Thursday, January 5, 2012

Victor Day 4

Cafe at the base of the Matterhorn Express - early morning coffee stop before starting out for the day!

Today started off with great intentions of and early 8:30am start but we were greeted by a mountain slow to open up and with only restricted access due to high winds and a deteriorating forecast.

Victor - Hip Angulation
Victor and I set off alone up to the blue slopes of the Rifflelberg sector. Visibility was poor to begin with and after a warm up I started to look at Victor's skiing and how it could be developed. I noticed that Victor was a bit static during his carved turns. One sure way to bring life to carving is to make the apex of the turns earlier - to the side - instead of below on the mountain where gravity is maximised against you. However there is not easy. If your speed is not very high then it is hard to generate enough force to make the apex of the turn early (where pressure is greatest). To generate enough reactive force you often need to be able to drop your body into the turn in a way that dramatically increases the edge angle of the skis - so increased hip angulation is required. My observation of Victor's skiing was that while he could easily change the apex of the turn he would struggle to generate enough hip angulation for this to work optimally.  To make Victor's carving less static he would have to find a way to create more angulation and down/up movement with his centre of mass. One other advantage of skiing this way is that the feet  and knees are always downhill of the body as you are never finishing a turn off across the hill and overall speed is slightly higher constantly. This is a safer way to ski in poor visibility despite the higher speed because the skis will run over almost anything as they are not braking against gravity. To address the issue we looked at the motion of the hips. We had already discussed the hips at length so Victor knew what to do to pull the hip back and push the foot forwards. Victor realised that this was difficult to coordinate - so probably more static exercises are necessary. Not only does this action of the hip make increased angulation possible but it tightens and activates the core and postural muscles in the process - protecting the lower back. Pulling the hip backwards causes the shoulders to feel as if they are then being rotated into the turn - though they are not. Victor has always looked a bit stiff with the upper body/hip connection - so perhaps with a bit of practice this will finally free him up - and protect his back in the process.

The storm grew and shortly after the arrival of Liliana and Timothy we were all blasted off the mountain and into the restaurant. Storm there may have been but visibility was still pretty good!

Rodion - Angulation/Anticipation/Pole Plant
After lunch Rodion had the opportunity for a brief technical session because the lower access lift was still working. We would be the only skiers out and have the slopes to ourselves but at this altitude there was no wind so that was perfect. I'd been waiting for the opportunity now for a couple of days to finally work on Rodion's overall body position on his skis. This is a complex issue so all the other basic things have functioning well to be able to move onto this subject.

Good pivoting skills, hip angulation, posture and body awareness are all required prior to get this right - although all of those things can also be worked on by using this exercise. Rodion had to initiate a turn by using the pole to support him getting his centre of mass downhill of his skis, without changing the edges of the skis (they remain on the uphill edges). Eventually the body would cause the ski tips to start to slip downhill initiating a turn. Pronounced hip angulation is necessary to keep the skis on the uphill edges during this process.  

As soon as the turn commences the hips have to set up the end of the next turn - resembling a hockey stop - with the angulation now permitting the body to hold itself strongly and safely against gravity and any deceleration from bumps or other obstacles trying to lift you out of the turn (especially in deep snow or on steeps). The pole is made ready for the next turn and goes in as the body comes out from the hill again and down into the next turn.
The key points are that the turn is controlled by the centre of mass and the angulation makes control of the end of the turn and anticipation of the following turn possible in a well centred stance - with a strong use of support from the poles.

All of this gives the confidence to get off the back of the ski boots and to use the poles. It centres the body and allows pivoted turns to be very strong and rapid - putting the skier in control instead of in the back seat.

Rodion's positioning on the skis can be seen here to be dramatically different from yesterday (Off Piste) and his control is very clear. With a small amount of practice this basic movement will be used Off Piste and it will also be used to strengthen his carving and stop him from falling onto his inside ski in future. Pivoting (braking) is the best way to learn to understand this action - but the same basic coordination appears throughout skiing.

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