Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Haluk’s Farewell to the 2019 Season…

Season’s changes – (before today’s modification…)

  • no comment – this was filmed just to show how good it was in Tignes at the end of April.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Billy, Patrick, Lilly, Holly 5

Today we began with a warm up run, nonstop pivoting, carving, pivoting, carving etc. Lilly did a great job keeping up. The intention had been to go into slalom straight after the warm up but the button lift broke down so back up we went to work on more technique...

(La Grande Motte and La Grande Casse today)


Hip Angulation

When carving (or even just carrying speed) you will not stay in such a steep course and still improve your speed without good hip angulation. This can be a very complex subject but I kept it very simple and effective. Basically – when working the second half of a turn and you are fighting gravity you have to be able to first of all fight the forces but then still very rapidly get the body out of the turn and into the next one. Creating an angle at the hip joint is mainly how this is achieved. (There are more consequences than this really but I’m keeping it basic for the moment) The children were taught to create the angle by turning the pelvis (and only the pelvis ) to face downhill. It’s important to avoid doing this with the shoulders instead – both for efficiency and to protect the spine. All of today’s development work was about generating angulation and improving it. Lilly managed it outside of the gates, Billy used it to get his carving going and Patrick manged it so well that he started getting airborne from rebound at the end of the turn.

All the body management issues are found at this link here: “ChiSkiing” – or by clicking the ChiSkiing tab at the top of the blog page.



Patrick with “rebound”…


Billy with great dynamic range – looking like a real racer…


Great dynamic range…



Holly in the gates!

Lilly also working well on angulation…



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Billy, Patrick, Lilly, Holly 4



Carving

Introduction to “carving”. The skis run along their edges – as if locked to a railway line – no sideways drifting. The exercises started with traversing from a very shallow gradient with the goal being to hold the skis on edge and let them turn you up the hill to stop.

  • Stand on inside edges of feet
  • Stand on the uphill edges of the skis
  • Move the body (CoM) uphill to insure the uphill ski is on its uphill edge
  • At low speed the two edges act as a platform of support
  • Two solid lines must be left in the snow – with a slight arc uphill

On very flat ground we then repeated the same from pointing straight downhill – then continued with very shallow turns attempting to have the skis carve all the time. Patrick struggled to keep the skis from skidding as he rushed the starts of his turns – a legacy from his “two footed” skiing and pushing the tails outwards. Patrick was encouraged to widen his stance and be patient at the start of each turn. Lilly was skidding initially but soon managed clean carving for most of her turns. Billy was amazingly quick to understand and is perhaps the fastest to learn carving that I’ve ever seen.

Group photo on the carving piste with Mont Blanc in the background…


Holly following Hunt on a green slope – then directly onto a black slope… (That’s called “trust”!)


Impressive bank of cloud in the Val d’Isère valley…


Slalom

Forget the times today – big ruts are not ideal for attempting to bring carving into slalom for the first time. Higher speed from carving is almost guaranteed to launch you straight out of the course and into the banks of snow building up outside the ruts. The course also appeared significantly slower today. In reality accurate comparisons can only be made “on the day”.  The training predictably started out with crashes – but the boys did extremely well to bring this under control, constantly adapting and becoming more stable.


Lilly

Lilly was working on developing a strong and confident impulse with the uphill leg to push the CoM into the new turn – but not only moving laterally to the skis but forward over the fronts of the skis and downhill at the start of the turns – so as to avoid being left back on the tails of the skis as they turn downhill. The aim is to anticipate the change in slope pitch (from the horizontal traverse) and the acceleration. In the video she is starting to use the fronts of the skis and is parallel even on the steeps due to successfully moving her body instead of stemming the uphill ski. 


Billy

Billy was taking a relatively slow line today (turning high on the rise line) to try to contain the speed of the carve and avoid tangling with the ruts below the gates. (I didn’t tell them that this form of line is longer and so quite slow!) Billy’s fall was mostly just bad luck (before he changed his line) – this time he wasn’t on the backs of his skis – the carving seems to have provided clearer feedback for him to be more centred. The only way to have prevented the fall (other than changing the line) was to have committed even more forcefully to the outside ski – the same thing that Lilly was working on. The line Billy had taken on this early run (and fall) was “late” due to his carving speed.  Billy’s dynamic range is starting to get interesting with the extra grip and support from carving allowing him to incline much more than before. 


