Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Skyped from Himalayas

Well I'm still staying indoors and recovering from the flu. The benefits of this is that the food bill has seriously dropped and I've lost several kilos of stubborn fat - weighing in at 66.4kg this morning. Shows how silly my previous acceptance of yoyo winter weight gain really was. Had a rather unique telephone call yesterday which came though on Skype - free of charge over the mobile phone - from a remote village in the Himalayas. Haluk is out there heliskiing at the moment - hopefully taking care of himself. Probably more danger from viruses in Val d'Isère than of avalanche in the Himalayas.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First bike ride of the year

It was a nice sunny day - starting out below 0°C but warming up in the sun. The desire had returned to get out on the bike and feel the freedom of a long ride. 

Preparing the bike was the hardest part because I left home three times having to return for things that I'd forgotten - like "water bottle", "heart rate monitor" etc.

In the end I had a bad headache and started the ride feeling under par. The headache transferred itself to the stomach and for a while both were hurting - but after about an hour the pains had all cleared up. This is why I prefer to be relatively active - skiing or cycling when ill. It's either the fresh air or the exercise that does the trick - not sure which. Regardless - it was a close call that it didn't all turn bad because there was obviously something wrong. For a few hours after finishing the workout I actually felt great - but then the problem progressively exposed itself. Some sort of stomach flu again! This virus seems to do a rapid closed loop specifically between the UK and Val d'Isère - and I seem to get it every time it passes through.

Leg Alignment
I continued working on the leg alignment and use of the twist in the spine. Ironically I'd first ever felt the mechanics of this when on the bike and then it transferred to skiing and only after that did it become really clear in running - where it all originates from in the first place (ChiRunning). It takes a real mindful presence to stay on top of the whole process and it easily degenerates when not attentive.

Going over the Col de Tamié it was a bit chilly on the northern side and after passing the Abbey de Tamié there were lots of cross country skiers out in the fields. Further down I passed the short road up to the ski station at Seythenex and remembered how nice it was up there when visiting it for the first time last summer. It appeared to have excellent off-piste and was an attraction for local freeriders. There must be many unknown gems like this around.

Down in the valley on the other side of the mountain pass there is a long cycle path going most of the way around to Albertville - but it was practically unusable after the first few kilometres due to snow and ice that still hadn't melted. I persisted for a while and had a few frights because those skinny, slick tyres really don't want to keep you upright on wet, uneven ice - very dodgy! Eventually I had to walk on a section of ice and then get off the path and onto the road. The Speedplay cleats on the shoes had managed to fill with packed and hardened ice and getting back on the bike was very tricky especially with all the main road traffic blasting by inches away. Guess it's still a bit early in the year for this - but it felt great anyway.

Oh well - it turned out to be a proper flu. The fever built up steadily and then broke on during Saturday night. I didn't take any painkillers because they can lower the fever and it's the fever/temperature that kills the virus. Probably better to feel really bad for a short time and get it over with than to have it linger on. It was interesting that on the bike the symptoms disappeared - I'm curious if that is to do with increased CO2 levels in the blood from increased metabolism. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mike, Alex

Alex having a go at slalom 

Mike was still  weak from a bug but still able to focus on developing technique - which was just as well because we were only really getting started when the fever struck a few days ago.

Our aim was still to increase hip angulation. Mike was painfully aware of his lack of progress in this area. It was clear to me that we had to persist with the issue as directly as possible until changes started to come through. Mike found it hard to relate to pulling back with the outside hip through the turn so I decided to try a different approach. 

Leg Alignment
The first thing we looked at was leg alignment and the use of the adductor muscles. I showed how the leg re-aligns when the hip is pulled back and that pulling inwards with the adductor muscles does not cause the knee to move inwards (which forces the hip outwwards). This pulling inwards should be present at all times.

Leg Rotation
Standing on the snow with the skis off - digging the heels in and facing downhill I showed how one leg could be placed behind the body with the toes pointing outwards and then how the foot could be swung around in an arc coming in close in front of the body with the toes pointing inwards. The idea was to feel the rotation of the leg in the hip socket without the pelvis moving. Mike had a lot of difficulty at first just trying to prevent the pelvis from swinging around the movement was so alien to him. It is important to avoid twisting the foot in the direction of the turn - the leg is rotated by swinging in an arc not by twisting. Mike's stance looked better with the legs closer together.

Leg Rotation in Skating
Mike understood this model better than the previous ones. We then linked the process to skating. The skate begins with the toes pointing outwards and due to the ski making an arc the foot is brought back in front of the body in the same arc. Mike was feeling more of a rhythm with this action.

Hockey Stops
We did hockey stops to show that if the pelvis was allowed to rotate then the skier could not control a proper stop and would shoot across the hill instead. The hockey stop requires control over hip rotation, a sideslip and a lowering of the centre of mass. We did this on steep ground to make the consequences of the differences between right and wrong obvious. 

Bumps and Pivot
When mike tried to do short turns he still had a tendency to push the leg outwards. This stiffens the leg and pulls the hips around and out from the turn centre. When he pulled inwards instead then he managed to not only control the pivoting much better but the turns were tighter and legs more flexed - due to the pulling inwards with the adductors. Most people want to push the ski away defensively but it has to be pulled inwards below the body to complete the turn. We used bumps to enhance the pivoting effect and worked on staying in the fall line in place of forward motion across the hill.

Short Swings
Earlier we had worked with skis off at jumping and swinging/rotating the legs beneath the body while keeping the pelvis still. The jumps had involved sending the centre of mass upwards and a smooth landing. Mike had distinct difficulty controlling his posture with his lower back at the same time as stopping the pelvis from rotating. Eventually we actually did some short swings in the fall line by jumping with the skis on. Initially Mike found the coordination for this tricky but he soon improved - using the pole plant and jumping off down the hill instead of vertically. 

Close to the end of the session we applied the same principles of carving on a wide flattish section and this is where Mike started to understand the need to sink down into the turn to alter the edge angle of the skis and so increase and control the turning power. This happened immediately after seeing the video clip (shown above) with the limited range of movement. I showed Mike this video on the piste so he could identify that despite his own proprioceptive feedback probably giving him the impression that he was moving a lot the video would confirm that the opposite was in fact the reality. This combined with the carving where there is more time to feel things - seemed to encourage a clearer shift in perception. Once there is a proper function  or purpose identified then perhaps it is easier make the body move through a more extensive range of motion. There was definitely a lack of physical awareness involved concerning the relative motion and placement of body parts - but combined with a lack of purpose there was little hope in provoking a lasting change. 

