Wednesday, January 11, 2017

David 3

Today, with the weather clear and some fresh snow around, it was time to put David’s newly acquired skills to use and take him up the mountain for his first attempt at a green run. During his first proper ski run we managed an excursion off piste which he handled perfectly.

 

 

Once being confident that David could handle things well the goal was to generate mileage with David following me – showing him the line where he could manage the best control and keeping him away from other skiers as much as possible. Feedback from me mainly concerned reinforcing the most relevant points that we had worked on yesterday. This was not going to be a highly technical day as David needed to turn as often as possible to work through all the information that needed to be processed already. Had there been difficulties we would have focused differently but David was doing extremely well and handling the steeper slopes and higher speeds very effectively for only his third morning. The intense groundwork covered yesterday was really paying off. Although I didn’t capture David’s best moments off piste on video I did manage to record some interesting ones! David applied both sideslipping and pivoting on steep pitches very effectively.

 

End of Turn Dynamics

The only new technical issue that was brought up was “end of turn dynamics”. When there is forward momentum it is necessary to complete the turn by supporting the body with the lower leg/ski when crossing the hill – bringing it out to the perpendicular. This is a failry scary act but it guarantees easy entry into the next turn and easy engagement of the new supporting leg and ski. The body comes up and over the lower ski – resembling a motorbike coming up and out of a turn. This generates stability and directs the centre of mass across the hill and down into the next turn. David responded very well to this concept and was able to tighten his turns accordingly and survive strongly off piste. There was also a brief explanation of how this movement completes correct “timing” but there was no time left to demonstrate how exactly it also connects to skating. The important thing was that each new concept was grasped, applied and put to constructive and appropriate use sucessfully. David needs to get to work on sorting out his obvious stance problems which we clarified yesterday but he did a great job of working around that today.

 

Grande Motte summit in Tignes.

 

Mont Blanc with a little more that its “hat” on.

 

 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

David 2

With David’s knees bowing outwards there would continue to be a significant obstacle to rapid progress so the first task  for today was to attempt to sort that issue out. People can develop many issues regarding how the legs, pelvis and upper body stack up. Mostly those issues are postural but they can also be functional and depend upon experience. The first task was to find out exactly what was going on with David. We tried static exercises with the hips and posture which revealed confusion there – but there was also a confusion regarding the skating action.

 

Supporting Leg

The still image in the video clip shows David in the correct position and posture – but that was the only time he was really able to manage it. The goal is to get the upper body perched over one single hip joint. This involves preparing first with pelvic tilt, tilting the whole upper body forwards from the hips, pulling the supporting hip backwards relative to the shoulder, lifting the unsupported leg (knee forwards), hip and shoulder. The chest should be relaxed and the arms dangling freely. What’s important is that david could do this correctly – his problem is that this is all just alien to him. The hip has to get into place this way to tuck under the upper body and support the whole body solidly. You can then let the upper body pivot around the head of the femur like it is a fulcrum. Skating involves this action naturally with each stride.

 

 

In the video (prior to the still image) when David tries to adopt the stance on one leg, on skis, his posture collapses. When he skates (after the still image) he turns his upper body to face inwards on each stride instead of outwards. This last thing reveals the source of the habitual movement that is the cause of the coordination confusion. Basically there are both functional issues and postural issues to be corrected.

 

Chi-Skiing

There is a very special reason for pulling back the hip when you stand on the outside leg in a turn. If you end up with just the shoulders facing downhill then the hip will actually be pulled forwards below the fronts of your ribs and your postural reflexes will not function and protect you. If instead you face your pelvis downhill more than your shoulders then the lower spine twists slightly in the oppoiste direction – stretching the lower abdomen area and clearing the hip away from the front ribs – allowing the core muslces and postural muscles to work correctly. There is a fixed page on this subject here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/chiskiing.html

We applied the Chi principles in skiing and there was a moderate but definite improvement in David’s confidence. The results were still not consistent though.

Generally we were initiating a change of direction by starting with moving the centre of mass, then engaging the hip and the foot. The reason for moving the centre of mass first is to get the body to move over the downhill ski as it travels into the next turn – but I deliberately did not mention this so as to avoid complicating the issue at this stage.

