It was a windy, cold and snowy start to the first morning. Not much chance to “warm up” through skiing so very little opportunity to stop and teach. The freshly fallen snow transformed into a fairly light powder so the best thing to do was make sure everybody got safely into it for the experience. The only advice I gave
was to use dynamics – but I didn’t explain much: Only that it was necessary to really work towards the inside of the turn – especially in deeper snow. I explained that centrifugal force is an illusion and rather than consider yourself a victim of this illusionary force when you fall over – it’s better to consider that you didn’t make enough effort to generate the necessary inwards force to maintain a turn. Luke in particular made a clear fall to the outside of the turn later on. We didn’t even revise dynamics at all at this stage.
(The example of a ball on a string was used to explain the illusion of centrifugal force. The only force on the swinging ball is from the string - which can only be inwards)
I could see various people turning their feet to force the skis around and Florence mentioned that her toes were being pushed up to the front of the boots and that she was trying to push forwards on the boots. Luke also admitted to standing on the balls of the feet so I decided to take an early stop and try to work on the feet indoors – with hopefully the weather improving meantime.
I explained that we don’t “lean” either forwards or backwards, we try to retain the same relationship to the skis all the time – whether vertical going across a traverse in the horizontal, or by standing perpendicular to the hill when sliding downhill. The physical sensation is the same in both cases only some of gravity is used for propulsion when going downhill so there is proportionally less pressure beneath the feet – that’s all - and wind resistance. You don’t feel like you are leaning at all – especially against the boots. Adjustment has to be made from vertical to perpendicular when heading off downhill into a turn, and back when turning across the hill to complete a turn – but this is not a “leaning” – only an adjustment for constant perpendicularity.
We went through the basics of using the feet with the weight placed just at the front of the heel and beneath the ankle joint – so that the subtaler joint could be used for rocking the feet. We linked the rocking of the foot inwards to the adductor muscles and linked that to moving the centre of mass inwards in the turn. I wanted to see that everyone would pull that adductors tight and the knee inwards without twisting it. We then tried standing on the whole foot and could feel that the foot couldn’t be controlled on its edges but instead only the knees could be twisted from side to side. Bending down when standing on the heels I showed that the anterior tibialis muscle on the front of the shin tightened and strengthened the ankle. When flexing on the the balls of the feet and pressing on the front of the boot the entire ankle goes loose and the leg stops supporting – the boot itself taking over – which is not desirable.
The goal was to be able to always rock the feet on the edges towards the inside of the turn while moving the centre of mass inwards. Ella particularly noticed the difference when we went back out to ski.
During the morning session Ella decided that she hated off-piste. I suggested that she be patient and persist to give herself time to adapt and get used to it. Forence was pretty terrified by it. Luke and Leonie were both doing well, with Luke becoming more and more aware of his own bad habits.
After lunch we went onto a longer open slope and tried the dynamics again off-piste in deep but somewhat denser snow. This time it clicked with Ella and she found she could do it and loved feeling of liberty in throwing herself around. Florence had the opposite reaction and totally froze up and became very frustrated with herself. Both Luke and Leonie did better than expected in the challenging snow – especially Leonie.
Turn Exit Dynamics
To help everyone progress ahead I introduced the dynamics for the completion of the turn - standing on the lower ski until perpendicular to the hill and the ski being flat. Luke and Ella in particular noticed how this made it easier off-piste. The lower ski needs to be used to bring you up and out of the turn – just like a bike coming up to complete a turn – except to the perpendicular across the slope and not just the vertical. This creates a commitment to the following turn and makes sure that the new turn is easily and successfully started.
Florence was still struggling with tension and complained that she felt that she was going to fall over all the time off-piste. I answered that the problem was that she actually needed to try to fall over – not to try to stay upright. The “over-control” of trying to stay in balance is a vicious circle that only worsens. The skier needs to try to fall to the side – which is what dynamics is all about. The ski edge bites into the snow or ice and responds by returning you upright. This entire interaction is what generates stability. To my surprise Florence got it on the next attempt and felt the stability.
Pivoting on Bumps
Navigating the bumps down the Solaise and Rhone Alps at the end of the day I explained how the fronts of the skis when airborne over the bump, can be swung into the turn along with the motion of the centre of mass inwards. Bumps can then be rhythmically joined together in the way when they are close together.