Thursday, January 31, 2013

Derin (mini) - second day on skis.

Today it was predictable that little Derin would be a bit tired. If the skiing all day wasn’t tiring enough she was apparently buzzing all evening due to the excitement of skiing and didn’t go to bed until quite late. Very surprisingly none of that affected her today – except that she started to fall asleep a little bit more obviously before the end of the day and had to be carried home on Tiffany's back. We had planned a trip up the “flying boxes” (Aeroski) towards the end of the day when her powers of concentration would begin to fade but unfortunately the wind was too high and they wouldn’t allow us to go up, so she contented herself with a lollipop instead.


Coordination Exercises

In the morning when Derin was fresh we worked on coordination exercises. Each aspect was covered with the skis off so that she could get the feeling of the boots holding the feet on edge and the appropriate movement patterns without also dealing with sliding all over the place.  Her coordination in general was markedly improved over yesterday and this is a normal rate of development. The ski boots run up the side of the leg to allow the feet and skis  to stay on edge instead of automatically flattening. To be honest, even more time negotiating terrain in just ski boots would be a lot of benefit. Most beginners are used to being on flat ground, not on mountain slopes and they are definitely not used to using the edges of their feet in this manner. When we did the side stepping uphill in the boots she didn’t know what the word edge meant – something I verified later on. Together with Tiffany we explained what edges are in general. The coordination exercises were all repeated with the skis on – the sidestepping uphill and the skating actions on the flat. Skiing is really a form of skating so this coordination is fundamental.


After the exercises and a little bit of skiing from the chairlift Derin asked to go to the restaurant. She probably didn’t eat enough breakfast because she had a fixation on eating cake. Fortunately I had been supplied with some chocolate (the remainder of which I passed to Tiffany at the end of the day) so that along with a hot chocolate managed to do the trick. Amazingly, with only me there she made absolutely no mess with the hot chocolate! That was the one and only time she asked to stop skiing.  The other time she had to stop was for an emergency pee – but that’s fairly normal for a four year old skier. I’ve known other children who preferred to fill their ski boots rather than say anything. Fortunately Tiffany was around to help deal with the emergencies!

For the skiing we worked on sideslipping, forward diagonal sideslipping and pivoting – all of course being led by me and Derin holding on to the pole. She was steadily becoming easier to lead into the pivoted turns from the uphill ski edges. When on the straight sections sometimes I’d let go of the pole and she would still be hanging on thinking that I was supporting her – but she was really supporting herself. She is now able to stand still with the skis across a slope on their uphill edges and remain there stable with no danger of slipping off down the hill.

Tiffany had a go at the coordination exercises along with Derin and also the pivoting. I took a few minutes to help her to feel the pivoted turn and then advised her to just do it slightly while the skis were almost straight running down the shallow gradient.

When sitting on the terrace of the restaurant there was a constant shower of ice from above – and this little fellow was one of the culprits…

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Derin (Mini) –first ever time on skis.

Derin’s first ever time on skis. At this point she is just getting used to walking in ski boots for the first time and then patiently taking the bus to the best beginner’s area at Tignes Le Lac. She isn’t talking to me yet because I’m still a complete stranger. I guess she is wondering what it is all about at this moment.

The first few days on skis are the most important of all. Incorrect information can leave a very visible scar for life. It’s not so much “what is taught” that is important it’s “what isn’t taught”. Nothing generating constraints or inappropriate coordination should be taught. Basic appropriate movements are very natural and a great deal of patience and support is required to let them develop naturally.

Derin was first asked to jump up and down in her ski boots with no skis on – so she could feel how to modify her movements to the high rigid boots. I then showed her how to put a ski on and we both walked about with one ski on so she could get used to having a “big foot”. She was then shown how to remove the ski and put it on the other foot. Once the ski had been tried on each foot she then put both skis on and continued to walk around on the flat and turn with tiny steps. I pulled her a little and supported her down a very shallow gradient then pushed her back up again several times until her body stopped over-reacting to the accelerations. She was soon able to slide on two skis unassisted.



Today I didn’t want her to be frustrated with difficult coordination but just to get used to sliding and to enjoy it. We did a little bit of “skating step” work but not enough for it to become frustrating. Some of her first turns should come from skating steps in the near future.  Meanwhile I was training Derin to hold onto my ski pole for support. We used the small moving carpet to give us access to a steeper gradient where Derin could descend holding onto the ski pole (handle end for safety). She was clearly very comfortable with all of this – but hadn’t really said a word to me by this stage. We stopped for a drinks break after an hour with a view to avoiding sessions being too long and demanding (It is tiring at first because there is no sitting down). After the drinks break  we were straight up the chairlift (which she calls the “flying chairs” – as many children do) and she was able to comfortably hold on the pole for the long descent of the nursery area. Earlier, the first thing she said to me was “I’m four”. Now, the second thing she said was “I want to go faster!”

Derin was taken down the mountain with skis held parallel totally naturally. She has never even heard the word “parallel”. Holding onto the pole she was sideslipping the steep sections without knowing about it – only feeling it. Skiing is about “feeling” more than anything else.  I controlled the overall speed with a plough and with Derin holding the pole tightly (held at the level of her belly button) I would control the sideslipping into each turn on the outside edges of the skis – moving her body in the appropriate direction by pushing or pulling on the pole. This way the skis are working and she can learn to identify the feeling. At each suitable opportunity, when running straight,  I encouraged her to let go of the pole and manage short sections on her own.

