Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Andrew & Jenny

The objective here was to help Jenny to get to another level after many years of being stuck at an unsatisfactory level. This task would be complicated by having to manage the desires of other family members to do everything inappropriate regarding this objective - including skiing off-piste and slalom.

So - here is Andrew Off-Piste - purely for Jenny's benefit of course...

Meanwhile - returning to the task in hand...

The basic idea was to develop different aspects of ski technique, building them up in a picture so that eventually it could all pull together. Nothing in skiing works in an isolated manner so it's usually a combination of self-reinforcing changes that does the trick.

Jenny was stemming, rotating, stiff, unstable, insecure - and basically not able to flow or relax and enjoy the skiing. Both the boys had elements of all of those problems to lesser degrees and Andrew just needed to develop a few new additional movements and awareness in certain areas.

Initially we worked on aspects of "dynamics" concerning rounded flowing turns.

Exercise One: Staying on the outside ski until the body comes clean over the top of it to complete the turn. This exercise was accomplished relatively easily by everyone, and helped to reduce stemming. We went off-piste with it in an attempt to cultivate flowing across the skis and building a sense of stability and security from coordinated accelerations instead of a wide stance and platform - which only works when moving very slowly. We emphasised that fact that if a turn doesn't work out well then it is important to give it up and go for the next one - always keeping the body moving and creating dynamics (accelerations).

Exercise Two: Skating straight downhill and then when speed builds up falling to the "inside" on each stride. The skating changes into skiing and gives a good sense of rhythm and timing. The skating action  of the legs complimenting the "down/up" vertical motion (pressure cycle) of the dynamics (like a motorbike falling down into a turn and being brought back up again to finish). Jenny had a good feeling for this and plenty of movement but still kept a wide stance and some rotation. James was very good at this.

William's Wipeout!
The objective here was to keep the centre of mass down and inside the turn through the end phase of the turn so as to avoid being pitched up and out of the turn prematurely. So how did William fall?

Exercise Three: Multiple skates across the hill from the lower leg onto the upper leg and standing on the uphill edge of the uphill ski. On the second or third turn, stand solidly on the uphill leg so as to fall into the turn with the centre of mass. The uphill ski on its uphill edge prevents any stem from taking place.
In some ways this seems like the opposite of the first exercise. The push up from the lower leg however simulates the ski bringing the skier up at the end of the turn - so the feeling is similar to the first exercise. The emphasis here is on using the biomechanical function of the skating to properly change support from one leg to the other with a strong feeling of standing on one hip and then the other. It is important also then to avoid trying to "rush" the start of the turn due to feeling trapped on one ski and to learn that it will start smoothly just through the motion of the centre of mass.

Exercise Four: Skiing with the feet together. This was to show that the same mechanical movements can be accomplished with a very narrow stance and that good dynamics permits a strong stable support from a narrow stance. The intention was to later lead onto other aspects of "falline" skiing. Bumps (Mogul) skiers always ski with their feet clamped together and it's for very good reasons.

Jenny starting to be more flexibile

Exercise Five: Using "line" to control speed. Most recreational skiers just bomb down the hill in a more or less direct line and brush off speed by skidding. Racers are better skiers because they have to learn to avoid brushing off speed at all costs and that is the hard thing to do. Racers are slowed down by the line that they have to take in a race course and they have to learn to be very efficient. Put a good racer on an open slope and because he will ski imaginary lines with the terrain he will often take longer to get to the bottom of the hill than the poor recreational skier. Jenny was shown how to complete the turn almost turning back up the hill so as to enhance the "lifting up" effect of the skis at the end of the turn and the passing of the body over the top of the lower ski (all coordinated with the skating timing of the legs). Each turn had to be completed and the speed controlled. This still left jenny with quite a lot of rotation, and stiffness with some stemming in short turns.

Now we worked mainly on aspects of "Fall Line Skiing".

Exercise Six: Fall Line skiing. The turns had to be started from a sideslip - on the top edge of the top ski - pulling the front of the ski downwards (inwards) towards the new turn. Both feet are kept below the skier at all times - directly downhill if possible and there is no sliding across the hill on the edges of the skis. This permits an incredibly rapid, tight and effective pivot of the skis. It can be done from either or both skis - but we only worked on the top (outside) ski. Everyone struggled with this. James in particular had a massive rotation. Andrew would always run off across the hill on his edges. Later on though by returning to this after a few other exercises it was beginning to take shape for everybody.

James starting to control his rotation

Exercise Seven:  Developing upper/lower body separation. Preventing the upper body from rotating during the turn - or from using it deliberately with a rotation to force the skis around. (James tried to either use the shoulders, hips or feet to force the skis around when skiing slowly - instead of using dynamics and ski design)
By using the adductor to pull the front of the ski towards the inside of the turn - all the way through the turn - and deliberately blocking the body's rotation it would force the legs to be turned on the hip joints - the legs being turned by all those other things - not by active twisting or "steering" actions. This exercise had only modest results.

Exercise Eight: Developing the ability to sink into the second part of the turn  - and learning to increase pressure and turn control by fighting the tendency for the ski and gravity to pull you up and out of the turn prematurely. Removing the skis and working with the poles for support and simulating the actions of the skier in the ski boots alone. This is first done by sliding one lower leg forwards - like a Telemark skier does. Then by facing the body downhill and the feet across the hill the lower heel is used as a pivot and the top foot is slid forwards coming around in an arc. The tendency is for people to rotate the upper body and for the hips to swing around and out - so that the person is left standing over the outside foot near the end ot the manoeuvre instead of remaining sunk down into the turn (until desiring to come up out of the turn). This is a great way to clarify those issues - but almost impossible to describe in words. The exercise certainly helped to develop a clearer understanding. 

Andrew's short turns

Exercise Nine:  Enhancing and using this downsink into the turn so that it would be felt on long carving turns as well. Andrew picked up on this and realised that by sinking into the turn it had a powerful effect on the skis.

Exercise Ten:   Reducing "resistance" in the hips. People who "stem" for many years instead of "pulling" the ski inwards develop a rigidity at the hip joints. This is the case for most people because they have learned to snowplough and push the legs "outwards" from the beginning - unfortunately. To clarify what the correct feeling of relaxation is like when the body sinks into a turn it is necesssary to turn the skier's body to face downhill and to support him under the armpits and get him to "collapse" by sittting and to let you catch his weight - so that the hips and knees go totally floppy. The you let the skier take the strain and stand back up. This makes it clear that the skier has probably NEVER felt that while skiing and has been "resisting" all the time with muscles fighting muscles unnecessarily. This final exercise had the effect of freeing Jenny up at last and allowing all the rest to actually work better.

On the final day Andrew pretended not to know who Lindsey Vonn is - that is the current female superstar of skiing who even won a world cup in Val a few days ago when Andrew was in the resort. So that there is no more confusion - and just to prove that she really is prettier than Andrew - here are a few photos...

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