 

Pivoting

Pivoting was taught so as to provide the understanding of the option of using the ouside edge of the ski to turn (very tightly) and to help to develop “pulling in” skills. The fixed page for pivoting is here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/pivot.html

 

Standing Up

Regardless of all the components we had worked on David was still finding it extremely difficult to stand on his supporting leg (including during pivoting). In all fairness this was only day two and he was in reality doing very well – but the mission was to rapidly attain a level of competence so there was no letting up with the pressure. The postural and functional issues are also amplified by emotional/defensive reactions, lack of adaption to accelerations, lack of recognition of the adjustment to perpendicularity when sliding and lack of experience of feedback from skis and equipment. Despite all of this David was tantalisingly close to getting it right. We tried “stomping” the supporting leg into the ground before starting the turn but that didn’t work. We tried adjusting more accurately to perpendicularity – which had a small effect. I then tried supporting David (using a pole) so that he could properly stand just on one leg as I guided him through a turn – and that did seem to work. Skiing is a one legged activity – as is skating – but good skiers don’t make this visible.

The underlying problem was that all of the above issues were conspiring to ensure that as David moved his centre of mass he would collapse his stance on his outside leg and then support himself of two legs instead. With the weight now on the inside ski he would try to twist the outside ski into the turn in desperation. Altering the order of the procedure by first standing up strongly on the uphill leg then moving the centre of mass into the turn gave David the chance to create some smooth, strong turns and feel the skills that he has been working on – with the skis making the turns for him.

The video shows David’s last descent of the day and he makes a strong first turn on the steepest part of the slope. After that turn he gets a little back – on the back of the ski boots and loses the full support of his supporting leg making the following turns less effective and secure. Just getting one turn correct is a big achievement and a solid reference point.

Monday, January 9, 2017

David–First Day Beginner

David’s only experience of skiing prior to today was on indoor snow in England – not managing to turn confidently in a snowplough. We started over from scratch – in the sun at the top of the Solaise.

 

 

Feet

Prior to going out on the snow we went indoors and removed the ski boots to look at how the feet work. First of all David flexed normally with weight distributed over the whole foot and he could feel the ankle bend. Placing the weight directly beneath the ankle on the front of the heel, bending was totally different with the ankle reflexively tensioning – leaving the bending to the hips and knees. With weight on the heel you can also accurately feel the foot rolling from edge to edge due to the function of the subtaler joint between the heel and the ankle. In contrast attempting to roll the feet on edge with the ankle flexed just causes the knee to be levered from side to side with a dangerous twisting action. Rolling both feet on to their inside edges activates the adductor muscles on the insides of the legs – this playing a key role in skiing. In skiing we want the ankle strong and the feet to roll on edge – both feet inwards.

 

Adductors

The reason the adductor muscles and feet edges need to be used is because the edge of the ski is not centered beneath the middle of the foot – it is displaced far to the inside. The sk iactually works by lifting the skier up – but if those adductors are not employed then the ski just flattens on the snow instead. This actually turned out to be a hard area for David to work on because he had a tendency to allow his knees to bow outwards – probably pulled outwards by the skis flattening. I checked the equipment/leg alignment indoors and there was no trace of bowleggedness or misalignment – so this issue is caused by a habit – not by bone structure. (This may be occuring at the hip joints)

The shaft of the boot running up the leg is what really stops the ski from flattening – and this is dependent on the lateral stiffness of the ski boot. The feet and adductors just assist holding the skeleton in place with the bones stacking up correctly.

 

Skating in circles – One ski – Two skis

The action of skating – with skis diverging – helps to promote correct body mechanics and coordination. Grip with the ski edges is essential so if a person cannot skate they will not ski. We began by going round in a circle with just the outside ski (relative to the circle) on and stepping inwards to turn incrementally. The goal was to get used to the ski and how to use it to displace the centre of mass. There is a full section about this on a fixed page in this blog; http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/beginners.html  David rapidly improved for all the exercises.

Skating in circles to learn how to change direction with the centre of mass was continued with two skis on.