It seemed clear that by the end of all those exercises that all of the above aspects had improved and that changes in physical, perceptual and intellectual understanding were all well under-way. 

Mont Pourri in the background - sunrise

The river Isère - cold mountain water - the patterns in motion were mesmerising.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Jannette was feeling a bit fragile after her big wipeout the other day - which was still quite a small wipeout by real standards. We discussed the way ageing can cause people to lose their sense of adventure and I promised to look up the words of Samuel Ullman and his poem "Youth" which was made famous due to being the favourite of General Douglas McArthur.

Youth is not a period of time. It is a state of mind, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, of the taste for adventure over the love of comfort.

A man doesn’t grow old because he has lived a certain number of years. A man grows old when he deserts his ideal. The years may wrinkle his skin, but deserting his ideal wrinkles his soul. Preoccupations, fears, doubts, and despair are the enemies which slowly bow us towards earth and turn us to dust before death.

You will remain young as long as you are open to what is beautiful, good, and great; receptive to the messages of other men and women, of nature and God. If one day you should become bitter, pessemistic and gnawed by despair, may God have mercy on your old man’s soul.”

I don't buy any of the "God" of "soul" stuff personally (I think we can explain things much better than that) but I get the idea and agree with the principles.

Jannette in the video was attempting to sideslip with her lower hip pulled backwards and her bottom facing uphill to generate some hip angulation. It was not happening. This is quite a tricky combination of things to do anyway - but this combination of skills is essential for effective pivoting. We had been working on the hips for a while so attempting to integrate that with sideslipping at this stage was not unreasonable. 

Jannette had been actively rotating her shoulders into the turn so I explained to her that this was not desirable - just like you wouldn't want to do that on a bicycle either.

Upper Lower body Separation
Indoors we had looked at the function of the hips and spine when walking and outdoors had already tried to integrate this with pelvic tilt and postural control. The idea was to go directly to the main ingredient in unwanted hip rotation and build awareness from there. When using the static exercise of pulling Jannette downhill with my poles she went naturally into a strong countered position with her lower hip pulled back and lowering her bottom and centre of mass towards the snow uphill. This was just not happening at all in the turns and she needed to know this - and that it was desirable to do this to keep the body inside the turn as the forces built up that would unceremoniously eject her from the turn as they had done on the first day. Part of the work we did was aimed at feeling the twist in the spine as the shoulders and hips were counter rotated to each other. I've described this in previous posts this week so I won't detail it here.

Feet Forwards
I introduced the "feet forward" techniques without skis on - so that she could see the arc made by the foot when swinging a leg out to the side. The foot is not "twisted" but it follows an arc in the air - and then on the snow leaving a line when dragged on the surface. When pushed into the snow further then it needs to to pushed forwards and this is the sensation required when skiing. The outside foot has to be actively pushed forwards to make the turn more active. This also encourages hip angulation as it naturally varies the angle between the leg and the upper body. Additionally, due to the tightening of the turn by the more active ski there is less body rotation and so this also helps to prevent the rotation linked to lack of hip angulation. 

During the session I mentioned a few time certain issues regarding the training of the mind. Focusing of the body - and continually re-focusing when you are distracted - trains the mind to focus but also shuts out all the unnecessary chatter. It's a form of relaxation as well as concentration. This makes mindful skiing - or any other activity - much richer and more valuable than a simple "disstraction" or pastime.

In the evening I went out for a 12km hill run (7km climb) and was focused on the same upper lower body separation and actively using the spinal twist mechanisms. Whenever I felt tired during the climbing (400m vertical) I concentrated on the spine and it was impressive how much lighter and easier everything felt. My lower back had felt tired earlier on from working the core muscles in skiing, but they had recovered from that already and there was no discomfort in the lower back - or anywhere else when running uphill.  The legs and body felt good all the way - there was no sense of heaviness or fatigue. Minimalist running shoes were used and a 1200 lumen Chinese head torch to blind oncoming cars during the descent in the darkness. Spotted two winter rabbits or hares in a field and noticed that their eyes reflect with a rich shade of amber.

Toes Down

I meant to mention another issue with regards to bumps and pivoting on steep terrain. There is a common piece of advice about pushing the tips of the skis down into the troughs of the bumps by pushing the toes down. This gives the impression that it just concerns bump skiing. In fact it concerns all pivoting - especially on steep terrain. When the skis are more or less across the hill the are almost horizontal - but when they pivot to point downhill they end up pointing down the gradient of the slope - anything up to 50 degrees. The dynamics ( motion of the centre of mass ) will be much less than this angle as both of the skis must remain downhill of the skier and on their uphill edges - so to accomodate the geometry the tips of the skis are best pushed actively downwards. They will fall downwards by themselves but rapid pivoting requires this to be an active measure. This doesn't mean getting on the back of the ski boots - it means bending the knees more. Normally it is best to ski with the toes pointing ulwards inside the boots - and the anterior tibialis alongside the shins being active - but this is an exception where pushing the toes down seems to be appropriate.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mike - Hip Angulation

Mike was sent through the slalom course today to establish a base time. The video of the slalom also helps to pick out his strong points and the priority areas to be worked on.

The initial sub 40s time was a good indication that major shoulder rotation issues had been well controlled. The second run where Mike decided to attack the course showed a limit at around 37s. The most significant limiting factor was a total lack of hip angulation and all the associated consequences. This had already been evident in the off piste yesterday but it was easy to show to Mike on the slalom video - and the results are inescapable in slalom. 

Developing Hip Angulation

My strategy for working on hip angulation was partly dictated by terrain. There are several key issues to address and they can be approached in any order. 

Compression Turns
From the top of the Tovière we began work on simulated compression turns on the flat. Compression is normally the result of hitting a bump at speed - the legs are compressed with the knees frequently hitting the chest. On the flat we actively bend to a very flexed degree to simulate this compression. Good edge control makes this relatively easy and that means pivoting from the top edges of the skis with strong pole support. The timing is no different from normal turns other than the fact that the down motion is extremely exaggerated. Most people are unable to relax enough at first to get as low as is required - so this is a great exercise for getting people to become aware of the tension in their legs and for learning how to greatly extend the range of motion. The turn is completed with a full leg extension - which in the case of skiing bumps will actually be an extension into a hole instead of pushing the centre of mass upwards. 

