Thursday, January 3, 2013

Brian, Mark, Christine - 1

Prior to coaching I filmed the skiing of Brian, Mark and Christine so that we would have it on record. Although the slalom was a bit later on we had not yet worked on any relevant issues and I gave no explanation other than where to go on the course.































Today was mainly about imparting information – and quite a lot of it. The common denominator that I spotted with all three skiers was a tendency to “park and ride” on the edges of the ski, but with no real awareness of edge control or function and no real sense of dynamics. The range of inclination into the turn however was quite large so I decided to leave dynamics for later and start with pivoting. It was clear that all three would have trouble with control in steep narrow places, in bumps, on ice and in deep snow. The all exhibited some form of bracing outwards against the turn forces, a rushing of the start of the turn, Up/down timing, no angulation and various rotational issues.


We began with sideslipping – straight, forward diagonal and backward diagonal. I explained that the lack of resistance of the ski’s lower edge allowed a “pull” downhill – the front to produce forwards diagonal slip and the rear to produce a backwards diagonal slip. I suggested sideslipping on the upper ski only and allowing the foot to be pulled onto its inside edge due to the ski trying to flatten. This then helped the sideslipping and allowed the use of the adductor muscles  in the leg for pulling the front of the ski downhill and eventually into a turn.(as opposed to the common outwards pushing in a stem turn) The turn requires a pulling inwards from start to finish. The biggest difference here with anything they had done before was that the first half of the turn was executed on the outside edge of the upper ski – not the inside edge. This means that the ski is always on an uphill – braking edge during the (almost) entire turn and so controlling the speed . There is only a moment when the ski is flat and that’s when it briefly points downhill.

I used the “pole stopper” exercise where a ski pole blocked the pulling of a ski tip downhill to ensure that everyone was actually using their adductor muscles. The heel should come in as the tip is blocked from swinging.

Everyone found this completely alien and it really exposed the lack of appropriate coordination and edge control that they had. I had definitely chosen the right place to start. We would need to patiently drill this for a while.

Eventually we moved on to inside-(lower)-ski pivoting and two-ski pivoting. For starting the pivot on the lower-ski  pivot I explained that the adductor was still used – this time to hold the ski on edge and the hip in beneath the upper body. The upper body has to reach much further out downhill with clear weight on the ski pole for this to work and so the adductors provide the correct amount of edge angle for pivoting. This is handy because when we do two footed pivoting it means the the adductors of both legs are used to keep the skis close together for a narrow stance – acting as a single pivoting platform – as used in bumps and deep snow when fall-line skiing.

The uphill (outside) edge pivot is only used in fall-line skiing where the feet need to say below the body on the mountain for security and there is no desire to move across the hill.

Other variations we worked on included the “Short Swing” or jump turn. We worked first of all on efficient jumping – extending the legs in the air  - moving the centre of mass upwards and landing on straight legs to then flex and absorb the shock. Both Brian and Christine tended to retract the heels instead so that needed to be altered. We then used the jump to get the edges in the air to start the pivot. I explained that this is useful in a tight spot where there is snow where the skis won’t pivot or it’s too dangerous to even sideslip. The skis only need to swing about 20° in the air before landing and continuing the pivot on the ground. In bad snow the lack of pressure in the air gets the pivot started and the extra pressure on the ground from the landing drives the rest of the pivot on the inside edge. Linking jump turns in a rhythm is named “short swings” and this exposed that nobody was using their poles correctly and angulating or placing their bodies correctly over their skis.

We exploited a few bumps to show that getting the tips in the air on the bumps seriously helps the pivot  - with the narrow stance bringing best results. Brian succeeded well at this aspect of pivoting.

The final pivots we did were with a wide stance and using the feet independently. “Windscreen Wiper” pivots! Both feet were kept downhill and the legs allowed to turn independently in their hip sockets without the pelvis turning. This is easy because one foot is not allowed to come around below the other – which happens in a narrow stance. Wanted to encourage more independent leg use and to begin to tackle rotational issues.


