Monday, February 7, 2011

Taha Day 9

Day Nine

Mete reduced his best time in the slalom to 36.98 seconds and Taha to 39.32 seconds. Cagatay is still in the lead with 36.69 seconds from the day before but didn't manage to improve on this time today. I'm expecting a very strong showing tomorrow from Taha who had a breakthrough in his skiing later in the afternoon. Mete's best time today was again immediately after being told to launch his CM further down into the turn and earlier.

One Leg
We cut race training early because the times were deteriorating in general and so it was more important to spent the time working on technique. Removing one ski and skiing only on the right leg, Mete showed that he was clearly becoming very comfortable with this. Cagatay and Taha were not understanding how to get the body mass over to the inside of the turn to the right (outside edge of the ski) despite assistance. Mete further demonstrated his edge control by pulling off tidy 360s when he had his two skis back on. 

Short Swings
Short swings on the steep once again showed Mete ahead of the pack. Cagatay sensing that he was falling behind his brother made a strong effort and for the first time managed to lose his stem and achieve neat short swings -  pulling both skis into the turn simultaneously. Taha also managed it for the first time. Taha and Cagatay only manage to pull the skis inwards when jumping so it is a good exercise for them to do. It is harder in some ways to pull inwards when the skis are on the snow and there is a resistance - especially if you are used to pushing or stemming the ski out and onto its inside edge.

After the short swings we collected Gulsam who had been patiently working alone on her technique on the Vert, drilling the new movements to make them automatic. Her confidence had clearly returned and she was even able to turn on to the right on the steep ice at the top of the Bellevarde. We headed over to the Grand Pré - the flattest piste in Val d'Isère, where we could begin to learn "carving" for the first time. Carving was introduced as the skis "cutting" the snow like a carving knife - with no sideways movement as is found in the sideslip or pivot turns that we had focussed on until now. The best way to demonstrate this is to traverse with the edges locked on and show how the tracks turn uphill and show no skidding. To my surprise everyone managed to do this quite well at the first attempt. It is normally something that people find very hard to do the first time. We went across the slope making scalloped tracks turning uphill and then back downhill by pointing the skis downhill each time they stopped running. After doing this in both directions we headed down to an even flatter patch of snow to find out how to change edges and transition from one turn to another. The transition was done using ski poles for support moving from the two uphill edges to the two downhill edges while stationary across the hill. Everyone was used to moving the CM in the direction of the new turn and so everyone did this automatically and this saved a great deal of time. Usually people contort themselves in really weird ways when trying this for the first time but nothing like that happened here. I got everyone to face downhill and do the same - held stationary with the ski poles below - and then let go to make shallow turns (not far across the fall line) simply by switching edges by moving the body. While perhaps not perfect the results were pretty good for a first attempt - all except Mete who, having developed a great pivot, could not let it go and find the carve for the time being. Taha managed the strongest and clearest carve of the group. I explained "neutral" and how the carved turn begins on the inside edge of the upper ski. "Neutral" is when the body and skis are facing across the hill during the turn transition and the skis are flat on the snow and the body perpendicular to the hill - it is a dynamic and temporary transition from one turn to another while the edges are changing and it particularly characterises a carved turn but is not exclusive to the carved turn.

After the carving lesson it was appropriate to expand on this by working on developing greater dynamics. Even if no one could yet carve at higher speeds they could still work on extending the dynamic range. I asked everyone to watch me set a goal of inclination by skiing with exaggerated dynamics and whatever I managed they should give a score of 10. Then they were to watch each other and score between 10 for inclination equal to mine and 0 for completely vertical. Nobody managed to get beyond about 3. Prior to the exercise I asked the boys what they had to do when skiing - was it to try to "stay up" or to "fall over". Both answered "up". Realising that they had not understood dynamics and that they should be trying to fall over I had to explain the "magic wall" again. I told them that their fear of falling was misleading them and that by trying to deliberately fall over to one side would insure that they didn't fall. This is all very counter-intuitive and it's easy to see how youngsters could find trouble getting the idea. This time however they understood a bit better so perhaps tomorrow in the slalom it will improve their results - along with the feelings from the carving exercises that we did.

To wind up our technical session it was time for an introduction to the bumps and we chose the bumps at the side of the top of the OK piste (skier's right). 

Predictably Mete had no difficulty applying his already excellent pivoting skills here. I demonstrated how the turns could be made one at a time. The feet need to be placed on the shoulder of the of the bump with the tips and tails of the skis in the air. The downhill pole needs to be placed near the apex of the bump and the CM moved towards this with good Upper/Lower body separation. More and more load goes onto the pole as the CM moves towards it but the skis must remain on the uphill edges - which can only be easily achieved with good U/L separation. At some point the tips of the skis will start to follow the CM and the skis will pivot rapidly due to the tips and tails having no resistance. The skier needs to keep pulling inwards with the adductor muscles (and CM towards the centre of the turn) as the edges change in the fall line and this gives a very controlled turn around the bottom of the bump while sideslipping down it due to the steepness of the lower face. It's also important not to allow the body to swing around across the hill or it makes it hard to follow up quickly with another turn. Taha had a bit of a breakthrough here because he truly realised for the first time what it meant to move towards the centre of the new turn - over the top of the downhill ski. He had always perceived turning as a motion towards the uphill ski and a pressure on it - regardless of everything that had been said contrary to that by me. Now the penny had dropped. Taha managed some tight turns on the bumps and steeps as a result and tomorrow might be interesting in the slalom for him.

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