The whole exercise is much easier if the feet are kept below the body on the mountain and the range of motion of the legs is built around a basic "seated" position. Using the pole for support - when the centre of mass starts to fall downhill it should be used to pull/swing the fronts of the skis into the turn. This pivoting action is aided by the tips and tails being in the air when actually on a bump. On a bump the pole would be planted near the apex and the skis straddling the upper shoulder. On the flat plant the pole directly down the fall-line from the heel. Make sure that the outside hip pulls backwards during the turn completion to prevent body rotation during the extension. The extension should be done with a sideslip and no velocity across the hill. Feet should be kept together to enhance the pivot - which can be done on both skis and to prevent the uphill ski catching on its inside edge too early in the turn. The "seated" position works as a reference only if the skier doesn't turn too much across the hill - and the combination of sitting and keeping the body and knees generally facing downhill guarantees the feet always being below the skier and the pivot happening very easily. This actually requires the acceptance of a certain elevated level of speed in the bumps and an effort to keep the hands and centre of mass forward as it has a tendency to fall defensively backwards - making a continuous rhythm impossible. The compression must be linked to proactive dynamics and not become a defensive blocking or braking action. 

We didn't really get this far - but the aim was to increase range of leg motion and the ability to relax the leg muscles enough to achieve this.

Spine and Posture
After the compression turns we looked more directly at posture and specifically the hip issues that prevent hip angulation. Traditionally the shoulders are countered to a turn and end up remaining facing downhill, along with the pelvis. There is a tension in the body midsection that leads to a "winding up" which uncoils at the start of a turn. We looked at the issue from the perspective that this "winding up" is in the wrong direction for good body mechanics and back health. Basically the pelvis should be countered to the turn but the shoulders should continue in the direction of the turn. The difference is hard to see visually, but the spine twists in the opposite direction. Starting the next turn there is not so much an uncoiling but a core muscle impetus towards pushing the outside foot forwards and pulling inwards with the adductor muscles. This also realigns the outside leg so that the foot is on its inside edge and the bone structure lined up to take the load off the quadriceps. We worked on this for a while in pivoted turns

Indoors we looked at pelvic tilt and how this is achieved by only contracting the lower abdomen - not clenching the glutes. This still permits you to shape the overall curvature of your lumbar spine independently, but it keeps all the core muscles aligned and functional - protecting the back. Mike had a tendency to fall off his outer hip joint so I got him to feel how he could stand perched over this joint so that all the force went through it properly. The upper body needs to tilt forwards from the hips until the hip flexors start to function. This oddly gives a relaxed sensation. You then stand on one leg with all the force going through the one hip - then swing the body around while on this hip. This is what hip angulation is - when looked at from different angles and with the entire body inclined with dynamics. 

We did some carving because this gives time to feel and adjust the body plus feedback is sustained and clear from the skis. Mike was able to generate more angulation than before but there was obviously work to be done because much of this is slowly acquired body awareness.

Hockey Stops
Another way to enhance the correct stance is through complete hockey stops. If the hip follows though then so will everything else and the skier will fail to stop. Hockey stops are a clear way to feel if the hip is being allowed to rotate through the turn or not.

We need to take this further though and pull the hip backwards to the extent that it generates a twist all the way up to the 12th vertebra at the bottom of the rib cage. This opens up the entire mid section and accesses the available power from muscles, tendons and ligaments. The aim should be to feel this counter rotation of the hips to the shoulders generating this feeling in the spine. This is an internal counter rotation - not something referring to the turn. The same counter rotation should be felt when walking, running or cycling - regardless of whether the leg extends in front (cycling, skiing) or behind (running, walking).

Winter Orchard
Christiane asked me to photograph the trees across the valley in Aime. She says it's like the trees in the foreground are an audience and the apple trees spread out in the field are in a ballet - some in couples and others alone. She even suggested that one was gay - but I objected to that. I'm not having political correctness interfering with my photography. Perhaps ballet dancers are often gay but I really don't want to start seeing gay apple trees.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mike, Jannette

Jannette's first day back on skis started very gently - lulling her into a false sense of security - then we went off-piste.

Music by Blood or Whiskey - "Doors of Hope"

While Jannette was getting used to her skis again I asked Mike to focus on feeling the shins touch the front of the boots, feeling the point just in front of the heel and working on pivoting - which he was having more success with today. Slower skiing is a great opportunity to focus correctly on feeling new things.

For once this season the Off Piste was not wind packed and was light and forgiving so it wasn't long before we were taking advantage of it. Surprisingly Jannette was more at ease than Mike initially - at least when the gradient was low.

This was a day for taking opportunities so there wasn't much coaching going on - mostly guiding instead. I gave some advice for the off piste. Basically the number one thing is that dynamics always works so when in doubt use big dynamics. Number two is to take a lower stance - almost seated - so that the feet and knees are in front of the body. Sitting facing downhill will not cause you to fall backwards. If you don't believe this take a chair outside and place it facing down a steep hill and try to sit on it. This stance also encourages the feet to remain downhill of the body at all times so pivoting from the uphill edges is easy - even on both skis simultaneously (hence feet together for a two footed stance). Dynamics is still used with this sort of fall-line pivoting but the "structure" and support below the centre of mass is obviously organised differently than for forward flowing "inside edge" skiing.

The K2 Kung Fujas skis were also experiencing their first soft power snow and they were stunningly good at pivoting - the double rocker construction having a clear effect.

While I was waiting for Mike helping to sort out Janette after the wipeout I took a few photos of the surrounds. I hope that Janette took a moment too at some point to appreciate the value of being in the wilderness and away from the pistes and the ever present risk of being rammed by stupid snowboarders (why we all have to wear crash helmets now!). The first image below is the top of the Bellevarde - above the Olympic lift. The huts at the top are the start huts for the World Cup and Olympic downhill races - the hut on the right going down the Face into Val and the one on the left going down to La Daille. The second image is looking up the valley at the "Tour de Charvet" route. Image three is the "Face de Charvet" - spectacular when it avalanches - so I don't go there.


Sunday, February 19, 2012


Mike hasn't skied for a year but he appeared to be comfortable immediately on his skis. This is a strong sign that appropriate movement patterns have become more natural. It should only take an hour or so to completely re-accustom the body to accelerating on the feet if basic ski technique is correct. The pistes were in perfect shape for the start of the Parisian holidays (it's the only time of year they make the effort!) and visibility was good so I just skied in front of Mike, giving him an active rhythm and letting him warm up and enjoy his skiing for a while. 

