Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ian & Diane

Today was meant to be intensive and highly focused on technique – due to my messing up of our original booking. The risk with this is that it can become overwhelming – which it did do in part – but the effects of that are temporary (I know that from experience) and the full-on blitz approach is actually very effective. (I’ve had a few victims of this in the past – but mostly professionals going for exams) In any case Diane seemed to respond incredibly well to this level of intensity and left me impressed.


Watching Diane initially it was clear that she lacked confidence and was fairly rigid with limited dynamics and rotating. Ian’s skiing was quite similar but with just a bit more confidence – but limiting all the same. We started with a complete revision of dynamics – both into the turn and out of the turn. This was very necessary – particularly for Diane who hadn’t retained this from March 2014. The exercise progression and technical explanation can be found on the fixed “Dynamics” page with the link found at the top of the blog. Diane found skiing much easier and less tiring when her dynamics were improved and Ian had much more control on the steeper sections when coming over the lower ski to exit the turn. Remember to extend the uphill leg (looking for pressure) to push yourself over into the turn after you come over the lower ski (everyone forgets this!).

Feet/Ankles and Fronts of Skis

Ian was clearly too far back in his stance – though at the end of the day I tried his skis and found them to be absolutely terrible so that could have been a large part of this. (Get All Mountain skis tomorrow – so they can pivot properly) We skied backwards so that the skis would diverge naturally into a skating wedge and everyone would tilt forwards reflexively – this being to feel the fronts of the skis to establish a reference point. Although beginners are taught by me to stand on the front of the heel and rock the subtaler joint – we would now be up on the balls of the feet, ankles extended, feet muscles active and anterior tibialis active to be strong inside the ski boots. This stance enables functional pressure on the ski boots and ski fronts – plus it permits more rotation of the hip joints.

Angulation (Eliminating Rotation) (Chi –Hips)

Pressure on the ski front at the end of a turn is maintained though the use of angulation. (But forward pressure at the start of the turn is established though dynamics) We used static exercises to simulate this pressure and to cultivate angulation. It’s extremely important for protection of the spine to NOT face the shoulders downhill, but to face the pelvis downhill instead. This is covered to some extent in the fixed page for “Chi-Skiing”. The hip is pulled actively around the turn by the ski and unless it is deliberately pulled backwards in the opposite direction it ends up in front of the front ribs with postural control collapsing. (We did a load test exercise to show this effect and the alternative). Not only must this be done to prevent hip rotation but doing so facilitates the turn transitions enormously. Motion within the body must really begin here – near the core – to be most effective.


Pivoting was revised and developed. There is an extensive fixed page on the subject at the top of the blog – with all that we covered included. Ian struggled with this more than expected but this was useful as it uncovered some fundamental issues that needed to be addressed.

Apart from being unable to get weight transferred to the ski pole for support Ian had been unconsciously twisting his foot/leg into the turn – demonstrated by placing a ski pole in the ground and pulling the edge of the ski against it (heel going out when it should have come in). The slightly crouched stance was not giving enough support to the bone structure for the centre of mass to pull the ski into the turn (sideslip) – so standing more upright helps to correct this – a real commitment to the outside leg.

The body must have hip angulation – pelvis facing downhill. The tightness of the turns was causing Ian to stand square to the skis and made the lateral pulling of the ski tip into the turn difficult (to improve angulation we later worked on Foot Forward technique).

Diane meantime continued to steadily improve with pivoting and also the sequencing of all the other moves and coordination when skiing with dynamics.

Foot Forward Technique

A static exercise with no skis on was used to transmit the basic sensations of pushing the foot forward – scribing an arc in the snow with the edge of one boot. For Diane the goal was mainly to prepare her for steeper terrain – as this push forward of the ski when combined with dynamics tightens the turn radius and gives great security on the steeps.

For Ian the exercise was to improve angulation in very tight turns and to correct his development of the turn by ensuring the second half was accomplished with a continued movement of the centre of mass into the turn – moving the bottom uphill in the case of this static exercise.

Mindful Skiing

Rendering skiing “mindful” requires awareness of both the actions of the body and the structure of a functional turn. You have to know how to apply dynamics (freely or constrained with the pole) – which edge to use (pivoting or no pivoting or a blend) – shaping the turn through dynamics (coming over the lower ski to access early grip for the next turn) – building pressure through angulating and holding the body down and in to develop and work the turn. We need all of this to flow and have rhythm – something we didn’t touch upon today.