She is not learning the incorrect and defensive coordination of the snowplough which pushes the uphill ski onto the wrong edge for developing speed control and develops the bad habit of pushing the skis “outwards”. Her body is pulled or pushed into the turn – not away from it as is taught in snowplough – another serious problem to avoid.

Derin connected perfectly with the whole process and really enjoyed it. I noticed that towards the end she was appearing to fall asleep on the chairlift and on the final run at 16:10hrs she was losing concentration so it was time to stop. I think she would happily have continued until she dropped off to sleep.


First with one ski on – then with two…

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Derin & Defne 4; Emir 1


What happens next?

Emir joined me for a session today and after watching him ski for a few minutes I decided what to work on. He was skiing too much on the edges of the skis, not finishing his turns, lacking speed control and there was no use of ski poles. His legs were very static and arm carriage odd with the hands held low and close to the body. When asked he told me that he wanted to improve his off-piste. It was obvious that jump turns with angulation would address all of the above issues to some extent so it was a good place to start.

Emir had to work hard for a couple of hours because much of the coordination appeared alien to him but he did very well and persevered with everything he was asked to do until there was some good measure of success. The first thing I asked him to do was ski on one ski. This tells me a lot about a skier’s level. Predictably he could not manage it at all and this is at the start of the video clip. 

Inside Ski Pivot

The reason people can't ski on one ski is because they can’t keep the body to the inside of the turn. Pivoting on the “wrong" ski was also impossible for Emir. I physically assisted him through the manoeuvre so that he could feel the control of the edges and the placement of the body. The pole needs to be held correctly between the thumb and middle two fingers and then the body angulated to be able to move the centre of mass towards the pole. Emir had to start to bend at the hip a little and learn to put some weight on the pole. Once he had picked this up we added it to the video.

Independent legs – two ski pivot

We carried out a series of exercises to get Emir to be able to keep his pelvis facing downhill and just have the legs turning in the hip sockets (skis off). He had to battle to get this due to his tendency to throw his hips around and brace against the force. Eventually he could flex enough to jump and feel the rotation of each independent leg and control his overall body management. He struggled to use the poles for support but was steadily improving. This was then done with the skis on and although he had a tendency to start the turns before jumping he was improving rapidly. We had started off with just rotation of the legs  with the skis off and then pivoting in the fall-line (no moving across the hill) with smooth pivots and then repeated all of this with the jumping added. The idea here is that this translates into jump turns when skiing off-piste.

Jump Turns

Emir did well in the off-piste because I took him into some seriously steep terrain in deep snow. His jump turns may not have been perfect but they got him down without losing control of speed and without any falls. He was even starting to use his poles a little by the end. The pole use helps to keep the body perpendicular to the mountain and so this improves overall control.



Derin in slalom – setting her new record (35.63 seconds ) and displaying the increased inclination that helped her to do it…


Two Footed Pivot

I had hoped that today Derin would manage to ski on one ski, but it was not to be. She did however manage to make a close stance two footed platform to pivot with. This is important because Derin has never been able to ski with a close stance before. Whereas Emir had to learn to get his feet apart and be able to use his legs independently Derin is the opposite and needs to develop the option of using both skis together.


Extending the Dynamic Range

For slalom I wanted Derin to incline more so we worked at that on the piste – trying to touch the ground. I told her that she still had to try a lot harder to fall over. This immediately worked for her in the slalom and she had two runs with only 100th of a second separating them.

After the slalom we worked on carving – making sure there was no skidding during the edge changes. I explained to Dering that in racing the timing of the turns changes a little and the apex of the turn is not downhill but over to the side. We used a section of the piste and I filmed Derin carving down it with the turn apexes at the side. Next time in the slalom this is what she has to aim for. When she can both carve and alter this timing in the race course she will get to the bottom surprisingly fast and with less effort and difficulty.

We didn’t go off-piste due to the weather and visibility deteriorating and Derin being a bit tired. I didn’t want her injured due to being tired and losing concentration in difficult conditions.


Defne had a day skiing with friends and hopefully was proud of her skiing ability. I know that she wants to improve but has trouble facing some situations. Skiing is often said to be a “metaphor for life” in that it presents you with many of the challenges of life in a concentrated manner – so there is no real way to escape the challenges and progress in skiing.

Yesterday Defne needed to understand that nervousness is not always an enemy. Sometimes it is necessary to stimulate us and get us ready to perform. Musicians can feel sick with anxiety before a performance and then convert all this energy into a great performance. If you are attacked by a tiger it's a good idea to be afraid. That fear makes you either run or fight with an energy that would be impossible otherwise. Fear is only a problem when it paralyzes you and stops you from thinking and acting or makes you lose control. The hyperventilation that Defne sometimes experiences is due to the body trying to run away from the tiger, but not being allowed to.

I explained to Defne that many actions in skiing are done against a background of fear and so we are constantly working against our emotions. Emotion comes from  Latin and means "impulse to move". All of the impulses caused by fear are defensive and are generally inappropriate. When an untrained person falls into the sea that person will do everything wrong and probably drown. We need to learn new movements instead that work and give us an advantage. This flexibility and capacity to learn is a human being's greatest strength. Nearly all the movements required will be the opposite of our basic instinctive and emotional movements. This allows us to adapt to very complicated environments and situations.  

Standing on the top ski from the start of the turn requires directly working against those emotions. It's always hard, but like the stage performance it's always a buzz when it gets the result.

Skiing is a real metaphor for life because brute force and instinct don't get you very far. The ego blocks learning at all levels. The body has to be listened to and tension dealt with both physically and mentally. Defne will get there!


