Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tallulah’s Skiing Report

Author: Bernard Chesneau

Before we talk about Tallulah fabulous skiing, it is required to become familiar with the philosophical structure of my ski coaching.

Background, Philosophy and Strategy

I live to express a higher version of myself and I ski to awaken the expression of that higher version of myself.

Therefore as a coach, my objective is to let skiers access the higher version of their own selves.

Expressing a higher version of self requires that a precise structure be used and properly followed:

The structure that I use is based on the “enneagram of processes” shown bellow.


This particular enneagram is built for skiing and is designed to set anyone free from skiing limitations. Notice that nine words are contained within a geometric pattern, all of which has very significant meaning. Also notice the two heads inside the geometric figure. The one on the right, along numbers 1,2,3,4 is conveying aspects of doing, whereas the left one beside numbers 5,6,7,8 represents the higher aspects of being. With this process, we have a tool to move out of fear.

Naturally great performance is achieved by bringing into proper alignment the interconnectedness of the many parameters governing skier’s actions.

Amongst these parameters we have:
  1. What is conditioning skiing, what makes skiing possible!
  2. What is the individual’s relationship towards outside conditions!
  3. What is the individual’s relationship towards self!
  4. How to optimise these relationships to best serve the skier!

Lets get started – Gravity – Number 9

The word GRAVITY is at the top, above number nine, is the master word. Skiing only exists because of gravity. Thus all skiing is conditioned by gravity. Gravity is the power source and it is what moves the skier. The law is that gravity is the mover and that the skier is the one being moved. It is how well the skier accepts being moved by gravity that governs performance.

Moving on to number 1- Slope

The pitch angle of the slope regulates the intensity of gravity’s power. Steeper slopes unleash more of gravity’s power and is felt as a jolt on the skier’s body due to the acceleration. The steeper the slope is, stronger is that jolt and how the skier responds to the jolt will determine the kind of relationship that the skier has with gravity, with circumstances and with self.

Two arrows shoot off from every point. I will explain the arrow’s significance further on down.

Number 2- Balance*

The “acceleration jolt” from the slope’s steepness will challenge the skier’s balance, which will need to be resolved.

*Note on balance for Ian only.
Ian I am fully aware that balance is not the word that you would use, but please accept it as I do here in the terms of the layman.

The most significant definition of balance that I have encountered is: Balance equals immortality, and immortality equals “un-manifested” potentiality. When balance ceases to be, “potentiality” is tripped into action and the dynamics of “physical manifestation” are set into motion. Thus in the physically manifested world, what appears to our senses and to our science can never be in… balance; for it were in balance, it would cease to physically exist. More on this when we have dinner.

(Not wanting to interfere with Bernie's excellent approach I've placed my own footnote regarding balance at the end of the report... Ian)

Number 3 - Technique

The resolution of balance problems is achieved with “technique”.

Number 4 - control

The successful application of techniques brings control and the skier feels that all is fine and most end the journey of their skiing progress right here at point 4 instead of moving on through point five, six, seven and eight where the higher and the naturally joyful aspects of self are to be found. Skiers failing to move on end up decaying on the “terminal intermediate” plane. Why is that?

Skiers fail to move on for several reasons:
  1. Sociological statistics reveal that the need for control and the need for security are the two most strongly and universally held beliefs in the mind of mankind. Man is so massively programmed to want to control everything. To a skier, the need for control translates in the need to control gravity.
  1. Gravity is not controllable, so what is the thing that skiers need to control but are not aware of?
  1. In skiing the thing that skiers are trying to control but are unaware of is their own emotions. The need for control exists, however is not the thrust of gravity that needs to be controlled, but one’s own emotions.
The ability to control emotions is what is required to access the higher-level of self.

To integrate the mechanics of higher self-expression and move beyond point 5, emotions need to be managed. 

To better manage emotions, let us remember this about gravity: Gravity is the mover and the skier is the one being moved. Therefore a proper working relationship needs to be established for it is how well the skier accepts being moved by gravity that governs performance.

When you are on top of a ski slope, imagine yourself on a date with Gravity and because gravity is the mover, it is the one who is in charge of taking you out, who is showing you around and who is in charge of bringing you down the mountain. Gravity is in charge of your movements, not you. Your role is welcome gravity’s power and to allow it to flow through your body in the most fluid and harmonious way possible.

Only those who are able to Cooperate (cooperation point 5) with their date instead of opposing it may move on because from point 5 onwards, the emotional focus is governed by the desire to cooperate with gravity instead of working in opposition to it. This is where the relationship with self begins. And this relationship with self is the true “raison d’être” of skiing. Better is the relationship with self; greater is the absence of emotional burden. In other words, external circumstances no longer condition response.

Once free from the effects of external circumstances, it is possible to exercise your will and choose the best actions to elevate your skiing onto the plane where everything flows harmoniously and without effort (harmony point 6) because gravity is doing the work for you. As gravity works, parasitic body tensions disappear to leave you with a wonderful sense of freedom (point 7). From this freedom the attainment of the expression (point 8) of the higher version of self is now yours.

We have now moved through every point of the enneagram. Let’s consider the arrows.

Arrows are the emotional guidance system.

Each point on the enneagram has 2 arrows stemming off of it. How well emotions are managed is shown by where the arrows are pointing. Arrows may point towards emotional liberation or towards emotional imprisonment.

Looking at the arrows stemming the Gravity point 9.

