Sunday, March 31, 2013

Luke 1

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.

Off Piste

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.

Champagne bubbles…

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.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rowdy 10

Today is a day to celebrate! Rowdy has cracked it! Only a week ago the thought of taking Rowdy off piste in difficult snow or on steeps was out of the question. He just simply would not cope – the fitness didn’t seem to be there and the technique seemed miles away. The constant returning to stemming (basic swing) was defeating any progress. Now – all of a sudden – he is there! I ski down a steep slope in difficult snow and he is still behind me in control and not sliding down on his back as it has always been in the past.

Was it pure perseverance? Was it the unique exercise reducing the turn transition into an almost slow motion event – so it could perhaps be more clearly perceived? Was it focusing better that raised awareness? Was it a combination of all of this?

Normally I’m firmly on the side of “technical” solutions but in this case I suspect that a shift in focusing brought the result. Rowdy was constantly being overwhelmed by his unconscious movements and they ran the show in a tyrannical fashion. He could manage specific exercises in controlled circumstances but everywhere else the unconscious took over again. At least 95% of everything we do is due to the unconscious brain. There was a general lack of awareness of the lack of awareness acting as a  firewall protecting the unconscious. When Rowdy realised that he was easily distracted and not strongly focusing internally and that the unconscious mind was taking over then he could see that he had to respond differently. Knowledge of the need to re-program the unconscious mind and the mechanism to do so then gives you access to re-programming it. Focus has to be internal and unshakable – because that is what does the re-programming. Suddenly all of those unconsciously imposed moves vanished. Rowdy felt like a different person skiing – no ego – no judgement – only observation and feedback. That’s what happens when you are centered through focusing internally. You use a different part of your brain – perhaps the right hemisphere – the non symbolic part – the part which observes. In drawing you achieve this by looking at negative spaces – the spaces surrounding the object – and by avoiding looking at the easily symbolised object. In skiing you don’t focus on skiing – you focus on what you are doing internally and you impose it regardless of the external world, fears or emotions. This process has to be engaged even before moving. 

Lydia 1

Lydia had skied 5 years ago aged 7 and had not really skied since. She had been taught snowplough and remembered more than most people do from her lessons. She knew to put the weight on her outside foot. What she didn’t know is that the reason all of this is very difficult is because it is mostly nonsense (despite being taught all round the world) and it would even present a significant obstacle to her learning properly. Fortunately Lydia is clearly athletic, keen to learn, very bright and able to understand some quite complicated ideas. In addition Lydia has a great attitude and is not afraid to try things so she learns quickly. The snowplough influence never disappeared completely – but she went a long way towards losing it in a very short time.

Warm Up

We began with a warm up to get Lydia used to sliding again. I deliberately didn’t teach anything to begin with and just observed. When the slope was anything other than very gentle her snowplough was making life very tough – but she was coping well. It didn’t take long before it was clear that it was less than constructive to allow this to continue and so we went straight to work.

The video sequence below shows Lydia in her snowplough on very gentle terrain – then one hour later on steeper terrain skiing parallel. An hour later and her movements were already stronger and much more dynamic…

Magic Wall (Dynamics)

With Lydia’s keen interest in sports I decided that the first thing I should teach her was “Dynamics” (hyperlink to this subject). I gave her the choice of explanation in either physics or magic – she chose magic. The magic wall is fully described on the linked page above so I won’t repeat that here. She fully understood the explanation and the static exercises – and how accelerations caused pressure on the feet in certain ways. The key point at this stage was to make it clear that you don’t get weight on a foot by moving the body over it (as in the snowplough) but by accelerating you body into the turn – away from the foot. She understood this because it’s what you do in any other sport.  She knew the magic wall only worked when moving forwards and that moving the body against it to either side of the skis would prevent her from falling – exactly the same as on a bicycle. The tyres on a bicycle don’t have much grip – but the more you fall over to the side on skis the more grip they have. The skier’s job is to fall over – and the ski’s job is to lift the skier up. If you never fall over to the side then the ski can never work properly.

The main aim was to learn to move the body instead of pushing the ski out to the side. After some static exercises pushing against my shoulder Lydia managed to do this straight away when making single parallel turns from straight running out to either side to a stop. After about a dozen successful attempts she was then able to start do do full turns and link them together just using dynamics and with the skis parallel. In fact it’s dynamics that is the cause of parallel skiing.

Progress was compromised due to Lydia not knowing what to do with her feet. The incorrect coordination given by the snowplough was interfering so we had to have a pit stop where the boots could come off and some work done to understand the feet better.

Feet (Support for dynamics)

Lydia demonstrated (photo below) what happened with her feet during a snowplough turn…











In the photograph on the right she shows how trying to put weight on the foot makes the body move in the wrong direction – to the outside of the turn instead of accelerating it inwards. The foot is twisted and forced unintentionally onto its outside edge.

To correct this I asked Lydia to stand with her feet parallel and place the weight on the heels just below the ankle joints – without leaning back on the ski boots. This permits you to use the subtaler joint which lies between the ankle and the heel and allows you to rock the foot from edge to edge while there is weight on it. Lydia did this very naturally – with her centre of mass moving to the left when rolling both her feet to the left – same in the other direction. Trying this with weight over the whole foot and she discovered that you can’t roll the foot anymore – the knee wobbles around instead. I explained that the edges of the feet correspond with the edges of the skis.

I showed Lydia that rolling the foot onto its inside edge causes the foot to slightly turn away from the direction of turning – the opposite from that seen in the photo above. This gives a strong platform of support and the ski boot shaft running up the leg stops the ski from flattening when you do this. You must never twist the foot into the turn – just roll it onto its edge instead and let the ski do the turning.

In addition to rolling the feet I explained to Lydia that when a foot is rolled onto its inside edge the muscles on the inside of the leg can be tightened – pulled inwards. Those muscles are called the adductor muscles. This is exactly the opposite from the snowplough where the leg is pushed outwards. The leg should be pulled inwards!

The aim now was to return to the snow and combine the rolling of the feet with the dynamics – always moving the body in towards the centre of the new turn and rolling the feet in the same direction to give a much stronger base of support.

Horse Riding (controlling turn radius)

Knowing that Lydia was keen on horse riding I asked her if there was any use of the legs in controlling the horse when turning. She said that to go left you can push the right knee forwards and pull inwards. I explained that she should try to do exactly the same in skiing. The way to tighten a turn is to push the outside foot (along with the knee) forwards during dynamics. (not squashing on the front of the boot – this really means push the foot ahead)  On steep slopes you have to move more with the dynamics and push more quickly forwards with the foot. All the time you need to pull inwards with the leg and keep the foot rolled inwards. Everything is “inwards”.

Extending Dynamic Range

Lydia could see that most people hardly moved their bodies – they were so desperate to avoid falling over! I demonstrated how far I move my body with a bit of speed and warned Lydia not to go too fast herself at the moment. She did move her body much more though and discovered the incredible liberty that this brings – when you stop mistakenly trying to be “in balance”.


