Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taha Day 8

Very cold, windy, foggy and snowing! Must be Anthropogenic Global Warming!

Gulsum's Comeback
Gulsum returned to the slopes again today and skied stronger than ever. My guess yesterday that tiredness was at the root of her lapse of confidence was correct.

Cagatay's Frostbite
The bad weather called for a descent to Les Brevieres at 1550m altitude, sheltered from the wind. Before heading over to that sector I had to test out Gulsum close to home and so we took the Tufs lift up to the Tovière (2695m) - a fast chairlift that takes only 10 minutes at most. We were hit about half way up by a relentless wind and even though it didn't feel too extreme Cagatay was complaining. He wasn't sitting next to me so I couldn't see him but when we got off the lift I could see straight away the white patches on his face and ice covering them. I stopped him, took off my gloves and covered his face with my warm hands to melt the ice. On his right cheek the skin below the ice had gone hard and it took a minute to thaw the skin completely. This is second stage frostbite - still only affecting the surface skin and so not serious or permanent but perhaps enough to bring up a blister in a day or two from now. Cagatay had a balaclava available but didn't like wearing it. I don't blame him because I can't wear them either - but he was happy to wear one after this incident.

Taha's Quad Pains
Until lunchtime we were only really skiing blue runs (one red at the end) to help Gulsum recover her confidence. This was also an opportunity for the others to mindfully practice all the stuff they had been learning. Taha noticed how bending was relieving much of the quads pain he was dealing with. Now that he can't stand bolt upright balancing against the back of the boots he needs to discover how to move and support himself efficiently through relating his stance to dynamics - which involves flexion/extension.

Pole Use - Upper/Lower Body Separation
In the afternoon, rather than go straight back up into the weather, we stayed low and worked on technique. Indoors I'd discussed upper/lower body separation - showing mainly how the entire leg can rotate in the hip socket. Gulsum tried this and was able to feel the full range of the leg rotating without the hip or pelvis rotating with it. I explained that the leg is not rotated by the skier but it is rotated by the skis. The difference here is crucial. Cause and effect must be identified. I showed how flexing down into a turn is easy when the body does not follow the skis around the turn. Standing between a table and a bench I could not lower myself onto the bench when standing side on to it - but if I turned my bottom towards the bench - without moving the feet, I could sit down on the bench - very much like sinking down into a turn to hold the centre of mass to the inside. 
Upper lower body separation really goes all the way up to the rib cage (12th vertebra) with a twisting possible all the way up to the rib cage as a continuation of the rotation of the femur in the hip socket.

Basic Turns
Without the opportunity to dwell on this subject we went straight into developing pole use for pivoting. This requires upper lower body separation so it's as good a place as any to start with. I explained that poles are not so important for racing turns at high speed and with big dynamics. Our aim was to develop the pole plant - for use in fall line skiing - when the skis always stay below the skier and act as a brake on the uphill edges. 
The pole is planted directly downhill of the feet and holding the grip strongly between thumb and two middle fingers the lower leg can be lifted to place the body weight squarely on the pole and the upper ski. Correct upper/lower body separation creates "angulation" where the shoulders are over the lower ski and the bottom over the upper ski. This causes the ski to remain on the uphill edge and for a pivot to be easily executed. The skier then has to ensure that he doesn't rotate the body through the end of the turn and can go back into an angulated stance with upper lower body separation for the next turn.

Wrong Ski Turns
Starting and completing a pole assisted turn from the lower ski (inside ski of new turn) requires an even greater commitment and angulation - so it makes for an excellent exercise. 

Short Swings
Jumping mainly from the lower ski - both skis being swung downhill and inwards simultaneously when in the air. The jump simulates the end of a turn - not the start of a turn. The pole is used to support the jump - like putting your hand on a wall to jump over it. We took this into linking 10 short swings with rhythm and bounce. Taha was the only one able to use his poles properly when doing this - even though his rhythm was a bit hesitant. 

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