in the western Alps, it crosses the Pays de Savoie and the Tarentaise Valley, cuts between the Chartreuse and Belledonne mountain ranges, follows the Vercors Massif, passes through the Dauphiné province, and finally meets with the Rhône at the foot of the Vivarais.
Lower Isère valley (basse vallée de l'Isère) in the north of the Plain of Valence.
Stable, warm weather meant the Val d’Isère Pissalias glacier was our destination for today. Watching everyone skiing it seemed appropriate to work a little on context and strategy rather than specifically on techinque. Even the steepness of the glacier was exposing a loss of control of line and speed common to all three skiers. Some of the problem was definitely technical but most of it was lack of awareness of how to use “line” and how to shape turns to control speed and also how to develop and exploit the forces in the turns.
We began by sidestepping uphill. Both feet were on their inside edges but both skis were on their uphill edges. The uphill foot therefore had the foot on its lower edge but the ski on its upper edge. This separation of the edges of the foot and ski is very important: It’s the basis of successful edge control for pivoting. The ski is prevented from flattening by the vertical shaft of the boot against the leg – and the lateral stiffness of the ski boot. Sidestepping was just being used to develop this feel.
From sidestepping uphill we moved on to skating across the hill while stepping up onto the uphill ski with each skate. Our aim was to stand up on the uphill ski (uphill edge) after the final skate onto it and fall downhill with the centre of mass into a turn. The ski being on its uphill edge and being solidly stood on means that there is no way it can be pushed away outwards – it can only be pulled into the new turn. In addition the lower ski is lifted so it can’t be used as a platform to push that top ski outwards either. By the means detailed above a turn is made with full committment to standing on that one ski – especially through the start of the turn.
During the skating the ski tips are diverging and this also works against the tendency to stem with converging ski tips. We skied for a short while with reducing the skates to two and then one at the end of each turn – to try to return to the natural skating rhythm of skiing.
Good skiers don’t brush off speed, they take a line that meanders down the mountain by crossing the slope and almost turning back up the hill – building forces through angulation to close off the turn and then using those forces to lift the centre of mass up and out of the turn and over the downhill ski with stability – into the next turn – while simply standing now on the new uphill leg. There’s no “weight transfer” there’s just a change of leg and commitment to a new outside leg. There’s a "pressure” transfer though and this can be enhanced by really stomping the new uphill leg into the snow as the body prepares to move downhill.
Later on with Marcia I asked her to angulate – (statically) holding her ski pole across in front of her - pulling against me. The point is that it’s not “pulling against” me that counts – during a turn it would be a pulling into the turn to resist the effects of gravity toppling you out of the turn and the ski lifting you up – building up forces and directing you consequently across the hill. You only release those forces when you are almost turning back up the hill. This way you can feel all the components of body mechanics, the overall motion and the effects of the skis – and this demonstrates real mindful and effective skiing.
When everyone skied down being filmed there was anything but mindful skiing going on. Don had a spectacular “near miss” which we won’t mention other than in the context of mindfulness. Real mindfulness not only makes the turns fiercely controlled but it enhances awareness of your surrounds – it doesn’t generate tunnel vision. There’s a tendency for people when being filmed to be focused on “doing their best” for the camera. The focus is not directed internally and on feelings and the result is very clear. While Don narrowly avoided catastrophy the others were not a whole lot better. Earlier Don had been the one shaping his turns the best – so perhaps tiredness was creeping in.
Jennifer pulled herself back by focusing on dynamics – as on day one – but also by realising that this is also what committment to the outside leg is all about. She repeated the static exercise of pushing against my shoulder to feel the solid pressure on her outside leg.
In the video Marcia was working hard here on her line and on developing her turn purposefully. She was more mindful and focused internally than before. In the sencond clip she loses angulation due to anxiety – but this is because of the emotional anticipation of skidding sideways and so throwing out the bottom to protect defensively. This is a vicious cycle of events promoted by her previous stemming. Practice of good movement patterns on easy terrain will help to overcome all of this – but turns must be shaped and those who just bomb down the fall line skidding must just be allowed to disappear into the distance for the meantime.
Who has her bottom sticking out (turning to the right) ? Who has “angulation”?
Today my plans were hijacked when we were diverted by Don into addressing “angulation” during our warm up run. Wade went off with Philippe – the living Duracell Bunny – to test his own batteries to destruction.
All three, Don, Jennifer and Marcia were having issues with angulation however this is really a tricky subject to teach correctly to a group – because each person can bring different complications to the table. The hip joints and lower back are key areas for postural control so each person can have a lifetime of baggage to be dealt with there that has nothing even to do with skiing.