It was a little bit too early to introduce the correct placement of the hips to Lydia but I decided it was useful to mention it and give a few quick exercises. She had said that the core muscles are used strongly in horse riding but because most people move incorrectly on skis they end up never being able to use their core muscles. The trick is to pull back the outside hip at the same time as pushing the foot forwards and this creates a slight twist in the spine up to the ribs  -stretching open the lower abdomen. Lydia was able to feel this and apply it when she worked at it. More can be found about this subject here  - “chi-skiing” . As I said, nearly everybody gets this wrong and they wind up the body against the turn direction as the skis come around the turn – which is extremely damaging for the lower back eventually.


Each time we came to a steep section I would ask Lydia to sideslip instead of ski – because I wanted her to develop control and confidence sideslipping. She had a very strong tendency to allow her uphill ski to stem out into a snowplough and point downhill. I joked with her about who was in control – her or her left leg? It was as if the leg had a mind of its own – which it of course did! - the unconscious mind! That’s the damage that bad training causes – but Lydia was fighting hard to overcome it very quickly.


Lydia focussed really well throughout the long session – until the final moment when coming in to stop beside her dad. She must have been distracted because she went ploughing straight into the group knocking them all over like skittles and starting a domino effect that took out a group of Germans and almost started World War 3 with a woman who mistakenly thought she had just been rammed by a bunch of skiers skiing out of control. Nobody was seriously hurt – but even I was surprised at the extent of the chaos!

During the lesson sometimes Lydia was losing focus and allowing the left leg to push outwards flattening the foot – instead of working inwards all the time . I had to bring this to her attention and ask her to focus on her movements and forget everything else. Skiing into her dad was proof of her tendency to be distracted and lose focus. You need to lock your focus onto the internal workings of your body and push everything else out. She is actually pretty good at this for a 12 year old!

Centrifugal Illusion

I first of all explained centrifugal force to Lydia – which she understood to be the feeling of being thrown out of something spinning fast. Then I explained that it is an illusion! Using the example of a ball on a string held in the hand and spinning around your head I pointed out that the string attached to the ball can only pull the ball inwards – so the only force on the ball is inwards – there is no force outwards. This is the same for a skier! The skier struggling during a turn can either claim to be the victim of centrifugal force (which doesn’t exist here) or can realise that she is not working to generate enough inwards force – by moving inwards and rolling the feet inwards and pulling the leg inwards. This is especially important in the second half of a turn where the skier needs to generate even more inwards force to combat gravity and the ski lifting you up. Off-piste the whole base of the ski works to lift you up and so you need to work even harder to stay inside the turn. Lydia could clearly see the purpose of all of this and worked harder towards the centre of her turns as a result.


We didn’t have time to work on skating, timing or pivoting but I feel that we targeted the right things at this stage to get her going properly and to remove the snowplough. Lydia’s attitude is great and she learns quickly!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rowdy 9


So was today going to be another Groundhog day or was Rowdy going to make progress?  Even in the movie “Groundhog Day“ the subject was able to change – though he didn’t realise that for quite a while. Finally it looks like we have arrived at that Groundhog point of realisation! There was progress!

Frame of Reference

Rowdy was immediately working on his dynamics through the turn transition by using the effect from the final exercise we did two days ago – which I forgot to mention in the blog. He was trying to move the body down and into the turn, hold the body down and uphill as the turn develops and  then up and out of the turn at the very end – always in a line corresponding to the fall line. Looking side on at a skier there would be a stop/go action repeated downhill relative to the fall line. He had to think for a while to appreciate that this is independent of which way the upper body is facing during the turn. It is helped by angulation when turns are tight. I’d described this as choosing your  “inertial frame of reference” when skiing and always moving relative to your skis –across the skis because I’ve always wanted an excuse to bring Einstein’s theory of relativity into it. This meant that Rowdy was doing a good job from the start.

I took Rowdy off-piste so he could feel this making difficult snow very easy – and it worked first time. We also re-introduced the chi-hips to facilitate angulation and make everything a bit easier and more effective. So far so good! Then I brought out the camera and it all turned to rat poop…

Rat Poop

The first run on the video clip shows a good effort but with all the old problems cropping up to varying degrees – until that twist with the left leg causes a fall. What caused it to all turn to rat poop then? Well, there had been a few other skiers crowding around and also the terrain was a bit bumpy and steep. The cause of the degradation was simply loss of focus.

Focus and Awareness

The second part of the video clip shows Rowdy focusing much better and so holding it all together much better. When I previously described Rowdy’s problem as being “lack of awareness” I was deliberately avoiding dealing with the issue of “focus” – which is intimately linked to awareness. Focus has to be “internal” with the body and feelings being the total target for attention. This means that if there are people around or difficult terrain then those things are secondary and dealt with almost as peripheral issues. Focus must remain inside the body and you impose your will on your body irrespective of everything that happens to you and whatever emotions you feel.  You particularly don’t allow fear to disrupt your focus – in fact you use it to focus more intently on the things you need to deal with internally. When you stop focusing internally then your unconscious instinctive and defensive actions take over and they are executed with no awareness. You acknowledge fear – which can sometimes be healthy – but don’t focus on it. You do the same with tricky snow or terrain.

Focusing is how you reprogram your unconscious mind and learn new skills. You only “suggest” to yourself to move a certain way and by repeating this the suggestion gradually replaces previous programmed or instinctive movements  – so that eventually this new program runs automatically in your unconscious mind and frees you up to move on to higher level skills. It’s in this manner that awareness moves on to higher levels and perception changes. Very often it’s during long periods of internal focusing that new perceptions arise – simply because we are paying attention and are not distracted by external influences. You have to be fully aware of the whole process for it to work effectively. You have to know that you are reprogramming your behaviour and that your unconscious mind is far more powerful than your conscious mind. You cannot override the unconscious mind in the moment – it must be programmed in advance to get an appropriate response. The same process would be used in “anger management” or dealing with stage fright or phobias.

Pole Plant

I explained to Rowdy to be careful not to use his arms to plant the pole – especially at the end of a turn because it upsets the timing (flipping it to an up/down timing instead of down/up))  When using dynamics the pole is planted by the motion of the body only – after the turn exit – due to falling downhill and down into the new turn. This was the first time Rowdy has properly perceived that the pole is not planted by the arms.

Foot Forward

To assist the chi-hips I asked Rowdy to simultaneously push the outside foot forwards while pulling the hip back. This makes the turn “active” and provides another key internal focussing point. The overall motion of the body with dynamics is more of a proprioception issue – which is often described as a a “sixth sense”. Most of the proprioceptors are in the feet which – with the unconscious twisting of the feet may be a reason Rowdy has constant problems with spatial awareness. Now that we have targeted the turn transition in a clear, precise and isolated manner he is able to focus better on proprioception and the supporting elements of it through his stance. This was aided by retracting the lower leg at the moment of pressure transfer to upper leg. Prior to this Rowdy had not actively relaxed the lower leg once the turn was completed. I pointed out that when you walk – you retract the leg at the end of the stride – it completes a natural cycle.

Rowdy 8

Returning from a short break from skiing the most noticeable thing about Rowdy’s skiing was that it had as always returned to its default setting. The amazing process of Rowdy adapting and succeeding on every training session – then reverting back to scratch later on – continues. It’s becoming clear that the problem is not anything specific in skiing – it’s a problem of awareness. The unconscious processes that are already deeply ingrained always come back to dominate and anything new is discarded. Even the understanding is re-routed and confused by those unconscious acts. Only persistence in the relevant areas will change this.