Straight line skating was also strengthened with an exercise where David had to push me along on the flats. Acceleration in skating is achieved by continuing this process without the weight in front. In fact the forward propulsion actually comes from gravity – repeated falling forwards actions.

 

Side-stepping

We worked on side–stepping both uphill and downhill on a short steep section.

To proceed from here we would have to descend back down to the main beginner’s facilities and slopes at the bottom of the Solaise.

 

 

Straight Running

Instruction recommenced with simple straight running and an explanation of “perpendicular” and “vertical”. The feeling when standing across the hill and so vertical to gravity is exactly the same as when standing perpendicular to the slope when sliding downhill. You adjust to the slope and do not try to “lean forwards” relative to the skis and boots. Initially David reflexively moved into vertical when straight running downhill but he soon corrected this once it was explained.

 

Straight running into stepping/skated turn

Changing direction from the straight running was first accomplished in both directions by skating out of the fall line.

 

Straight running into parallel turn

Within no time David was able to make a turn just by moving the centre of mass in the direction of the intended turn – instead of actually stepping. His first attempt at a parallel turn was successful.

 

Button Lift

The button lift was mastered without incident and this brought to an end the tiring need to climb uphill – though at the initial stages the climbing served to develop a feel for the ski edges and coordination.

 

Chairlift

The chairlift was once again handled without any problems – despite it having a tricky acceleration on the exit. The path down from the chairlift is normally descended by snowploughing but David easily mastered the art of controlling his speed thorugh the use of diverging skis instead!

 

Parallel Turns – Dynamics

Parallel turns were worked on by engaging the uphill leg (adductors/inside edge of the foot) and standing up on that leg prior to moving the centre of mass into the new turn. David had mixed success with this due to his tendency to let the knees come outwards and skis flatten. There was a supporting explanation and static exercise for dynamics (including the Magic Wall) http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/dynamics.html 

Correction for the apparent bowleggedness was introduced by moving onto the front of the foot, pressing against the shin and pulling the knee directly inwards. This is an attempt to correct or compensate for an inappropriate habit and appears to be effective.

We worked on “pulling in” as a counter to the illusion of “centrifugal force”. All actions through a turn should be pulling in towards the centre but most people instinctively push outwards instead.

The skis were too long to allow clear feedback so I requested that they be changed for tomorrow.

 

Traversing – Side-slipping

Traversing was worked on including carving with the edges locked on solidly. Side-slipping was introduced by moving the body out over the downhill ski to flatten the the skis enough to remove the grip.

 

Emotions

The tendency to twist the ski into the turn was one of the obstacles David encountered. This is partly a result of the introduction he had previously had to “snowplough”. The ski is controlled by the centre of mass and the other actions which support the movement of the centre of mass. The ski turns you – not the other way around.

Pushing outwards – also a derived from the snowplough was another obstancle already mentioned here – but this too has a defensive emotional element.

Collapsing the supporting leg and falling onto the inside leg: This is a normal issue for beginners because it takes a measure of overriding of the emotions to stand solidly on the uphill leg and then allow the body to fall downhill.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mike-Alex

Last day for Alex to try to gain consistency in his slalom – so no pressure! Adding to the situation was the fact that we only had a half day and visibility was variable . The visibility didn’t seem to affect Alex but it did affect filming. Alex had a battle on his hands to overcome the distraction of being hit by the poles. Simple exposure to the poles turns this into a “non issue” over time – lots of time! Alex had to try his best to focus on technique and to allow that to help quieten down the pole interference just through more appropriate skiing.

 

 

Severe problems were generated by Alex attempting to apply the tricks he has learned from skiing stubby poles on plastic. He would launch at the first pole as close as possible and try to knock it over with his ski boot. That might work on a moderate slope on plastic with little stubbies – but here it just knocked Alex over instead. This nonsense leads to a strategy of taking a straight line to the pole followed by a braking skid when it is all way too fast. This is not skiing.

Working on his turns out of the poles Alex had to be prodded into finishing his turns on the steeps. When he actually did this his turns looked great.