The first thing here is to prioritise the protection of the lower back. Normally people are taught to face the shoulders downhill. Inevitably the outside ski coming around the turn will pull the outside hip in front of the ribs and slightly twist the spine by turning the whole pelvis in this direction against the shoulders. When there is load on the body at the same time this collapses the posture and exposes the lower back to serious risk – and it also produces very ineffective angulation and can introduce “hip rotation” problems and poor turn transitions.
Here is a video of me demonstrating this (inappropriate, incorrect and dangerous) standard ‘'”Upper/Lower Body Separation” as taught by national ski teaching systems around the world…
The next version demonstrated is the ChiSkiing version http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/chiskiing.html – the principles being take from ChiRunning and applied directly to skiing.
Pulling back the hip so that it counter rotates the base of the spine to the turn allows the postural muscles to be activated under load. We carried out the “load testing” static exercise so that everyone ould feel the lower abdomen contract.
Pulling back the hip during turn transition and then holding it back for the whole turn evolution directly improves turn transition and Don remarked how he felt better edging without even consciously trying to “angulate”.
Correct “Chi” generation of hip angulation… (It takes careful observation to see the difference visually)
When using dynamics in skiing (when the skis are moving forwards) there are two ways to alter turn raduis; increase the dynamics or push the outside foot forwards. When on steeps both of those strategies are employed. We used a static exercise to cultivate the feeling for pushing forwards – but this is not on film here. The exercise is to scribe an arc on the snow with the inside edge of a ski boot – using one leg as a prop and the outer leg swinging around. Tomorrow we will stop and video this for the record. This is a good exercise for Jennifer because it exposed her tendency to twist the leg and foot rather than swing it through an arc with the foot held on edge.
Applying this provides more grip in short turns – but later on I saw a couple of times that Don’s skis were still running away with him so for him the key issue was likely to be that he was not using the fronts of his skis. Before working on using the fronts of the skis we have to do some work on angulation, dynamics and foot forward technique – so events were moving in the right direction.
Today it was important to introduce the second main part of dynamics to the group – even though information overload was already threatening. Using dynamics to get out of a turn is just as important as it is for getting into a turn. Off Piste it is even more important.
We used “hanger” turns to explore this principle – completing the turn by supporting the body on the downhill leg until it came right out into “neutral” momentarily with the skis flat across the slope and the body perpendicular to the slope. Hanger turns exaggerate this effect but are good for demonstrating and making it obvious.
Everyone got the dynamics both into and out of the turn. The foot is kept on its inside edge all the way through the turn – whether the centre of mass is moving into or out of the turn the foot and adductors remain the same because they are really concerned with the integrity of the body and posture.
The aim of introducing this principle now is to eliminate the tendency to use the downhill ski as a platform for stemming out the uphill ski – which is a defensive alternative way of making a turn transition but extremely inefective in comparison – especially off piste or on ice.
The perpendicularity of “neutral” helps the skier to be on the front of the ski as it tilts downhill for the next turn.
http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/pivot.html The link here gives a detailed explanation of pivoting and how and why it builds important skills.
Everyone tried skiing on one ski only but nobody could get anywhere close to success – and this is specificially due to the lack of pivoting skills and the edge control required and developed through pivoting.
Jennifer was assisted through a nice pivot and felt the mechanism clearly. Marcia revolted. Don grumbled but still managed a half decent pivot on his own. I’m sure he will come to appreciate this over time!
The following video shows one version of Short Swings – a training exercise used to develop good technical form …
The next video shows one reason why we learn such things… Steeps …
Here is a single pivoted compression turn as used for mogul (bumps) skiing…
Thankfully we had enough time to directly address the issue of Don getting stuck on the backs of his skis. The best way to tackle this is to go directly for the jugular and lean forwards like Superman – almost breaking out of the bindings at the backs. The first thing is to learn to identify the feel of the fronts of the ski so you just ski on gentle terrain cranked right forwards. The heels almost pull out of the boots and you will end up on your toes – but that’s fine because the ankles are definitely not collapsing!
I demonstrated to Don how the aim is to angulate (during a turn) to stay forwards in the fronts and have the resultant force through the centre of mass coming frrom the middle of the front of the ski – driving you around in a turn. This morning I demonstrated how a seated stance – bottom up the hill – always kept the pressure forwards as the turn developed – but without risk of being pitched over the fronts of the skis. (Without angulation – bottom facing across the slope – weight falls back on the tails of the skis as the turn progresses)
It’s fine standing up and leaning forward against the boot with the foot extended inside the ski boot – though control of edging of the foot and sensing the adductors is lost to some degree (at least at early stages of development).
Both Don and Marcia significantly improved their feel for the skis and their stance. Marcia’s skiing is alreaady looking totally different and Don’s stance now looks far more natural and relaxed.