Leg Alignment and Core Use
The only technical thing I attempted to introduce at this stage was the pulling back of the hip - counter rotating the shoulders and pelvis against each other. Mike has a certain level of stiffness that has always characterised his skiing and this time I would really like to change that. Re-aligning the legs appears to be a sensible place to begin with this task. Normally in skiing the shoulders and hips are both in counter rotation in the same direction (against the feet and skis) - so if the skis are turning to the left the hips turn to the right and the shoulders even more - twisting the spine slightly in a clockwise manner (looking from above). Here I wanted Mike to pull back only the right hip (turning to the left and not the shoulder - generating an internal counter rotation between the shoulders and hips in the anti-clockwise direction (the direction of the turn). To the untrained eye the two look remarkably similar - even indistinguishable. Only the second stance activates the core muscles around the spine. Mike was able to feel that the right leg (turning left) lined up differently in the ski boot - pulling more onto its inside edge and taking the load off the main quadriceps. 

Since making this change in my own skiing I've found that my legs just don't get tired any more. The difference is enormous!

Carving Introduction
After a break I started to introduce carving technique (through two edged traverses) to Mike prior to going to the Bonnevie Slalom Stade to introduce the rules of the race course. I pointed out that the weight could be moved over the "inside" ski because it was a static situation and once speed was introduced the turning effect of the skis would place all the weight on the outside ski automatically. Initially Mike had a lot of trouble holding the inside ski on its (outside) edge but he soon sorted this out. On the flat ground we tried some edge changes but Mike had a tendency to allow the skis to skid. The correct feeling wasn't yet properly established.

Dense clouds came in when we arrived at the Stade and visibility was terrible so we didn't stay there for long, making our way up to the Borsat instead. 

Pivot Revision
At the top of the Borsat, on the bumps I checked Mike's pivot and although he could remember the theory it just wasn't really happening so we left it for the moment and just skied down to the wide flats where Mike could continue with his carving development. 

Contact Points
Prior to carving I asked Mike to try to place his weight on a point just in front of the heel and also to touch the boot front with the shin. The idea would be to ski with awareness of both standing over this point of the foot and always keeping contact with the boot front - or at least trying always to return to this position. This was stage two of tackling the "stiffness" issue which largely comes from Mike's tendency to place pressure on the back of his ski boots. Initially I could see that he wasn't managing but half way down this run the stance in the boots started to look better.

Carving continued...
When attempting full carved turns Mike was overturning instead of just railing and picking up speed - until he understood that this was desirable. I explained that once he had some speed he could then lean in more with his dynamics and start to feel the powerful carving turning effect of the skis. Later on once there is more confidence this process can return to being a bit more proactive with dynamics being generated actively once again and the skis still carving.

Core Power - Skiing
We had to get down the mountain as we were becoming late for Mike's rendezvous. For this reason I just tried to provide a steady but active rhythm going down Santons. Mike struggled with the tight turns so this is something we will have to sort out soon. Meantime I focused on the core and managed to link my turns very effectively using the powerful core muscles and the tendons and ligaments around the spine to drive the outside ski forwards through the start of the turns. The Rhythm helped to strengthen the sensation. I could feel how natural and strong this was for the lower back and how mobilising it was for the spine - all the way up to the rib cage. It's quite hard to visualise the movement because it is abstracted straight from running technique despite the foot being displaced forwards instead of behind the body. Ironically at the bottom of the descent I came across Chris Harrop who was really not looking very well. He told me that last week his back "went" and that he had to cancel all of his bookings. He was now skiing very defensively and slowly off-piste and not looking too happy. I guess that underlines the need to address the "core" with some respect. 

Core Power - Running
After returning home I pushed myself out the door for a run despite having no desire or motivation - other than a belly that is starting to grow again. I focused completely on the core muscles and trying to tire my hip flexors (psoas) and abdomen instead of the leg muscles and looked for the twist of the spine the same as it had felt in skiing - so that the tendons and ligaments would generate a strong recoil mechanism. Basically the power felt literally like it was coming from the spine. After the 1000ft ascent there was the harsh descent on tarmac. Sometimes this gives me a little bit of sciatica, but this time I clicked with another aspect of the spinal activity. The lower abdomen do have to pull up and inwards at the front because this allows the entire spine to twist strongly all the way up to the ribs. Normally my spine is too flat so I prefer not to pull up at the front - but with the rotation of the spine it became clear that this "pulling up" fits - and there was no hint of sciatic pain. The "pelvic tilt" has to be part of a dynamic process. This is a remarkable sensation and absolutely not comprehensible when static. The previous best time of 39'06" was reduced to 37'49" yet the run felt like it was less effort than when the previous time had been set and I wasn't so active with the core muscles or spine.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Alex, Tariq, JJ - Joydip

Alex, Tariq, JJ
The day began with a warm up run through the half pipe and then straight over to the slalom while it was both empty and in good condition. Tariq didn't really want to do slalom after the hard conditions yesterday but I persuaded him to have one run because I was sure he would beat his previous best time - and he did - reducing it to 38.87 seconds from 39.31. He was very happy to see the improved time. If we had continued there he would have improved even more but because the other boys were not ready for slalom we stopped after the single run. Today was the last day they would be skiing so they needed to really be putting to good use all they had been learning and not spending time doing exercises. 

After the slalom we had a good ski down the larger half pipe at the side of the Vert piste and then went up the Tommeuse chairlift and onto the big bumps on the Val d'isère side of the Tovière. The idea of the bumps was to develop the pivot. Tariq had already worked once on bumps and had learned well so he was quite comfortable - managing to keep his skis close together below his body on the mountain and pivot well. For JJ and Alex this was new and predictably difficult. I demonstrated how the tips and tails of the skis were in the air so the ski could pivot more easily than usual, but explained that it is scary pulling the skis in beneath your body as you slide down the bump - your instinct tells to to push them away instead. You have to work to train yourself to do the opposite from your defensive instincts.

Off Piste
After the bumps we proceeded onto a long off-piste excursion. JJ - who was still sick and had now missed two days was hanging in there. This was a long and proper off-piste trail but with absolutely no avalanche risk. The snow however was varied and sometimes quite deep - but by using their dynamics and "feet forward" techniques the boys managed without any trouble, including negotiating the trees and some steep traverses.

After the hot chocolate break I decided to make things easier for the final part of the morning and to teach a little carving and higher speed skiing. Saturday is changeover day so the wide and gentle pistes of the Grand Pré were empty and perfect for learning to carve and go faster. We started simply with rolling the feet and making double edged traverses across the slope in both directions. The aim was to hold both skis on the edge and "rail" them without allowing any sideways slipping. Once on the flattest part the skis were pointed downhill instead and  linked turns were made. This has to be done at first on very flat ground so that there are no problems with rolling from one set of edges to the other. Once this skill is mastered then it becomes the basis of modern racing technique. We used the slightly steeper slopes lower down to ramp up the speed and the boys really liked this. 