From the Gravity point, which is also the top of a triangle outlined by points 3,6,9 and whose dynamics allow for correction; we are either drawn towards Technique (3), or towards Harmony (6) depending upon the nature of our love/hate disposition towards gravity.

Wanting to control gravity will stimulate opposition-based techniques, whereas moving into cooperation with gravity will promote the harmonious flow of movements. Fortunately for the skier stuck in technical opposition, atonement is made possible by replacing feelings of opposition into feelings of cooperation (with gravity). This is also how technique will mutate into the technique of harmony. This atonement is shown with the arrow that joins points 3 and 6 at the base of the 3,6,9 triangle.

Stemming from the Slope point number 1, we have arrows going towards control in (4) and towards freedom in (7).

If the pitch of the slope is too steep and the speed and acceleration is too much for you, you will want to repel gravity’s power instead of letting it work through you. And the date you had with gravity turns into a disaster, then and out of neediness for control your emotions will rush your body towards the control point (4) regardless of what your skiing looks like.

If you choose a slope that will not overwhelm emotions, and if you intend with your will and before you start the descent, to honour the flow of gravity’s power by letting it work freely with and through you, then you’ll have the opportunity, if you so desire, to experience the freedom (point 7) that comes from being moved effortlessly.

The Balance point number 2

When balance issues remain, the attraction is towards the control point (4) whereas when balance issues have been resolved, the higher version of self can finally become active and take you towards point 8. Point 8 is where all the magic gets to happen.

Notes on balance: On the technical front all balance result in from poor grounding with earth and on the existential plane, fore/aft balance issues relate to time. Learning back is the result of hanging onto the past, conveying the inability to embrace the present. Being centred stems from being at peace and in agreement with the present situation, and being forward is the anticipation of a future suggesting a discontentment for the present.

The control point 4

This point is a cull de sac as none of the arrows offer a direct exit into the desirable zone in 5,6,7, 8 where you should go. To get into the clear, slope and balance issues in points 1 and 2 must first be resolved.

The Cooperation point 5

This point is a wonderful fortress to be residing in because both arrows point towards what is highly desirable which is freedom (7) and Expression (8).

So how well did Tallulah access the higher level of self using the guidelines offered by the enneagram?

Starting with Gravity

Considering that Tallulah who is 5 years old had no issues whatsoever when taken up to 3449 metres because this is where the only beginner terrain is, shows Tallulah's extraordinary good willed nature towards Gravity. This good relationship with gravity was not only confirmed but also affirmed throughout the week. Tallulah’s personal nature is definitely orientated towards appreciating gravity power, if anything, I had to make sure that she doesn’t go OTT in the bombing department. He nature is definitely one “to go” which is great.


Slope issues could have been a real problem because we only had the ultra gentle beginner terrain at 3439 metres or the much steeper terrain bellow with nothing in between. No an easy proposition, let alone for a 5 year old. As there was nothing in between so we had to make the abrupt jump. I held Tallulah in my arms so that she could float over the tricky portions. In my arms she was relaxed and confident and eager to hit the go button once her feet were back on the ground. By the end of the week, I no longer had to carry her at all, even in the steep and narrow portion near the base of the Vanoise lift. Despite the potentially bullish aspect of the slope, the slope never discombobulated her. The need to hide into the control prison does not exist in Tallulah’s universe. Well Done Tallulah.


Tallulah has very good core stability and strength allowing her to stand nice and upright on her skis without any leaning back, which is exceptional for a five year old. This good core strength may probably be what is securing her bombproof confidence. The body has a strong and reliable connection with the ground and she is never fazed by the steepness of the terrain even when going a little too fast. When going fast she spontaneously made the adjustments without falling over.


The objective here was to introduce techniques that lead to harmony and this is where Tallulah’s go-for-it nature is a real bonus because she is not one to be wanting brakes. So I got her to experiment with edging her skis through her ankles so that she could experience “being turned” by the inbuilt turning radius of her skis. Kiddie’s skis are great because they have a tight 6-metre arc, which inspires much confidence. Again, because Tallulah is not afraid to go and has great core stability she does not feel the negative need for control and which is keeping her clear of most of the parasitic rotational movement that skiers are plagued with, she does most of her turning in carved mode like ski racers but at her level of course.


Even though I go on about cultivating the art of letting go of wanting to control gravity, Tallulah who likes to go fast, had ME needing to apply some tricks to keep her speed and her impetus in control, so I had to show her pizza slices and chips.


Tallulah spontaneously lets ALL of gravity work through her, which is why it is important that the next time she skis that she is kept on appropriate terrain so that this quality can mature a bit more so that if can more effectively be transferred onto skis.


Again the good core, and the go-for-it attitude, which is never burdened with counterproductive rotary movements, is very promising for the future.


Good core, well grounded balance and the wonderful desire to go, Tallulah is a little freedom machine.


Tallulah loves skiing and I loved discovering all of her wonderful attributes and we had great and surprisingly mature exchanges. I was forewarned that there could be trouble if she would not have liked skiing so I stayed very attentive and it has paid off because she now loves skiing. The fabulous weather also contributed to bless every moment.

Thank you
Bernard Chesneau

Footnote: – from Ian, regarding Balance. 

Its not an issue of terminology!

Perhaps your use of the word “balance” is to refer to the combination of stability, centering the body along with the perpendicular component of gravity (to the slope) in a passive role and appropriate coordination in relation to the function of the skis – also mostly in response. I would use roughly this collection of terms instead. You do use similar terms later on in the report so there is no apparent contradiction here for those particular goals.