“Lowry” setting at the top of the Funicular in Val d’isère….













Lenticular wave clouds…

Mont Blanc with a warm front arriving…

Monday, January 28, 2013

Derin & Defne 3


For our warm up run we worked on consolidating yesterday’s dynamics. On the way down to La Daille Defne asked to try some fresh powder and showed that she hadn’t forgotten how to pivot in it from her last holiday. She really enjoyed skiing in it and was delighted. She felt no fear. Later on when we had gone back up the mountain we went off into a very slightly steeper section of powder of the same depth and she froze completely. I shouted back up the hill for her to just traverse across to the piste. Defne was upset about not understanding why this fear had suddenly come across her. I told her that it doesn’t matter and that any time something like that happens she must just head straight back to where she feels safe. There is no pressure and I’m not here to force her to do anything I’m here only to help. She was actually also worried about me not getting to ski in the powder so I quickly put that idea to rest too.

Derin had managed to apply jump turns and pivoting very well to coping with steeper terrain so I decided to work on the mechanics of jump turns for a while with Defne. (We had a drinks stop first so that Defni could recover her composure). The aim of the jump turns is that the body faces downhill and only the legs turn in the hip sockets during the jump. It’s a braking turn that gives a great deal of control and will get you down any slope safely. This is the extreme version of pivoting with independent legs and no pressure at all on the skis during the turn initiation – so the skis cannot get stuck at the start of the turn. We did the exercise with the skis off to develop the coordination. There are quite a few components to this exercise so concentration and organisation are required to get it right. Because Defne couldn’t do it immediately, instead of concentrating and adapting she started to question the correction and feedback and also the exercise itself. Her body language (turning her back at the end for example) was very negative and her response varied between “I can’t do it” – and collapsing on the ground and “I am facing downhill and I am bending etc.” There is a lot that can be done here but it needs a cooperative and willing participant in the learning process. I explained to Defne that few things in life are easy and just fall into place without effort and the only worthwhile things are those that we do gain through effort.  I filmed this mainly to let her see that my feedback was accurate…

In this photo the body is meant to be facing downhill with both feet at the same height on the hill and the legs turned in their sockets to one side and flexed at the hip joints. One pole should be used!

After abandoning the off-piste and the exercises (both for different reasons) I had to think what direction to take with the coaching. It was possible that there was a common cause for those issues and that this cause was the locking up of the hip joint – making steeper off-piste scary and the exercises very hard to achieve. I had intended to work on the hip anyway so it was as good a time as any to start. This task seemed a little daunting because the scope for confusion and frustration here is greater than with anything else that we had done. I decided to go straight for the hip joint and did this by first asking Defne to stand with skis parallel facing across the hill then to turn the shoulders downhill. I asked Defne to feel her spine twist. She did this correctly . Then I asked her to face forwards and just pull the hip backwards. She could feel the spine twist in the opposite direction and understood this immediately. With no trouble she was able to ski with this and practice it for the rest of the run. At the end I videoed her and she added the flexing at the hip by herself because she said it made it easier to pull the hip backwards. This is the key that freed up Haluk’s skiing at a higher level – but perhaps it’s also the key here. We need to practice this a bit more and then go back and see the effect it has on all of those other things.

I asked Defne to work on the dynamics that she had built up already – which she already knows is applied by thinking about one leg only through the whole turn from start to end – but now adding the pulling back of the hip for the whole time the leg is being used.



Derin skied off piste for the full 3 hours with no drinks break. We had a 15 minute argument at one point when she was sure that we had taken a break and that she had even eaten a KitKat – but it was all in her imagination and she eventually realised it.

In the video she is now cutting my tracks to go faster and only putting one leg down into the trough – which is good racing technique! At the end of the clip she does her first ever kick turn.

Derin remembered from yesterday the “But my body is me!” comment so I added today that “my body is also her” – because we are all made of the same things and are in the same universe. She objected and pointed out that my body could ski on one ski and hers couldn’t.

We covered a lot of ground in steep terrain and through trees, mainly getting useful mileage into her body. She would follow my tracks and that’s as good, if not better, than doing slalom and me explaining – as long as it’s working!

We had a few attempts at the pivot on the “wrong” ski and eventually I had her do it holding onto my ski pole. This worked because she had the time to feel things correctly and the security of me supporting her properly. Tomorrow she will be able to do it on her own and ski on one ski only.




Sunday, January 27, 2013

Derin & Defne 2


After looking at yesterday’s video I decided to change plan and delay working on angulation. Defne was rushing the start of all of her turns and this needed to be addressed first. I explained to Defne that she has to stand on the uphill ski before starting her turn. She was immediately confused between uphill and downhill ski so I explained that the whole turn is carried out on the “outside” ski – and this is the best way to think of the ski during a turn.

The reason she was confused is because in her mind the weight always goes onto the “downhill” ski and it was no accident that she was rushing the start of the turn – so as to get the ski below her and so have it downhill.  This is a concept that she has picked up in ski school because they always say “put your weight on the downhill ski”. It’s another error caused by being too simplistic – such as “lean forwards” instead of “stay perpendicular to the hill” and describing movements in terms of “balance” instead of accelerations – or telling people to stand up to start a turn just because their great granddad's planks didn’t actually work.