 

Feet  Forward Technique

Alex had worked on the skating during the turns and was asked to bring this into the slalom. Before starting slalom he had several runs of GS to work on the feelings with longer turns where there is more time to react. In slalom he was not able to apply any of this so we took the skating a bit further. Without wasting any time on detailed explanations I just told Alex to push both of his feet forwards through the ends of the turns and on across the hill as his Centre of Mass entered the new turn. Alex understood this straight away and was able to apply it – making his ability to stay in the course far stronger. The idea was to get him to pull the uphill ski onto its inside edge (we practised pulling) early instead of just waiting and then suddenly stivoting/braking sideways. This technique is essential for Alex in slalom if he wants to stay in the course. His shortest skis were used too for the greatest force feedback and carving potential for short turns.

 

Hands

Alex was guarding himself from the poles by raising his hands up high – but as Gerard Bonnevie pointed out this was contributing to him being pushed back. The main things that Alex then had to work on were then pushing the feet through the turn and keeping the hands down to about chest level.

 

 

 

Although Alex was still strongly affected by the poles he manged to work on all of the above issues to ensure a solid, stable performance by the end of the session. Even if he doesn’t get the chance to practise more before his next race on snow he can work on visualising all of this. Watching the video will help to stimulate the muscle memory and keep things fresh in his head. Mental practise is often just as good as physical practise itself. My advice is to avoid the plastic meantime. Ski on snow or instead use inline skates – with lots of body armour.

The reality is that slalom on this steepness is very hard – so Alex has coped remarkably well and made real progress in a very short time span. His attitude is excellent and he is very motivated – but he needs to control his frustration and disappointment when things get tough and channel all his energy in the right direction. When there is a mistake there is a learning opportunity – best not to waste it on negative reactions. When pulled up on this issue occasionally Alex remembered his own real motivation and just got back to work each time. Good job!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mike-Alex

Hard day working on special slalom! Alex worked very had doing over 40 runs. Fortunately he rapidly abandoned his “plastic” skiing nonsense – but not before breaking one slalom pole with his ski boot. Beyond this he was stuck skiing as if he was in GS and that isn’t really ideal – because it all happens so rapidly in slalom. In the video he is trying various ways to exit the turns – leg retraction and just moving rapidly over the lower ski – but is nearly always late. Part of the problem is that he is distracted by the poles and wants to ski around them as he does in slalom. Although the still photo here looks good the right hand should be to the inside of the ski pole not reaching outwards – this should be helping to drive his centre of mass into the turn. The arm is part of the body and so the arm sticking out contributes to his center of mass going the wrong way.  Much of today was just about desperately needed experience in the poles and getting used to them. It takes a while to adapt and start to ignore the actual poles then focus on good skiing principles. The body moving across and into the turn should put the arms in the right place. Alex was shaping his turns and moving his body as if he was in GS and then relying on “stivoting” when it was all too late. Fortunately we still have tomorrow to work on this.

After training we worked on skating timing during the run back into Tignes. This should help immensely in slalom – just like understanding the Centre of Mass helped him in GS. Alex started to feel how the turn was formed from a single skate and how this projected him (sideways – relative to the torso) across the slope at the end of each turn. Lateral speed – across the hill – generates pressure on the turn to the outside of the pole bringing the turn apex higher up instead of beneath the pole. I’d already explained how each turn has to be seen in 3D as a sort of scoop on the outside of each pole – a banked track spitting you across to the other side of the course – not a flat turn. If Alex can get this timing tomorrow then he will be set – but that is really asking a lot. In reality he is already doing very well because slalom on the steep like this is extremely difficult.

 

 

 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Mike-Alex

Compensation for yesterday’s weather delivered us a perfect day for working on Slalom. Alex chose to spend nearly all of the day in race training and made an excellent choice because this permitted him to make some real progress – ending on his fastest run of the day after 26 runs. (23 filmed and three not filmed). He is now down to 23.86 seconds – reducing his record today from 24.38. That is a big margin of improvement for one day at this level.

The first video shows the fastest run – on his GS skis – and with his best technique of the day. Included are some examples of what happens when bindings are clearly not doing their job and Alex’s skilful handling of the outcome.