The “layman” or “medical” term “balance” or "dynamic balance" would normally be applied to walking. The closest this comes to reality is in the "dynamic balancing" of a rotating object such as a wheel so that it doesn't wobble (which is technically a different issue altogether) however the doctor and ski teacher are actually referring mistakenly to d'Alembert's fictitious “dynamic balance” which is used in both professions – totally in error.

However none of that covers my reasons for studiously avoiding “balance” - not just in terminology – but literally physically and psychologically. The use of the term “balance” should at the very least respect Newton's three laws of motion. Balance is only found in the first law (statics) and skiing is exclusively about the other two laws. If the “layman” doesn't understand this – then back to school please because it's part of compulsory education – at least in the UK. The issue is not one of terminology but of a complete paradigm shift – one that Newton himself changed the world with. However I also know that the French are not taught Newton's laws other than their application through mathematical calculus – so even many highly respected PhD level engineers do not understand the paradigm at all. They end up believing mistakenly in the physical existence of fictitious forces that cause the fictitious “dynamic balance” - a mathematical trick developed by French mathematician Jean Le Rond d'Alembert  - one of the chief protagonists of the "Enlightenment". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_le_Rond_d%27Alembert – and the source of endless confusion to experts, medical doctors and laymen alike. Ironically he named “dynamic balance” to warn people that it is fiction (intrinsic contradiction of terms). However – all physicists do understand this very clearly because they are neither involved in nor hijacked by the mathematical techniques of engineering.

This issue is not about theory, it is about the practical aim of achieving the diametrically opposite set of physical actions and emotions that are unfortunately attained by looking for fictional balance or even responsive, passive control:
  • it is about generating dynamics by active use of the body and ski design through vigorously generating disequlibrium
  • trying as hard as possible to fall over and discovering that you absolutely can't and that gravity is not the master by a long shot (thanks to fundamental interaction with intelligent ski technology)
  • that balance is your greatest enemy and a huge deception leading to massively incorrect instruction worldwide and inappropriate individual intentions and results on a personal level. Trying to stay in balance and trying to fall over are absolutely not the same thing. Instability and fear mostly come from dealing with the consequences of a tenacious fiction.
The dynamic act of forcibly falling combined with the organisational effect of the ski causes the body's reflexes to be employed to spontaneously create a well-centered stability. This is an active - feedback driven - disequilibrium system - with the emphasis on "active", "dynamic", intelligence, reflexes and equipment design. Confidence comes spontaneously from sensing this mechanism clearly, unambiguously and related to reflexes. 

However – with intelligent guidance (as from Bernie) people can explore much of this naturally and by feel without ever realising how it works. They might just not reach the moon – like nobody would have without Newton. It took humanity until 1666 to wake up from being totally incapable of even understanding how a rock moves (Aristotle had it totally wrong and the whole of Western education copied and propagated his errors for 2000 years!) So the apparent simplicity of the issue hides a potential trap for all humanity – based on extremely counter intuitive realities. Newton gave us the key (thanks to Galileo) so any 13 year old schoolboy can understand it if he really wants to. Sticking to a false “layman's” understanding is as good as adhering to the stone age in comparison.

Note: Newton's Third Law has a catch! The two forces involved in equal and opposite reactions must not be acting on the same body. ie. A glass sitting on a table experiences two equal and opposite forces - gravity acting downwards and the table (elastic force) acting upwards. Both forces are on the same body so this is an example of the first law only - statics. 

Note: Based on the enneagram model (which appears to be very useful and effective) I would probably change out "balance" with "disequilibrium". "Self Organisation" would have to find a place on the other side (perhaps replacing "cooperation") - as it is the underlying basis of all learning (Edward De Bono invented the term "lateral thinking" to refer to the mechanisms of self organisation) and (at some level) everything complex that emerges in the universe - but only as part of  an open, dissipative, adaptive, feedback driven disequilibrium system - which all matter, information and especially life happen to be.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Daisy & Tallulah …in the beginning…

Thanks once again to Jay’s creative filming and photography we have a record of both Daisy’s and Tallulah’s introductions to their new sports – at 3500m altitude on the Tignes glacier. It’s quite a remarkable place to have a beginner’s slope and extremely dependent upon cooperative weather. The girls both coped well with the high altitude.













Friday, July 29, 2016

Daisy Snowboard Special

Daisy having decided that she wants to snowboard had the relative peace of the summer pistes of Tignes to learn in safety. Jay took on the job and looked after Daisy, giving her the benefit of his huge experience and capability – plus loads of encouragement. It was good to see Daisy smiling and enjoying the whole experience including the incredible weather, fresh high altitude air and scenery. Meanwhile her little sister was taking Bernie for a ski (they make a very brief appearance in the video) and her twin brother was making great progress at both giant slalom and slalom higher up on the glacier. Not to forget to mention Mike – who by tagging along with Alex and working quietly away at things by himself managed to make significant progress in a short time. Unlike the children Mike is partly dealing with “unlearning” – removing a few well constructed barriers to perception.  Meanwhile Daisy is happy just having fun…









Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Alex 2016 Tignes Slalom Training day 5

Alex had managed to retain a clear and  firm grasp of his learning from the previous few days so we were able to move forward immediately. Developing Giant Slalom technique is a relatively complicated issue because the sport is currently dominated by absurd FIS regulations. Men’s ski carving radius is set at a minimum of 35 metres, which is greater than skis being used in racing the early 90s. There were proposals to increase this to a ridiculous 40 metres, making the skis almost straight as in the early 80’s, until the racers themselves almost unanimously protested against it. The point is that this situation dramatically affects skiing technique and efficiency. The pretext used by FIS is that it’s all about safety – but the reality is that they have no relevant statistics that can justify regression towards straight skis. The upshot of all of this is that to develop enough force to make the skis work the skiing has to be much more “jumpy”. We are seeing things returning like the old “Z” and “J” turns (the letter describes the shape) which are now just renamed “Stivoting”.  There will also be a trend towards using the backs of the skis to force them to bend where there is not enough force generated by the design to bend the fronts of the skis.


