Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brian Day 3


Warm Up

Despite all of the pain yesterday Brian’s leg was no worse. The test today would be to see if the changes in technique along with the ski boot alterations would combine to improve the situation or not.

Watching Brian on his warm up run I could see that the new carving skis were amplifying some of his habits – such as locking on the edges and traversing instead of linking rhythmic turns – and blocking his stance in a permanent “facing downhill” mode then rushing the start of the turns. I decided to head straight for the Grand Pré flats to work on carving technique so as to turn the strong feedback from carving skis into an advantage instead of a problem.

Carving – Facing Outwards

Sure enough Brian’s first attempts at carving were not very successful with the skis being pushed out or braced against and the edge changes leading to a pivot instead of a railed carve. Working on the flat in a wide stance gradually we got the skis railing consistently. To make the edge changing easier I had Brian turn his hips and shoulders towards the outside of the turns – turning them uphill to initiate the turn and then remaining facing outwards following the skis around the turn. Brian initially had great trouble doing this because each turn was completed with a “cross under” – the legs passing beneath the body with the body always facing downhill instead of the body moving across the skis and changing orientation towards the outside of the new turn.  Through persistence there was a gradual improvement in the line of the turns but there was a clear problem existing (as described above) in the turn transitions which actually took until close to the end of the day to fully identify and correct.





Brian described “dropping the hip” into the turn and I explained that this is something that should not be done. Angulation at the hip is not the same as dropping the hip into the turn. To generate good angulation you first have to tilt the pelvis to create “neutral pelvis” (usually pulling up at the front)  then relax the hip and knee to bend them – tilting forwards from the hip. Standing squarely on one leg you then rotate the body above the hip joint outwards – using a pole for support. It‘s this free rotation perched on one hip joint that creates angulation. When the entire body then inclines towards the snow towards the turn centre this looks like “dropping in the hips” to the untrained eye – but it’s is not the same thing at all. We worked on all of this to help Brian identify how to use the hip and how to feel the support of one leg and incline correctly on it.

Carving  - Facing Inwards

To compliment the outwards facing exercises I added inwards facing exercises. The main purpose for using this with Brian was to add tactics in the battle to stop his blocked “facing downhill” stance. Brian was trying to escape the habit of pushing the skis away and bracing so by facing inwards with the upper body during the turn this would cause him to incline better into the turn and stand more solidly on the skis instead of pushing them away. The exercise involve placing both ski poles towards the inside of the turn. This did have a very positive effect on Brian’s stance with the line he took on the snow being rounder.

3D Banked Track

To encourage the inclination I explained that the ski makes a banked track and that the process has to be visualised in 3D as if riding round a banked track on a bicycle. On the bicycle and banked track it would feel just like going straight – not turning – and that’s what should happen on skis too. This helped Brian become stronger in his feedback and support from the outside ski.


I pointed out that his neck was tending to bend sideways during the turn in order to keep his eye-line on the horizontal. Although people are sometimes taught to do this it is wrong. The eye-line on a banked track is on a plane parallel to the banked track! If you want to get the eye-line on a plane parallel to the slope this can be done by rotating the head in certain ways  at certain times – but not by cranking the neck over sideways. Once again Brian could feel the solidifying effect of freeing the eye-line from the horizon and working with the banked track instead of against it.

Extending Dynamic Range

I asked Brian to try to extend his dynamic range by falling over further into the turn. Once again he managed to develop this but there was still that lingering fault in his movement pattern. I explained that it is important not to wait until there is pressure under the ski before dropping (centre of mass) down into the turn – the skier has to drop down into the turn first because that is exactly what will  cause the ski to work and bring him back up.  Waiting for pressure is a mistake. The skier has to learn that pressure will come after the event and not to wait for it first.

Chi Hips and Feet Forwards

Brian himself was ware of letting the outside leg trail behind so he worked to bring the outside foot forwards during the turn. I demonstrated how the pulling back of the hip tightens the core muscles – if the shoulder is not not pulled back on the same side (which is what people normally do).  This means that we try to pull the hip back as the foot goes forward and the shoulder basically remains still. The upper/lower body separation is now at the level of the bottom of the rib cage. (12th thoracic vertebra). This protects the lower back enormously.


Part of Brian’s continuing difficulty and “cross under” movement involved the appearance of being compressed so that the legs just stayed bent all the time. We worked for a moment of jumping to fully extend the legs in the air and to develop the full range of motion. The idea was to get Brian to bring that into the skating timing and to make sure the legs extended fully during the up motion at through the end of the turn. This dramatically added life and energy to Brian’s skiing. We had added rhythm today to the timing that Brian had acquired yesterday and by accessing the full range of motion this amplified the resonance  generated - a bit like a trampoline sending someone sky high when the timing is right (but not doing so when the timing is wrong).

Counter Balance Error

Due to Brian’s continual improvement we were getting closed to seeing the real underlying problem clearly for the first time. I noticed that when Brian was carving strongly on his left leg his left arm would reach out over the ski. When standing still I asked Brian to show me the movement and when he did he fell back onto the back on the ski boot on the inside leg. It was clear that he had been reaching out to counterbalance sitting down and backwards into the turn. I explained that not only was “balancing” wrong to start with but then “counter balancing” was compounding the error. Brian immediately understood this and realised his mistake and how he was actually sitting back and balancing instead of generating active dynamics and constant adjustments where there is no sustained balance. This is why it is so critical to feel all the pressure clearly through one leg and to be centring constantly and actively through that support foot – not in a passive way but in a way that directs the outcome. With this last step the stance finally came unblocked and the underlying problem was cleared. The last section of the video clip shows the full range of motion and carving with no counter balancing (except for one small glitch!)

We later used the same movement pattern with all of the same components while not carving!

The problem with the leg remained completely manageable now that Brian had completely removed any pushing out of the skis and twisting inwards with his forefoot. The new boot inners were working well too with no significant foot pains (apparently) and no negative issues for skiing.


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