From the top of the Bellevarde…
The decision was made for the ladies to focus on instruction and remain with Don for the day while Wade would take advantage of the fresh covering of powder with Phillipe. We had an easy warm up run on the Vert and then began to separate after going up the Borsat lift. I took a second run to observe and get a clear idea of how Don, Jennifer and Marcia were skiing.
Don had clearly improved since his December skiing and the technique difference was obvious. Jennifer and Marcia would need to learn dynamics from scratch but each was likely to respond differently so I took time to study their movements. Both were sometimes stemming on the steeper slopes and the predominant action was always pushing the skis outwards and missing the starts of the turns – all the result of standard ski instruction.
The introduction to dynamics was carried out with my standard procedure – explanation, static exercise and then single turns across the hill from the fall line.
The full details of dynamics are given here in this fixed page http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/dynamics.html – also accessed from the tab at the top of the blog… Details of the exercises are described under the subheading “The Magic Wall”. For children I tell them tha when they slide forwards an invisible wall appears either side of their body – and if they really believe in it then they can push hard against this wall and will lean against it but never fall over. The invisible wall always protects them – but they must actually try to fall and trust it 100%.
This is only the first part of dynamics but it’s where people begin to understand the great fallacy of “balance”. Marci found it a bit confusing initially but she asked appropriate questions and gradually the issues were clarified. Jennifer immediately noticed that much less energy was expended when skiing with dynamics. I explained on the charilift that the reason for the relaxation when using dynamics is that it permits selective muscle use. When the Centre of Mass moves the wrong way (to the outside of the turn) then all the muscles in the legs are activated due to the conflict in mechanics and so you are fighting against yourself.
For rapidity I only demonstrated how to use the feet with one boot off and everyone watching instead of copying.
Dynamics is next to impossible if there is not a good support base to work from. Those taught to push inwards with the big toe are going to have the foot flattening, the ski twisting and being torqued into the turn with the knee falling inwards and being made vulnerable to injury. The foot in contrast is best operated from the heel initially so as to develop the rocking action related to skating and to sense the adductors.
Think in the order: Centre of Mass – Adductors – foot starting your movement from the centre.
Skating was introduced without much introduction. I explained the connection between the down/up timing of the dynamics (inverted pendulum) and the down/up timing of the legs in skating. The idea was to skate downhill directly and when speed built up then fall inwards between the skis to increase dynamics – progressively converting the skating into skiing – maintaining the same rhythm with the legs. This can help people to rapidly see the natural rhythm and resonance that skiing is really based upon. Skis have been manufactured since the 1960s to function with this movement – unfortunately schools have never taught it – yet racers who ski in poles discover it for themselves – at least the very small percentage who survive do.
Jennifer was good at this and for Marcia there was a breakthrough connection made through the feeling of skating.
Skiing is fundamentally a combination of dynamics and skating.
Perhaps the most important part of our process here is to use the focus on the body to develop the habit of mindfulness. All of the movements that cause trouble in skiing are emotionally driven (twisting, pushing, braking, forcing and avoiding dynamics). Many of those actions are unfortunately also taught in ski schools. Those defensive actions are our primary response and totally unconscious for the most part. We use our conscious focus to override all of this and progressively retrain the unconscious mind to new responses and actions – skills – which eventually end up unconscious and automatic themselves.
Mindfulness – focus within the body – calms the mind from all external distraction and actually permits a better connection with the outside world though a more relaxed body and greater awareness. We can only achieve this state when the movements we are working on literally make sense to our senses. This is how skiing becomes a regererative act and endlessly interesting – instead of frustrating, tiring and all too frequently disappointing for many people.
Studying the video it’s clear that the fronts of Don’s skis are flapping about in the air – so we need to get more over the fronts and use the fronts of the skis. This can sometimes be seen to send Don into the backs of his ski boots and cause his outside ski to flatten (not in the video). Dynamics are strong but the evolution of the turn is compromised by lack of angulation.
Jennifer – foot twisting and knee falling into the turn is too clearly observed for comfort. Dynamics are reasonable but compromised by rushing the start of the turn. There is a twisting of the spine with the shoulders trying to face downhill that is causing the posture to collapse – we need to look at this with a view to protecting the back while generating angulation.
Marcia has definitely found the right timing and connected it with dynamics. There is a whole body rotation into the turn – exacerbated by reaching forward with the outside arm for pole use. This action removes any angulation and then causes a large skid at the start of each new turn.
Wade’s timing and dynamics looked good so I assume that Philippe was working on it and bringing out the natural qualities. The feet didn’t look like they were actively rocking and the posture was unstable – not standing clearly on the outside hip (skating stance) – which then makes the lower back vulnerable. The stance is probably linked to the first half of the turn being rushed and not commiting to the outside leg early enough (hence the big skid in the slow motion view). If you stand really solidly on that outside leg right from the start of the turn then there is a better chance of standing strongly on the hip joint and shaping the turn progressively through the use of the ski.