From a technical viewpoint however the art and science of skiing becomes more interesting with those equipment restrictions. Extreme carving technology tends to overwhelm everything else – the intelligence becoming concentrated within ski design instead of ski technique. One classic outcome of this is the huge division between racers and bump skiers (who do use almost straight skis). There is almost zero crossover of  skills between those disciplines.

Alex began the week with some basic flaws in his skiing – namely, not  standing strongly on the outside leg from the start of the turns and not using the front half of the skis. Alex figured out how to link skating (seen in his starts) to standing on the outside leg. He was asked to stand on the fronts of the heels and against the shins to be sure to feel the fronts of the skis being active. He worked on “Chi Skiing” pulling his outside hip backwards and activating his core muscles – generating natural hip angulation and control over both hip and upper body. The hip should always be “counter rotated” to the direction of the turn more than the shoulders for core strength and integrity to be be attained and for the postural muscles to function by reflex. The week was started out with smooth carving because this gives time to assimilate those fundamentals properly. One sign of development was that the left arm and ski pole stopped being waved high in the air on each turn once Alex started to stand on his left leg properly. This example is useful for clarifying the difference between cause and effect – where trying to correct the arms themselves would achieve nothing as they are an effect not a cause. Just like most mental activity is unconscious most physical activity is by unconscious reflex. Correction of one basic underlying problem can have surprising outcomes. Trying to correct hip rotation without awareness of counter-rotation of the lower spine (and pelvic tilt in some cases) is also unproductive as it is also an effect. Creating angulation by turning the shoulders downhill is a parody which is ubiquitous in ski teaching failing to address the underlying cause of hip rotation and creating more problems as a result – including damage to the lower back. However, the breakthrough for Alex came only after working specifically on pivoting.

Skis are designed to work specifically in two main ways – carving and pivoting. The underlying body mechanics remain the same – which is why there really should be a crossover of skills between disciplines. Standing on the uphill edge of the uphill ski and the inside edge of his foot (inside the ski boot) Alex was able to eventually feel how the turn was made by the motion of his centre of mass being supported by the ski. This exercise allowed him to develop the confidence to stand on one leg patiently through a whole turn – with the ski slipping into the turn by pivoting without resistance from the top edge. The body control and understanding gained from controlled pivoting was then transferred to the long carved turns. When Alex was standing on his leg correctly we could then work on his range of motion, timing and increasing angulation to tighten turns – however the limitation was reached due to ski technology and trying to carve the turns entirely caused him to become late for the gates when the slope steepened – being harder to get pressure to build on the ski (or centre of mass) at the start of the turn (effect of slope geometry and gravity). This is where the stivoting comes in.

Whether someone is learning bumps or GS they are normally taught to push the skis outwards to apply a torque to pivot them. This is an enormous error. Not only is it a disaster contravening all aspects of ski design but it works against all aspects of body mechanics and long term health. Alex understood clearly from the pivoting exercises that you pull inwards – towards the fronts of the skis – using the adductor muscles if required. You do not push outwards. This permitted Alex to achieve the stivot in GS straight away without any complications. We exaggerated the jumpiness so as to slam down on the edges once the skis had changed direction and generate maximum force on the edges for grip – carving from the fall line. Alex was able to combine this with his improved angulation and control of rotation to greatly tighten up his turns and improve his overall line – beyond that provided by purely carving. He was able to feel the fronts of the skis and his body was well centred over the skis – and arms working naturally. This is quite a lot to hold together so he did extremely well over only 5 days. The mix of skills in carving and pivoting will provide a good technical base and his body awareness can continue to grow and develop.

Alex responds well to accurate information – even though he might not fully understand it at the time. When he starts to think about things there is a natural confusion that arises – because the counter intuitive nature of what he is required to do challenges him in a constructive manner. There is nothing wrong with this confusion – it is a healthy part of the process of growing. When advice is “simplistic” always be on guard – but also be on guard against those who mask their ignorance behind mystique or authority. Good questions deserve good answers.

During the week 4 year old Tallulah was successfully turned into a parallel skier by Bernie. I showed her the video of her skiing later in the afternoon and her immediate response was “That’s my teacher getting in the way!”. Yes! … a real character! Daisy was happy on her snowboard being expertly looked after by Jay – there is video to come for that later on. Thanks to both professionals for their excellent support over the week.