The second video is to let people see what it’s actually like being Alex…

 

 

 

Retraction Timing

Technically we worked on only two things today, beginning with the timing of the leg actions for leg retraction. Normal “skating” timing (which Alex still doesn’t have right) requires a flexion down into the turn and an up motion out of the turn – with the legs flexing and extending accordingly to assist this. With very high loads on the body and particularly on steep slopes this action is far too slow and there is already far too much energy in the system – so the timing of the legs reverses! The release of the turn then requires an active retraction of the legs – which lets the body come out over the skis to get out of the turn – the energy level here means that the centre of mass still comes upwards a bit . Once the skis are being crossed then the new uphill leg xetends with full force to drive the centre of mass downwards and into the new turn. We practiced this with static exercises first. When you have speed this is the fastest way to transition turns – but should only be used when there is no time for skating to increase propulsion across the hill – when there is no time for holding onto the turn during the “cross over” and using the pressure to direct momentum across the hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Centre of Mass

A bicycle is controlled by the motion of the centre of mass (CoM). To go left you move the CoM left and the bike acts to support this. Skiing fundamentally works the same way. Static exercises were once again used to explain CoM to Alex to make sure that he fully understood it. I showed Alex that making angulation itself – changing the body shape – does not move the CoM. Only inclining moves the CoM and during the turn the CoM must always be leading the ski. The ski will obey the CoM. I held Alex leaning over so he could see his skis and the relationship to the CoM experienced in a turn. Alex got the picture in his head – went up for his next run and demolished his prevous record – despite it being an old rutted race course. He found that most of his skidding (which caused the skis to ping off) vanished and he coud grip. This is the key to “grip”. Alex felt that by controlling the entire turn with the CoM he was now the boss of his skis (his words). Alex could now feel the slingshot effect of the skis throwing him across the slope (the horizontal component) towards the next gate – the extra grip totally changing the experience!

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mike-Alex

Bad weather day today, -19°C at the top of the Tovière and wind up to 100 km/hr. Alex, in the true spirit of racing was not in the least phased by the weather. On arrival at the training piste there was nothing set out – but we skied down the slope and were asked at the bottom how we found it to be. The honest response was that it was good to go. While a course was being set out Alex did a few warm up runs and self preservation kicked in due to poor visibiility and today I had to ask him to ski a bit faster. His turns were in good control, the lessons firmly taken from yesterday and the skiing looking good. We sideslipped the course to prepare it – Alex twice and me three times before it was ready.

Right from the first run in the course Alex focused on early turn release and deliberate leg retraction to help this. Despite the snow being slower he was only 2 tenths of a second behind his best time yesterday. Video clip 1 is his fastest time, video clip 2 is his smoothest run when focusing hard on leg retraction and video 3 is part of his only run on long GS “stivoty” skis. We only had time for one run on those as the training area was closed early.

Alex is very stable with his skiing now and did an excellent job of attacking a course in bad weather with poor visibility and unseen ruts – unperturbed. That’s a sign of a good technical base. His times in both perfect and bad conditions are almost identical.

 

 

Alex – this is not a successful “stivot” – this is a dramatic braking action which loses you huge dollops of time. Use the ski to turn instead of turning the ski. This was on slalom skis too – which CAN carve!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our ejection from the slalom area we concentrated on technique. Mike shared in the instruction because he is also working on the same fundamentals and it is often better to work with two people at the same time because that way different questions are asked and different issues raised. Both Alex and Mike made noticeable progress.

 

Forward Pressure

We all took off our skis on the slope (out of the wind) and standing across the slope adopted a “sitting” position. This is impossible without falling backwards. Repeating the same facing downhill and relaxing you come to rest on the shins – even with a stiff and strong ankle. Mike didn’t feel this at first which was interesting as it revealed unnecessary tension. I wanted Alex to understand that flexing (sitting uphill on an invisible chair) creates pressure on the boots (shins) and fronts of skis. Turning the legs and boot side on and still sitting uphill maintains this pressure but simulates the end of a turn – without rotation! I wanted Alex to feel this when skiing in short turns – always staying on the fronts but completely safe. His skiing at the moment is nearly all on the backs of the skis and this is a major area for him to develop to have much more control. Alex was able to do this successfully.

