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.

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