Perpendicular – “turn exit” dynamics

We tried working on chi-hips at first but it made no appreciable difference. All of Rowdy’s main issues returned. I decided not to persist in that direction for the moment and to work on the turn exit dynamics to try to work directly on eliminating the unwanted stemming issues. I explained once again that when using dynamics you need to end the turn in the perpendicular with the skis flat. This means that the outside ski needs to lift you up and out of the turn at the end – beyond vertical and into the perpendicular across the hill. At this point you can change leg for starting the next turn. There will be no pressure from the skis at this point and reduced pressure from gravity because you are already falling (past vertical) – so it’s easy to change support leg. However I used the motorbike analogy to describe the entire arc carried out on one ski – falling down and into the turn and then back up and out – but with everything relating to a slope and perpendicular instead of the flat and vertical. In a nutshell, Rowdy’s main issue is probably that he relates everything to vertical – and that might even be linked to his motorbike experience. The success of this approach wasn’t great.

Turn Transitions

Instead of looking at the turn as two separate arcs I shifted focus onto the turn transition – which in mathematics would be called an inflexion curve. My aim was to drill Rowdy specifically in dealing with the turn transition while relating to perpendicular. The exercises here in the video show a positioning of the body and support from the pole that permits the body to be moved downhill until eventually the supporting lower ski starts to slip. At this point the support leg has to change. Rowdy can be seen at times holding on to the lower ski and not changing early enough. Other times he involuntarily twists and stems the left ski even when it is held in the air – crossing the lower support ski. This is what is also happening when Rowdy skis (though without the body moving downhill) – but here there is a chance to separate it all out and to correct  the timing and accuracy of the change of support leg – and the direction of motion of the centre of mass. The key is to avoid twisting anything and feel how the centre of mass  - by moving it appropriately, makes the turn happen. The pole support helps through the vertical to perpendicular phase while standing statically on the lower ski and at just around perpendicular the skis will start to slide and the leg change occurs.

Later on we were able to reintroduce the chi-hips so that Rowdy could improve his angulation and so manage this relatively static exercise more easily and effectively.

We finished by linking rhythmic turns without turning too much across the hill, so that Rowdy could feel the flow that comes from getting the turn transition right and by working around the perpendicular instead of the vertical. Skiing is a perpendicular world not a vertical one.

There are many other ways to make turn transitions – with leg retraction for example, with or without angulation, on either or both legs, with or without dynamics – on the uphill or downhill edges – stepping, stemming etc. etc. the list goes on. The important thing is to be able to chose the transition that is needed to direct the body and skis where they need to go. We worked only by using the most basic but important pressure and timing cycle – the down/up cycle. The one thing common to all transitions is the need to sense perpendicularity – so this is what we focused on.

Unusual visitor

Spotted this unusual bird at 2500m altitude. It’s not a snow bunting with white flashes like we normally see. I don’t know what it is.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Core Work


Today was warm down the valley for only the second time this year. Time to get the bike out for a workout. Apart from feeling a lot stronger than two weeks ago – the last warm day and first time out on the bike – this time I was able to take some of the feelings recently developed on skis and apply them to the bike. For the moment times will be slow because I’m lugging an extra 10kg of winter fat up the hill. This is my energy store for the summer workouts! Nevertheless the time was about 10 minutes faster than two weeks ago so that’s a good start. The main thing I felt today was a constant working of the core muscles. I’d discovered an exercise when working with Rowdy that simulates the effect and feeling with the arms instead. You simply stand still facing a wall and remaining stationary you push against a wall with your hand without moving your body and as the pressure builds you feel the core muscles tighten up reflexively so that you can work against your body internally. With the pedal stroke the pushing has the same effect on the core  - but the work coming from the foot and leg instead of the hand and arm. It’s good to feel the core working properly and by correctly identifying the feeling it’s easy to maintain it constantly. It’s when pushing forwards and downwards with power that it’s really felt – the hip moving backwards at the same time. If the hip moves forwards then the leg muscles end up working against body weight – but if the hip moves backwards during the push then the core muscles join in more effectively and the load is distributed through those muscles as well as the leg. The Osymetric dual camber chainring lends itself well to the timing of the core/ leg connection – because the increase in effective chainring size is coordinated with the push.



When skiing I noticed that it’s the moving back of the hip with the associated twist of the spine that allows pelvic tilt to be maintained throughout a strenuous effort and even with heavy abdominal breathing. If the hip comes forwards instead and squashes beneath the front ribs then controlling pelvic tilt becomes impossible.

Gareth Off Piste – with Dynamics

The big tube is for remotely setting off gas explosions to bring down avalanches. (I’m not referring to Gareth!)

The dynamics are pretty good, just a little bit too far back. More committed turn exit dynamics on the lower ski would sort that out. The snow was heavy and wind packed so it easily makes you “back off”. Gareth had been pivoting a few days ago with a fairly “back” stance but this tends to make you fall onto the inside ski with dynamics…  He is pleased at how tidy his improved skiing is in comparison with the past – but also disappointed to now not have the linked head-plants and cartwheels of the past which had ranked him easily alongside Homer Simpson – especially with the speciality “throwing the gigantic belly around the turn” turns which are the hall mark of true Simpson’s quality skiiing.  

The inspirational Christian music in the video is because this is how Gareth feels about his new skis…


Better centred.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Off Piste Tignes









Gareth has dramatically changed his skiing with the “chi hips” adjustment. After about 35 years of skiing he is finally symmetric and without rotation.





The tracks on the left were Gareth trying to make tighter turns than me -  after I’d made tighter turns than him on the first steep pitch!

Winter X-games start tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rowdy–The Final Solution

Aware of the problem in Rowdy’s skiing I had no confidence at all that we could actually change it. So far every attempt at changing it had met with only fleeting and temporary success but at least this time the problem had been narrowed down considerably. We knew that Rowdy had always let the outside ski flatten and knee come out  along with the foot going onto the outside edge – and it had been his belief that this was how a ski pivoted. (It actually is the basis of a technique used deliberately by some – called the “surf” technique by Joubert.) The big question now was could Rowdy place mind over matter and change this simply through changing his intentions or would that make absolutely no difference whatsoever. Predictably it made no difference whatsoever! Back to square one!

Yesterday I’d looked at the previous blogs and noticed that the only time his body was organised correctly was when doing the chi-hips exercise with both ski poles held to the inside of the turn – so I asked him to repeat that exercise and sure enough the knee came in instead of out. Also, I’d noticed that when pivoting his body faced outwards (downhill at the end of the turns) and when this happened he knee was always out. Putting all of this together I suddenly realised that the problem was that his “point of rotation” was the knee! His “upper-lower body separation” was taking place at the level of the knee instead of near the navel or at the hips – or at the 12th thoracic vertebra as with Chi Skiing. The problem was coming from the top part of the body – not from the feet upwards. When the ski  came around in front of this body and pelvis then the knee was left sticking out and he couldn’t stop it. This is why the start of the pivot was OK and the problem got worse as the turn progressed. A little bit of reflection made it clear that the only way to change this would be to develop the “chi hips” – because it led also to good posture and protecting the back. If Rowdy worked on upper/lower body separation in the classical way – either at the hips or at the navel then his back would be mangled in no time – we’ve been there several times already. The “chi hips” not only sorted out the blockage at the hips, allowing the knee to be held in, but it also strongly protected the back (12th thoracic vertebra – but spine twisting in the opposite direction from the other options – “integration” instead of “separation”). The logical conclusion was to accept that the “chi hips” was working and that it really is the way to go.