The final run down Santons was really nice because the snow was in excellent condition and there were hardly any people. Alex remained close to my ski tails all the way down but we were able to go a bit faster than yesterday and without stopping all the way (except for a moment when Tariq dropped a pole. Tariq and Alex had both really improved during the week and JJ did well to hang in there at the end not slowing things down one bit for the others. JJ had a good go at the carving exercises and was definitely picking up on some technical stuff despite all his troubles with illness this week.

Joydip had (predictably) managed to extrapolate his previous coaching into a form of Kamikazi plunge down the nursery slopes into a large "do or die" stopping turn at the bottom. This is what often happens when coaching is not continuous at this very early stage. Every day you see individuals of all ages bombing straight down the nursery slope and crashing into something at the bottom. The only thing they all have is common is the absence of any responsible coach. Joydip however was clearly making the basic dynamics work and was enjoying that - at least when he didn't wipe out.

I decided it was time to teach Joydip about "pivoting" from the uphill edge of his turning ski. I physically supported Joydip though several pivots so that he could begin to develop a feel for it - then supported him skiing with the pivoting by physically manipulating him into each turn as he held onto a pole. We went up higher on the village chair and I physically supported him sidesipping down the steep part so that he could develop the feel of having both skis on the uphill edges and bringing them close together parallel. The exercise was all about learning edge awareness and control - plus getting used to sideways motion. Gradually Joydip also became more aware of which leg he had to stand on while generating dynamics and that being on the inside edge of a supporting ski during a turn was sometimes simply not desirable at the start of the turn. This is really a function of how much forward speed you have. If there is no forward speed - just a sideslip - then the turn begins from the uphill edge and the ski will not change edge until pointing straight downhill. Joydip was making rapid progress and had his turns more or less under control by the end - especially when adding the "push forwards" with the outside foot in the turn - plus he was thinking about the whole process differently. Pushing the outside foot forwards tends to increase the pressure beneath the foot as the ski tightens the turn - so this enhances the dynamics without having to resort to "transferring weight" to the outside leg by moving the wrong way with the body.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Alex, Tariq - Sam, Max, Ed (Off Piste)

Alex, Tariq

On the way up the chairs on the Face de Bellevarde I reinforced Alex's the understanding and awareness of his inner dialogue - and the need to use his imagination to his advantage. We had a good discussion on the subject on the way up and Alex could understand the ideas. Consequently, despite some very challenging circumstances that he would face - there was absolutely no complaining or negative signs at all from him all morning. We discussed things openly during the morning and Alex was able to prepare himself well for anything that came his way and use it to make himself stronger, more confident and more self-assured.

We started off with a run down the mini half pipe during our warm up run then went straight over to the slalom training area. The aim here was to introduce Alex to steep terrain in a highly controlled environment and to give both Alex and Tariq some more technique to use.

Feet Forward
Removing the skis I showed the boys how to pivot on the heel of the inside boot while pushing the outside one forwards along its inside edge and leaving an arc inscribed on the snow. The "forward pushing" is an extremely important aspect of ski technique and essential for coping with steep terrain in a controlled manner. Both boys got it quickly and so we then tried it with the skis on. Asking the boys what difference they felt it made they both answered correctly that it tightened up their turns - something I hadn't told them in advance. This feedback confirmed to me that they had managed to do it successfully. The second time down the steep slope Alex was able to stay right behind me even though I deliberately closed the turns tightly. 

Black Run
After the second descent I told Alex that he had just skied a black run for the first time - so he could see that there really was nothing to fear and that he was very capable because he had skied it well. We then watched Tariq go through the slalom a few times and get within 4 hundredths of a second of his previous best time but in much harder conditions. The "feet forward" changes to his technique were helping. From there we had a long ski down to La Daille, through the big "half pipe" and then down a red run with Alex behind me working on dynamics, the use of the feet and pushing forwards.

From the top of the Bellevarde we went properly off-piste on steep terrain and there I filmed both Tariq and Alex making good controlled turns. Both were focusing on dynamics and had no problems dealing with the variable snow conditions and terrain - even though the steepness and wildness could have been very intimidating. Alex agreed to apply his positive approach to dealing with descending in the Santons (where he had previously been the victim of a bad collision with a careless skier from above) and by now this was in fact a technically easy descent for him to cope with. We took a controlled line calculated to stay clear of any poorly controlled skiers funneling down the gully, with Alex close to the tails of my skis all the way. Alex showed that he not only could ski well but that he could rise above his fears and not be controlled by them - by preparing well in advance both physically and mentally. I don't think that any of this was easy to achieve - in fact it is a big achievement. Alex grew in confidence - as a person as well as a skier.

Sam, Max, Ed
Today was off-piste guiding. Due to a big change of temperature during the day our afternoon off-piste would have to be on north facing slopes for avalanche safety. We started by skiing down Danaides (off the top of the Solaise) where there was some powder and into the Le Lavachet couloir.

From Le Lavachet we went up the chairlift and skied down towards the road beneath the Signal cable car - once again finding power just below the avalanche barriers. We then took the lift system up to the top of the Signal and went into Le Grand Vallon - traversing across and skiing a smooth face down to the traverse over the shoulder and the exposed face all the way down to the river Isère. The snow was only good at the very top - and then again down at the river. In between the snow was crusty and variable - but interesting to ski. We went right down to the avalanche filled river and then climbed out over it onto the road to ski back down to Le Fornet.

After refreshments we went back up to the top of the signal and then traversed right around to Les Vallonnets - climbing over the exposed rock on the ridge. The only technical advice I gave included using a more seated position when the snow was bad, finding the maximum pressure or apex of the turn more to the side instead of down below (instead of dumping off all your speed at the same point as where gravity is at a maximum) and pulling back the hip on your support leg with a twist of the spine (hips and shoulder counter rotating against each other) to align the leg and remove the strain from the quadriceps.

Local inhabitants... "bouquetin" - a wild mountain goat.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alex, JJ - Fiona, Ian

Alex, JJ
Picking up the pieces
The two boys returned after a day of rest and were both completely thrown off with the poor visibility when skiing in the clouds. I knew that JJ was still likely to be weak and fragile, but he was clearly straggling behind more out of habit than anything else. This problem was largely dealt with by putting him directly behind me when skiing and not letting him slip off the back and descend the mountain at his own pace. Alex was full of unnecessary fears and concerns covering everything from collision to visibility - so we had to address that directly.