Pivoting – develop this skill separately

  1. No forward movement – only sideslip into the turn
  2. Inside edge of the foot – outside edge of the ski
  3. Pole planted behind the feet to block the rear from slipping
  4. Adductors held firm – standing up strong ball of foot
  5. Move CoM between the pole and ski tips
  6. Put serious pressure on the pole and keep moving inwards on the pole to the end of the pivot  - then stop
  7. Begin from angulated stance and avoid rotating during the pivot
  8. Pull the front/s inwards – never push the tail outwards or twist the leg
  9. When pivoting on two skis use inside edges of both feet and both sets of adductors
  10. Remember this is not an abstract exercise it is a fundamental building block – practice


  1. Even from a traverse begin turning by coming over the front of the lower ski
  2. Always hold the adductors activated on whichever leg you are standing on – right to the end of the turn
  3. Extend the uphill leg to push the body down into the new turn and feel the pressure and grip at the start of the turn
  4. Push the outside foot forward to tighten the radius – especially on steeps
  5. Pull the outside hip backwards to enable angulation and protect the back

…that’s probably enough for now!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Luke–Leonie day 1

Leonie hadn’t skied since last summer so we had a warm up period for her to find her feet. On piste the snow was excellent quality and there was a good covering of fresh snow available off piste – with good visibility.

While warming up I watched Leonie for a while and decided that her dynamics were too limited – this being the key issue to improve – but fully recognising that trying to change this would certainly uncover other issues that might be the underlying cause.

Luke meanwhile was using dynamics generally well – happily lobbing his body into each turn – but still not coming over his downhill ski

Meanwhile the off piste was too inviting so we went into it almost immediately to take advantage of it being light and fresh. Skis can move sideways in this snow so the pivot can be exploited – though dynamics, particularly coming over the downhill ski – is the most important skill to have.

It’s hard to outline the day because we king of jumped around several different issues, adapting to requirements. There were a few key issues that cropped up however…

  1. Leonie – pulling the ski front into the turn (not twisting)
  2. Luke – being able to bend the knee and angulate while holding the foot and ankle extended
  3. Both – feeling and using the fronts of the skis due to angulation
  4. Both – moving cleanly over the ski fronts to complete a turn instead of over the backs of the skis

The overall goal of the exercises we carried out was to feel the front of the ski working – to pull it inwards in front of the body and feel pressure on it. To this effect we used pivoting, skiing backwards, static exercises for hi angulation , extreme leaning forwards and finally putting it into practice on a long run down the Face in poor visibility after 5pm. Good results and some clear changes being made!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Finn 3

Whiteout, high wind, sub zero and snowing heavily – but Finn turns up with no jacket and only a fleece and Tshirt. Easily explained when we arrived at the top of the Olympic lift and I said that you can’t come up to a mountain top (9000 feet altitude) with no jacket and Finn’s reply was “Is this a mountain top?”. We got the jacket sorted out before he started to get really cold – and yes – even superhero Finn did start to get cold.


Yesterday we covered a lot of technical work so it was important to revise this today before moving on. Weather however played a role in that we had to do everything on the move – no static exercises today. Beginning with only a little sideslipping we were able to start dynamic skiing without delay but Finn looked a little uncomfortable and static. To get the legs working and centre of mass moving we went into skating turns and even combined it with extending the ankles and feet during the skate and pressure on the shins – the last things we had worked on yesterday. Using the skating action to develop awareness of the foot muscles and ankle is not something I’d considered before but it makes a lot of sense as people tend never to move enough and the foot and ankle add a lot to the range of movement. We then worked on the dynamics, both into the turn and out again over the lower ski. Thomas went off to find the jacket and we continued this revision for another several runs until the cold started to make itself noticed to Finn – when we retired temporarily to a cafe with a warm radiator to dry his fleece.

Extending the Boundaries

During the revision we also gradually increased speed, rhythm (cadence) and steepness. If Finn was still close behind me during the turns I gently ramped it all up a bit more and quite soon he was skiing at a good solid pace.

(Video is on a black run – with virtual off-piste conditions and no visibility – showing good rhythm, dynamics and control)

Foot Forward Technique and Angulation

The goal for today (which Finn was unaware of) was to get Finn skiing comfortably and competently on black runs. Fortunately, with it being such a difficult weather day today, there were only a couple of key technical issues still to be added. Indoors – while warming up, drying the now wet fleece and waiting for the arrival of the jacket, we carried out a static exercise for feeling the “foot forward” technique. Finn shows this drill being executed correctly – with the leg swinging in a natural arc and the body not turning – the foot being pushed along the ground (boot on edge) to make this happen. When you do this on skis it does not “advance” this foot in front of the other foot – all it does is make the ski turning process much more active and reduce the turning radius. In dynamic skiing it’s the combination of dynamics and pushing the foot forward (beyond a simple skating action) that determines the turn radius of the arc more than anything else. You have to do this immediately from the start of a turn on a steep slope to turn tightly – and keep it going until the end of the turn. This is the first time I’d ever done the exercise indoors – but it actually seemed to be easier to do indoors so I might do this as standard in future – probably because the floor is flat and horizontal. (Doing this with no skis on when there is a slope is more complicated – but important for more advanced issues)