Practising “chi hips” on the final descent Rowdy suddenly had the grip to complete the turn dynamics correctly and was able to use this to set up the next turn without having to step uphill into the infamous glitch. It looks like we have really found the way through the maze and although the spine twists the opposite way with the “chi hips” it is the correct way so there is just no point wasting any time on being able to ski in a classical pattern that is simply destructive.

Re-defining Upper/Lower Body Separation

Traditionally this terminology refers to the lower part of the body following the skis and the upper part resisting any change of direction – equating to “facing downhill”.

  1. When the feet are close together the point of separation is close to the base of the spine – which fits with the general view of the upper/lower body divide being at the level of the navel.
  2. When the feet are wide apart and the legs are used independently then this point of separation (or rotation) can be specifically in the hip joints – both of them  simultaneously.
  3. Rowdy has now discovered a unique version of his own where the point of separation is in the knee joint. This is a real achievement particularly because the knee joint does not rotate unless the leg is very bent – which probably explains the extreme tension that he sometimes feels in the leg muscles. Rowdy’s upper body therefor begins at the knee.

With the Chi Hips it’s the lower body which is prevented from rotating and the upper body is allowed to follow the skis. To permit this the divide between upper and lower moves up to the 12th thoracic vertebra – in other words – the bottom of the rib cage. To make this work the outside hip has to be actively pulled backwards against the direction of the turn – preferably in one single movement during the turn transition. The effect is no longer one of separation or looseness but one of integration and strength.

  • While this is being attended to it’s important to avoid pulling back the shoulder along with the hip – or the point of rotation is likely to move right up to the neck resulting in a generally passive “countered” stance (park and ride) or a different phenomenon called counter rotation when actively executed.

Traditional “separation” at the navel makes good posture almost impossible to achieve – the outside hip is allowed to swing forwards under the front ribs and the abdominal area is compressed. This means that correct “neutral pelvis” is impossible to achieve as there is no muscular control available. The postural muscles cannot function and everything becomes loose around the mid section. The lower back becomes stretched but without muscular and internal hydraulic protection to protect against dynamic shocks.  This stretch across the back is lauded as a desirable “winding up” of a coiled spring – ready to uncoil when the skier comes up to start the next turn – which of course even has the vertical timing back to front! When Version 2 (independent legs) is used the goal is to keep the midsection totally relaxed. Once again this leads to a practical impossibility of controlling posture and protecting the back. Fully certified idiots such as BASI trainers even train their victims to actively rotate their legs – generating a million different problems for different people and guaranteeing failure for the majority. Pulling the outside hip backwards produces the same “rotational” effect inside the hip joint without trying to turn the ski and is a thousand times more effective in getting the ski to pivot due to dynamics - for many reasons.

Foot Forwards or Hip Backwards?

Pushing the outside foot forwards during the turn causes an active tightening of the arc of the turn when coordinated with dynamics. Those two elements are necessary for turn radius control along with the choice of edge for turn initiation. When the foot is pushed forwards it is displaced relatively ahead of the hip – so pulling the hip backwards creates the same relative displacement. Doing both together causes the core muscles to be involved in the “foot forward” process and activates the postural muscles more noticeably. The “pushing forwards” isn’t coming from upper/lower body separation (version 1) but from upper/lower body integration. Actively pushing the foot forwards strengthens the muscular integration at the same time as enhancing the turning effect. Additionally this permits an extremely smooth turn transition with the initiation of the new turn happening automatically as the body slips into the dynamics of the new turn without any blockage from the hip preventing it.

Inna day 3

Dynamics – Part 2

Today started out with a brief warm up and then straight into technique. I only really wanted to introduce one new thing today and then to work on revising and consolidating some of the work from the previous two days. Dynamics involves three main aspects – getting into a turn, sustaining the turn and getting back up out of it – the “turn exit”.  We needed to work on the turn exit dynamics.

When a motorbike goes down into a turn it begins in a vertical position and then comes back up to vertical. This is only possible on flat ground. In skiing there is a complication involved because the mountain is not flat. Where exactly is the end of the turn? Most people automatically assume that it's when they are vertical and moving across the hill. For "dynamic" skiing that is not correct. The skier has still not completed the turn. The turn is only over when the skier is crossing the hill with the skis flat and the body momentarily perpendicular to the hill. This can naturally only be sustained very briefly and is part of a dynamic process. The turn completion (exit) is every bit as important as the turn initiation.

I showed Inna how to let the ski lift the body right up out of the turn into perpendicular and she managed to copy this straight away. Correct turn exit dynamics creates better flow from one turn to the next and it is of great importance for steep terrain, off-piste and slalom. We did a full run of this in preparation for going into the slalom. On the second slalom run Inna achieved the goal of 40 seconds – and would have continued to improve with more runs. I explained that it was important that she was always able to think about technique during the slalom and that as long as her attention was on technique then she was safe to try to go a bit faster on each following run.




















Carving Introduction

The fact is that you can never really go fast in slalom until you can carve. After the slalom session we went on to very shallow gradients to work on carving. I asked Inna to roll her feet and move her body across a little (same direction) standing on two edges with weight in the middle of the two skis. We practiced traversing and making shallow turns uphill riding the edges of the skis and leaving clean cutting tracks in the snow. I explained that with speed all the weight and pressure would automatically move to the outside ski. When stationary I stood below Inna to catch her when she changed edges onto the downhill edges by rolling the feet and moving the body. This edge change is easier when moving but only when moving slowly when learning. If there is any speed then the learner cannot hold the skis locked on edge. Inna was persuaded that going faster would help – but it absolutely doesn’t. Later on she mistakenly believed that she was carving when the skis were still pivoting in a longer arc – but she came to understand this. Later again, when on very flat ground I saw her successfully experimenting with getting the skis to run along their edges. This takes practice but now she understood what to look for and had a basic idea of what “carving” means.

Skating Timing

Inna wasn’t clear on “down/up” timing so we revised it a little. I explained that like a motorbike dropping down and coming back up out of the turn the down/up simply happened from this movement of the body into and out of the turn. We practiced that for a while. I then explained that a skating action is also a down/up movement of the leg and if the skating is done slowly then it can match the down/up from the dynamics of the turn and work in sync with it. We tried skating and then adding dynamics to feel how they link together. Then after this we tried skiing and adding skating to coordinate the leg action with the dynamics. This was videoed and is the second part of the clip above. Once again Inna wasn’t happy about trying to do this slowly so I explained that again this was wrong and that it meant she had to be more aware and work harder. For that reason we moved on to working on short swings – jumping and pivoting the skis in the air. The jumping really makes the legs work and most of the jump is from the downhill leg. I explained that this is a coordination exercise used by instructors to improve their overall movement and that it had to be done at low speed but with great energy – exaggerating the down/up movement.  Inna did very well at copying this. I then showed how to coordinate the turn exit dynamics of a normal turn with this sort of jump to use the energy of the skis to get airborne and pivot the start of the next turn – a modern technique used in slalom racing and useful off piste in difficult snow. We tried this off-piste and Inna did remarkably well with it.  Now she was really starting to understand the timing and how to use it. This is basic and fundamental. It can be altered and changed later to adapt to terrain and other circumstances – with things such as leg-retraction added – but those are only advanced “extras”. We also did some turns off-piste just applying the full dynamics and to Inna”s surprise it was very easy for her.