Alex made a similar breakthrough in downhill mountain biking as he did in skiing. My role here was only accompanying him as an adult but not in any professional capacity – and sure enough I’m the one with bruises all over my body not him! By the way – body armour works really well as do full face helmets! It was great to see him really enjoying it and at 11 years old I’m sure that in a couple of years there’ll be no way to keep up with him.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Alex 2016 Tignes Slalom Training day 4

Alex started today in a positive manner at the same level as he had finished with yesterday. This progress meat that we could move on to new aspects of technique. The fact that he is standing far better on his outside leg during the turns means that he is skiing much more symmetrically and his left pole is no longer stuck up in the air all the time as a result of reflexes – not a conscious change
I wanted Alex to improve his timing and feel for the turns – which in racing are far less rounded than for controlled recreational skiing. The apex of the turn should be to the outside of the pole (not below it) and the idea is to prevent any outwards drift beyond this apex and harness the force of the skis to slingshot back across the hill for the next turn. The corresponding mental image is of a vertical, concave “wall of death” to ride on each apex. You don’t hold on to the turn or try to start the next one by carving immediately – but instead you use the straight and direct slingshot across the hill (torso facing downhill still – in the direction of the course not the next pole) then slam the body over and the skis on edge for the next turn. If the skis need to face more downhill for this slam to be effective then you “stivot” – which is really just a pivot – pulling the skis inwards while slightly airborne. This minimises the distance travelled to get across the hill and maximises the grip that can be attained due to the extra momentum across the hill (Grip and pressure are increased with greater speed). We are more concerned with our velocity across the hill than down the hill. Alex was able to understand and see this – and felt the increased speed accordingly. GS skis are not designed to carve all turns – the minimum radius being limited for this reason. Getting maximum pressure on the skis when they point downhill seems to avoid loss of speed from from the skis digging in and carving all the way around – above and below the apex. When doing this in free skiing there is far greater ease skiing fast in rough terrain because you are not fighting gravity so much in the fall line.

Tallullah Mountain Biking

Mont Blanc

Tignes Val Claret bike trails…

Val d’Isère Glacier – viewed from La Grande Motte

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Alex 2016 Tignes Slalom Training day 3

Alex turned up this morning half asleep. That’s quite a normal phenomenon on the third day of skiing. The only problem was that he’d completely forgotten everything he had learned the day before.

Today the focus was Giant Slalom so Alex had his new GS skis and shoulder/arm protection. Clearly he went into his first GS run thinking only about carving and going fast because his skiing immediately regressed to be exactly as it was before all of our work yesterday.

We repeated yesterday’s exercises – standing on the uphill ski and staying on it when initiating a turn. Alex had returned to rushing the turn, forcing the ski around and failing to use the centre of mass so that the ski would take him around instead. We worked on this and he improved again. Once again Alex told me that he didn’t understand what I meant by “stand on the uphill leg” at the start of the turn. Well – it means exactly that – just stand on it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Finally; I asked Alex to stand side on to me and fall against me – during the falling and floppiness he could feel the weight coming on to the leg nearest me. Then I asked him to stand on his other leg and push hard against me  - those are the feelings we are looking for from the uphill leg at the start of the turn – and then all the way through the turn. The sensation is like skating – one leg at a time – but taken in an arc. Despite all of this Alex then asked if this was the same a putting pressure on the ski – the dialogue he is picking up from his school. Stand on a leg then show me how you “press” on anything! You can’t. Gravity is doing all of that. Pressure is complex – it is influenced most of all by speed as the ski deflects you through a turn – it is influenced by gravity, the geometry of the slope, muscular impulses, dynamics, the ski carving or pivoting. However there is nothing much complicated about “Stand on your leg”! 

The real issue here is that we are trying to “pressure” the Centre of Mass – if we choose to discuss pressure. All skiing is about the relationship between the centre of mass and the ski. The ski responds and works with the centre of mass – a feedback driven disequilibrium system. All good skiers and athletes are aware of the centre of mass – a spin or roll take place around the centre of mass. You project the centre of mass in skiing and the skis will support this. Standing on the uphill leg and projecting the centre of mass downhill into the new turn is scary (which is why people mostly don’t do it!) but it’s what actually works and is where the fun of skiing really comes from. The following video shows Alex skiing much better in GS after sorting this out – and getting more use of the fronts of his skis (instead of being stuck on the backs). He is actually becoming well centred on his skis now – but that also comes naturally through reflex by standing appropriately on the outside leg. Alex also understood to stand up between the turns – thus generating even more range of pressure on the Centre of mass – and the ski. Alex understands that if there is not enough time or distance between turns he can retract the lower leg (or both) to get out of his turn – but this is best practised after the basic and principle movement pattern is fully developed and integrated.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Alex 2016 Tignes Slalom Training day 2

Today we started looking carefully at Alex’s technique and initially it looked like a long and tough job to sort out. Eventually it mostly boiled down to one basic problem – he did not realise that standing on the outside ski at the start of the turn really means standing on it. To figure out that this was the problem we had to go through several exercises that Alex found very difficult.
  1. Step sideways through a mini slalom in ski boots – the feet always pointing in the direction of travel and the pelvis always pointing downhill.
  2. Pivot from the uphill ski, uphill (outside) edge of ski, downhill edge of foot – into a clean turn standing up on one ski.
Alex found it hard to separate the body parts for exercise one and would turn his body and forget to direct his feet. Part of this exercise was to have each change of direction initiated with a pulling back of the outside hip – but he frequently used the wrong hip. This exercise really is a visualisation of real skiing – so it shows that Alex is not perceiving the fundamental issues properly. This will have to be repeated each day now until the correct movements are automatic. Alex did not believe that racers face downhill with the torso during turns – so I have attached a photo sequence here to show what really happens. He also did not believe that there should be flexion at the hip… both photos are here to demonstrate…

Alex struggling on the exercises…

One main reason Alex struggled to stand up on the uphill/outside ski was that he was looking for grip from the inside edge. For this reason I chose to get him to work on the pivot so that he would understand that there is no need to rush the ski around and get them onto the inside edge. Alex had great difficulty staying on the outside leg through a controlled turn initiation. Skiing through the slalom on one ski was impossible for him for this reason.