Finn was able to become aware of the need to prevent the hip (pelvis) from swinging around in front of the body as the foot came around in front. To stop the hip from being pulled around (called “hip rotation”) you actually have to actively pull it backwards – just to keep it still. With the hip pulled backwards this allows the body to tilt forwards over the hip joint and create an angle at the hip – called “hip angulation”. Hip angulation is used to keep the body to the inside of the turn while increasing the edging of the skis – yet allows you to get out of the turn easily at the end of the turn. You need hip angulation if you want to be agile or do short turns – whereas longer high speed turns can be done with the body (Centre of Mass) just inclining into the turn with no angle  at the hip. I hadn’t intended to introduce hip angulation at this stage – but it came naturally along with the foot forward exercise.

Lower Back

When we started doing longer and steeper red runs Finn complained of having a sore lower back so we stopped for a moment to go indoors and look at what was happening. We verified that Finn had been bending at the waist and thus bending his lower back putting a lot of stress on it. Finn was shown how to bend at the hip instead and to tilt the upper body forward from the hip joints with the lower back kept straight and the tummy tucked in for support. I did a “loading” test on Finn so he could feel the difference between good posture and bad posture – the bad posture being felt in the lower back and the good posture causing a reflex contraction of the lower abdomen instead. During a turn pulling back the outside hip promotes this reflex protection – so this is not an issue to be glossed over or ignored. Finn was able to concentrate and apply this change in posture to his skiing immediately and his back problems faded away. Coping with his new red and subsequently black slopes in bad weather and visibility while making such changes demands a very good kinesthetic awareness and ability to focus – demonstrating that Finn has very appropriate aptitudes for this sort of activity.

Chi – Skiing

During a brief Twix bar break for Finn I began to expand the concept of Centre of Mass into a new area – the idea that all motion should start at the centre. The concept comes from Chirunning  (Tai Chi) – a stunningly boring but equally useful book. There is a fixed page on this subject at the top of the blog so I’ll not go any further into that here. Finn wasn’t ready for this yet but the reality is that it’s the most important thing he can learn in skiing, running or even for walking – to both protect him from joint problems and guarantee maximum efficiency and economy of movement.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Finn 2


Our day began at the top of the Bellevarde plateau – with a steep section to sideslip down. The key here is to keep the skis close together below the body and have both feet on their inside edges (inside the ski boots) but both skis on their uphill edges. Slipping is caused by moving the Centre of Mass slightly downhill – and stopping by moving it uphill. It is very important to develop this skill because the coordination is preparation for learning how to pivot. Sideslipping is also a valuable tool on it’s own for getting down a steep slope that you don’t feel safe turning on. Later we would add “forward diagonal” and “backward diagonal” sideslipping. Each time we returned to this slope we practised this skill and eventually progressed it directly into pivoting on the steep section – to enable sharp, controlled turns with no acceleration.


Once on the main “green” slope Finn was very unsure of himself when turning. Yesterday’s finish had left it’s mark. Overcoming this problem didn’t take long. We started by returning to skating the turns in incremental steps to get the legs active once again. Fear itself can be paralyzing but skiing is all about dealing with fear. Courage is when you feel afraid or anxious – but you do it anyway – and skiing is a great way to develop this life skill. Within a few minutes Finn was back on top of things and skiing as well as he was yesterday. Now the task was to develop new skills to increase his awareness and strengthen his skiing.


To help Finn improve his turn initiation and avoid being left in the back seat when the skis accelerated downhill each turn we had a look “perpendicularity”. When you go across the hill (traverse) your skis are horizontal and you are vertical. Not many people have any trouble with that. However, as the skis turn to point downhill they are no longer horizontal but are on a slope – and the body needs to come forwards to be perpendicular to this slope. The feeling is exactly the same as when being vertical and the skis horizontal – you don’t feel that you lean forward  and in both cases you are perpendicular. If you don’t anticipate this necessary adjustment you get left standing vertically and so on the tails of the skis – in the back seat – which stops the skis from working properly.

When you use dynamics to launch your centre of mass downhill it should cause you to end up more or less perpendicular with the skis when they come around into the fall line – so this is doing the same thing really and is even more accurate – but there needs to be awareness of all of the options. Finn was tending to be in the backs of his ski boots and this was a start at dealing with this issue.