Face de Bellevarde making a shadow

Mind Training
While we resumed exercises in skating, sideslipping and pivoting - all with a view to eliminating the snowplough tendencies and develop useful skills in place - the main theme of the morning was about dealing with fear and how to train the mind. (In the video Alex does a good pivot from the uphill edge on his left foot. JJ is practically parallel in skiing and Alex is much more parallel when he skis behind me.)

Physical skills are trained into body memory so that when a specific situation arises we act in an appropriate manner. Without progressive skill development over time then acting this way would be impossible. It's very strange that people don't realise that the mind is also subject to programming and that given a specific situation the mind will respond according to its programming.

Physical skills are lodged in the body in such a way that we are not aware of them. If you are trained to play a musical instrument you can pick it up and play without even thinking about music. Your conscious mind can be completely elsewhere. Most of our behavioural programming  is lodged in the unconscious mind in a similar manner - and this often surprises us and catches us out. We need to program our behaviour every bit as much as our body. This begins by recognising that there is programming to be done. 

Alex has a fertile imagination but the little voice inside his head is randomly selecting all sorts of directions. Fear is NOT normal - it is a suggestion that grows in the mind - if allowed to. It grows until it paralyses the body and the mind itself. Alex needs to use his imagination to reinforce his strength - not to break it down. Constantly feeding yourself with negative views of yourself will guarantee negative behaviour when under duress. The mind has to be trained with respect to positive outcomes through visualisation using all of the senses - seeing, feeling, hearing, proprioception - and in full awareness of the purpose behind this. Once fear takes hold and the unconscious mind gets going - no amount of "self control" will stop it. Only the mind prepared and trained in advance will cope.

We began Alex's mind training immediately. JJ followed this all along - but he seems to have a pretty positive inner dialogue going on already. On a practical level Alex responded well on being told to focus on the feelings in his body rather than than what he could see. Part of strengthening the body-mind connection is through "sensing" the body - attentively observing what you feel. A strong body-mind connection centres and grounds a person - strengthening their sense of identity and confidence. 

Fiona, Ian, Alex
Fiona had been traumatised eventually in ski school group lessons and decided to drop out.
Ian had been traumatised 20 years ago or so and had dumped skiing for surfing.
Little Alex, age 5 had been traumatised in group lessons immediately and dropped out - very wisely!

We began by stepping the skis in a circle - opening the tips, diverging the skis and then closing them together again. I showed this by putting a pole in the snow behind me and using it as the centre point of a circle that I'd make with my tails always close to the pole. This exercise was chosen because everyone here would have a strong tendency to converge the skis into a snowplough shape and I wanted to work directly against that tendency.

Fiona and Ian had a lot of difficulty in controlling the skis, feet, legs and body in a manner that would make this coordination possible. For Ian it was partly a case of excessive unconscious muscular tension and for Fiona it was partly lack of awareness of the necessary mechanisms. For both there was a strong reflexive reaction against standing and sliding on one leg - which rendered skating much more difficult. Little Alex was actually doing quite well but his skis were really not sliding at all unfortunately. Skiing is really an evolved form of skating. It is essentially a "one leg" at a time activity - like running - and "two-footed-ness" spells trouble. The more the skills for basic skating are developed the better the skier will progress. Even when a good skier is apparently on two feet - the body is oriented through one leg only - except when straight running.

Adductors and Centre of Mass
Skating requires awareness of the adductor muscles on the inside of the legs - and so does simply holding a ski on its inside edge. The shaft of the ski boot running up the leg is always trying to pull the knee outwards and allow the ski to flatten on the snow - so the adductors are required to be active to counter this. To simply skate forwards the body has to fall forwards between the skis and then a leg stepped forwards to compensate. This is an elementary way to start to become familiar with the active role of the centre of mass and the use of the legs for ski edge control. Skiing is really just a prolonged falling of the body inwards - sustained by the ski itself bringing the skier back up.

After a while it was clear that Fiona didn't really understand what to do with the feet - so we stopped for a while in a café for me to show this with the boots off. The boys went through the same lesson on day two so all of the details are covered in the blog for that day.

We ran through the basic static exercises for dynamics (shoulders etc.) which are also detailed in previous pages of the blog this week. Ian was progressively relaxing and controlling his feet better so as to support his movements with the centre of mass. This led to some reasonable parallel turns at the end of the session. He remained uneasy on his left leg and exhibited a strong upper body rotation into the turn when standing on the left leg - a problem simply caused by feeling less confident on the left side. Fiona in contrast was quite successful on her left leg but was practically completely unable to move her centre of mass into the turn when standing on her right leg. This problem is usually caused by searching for constant security over the right foot and not wanting to "fall" over to the left. The interesting thing here is that by working towards the correct mechanics it is possible to clearly identify any technical issues that crop up. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tariq - Joydip

JJ had finally succumbed to his fever and was forced to stay indoors against his wishes. Alex had not slept all night for worrying about the imaginary "threat" of skiing down a black run - which was not on the agenda  -and could not be persuaded to ski voluntarily. Tariq then ended up with one-on-one coaching.

The weather was foul but with the direction of the wind this meant that the slalom training area would be sheltered and so we headed straight there.

Tariq was quick to understand the rules of how to use the slalom so there was no time wasted there. The only instruction he was given was to use dynamics and to see each gate (poles) as the centre of the turn he would be driving his centre of mass down and inwards towards. In only four runs on his own he managed to reduce his time by 4 seconds from 44.15 to 39.31. We had made breaking 40 seconds the target.  After his first run I told Tariq to make an arc coming in closer to the poles - but not to take a straight line to the pole - and to fight to keep his body down and into the centre of the turn during the second half of the turn when the forces build up and try to bring him up and out of the turn too soon. Tariq responded correctly and became significantly faster.

After the slalom we went up to the Tovière to warm up with a hot chocolate and to study the video. Tariq could see how much he was stuck on the back of his ski boots and how difficult this was making things for him. Outside the wind was fierce enough to have blown over practically anything that wasn't tied down...

Leaning against the back of the boots.

Good dynamics here.

Legs too far apart.

After the hot chocolate we went for a long ski right down to the bottom - working on using the feet and touching the front of the boot with the shin. The pressure was to be just in front of the heels and the feet had to rock in the direction of the turns. I explained to Tariq that when a bicycle turns it's because the front wheel changes direction changing the shape of the bicycle. Likewise it's the front of a ski that controls turning so if all the weight is at the back it's much harder to turn. Tariq felt an improvement in control with this. So far everything had been about "dynamics" and racing turns - so when at lower altitude and sheltered by the trees I found a place where we could focus for a while on pivoting skills.