At first Defne was unable to stand on the uphill leg to initiate the turn. This surprised me a little. After a few attempts she declared in a resigned manner : “I can’t do it!” I insisted that this is the wrong way to look at the problem. Henry Ford famously said “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right!”. When something is difficult or we fail at first that’s not a good reason to give up – it’s a good reason to keep on trying and learning.

When we got to less steep terrain it was easier for Defne to develop a feeling for this. I explained that the first part of the turn should be the longest part not the shortest. Once standing on the leg – on either ski edge – the body is made to fall into the turn and the pressure is felt smoothly through the whole turn from start to end. At this stage you just use gravity to fall into the turn and a groomed slope is necessary. Defne’s hips were still blocked, but it’s more important that she has a clear understanding of how to structure a turn.

We practiced this with normal skiing and also in carving – which Defne likes to do. She did admit that it’s tiring on the legs though. Defne is confident at high speed on a wide slope when carving. There were an unusual amount of idiots around on snowboards – straight-lining the entire piste and endangering everybody. This is the worst thing about the pistes in Tignes. Somehow there are fewer of those retrograde numbskulls in Val d’Isère.

After our hot chocolate break (during which we watched a few games of the Australian tennis Open with Defne supporting Djokovic and me supporting Murray) it was hard to drag Defne back out onto the mountain. I’m sure she could have stayed there and watched the whole match. We still had work to do though because we had only so far developed the start of the turns. Yesterday the dynamics were also focussed on the start. Now we had to look at the dynamics at the end of the turn. I explained “neutral” and how the body had to complete the turn going across the hill perpendicular to the hill. To make this clear I used the analogy of a motorbike on the flat going down into a turn and then back up out of it. The bike starts and finishes in the vertical. In skiing we are on a hill so vertical is not where the turn starts and finishes – perpendicular is where it happens. The turn is only finished when the body falls out to the perpendicular and the skis are flat going across the hill. This is part of a dynamic process and it can be a bit scary to trust it – but it then lets the next turn begin very easily and on the inside edge of the new ski. I explained that this is the real secret to skiing off-piste in difficult snow but it has to be learned comfortably on the piste. Once Defne could visualise this she had no trouble in seeing me doing it and achieving it herself. We skied a long run from the top of the Grand Motte down the empty  Genepy practising it and then off piste beside a black run. Defne didn’t even notice that it was steep or off-piste she had so much more control than previously.



Starting off with Derin I tried to get her to pivot on the “wrong” leg, but she couldn’t stay on the leg. I just wanted her to have a go at it and wasn’t expecting much. The body and brain work things out for themselves so when something is difficult all you need to do is dedicate a little time frequently to the problem and surprises can happen.

We skied down the Genepy working on dynamics. I briefly explained to Derin that there are two ways to start a turn – either by reducing pressure on the ski (as with the jump turns and pivots in the bumps yesterday, or by increasing the pressure through dynamics. We now wanted to stand hard on the top ski and push the body against the magic wall (My shoulder was used instead!) It was a little difficult for Derin skiing down the Genepy because her skis seemed to not be sliding too well and she slowed down too much. Hopefully a full ski service tonight will correct this. We were heading over to the slalom in Val d’Isère where she would have the opportunity to try the dynamics in the race course. The previous work on pivoting actually helps a lot with body management in the slalom too, so it would be interesting to see the effect.

Derin beat her previous best time by two seconds (now 36.34 seconds) despite not having been in slalom since setting that previous best time. She has nice hip angulation in the photo below – even though she doesn’t yet know what that is!

We studied the video over a hot chocolate with Chantilly and a KitKat. I asked Derin to tell me what she needed to do to get faster in the course. She was unable to see the main problem in the video. After she made some suggestions about the things she could see I told her that it was something that she couldn’t see – and that she needed to tell me something that she couldn’t see.  To give a clue I asked her what job she has to do when skiing. She has one job and the ski has one job so what are they? Derin’s answer was “Turn my body” – which is very wrong! I explained that her job was to “fall over”. She correctly added herself that the ski’s job is to stop her falling over. In the video the obvious weakness is that she is not trying to fall over – she is trying to stay upright!

After the break we once again tackled the job of skiing on one ski. This time I took my own skis off and physically assisted Derin by placing her hand correctly on the pole grip and pushing her hip back while pulling her upper body over my hand and towards the pole. I explained that the body had to move towards the pole during the whole turn and this would get her around on the “wrong” ski. The ski has to be held on its uphill edge as much as possible so as not to change edge too soon and this is done by moving only the upper body strongly inwards over the ski pole. Derin almost managed it but couldn’t quite move far enough towards the pole. She also decided “I can’t” and so got the same lecture as her sister had in the morning.

“Falling over” in dynamics or moving inwards towards the pole during pivoting are manifestations of the same issue. This is why working on both things is necessary and mutually beneficial for the respective skills.

On the ski home the visibility was dropping and so we kept the speed down mainly pivoting at the side of the piste. Derin was naturally mixing dynamics and pivoting when on steeper terrain off-piste.


Warm front coming in and bringing snow…






Saturday, January 26, 2013

Derin & Defne 1


I asked Defne what she most wants to improve in her skiing and she said that she would like to be able to ski deep soft snow without being afraid.

Everything in the following program is aimed to bring about this result. Defne has been asked to always let me know if she feels apprehensive about anything. There is nothing that can’t be overcome as long as there is confidence and competence and our aim is to build those things together without fear being present.

The thing she likes least in skiing is racing. I explained that racing is about skiing very well and that you don’t need to race to achieve this – in fact it is better to get there by using intelligence than by using racing poles.