Alex was also unclear about why not to push the skis outwards. I demonstrated that you cannot twist a ski downhill with either the leg or body when standing on it on it’s uphill edge – which in the video clip above he was clearly doing Gradually Alex began to feel this and develop the confidence to pull inwards to the turn instead of push outwards. I demonstrated the differences to him so that he could identify them – and also see how similar pushing out and pulling in look to the eye and how easy it is to make mistakes here. Very few professionals are even aware of this.

From this point onwards Alex was able to tackle slalom by standing up on his new outside leg at the start of the turn and pull it inwards – which automatically sorted out most of his hip and rotation problems, tightened his turns and improved his range of motion and timing. He only fell over in the video because he was late for the gate. The two images taken from the video below show how he is much more symmetrical than before.

Towards the end we focused to getting more pressure on the fronts of the skis - enabled though better angulation - just to tighten the line a bit more and make Alex more secure. His best run of the day was his final one when doing this. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Alex 2016 Tignes Slalom Training day 1

First day back on snow and with new skis – so things are a bit fast for Alex to keep up with.

The main goal for today was to begin working on properly developing hip angulation and the use of the whole ski instead of just the backs of the skis. I also needed time to observe Alex to see what he was really doing. Instructions given included using pressure on the front of the boot (shin) with weight on the heel to prevent the ankle collapsing. I asked Alex to begin to start to feel which part of his foot he was using and which part of the ski he was using. Until now he has had no awareness of either. The heel/shin pressure is facilitated by pulling back the hip of that leg – but without pulling back the shoulder or the foot. (Chi Skiing)  This is difficult to learn but extremely powerful as it activates the core muscles and creates hip angulation naturally.

Just trying to face the pelvis more downhill did manage to make Alex more agile from turn to turn – but he didn’t really hold on to this new feeling for long as too many other issues creeped back in. Alex tends to rotate the upper body and pelvis into the turn to the right so the left hip sticks out and he compensates by inclining more. The inclination is effective but not exactly being done for the right reasons! On his left side he does the opposite – facing the upper body outwards and falling onto the inside ski. There is just a lot of work to do to get everything in the right place and organised correctly. Alex needs to take on board more information and realise that progress can only be made rapidly by thinking hard about it – not by trying to race. It takes a great deal of focus to change movements that have already become habits. His dynamics are good – this being why he gets good results – but dynamics alone are not enough if progress is to be made.
Tomorrow I want to see pressure on the fronts of the skis for a change  and a far greater range of motion at the hip joints. I’d like to begin to see a symmetry of movement and not see the left hip stuck out of the turn and the left arm and pole up high in the air as a consequence. We may do some groundwork outside of the poles.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Haluk - Col Pers

End of Season 2106

Skiing from a strong base but with minimal direct technical input in recent times Haluk has been slowly working away at changing his ingrained skiing habits. The scope for this is of course absolutely endless and it’s something we do at our own pace and pleasure. The great part of it is that it’s always refreshing and rewarding because it really means expanding physical awareness and perception.  There’s no criticism – just the enjoyment of getting better.

General Improvements Observed
  1. Counter rotation of pelvis/hip has greatly reduced body rotation
  2. Outside foot not left behind now
  3. Stance stronger – less leaning on skis boots and collapsing of the ankles
  4. More hip flexion and  range of motion
  5. Smoother dynamics
  6. More accurate timing
  7. Far less addiction to mobile phone (Impressive!)

Points to work on
  1. Develop the postural control further – neutral pelvis and stronger countering of the hip
  2. Separate the shoulders and pelvis more actively
  3. Avoid rotation at the end of the turn
  4. Avoid rotation at the start of the turn
  5. Separate movements of the centre of mass into rotation and  translation in appropriate axes
  6. Avoid the left leg generating torque
  7. Much more flexion at the hip
  8. More awareness of the muscles of the feet, the ankles and lower legs and pressure zones under the feet and against the boots
  9. Still more accurate timing needed
  10. Alternative timing options and adaptions need to be developed
  11. Leg retraction needs to be incorporated
  12. Clearer edge control needed
  13. Better understanding of relation between dynamics and edging
  14. Breathe the air and enjoy just being there – even more –  look at the mountains more and take photographs

We took a moment on the return to Tignes to carry out a brief exercise for the countering of the hips – linking it to postural reflexes. This exercise covers points 1 and 2. There was a clear issue of pelvic tilt involved. If the pelvis is allowed to drop at the front then everything falls apart when the hip is pulled backwards. Hold the pelvis in its natural neutral angle – no abdominal strength needed but perceived as just lightly tilted up at the front if required to overcome the dropping. Then pull back the hip (outside of the turn) but not the shoulders – so that the slight twist of the spine can be felt. The spine twists from the pelvis upwards in this case. To simplify – think of turning the pelvis to face downhill (or outside of the turn). If instead the shoulders are made to face downhill (or even just follow the pelvis) then the spine twists in the wrong sense for the postural muscles to function.