Bumps Introduction

We completed the lesson with some pivoting in bumps – the fronts of the skis in the air and then pulling them downhill into a pivot. To facilitate this I asked Inna to lift the downhill ski and swing the tip off downhill in the air – the reason for this was just to get it out of the way. Now Inna could begin to see a practical reason for pivoting and how it would help directly to use the bumps and make them enjoyable. This was good because other than the short-swings we had not practised pivoting during this final session.


Inna had covered a lot of ground in only three mornings and she understood everything she was trying to do. She has really good ability to adapt and accurately carry out difficult exercises and should have no problem progressing and skiing to higher levels now that she understands how it really works. She is a very good student and learns quickly.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rowdy 6 – The Battle Continues…

Until the solution is found and proven it is never wise to assert that you know what the problem is in somebody’s skiing. The complexities of skiing and the body itself are such that they only make your optimism look naive or foolish. So I quickly regretted having decided that “the feet” were definitely the problem with Rowdy’s skiing. Back to square one again!

The ski’s job is to lift you up – so it is always trying to flatten on the snow and so it will pull your knee out as it tries to flatten – unless you work to stop this from happening.

Working on pivoting from the uphill edge (uphill ski) it was clear that there was a glitch in the middle of the turn just at the point where the edge change was made. When on the uphill edge of the uphill ski gravity was helping the foot roll inwards and to keep the knee held in – but as soon as the ski was on the inside edge then the opposite happened and gravity helped the ski flatten outwards and pulled Rowdy into the outside edge of his foot (inside the ski boot) and pulled his knee out. He could overcome this but only with great concentration.

When carving Rowdy’s stance looked correct and this proves that he can hold the foot and knee in – but as soon as he went from carving to pivot the whole picture reverted back to the foot and knee allowing the ski to flatten and so failing to be held in beneath the body.

When skiing on steeper terrain the famous Rowdy Glitch (shuffle) returned during each turn transition. It was almost impossible for Rowdy to just go from leg to leg without a step or stem – sometimes the foot, knee and hip all coming out and leading eventually to a fall as the lack of support on the outside leg meant that he’d fall back onto the inside leg.

Those three issues started to reveal the nature of the underlying problem. Rowdy has – since his early training in stem-christies – believed that there is a different stance and way of moving for pivoting and carving. He believed that for a ski to carve it required everything to be held inwards tightly so that the ski stayed on edge – but that to pivot – as in the stem turns – the edge had to be released. To release the edge he would always use a flattening of the ski by pushing out as in a stem turn – the knee coming out in the process. He used the same action of releasing the ski edges  when sideslipping. What Rowdy has never understood is that pivoting does not require a release of the ski edges. The same basic coordination from the foot to the head is required for both carving and pivoting. The only difference between the two is how the centre of mass is directed – and even this is not definable – it has to be done by feel.

The glitch in Rowdy’s turn transition is because he has no support from the released ski edge and so it cannot bring him back up out of the turn at the end – so he has to try to step back uphill onto the other ski and then stand up on it – reversing his timing in the process. I explained that the ski has to grip right to the end of the turn as the body is lifted over it right into the perpendicular across the hill – then the next turn begins easily. The turn exit and subsequent entry can be seen as a single swing of a pendulum (head at top and feet at bottom) with the legs switching in the middle – the upper leg pulling inwards easily as the body continues to fall from perpendicular down into the new turn. This is a dynamic and fluid single process. Once into the turn the job is to relax at the hips if necessary and sink down into the turn sustaining or building pressure – between pendulum swings.

Inna day 2

Before heading out to ski we revised the use of the feet indoors without boots on. I made sure that Inna knew what the wrong feelings were – the ankle collapsing and the knee twisting inwards – before moving on to the correct feelings working from the heels and using the subtaler joints between the heels and the ankles. It’s important to do this without boots on so that everything is visible and the strength of the ankles can be felt without any support from ski boots.

Posture and Hips

Our first skiing today was to warm up and to apply the feet rocking accurately. Inna’s stance was definitely stronger than when we started out yesterday so progress was continuing. After warming up I decided to work on improving other aspects of Inna’s stance – especially at the hip joints. Skating gets the hips working quite well but this is not enough – there needs to be a lot of awareness to avoid locking up and resisting with the hips. I asked Inna to first of all tilt up the pelvis at the front and then to bend at the hips to release the hip joints and relax the muscles. Once this was done I asked her to tilt the upper-body forwards from the hip joints. I knew that when she skied like this she would feel very strange as if she was tilted far too far forwards so I videoed it to show her that it looked mush better, more natural and more relaxed. We worked also on a “goalkeeper” carriage of the hands and arms. The first section of the video shows Inna leaning forwards… she appeared to retain this relaxed posture for the rest of the session.



We did a small amount of work on pivoting from the uphill edge of the uphill ski. Inna felt very confused because this skill is still totally alien to her. The main goal today was to show how the tilted upper-body posture was needed to place the weight correctly over the skis for pivoting. I’m not sure she understood this but we made some progress towards familiarisation with the pivoting skills. The coordination – rolling of the feet, pulling inwards with the adductor muscles, moving inwards (towards the turn centre) with the centre of mass, relaxed hips with the upper-body tilted forwards – are common skills in all skiing. Pivoting helps to develop this coordination further.

Dynamics / Slalom

We returned to working with dynamics with improved feet and posture awareness and because Inna was starting to feel this working better we continued to ski for a while on some longer runs to give her the opportunity to practice. I wanted her to feel confident with this so that we could begin working in the slalom course. After a drinks break we went to the slalom and the basic rules were explained to Inna. The goal of slalom is “technical skiing” and speed in a race course is a consequence of good skiing. You don’t try to ski fast directly or use force because you quickly find that those things don’t work. The course was heavily rutted so Inna was shown how to take a very wide and slow line (speed is controlled by choice of line and not by braking). The idea was to ski down the course applying all of the elements of dynamics that she has been working on – using the poles as a reference for directing the centre of mass towards. The photographs below show that everything is basically correct and that tomorrow if conditions are better she will be able to take a tighter and faster line comfortably. Inna found the experience enjoyable – and that’s how it should be when done correctly!