It’s a long time since I explained the “Magic Wall” to Defne so I began by asking her about it. Her answer made it clear that it was time to explain it once again. We did the static exercises – her pushing against my shoulders and  emphasized that it is pressure under the foot that we need to recognise and be able to create. I explained “proprioception” (the sense which lets us know where body parts are relative to each other in space) and that most of the body’s proprioception sensors are in the feet. The idea was to generate pressure from the very beginning of the turn.


We did a little bit of pivoting on steeper ground and emphasized pole use as Defne has a tendency to not use the poles - reflecting hip angulation issues that we will not look into today.  We did some jump turn pivots on moderately steep  terrain on piste just as an introduction to safe techniques for even steeper slopes. The control from those techniques is where confidence comes from.

In the photo below taken from the video there is no hip angulation and so the hips are blocked. Tomorrow we will begin working to change that. In the video Defne was focused on dynamics and using her feet correctly.


The Feet

It had been a long time since the magic wall had been explained to Defne but much longer since she had been shown how to use her feet properly. Since it was a very cold day and the first hour of skiing was freezing it was a good idea to have a hot chocolate and revise the feet work at the same time.

I explained about the shaft of the ski boot and how it holds the ski on edge without the foot flattening. Most people don’t realise that this is why the boot goes so far up the leg and that its lateral stiffness is the most important quality.

Defne was using the front of the foot, collapsing the ankle and twisting the knee inwards. She found it hard to get onto the heel (front of the heel) and to bend by squatting but she managed it. She managed to feel the anterior tibialis (muscle beside the shin bone) tighten and the ankle strengthen.  She then learned to rock the foot above the heel and to feel how the knee doesn’t twist inwards when standing this way. I explained that the way she had been standing was causing her to lean against the front of the ski boot for support and the boots are not designed for holding you up – only your legs are.


We used the support from the feet to work on dynamics while carving, taking advantage of the near empty pistes on change-over day. The main goal was to be able to concentrate on the feet: The pressure under the front of the heel from dynamics and the rocking of the foot.


Derin was uncomplicated as usual and agreed that skiing a couloir would do her as a goal! She didn’t want to go into slalom though on her first day.

Derin said she would like to improve her pivot in the bumps – but that pivoting on the piste was boring!

“No! My body is me!”

She said that she was excited about skiing again but that she’d forgotten what it feels like to ski. I told her not to worry because the body would remember how to ski. She shouted “No! My body is me!”. Later she agreed that when she plays piano she doesn’t have to tell each finger what to do for the pieces she has already learned because the body has been trained and the fingers just work automatically.

The video is Derin doing jump turns and making her first ever “own tracks” off piste – on steep and difficult snow!

Derin has some natural hip angulation and this is probably why she is quite comfortable in all conditions.


Off Piste

Our first few runs were just to let Derin’s body tell her that she still knew how to ski. After that we went on a nice long off piste excursion and even found some untracked soft snow which Derin skied with no trouble. She was comfortable following my tracks in all sorts of snow conditions off piste. All of this is in terrain with very gentle gradient and zero avalanche risk.



Derin has a “thing with no name” attached to her finger and has decided that is has some sort of value and therefore is keeping it.  She found herself at a hot chocolate break with no Kitkat to eat and said it was “Totally mum’s fault!” We did however manage to find one in the cafe.





Jump Turns

Prior to the jump turns in the video and photo above we did some exercises on the piste. Derin had to remove her skis and then do jumps downhill while facing downhill, without her body or bottom turning – only the legs turning  in their sockets – and using one ski pole at at time. This was her preparation for going onto steep off piste and doing the same thing. Later on she did this on even steeper off-piste than seen in the video.


We finished the day skiing down the Campagnule black bumps run home to Tignes. Although Derin was a bit scared of the steep bumps and slightly icy surface she took the plunge and made herself do what she had to do. The goal here was instead of jumping to remove pressure from the pivoting ski she had to get the ski tips in the air over the shoulder of the bump and then pull them inwards as she went over it. Once she got going there was no problem.

The biggest shriek of the day was when she went over a small cornice and landed it correctly – pushing the feet forwards when she went over the lip and into the air.

One Ski

I pointed out to Derin that although pivoting on the piste is boring that she would still have to learn to do it well enough to ski on one ski properly. At the moment she can’t manage this so there is work to be done.

Mont Pourri


Mont Blanc

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quantum Shifts

The blue pill maintains the blissful ignorance of illusion and the red pill allows escape into the real world. After taking the red pill you can see things that you couldn’t see before…

Each new level of perception is like taking another red pill. Since freeing up his locked hips Haluk can now see things in good skiers that he couldn’t see at all before. That’s how perception works – we can only see what we understand, though most people mistakenly think the opposite is the case! “Understanding” however is not just an intellectual process it is an experience.

Douglas Adams in the Hitchiker’s Guide to the galaxy had a wonderful way of describing this issue of perception:

An S.E.P or 'Somebody Else's Problem field' is a cheap, easy, and staggeringly useful way of safely protecting something from unwanted eyes. It can run almost indefinitely on a flashlight battery, and is able to do so because it utilizes a person's natural tendency to ignore things they don't easily accept, like, for example, aliens at a cricket match. Any object around which an S.E.P is applied will cease to be noticed, because any problems one may have understanding it (and therefore accepting its existence) become Somebody Else's. An object becomes not so much invisible as unnoticed.

A perfect example of this would be a star ship covered in an SEP field at a cricket match. A star ship taking the appearance of a large pink elephant is ideal, because you can see it, but because it is so inconceivable, your mind can't accept it. Therefore it can't exist, thus ignoring it.