Predictably, today was going to be a battle for Alex and it was. He was determined to get back into the long poles and overcome the great difficutlies they present. There was hope that improved technique itself would do the trick but the problem is that he hasn’t had enough time to drill this into being an unconscious automatism.
Video shows the disaster of “reaching and boxing” and the difference between left and right – then the Jiu Jitsu version with reduced reaching and successfully clearing every pole…
To try to bridge the gap between short stubbies and long poles I prepared a slalom course alternating between 3 stubbies and 3 long poles so that he would have a chance to recover if the long poles threw him off. Unfortunately all the good new technique went out of the window and the long poles triggered a defensive mode of functioning. Alex raises his arm and reaches forwards for defense. This complete distraction from his skiing makes him feel obliged to turn early to set up a high line – then when he defends in the poles he skids and brakes frequently after the pole. Initially we took a psychological approach – trying to just ignore the poles and allow them to strike anywhere because with body armour on they just don’t hurt that much. None of this helped Alex and his reflexive defensiveness was deep rooted. Losing the good line he managed yesterday compounded the problems and there was a lot of frustration and a few teary moments from Alex. I pointed out to Alex that frustration, anger and tears don’t solve problems and it’s best to put his energy to positive use instead. None of the other issues we dealt with already were resolved by shouting at them – that’s just a wasteful and destructive approach typical of some spoiled brats who are not very useful as role models. Character is easily spotted by how someone responds to difficulty – and always thoughtful, intelligent reflection will get you much further than a brainless rant. All the previous problems were circumvented by working out what the limiting factors were and changing the right things. Alex has to understand that he isn’t on his own here.
This photo is of Alex’s line shadowing the stubbies slightly to the skier’s right. The point is that he is clearly getting the apex of the turn far too high above the poles…
On the slope I demonstrated to Alex how to defend from the poles by simply brining the outside hand across the front of the body and turning the palm of the hand outwards – using just the gloved palm to push the pole away. The point here is that the arm is brought inwards and towards the body and turn centre – not outwards and reaching away from the centre of the turn. When punching forwards or reaching out and up this pulls the centre of mass out of the turn, causing rotation and loss of hip angulation and inclination. Alex simply couldn’t stop doing this until attempting this exercise – but even then his defensive reflex was overwhelming. Alex only made one descent with his palms deflecting the poles then he made several slow descents using his ski pole pulled inwards in front of him. He should probably have done more work without the ski poles.
Yesterday I showed Alex statically that when he used the blades he should try to get his bottom on the snow andbut also BOTH his hands – turning the shoulders relatively inwards (pelvis outwards). He didn’t try this but now he was regretting it because he was starting to see how this is the same as pulling the arm inwards – as with every other part of the body – to help to generate centripetal force from the ski.
Alex was still lashing out at the poles and relating it to “boxing” the poles. I pointed out that it shouldn’t be like boxing – it should be like Jiu Jitsu – let the pole come to you and demolish istelf against you and your relaxed suppleness. Finally the penny dropped because Alex has actually done some Jiu Jitsu at school and so he grasped the idea. From this point onwards he could stay in the course and take all the long poles correctly – though there is still a tendency to reach a little and enough to detract from good form with his technique. He was also on his final two runs able to begin to think about using his outside ski and line better – yet still keep the contact with the poles relatively clean.
Tallulah was demonstrating how she “shivers” and skis backwards and without skis. Also on film is her fist ever solo ascent of the steep slalom stadium button lift which she was determined to do on her own. She specifically brought Husk (Her Husky toy) for me in the morning so I suggested Husk would love to ski with her… Husk took care or her all day and apparently even inadvertedly had some of her hot chocolate.
Tallulah also has her moments of down time – but Husk made sure she didn’t cry for long.
Yesterday Alex finished the day with a change in technique that stuck with him and he was able to reproduce it immediately this morning – being able to use the front of the outside ski while taking a line with it further from the pole. When Alex changed his line the result was so obvious that we had to reset the course to avoid his old ruts.
Alex used 3m carve radius blades for warming up – to develop his dynamic range. He was told to move more at the start of the turn through the transition period where there is not much feedback from the ski – don’t wait unitl the ski provides pressure before dropping deeper into the turn.
Today Alex improved strongly upon the following:
Two of the best slalomers in the world today…
The last two photographs show the whole outside ski bending.
The following diagram shows the lines – the green being “high” and the red being the optimum line with the middle of the turn on the apex and so the maximum pressure being there too as there is not so much turning across the hill. In Alex’s case there is also less skidding – which was also part of his way to get a “high” line.