In the bumps Tariq was forced to keep his skis much closer together - not just because of pivoting but because the steepness of the bumps makes it practically impossible to ski with the legs wide apart. Despite the steepness Tariq was able to swing the front of his skis inwards beneath him on each drop from a bump. When placed on the uphill shoulder of a bump both the tips and tails of the skis are in the air so the ski can pivot much more easily - but it takes nerve to pull the ski in beneath you instead of pushing the heels outwards. 

Tariq skied down the steepest parts of the Face de Bellevarde black run without ever realising that it was supposed to be difficult. That was the case until we deviated off-piste and he found a large "drop off" - where he promptly dropped off head first down the hill. Luckily I was not far below so was able to recover the skis. The hidden desire to swim in the snow displayed itself again on our second foray off-piste - this time caught by the camera. Brave Tariq climbed back up by himself to recover his ski. His fall in both instances was mostly caused by apprehension and leaning back against the boots again.

Skating Rhythm
We worked a little on skating - and relating the dynamics to skating rhythm - independent use of the legs and  linking the power of the push up with the dynamics at the end of the turn. Tariq had a good natural feel for this.

Joydip had not been out on skis again since his first venture two days ago but we were able to pick things up  where we had left them without any bother.

People think that relaxation is easy but it's often hard work - you have to make yourself relax. Joydip's skis were still slithering about when he tried to grip for skating and his coordination was not consistent so it became pretty obvious that the real issue was tension. 

Joydip was trying to balance against the back of his ski boots and tensing most of his muscles in the process.   Focusing on relaxing muscles and carefully, attentively feeling the movements of the legs gradually allowed the coordination to improve. 

The standard solution for this situation is to jam the skier into a defensive snowplough and forget about everything else. For me it was extremely important to avoid any temptation to introduce the snowplough - it was effectively banned. Gradually Joydip started to relax and move with more confidence - first mastering the button lift and then both skating step turns and parallel turns though rolling the feet and moving the centre of mass. Unfortunately I missed filming his last ascent where he went a bit higher and did a perfect parallel turn at speed, bringing it to a controlled stop at the bottom. Not a snowplough in sight. 

The first descent from sightly higher up the hill had Joydip being left behind in his boots with the acceleration so I explained how to adapt to this. It's absolutely NOT a question of "leaning forwards". Standing on the flat you are vertical to gravity and you feel the reactive (elastic) force of the ground at 100% through your feet. If the gradient was 45° then by standing perpendicular to the slope only 50% of the force would be felt under the feet - and 50% would be converted into acceleration (eventually balanced by wind resistance). The point is that although you are now tilted at 45° and not vertical you feel exactly the same in every way - except that the pressure under the feet is reduced. You don't "lean". Whether you are in space or on the Earth you are effectively in a state of "free float" - and only the elastic resistance of the Earth interferes with it. It's too late to get into Einstein's relativity for tonight though.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Alex, Tariq, JJ - Sam, Max, Ed

The weather forecast for today was snow! ... and they trust computer modelling to predict our climate?

Alex, Tariq and JJ
Today the boys started off with an indoors lesson on using the feet. I asked Alex how many bones were in a foot and he answered correctly "26". There are also 33 joints and over 100 muscles and tendons. Over a quarter of the bones in the body are found in the foot - so in general we seriously underrate the importance of the feet.

Collapsing Ankle
First of all the boys, standing with feet hip width apart on a carpet in their ski socks, were asked to bend their ankles. They all allowed their knees to collapse forwards. This becomes disguised in a ski boot and instead of standing up people lean on the boot and stop using the legs properly. For this reason they often then end up next leaning on the back of the boot still looking for something to hold them up other than simply standing up.

Strong Ankle

The easiest way to strengthen the ankle is to stand on the heel with the forefoot on the ground but all of the weight passing through the heel. Instead of the ankle collapsing the only way that you can now bend is at the knees and hips - resembling sitting down. The muscle in front of the shin - the Anterior Tibialis contracts and the ankle goes strong inside the ski boot.

Rocking the Feet
The ankle joint is a hinge and only goes up and down. Beneath the ankle lies the subtaler joint and with this joint the foot can be rocked laterally. This is the required motion for skiing so the feet can be rocked from edge to edge corresponding roughly (not all all the time) to the edges of the skis. This action is easy to feel when standing on the heel bone. If the ankle is allowed to collapse then it becomes impossible to rock the feet and the knees get pushed into a twist from side to side which can become very dangerous for the knee ligaments.

Centre of Mass
Rocking the two feet onto the left edges causes the centre of mass to move to the left. I explained that the centre of mass is a point that we learn to use in sports. We spin or roll about this point - but it is not a point fixed in our body and moves around as we change shape. It's like the point of a pencil - not part of us but we can feel where it is when using it.

Adductor Muscles
Linking the foot to the centre of mass we find the adductor muscles on the inside of the leg - those could be called the "skating muscles". They allow us to pull the leg inwards. When rocking the feet onto the left edges it's the adductor muscles of the right leg that become tensed - pulling inwards.

Magic Point below the Foot
The ideal point below the foot to stand on is just in front of the heel. Like the centre of mass this is not a part of your body - it's a point to aim for. This is like a centering point for the foot and you always try to get back to it - and the boots help you to do so if they are any good.

Soon after we had warmed up skiing I introduced the boys to "carving" running along the edges of the skis - by using the rocking of the feet and motion of the centre of mass. They all did it very well and so it is captured here on video...

We worked on skating and improving skating skills and using skating to project the centre of mass towards the inside of the turn.

Prior to attempting pivoting again we worked on sideslipping and using the centre of mass to control the sideslip and the angle of the skis against the snow. 

I assisted each boy though a controlled pivot. The skier had to hold onto a pole for support and I'd guide him physically though the maneuver. Tariq caught on to the principle whereby through pole support (using his own pole planted in the snow) he could get his centre of mass downhill enough without changing the edge of the ski and then pull the front of the ski smoothly inwards into the turn while it remained on its uphill edge.

During the morning JJ was lagging behind all the time and regressing back to his defensive snowplough and practicing the inappropriate coordination that I was trying to draw him away from. I constantly nagged at him and gave him a hard time - but nobody told me that the poor little mite was suffering from a fever and temperature! He was incredibly brave to just be out there and he never complained once about anything. Alex was becoming more parallel in his skiing all the time as dynamics progressively replaced his snowplough and Traiq was adapting very quickly to new coordination. 