An S.E.P can work in much the same way in dangerous or uninhabitable environments. Any problems which may present itself to a person inside an S.E.P will become Somebody Else's.

An S.E.P can be seen if caught by surprise, or out of the corner of one's eye.”

The Grande Motte – Tignes

Val d’Isère Village

Creative Process

I explained to Haluk that his joy at moving his skiing up to another level (which he describes as equivalent to surmounting a cliff)  will eventually and progressively be replaced with frustration as he starts to become aware of other limitations. This degenerates into a sense of confusion and feeling of incompetence – but this always happens before another new breakthrough – it’s the pain of “giving birth” – a creative process! This by the way is Haluk’s analogy not mine so any women taking exception to the “birth” analogy need to address him directly and not me.

Whereas Haluk uses the analogy of surmounting a cliff to describe the quantum change in his skiing, Rowdy has a more colourful description: “It is as if a surgeon has taken a chain saw to my huge fat arse.”

Pivot – Off Piste

Today we practiced jump turns on the steeper cruddy slopes where each turn was unpredictable. This entailed a wide stance with independent pivoting of the skis in the air (always pulling inwards). Haluk improved but remained a bit two-footed for this to work really well. Reflecting on the subject I realised that all forms of pivot on the outside edge appear to require a reduction of pressure on the ski – from falling due to gravity, the pole, through flexion or jumping. Once the ski is on the inside edge then pressure can build up to complete the turn. I was playing with alternating between reducing pressure for airborne pivots and dramatically increasing the pressure at the start of the turn with strong dynamics assisted by standing hard on the support leg at the turn initiation. The dynamics is far smoother but relies totally on accelerations – so where caution is required the pivot is probably best. If jumping – the jump comes mainly from the downhill leg.

Conscious Process

The greatest thing about skiing is the personal relationship with the incredible and wild natural environment. This relationship however depends on the quality of an internal process which brings our focus entirely into the present. Not only does this wash away the stress of everyday life but it resolves immediate fears and it becomes our own mentor and source of self-reliance. If there is one reason above all others why accurate coaching information is essential then it’s to ensure this internal connection. Inaccurate information generates nothing but confusion and blockage –both physically and mentally. Accurate information and feedback opens doors both externally and internally – the relationship grows.

Being “in the zone” is when there is a complete harmony with the mind, body and environment and it is unconscious – the result of both skill and instinct. Skill exists is when new movement patterns have become integrated into the unconscious through training. This “zone” however is not the goal though most would expect otherwise. The goal is the process – the connection and relationship described above – which gets you into the zone. This is defined simply through basic rules, often very counterintuitive, that make us aware of the body. Inefficient and inappropriate movements are either emotionally driven defensive ones or a response to illusions and limited perception, understanding and skill. Learning is the process of overcoming all of those issues and it requires conscious feedback and monitoring – as well as receiving accurate information. To demonstrate a precedence regarding inaccurate information consider how for over 2000 years until Galileo the entire Western educational community taught incorrectly that gravity accelerated objects in proportion to weight – and nobody questioned it. We know formally through Newton that acceleration due to gravity is independent of weight – giving acceleration due to gravity a constant value of approximately 9.81 metres per second per second. The internal “connection” first requires good information – the right “picture” so that visualisation is automatic. Visualisation uses all of the senses and if the instructions and commands given to the body are incorrect then visualisation becomes impossible and the internal connection is broken. Conscious feedback and monitoring take place when the visualisation process is compared to the actual physical process. As skill develops then the process moves on to finer and higher levels – each opening a hitherto unperceived door to another level. This process interacts with the external environment constantly – whither through the sounds produced from a musical instrument or the control and mastery of descending a wild, snow covered mountain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


In our previous sessions We had worked on coordination for pivoting with a view to developing awareness and skills but although skills were improving the uncomfortable stance and the glitch were still there. I just asked Rowdy to ski a few turns while I watched and could see immediately that the overall timing was still wrong and the stance was wrong – in the same way as previously described in Rowdy-2.

Chi Skiing – Hip position

My intuition was screaming at me that the entire problem was the hip joint. I could see how the hip was still swinging out at the start of the turn and this was forcing Rowdy to come up at the start of the turn instead of move down. For this reason I decided to bring the focus entirely onto the hip joints and their immediate function. The first thing I asked Rowdy to so was to pull the hip joint back further and stronger but also to do this right at the start of the turn – switching hips during the turn transition. Rowdy has not been trying to do this. He had been trying to pull the hip back progressively during the turn. Attempting to make this move generated a lot of confusion because his body was imposing the opposite movement pattern on him unconsciously.

(Video clip where the glitch is almost gone – until when the turns are completed more – but much better and more relaxed looking stance in general)


To lift the confusion I asked Rowdy to skate and then introduce dynamics. This “direct method” of bringing skating into skiing generally sorts out timing issues. The down/up skating action fits the down/up dynamics action (motorbike going down into a turn and coming back up out of it). Once the skating is working and the dynamics then all that has to be added is the pull back of the hip on the skating leg and then all of the components are in place. This did succeed in removing the confusion.