Patrick

Patrick’s fall actually started at the same rut that took out Billy – and for the same reason! Patrick however stayed up until losing control at the next gate. More commitment  to the outside ski would have prevented the problem at both gates. Patrick was also later working on turning high on the rise line but what’s more important is that he managed to start to get his feet apart when necessary and start to use independent leg action. Perhaps the rough course conditions were exactly what was necessary to encourage this change to take place.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Billy, Patrick, Lilly 3

Mont Blanc today – 4810m altitude


Video

  • Working on pivoting skills
  • Lilly’s first black run descent
  • Fastest Slalom runs
  • Patrick 31.39 seconds
  • Billy 31.68 seconds
  • Lilly 48.82 seconds
  • Billy’s spectacular crash – caused by being too far back on the skis and against the backs of the ski boots.


Today we had to begin work on “Pivoting”. The program was initiated by skating with both feet on their inside edges, then side slipping with both feet on their inside edges but both skis on their uphill edges (separating the uphill foot edge from the ski edge) – then we launched into full pivots.

The complete teaching procedure is presented here: “Pivot”  and is also reached by a tab at the top of this page.


Although the pivot is a special skill in its own right it also has a critical role in developing slalom and for skiing on steeps.

  • Pulling the uphill ski front “inwards” using the adductor muscles (inside of upper leg – taught so it was felt) – to make the ski follow the CoM
  • Learning that it’s not which edge the ski is on that counts – it’s which edge the foot is on that counts
  • Stop trying to get on the inside edge of the uphill ski to start a turn – unless there is a clear and safe opportunity to accelerate

Lilly later used the turn initiation from the uphill edge of her uphill ski on the steeps to enable good parallel skiing – though she struggled a bit to hold this together in the race course – understandably. Lilly did incredibly well for her level of skiing – taking a deliberately slow line but on a very steep slope.

Billy was taught how to push against the magic wall from the uphill edge of his uphill ski – while remaining on the inside (downhill) edge of his foot – thus getting earlier pressure and grip from the turning ski. He was being taught this to try to provide the pressure beneath his support foot early and use the resultant postural reflexes this induces to get him to stand more centred over his feet instead of hard against the backs of his boots (which caused his earlier fall – and lack of turning power on the steep sections). When on the backs of the skis they go straight – they don’t turn!


Rise Line

Billy’s big improvement came when he understood the “Rise Line”. Until this point Billy was aiming straight for the gate and leaving the turning too late – causing him to actually turn lower and lower beneath the gates until all his speed was blown off. What you do is visualise a line from the gate in front going straight up the hill and you aim to cross this line as high up as you can – instead of aiming at the gate. Then you start the turn as you cross this line – which brings you back just under the gate itself instead of way downhill from the gate.

Patrick never quite managed to sort this out – but I don’t think he really understood it – at least with regards to putting it into practise. He seemed a bit tired today and apparently he didn’t sleep much last night. Regardless he did still have the fastest time overall quite early in the session.


Tignes glacier – early morning


The Bellevarde summit – early morning

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Billy, Patrick 2

Everyone today is working on extending “Dynamic Range”.

  • The skier has only one job – to fall over
  • The ski has only one job – to lift the skier back up.

Patrick got his time down another 5 seconds to 32.07 and Billy down to 33.4

Skating

We worked briefly on skating on the flat:

  • Diverging the skis
  • Rocking the feet onto their inside edges
  • Falling forwards and accelerating with gravity
  • Lifting the legs up from behind when falling forwards
  • avoiding using the legs for direct propulsion

Later we skated directly downhill and then introduced dynamics – converting the skating into skiing – but without the legs stopping their skating action.


Timing

The skating “down /up” timing of the legs corresponds to the down/up timing of dynamics – the toppling over into a turn and coming back up out of it. This is like a motorbike going down into a turn and back up out of it. We worked a little on this and due to his independent leg action (wider stance) billy was very good at this from the start. Patrick needs some attention in this direction due to his “two footedness”. Currently however Patrick is managing better dynamics due to his close stance – but unless he gets the legs working independently this will eventually become limiting.


Side Slipping

Increasing the awareness of the feet, ski edges and control of the skis through the motion of the CoM (Centre of Mass) we worked on side slipping on the steep sections.

  • Both feet are held close together below the skier
  • Both feet are rocked onto their inside edges inside the ski boots
  • Both skis are on their uphill edges
  • The uphill ski is on its uphill edge but the foot is on its downhill edge
  • This is the first experience of feeling the independence of ski edge from foot edge.

The skis simply don’t flatten due to the lateral stiffness of the ski boot shafts running up the lower legs – allowing the edging effects

  • Move the CoM downhill slightly to slip downhill
  • Move the CoM uphill to stop
  • Move the CoM slightly forwards to slip diagonally forwards
  • Move the CoM slightly backwards to slip diagonally backwards

The motion of the centre of mass and control this provides resembles a “joystick” control.


