Saturday, April 6, 2013

Luke 6

Despite being forced to eat delicious rich food all week totally against my will I’d still lost almost half a kilo by the end. Nobody in the family group of 4+2 ended up in hospital and everyone had a great time with the young ones burning the candle brightly at both ends. Everyone made the absolute most of their time and that’s what it’s all about. (Forget about lying on a beach impersonating a dead whale) Florence survived being unforgettably terrorised a few times and there were tears and bruises bravely won for Leonie too. Ella was buzzed with the freedom of speed and “out of control” control and Luke was plugged into developing – winning the slalom with true merit. Olive was happily pottering around somewhere and Tibo looked strong when introduced to skating on skis at the end of the week. 

Florence has some homework to do – starting with defining a point and a line in mathematics in a way that avoids circular logic. I’ll warn now that this might not be possible! ( . She also has to find out the real name of author George Orwell and more challengingly has to work out why he chose the date 1984 for his famous book (Not a reversal of 1948 - Clue: “Wolves in sheep’s clothing”). Tibo can look here ( for data showing why computer models don’t make great science – but do make great politics. Meanwhile I have to go to rehab to get over my “good food” addiction – again.

(In the slalom video Luke is the winner in the finals and Leonie’s speed has been doubled during the editing…)


The final day was another bad weather day – especially for this time of year. Ella was back on form – she turned her head quickly when I said good morning. Off-piste was out of the question so that really left two main options to help avoid spending all day doing exercises on the piste – bumps and racing! We weren’t going to spend the last day just doing exercises – because that’s completely pointless if you are not going to ski again for another year – so we had to get some practical skiing in. As usual it was still best to start out carefully and work on some technical stuff that could be used later on. Leonie still needed work on overcoming her tendency to stem – everywhere – including in lift lines and probably in her dreams too. Ella and Florence had missed a really important session yesterday afternoon so they would have to catch up a little – but there would be no time to repeat the detailed work we had done on angulation. Luke was managing to get something out of whatever we were working on – most often making connections totally by himself – which is how it should really work.

Leonie was somehow complicating issues with talk of “pushing down” on the leg and “transferring weight” – terms that don’t come from me. I’m particularly accurate and careful with all of the technical terminology that I use. She also admitted that she was “pushing down” over the whole foot – though I’ve no idea which leg she meant. Was it the lower leg – to prepare to skate or rise up out of the turn – or was it the uphill leg in some sort of preparation for “transferring weight” – in the wrong direction of course (as is how it is always done in classical ski teaching)? “Pushing down” on the whole foot is how most people end up flexing the ankle and leaning on the front of the ski boot – exactly the issue I was observing with Leonie – who ends up with her head ahead of her feet – hence doing complete forward flips and other painful acrobatics off-piste.   Most people are not aware how deliberately vague and inappropriate most skiing terms are. They are designed to obfuscate and hide the ignorance, stupidity and laziness of the instructors and engineer the clients into being compliant victims at the mercy of their own emotions. “Balance” is the ski instruction version of political correctness in its purest form – a direct implementation of Lord Bertrand Russell’s perverse social engineering philosophy direct from the Frankfurt School – a wonderfully “deconstructed” term that makes no sense whatsoever. (“Fitche laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. . .” –Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society [1953]) If you don’t believe in “balance” you are obviously a homophobic, “anthropogenic global warming (AGW)” denier. (Notice how there has been a subtle shift to “climate change” from “global warming” – since the Earth stopped warming 14 years ago!) Yep – it’s been a cold autumn, winter and now spring this year! (not predicted by the United Nation’s  IPCC $4 billion funding in useless computer modelling and other affronts to real science and scientists). Little did Leonie realise that her skiing problems are “Cultural Marxism” inspired and due to the New World Order organised dumbing down of Western education in general.  However, this is digressing slightly. The aim is to very simply just stand up on the uphill leg BEFORE moving the body towards the new turn. Turn exit dynamics are sacrificed during this exercise so as to focus on and develop the feeling of security, strength and commitment on the new turning leg. This challenges the emotions which are screaming at you to look for security from the downhill “inside” leg.

