Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Ice Age – one excellent reason to increase your carbon footprint! (Get carbon skis!)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ski season start with such a complete covering of snow – both on and off piste. Strange because I remember towards the end of last century the popular media and UN propaganda of that day was that all the snow should have vanished by now. I’m very happy to say they were wrong! I see that even the polar bears in the Arctic this summer had about a million square miles more ice to play on than last year. (I’m not sure how much bears play  - probably not a lot.)



There was a bit too much wind to open the cable car up to 3500m but you can still get close to the summit anyway with the T-bars. Race training is still the main activity on the glacier, but now the snow is good everywhere – not just on the glacier. This is one of the best times of the year to ski because there are so few people on the mountain. It’s also slightly tricky off piste because the snow base is not stable. Today everything at high altitude was strongly wind-packed but lower down there was good soft powder with enough depth to remove the risk of impacting rocks. Wind feels very cold at minus 15°C but lower down there was shelter from the wind and this is where the powder was hiding. Hard to determine which slopes would be best because the wind has obviously been changing direction – now coming from the East. However, sheltered West facing slopes did appear to have the best snow.



My goal for the morning was just to get comfortable with speed and basic movement patterns. (Also to get into the habit of having all the right kit with me and keeping it prepared at home ready to throw into the car without missing anything.)


Chi Mechanics

For fitness this season I’ve brought my running level back up to a basic standard again – having let it go completely last year. It feels good going out a running a 49 minute 10k. Yesterday’s running objective was to keep this good pace, 12 km/hr  but without using any power or strength in the legs for propulsion.  It’s one thing running a 49 min 10k when trying to propel yourself forwards but another thing to do it when trying to completely avoid propulsion.

When you run downhill you feel gravity pull you – so you don’t attempt to use any propulsion. You try to relax your legs in a way that they move fast and try to keep up. The problem is that when we get on the flat we mistakenly think that we have to revert to reaching ahead with the feet, pulling and pushing ourselves forwards. We don’t have to! Just tilt forwards a little from the ankles and start falling forwards – then start the same “catch up” process with the legs. All the effort is in maintaining the height of the centre of mass as the body falls forwards – and catching up with the legs that extend behind.  Gravity still does all the propulsion and it feels exactly the same as running downhill.

Habit keeps returning you to trying to push off – instead of just lifting the leg. It’s just a case of identifying the feeling and keeping returning to it if you lose it. This is the first ever 49 minute 10k I’ve managed without resorting to pushing somewhere along the way. At the moment I can’t imagine getting this down to 43 minutes – but then I couldn’t imagine running this way at all not so long ago.

Back up on the mountain skiing today it’s clear that the chi mechanics have become fully integrated into all my skiing – as well as walking, running and cycling.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tignes – First Day of a New Season

First of all I almost left home without my ski boots and helmet. This is typical of the first day up the mountain before getting back into the routine. Despite being two weeks before the official ski season opening I unbelievably managed to get stuck behind a ski bus the moment I set out on the journey up the mountain. (Also happened on the way back down!)

The snow levels are good already – very early compared to most years. Chairlifts were operating and even the “Bollin” nursery slope was open. All I had to do when arriving in Tignes was collect my season pass from the ticket office. The administration is always friendly and helpful in Tignes – the total opposite from Val ‘d’Isère. 

All the photos are natural – no effects.











First run I stayed on the piste just to get tuned into moving properly again. Second run I was looking for deep challenging windpack snow to play in.  Weirdly, from the first turn I could see new and different ways to use the skis and body. This sort of perception shifting often happens after a long break – not specifically in skiing but for any skill (musical instrument etc.) Any brainless numpty can bomb downhill “freeriding” on fat skis – just disengage the brain. (Racers normally don’t have brains to disengage so it’s even easier for them). Skilful skiing is something else. The trick with windpack (non freeride) is to make sure that you don’t get on the inside edges (of the turn ) of the skis at all during the first half of the turn. It’s very similar to the old George Joubert’s Surf Technique – but taking it much further than Joubert ever described it. Joubert was a professor at Grenoble University – and he got nearly everything wrong. I’ve read his main book – “Skiing: An Art -  A Technique” and all the technical appendices – and he is clueless. I don’t know any other person who has even tried to read this rubbish in detail – people normally just give up.  He’s the guy who led the French national team into utter oblivion. He’s one of the idiots who says that “banking” is always a fault – and totally fails to understand disequilibrium.     …my first rant of the season as well as first day on skis!