Flow and Non – Resistance

Once the skating was in place we moved onto the next stage which is about how hip angulation is actually applied. Most people “brace” against the forces in a turn and tighten the muscles around the hip joints. The opposite is required with selective relaxation of the hips – allowing the body to literally drop down into the turn at the hip joint with the hip becoming very loose. The aim is to let the centre of mass drop quickly and by altering the body shape to place the skis more on edge. This loads up the carving ski with great force and if the timing is sensitive it sets up a resonance – like on a trampoline – which the skier can respond to (or dampen instead). The ski loading up with pressure rapidly then turns quickly and lifts the skier back up out of the turn for the next cycle. The key to this is to have complete relaxation at the hip joint and to be aware of using the centre of mass for generating pressure.

In chi-running speed is increased through relaxing at the hips – and allowing gravity to topple you forwards more, not through greater strength and power. Likewise the more dynamic and short carved turns are achieved through greater relaxation not through greater strength. The Energy Illusion article linked to here explains how flow is achieved through improved organisation.

Although we started with carving to have clear feedback I explained that the same basic movements were required all the time when skiing.

Rowdy’s main focus for the time being is to pull the hip back more strongly and to feel this in the body. 


In this photo Rowdy is on his weaker left leg and there is still no hip angulation visible – with the shoulder tending to be puled back along with the hip. Things were well enough in place though to avoid a glitch.








In this photo everything is basically in the right place, right hip pulled back, spine twisted (Upper/Lower body separation at the rib cage) and hip angulation obvious. The right knee could be held in more strongly with the adductors – but this can also be a function of the overall motion of the centre of mass.






Some very strong skiers demonstrating hip angulation…

1           2 

3          5

6             7 

  10            11

Centre of Mass and Centre of Power

I explained to Rowdy that all motion must start from the centre. The centre of mass (CM) is normally right in front of the base of the spine. You think first of all about where you are going to direct your CM and then organise all of your movement around this point, pulling back the hip to twist the spine at the ribs – pulling the pelvis up into neutral and stretching the lower abdomen. At the same time the support foot is pushed ahead and this liberates the body to completely realign to the inside of the new turning ski – without having to pop up or delay the CM from moving inwards and down into the next turn.  The spine is the centre of power (CP) and this should be activated instead of the hip locking and everything above it going loose and relaxed as commonly happens when the hip is permitted to rotate forwards instead of being pulled back. The CM and CP are not the same thing but they are normally very close together and so activity should radiate outwards from there. This can proceed as a check list right down to the feet: Move CM in and down, pull hip back (feel separation at ribs – twist in spine), pelvic tilt (neutral), adductor pulling inwards, subtaler joint rolled inwards (below ankle), pressure on point just in front of heel.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ski Touring–Dome de Vaugelas

Only a few days ago we had extreme cold at -30°C and now today we have the warm Foen wind and woke up to blue skies. It was a good day to go ski touring for some exercise. In the photo below the mountain on the right is Les Arcs. We are climbing on the south side of the Dome de Vaugelas just above Bourg St Maurice – only a short workout today because Christiane is on snow shoes and so can’t climb or descend as quickly as I can with skis. Her descending is still pretty quick though!




This next photo is the top of La Rossière with the Col de Petit St Bernard down to the left – crossing over into the Aosta valley in Italy. All the photos her are views from today’s climb. The Foen wind was bringing a typical bank of clouds over from Italy.

Village of Seez – on the valley floor below La Rossière

Les Arcs



With the heat the snow was pretty horrible for the descent but the brief climb was enjoyable. Skiing down feels strange because of being so used to being in organised ski resorts with lifts. It almost feels like stealing an illicit ski run for free – but it’s a very nice feeling. You make the most of every turn out of respect for all the effort made in climbing. Both on skis and snowshoes we applied Chi Walking technique when climbing (and when descending). The main aim is to avoid placing the leading foot ahead of the body and using the quads to climb. Instead, the foot lands just below the body and as you topple forwards the big glutes extending the hip joints do the principal lifting of the body. When the leg extends behind  the pelvis is kept tilted upwards into neutral so you can feel the lower abdomen and a slight twist in the spine up to the level of the ribs. The arms and shoulders are used a surprising amount and can tire quite rapidly. The pole support is on the opposite side from the extending leg – which probably enhances the activity of the spine. It’s like an internal massage for the lower back and absolutely necessary for combating all those hours sitting down indoors or in cars. Somewhere yesterday I spotted an advert which mentioned that a one hour workout is only 4% of your day! I’d never thought of it that way before. Christiane refuses to accept this because she insists that sleeping isn’t counted but I’m not convinced. A day is 24 hours!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Royal Navy chill out in Tignes

The official temperature in Tignes Val Claret  was supposed to be -16°C but it was -23°C which was supposed to be the temperature at the top of the Grande Motte – which must have been at -30°C today (plus wind at 50km/hr). Today was the Royal Navy skier/boarder-cross championships and I had to stand around to help for about 4 hours. Thanks goodness it wasn’t any longer because it was painful enough descending at 2:30pm with just my nose and cheeks slightly exposed. I only had the courage to get my camera out once for this shot up near the Col du Palet.

One organiser I spoke to – Chris – remembered me from last year and I believe following our conversation he bought some Vibram Five Fingers and won’t run on anything else now. I recommended the ChiRunning book to him and to look through this blog to see how I’ve adapted it to other sports and learned along the way. I re-started chirunning myself earlier in the week – just in time to tire my legs out for skiing with Haluk – fortunately balanced by his hangover. The trouble is the d.o.m.s. (delayed onset of muscle soreness) is even worse on the second day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

La Peau de Vache

Today I only have photos from indoors. It was a bit too cold and miserable outside to stand around with a camera. The new restaurant here “La Peau de Vache” half way down the Face de Bellevard is amazingly friendly and has a very warm family atmosphere with all the photos and objects around coming from different generations of family members. The photo here was taken rapidly without really managing to do the place justice. The owner is a real wine connoisseur and loves to share his passion for wine with the guests. This is where I realise that having given up alcohol actually saves me a lot of money! The food is excellent and not expensive. The name “La Peau de Vache” is humorous because in French it is actually an insult that you use to describe somebody really nasty. Tel: 0479061129



Use of Angulation – relaxation – not force!