Luke was manifesting the opposite technical problem from Leonie – but with the same root causes.  Instead of collapsing on the front of the boot, Luke was falling onto the back of the the boot. Both issues are caused through a dependence on balancing mechanisms. Being rigid by leaning against the boots and hence the skis is one way of creating fore/aft balance. Some degree of lateral balance is achieved through rooting yourself on two feet – where your pelvis acts like a bridge arch. If you are dead for a long time and rigger mortis sets in then all of those criteria can be easily fulfilled. Unfortunately we are living. When Erwin Schrodinger asked the question “What is Life” he answered that is was a molecule – later to be discovered and identified as DNA. That’s probably not right though because DNA only appears to be a map for making proteins. Life is movement or “animation” and that happens when proteins change shape due to electrical charges. (Epigenetics – practical theory here and not too much “quantum” or “consciousness” BS!) At root then “life” depends on expansion and contraction of protein molecules – and so does skiing. We eat so we can do this and appreciate doing so. Skiing in many ways is an accurate metaphor for life. The more we move away from balance and balancing structures the more life we have. This means taking risks, accepting a degree of unpredictability and being active. The skier has to seek to recognise and reject all the balancing mechanisms that are being inappropriately used and work in harmony with the non-linear and chaotic world that we live in. The short way to get there is to do practically everything on one leg at a time – which results in a natural switch to achieving stability from dynamics (accelerations) and organised movements and coordination – from life – through self-organisation, instead of stability from balanced catatonic death states. OK I digressed again slightly. Luke had to adjust to the perpendicular better when on one leg to avoid getting caught in the back of the boot. His normal “two footed” stance permitted this mistake due to support from the inside ski masking the problem. Once again – as with Leonie – the emotions were screaming out for security from that inside leg – just the result was different – it either goes one way or the other because you can only get support from front or the back of the boot.

I suggested to start to combine the standing up on the uphill ski now with “turn exit dynamics”. This makes the whole process more natural. You can also just let the uphill foot flatten (roll inwards) due to the pressure on the outside edge of the ski as you stand on it. This prepares the leg – pushing the knee across and slightly  inwards – exactly as happens with pulling in the adductor muscles – but here it just “happens to you”.


We only did a few runs working on technique in the miserable weather when there was an apparently democratic decision to stop for hot drinks. Democracy isn’t always a good thing – it did cause Socrates to be sentenced to death by drinking poison – but we were only having hot chocolate with chantilly which is much healthier. Leaving the Tovière restaurant it was time to get into the bumps which had been the cause of our afternoon pivoting and angulation exercises yesterday. There was a clear improvement with Leonie having more confidence to place the tips of the skis in the air over the shoulder of the bump before pivoting. Leonie still had a tendency to block with the downhill ski. Luke was much better at pivoting both skis together than yesterday and had better control of the hip rotation when sliding down the face of the bump after turning.  I couldn’t spend much time working on this with the girls so just told them to pivot and angulate using the pole for support. One key to the bumps is to avoid “backing off” by keeping weight on the pole. It’s the ability to use the pole to control dynamics at the start of the turn and the control of rotation during the turn that determine how successful the pivot will be. The feet need to be close together and both skis pivoting – most of the pressure being on the outside ski – the feet kept downhill below the body on the mountain.

When there is some speed in the bumps then the dynamics at the start of the turn need to be executed with a retraction of the legs (or compression) to absorb the bump. This often means a sustained support from the ski pole and the knees coming up close to the chest. There needs to be an active extension of the legs pointing the feet downwards into the trough after the compression – this being a variation of “feet forwards” technique. (Often described as a sensation of “pedalling backwards”) Ella was going up instead of down at the start of each turn but there wasn’t enough time to work on developing the timing specifically in the bumps. This “retraction” that needs to be developed is also an important element in more advanced racing technique and in skiing deep powder in the fall-line.


Slalom is about skilful and efficient skiing with clear focus. The “racing” part is just motivational and should never be more than that. When Leonie heard that we were going to go on the timed slalom course she almost immediately fell over and hurt her shoulder: Clear evidence of “lack of focus” caused by distress and distraction. I took time to reassure her that the whole event had to be about quality and focusing internally – not about stress. The moment you find that you cannot focus on your skiing in a course then you have to back off and take a slower line.

