Thursday, February 24, 2011

Luke the Carrot

Day Three

Warm up Off-Piste
Today's warm up run evolved into an off-piste powder excursion with an emphasis on dynamics. This was quickly followed up with a small expedition over the Borsat plateau where "kick turns" were experienced for the first time by the family with interesting results.

Introduction to Slalom
When we had finished messing around in the powder it was time to go to the slalom course for an introduction to slalom before the course became too badly rutted. The aim was just to familiarise everyone with slalom and to remove apprehensions about using a race course and timing. The ground rules of how to use the training area were explained, more for safety reasons than anything else. The first run was a form of reconnaissance with all of us descending the course together taking a very wide and slow line high in the gates. The second run was a timed run for each individual but with a view to working on technique by using the gate as a reference for the dynamics. Everyone got through the course safely and recorded a time - even though Leonie's time had to be continued manually by Florence because the clock ran out after 60 seconds. Luke recorded the fastest time of 35 seconds. 

Introduction to Bumps
There are three natural constraints that form and inform a skier in his/her development and those are racing, off-piste and bumps. We had started to look at racing and off-piste so now it was the time for bumps. The first exercise was to simply traverse across a bumps field and to get the legs bending to absorb the bumps and extending in the hollows. This didn't achieve much other than revealing that everyone was really stiff and unable to bend due to tension. We then attempted to side slip the bumps pivoting on shoulder of each bump and sliding down the side. Pivoting skills were generally not yet strong enough for this and so there was a tendency for everyone to jam the uphill ski on its inside edge and accelerate instead of getting the ski to pivot from the outside edge.

Impressive view of the Grande Casse in the setting sun with high winds at the summit

Short Siwngs
In an attempt to loosen up the legs a bit, improve the pivot and develop some upper/lower body separation we worked for a while on short swings. The first exercise was with skis off - pivoting the legs independently in the hip sockets. The second exercise was jumping without heel retraction - fully extending the legs in mid air and flexing for a soft landing. Luke was particularly hard on the landings and Florence had the best range of motion and hence smoothness. It was while watching Luke doing short swings that Ella decided that Luke resembled a carrot. It's not clear whether this was only a reference to his red and green clothing or if it had something to do with his energetic but slightly disorganised short swings.

Speed and Steeps threshold
Meanwhile back on the pistes I was stretching everyone and Ella was the first to respond to increased speed - which she appeared to really enjoy. Luke also was showing good clear dynamics from the feet support  upwards. On the way to lunch we went down a black piste and this was done with stealth so as not to freak anyone out. It's the only unmarked black run in the resort because it is netted off as a race course. Everyone coped admirably with the new steepness. Later on we went on even steeper off-piste and Leonie had to be shown how to use the pole plant to support the Centre of Mass coming downhill - so as to have the confidence to turn. Florence was reverting to a snowplough step turn to get around  - while this is effective on occasion it does place the top ski on its inside edge and produce an unwanted accelerator straight down the hill. In more off-piste steeps later on Leonie clicked regarding holding the Centre of Mass in towards the turn centre by facing her bottom up the hill (to avoid rotation).

Dropping into the turn
I got behind each person in turn and had them drop into my arms so as to release the hip joints and feel how the CM could be dropped literally into a turn. Unfortunately when Florence gave me her weight I sunk into the off-piste snow and then due to bursting out laughing I had to let her fall onto the snow. It took about five minutes to get Florence back up on her feet so that didn't work out exactly as planned. I'd demonstrated the problem in flexing muscles when the antagonist muscles are contracted using the biceps and triceps in the arm. The idea was for everyone to realise that there is a similar muscle conflict going on in their legs when they "resist" in turns, in deep snow or in bumps.

Introduction to Carving
Towards the end of the day an important element of racing was introduced - carving. Everyone managed to hold the skis on edge well when traversing across the hill and making shallow arcs on two edges. We worked statically on edge changing with the support of the ski poles on the downhill side - the body passing through "neutral" - perpendicular to the hill and the skis flat between edge changes. Nobody was able to hold the carve after a turn transition when actually moving forwards though - but this is normal at this stage. Practise in first of all needed on a very gentle gradient. The dynamics and adductor use with feet rolling are all even more obvious when working on carving because the feedback from the skis is very clear.

Stickers from Leonie's art studio...

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