Friday, December 30, 2011

Jason, James, Mike - in a blizzard!

Stepping out of the door this morning (in Aime at 700m altitude) my trainers sunk into a foot of fresh snow - every skier's dream situation of course but when it's dark, 6:30 am and you have to clean your car and drive 50km up a mountain, dodging snowploughs, buses and everything else that can be thrown at you, then you know the day ahead will be long. In reality I managed a fast ascent without any lateral drifting of the car on the hairpin bends - but only because there was a lot of oncoming traffic and I didn't want to become too intimate with any of it.

Who is this mystery skier? 

We all met at around 08:30 am in the Gourmandine café and were out on our way to the Olympic lift at 09:00. Audrey was stopped by a call from work so we left her behind. During our ascent of the Face the wind suddenly picked up to storm force and the lift was closed. At the summit the Securité des Pistes were altering the information board and had only the runs down to La Daille open. The wind was driving snow with great force and it was obviously going to be a slog to get down to the level of the Follie Douce against this wind. Once at that altitude and aspect we would have relative shelter from the wind coming from the North West. The wind was so hard that it was difficult to breathe at times - a very odd sensation when it happens. Faces were plastered with ice and even making progress downhill was difficult at times. Eventually we reached the Follie Douce and were able to ski the rest of the way down in fairly deep snow on the piste. 

Deep Snow
My initial advice was to use the dynamics learned the previous day. When we had skied for a while I mentioned the use of a seated stance to get the knees and feet ahead of the body (and to keep the skis downhill for pivoting effect). In addition to this I rapidly explained about the pushing forward of the outside foot during the turn and how it would work the ski harder - more proactively - instead of just standing passively on the ski waiting for it to work. Most people found that this immediately made the turns sharper.

In the video Jason shows great natural feeling for the rhythm and rebound of the skis - which is related to skating timing. James is not far off this too but thwarted by a wide stance and having the weight too far back. Mike makes a good effort and is quite lively with improved dynamics. Huw is a bit too passive - waiting for the ski to do the turning instead of using the legs to generate a more rapid pressure cycle. This is largely due to leaning on the back of the ski boots and not accurately relating to the perpendicular.

Feet Introduction
After lunch, still indoors, I gave a rushed explanation of the use of the feet. Normally people go through all of the motions - feeling what is strong and weak etc. On this occasion there was unfortunately no space for that. I showed how pressing down on the big toe and "steering" into the turn with it caused the ankle to collapse and the foot to twist outwards, the knee to collapse inwards and the foot to go onto its outside edge. The clearest way to overcome this tendency is to stand on the heels and rock the feet from edge to edge with the subtaler joints below the ankles. I also explained that it is possible to create a similar result by standing up on the balls of the feet and activating all of the feet muscles. When the foot is rocked onto its inside edge then it actually twists slightly away in the opposite direction of the turn.

On the hill when introducing the use of the feet I did it along with the seated stance, rocking the feet and moving the centre of mass all in the same direction. We removed the skis to stand facing downhill so that the seated stance would not cause any falling backwards. I particularly wanted James and Huw to develop this combined active use of the feet, adductors and movement of the centre of mass. In both cases they are probably impeded due to getting lower leg pressure on the back of the ski boots when skiing.

Short Swings / Jump Turns Introduction
Once the basic movement had been achieved I added a jump - making it into a "jump turn" - first of all without skis. When the jump turns are linked together with a bounce/rebound they are called "short swings". The jump is mainly from the lower ski and requires a solid pole support. Nobody could initially get any pressure on the pole so the jump turns were made hard due to the jumps all being towards the vertical instead of the much more effective and easier "perpendicular" (to the mountain).  Using a pivot and holding each person in position - with the hips pushed uphill and the shoulders downhill  - moving the centre of mass downhill towards the pole - each person felt how this pulled the skis into a pivot (while the body shape kept them on the uphill edges - allowing the skis to slip into the turn). We looked at how to hold the poles correctly.

Everyone was still failing to prevent rotation at the end of each turn and to anticipate the following turn. To improve awareness of this issue we did single pivots on steep ground but finishing them off by stopping with a solid pole plant and angulation - ready to fall between the pole and ski tips into another pivot. This "anticipation" appeared to clarify how to link the turns. The angulation toward the end of the turn is used to both keep the centre of mass effectively inside the turn and also to get it effectively out and into the next one.

Hockey Stops - Linked Hockey Stops - Hip "Pull Back"
To make the "anticipation" position stronger we practised hockey stops and then linked them together in the fall line. There was still a lot of hip rotation going on so I suggested pulling back the hip as the foot was pushed forward and this did reduce hip rotation and created stronger angulation in general. The "pull back" of the hip is linked to a natural walking action as described in Audrey and Huw's first post a couple of days ago - though I didn't explain the walking context on the mountain this time.

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