With visibility being poor and set to degrade mid-afternoon I planned to subject Haluk to some ski technique. I know that when I’m thinking of exercises and explanations he is thinking “off-piste” – so it’s a case of either luring him into it or springing it on him unexpectedly. Yesterday I noticed that he was still not getting angulation at the hip but was only getting benefit from pulling his hip back making turn initiation easier. This is good  but it is only a start. I wanted to see angulation at the hip and much more flexibility along with a more natural and relaxed stance – which would enable much more control of line and speed during the turns.

During our warm up run I pointed out the angulation problem to Haluk by showing how other skiers, professionals included had zero hip angulation. The only person to pass by with hip angulation was in a snowplough stance. The problem with the snowplough stance is that because the coordination is totally inappropriate (pushing out instead of pulling in) as soon as the skier goes parallel the hip angulation vanishes.

Considering that Haluk understood how to coordinate his body properly it seemed that the missing factor was really more about how to USE angulation. The key to angulation is really in the timing.  When people can carve then they are capable of receiving very clear feedback from it so carving can be very useful for communicating an unfamiliar feeling. When using carving skis with about 18m carve radius the only way to get them to make a short and tight carved turn is to angulate at the hip. The idea is to drop down into the new turn with strong dynamics but also bending at the hip – more or less in a sitting manner – so that the ski edges more than usual generating a rapid and powerful build up of pressure. Turns can be linked this way rhythmically and it really gives a clear sensation of “dropping” into the turn with a clear relaxation at the hip joint. This only works if the skier uses a down/up timing and not the incredibly stupid up/down timing taught by international ski teaching bodies. This teaches how the effect of angulation works and gives a clear sense of how active the use of the body and centre of mass really is. It’s achieved through relaxation not through force – another principle of ChiSkiing. Haluk picked up correctly on this immediately.

Adductor and Hip Awareness – “knee angulation”

One issue that was obvious was that Haluk wasn’t using his adductor muscles actively and he admitted to having trouble with this. If anything he was trying to take the ski off its edge by letting the knee come outwards – perhaps in a mistaken attempt to loosen the hip. I explained that on the contrary the hip flexed more easily generally when the adductors were employed. To try to change this we worked for a while on pivoting. Starting with the  Outside Ski, Uphill Edge Pivot Initiation so that the adductors could be clearly felt and angulation easily achieved from the uphill ski with the lower ski out of the way. Using the adductors created “knee angulation”, which is absolutely NOT the same as twisting or forcing the knee into the turn. It has more to do with correct posture and overall body management than anything else. It doesn’t place the ski on edge because that is done principally through dynamics, secondly through the geometry of the mountain (turning) and thirdly through hip angulation. There is an element of holding the ski on edge with the adductors but it works more the other way – in that by releasing the adductors you can release the ski edge to some degree – which is more of a special adaptation (George Joubert’s “Surf Technique” used by Ingemar Stenmark). Haluk started to feel how in the pivot the strong use of the pole was linked to angulation and how this placed the centre of mass effectively for making the pivot easy. We then went onto pivoting on the Inside Ski. Haluk found it hard to keep the adductors working while using the pole and angulation to initiate the turn using only the centre of mass. This still requires more practice. This was all a prelude to him fully understanding the role of hip angulation and the adductors. Moving on from there the idea was to use independent leg action for a wide stance two ski pivot, with each ski pivoting separately and each leg rotating in its hip socket with no turning of the upper body at all above the hips and everything focussed in the actual hip joints. This exercise leads to much greater freedom and awareness of the hip and leg function and very tight pivoted turns with the skis like windscreen wipers below the body and both feet always downhill with neither foot ever going farther downhill than the other. This was still tough for Haluk and I saw his patience running out so we didn’t dwell on it too long!

Spine – Centre of Power

The key thing to look for with the pulling back of the hip is “alignment”,  bringing the entire leg into alignment along its inside edge. Haluk identified more with the slight stretch of the abdomen – which is also present. Both need to be felt. The key here is that all movement should relate to the spine, which is the centre of power and also to the centre of mass. Although the centre of mass can be displaced even outside of the body it is generally somewhere between the navel and the pelvis close to the front of the spine. The pelvis is tilted up into neutral, the hips flexed and relaxed, the support hip is then pulled back far enough to stretch the abdomen and twist the spine around the 12th thoracic vertebra (bottom of ribs), the adductors then pull inwards and the foot is rolled inwards at the subtaler joint beneath the ankle with the pressure directed over the front of the heel. All those actions pull “inwards” and assist the centre of mass when it is directed inwards and down into the turn. The pulling inwards of the adductors actually allows the hip joint to be very flexible – as opposed to pushing out with the ab-ductors actually locking up the hip. Haluk’s previous efforts to deliberately allow the knee to move out had been counterproductive. By the end of the day Haluk’s stance was looking natural and relaxed for the first time ever as a result of working on all of this coordination and the “dropping” function of angulation. It was a definite “breakthough” day for Haluk and one to remember.