I tried to show how the leg turning in the hip causes an optical effect that makes it look like the knee is being pushed in – but it is only the adductors holding the foot on edge and the entire leg itself being turned relative to the non-rotating upper body. Never twist the knee inwards!

We did exercises up on the balls of the feet leaning forwards hard on the fronts of the skis – just to feel the grip and the deflection from the skis. Only the flexion is necessary as the turn evolves - to maintain pressure on the fronts – not a “leaning” forwards. On the contrary – in the second half of the turn you need to pull the centre of mass back up the hill into the centre of the turn to increase the build up of pressure on the outside ski and this ensures that you cannot be thrown over the fronts. We experimented with ths by making arcs in the snow with just the ski boots (static exercise).

 

Skating

It turns out that Alex has never actually understood the concept of skating for a whole turn. This is why in the video yesterday he just skated to start off then switched to skiing by dropping his hips into the turn. He didn’t realise that the skate takes an arc and becomes the turn. We only found out this misunderstanding over a hot chocolate at the end of the day – so it will be priority tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mike–Alex

Alex was required to warm up on the slope beside the slalom poles before uisng them, meaning a few runs in control on the steep piste. Exactly as happened back in October on the glacier he simply could not control his speed and was forced into huge braking actions. The problem appers to be that he practises on plastic back home and goes so slowly that he can just drop onto the edges of the skis and wait. Trying the same on snow is catastrophic – leading to runaway speed, poorly formed turns, no use of line to control speed and then urgent braking actions to compensate. Various atempts to explain the obvious to Alex went straight over his head – until he followed me down the hill copying and then he understood. Alex was immediately back on top of his skiing to a level that permitted good times in the slalom and competent basic performance.

 

Early Turn Release

We only worked on one thing in the slalom and that was at releasing the turn early – immediately after passing the gate/pole. Alex was given a detailed explanation of the illusion of “centrifugal force” which is a fictitious force (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictitious_force). The fact there is no force pulling you out of a turn means that you have to act decisively and early to get out of each turn and not become blocked “resisting” this imaginary force. Until this moment of release you should be trying to build up force driving yourself inwards in the turn. If the skier waits any time after passing the pole before trying to get out of the turn then he will become late for the next turn automatically and set of a cascade of errors that lead to braking actions.

 

 

There are two main ways to get out of a turn – one being to use the driving inwards force to then lift you up and out – or to break the “resistance” altogether by retracting the legs. This second way is sometimes referred to as a “cross under” – best used when there is already great force and very little time to get out of the turn.

Natural and reflexive leg retraction from Alex as he tries to exit the turn to the left early…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The run where Alex retracted was his smoothest and most technically accurate. (First run on the video). Alex’s next run on the video was faster still – but because he managed a tighter line – though he didn’t mange the leg retraction and was losing time stivoting instead. He can still go faster despite already reaching a very respectable 24.38 seconds. It will be harder to get his time lower from here on because it depends now directly on him proggressing in technique.

 

Skating

Outside of the poles we worked on skating which will eventually be used to control “race timing” properly. On video I do a short demo where the skating action is amplified by the skis and great purchase is made on the fronts of the skis. The body is transported across the hill during each skate. When Alex tries this he becomes too passive – just dropping his hips into the turns and waiting - not managing to use the fronts of his skis at all. Alex needs to get this rhythm and skating action to be able to create the real timing to be able to stay solidly on his outside ski, to use the front of the ski effectively and to make the apex of his turns towards the outside of the poles and not beneath them. Alex already has very good dynamics – he now needs good skating skills and to combine this with even better dynamics skills.

Mike was having trouble skating effectively – his boots turning out not to be aligned well (though at maximum canting). I explained how to get the supporting hip pulled in beneath the body so as to act as a fulcrum for generating skating actions and angulation but we will need to look at this more carefully. In contrast Alex’s previously chronic postural problems appear to have gone away even if he tends to get onto his inside ski far too much. 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Victor-Timothy

Warming up today meant negociating broken down chairlifts but we did have a completely clear run down from the top of the Borsat allowing high speed carving all the way. Timothy was feeling the cold as it was minus 14 degrees so prior to going to the slalom we had a pit stop to warm him up. After the pit stop he did three slalom runs then returned to the café to warm up again. Unlike Rodion – Timothy’s brother, who would have rather died from hypothermia than miss any slalom time – Timothy’s tolerance of the cold was not a strong point. Perhaps there were not enough layers of clothing. I always wear a down feather layer duing the winter months. This keeps you warm even when relatively inactive and compresses into a very small pack when not being used.

