Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jim and Ian first morning

Morning 1

The last time Jim and Ian were out skiing was the 29th of January and Ian had taken well to picking up dynamics from scratch over only a couple of days. To all extents and purposes Ian was still a beginner. Although Jim had vast amounts more experience (but pretended to have only four days under his belt) Jim was not that much more stable on his skis and had not been properly coached by me before.

Jim did experience some frustration and he did have an excuse ready for this but I wasn't sure if I picked him up correctly on it. He asked if it was a disadvantage in skiing  in one or other of the following circumstances
  1. having an enormous "appendage".
  2. being an enormous "appendage". (replace between " "  with the appropriate word)
The answer to the first option is "no", this helps to locate the Centre of Mass, and to the second option "yes", which in Top Gear is the term normally specially reserved for Audi drivers.

After a brief slide on the nursery slope we went straight up the main lift to use the green run. St Foy  has the advantage of a long genuinely green run - which is something very rare in this precise part of the universe. This is an interesting point. Does anyone actually know what part of the universe we are in? That's the difference between "precision" and "accuracy". We can locate ourselves precisely - but with absolutely no relative accuracy. However lets get back to the topic...

We started off in the snowplough for Ian's benefit, but Jim had never learned how to do a snowplough so that was tricky for him.
  • First thing we did was to roll the feet onto their outside edges so as to be able to open the plough wider. I pointed out the the skis would remain on the inside edges due to the ski boots. 
  • Next was to turn the inside ski (of the turn) with the foot - leading with the little toe - in the direction of the turn - right foot to the right to turn right. I pointed out that this was all that was needed to turn - no transfer of weight was necessary. The inside ski flattens and slips inwards towards the new turn centre and the outside ski helps by pushing the skier in the same direction.
  • Once this was more or less functioning I added that the outside foot had to roll onto its inside edge (inside of the heel) by rocking the foot at the subtaler joint beneath the ankle). This would provide more grip for the outside ski in the turn
  • It was then encouraged to move the Centre of Mass (CM) slightly in the direction of the new turn - right to go right.
  • The adductor muscles were isolated (by pulling inwards against a ski pole in the snow with the ski tip) and this pulling inwards was associated with the foot rocking inwards at the subtaler joint. The outside leg was then encouraged to pull inwards during the turn instead of pushing outwards.
  • The CM was encouraged to move inwards more dynamically with a view of smoothly losing the plough and the skis coming parallel. ("shoulder pushing" exercise to show the effect of how to get pressure on the foot by accelerating the body against me or into a turn)
Ian quickly returned to the level where he had left off previously and Jim fell into a state of deep confusion.

Jim's Explanation
Jim explained how he was taught previously. He had to traverse and stand up high, lean forwards against his boots to start the turn, twisting into the turn on the balls of his feet (or with the big toes or something). The skis would simply dive parallel into the turn - so so went the theory. It obviously wasn't working and had managed to tie him up in knots because he was now unable to execute my own instructions. 

The concept Jim had been taught is wrong in several areas. It encourages the skier to remain standing high during the turn initiation - instead of dropping the CM down into a turn. This causes the skier to be extremely ineffective. It also doesn't explain anything about the mechanics or dynamics of a turn. The outcome in Jim's case was a classic ineffective movement pattern involving a large stem outwards of the uphill ski while standing on the downhill ski - blocking the turn initiation - then a twisting inwards of the outside ski (against ski design), a pushing outwards of the outside leg (flattening the outside foot), failure of the CM to move in the direction of the new turn and unstable upright body position towards the outside of the turn, a stepping of the inside ski outwards to meet the outside ski and then a skidded two footed push outwards to brake and lose speed. There is nothing in this movement pattern that is useful for developing skiing. Skis work and are controlled by the motion of the CM - full stop. Get that wrong as it is in this case and it means trouble.

One Leg
As a means of helping Jim to move away from his stemming and two footed outwards heel push I started to drill both Jim and Ian on standing on one leg - the uphill leg - uphill edge - in a traverse  - and to launch the CM into the new turn from this stance. The goal at first was just to stand up properly on the one leg. To help get there we sidestepped uphill with a proper stepping up on uphill leg to clarify the "change of leg". We then practised traversing standing on this leg and even stepping uphill up while traversing. Ian really caught on and felt much more stable going into his turns and much more on "one leg" - which enabled him to stop getting caught up on his inside leg so much. Jim struggled to avoid slipping back to his already automatic and reflexive habits. He couldn't stand on the top ski and separate out the processes involved and so ended up using two legs to make a stem again before then standing on the top ski - which of course changed nothing. Both skiers were very week at standing on one leg and only practise will sort that out. Jim was particularly averse to standing on his left leg.

Fore/Aft positioning
Ian was getting a bit caught up on the back of his ski boots and because Jim had mentioned "leaning on the front" of his boots I decided it was necessary to clean up the issue slightly. Basically you simply don't lean on the boots - they are not intended to support you. You simply stand up. When traversing it's easy because the path is horizontal to gravity and you are vertical. We are used to this condition so there is usually no issue there. When the skis come around to point downhill - leaving the horizontal - then you are also required to leave the horizontal by the same amount and to remain perpendicular to the skis and slope. For this reason constant adjustments are always being made fore and aft. Relative to the skis however the aim is to feel no leaning - either on the front or back. It actually feels the same being perpendicular to the horizontal or perpendicular to the slope - there is no sensation of "leaning"  against boots.

To enhance the independence of the legs and encourage greater dynamics I introduced skating as an integral action in the turns. We started by skating down a shallow incline but when neither could hold that skate together when accelerating we took a step backwards to executing a "herringbone" walk up an incline to get used to the correct use of the adductors and edge control appropriate to skiing itself. Neither Ian nor Jim were really ready for skating to have any impact, though Ian felt how the timing tied in with the timing of the dynamics (down /up) motion. 

I explained to Jim how "pushing outwards" locks up all the muscles in the leg through a form of "resistance". This was demonstrated by showing how arm curls are stopped completely simply by tensing up the triceps. The outwards pushing likewise causes us to fight against ourselves. This pushing is usually done to resist "centrifugal force" which is non existent but nonetheless remains a powerful illusion. There is no "outwards "force" only the inwards force of the ski trying to send us into the new turn by constantly cutting in beneath the trajectory of the Centre of Mass. We need to "pull inwards" to help this process and to get our muscles to relax - not push out to resist it and lock the muscles up.

Jim was not managing to eliminate his stem and so the dynamics was not improving. I stood downhill of him and supported him so that he could fall over his lower ski - literally downhill  (but against me) so that he could feel properly what the start of a turn should feel like. Jim was just not moving his CM because he has been consistently moving his uphill ski uphill instead of moving his CM downhill. Tomorrow this will have to change. His current dynamic range is approximately between 15° to 20° maximum. Ian on the other hand is developing at a normal rate and feeling things correctly. Jim is still the stronger skier for the time being - but needs to become aware of the prevailing issues in order to continue to make progress.

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