Points 3 and 4 derive naturally from sorting out 1 and 2. There is still too much rotation at the end of each turn – which limits fore/aft control and then encourages a further rotation a the start of the next turn. This is being combined with a rotational torque being applied to the skis (Point 6). The excess rotation at the end of the turn is coming from point 7 – lack of flexion at the hip – which also comes from points 1 and 2. To simplify - at the end of the turn the body is being rotated by the skis and at the start of the turn both the body and the legs are rotating the skis.

Point 5 – is a window into how to change perception of points 1, 2, 3 , 4 , 6 and 7.  The rotation of the centre of mass has to be mostly blocked – allowing only rotation to take place in the hip joints. The body translates an arc made by the skis – it does not rotate through an arc. Impulses relate to translations of the centre of mass with and against gravity – up/down and across the skis.

Point 8 refers to the 33 joints in each foot and 26 bones – then the shin and anterior tibialis. If you can contract the muscles in your foot to make shapes and arches then you can be strong on any part of the foot – otherwise keep pressure centred on the front of the heel just below the ankle joint. Keep the main actions here related to rocking the feet from edge to edge  (not happening on your left foot). Pressure should be maintained against the shin – preferably using “heel-shinning” technique. There must be no leg support from the boot and no torque applied. You can pull the ski laterally inwards but not apply torque. This relates to point 12 where the action of pivoting is weak – which takes us to point 13 where dynamics and rotation, points 3 and 4, combine with point 6 so that there is no subtle edge control. You have to be able to separate out the rotations, planes of motion, eliminate torque and combine this all to produce appropriate edging. Often it’s the choice of edging that comes first and determines the other actions.

Accommodating the current limitations is causing the timing to be late – meaning there is still a tendency to up unweight the start of the turn. This is where points 10 and 11 also come in – with leg retraction being smoother and softer than upwards movement of the body and various combinations of extension/retraction needing to be developed for proper adaptation – instead of being trapped in one single movement pattern that is already miss-timed.  In addition – when the snow is heavy look for the apex (greatest loading) of the turn as you would in a race course – towards the outside of the turn in the fall line –not at the end.

Wind slab – Cornice. Skiing on wind packed snow.

The Col de l’Isèran 27 April 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016

Robert 6

All week the overall planning decisions for the day have come from the group and they have been consistently good and appropriate. Today’s weather was once again a mix of Lombard and Foehn winds with high daytime temperatures affecting even the North faces – so the decision to focus on technical development for two of the least confident skiers in the group was a very good choice. During the week I ended up working  with 18 of the group in a complete spectrum of circumstances – which has certainly meant a lot of writing here!

Video clip – working on dynamics…

Warm Up

During our warm up skiing Nina wasn’t looking too relaxed though she was clearly attempting to control her body rotation. Isa looked more comfortable and a bit more active on her feet so the initial focus would be on Nina to begin the session.

Nina explained that she felt anxious when starting the day and when asked what she was focusing on she said that her focus was on trying to face the shoulders and pelvis downhill and to bend down going into the turn – something that Ben had been teaching her. During our second off piste day I mentioned to everyone that Ben’s skiing was the most technically correct and stable of the group – though I didn’t explain that this was mostly due to his timing. Ben used a natural down/up movement whereas everyone else in the group was reversing this with an up/down timing learned in ski schools. (Though everyone else did have some natural timing too – which is why the general skiing level was competent off piste)  When Nina was asked  to show me what she had been working on I was pleased to see that Ben had taught her correct down/up timing. Only a few moments later an ESF instructor passed by giving a perfect demonstration of the opposite up/down timing and with full rotation of the body – no facing downhill. All fully qualified instructors worldwide are trained to do this to a high level of precision (with or without rotation) – but it’s still pure nonsense. (When I coach instructors for exams I tell them to verbally describe this up/down timing as in the text book (extending up from the uphill leg) – but to physically change it for their demo so that the up motion is executed from the downhill ski only and through the end of the turn and into the turn transition. This way the demo looks totally excellent to the examiner and he can’t perceive that the extension was actually made during the very final part of the turn and not at the start of the new turn. Later in this session we would work on a similar turn called the “Hanger” turn to improve dynamics.)

Chi Skiing

Taking the cue from the work Ben was already doing with Nina the most important thing was to correct how the rotation was being dealt with. Facing the shoulders downhill simply destroys the lower back because it deactivates the postural reflexes. This is another fundamental error propagated by the international ski teaching establishment. The solution is to face only the pelvis “downhill”. This principle was developed by me from studying the book “ChiRunning” by Danny Dreyer http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/chiskiing.html 

While looking into the “Chi” concept I was worried about the mystical side of it all and so looked into the concept of “energy” in general – the results of which were fascinating and are in a short article here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/2012/03/energy-illusion.html

For the sake of simplicity we can refer to the pelvis as being “counter rotated”. The following text on “Chi Skiing” (counter rotated pelvis) is copied and pasted from yesterday’s blog with only the names being changed…

Facing the shoulders downhill as a turn progresses has the consequence of twisting the lumbar spine slightly from the top down as the skis come around the turn. The outer hip ends up beneath the front ribs and postural reflexes just cease to function.

Facing the pelvis downhill – but preventing the shoulders from doing so causes a twist of the lumbar spine from the bottom up in a counter direction to the turn  - causing a slight stretch between the outside hip and the bottom front rib. When loaded up with pressure this configuration allows the core postural muscles to work by reflex. Not only does this protect the lower back but it has huge effects on technical development and skiing performance.