Timothy tried to apply the work we had been doing yesterday to the slalom – but could only manage a 29.8 seconds. In his run on the video he is trying to use racing timing (apex of the turn to the outside of the pole) and to increase inclination (dynamics) and carve. He manages it for the first couple of turns and then reverts to braking to slow himself down. Lots of work to be done here! We dropped it at this point and went skiing. For the rest of the day the focus was on skating and racing timing – at which Victor greatly improved – as seen in the video…

 

 

Racing timing is when – as I described yesterday – the turns achieve maximum pressure towards the outside of the gate – not below it. The skier effectively skates directly down the fal lline – the upper body facing downhill and being projected from side to side. Initially Victor was letting the ski skid at the start of the turn but once he realised that he had to commit to fully gripping and mostly carving (skating) then it all fell into place. In the video you can see Victor powerfully being displaced from side to side. In contrast Timothy – although trying his best and carving, doesn’t manage to pick up on the feeling of his body being pushed across the hill – so he cannot develop his dynamics. Victor felt the early and extra grip and felt his stance to be more relaxed and functional. The basis of my teaching for the past 20 years has been the combination fo Skating and Dynamics – but this is quite an advanced level and it is not easy to learn. Timothy made a good effort but there just wasn’t time to take it further at the moment. This timing can be used to ski fast over difficult terrain because it does not involve turning hard across the slope at any moment.

 

 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Victor-Timothy

Before today’s warm up run I suggested to Victor that we try the slalom for Timothy. Timothy would either respond by becoming even more defensive – or it could work the other way and encourage him to be more assertive. The best strategy would be to go straight to the slalom stadium and use a fresh course where there would be no additional complications.

 

Rushing the Turn Starts – Perpendicularity – Line

During the warm up I had a look at the skiing and commented that Timothy had improved but was rushing the starts of his turns. The start of the turn should take the longer than the end because it is a spiral which tightens up towards the end. Timothy was effectively just trying to get his skis around beneath him on the mountain and was pushing the skis outwards to do so.  I explained that when standing on the flat or across the hill we are vertical to gravity and 100% of gravity is resisted, stopping us from falling through the snow. When pointing down a slope a percentage of gravity (say 33% – actually Fg sin α  where α is the slope angle) is used to accelerate us until matched by air resistance giving a constant speed – but the remainder acts perpendicularly to the slope (say 66% – Fg cos α). It’s like our entire world has moved into a new reference plane – exactly the same as when vertical but with reduced force beneath the feet. In both reference frames we are perpendicular to the ground. The point is that you have to remove the idea of uphill and downhill to a large extent and reference the slope to “perpendicular”. This mental reset helps to avoid rushing the start of the turn as you see it in your mind’s eye as being on flat ground.

Good skiers control speed through the use of “line” – not by braking. The skier may actually travel faster but by shaping the turns and completing them the time to get down the slope may be considerably longer. This of course is the basic principle of a race course which is set to determine a skier’s speed for a given discipline. The best skiers will all be within a few seconds of each other while negociating the complexities of the given line and using the least braking and most acceleration possible.

 

 

 

Slalom

Timothy had a fast 29.33 seconds first run in the slalom and was clearly positive about attacking. In fact he would have to be slowed down at this stage to correct his technique. The slalom really showed up his lack of understanding of line and his strong tendency to brake for speed control. He was told to take a wide and high line to bring him directly close to and below each gate. The idea is to improve the technical skiing and forward speed even though it is a slow route. Once the technical skiing is stronger the line can be tightened up accordingly, more directly downhill and faster altogether. Timothy in the video is deliberately using this slow line, attempting to avoid rusing the starts of his turns and also trying to come over the lower ski with his centre of mass just after he passes beneath each gate. He does a good job but is still pushing out the skis and braking.