Advanced Dynamics

I decided to go from “perpendicularity” straight into “advanced dynamics” – something I wouldn’t normally attempt so early on but intuitively this seemed appropriate for Finn. With advanced dynamics it’s all about how you complete a turn – how you come back up out of the turn. You need to allow the downhill ski to lift you all the way up, out of the turn so that you are starting to fall downhill over it – which is another “scary” thing to add to the list. From here you can take over with the skating push from the uphill leg – but now it’s much easier and the turns flow together. Finn had no trouble at all both understanding this and doing it.


Eventually we got onto pivoting and followed the program detailed on the fixed page (menu at top of blog) regarding “Pivot”. Finn picked up on this more quickly than most people do. Once he realised that the pole had to be used for support then he could slip the ski sideways into a turn and complete the turn. Bumps were exploited to show how starting the turn from the uphill edge and having the ski tips in mid air makes pivoting easy and natural. “Swinging” the ski fronts inwards in front of the body requires a specific muscle action and by using a pole planted between Finns skis and asking him to lift a ski and pull the inside edge against it he could practise the correct muscular action – which has to eliminate any twisting or torque from the leg. The point is to develop the skill of pulling the ski fronts inwards – instead of the “traditional” pushing outwards of the heels – which as with the snowplough pushes away your support. “Stopping” skills are developed in this manner. The pivot is a braking manner of skiing – used in bumps, on steeps and in soft deep snow where the skis can travel sideways and you don’t want the ski to travel forwards across the hill.

Ankle Strength and Fronts of Boots

Indoors Finn was shown how to stand on his heels to bend (knees and hips only) in a manner that reflexively strengthens the ankles. When you just bend while standing on the whole foot the ankle actually collapses and the ski boot hides this and you don’t realise that you are no longer in control of your body – but then it becomes impossible to avoid ending up being thrown into the backs of the ski boots. Once Finn understood how the muscles tighten up this way we repeated this by standing up on the balls of the feet and doing the same thing this way – making the feet muscles directly active and supportive. The point is that you can then use this to press the shins against the fronts of the boots when skiing and you will be able to stay there solid and secure – using and feeling the ski fronts for much stronger turning effect. Finn was able to do this and then begin to ski and turn well on steeper slopes as a consequence.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Finn 1

Finn has only skied once before – for 5 days in February 2015 – and has only ever skied with skating or directly parallel. Today we had to get him going again for the first time since this experience and due to not having a defensive snowplough to fall back on this required starting completely from scratch – but with the result being that within half a day he already surpassed his previous level.

Today we literally began from scratch – how to properly put a ski on – sliding on one ski and stepping to the inside (left ski to go right) – skating (with some skating instruction) – skating step turns – button lift – gradual replacement of skate with dynamics – basic dynamics. This process took Finn back up to skiing parallel on gentle slopes within a few hours without recourse to defensive actions such as snowplough.

Indoors we looked at how to use the foot correctly and avoid twisting actions.

Some of the skating progressions and dynamics exercises are explained in expanded detail on the fixed pages of the blog…



In the end – after 4pm – Finn was getting tired and we ended up on a steeper blue run – which was altogether a bit too much for him at the moment. Fortunately a passing ski patroller on at skidoo took him on board and straight down to the gondola so we didn’t miss the last descent into the valley. Tomorrow we can begin to work on developing Finn’s technique to be able to cope with steeper and more challenging conditions. Today he did extremely well and surpassed my own expectations. Now that Finn is back up to speed we will be able to work on getting to the next level already.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Alex Pila 4–British Inter-School Challenge

Alex – Overall 4th place – Under 14 boys (2nd run)

Last year Alex was 20th in GS and 19th in Slalom – this year 3rd in slalom and 4th in GS. Considering that he is one of the few who hasn’t had his growth spurt yet – and only skis on holidays (from London) this is an achievement on his part. His ability to concentrate and accurately make changes – even under total pressure – is impressive. Add to all of this the fact that he had no opportunity to run GS gates at all in the run up to the race and that is was an incredibly flat course (which doesn’t suit lighter skiers) and extremely badly set – with serious “bananes” (used to slow down and deviate the course line) right before each of the flat sections – it makes his success even more significant.

Password Protected Tech Report:

Just to bemuse Alex I’ve included my current favourite artists here – appropriately named “Young Thug”… demonstrating Ted Ligety arm positioning.

…the point being Alex – the outside arm doesn’t usually go above the head (relative to the centreline of the body.) Your arms are fine in the photos below.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Alex Pila 3–British Inter-School Challenge

Alex – Overall 3rd place – Under 14 boys (2nd run)

“Whatever it takes, ‘cause I love the adrenalin in my veins… “

Technical Report – Password Protected

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Alex Pila 2

First ever turns in deep snow for Alex…

Alex stopping…

Alex knuckle dragging…