Both Nina and Isa in turn were guided through a “load testing” exercise where first the shoulders were turned downhill and then the pelvis – standing still across the slope with a ski pole held across the front of the body. I supplied the load/resistance as they tried to lift me up while I put my weight on the pole. With the shoulders facing downhill everyone could feel the load on the back and nothing in the abdomen – and then with the pelvis facing downhill everyone felt the abdomen contract and no sensation of load on the back. This happens because the alignment allows reflexes to work and the abdomen creates a “hydraulic sac” where the load is spread across the whole midsection. Normally this is hydraulic sac is achieved through “neutral pelvis” by pelvic tilt  (tilting the pelvis up at the front) – but what this exercise shows is that there is a separate way to ensure that protective reflexes work. In fact, pelvic tilt alone does not protect a skier because the shoulders coming around makes pelvic tilt ineffective.

The pelvis has to move in this manner during the turn transition – so that it is set up from the start of each new turn. Turn initiation is also rendered far easier and more effective when this is done.

The core muscles correspond very closely to centre of the body and this is where movement should commence – both overall for the motion of the centre of mass and internally for biomechanics. Pulling the hip backwards pulls the femur into alignment with the adductor muscles and helps to roll of foot onto its inside edge inside the ski boot.

By the end of the session Nina did comment that she was not getting a sore back whereas yesterday when turning the shoulders downhill she was. This is the primary reason why I decided to tackle this issue – attempting to nip certain problems in the bud before they had a chance to develop.

Nina was trying to generate down/up motion by using the legs – but other than through skating this is actually done through dynamics by lowering the centre of mass towards the snow – either through overall body inclination or a combination of inclination and hip angulation. We proceeded to work both on skating and dynamics – which would also be of more direct benefit to Isa.

This photograph of Ted Ligety shows how the outside leg does not necessarily bend to get the centre of mass down low. This shot is probably near the start or middle of a turn so there are no rotational issues evident – he simply looks like he is making a huge skate (albeit ariborne!)


Skating and dynamics are the main building blocks of skiing. Yesterday the group was introduced to skating as a way to cultivate the action of counter rotating the pelvis. Countering the hip on the skating leg makes the skating action far stronger and so the two actions fit together and enhance each other. We skated on the flats to try to feel the core muscles being engaged. Nina needs to work on her skating so this was a useful exercise for her. Much of her insecurity comes from not being comfortable sliding on one leg only – and  Isa is the same. For Isa it would be the use of dynamics that would provide the connection to "one leg" sensations.

I demonstrated by skating straight downhill (shallow gradient) and then falling to the inside of each stride to generate dynamics and convert the skating into skiing. This was to begin to show how to generate down/up motion from the legs/ hips (angulation) and dynamics (falling into each stride/turn and coming up to complete it). Correct timing in skiing comes from skating with the legs – down/up – and toppling into the turn  – as opposed to the artificial ski school up/down.


At last we could move onto a subject specifically for Isa – “Dynamics”. Nina had already been introduced to this so Isa was taken through the standard introductory exercises – found in detail of this fixed page: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/dynamics.html

When the basic idea was understood we then used skating step turns to show how complete beginners can develop into parallel skiers in only an hour from the start. The complete beginner’s progression is here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/beginners.html  Skis go from  diverging to parallel very naturally, within the first hour normally because the correct dynamics are integrated into a skated step turn and the correct biomechanics are also integrated. Snowplough uses the wrong muscle groups – pushing the skis outwards and twisting the feet inwards – whereas skating pulls the ski inwards and pulls the feet onto their inside edges. The displacement of the body inwards is the beginning of dynamics and for the beginner to ski parallel they only need to have a little speed and then start the skate – but instead of lifting the ski they just commence the movement of the centre of mass – and a turn is made. Carrying out those beginner exercises appeared to clarify dynamics better to both Isa and Nina.


We looked at pivoting to show Isa the fallacy of thinking that the ski always needs to turn on its inside edge as is taught in a snowplough. The full compliment of exercises and demos are found here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/pivot.html 

Bumps were used to teach how to swing the fronts of the skis  (when suspended in the air) into a turn using controlled dynamics. Here I was using this to emphasise the need to always “pull inwards” and not push outwards no matter whether pivoting or not.

End of Turn Dynamics

Now both Nina and Isa were heading into new territory. The end of the turn is the critical part of it. It’s important to know how to constructively use the energy in a turn. Pressure builds up as you sink down into a turn and in the second half develop greater edge angle due to slope geometry and confront greater resistance to gravity. This pressure is used to eventually allow the ski to lift you up – coordinated if necessary with a push up from the outside (downhill) leg.

The best way to demonstrate this is with the “Hanger turn”. Basically, the turn is completed on the downhill leg – including the whole transition into the next turn. Only when actually entering the next turn is the new outside ski allowed to come down. This is an exaggerate display of how dynamics are used to complete a turn and link to the next one. If anything is critical for off piste skiing this is it. This “up” motion at the end of the turn is what brings stability and flow. However, it’s scary to do do because coming over that lower ski with the body can be intimidating – until you discover that it’s your skiing passport to freedom and security!

In the video clip Isa is managing to come to grips with basic dynamics, especially the start of the turns.  Nina is coping a little better with the flow from the end of the turn – connecting the turns a little better. This is a good solid start from both.

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