Slalom

Billy: good work on the dynamics – falling due to drifting too much sideways in the ruts – but generally the weight is too far back and the fronts of the skis are not gripping and turning – leading to body rotation and being spun around.

Patrick: also very good work on the dynamics – sideways drift of the skis also causing falls. Less rotation than Billy but a “two footed” version of the same problems. We will work on changing this tomorrow for both of you.

Both are reaching the speed that their technical level will allow – hence the difficulty staying on line and the falls. This is all positive and part of the feedback process that exposes the need to make changes – and highlights the most appropriate things to work on at any particular stage of development.







Lilly, skiing strongly parallel, working on dynamic range, good centred stance – and nice smile!


Monday, April 15, 2019

Billy, Patrick 1

Beautiful clear weather – but a cool Foehn wind at altitude. Billy and Patrick needed a good, easy, long run to find their skiing legs again after a year without skiing. Other than providing an appropriate line for them to follow on the piste I was watching carefully to see how they were moving and how they understood their skiing – ignoring the inevitable shakiness during the run.

The video initially shows the boys skiing before we began working on technique and changing things. Then in the slalom the boys are already beginning to work properly on technique. They both started off near the 42 second mark on the course and both ended up near the 37 second mark – this 5 second difference at this stage mostly coming from getting used to the course and gaining confidence – but also from conscious application of technique already.

Initial Skiing

The boys look different from each other on their skis but for one reason only. Billy has a wide stance and this creates “independent leg” use. Patrick has a close stance and is much more two footed. Other than the difference in stance everything else is very similar. In the slow motion clips you can see that Billy pushes outwards the tail of one ski during his turns and Patrick does that with both skis. The main goal to begin with will be to change this. Both boys tend to get caught on the backs of their ski boots but this and many other details are not really worth mentioning because we will be going straight to the cause of all the issues and avoid correcting “symptoms”. One additional purpose of filming at this stage is for later comparison after changes and progress have been made.

The boys have a good natural aptitude and feel for things so they will learn from here on how to make the best use of those attributes. Another thing very visible to me is that they are both fast learners in general, well disciplined and adapt well. They are also competitive so will push each other forwards in slalom!


Dynamics

Despite both boys being keen on science I decided to avoid explaining anything with physics and went straight into “magic”. The boys have previously been trained to displace their feet and legs (outwards) when turning – but real skiing avoids this totally. The body has a point between the pelvis and belly button which we call the Centre of Mass (CoM) – you can see this as just a single point that can be moved around in space. Skis really work entirely due to this point being moved – not the feet or legs being moved. In other words – you try to move your body not your feet.

There is a complete explanation of the principle of dynamics and the exercises used today – plus the “Magic Wall” imagery used to teach the boys – here at this link “Dynamics”. There is also a menu tab to this fixed page at the top of the blog. Please refer to this as we applied all of it today prior to using the slalom course.

Feet

After checking the ski boots for accurate fit and already having one boot off each we looked at how the feet are used in skiing. For the time being the aim is to stand with pressure on the heels (front of heels directly below the ankle joints). When bending and avoiding pressure on the fronts of the feet you are forced to bend only at the knees and hips and this causes the ankles to stiffen and strengthen reflexively. Secondly, the joint for rocking the foot onto its edges (inside or outside) is between the ankle and the heel and when standing on the heel it is easy to feel this working clearly. The boys were asked to rock the right foot onto its inside edge beneath the ankle (Magic Foot) and to lean against the table to their left (Magic Wall). In addition to feeling how the edged foot held them strongly against the Wall they each felt the “adductor” muscles on the inside of the upper leg. The message here is that everything “pulls inwards” and nothing pushes outwards.


Slalom

Today was really about familiarisation with the slalom and the environment. The key to success in slalom and making it a useful part of all skiing is in training to be able to focus on the body and eliminate distractions. Most high level skiers are simply the product of extremely brutal natural selection (leaving only a handful) out of hundreds of thousands of racing club children. However, even those skiers can be beaten through intelligent “conscious” programming of the body and mind – and nothing is more enjoyable or personally rewarding while providing a lifetime of inspiration, open ended development and passion.


Skating

We very briefly began looking at skating. The point here was to use the diverging ski tips to rock both feet onto their inside edges and feel this when skating. Later on in racing (and all skiing) the boys will understand that both feet are held like this constantly while skiing – even with the skis parallel.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Jules, Amelia, Ellie, Mia, Matilda, Jemima

Dense fog everywhere. Other than when filming that seemed to pose few constraints.