Foot Forwards

After the slalom I introduced “Foot Forwards” technique. The exercise we used was without skis and while using the inside leg as a support we had to spin or turn around this inside leg pushing the outside foot forwards on the snow along the inside edge of the ski boot (making a clear arc in the snow). Normally people find this exercise very difficult but Inna managed it first time. It gives an accurate feeling of what needs to be done with the skis on. At first Inna didn’t feel much difference but soon she was understanding and feeling how it tightened the turn radius. Two things work together to control the turn radius – dynamics and pushing forwards of the outside foot. This is usually very clear when skiing on steep terrain where it greatly improves the grip and control of speed keeping the turns short and tight. One advantage of pushing the foot forwards is that it makes it much easier to stay strongly on the heel as the turn progresses.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Inna day 1

Prior to coaching Inna was comfortable on her skis on moderate pistes. Her movement was fluid and there was no indication of any underlying biomechanical issues. The only limitations in her skiing were clearly coming from poor teaching methods – the effect of which could be clearly seen in her movement patterns.

Initial Technical Assessment

In the first photograph the feet are left way behind the body due to all the weight being on the front of the feet and against the front of the ski boots with the ankles collapsing.  Nothing can function correctly in this situation. In the second photograph there is a stem with the outside ski in the turn being pushed out at the heel as the foot is twisted into the turn. This is fundamentally incorrect coordination and prevents the skis and body  from working correctly. The “vertical” movement timing is the wrong way around – going up to start the turn and down to finish.  All of those problems have been created by teachers. There is no awareness of dynamics and the body and legs are static. Posture tends to get blocked and stiffened at the hip joints to compensate for the ankles collapsing. Despite Inna’s clear and natural sense of movement there is no understanding of how to use the body or the skis – the result of many years of exposure to mainstream international ski teaching! The skills that have previously been absorbed by her body do not make sense to her so she cannot explain how to make a turn. The good news is that those “skills” do not make sense to anybody because they are nonsense. Anybody skiing this way will encounter serious limitations sooner or later in their skiing that they won’t be able to get around. Sometimes aggressive people can get a bit further along – but often the most intelligent people get into great difficulty – because they are more accurate with the movements they have been taught.










Stance and Feet

Due to Inna’s stance I decided to start with the feet. If nothing works properly until this is corrected then there was no point starting to work on anything else. I explained that it was necessary at this stage to get the weight onto the heels – not against the back of the ski boots – but accurately over a point precisely over the front of the heels and just beneath the ankle bones. This requires standing up and supporting yourself – not leaning on the boots for support. This should really be taught with the boots off – but we will get around to that tomorrow. The foot rocks from edge to edge using a joint beneath the ankle bone called the subtaler joint. When standing on the heel you can make this joint work and rock your feet clearly from edge to edge. When bending you have to “squat” using the knees and hips when remaining on the heels. This happens automatically when you stay on the heels. When you fail to stay on the heels and go on the front of the feet then the ankles collapse and the feet cannot be rocked – instead, when the ankle bends the knee twists into the turn as the heel pushes out and this places the knee at risk of injury. Bending when on the heel causes the quadriceps in the leg to be used strongly and also tightens the muscles on the front of the lower leg (anterior tibialis) – which strengthens the ankle and prevents it from flexing. This strength is what we are looking for and it’s why racers use very strong ski boots – not soft and flexible ones. Ingemar Stenmark – the most successful racer in history – claimed that the muscle he felt the most when skiing was his anterior tibialis.

Another problem with the ankles collapsing is that the hips tend to lock up in compensation causing the upper-body to “lean back”. We would not be looking at posture just now but correcting the feet would lead to better posture automatically.

Inna understood the principles and was immediately able to modify her stance. I explained to Inna the principle of “perpendicularity” to the slope and how sliding when perpendicular should feel like standing up vertically on the flat. You do not “lean or push” forwards!


Once the stance had been worked on for a while I introduced Dynamics (link here to full explanation). Understanding that Inna had studied psychology and not physics I used the “Magic Wall” explanation instead of Newtonian mechanics. Fortunately Inna had never been told the “wrong” things about “balance” so there weren’t too many problems to correct – but the concept of disequilibrium was totally new and had never been explored before. We did all the static shoulder pushing exercises and related them to pressure on the feet – then went straight into using the magic wall in turning. Inna understood the idea of trying to “fall” to the side and managed to coordinate this very well. Some people have great trouble with this even when the feet and stance are working well – but as I pointed out at the beginning Inna has a good sense of movement and so she was able to achieve this correctly immediately. The result was  more effortless skiing – perhaps feeling a bit strange to begin with – but that’s good because it means that changes were clearly being made.

In the two photographs below the inclination from the dynamics can be seen supported by a much stronger stance. Here Inna is using her natural ability to control her direction through moving her Centre of Mass into the turn – instead of pushing her feet away out of the turn! Correct “vertical” timing is starting to happen spontaneously with a down/up movement induced by falling down into the turn and the skis lifting her back up out of the turn.

Notice also how  the knee is held in strongly during the turn (this is called knee angulation) whereas in the photograph above (right photo in “technical assessment”)  when the ski is pushed out the knee is pushed out also and so there is no support from the outside ski during the turn.










Extending Dynamic Range

I explained and demonstrated “dynamic range” to Inna. Basically, people try to remain upright and not fall over but the reality is that they need to do the opposite. When you try to fall over with dynamics you quickly hit a limit around 15° of inclination where the ski overpowers your efforts to fall over. It’s the job of the developing skier to extend this range of freedom as far as possible. The Magic Wall is so powerful that nobody can overcome it but it guarantees fantastic freedom to throw your body about like crazy and know that you will not fall because of this – you will just improve.


After the video was taken I introduced skating into the skiing. We began by skating down a gentle gradient and then around some gentle long turns. Inna had no trouble skating so we quickly moved on. The next exercise was to skate/step uphill while traversing and to finish the process by stepping onto the uphill ski and standing up on it then toppling/falling into the turn while standing strongly on this leg. This is an important move to learn because skiing is really about skating on one leg at a time (even when two are together and on the snow) – but this is not really visible to the eye.  This exercise was preparation for the “direct method” of skating straight downhill and then adding dynamics so that each skate evolves into a turn and then transforms skating into skiing – maintaining the same leg action and rhythm. This is how the legs become functional in skiing and the down/up motion of skating complements the down/up motion of dynamics. (motorbike dropping down into a turn and then coming back up out). Inna did well on her first attempt and managed to keep the rhythm going, the legs working and the body moving. This is how we change a static skier with inactive legs into a dynamic skier with active legs.

Off Piste

We experimented a little off piste. Form the first turn I could see that Inna did not move in strongly enough when on her left leg – and unsurprisingly that led to a fall shortly afterwards. The idea was to show that nothing needs to change for off piste skiing and that dynamics works. In fact the direct feedback of the deep snow is important for developing dynamics. The deep snow causes the ski to turn more strongly lifting you up and out of the turn more strongly – so you have to work better on the dynamics or you get thrown over to the outside to the turn. This happened to Inna!


We spent about 20 minutes on a rapid introduction to pivoting and “Edge Choice”  before the end of the session – because it is one of the three main keys to good skiing and I didn’t want to ignore it on the first day. The importance was to generate awareness that here is an issue that needs to be developed. The three keys to skiing are 1 Dynamics, 2 Skating and 3 Edge Choice.

