Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Brian Day 1

Today was Brian’s first day on skis since March so we started off with a couple of runs just to get back into it. This also gave me time to observe. Brian could feel his old habits taking over pretty much from the start so it was clear that we would have to work carefully through things. The strong tendency to rush the start of the turns, face downhill and push the ski out to the side were all back. Brian said that later last season the things that stuck with him most were skating and dynamics – making the biggest difference to his skiing. This seemed like a good area for us to begin work with and to pick things up from again. 


We worked on skating across the hill mainly from the downhill ski – ensuring that the body was moved with the skate and not just the ski pushed away. The idea was to finish with a skate up onto the uphill ski – uphill edge and then to stand up on that leg and let the body fall into the turn.  When we reduced this to a single skate to complete a turn – making the transition to the next turn – then it was clear that Brian’s timing became confused. For this reason we backed off and simplified things – removing the actual skate from the exercise.


The idea now was just to step up onto the uphill ski and then let the centre of mass fall into the next turn – sustaining the turn on one ski (the other ski close to the ground).

The aim was now to simply oblige the body to stand on one leg for each turn and to make adjustments to deal with any difficulties that this seemed to present. Feedback is clear when on one leg because if you are not centred over the supporting foot then problems arise. Forcing yourself to be on one leg, legs working independently instead of two footedly, permits rapid progress.  One of the first things we had to deal with was Brian’s tendency to be left behind at the start of the turn. The body had to move forwards as the turn begins so that it remains perpendicular to the mountain – (going from travelling in the horizontal to down a slope) and this adjustment must be made deliberately. The completion of the turn requires the skier to move back so as to be centred for the new horizontal trajectory.



In the video clip Brian is already making smooth turns with the body moving now instead of the feet being pushed out. The turns are on one leg. Timing is down/up naturally just because of the toppling action of the body over into the turn and then back up out of it at the end. Fore/aft adjustments are being made and so he is staying centred over the support foot. We can see that the stance has a few problems though – the ankles being over-flexed and the hips not flexed. Arm carriage is not right either but that tends to sort itself out when other postural issues are corrected. The stance is also too narrow to help to develop independent leg action. The main thing however is that the basic simple action of dynamically moving the body, instead of displacing the skis, was taking place and was supported on one leg. We were to spend the rest of the day just tweaking this and trying to improve posture and awareness.



Chi Hips

In order to prevent the over flexing of the ankles I decided to directly go to work on the hips – specifically the understanding of how to work the hips based on chi-running. From cycling I’d learned that there is a way to prepare the leg, pulling back the hip so that you can push down the pedal like you are preparing to kick in a door. This is exactly what need to be done with the leg and hip when standing up on the leg at the start of the turn – the hip needs to be held back in this way throughout the turn. This can be accompanied with a subtle pushing forward of the foot (same leg). Now the ankle will not be over flexed but the hip will be correctly flexed. This gives a strong support base. When the hip pulls back it’s important that nothing moves backwards along with it above the lower ribs. The chest and shoulders  don’t get pulled back in any way. In fact throughout the exercises so far we have been simply following the skis and trying to eliminate any inappropriate use of “facing downhill”. It’s very hard to separate the fore/aft corrections and the lateral “toppling” when the upper body is trying to artificially face downhill on longer turns. This means that it’s the uphill hip that gets pulled backwards at the start of a turn – the opposite of what most people (including Brian) tend to do when they force a turn.

We tried a little carving and once again the feet had to be opened much further apart to get the legs working separately.

Although we didn’t go though lots of technique it was an important session for consolidation – for repeating over and over the basic simple movement of dynamics perpendicular the the hill – supported strongly on the outside leg and hip.


Unfortunately immediately after our late lunch stop Brian was in pain with a ski boot and it was obvious that he couldn’t support himself correctly on the right leg.  His stoic acceptance of this problem seems to be due to many years of being used to suffering from badly set up boots – which he now considered inevitable. It was clear to me however that the boots were not normal and a quick inspection indoors revealed that the entire “Surefoot” setup was complete nonsense. This unfortunately required us to break off from skiing early and head to Mattis skis shop where we met a very bright and helpful bootfitter who agreed with all our observations and quickly found Brian a standard inner and footbed  to replace the concrete injected monstrosity that was clamping his poor feet and legs until that point. The feet must be able to move and make shapes otherwise the leg muscles can’t function properly. Brian’s canting had already been completely wrong and his very high instep solid footbed support meant that no natural pronation was possible – forcing him onto the outside of the foot and ski when there was any pressure on the inside edge of the ski – damaging the muscle on the outside of the leg. This seems to have been exacerbated by having the canting corrected  - basically the boot set up was a complete mess. New inners  - no pain – good alignment and tomorrow should be a different game.


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