Sam, Max and Ed

Sam, Max and Ed are all strong skiers but with the typical limitations imposed though traditional ski instruction. They were filmed before changing anything and then we worked a little on dynamics before entering the slalom course and skiing a little off-piste.

Ed displayed the most natural movement pattern in general and I later found out it was because he had thought about it for himself - with a little help from "Top Gear". His basic timing was correct. On the more critical side his stance was excessively "two footed" and with a strong tendency to get caught on the back of the ski boots. The skis tended to be allowed to run out to the side to get on their inside edges - resorting to pushing them out to the side in shorter turns - which he tended to avoid.

Sam looked stronger when the turns were a bit faster and he could get more forces from the skis to play with. His weaknesses showed up much more at low speed. Basically the upperbody was being kept motionless and the skis were passing underneath the body. This was causing the hips to fall into the center of the turn - the skiing to be two footed and reactive - instead of proactively controlled by the centre of mass or active use of the legs. In short turns once again this led to a pushing out of the ski to get onto the inside edge and and blocking of the body facing downhill so that the skis could be forced around and below the body again - leading to a reversed timing (up/down).

Max had the most pronounced two footed "heel push" with short turns - to the point of commonly ending up on the inside ski and risking falling over on anything icy. The static-ness of the upperbody was similar to Sam - also blocked facing downhill to an inappropriate degree - so as to be able to push the heels out. 

Basically we have a problem here stemming from educational brainwashing that all skiing is done on the "inside edge" of the ski and that you have to face down the hill and immobilize the upperbody - to stay in "balance". This is reinforced by the use of carving skis which give very strong feedback from the inside edges - overwhelming all other aspects of skiing.

We started by working on dynamics - through the explanation and exercises on to practice and into slalom. With this understanding flying in the face of everything the boys had ever heard before quite a lot of questions had to be addressed and a lot of explaining given - which is fine.

Slalom was introduced as a technical exercise to show the sort of work required to extend dynamic range. The skier's limit is nothing whatsoever to do with "balance" but everything to do with his ability to fall further and further over before the ski overpowers him and brings him back up out of the turn. The end of a slalom turn is especially hard and so great athleticism is required to hold the centre of mass down low and inside the turn to keep the turn tight and effective. Sam demonstrated that he was currently the strongest skier at 31.78 seconds, with Max at 33.79 and Ed at 36.79. A good racer will manage between 21 and 22 seconds. Objective feedback like this backed up with intelligent guidance is one of the most effective ways to change your skiing level.

The dynamics were then taken off-piste for a short run in tricky snow. The only modification I mentioned was to use a "seated stance" to keep the feet and knees in front of the body. "Sitting down" would make you fall backwards on the flat - but facing downhill this is not the case. Dynamics will save you in tricky snow no matter if everything else goes wrong. We had worked briefly on the dynamics of getting out of a turn - like a motorbike being brought up and out of a turn. For this we had tried "hanger" turns where you stay on the outside ski through the whole turn transition and almost enter into the next turn on the same ski. This is a critical part of dynamics to master for off-piste because most people when tense actually do the opposite and hold back -not using the "lifting up power" of the outside ski to strongly finish the turn and commit to the next one. The turn is finished when the body is going across the hill perpendicular to the mountain with the skis flat - and this is part of a dynamic process so it cannot be sustained for more than a fraction of a second. This position is called "neutral".

We had a very brief attempt at carving. I used this to introduce rocking of the feet and the use of the adductor muscles. Both Ed and Max had trouble feeling the adductors when pulling the legs in - because they are so used to pushing outwards instead that this tendency even managed to overwhelm the "pulling in" exercises. This was the exercise when the skier pulls the ski tip against the resistance of my pole stuck in the ground. Eventually I had to go straight to pulling the knees together before they could identify where the adductor muscles were. Carving at low speed itself was predictably not a problem - only Ed surprisingly losing grip as speed increased a little - probably due to the feet being too close together for this type of skiing.

We had a brief attempt to show how skiing is really a form of skating and how correct timing uses the same muscular actions and rhythm. The "down/up" timing of dynamics - falling down into a turn and being lifted back up out - and "down/up" leg action of skating compliment each other. Finding the resonance is a bit like bouncing on a trampoline. If there is no use of the legs with this timing it's a bit like stopping a trampoline from working by going against the resonance. Skating itself is just a falling of the centre of mass between the legs and diverging skis. When this falling is exaggerated then the ski goes more on edge and starts to turn the skier - eventually removing the need for the skis to diverge. A real slalom racer skates straight down the hill and that's why he appears to "face downhill" with the upper body. Sam managed to connect with this quality to some extent.

Having identified the role of the adductor muscles in carving it made the introduction to pivoting very much easier. As with the boys in the morning I assisted each one though a pivot and then let them try for themselves by using their own poles for support. Pivoting is for "fall-line" skiing - a braking form of skiing for descending without travelling across the hill. It's useful for skiing bumps, steep off piste in deep snow, couloirs and anywhere that it's necessary to control speed when going straight downhill. The key to this is to keep both skis downhill of the centre of mass for security and to initiate the turns on the uphill edges - the edge changing taking place when the skis point directly downhill only (in racing it's when the skis are pointing across the hill). The pole support permits the centre of mass to move downhill without the edges changing and then the centre of mass pulls the front of the skis into the turn. The addutor muscles also help this process and the foot of the uphill ski can rock onto its inside edge while the ski boot keeps the ski on the uphill edge - this facilitating the use of the adductor muscles. I showed how this could be done on either ski or both skis and it was only the relationship between centre of mass and edge control of the ski that mattered. This is why many people ski off piste with a two footed pivot - although most "two footedness" in skiing is detrimental because it is not done for the right reasons. Pivoting is when skiing with the feet together is acceptable - that's why elite bump skiers have their feet jammed together. Carving and inside edge skiing is when it's best to have the feet apart so that the inside edges are more easily accessed.  

I explained also that the "motionless" upperbody in short turns is an optical illusion. During any short arc the body is being propelled across the hill. If simultaneously the centre of mass is projected down into a turn then this cancels out the movement across the hill and gives the appearance that the body is held motionless and that the skier only uses his legs. Because instructors do not understand the principles and mechanics of Newton's second law (mechanics of disequilibrium) they are completely unable to comprehend what is really going on. It's easy for a trained eye to spot who actively uses the centre of mass - but impossible for the untrained eye to see it.