Everyone did better than I expected. Leonie only missed the fifty second timer deadline by one second (51 seconds). Florence managed 44.77 seconds and was comfortable in the course. Ella and Luke traded places for the lead over the first two runs so it came down to a decider where they competed in a parallel slalom. I’d mentioned to Ella that she had good angulation and so held herself well inside the turn, but that she was too slow in anticipating the next turn and would need to execute her turn dynamics earlier to improve her line. Luke had to improve his angulation and control his rotation better but also anticipate the next turn earlier too. I also explained that the turn apex should be brought to the level of the pole instead of below it. If you imagine the course on flat ground and trace out the line you would see the pole being the turn apex. When you increase speed the apex moves up to beside the pole because more of the turning effect is caused be the speed than by gravity. The single biggest factor that increases turning power is increased speed – though most people would incorrectly assume that higher speed makes turning harder. (This is an important issue off-piste at higher speeds) Both Luke and Ella went for it in the final but Luke focused well and both improved his angulation/“control of rotation” and his anticipation/timing and gained a well deserved victory 0.23 seconds ahead of Ella and the fastest time of the day at 33.24 seconds.





Ella leading after a slow start. She has good form but starts to lose it due to using the inside leg as a stabiliser instead of trusting her dynamics and staying committed to the outside leg.









Still very close here. Luke struggling with rotation but more solid on the outside leg.









Luke has it in the bag here – good line, good angulation, good inclination and strong support on the outside leg and diverging/skating skis. (stronger posture on his right leg than the left when turning the other way!)






Both Ella and Luke noticed how much sharper their skiing felt after coming out of the slalom. The feedback from being obliged to adapt to those physical constraints is very powerful and effective for developing skiing skill and awareness. We were able to blast down the mountain all the way to La Daille and both Ella and Luke really enjoyed the speed and control.


Tibo was talking about his skating in Canada during lunch so that inadvertently led to me being asked to try to introduce him to some of the skating aspects of skiing – which he would definitely not have learned in ski school. We started out with the “direct method” – just skating downhill and bringing in dynamics. Not only could Tibo not do it (not a surprise at this stage) but nobody else could either. I asked Tibo just to skate properly across the hill, rolling his feet onto their inside edges to grip and moving his body with each skate – all of which he’d failed to do initially. He quickly understood and managed this. We then went to skating from the downhill ski and stepping onto the uphill  edge of the upper ski repetitively going across the hill – starting a turn after the final step when on the uphill ski. From this we then went onto skating inwards all the way around a turn with diverging skis. Everyone managed that quite well but Tibo’s skating experience started to be more obvious here as he was the only one to manage an easy divergence of the ski tips. I then suggested doing linked turns with either two or three skates inwards during the actual turns. This is hard simply because it requires great strength to force yourself inwards – but I’ve been telling everyone all week that staying inside the turn is the hard part so this is a good way to help to understand that. We then returned to the direct method by skating straight downhill. Once again it didn’t function well enough but I spotted that although the skating was corrected there was an absence of dynamics. On the final attempt Tibo got the right timing – connecting the pressure cycle of the skating and the dynamics (both “down/up”). Luke and Ella nailed it too – for the first time. Leonie has the right feeling but needs to build up the confidence to stay on one leg for longer. (The video came a bit later when we repeated the skating just before carving)


Tibo and Florence left to go to a popular rave party at the Follie Douce run by the Val d’Isère gay community and we headed over to the Grand Pré flats so that the skating, commitment to the “one leg” and the angulation (from yesterday) could be practised safely in the powerful context of carving. When carving the feedback is very clear because the ski is railing along a solid line (still undefined mathematically – especially as it is a curve). When you measure between two “points” you can place numbers along the line. There are many different kinds of numbers; integers, real, whole, irrational etc. Unfortunately there are holes that can’t be filled with numbers. It’s weird! Perhaps that’s why some people fall into holes when skiing. The longer carved turns with a solid support underfoot give plenty of time to make corrections or adjustments and to feel things both inside the body and where the body and body parts are in space (proprioception). We used the quiet and moderate gradient to carve all the way down to the Fontaine Froide chair. Luke was able to recapture some of the skating rhythm and timing in the carve – where once again it would have to be cultivated very consciously.

Off Piste

Leonie had missed our big excursion off piste over Col Pers so I decided to go through Piste Perdu for the scenery. It would provide some ski pisted off-piste where ski technique wasn’t the priority and where visibility wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately we still had to contend with manic idiots skiing through the narrow channel between the rocks without any way of stopping or slowing down despite not being able to see ahead or know what was around each bend. They seemed to have a perverse sense of entitlement that they used to justify their risk taking at the expense of others. Despite the unwelcome stress the scenery and adventure were appreciated.

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