Thursday, April 4, 2013

Luke 5

Today was miserable weather so the focus was squarely on technique and concentrating on strengthening the weakest areas. Ella was totally wasted from a hang-over and I was hoping to witness projectile vomiting from the chairlift after she was offered a piece of “pain au chocolate” but disappointingly that never happened. Needless to say there is no sympathy for self inflicted suffering.

During the first part of the morning we more or less just skied over to Tignes Les Brevières and Les Boises and used the trip as practice along the way. Yesterday at the end of the day I’d spotted that when skating Luke only pushed his legs out to the side and didn’t move his body mass. I’d pointed that out to him and explained that this might be one of his issues in skiing – where it’s extremely important to actually move the centre of mass. During the first descent of the day today Luke adapted correspondingly and reported a big difference in power and grip. This appears to be a big step towards understanding the displacement of centre of mass instead in just displacing the feet.  

Leonie was frightened at the top of the Trolls black run and had a confidence crisis. I explained that this has nothing much to do with her skiing – which is basically fine – but is to do with mental preparation. If you have a fear then only advance mental preparation will permit you to respond correctly in the heat of action. The unconscious mind dominates and the current program that it is running is what will manifest – totally overriding any conscious efforts to respond differently. I highly recommend the following book on the subject: “The Cure of Nervousness and Stage Fright” by H. Ernest Hunt, written around 1920 – before modern “psychology” distorted the subject completely.

Florence skied behind me down to Les Brevieres so that she would have a chance to observe and copy the dynamics and timing. Ella and Luke respond well to visual information – when backed with a formal understanding. I asked Florence to follow closely because simply trying to follow the track obliges a certain discipline and forces adaptation.

Pivot (outside ski)

Later in the morning we started work on “pivoting”. I’d avoided this when the weather was good because it is slow and not extremely exciting to learn. When there is good skiing to be had then it’s better to focus on dynamics and hit the off-piste as much as possible. Pivoting skill is fundamental anyway to good skiing so it was time to get on with it. I felt it would benefit Leonie and Florence the most as with a bit of work it would give them both much more confidence on the steeps and ice. Luke had apparently not properly understood it previously so it would be useful there too. It’s generally an excellent way to develop edge awareness, angulation, coordination and fine control of the motion and effect of the centre of mass. On top of this it is a “braking” way of skiing that gives the ultimate speed control and safety in fall-line (without going across the hill) skiing – the feet always being downhill and almost vertically beneath the body for security. The pivot is detailed here in this link. I assisted everyone through a pivot and then by using pole support everyone worked on it alone. The pivot was from the uphill ski and turn initiated on the outside/uphill edge, while rolling the foot onto the inside edge of the foot inside the ski boot. We all worked at this for a while before heading off for lunch.

Pivot (inside ski)

After lunch Leonie and Luke continued and after a failed attempt at pivoting on bumps or ridges with the ski tips in the air I decided to work on “inside ski” pivoting. The full details of the technique for this are on the dedicated “pivot” page.  I explained that this leads to being able to pivot with both skis simultaneously as a single pivoting platform – about the only time where “two footed” skiing is desirable. It’s for this reason that bumps skiers and fall-line powder skiers are best with their feet together. Racers in contrast need the feet apart to get easily onto the inside edge of the outside ski from the start of the turn.

Boot  Arcs

During the pivoting exercises I noticed that there was a great deal of difficulty in maintaining the pivot towards the end – when the ski lifts the skier up and “out” the most and the ski tends to pull the hip and skier around. This is where a lot of work needs to be done to both prevent rotation (especially hip rotation) and to angulate and keep the body inside the turn. The best way I have found to get that understanding across is to remove the skis and work on the actions – with pushing the foot forwards – in just ski boots. This is also good practice for pushing the foot forwards – which is inherently linked to angulation anyway. In the video clip it’s easy to see the struggle trying to hold the hip in, back and inside the turn as the leg comes around. Most often the pelvis swings around or the whole body swings around and get’s thrown out of the turn. This exercise is a great way to isolate and feel the correct movements and how to relax the muscles around the hip at the same time.

Upper Edge Turn Initiation

The pivot teaches you that a turn can start from the uphill edge of the uphill ski so there is absolutely no need to “stem” to get on the downhill inner edge. The next exercise (to eliminate the stemming for Leonie) was to stand up on the uphill edge of the uphill ski when traversing the hill and then fall over into the turn from there – the inside ski off the snow. Leonie had a lot of trouble sensing that she was failing to get up onto the uphill leg before starting the turn – so the continued stemming was quite strong. Luke struggled to centre himself and was falling backwards most of the time. For Luke this exercise exposed that fact that his “two footedness” in general had allowed him to avoid the need to adjust accurately to the perpendicular when going through a turn. I explained that he had to come forwards when going into the turn (if moving from the vertical) and slightly backwards to finish (if finishing vertical). Luke made the necessary adaptation and felt more grip and control. He also realised that he had never really been standing solidly on his uphill leg to start a turn until now. Another thing that was pointed out to Luke is that he has a tendency to move off into the turn and keep extending his uphill leg for a moment – instead of coming down towards the snow from the very start of the turn. This can flip the timing around and worsen rotation problems as the extension through the start of the turn prevents the hip from coming inwards.


Leonie gradually became more aware of her stemming and rotation but eventually realised that she was not specifically focusing on the task of standing on that uphill ski BEFORE starting the turn. Her focus was vague due to being distracted by thinking about the turn in general and perhaps due to previous anxiety. I explained that the focus has to be like a laser – precisely on target. Anything else indicates a lack of appropriate focus. Leonie started to see that her “technical” issue was principally a lack of focus and an associated lack of awareness.

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