Timothy going sideways still half a mile from the gate!

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Carving

Racing is essentially about carving as much as possible. This is not always achievable in Giant Slalom because men now have to race on 40m radius skis – but the principle remains. My feeling is that skiers should develop first on properly carving slalom skis giving clear feedback – and then learn to make the appropriate compensations for artificially limited GS skis. We started our carving exercises simply traversing holding the skis on their uphill edges (inside edges of both feet). Keeping the legs quite close together allows the two skis to be angled by almost the same amount. Part of the obvective was to use the fronts of the skis to carve – using the mechanisms we had already worked on during previous days. The start of a racing turn – where carving is possible – is aided by pressure on the front of the outside ski – pulling the skier into the turn. The main goal here was to move Timmothy away from his rushing of the starts of his turns. Although Timothy’s fist few traverses showed that he could not lock the skis on edge this rapidly changed and he managed good linked carved turns on flat and moderate terrain.

Despite Timothy’s carving he was rotating and failing to generate any hip angulation as a result. Racing requires good hip angulation to be able to generate greater edge angles and more agile movement of the body across the skis at turn transitions.

Victor has his legs too far apart and the outside leg is trailing. Unlike Timothy he almost has too much angulation. This is probably due to weight going onto the inside ski allowing too much angulation for the relatively low speed and turn tightness (not tight). Working on “Feet Forwards” technique would help to address this.

Timothy’s much improved perpendicular stance…

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Using the Feet

Both Timothy and Victor had been complaining about having sore shins so we needed to spend some time looking at the support they were getting from the feet. “Shin Bang” really comes from allowing the ankle to go weak and flex inside the ski boot. The best way to strengthen the ankle is to stand on the front of the heel – right below the ankle bone. If weight is manitained there during bending (hips and knees) then the ankle reflexively stiffens and the anterior tibialis muscle tenses up (outside of the shin bone). With this stance the feet are also easily rolled from edge to edge.

Even better is standing on the balls of the feet – the heels raised – but this makes rolling of the feet and awareness of the adductor muscles a bit more complicated. The advantage of this stance however is that it pre-tensions all the muscles in the legs and protects the joints plus guarantees greater elasticity in movement. This is probably best reserved for more advanced skiing when there is already good control of the rolling of the feet and adductor muscle use.

 

Feet Forwards Technique – Generating Angulation and Stopping Rotation

Our video today finishes with a tricky exercise for pushing the outside foot forwards during the turn. The foot never gets in front of the other foot – it just tightens the turn instead. The exercise is hard to do because it involves coordination of the whole body and centre of mass. Using pole support the body is moved downhill with the feet facing across the hill. The outside boot is pulled over onto its inside edge and pushed forwards in a natural arc. When the boot faces straight downhill the centre of mass must start to move uphill so that angulation is created. All of this happens in a real turn and is very active. Timothy can be seen flattening his boot and letting the heel push outwards  - not moving the centre of mass uphill and losing all angulation – exactly as he does in skiing. Due to this his hip comes outwards and he rotates instead of creating angulation. The message here above all else is “PULL IN” do not push outwards. Victor passed on my explanation about the illusion of “centrifugal force” by translating it into Russian. There is no “outwards force” and nothing to “brace against”. Everything in skiing is a deflection inwards (gravity later on in a turn is an exception to this). The ski deflects us inwards and we must work with it – moving the centre of mass inwards – pulling inwards with the legs and feet. The reason people fail to grip on ice is because they usually fail to perceive or do any of this at all. Timothy improved a lot and was able to stay behind me when skiing even on hard, icy terrain. Directing the centre of mass towards the inside of the skis is critical.

 

Racing Timing

In preparation for tomorrow’s slalom training we worked on racing timing. Looking down a course the apex of each turn should be towards the outside of each pole not underneath it (The slow line I gave Timothy this morning has the apex below the pole). This generates a higher terminal velocity – but it is still controlled and permits a free-skier to travel very fast over bumps and in cruddy off-piste snow as well. The turns are simply not finished off to the same extent – but a racer has to be able to use both timings to cope with a complex race course where there are changes of line and rhythm.