We went indoors to look at the feet and how they work inside the ski boots. I showed first that standing on the ball of the foot and pressing forwards in the boots causes the ankle to collapse and the knee to twist inwards (when pulled inwards). Much of this problem being hidden by the support from the boot. The alternative is the stand on the front of the heel and bend by “squatting” tensing the anterior tibialis beside the shin bone and strengthening the ankle. 

The feet are rolled onto their edges using the sub-taler joints below the ankles. Rolling the foot onto its inside edge turns it slightly “outwards” away from the direction of the turn. (opposite from twisting inwards and flattening the foot).

I also pointed out the connection between the rolling inwards of the foot and the adductor muscle use. The feet were rolled onto opposite edges in this case – one on the inside edge and one on the outside edge. (as would eventually be used in carving)

I later on explained that the skier never “leans forward” and always tries to feel just like when standing on the horizontal – without leaning on the boots. This is “perpendicular” to the skis. Sliding downhill feel the same – just less reaction force under the feet as some of gravity is being used for speed and acceleration.  This requires an active adjustment from vertical to perpendicular at the start of a turn  - but it never means to physically “lean forwards” in the ski boots.


I checked the skating ability of everyone and it appeared to be fine. We attempted the “direct method” of skating straight downhill and then adding dynamics by falling into the inside of the support leg – which I explained converted the skate into skiing. Mark was the only one to feel this initially. The down/up timing of the skate matches the down/up of dynamics as the skier topples into a turn and then gets lifted back up out of it. The problem here was that we had not worked on dynamics yet – but I wanted to get the legs working more independently and to rapidly move everyone away from up/down timing. Gradually everyone started to pick up on the resonance of the whole system when the timing was right. I asked for the adductors of both legs to be pulling inwards when skating.

We did some side stepping uphill and I asked everyone to roll downhill the foot onto its inside edge and use the adductors for support – so that the ski would not be pushed away and the body (centre of mass) would move instead. Lower level skiers all displace their feet while higher level skiers displace their centre of mass. The side stepping was converted into skating and then when skating up onto the uphill ski the idea was to stand on the ski and topple into the new turn. Once again the problem here was that we had not worked on dynamics – so the toppling was not fully understood.


I introduced dynamics in the standard way with static exercises. I showed that accelerating the body across to the right placed a force on the left foot – but that moving the body slowly placed the force on the right foot. My shoulder substituted for the sustained angular acceleration of the ski.

We tried this out with turns back up the hill and when that was secure then downhill into complete turns. It took a while for everyone to get it because nobody had been using a conscious displacement of the body (centre of mass) before.

After only a small amount of practice we applied this off-piste to show how powerful it is. Brian had a bit of a speed control problem which eventually led to a head on collision with me with fortunately no significant problems for anyone. This problem is due to several issues the remain to be properly developed.

We worked on “turn exit” dynamics where I explained “neutral”. I showed the skis being flat as the skier faced and travelled across the hill – a momentary position during a dynamic process when skiing. The skis bring the skier up and out of the existing turn right out to the perpendicular to the hill. If this is done in difficult snow - it guarantees the start of the following turn.

To improve dynamics for racing turns I asked everyone to adopt a wide stance – which permits an earlier edge change and more independent leg action.


It surprised me that nobody had a correct idea of carving – and all resorted to pivoting to some extend. I explained that carving is when the skis “rail” the whole way. We tried this first in a traverse and then from straight downhill to across the hill. To show an edge change during a turn transition I demonstrated this statically using pole support and passing the body through “neutral”. Everyone could do this statically but only Christine could manage it cleanly when moving.

Brian was bracing against his skis with his body “facing outwards” and going sideways so I asked him to turn his upper body inwards when carving so that his chest faced his inside ski and with a wide stance. This was mainly an attempt to stop him from bracing against the outside ski and pushing it away sideways.

In this instance I asked for the knee of the inside leg to move into the turn – as opposed to using the adductors – in conjunction to this foot being rolled onto its outer edge.

Foot Forwards

We resorted to a snowplough to develop the feel for “feet forward” action. With the outside foot rolled inwards I asked for it to be pushed forwards during a turn and both Brian and Christine correctly identified that it tightened the turn radius. We then immediately attempted to combine this with dynamics and later on with the pivot on steep terrain.

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