Thursday, December 15, 2011

Luke Day One

Today was Olive's first ever time on skis. Despite having no previous experience of any similar sports Olive had a very positive and confident attitude. She adapted rapidly to the accelerations and new coordination. 

To introduce Olive we used a standard process of walking and sliding on one single ski - on the right leg to start with. (She is right handed). Later the ski went on the left foot. Which ever foot the ski is on we step around on the flat in a large circle turning in the direction of the other support foot. (Ski on the left foot we make turns to the right) This is a form of  "step turn". The step turn was then continued on the flat with both skis on - and with changes in direction. The skating stance was then used to climb uphill (herringbone). Olive was immediately comfortable with straight running downhill - then adding parallel steps off to each side while straight running to get used to dealing with standing on one leg while sliding. The parallel steps were then taken into diverging steps to make turns and then to link them into several turns. Olive rapidly understood that her control of speed came from completing turns and that the last part of the turn was important to complete and the hardest because of the need to fight against gravity. 

Once comfortable with the step turns we switched to pivot turns. I asked Olive to hold onto a pole and physically assisted her through a pivot so that she could feel the ski turning from its top edge. Olive was able to use this feature immediately and within a short time was making linked  parallel turns on the gentle terrain.

After a break we went up the small chairlift and I assisted Olive both getting on and off the chair and on the descent. The aim was to get Olive familiar with slightly higher speeds and to physically help her to start to feel the appropriate sensations of gliding and turning. Her left foot and leg was being slightly uncooperative at times - but that's normal so I didn't focus on that. After a few runs like this we wandered over to the button lift. Olive was immediately able to use the lift and to get off at whatever height I indicated. Within half an hour she was able to use the full height of the lift and to descend without falling or losing control - through traversing and the use of pivot and step turns where appropriate.

Luke, Leonie, Ella
In the Afternoon Ella, Leonie and Luke came together up to the top of the Solaise. It was clear that everyone had retained some of the technical changes from last year. Luke's skiing looked solid and well organised, Leonie was well composed on the easy slopes but Ella had slipped back a bit towards pushing her feet out to the side. When we went on to the steeper runs down the Solaise to get shelter from the weather, everybody started to struggle and all the weaknesses became apparent. I had begun by asking everyone to pull inwards with the adductor muscles - of the leg standing on the support/turning ski. Ella had looked the least stable due to her "pushing out" so this was a good place to start. Everyone had to think about it for a while to be clear that it was one leg - from start to finish of the turn. On the steeper ground this becomes more significant because it is a key to successful pivoting and control of speed. Everyone to some extent was stemming out the uphill ski to then get on its inside edge - which I pointed out immediately became an accelerator pedal. It was necessary to stand on the uphill ski - on the uphill edge - and sideslip downhill pulling the tip (or tips of bothskis) down and into the turn (adductor muscles). This is quite scary to begin with but it keeps the speed down and allows the ski to pivot much more rapidly than if it is on its inside edge from the start of a turn. 

Walking out of hip rotation
Leonie was rotating quite a lot and then accelerating across the hill - which makes the pivot difficult to achieve so I decided to start to tackle the rotation issue by looking at how the hip was functioning. Ella demonstrated how NOT to walk by lurching her foot and hip forwards in a great step. Using the poles for support I showed how by standing on one foot and letting the body fall forwards against the poles the other leg could just swing freely beneath the body and then the foot just dropped to the ground beneath the body. The foot left behind on the ground should also have the hip turning back towards it. When skiing the point is that although the support foot is pushed forwards the hip has to still move back - exactly as in walking correctly. When this is done then rotation disappears. The rotation is partly caused by the hip following the foot forwards. This helped Luke control his rotation better too and reminded him of what it felt like when he used to push his skis outward to the side in a braking action.  That's because braking "face downhill", "pushing the ski tails out" is another way to sometimes effectively hold the hip back in place - but with dramatically different consequences. Most of the time though it causes the hip to also push outwards and for the posture to collapse.

We finished the day with a frustrating couple of hours failing to find appropriate ski boots for both Leonie and Luke to buy. They both had quite a clear idea of how to recognize a good boot by the end. I drove home and went immediately out for a 10k run in the slush, ice and snow with a headtorch on - finishing at 10pm, tired but having enjoyed the run (release of stress) and working on my own mechanics. It's "my time" during the day - when I'm in communication with only my own body - and it didn't feel like a chore at all.

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