A full account of “pivoting” can be found at this link!  After checking Inna’s ability to sideslip – including forward and backward diagonal sideslipping – which she had no trouble with – I went straight into a demonstration. Inna predictably could not see the mechanism of the very tight pivot – until I explained how I was standing on the uphill edge of the ski throughout the first half of the turn. There wasn’t enough time for a proper explanation – especially as the foot needs to rock onto the inside edge (inside the ski boot) while the ski stays on the outside edge (made possible by the lateral stiffness of the boot shaft). I simply had Inna hold my ski pole for support and helped her through a few pivots so she could feel the mechanism. I demonstrated that this way of turning is in the “fall line” – the body and skis do not travel forwards across the hill (this is why it is developed from a sideslip). We will work more carefully on this tomorrow. Inna’s attempts at it were fine but we didn’t have time to develop it so I asked her to focus on dynamics and the feet for the rest of the day.



Going to my car in the morning I heard a woodpecker pecking at a tree and managed to photograph it – unfortunately a branch was in the way. While was doing this a squirrel leaped from this tree to another tree in an incredibly athletic move that amazed me! Springtime is definitely in the air!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rowdy 5

Historically Rowdy has always shown clear progress during almost every coaching session – then when left to work on things on his own they deteriorate. The key is when you can get somebody to genuinely change their habitual overall stance and appearance and retain this change permanently. Many times in the past I’ve been sure that this key has been found for Rowdy – only to discover shortly afterwards that it truly has not. Today was no exception. There was such a good improvement with the chi-hips work last time – the neatly aligned stance in the photos – that I thought we were there. Today it was once again back to square one. I’d been strongly encouraged by the chi-hips genuinely working for Haluk and felt hopeful that this unique insight might also do the trick here – but it didn’t. It’s a good lesson on how everyone is different and even the most powerful insights and information might still not be appropriate to get someone through.

I noticed immediately that Rowdy had not retained a lot of the chi-hips effect in his skiing so I decided that we should begin by dealing with his timing issue and associated stemming. Working at standing up on the uphill ski and on  its uphill edge and then coming down – falling into the next turn  from this ski – would guarantee correct timing and elimination of any pushing out of the ski. The pattern was to roll the foot in, pull in with the knee and adductors (being careful to stay off the front of the foot to avoid twisting the knee inwards), then aligning the hip, then moving the centre of mass down and into the new turn. After a bit of practice this was done by preparing the foot, knee, leg and hip before standing on it. We did a few exercises so that Rowdy could feel himself standing on the uphill edge of the ski but downhill edge of the foot inside the ski boot, with the foot rolled onto the downhill edge. When I supported Rowdy doing this in a pivot he was fine and it was a new feeling for him – everything stayed in place. Later on – to avoid Rowdy getting stuck too long on his uphill edge I suggested that it wasn’t necessary to go on the uphill edge – any edge would do – or a flat ski. But the top edge is good for separating out the timing issues and making any stemming impossible. As soon as the video camera was put on Rowdy his timing started to show signs of deteriorating again – even when standing on the uphill edge. He was trying desperately to pull the knee inwards laterally with the adductor muscles and was moving everything inwards – but the knees were still going noticeably outwards and he couldn’t feel it. He described a serious tension and resistance when he tried to pull inwards. Eventually we had to stop because his feet were in serious agony. The last time he had felt this was when skiing with me with Bridget and Mike several years ago and he had thought this problem had gone away.  Rowdy isn’t dyslexic so he doesn’t jumble his physical learning. So what was really going on and what is at the bottom of all this trouble?


When looking at Rowdy’s leg during the turn I felt certain that he was standing on the outside edge of the foot and not the inside edge. The way the turns were being executed there was no outwards pushing or stemming of the skis possible and so nothing was directly visible except the shape of the leg. I asked Rowdy to do the pole test where he pulls the inside tip of the ski against a ski pole and I watch what happens to the tail. Sure enough the tail went outwards which can only happen by pushing out. If you pull inwards with the adductors then the tail comes in and the skis diverge at the tips. Rowdy was pushing out into a stemming position to force the tip of the ski against my pole instead of pulling sideways against the pole. It transpired that he had misinterpreted my previous example of this (some time ago) and had been practising doing it the wrong way. Years of pushing outwards has this action firmly trained into the body and it is an unconscious skill or habit. It’s so strong that it comes back at him and then determines his conscious perception – the way he interprets things and generates confusion. No matter how many times we had done exercises pulling inwards, working with everything from the feet upwards – it never overcame this initial ski school junk of pushing the skis out into a stem.

We abandoned the lesson on the snow due to the pain and went indoors to look at the feet. I explained the location of the subtaler joint and got Rowdy to roll the feet beneath the ankles. This is no different from how I have always done this exercise – but it appeared to connect better this time. It appears that what Rowdy does is to initially roll the foot onto the inside edge and then push the heel outwards, twisting the forefoot inside edge down and inwards (like in the pole exercise). The pressure should not be on the forefoot it should remain just in front of the heel (there are other ways of dong this too – heel pressure is not always necessary) and the forefoot should actually turn slightly outwards. I know we have looked at this before many years ago.  The physically agonising tension is coming from the conflict between rolling the foot inwards and pushing the heel outwards. The stem is coming from this too when skiing. The timing problem is coming from this and the mangled stance is coming from this. The reason he struggled to initiate turns when trying to just stand up on the uphill edge of the uphill ski earlier on – is also coming from this. The mangling of the chi-hips is coming from this. Why has this happened? It has happened because of being initially taught skiing in a snowplough and a “Stem Christie” (“Basic Swing” if you are taught by a BASI indoctrinated and certified moron instead) This damaging technique makes the skier permanently defensive and dependent on emotionally driven movement patterns. When they become ingrained in the unconscious they can be as hard to remove as a full blown phobia. Now that this is correctly isolated the physical action required feels totally alien to Rowdy – but he is now able to understand what “pulling inwards” means so that’s a start. Let’s hope that this one really is the key. I believe it will be!


The day before going up to help Rowdy it was the first warm sunny day of the year so I got the bike out and went for a ride in the sun and fresh air! Wow it was good but I felt like a complete lump of lard on the bike – very sluggish and slow after gaining about 10 kilos since last summer. What was interesting was that I was able to take my mind off that and just focus on the process. The previous skiing session we had worked on chi-hips and I’d explained that if you didn’t feel the core muscles and the lower abs contract then you really didn’t “get it” or even the posture. On the bike I was able to feel how the motion of the spine needs to be exaggerated to really get the hip extensors to work and the core to become engaged – it’s not a real exaggeration – it just feels like one to someone who is used to keeping those parts immobile. The more active the core was the easier it was to centre the mind as well. This is exactly what author Danny Drier describes and once again I can confirm that he is right.



