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.

http://www.fis-ski.com/mm/Document/documentlibrary/NordicCombined/04/30/53/Competitionequipment_1617_11072016_clean_English.pdf

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
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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


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.


Dynamics


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.


Pivot


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.

The ski boots I mentioned to Nina that are exceptional value are found here: http://www.decathlon.fr/chaussure-rns-110-fit-body-id_8316778.html I use those boots myself and find them to be the best boots I've ever had - but also the least expensive by a huge margin. They are standard fit - men or women - but marketed for men. Women's boots are simply designed for women who have low and large calf/soleus muscles otherwise women fit fine into men's boots. Likewise some men with low calf muscles can only fit into women's specific design boots. If anyone has any question about boots then just send me an email. There are many reasons why those boots are good and why there are may pitfalls to avoid generally when buying boots. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Robert 5

The warm foehn wind was too strong and rapidly brought most of our chosen sector of Le Fornet to a close. Winds were forecast at altitude but it did look much clearer in that direction – and the snow would have been good on the glacier. The Solaise express eventually closed too so the only sector probably left functioning was La Daille – which should be sheltered from the southerly winds. Clear sky during the night had allowed heat radiation from the snow to cause it to freeze despite the high air temperatures.
  

Our group for this morning was mixed – with Winfred aged 8 and Elspeth aged 11 along with Robert, Clea, Mary and Richard. Despite the varied group, wind and limited pistes we made the most of the opportunity to work on technique. Winfred was very patient through the explanations and exercises because the delivery of the lesson was not targeted at his age group.

Chi Skiing 

Having watched people all week skiing without their core muscles activated correctly and witnessing the consequences it seemed like this would be a good opportunity to tackle this subject. It wasn’t tackled previously because there are many issues which affect the capacity to ski far more – though overall this is probably more important than any of the other technical issues.

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.

Each person in turn was 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.

Now you can see why I was Impressed that Winfred listened to all of this!

Mary can make use of this core action to work on preventing rotation. Clea tends not to stand strongly on her right hip so this would help to straighten out that issue. Using the new hip position to flex more at the hip joints – and correspondingly at the knees – would free up Clea’s skiing enorlously.  Robert is vulnerable to the upper body lurching forwards in tricky off piste or bumps so the strong core would stop that and protect his back. Richard needs to ensure his pelvis is tilted up at the front so that the spine rotates along its axis. In Richard’s case both pelvic tilt and counter rotation are necessary for strong posture. Richard’s weight is generally too far forward on the feet and the ankles are collapsing making him lean on the ski boots. This causes the hip joints to lock up somewhat in compensation – which probably adds to the pelvic tilt issues when trying to counter rotate the pelvis.

Later on during the session I explained to Clea that although it is ideal to stand on the fronts of the heels (beneath the ankle joints – allowing the subtaler joints to roll the feet onto their edges) she still required pressure against the shin to use the front of the ski. This pressure is attained by flexing at the hip joint (aided by the counter rotated hip) sinking down into the turn from the start of the turn and maintaining strong posture. Basically – seek to use heel and shin pressure and to counter the hip, flexing at the hip and if required at the knee. Remember – it’s the centre of mass that controls the skis and this is how pressure is built up and managed as a turn progresses. Body management is paramount in all of this. Good body management happens through the core.

Skating

Skating and dynamics are the main building blocks of skiing but only Clea and Mary had been previously introduced to this. Normally this is a big subject which requires a lot of attention but the idea here was to introduce it via the work being done with the hips. Countering the hip on the skating leg makes the skating action far stronger and so the two actions fit together and enhance each other. Using “Direct Method” I demonstrated by skating straight downhill and then falling to the inside of each stride to generate dynamics and turn the skating into skiing. Richard picked up on the timing immediately. Skating is a good opportunity to practice on active working of the hips and core. Correct timing in skiing comes from skating with the legs – down/up – as opposed to ski school up/down. They have built all skis since the 1960’s to work with down/up motion of the body but the schools still haven’t caught up.

Dynamics

We had a short introduction to dynamics – most of the idea being transmitted to Robert and Richard in the cable car to make use of the time. I explained the difference between weight transfer as described in statics – moving your centre of mass over your support foot – and dynamics which involves accelerating your centre of mass in the opposite direction. You simply accelerate your body in the direction it has to turn – and the ski then takes over and sustains this acceleration. There is a fixed page on dynamics here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/dynamics.html

Dynamics also gives natural timing – like an upside down pendulum – toppling down into a turn and back up out of it. In your mind you can remove the slope and imagine a flat surface – which is what is done effectively as you slide perpendicular to the slope (unless pivoting!). The dynamics combine with the skating to form efficient and effective skiing and rhythm and timing create a resonance (used to great effect off piste in deep snow). The legs become properly functional when used actively with this timing.

Pole planting is replaced with the “pole touch” which takes place as the body inclines downwards into the next turn – after the turn transition. This is the case whenever the skis are moving forwards (as opposed to sideways) and why you never see a racer pole planting. The arms aren’t used for this – only the body inclining. In contrast mogul skiers always pole plant.

Pivoting

The session on pivoting was even more rushed and rapid but both Clea and Mary had already worked on this so I only had to help Elspeth, Winfred and Richard by supporting them through the first attempt. There are full demos and explanations of the pivot here:

Clea needs to work on this because her main difficulty was with using the pole for support. This is where the pole plant is used – for restraining dynamics. The centre of mass still dictates the turn but the motion of it has to be held back by a pole support so that the ski doesn’t flip over onto its inside edge too soon. Clea had no weight on her pole. Setting up the body with a forward tilt at the hips, counter rotated pelvis (all adding up to hip angulation) would get the centre of mass between the uphill ski and the ski pole as soon as the downhill ski was lifted off the ground. The exercise difficulty here signals where Clea’s main area of development should be focused as this is probably affecting all of her skiing. Just a little bit of practice here brings rapid change. Clea has been using “pole planting” along with up/down timing probably all her life and this inappropriate configuration has clearly held her back. Changing to the pole touch for any forward motion and the pole plant for sideways motion (of the skis) – all with down/up motion - will free up skiing enormously. 

Unfortunately Elspeth only had one attempt at the pivot on her own and I didn’t get it on film.