Thursday, March 10, 2011

Justin March 2011

Justin's Development

Justin does not get to ski as much as he would like these days. His freedom is being gradually nibbled away by corporate life - but that's OK. Somebody probably has to do it! 

No 1 "Corporate" rule is this: Don't ever give anyone the power to sack you - it will definitely corrupt them
No 2 "Corporate" rule is this: Don't ever become a boss because it will definitely corrupt you and render you completely stupid though you won't realise it.

Justin has been working on his skiing for some time, but his two weeks skiing a year limit plus a permanent desk job both conspire to drain any significant skill that his body has painstakingly acquired and turn him into a physical mess in general. Still, to his credit Justin was not overweight from munching doughnuts behind his desk and he doesn't smoke - which proves that not only does he have a brain but he knows how to use it. Realising that Justin has a keenly functioning brain was a cue for me to pass him my camera for the rare opportunity for someone to video me demonstrating without having to give a course in digital photographic equipment use and then waste an afternoon on trial and error photographic and videographic botch ups. I just gave the camera to Justin and predictably he got it right first time despite never having seen the device before. I gave him a 10 second window to work it out though - knowing that he would come good if I didn't give enough time for his chronic dyslexia to kick in.

It's not by chance that the two toughest types on the planet to teach are male dyslexics and female lawyers. Male dyslexics are truly excellent at anything you instruct them to do - but then they later muddle everything up completely and permanently because they lose a grasp of what is really relevant. It's like the "lawnmower man" got into them. Female lawyers just don't really get it - it's not part of their inner universe and never will be. Regardless of how weirdly wired up the neurons are - through either birth or programming - all it does is make the teaching challenge more interesting...

Pivoting Exercises

Demonstration of Pivoting - Slow then Rapid

The pivoting exercises were carried out towards the end of the day to try to improve Justin's off-piste performance. Let's be clear here - Justin is a good and strong skier - well above average for even strong skiers. The point is though that as you get better you simply uncover the potential for learning a whole lot more. Joking aside - Justin has assimilated a lot of useful skill. The stuff he needs to learn now though is very tricky to learn well.

Loading up the downhill ski towards the end of a pivot turn

Independent Leg Action
We focussed on independent leg action because I wanted to try to encourage this in Justin's skiing in general - for carving as much as pivoting. Skills are directly transferable from one aspect of skiing to another - and generally if a skill is missing in carving the same skill will be missing in pivoting. Removing the skis I got Justin to feel the legs rotate like windscreen wipers in the hip sockets by facing downhill and standing on the heels with both feet at the same altitude on the hill. Justin normally skis in a two footed way with his pelvis following the skis around the turn and often a twist in his spine to compensate. Using the pivot to develop independent leg action is a great way to unlock this problem. He was later able to coordinate this in a pivot with the skis on. 

Push Up
An emphasis with the pivot was the push up from the lower leg. Off piste this push up brings you up and out of the turn and makes you lighter and more able to pivot the start of the turn as you feel like you float into it. This push up is best initiated from a position deep down into the existing turn - building up pressure on the ski from a safe uphill position with the Centre of Mass well inside the turn. This needs the hips to be relaxed to drop the Centre of Mass down and in far enough and for the lower leg to be "pulling inwards" right up until the end of the turn - so as not to lock up any muscles. Good upper/lower body separation is required and that's partly what I was aiming for Justin to improve with his exercises. The push up from the lower ski feels like the body is coming both up and out - downhill - and the key point now is that you DO NOT cross over your skis. The skis must remain downhill and be actively swung into the new turn through both using the momentum of the whole body and the adductor muscles pulling the outside ski "inwards". Sinking into the new turn the body must drop down to the inside strongly to set up the pressure cycle for the next turn. Edge change for the skis takes place ideally in the fall line. The turn can however be reorganised so that the turn apex and main pressure build up is more to the "side" rather than downhill but without the overall mechanics changing. This makes for more fluid skiing - the same way that this timing creates the fastest passage in a race course. Just aim to complete the turn out to one side then let the skis ride back across towards the other side and use the momentum across the hill.

Justin's Skiing Odyssey

 Race Turns

Justin's off piste skiing was basically an unmodified race turn. Well - he did modify it but not intentionally. The timing was completely out with the whole of the start of the turn being carried out going upwards instead of downwards and into the turn. The race turn works extremely well off-piste but it must be done correctly for it to work. This timing would then produce a sudden build up of pressure late in the turn where Justin would then have to deal with the consequences - often breaking at the waist as a result. This erratic pressure cycle makes skiing a bit unpredictable - especially if you are on short slalom skis off-piste - as Justin was. Much of Justin's two leggedness, lack of Upper/lower body separation, rotation and lack of stability were all stemming from this fundamental error in timing. Racing turns mean that you ski on your inside edges and that means commitment to good appropriate timing. The body must pass cleanly across the skis so that the skis change edges before the turn begins and the centre of mass must accelerate down and into the turn to generate pressure against the outside ski right from the start of the turn.

Justin is on top of it here - in every sense

Race Course
In the race course Justin is clearly not proactively moving his Centre of Mass though at least he is not staying up high through the start of the turn as he is when skiing off-piste. The basic underlying problem is still the same in that there is not an active control being established though using the Centre of Mass. Rotation and other problems with the skis drifting sideways etc. all stem from the initial failure to drive the Centre of Mass down into the proceeding turn - and then to hold it in there. In the race course the body is just passively falling into the turn - and much too late. Don't wait until there is pressure under the feet to let yourself fall in more - be proactive and drive down and inwards - even if there is no initial pressure or you think that none will follow because your act is too extreme - it isn't - it NEVER is.

Justin looking sheepish after a spectacularly bad performance

Justin's special power? He is "hologram man" 

Val d'Isère seen from Le Fornet on this day

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