Continuing our “What do you want to be when you grow up” theme:

Matilda – Scientist and skier (or ballet dancer)

Mia – Scientist and skier

Jemima - “Don’t know” (However when asked what she liked doing most in the world the answer was “Skiing!” This was modified by one of her peers who said “Skiing in front of everybody else”.)

The slushy snow was a bit slow for the lightest group members so when we passed the slalom course I decided to do our technical training early today. Training involved a few runs in the slalom, some pivots with some feedback from me and some improved short swings.


Meanwhile, Jules was adding sugar to his drinks in preparation of Escape #3 – which was successfully foiled this time. Perhaps it wasn’t so urgent today because he was let off the reigns to come along with me and Ellie for a proper ski, right up to 2704m altitude and on the first ever red run for both of them. Unfortunately the dense fog meant they would be deprived of the phenomenal view from the ridge between the Meribel and Val Thorens valleys. It’s easy to forget that this was also the first week ever of skiing for Ellie – just because she’s bigger doesn’t make it any easier. The red runs were of course handled by both with consummate ease.

The only technical advice necessary on the steeps was to bring the uphill ski down close to the lower ski to facilitate a pivot at the start start of the turns – to make the starts both highly effective and quick. This prevents the uphill ski getting jammed on its inside edge at the start of the turn and turning into an accelerator pedal straight downhill.


Matilda Unleashed

Matilda joined our advanced team for the afternoon (Mia and Jemima retiring for the day early) and I was a little bit worried that it might not work because only a few days earlier she was struggling just to “stand up” on the nursery slopes. Well, her excellent appearance in the slalom and with her exercises was no deception – she had assimilated everything. After testing her out on a narrow blue – same as Jules did yesterday – she looked very capable after all. This time Matilda joined us going up to 2704m altitude and we did the entire descent into Meribel twice. She was even skiing over vertical drop-offs at least her own height and not only staying upright but really enjoying it.

Amelia led for some short video shoots. Poor Amelia has been a bit neglected this week because all the attention has gone to the complete beginners – though she has learned all the same things as they have and changed her skiing. Amelia really needs personal feedback – to improve posture and get off the backs of her boots, develop angulation and other skills. Those were subjects that the rest of the group were not ready for so there was no time to go into them during the week. In general – with correct biomechanics and physics – most “faults” vanish – so given the constraint of the varied group the focus had to be on transmitting this universal information to everyone.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Jules, Ellie, Matilda, Mia, Jemima, Amelie

First ever blue piste for the little ones – in dense fog. The huge advantage of this is that everybody stayed very close together in a line and with Jemima on form shouting at everyone who didn’t conform to her expectations we had our own built in foghorn. Everyone coped easily with the long route to the next lift which would lead to much higher, steeper and longer blue runs. I decided to go ahead with the challenge of the steeper runs while everyone was fresh.  Our only incident was when several skiers had snow stick to the wax on their skis half way down a steep section. Fortunately it didn’t take long to spot the problem and clean the skis.

While descending later on in slush Mia and Jemima tended to “plough” – but when they were told to keep the skis closer together they automatically achieved correct use of the feet and dynamics. This is because the uphill ski was allowed to stay on its uphill edge and was easy to “pull inwards” (downhill) into the new turn. This is mostly an unconscious blending of pivoting and dynamics. Having learned the two skills separately the blend happens spontaneously just by avoiding a wide, defensive stance. (When the uphill ski is held down close to the lower ski it is on its uphill edge – when spread out uphill it is on its inside edge). All I have to say to the girls though is “put your skis close together” – and immediately they are skiing parallel and with good dynamics even in slush and bumps. 

Cloud Breathing

The nose is the breathing organ – but all the children were breathing through the mouth. While in the cloud, breathing in and out through the nose lets you smell and feel the humid air differently. The slight restriction in breathing this causes increases blood CO2 – which in turn controls tissue oxygenation – giving more oxygen to your brain, heart and muscles. The greatest advantage however is that Jemima had to be silent when cloud breathing. Usually two seconds after setting off it was evident that the cloud breathing had already stopped!

Short Swings

We had a brief practise at pivoting, with Mia receiving a quick lesson having missed it yesterday and there was impressive progress all round (Mia also did some foot work indoors at the chalet in the morning). Tomorrow I’ll film the pivoting again to show the improvements. Today however it was to lead into Short Swings. The Short Swing is really a pivot but executed partially in mid air. Everything is the same but instead of pushing the body downhill against the ski pole you literally jump. (It gets more complicated but I’m keeping it simple here). The current goal is to give a method of getting around quickly when on something very steep and narrow. The exercise also enhances all the muscular coordination and movements we have been working on – but makes the legs more active and mobile.

