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…






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