Thursday, February 3, 2011

Taha's Family Day 4

Day Four

In the morning we go straight over the Col de Fresse and back to the enclosed training area on the Vert. I wanted to work on skating but realised that it might be too difficult for the two boys and for Taha who was still clearly not on top of skating along the flat. (Gulsum unfortunately missed the day due to feeling unwell.) To get around this problem I started off with just side stepping uphill.

Side Stepping
The first task was to side step up a shallow gradient keeping the skis parallel and always on the uphill edges. Cagatay continually placed his uphill ski on its downhill edge by moving it too far away from his body so I encouraged little steps instead of big ones. He was pulling his knees together also so had to be encouraged to place the uphill knee towards the outside (uphill) instead of comfortably towards the inside. Cagatay was uncomfortable standing on the outside edge of his uphill foot - probably because it felt so different from the snowplough and the solid bracing it affords. Taha had to hold in his lower foot more on the inside edge and use the adductor muscles to get a better grip. Mete had to pull the knee inwards on his lower leg (adductor muscles) to prevent the lower ski from breaking away and skidding while stepping up.  Side stepping was repeated in both directions across the hill.

Side Stepping uphill while traversing
Once everyone could side step while stationary we then tried to do this in a slow traverse. Everyone found this a bit difficult to start with because it meant being on one leg or the other - one legged - stepping from one foot to the other foot all the time. One-leggedness is such a fundamental requirement of skiing that this exercise could only be beneficial.

Turn initiation from stepping onto uphill ski on uphill edge
The final part of this exercise would be to step up onto the top ski while traversing and then initiate a turn downhill by letting the Center of Mass (CM) fall forwards and downhill. The general difficulty that everyone had in standing on one leg made this exercise too difficult. Some turns were started on the wrong leg and other's with a big stem and snowplough before standing up on the uphill leg. Taha tried to do it while twisting both the ski and his body and sometimes managing to move his CM outwards in the new turn. - confusing stepping onto the uphill edge (preparation) with his old "weight transfer" turn initiations. It would be necessary to go back to developing some more pivoting skills first. All of the above exercises were an attempt to build the foundations for parallel turning with an "inward" pulling and control from the CM instead of the outward push of the stem.

Pivot Turn
To impart the feeling of a real "pivot" turn from the uphill edge (uphill ski) I supported each person in turn and pulled them physically though a turn in each direction so that they could feel what happens. Taha was so tense at being on one leg that it was very difficult to do this with him. To try to make things easier for him I explained that the foot should be allowed to roll onto its inside edge but the ski remain on the uphill edge. This helps the skier to pull the front of the ski into the turn because the adductor muscles can be used but there is still no danger of the ski going too early onto the inside edge. The shaft of the ski boot stops the ski from flattening or changing edge too early. Everybody still struggled with this but surprisingly Taha could do it better from the downhill leg - something most people find more difficult. I suspect that this is because the ski is placed further downhill and so is easier to keep on the uphill edge. We also briefly attempted pulling both ski tips down and into the turn and this seemed to work a little better for Taha too - perhaps because it didn't require a reliance on the uphill ski which is so strongly associated with stemming.

After this last exercise we went in for a drink. There might not have been a great deal of success but several key issues would be just a little bit clearer and edge awareness plus the ability to stand on the uphill leg should definitely have received a boost.

Skating Directly Downhill
I demonstrated skating downhill and then bringing in more dynamics for the skating to turn into skiing. It was worth trying to get everyone to have a go because you never know when someone will connect with this because it is so natural. In the event nobody was ready for it.

Descent of the Vert into La Daille
After the break we went for a ski because at this stage there is still nothing more important than mileage. I made a point of stretching the boys and putting them into difficulty but in a fun way. We went into the Vert gully and the boys clearly loved going up and down the banks. There was a steep traverse out of the gully which put to use their new found edging skills from the stepping exercises. There were a few other steep icy traverses to make and it didn't take long for the boy's to have the confidence to remain upright and hold on with the edges. Mete had a slight tendency to face uphill when standing on his left leg and this stopped the ski from gripping so I explained to him to point his bottom uphill slightly if he could. The trip down to la Daille was a bit of a battle and wore them out enough to merit a stop for lunch. The boys had earned ice-creams for their hard work in the technical lessons.

Short Swings
The last exercise we had done before skiing down the mountain had been to pivot with the tips of both skis pulling into the turn. Short Swings integrate a lot of the mornings exercises and in a way that is perhaps easier. The Short Swing involves traversing on the two uphill edges, bending down and then jumping up from those edges and pulling the front of the skis downhill. The jump must be slightly in the downhill direction. This is another way to prevent the stem and to encourage parallel - "pulling inwards" - type actions. With the skis off the ground there is no need for any subtle pivot from the top edge of the ski - put the action is identical with that part of the turn carried out in mid air. Mete picked this up quickest and Cagatay was not far behind, both being able to do short turns for the first time though not much in the way of rhythm so far. Taha took a bit longer to get there because he wouldn't jump downhill into the turn to being with but he did a good job of correcting that over time. Another advantage of the short swing is that it gets the legs working and enhances the "lifting up " effect of the ski at the end of the turn. This is the first time that any of the group have started to get their legs working instead of just bracing and locking them out.

Spinning 360°
I showed the boys how to spin on the skis. Children normally love to be able to spin 360°. The trick is to always keep the CM higher up the mountain than the skis. Cagatay had a good go at it -  at least he was the only one to end up going backwards. This is just making "pivoting" into a game.

Final Descent from Borsat to Val Claret
The descent went much better today with a lot less falling over. Cagatay became too tired close to the end but skied strongly at the finish. Cagatay still doesn't have a grasp of speed control though turning and so needs to follow closely or he is likely to straight-line everything and resort to a high speed snowplough - but that should change in the next day or two. Mete is becoming more parallel all the time and his short turns were looking good. Taha really started to change his appearance on skis today after working hard along with the boys all day.

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