Later, we also used bumps for pivoting the fronts of the skis downhill, making great use of otherwise challenging terrain and conditions. The children were all enjoying the bumps and slush due entirely to the fundamental techniques they have learned being suitable for all conditions.


Slalom

The slalom was filmed from behind to show how dynamics were being used to produce good parallel skiing. Not bad for day 5 beginners! Nobody was “pushing out” the skis, stemming or getting any major movements wrong. Magic foot, Magic Pull (front of ski), Magic Wall…. all the way!


Jules successfully escapes

Impressively, Jules managed to escape this time (only 2nd attempt) – completely unseen. Just as Amelia, Ellie and I were about to leave the top of the Plattier’s lift area at high altitude in dense fog out pops little Jules from a telecabine – having navigated the lift system by himself and not wanting to stop skiing. Luckily I’d stopped to clean Amelia’s goggles or we would have been off already without him. Meanwhile his distraught mum thought he had wandered off somewhere in town far below and didn’t even imagine he had somehow bypassed everyone and followed us up the mountain. While she must have felt horrified I felt overjoyed to have him safe by me. I called his dad immediately to let him know we had him at the top of the mountain.

Until now I’d only seen Jules a bit out of control when skiing slowly with the girls and thought this might be a long, slow descent. However I immediately put Jules to the test with our short turns on a steep and narrow run that serves as a boarder cross type circuit – and he was rock solid and on my tail the whole way. The entire descent was at a good speed and Jules skied like a seasoned skier – fully in control – even over big slushy bumps and in good rhythm – leaving the stronger girls way behind. Jules definitely has the right aptitude and his frightening escape turned out to have an incredibly positive outcome.

The new rule is “Never take a lift when there is nobody you know to accompany you. Just wait at the bottom if you are lost.”  Also – all the children should have a note with telephone numbers and residence written on it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Jules, Amelia, Ellie, Matilda, Jemima

What do you want to be when you grow up…

Jules –    Skier (policeman or fireman are too dangerous according to Jules)

Amelia – Author or Scientist (my advice – do both together!)

Ellie –     Actor or Singer


Wet and Dry Humour

Amelia says my humour is “bad” because she can’t tell when I’m joking. I explained that it is “dry” humour and that in contrast her humour – which comes from her joke book - might probably be called “wet” humour. So we agreed that I’m bad and Amelia is wet.


Poles for Petites

Time for the little ones to have their poles, because they are all skiing quite confidently without them. However the poles aren’t just for pushing along the flats; they serve a specific purpose which would be immediately introduced. No it’s not the mindless “pole plant” at the end of a turn. All would be revealed by learning the “pivot”.  The challenge would be in teaching a group of children something that in reality is formidably technical – without losing them completely along the way. Even the bigger children would be learning this from scratch.


Pivoting (Magic Pull)

Full details of “pivot” teaching are found here: “Pivot” (Tab also at the top of the blog page)

Dynamics requires forward speed (like a bicycle) and the ski works by providing lifting power as your centre of mass falls over – and there is no use of the ski poles. In contrast Pivoting is about travelling completely sideways – no forward speed at all – and using the pole solidly downhill from the body to prevent the centre of mass from falling. In both cases the centre of mass operates the skis and drives the entire system but the two mechanisms are completely different: Dynamics – support from the skis and Pivot – support from the poles.

Once the separate skills are learned then they can be blended together in degrees.

The pole planting seen here on video is completely spontaneous after being only physically assisted through one single pivot to feel what it is like – and free practice for a few individual pivots.

The main purpose of teaching this so early is to enable “fall line” skiing – the ability to turn tightly in a narrow couloir – without long traverses across the hill. The trick is in making the skier aware that there is no need to start the turns on the inside edge of the uphill ski – so that the uphill ski can slip into the turn (on its uphill edge) by the leg pulling the front of the ski inwards following the centre of mass. The skier must stand on the outside (uphill) edge of the (uphill) ski while being aware of standing on the inside (downhill) edge of the foot. Jules needed a bit of clarification here but still got the idea.

We initially worked on an exercise by lifting a ski and pulling the front against a pole planted in the ground between the two ski tips. When pulling the inside edge of the ski against the pole you look at that ski tail to see if it is twisted outwards or if it falls inwards bringing the heels together. If the ski tail twists outwards the skier is trying torque the ski and using the wrong muscles so this must immediately be corrected to learn the correct muscular sensations. Pulling the tip inwards is the opposite from “stemming” or “plough” where the tail is pushed outwards. It is counter intuitive and needs to be learned – using the opposite muscle coordination from stemming.

The Magic Wall uses the Magic Foot and now also the Magic Pull – all of this directed inwards to the centre of the turn.