Sunday, February 13, 2011

Emir, Derin, Defne day 2

Highlights of day 2

Emir's creative solution to seeing where he is going when skiing backwards. 
Note: I didn't teach him to do this!

 Some creative parking at Tignes
- was like this when I arrived in the morning at the car park. Cannot figure out how it got there.

We began the morning by slowly side-slipping through the bumps. This is a great way to show how a bump line is formed and how to use it properly. Between each side-slip there is a pivot and change of direction of the skis to slide down the next bump. Emir is still not managing to pivot and is stepping the uphill ski out to get onto the inside edge - which makes it into an unwelcome accelerator pedal. There will be exercises later in the day to help to develop the pivot better.

Following the bumps we went straight to the slalom to take advantage of the freshly set race course. Prior to using the slalom gates we free skied at the side of them to work on technique.  Emir was still very upright , stiff and bracing against the turn so we worked on exaggeration of the down movement though the second part of the turn - and then coming back up. Emir understood the motion in free skiing and managed much more "vertical" movement and managed to stay in my tracks on the steep slope - whereas yesterday he couldn't. The term "vertical" movement is used traditionally - but the movement is more perpendicular to the slope.

Emit went straight into the slalom after the exercises and recorded his best ever time beating his previous best by around 2 seconds. I warned him that this result is normal when a big change has been made but that he would not be able to repeat it today and that he would now complicate and lose the new feeling for a while. That is exactly what happened.

Back on the Vert training piste we worked on the adductor muscles with a view to reducing bracing and improving flexibility in slalom. I had Emir pull the adductors inwards on his uphill leg prior to turning - initially while traversing the slope and later when linking the turns. He wobbled the leg in and out three times and then finally inwards prior to each turn - reducing this to a single inwards action. This can help to keep the femur and pelvis stacked up in good alignment and make it easier to then relax muscles and bend.

I explained to Emir the analogy of the "ball on a string" spinning around your head. The only force keeping the ball going in a circle is a force inwards from the string. Likewise in skiing the only thing that keeps you turning is a force "inwards" so he should never brace his legs or push "outwards" - only pull inwards with the adductors and move the Centre of Mass inwards.

I demonstrated how the bracing is "resistance" and how this means that all the muscles are contracted and fighting against each other making him effectively weaker. He did an arm curl with a bottle in his hand and of course it was easy. I then asked him to tense his triceps muscles and then try to do the curl - it became almost impossible! His legs were doing something similar when turning under a high load in tight and fast turns.

Returning to the slalom he unfortunately still braced and lost speed because the ground was becoming harder in the race line. On the second run he actually over-flexed and went into a static flexed stance that didn't improve matters - the legs were still braced. I pointed out that for the muscles to be effective he had to move. It's movement that counts - not a fixed position either upright, braced or bent. It's you doing things with your body that has the effect on the skis. You are in control.

I explained about instincts and how they work against him by being defensive. The advantage of being human is that we can learn and overcome those limitations. Although it is hard work it is very rewarding.

On our way up the first chairlift I asked Derin what she had liked most about yesterday's lesson and she replied "I learned a lot of things". I'd expected to hear something related to a fun part of skiing, but that was a very revealing answer to get instead. The reason I love skiing so much is that there is always something new to learn from it but it's wonderful to hear such a viewpoint from a 6 y.o. just starting out.

At Derin's request we worked on 360° spinning. Emir was going to be with me all day so this would be an ideal exercise to help him develop edge control for later application to his pivoting. The main things to be aware of for this exercise are to keep the body "vertical" to gravity and the feet close together. Doing so guarantees the pressure is always on the uphill edges of the ski and they can side-slip from turn into turn endlessly. We used this later when we came across some bumps where the practise of keeping the feet together and side-slipping became useful. During the side-slipping we played with the Center of Mass to see how it made us go forwards or backwards when side-slipping and how to use it to help the spinning though just subtle forward and backwards movements.

Skiing Backwards
We did some backwards skiing and this is where Emir developed his unique style in the photo at the top of the post. This is all just to get more used to the ski edges and the relationship with motion of the Centre of Mass.

One Ski Skiing
Introduction to skiing on one ski. Emir handled this pretty well and although it was just an introduction to one-ski-skiing it has the useful effect of showing how over dependent each skier is on being two footed.

On arriving at the slalom Derin said that she would use the "magic wall" and went straight into her first run with no hesitation. After the first run Emir wanted to stop because it was hard - but I pointed out it was only hard due to lack of technique and that this was the time to go to work not to give up. To help him I asked him to follow me exactly on the second run to try to understand a better line in the course. Unfortunately at this point Derin started to feel unwell so we had to head straight back home.

Defne was in a good mood with her big cousin Emir there to tease her. Over from Tignes into Val and down the steep sided gully riding up and down the banks we were soon at the Marmotte chairlift and onto the Vert training run. Here we repeated all the morning's exercises that Derren had done earlier. Dephnie was reticent at first about trying to spin 360° but when she was left to choose for herself whether or not to try she decided to join in the fun.

Lower Ski Pivot
With the one-ski-skiing I added the exercise of the "lower ski pivot" whereby the skier tries to pivot into the turn from the lower ski only (i.e. right ski turning to the right) - staying on the uphill edge for as much as possible. I showed how to use the pole plant/support for this - to get the Centre of Mass out over the ski and downhill and explained that this is really the sort of thing that requires a pole plant - whereas flowing skiing does not. (only a pole touch is necessary when flowing with dynamics). Emir grasped the idea of moving the Centre of Mass constantly inwards towards the pole all the way around the pivot, but Defne tended to fall out of the bottom part of the turn and not manage to complete the turn without ending up standing on her ski boot. She was getting closer to getting it right all the time but we had to move on to other things.

In Slalom Defne was comfortable again but I now understood that her very slow line was due to worry over hitting the poles. She could go a lot faster with a line closer to the poles. Unfortunately the camera was on the wrong setting so I didn't get her runs recorded but at around 36 seconds on a hard course it was a normal result. We hadn't worked again on the adductor muscles and "pulling in". Defne had felt confused by this the day before and as it was her last day skiing it was better to avoid anything so frustrating. Similar skills however were being covertly cultivated with the playful "spinning 360° and the other edging drills. Emir managed to change his line and go far more direct and closer to the poles - but unfortunately he "put the brakes on" by almost hockey stopping at each of the steeper gates. On the positive side he did show much more body movement and did control body rotation well.

we took a detour through the bumps in the gully on the way down to the Tommeusses chairlift and side-slipped the bumps slowly and carefully, exploiting the skills worked on earlier with the feet close together and side-slipping then pivoting. Defne later said that she found this emotionally challenging but she showed no signs of difficulty on the bumps and coped well.

The Pivot - "Pulling Inwards"
On the final descent after coming down the narrow path from the top of the Toviere doing short turns all the way I decided to help Defne and Emir to do better short turns. This time I went directly for the pivot - two footed with pole support and coaxed Defne into keeping her skis on their top edges, keeping her upper body facing downhill and using the pole plant to help to keep the skis on the upper edges  - then pulling the front of the skis down into a turn. Something clicked and she finally got it. After skiing for a short distance with the pivot she announced that it felt much easier skiing this way and it was really helpful - which is exactly how it should feel.

Short Swings
The day was finished with a few short swings - that is the Pivot turn with the slip of the skis downhill into the new turn done with the skis in the air. This requires a jump from both feet simultaneously and a pulling inwards of the two skis  downhill. Both Emir and Defne had no difficulty in achieving this. It is a very useful move if stuck on a steep slope with an uncertain surface to turn on and it encourages more active movement and use of the legs in general.

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