Went out for a short 5km run today again working on the Chi movement pattern. It’s amazing how cross training reinforces the awareness of this. It’s the first time I’ve even felt myself running by using the hip extensors – it feels weird – like the legs are on back to front! How is it possible NOT to be aware of such big muscles. I can understand Rowdy getting lost with his feet (which are really complex – 1/4 of all the bones in the body) but until now I was unconscious of the biggest muscles in my body!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rowdy 4

Chi Hips – Coordination

Somehow or other Rowdy had managed to confuse the issue regarding the use of the hips and was managing to hurt his back when skiing on his own. Guess I’m not redundant yet as a coach! This isn’t a great surprise because the correct solution for skiing is very counter-intuitive and very easy to confuse. It’s also almost impossible to discover in the first place.  We carefully ran through some basic exercises in a traverse, just isolating the hip on the downhill ski and pulling it back – avoiding bringing either the foot or shoulder back along with it. In reality that’s all there is to it – holding this for an entire turn instead of just a traverse – but it’s never that easy! Rowdy had trouble at first isolating the movement of the hip. To tackle it more thoroughly we went indoors to look at posture. Prior to pulling the hip back the pelvis has to be brought to “neutral”. For most purposes “neutral pelvis” means tilting the pelvis upwards at the front but very importantly this must be accompanied by releasing the muscles at the hip joint and bending slightly – simply to avoid locking up the hips when tilting the pelvis upwards. When the hips are relaxed and the pelvis tilted upwards it can be felt like a “crunch” in the lower abdomen. If you don’t feel the crunch then you don’t “get it”. Once the pelvis is aligned correctly like this then the hip can be pulled back on one side. Normally this would happen automatically when completing a walking or running stride as the foot moves behind the body and hip is allowed to follow it - shoulder and arm on the same side going the opposite way (…except that Rowdy doesn't usually walk this way – reaching ahead instead!) Skiing however is unnatural and during a turn the foot moves in front of the body (if skiing correctly) and so this tends to pull the hip forwards – causing many common skiing problems (normally it isn’t described this way but just trying to keep the shoulders facing downhill causes this problem.) We have to learn to consciously pull the hip backwards not to only stop it being pulled forwards but to actually bring it backwards instead – despite the foot and knee moving ahead. The shoulder must not follow the hip backwards. I asked Rowdy at this stage to think about turning his bottom to one side (inside of the turn) and that appeared to help loosen the tension he was was experiencing. When done correctly there should be a slight tension in the spine with it twisting from the pelvis upwards to the ribs. The left hip pulling backwards would twist the spine anti-clockwise right up to the rib cage. Classic “upper/lower body separation” as conventionally taught would have the left shoulder pull backwards instead, causing the spine to twist clockwise from the pelvis upwards. (This has seriously damaging consequences which we will look at later.)

Rowdy lacked the specific awareness required to isolate the body parts and movement. This is good to see because it clearly exposes an area of weakness so that it can be effectively addressed.

To help Rowdy avoid having his shoulders follow the hip backwards he is skiing here (video) holding both poles and arms towards the inside of the turn – instead of the classic “facing outwards”. This exercise is normally reserved for race training and is never accompanied with an explanation. Suffice to say that clearing slalom poles with the outside arm achieves the same thing and so hinged “breakaway” slalom poles have advanced skiing in the right direction – though no race trainer can ever properly explain how.

Rowdy shows a good strong stance which is well aligned, with plenty of inclination. There is angulation showing at the knees but more angulation could be present at the hips. This is still a big improvement at the hips because previously they would not even have been even aligned.









The lack of apparent hip angulation here is due to a stiffness still being present around the hip joints. Later on I pointed out that the upper body tilts forwards from the hips when skiing (this is to be avoided in walking or running where the foot does come behind) and so with the pulling back of the hip being around the axis of the spine the hip is pulled slightly upwards. Rowdy had been trying to pull the hip directly backwards so altering this detail seemed to free up his hips a lot.  When the hip is pulled back into this position then the body is free to drop down into the turn with good hip angulation if desired.

Non Resistance

To help Rowdy loosen up at the hips we did some carving with the aim of tightening the carve radius by dropping down suddenly into the turn by relaxing the supporting hip joint. I explained that in running the key to speed is not leg power – it’s relaxation at the joints. By relaxing the hips and tilting the entire body slightly more when running we accelerate – due to gravity. Likewise in skiing we do not get more turning power from greater strength but from greater relaxation. Carving provides clear and uncluttered feedback from the skis so it makes it easy to focus on relaxing the hip joints. The greater angulation caused by dropping down at the hip causes a sharp increase in edge angle and the dropping down allows pressure to build up from the edge angle (speed), gravity and the impulse from the exaggerated dynamics. This is how to make tight carved turns. Rowdy did pretty will at this and it helped his timing – which generally has a problem when he is going slower and not exaggerating the down/up component.

The following photos show the timing problem at lower speed from the video. Rowdy is not exiting the turn correctly because he is not allowing the downhill ski to lift him up out of the turn. Instead, he steps onto the uphill ski and then continues to extend upwards on the uphill ski while entering the turn. All of the upwards movement should be completed on the downhill ski so that as the uphill ski takes over the following motion of the centre of mass is downwards towards the new turn centre. The extension being used at the start of the turn leads to a subsequent loss of pressure (like a ball at the top of its trajectory becomes weightless) and so in the second photo the tail of the ski breaks away (This is probably worsened by the falling inwards from the dynamics starting as the upward extension ends – meaning the the gravitational acceleration adds to the loss of pressure). One way to remove the timing error – while keeping the step - is by simply standing up on the uphill edge of the uphill ski (turn not actually finished yet) then once standing up on the top edge of the top ski, falling laterally downwards into the next turn. This would also prevent the stem seen in the first photo. Better still – just let the lower ski do all the work and do all the standing up on it – eliminating the step completely.










To try to communicate the action of the hips better I demonstrated the same action with the arms. Normally if you push something you push through with your arm and shoulder together butting all your weight into it. Here the idea was to push forward with the hand and to let the shoulder swing backward at the same time. When pushing against a resistance this can’t use body weight so it has to use the core muscles instead – and they are felt contracting. This allowed Rowdy to connect with the core muscles for the first time.

Standard teaching tells the skier to have the shoulders facing more or less downhill, taking this to an extreme with short turns where it is even described as a winding up action followed by a recoiling release of energy at the start of the next turn. This is achieved by the skis and legs coming around against the upper body. Sometimes it is done with two points of rotation specifically at the hip joints – but this requires a wide stance and totally independent leg action. With a closer stance one ski will finish below the other – the skis even sometimes functioning together as one platform - and so the hip must normally come through the turn and the body winds up all the way up through the spine – giving one point of rotation at the base of the spine - commonly referred to as “upper/lower body separation” – with everything below the belly button considered “lower body”. This action has the effect of bringing the lower front of the rib cage (I have a big rib cage!) almost into contact with the pelvis above the hip joint. There is a clear squashing or compression effect and a relaxation of all of the core and postural muscles. This absolutely destroys the lower back.  There is even a tendency to look for total relaxation in the upper body – but this is a mistaken objective when it simply means that the core and postural muscles have been deactivated.

The Chi Hips action does the opposite! Pulling the hip backwards opens the abdominal space (same as reaching behind in a stride as the shoulder above moves forward with the arm) and activates the core muscles – which then contract around the internal organs providing a “hydraulic sac” which distributes any vertical shock over a wide cross-sectional area instead of just thorough the spine. The re-alignment of the hips, legs and feet into the direction of travel of the ski is automatic. Going through a turn transition is a bit like the dual action in cycling of pulling up on one pedal while pushing down on the other and gives a dramatically efficient transition from one turn to another. Although great awareness of individual parts of the body is needed the overall result is a clear upper/lower body integration – not a separation. The effect is so strong that it is very surprising. In deep snow it can be so strong as to overwhelm the turn – but in trees it makes a magically rapid and effortless switch of direction.