Monday, December 16, 2013

Jenny, James, William


Jenny had apparently loosened up her stance at the hips since last year. She had apparently been trying to push the pelvis forwards in an attempt to address accusations of “toilet seat” posture.  However I’m not convinced about this because she never looked blocked at the hips before anyway: last year.  Prior to starting off with Jenny again we recorded her skiing on video. The first part of the video clip demonstrates that she is not managing to hold her body inside the turn and so is completing the turns by drifting sideways down the hill in a fairly precarious manner. The clear goal was to change this completely so that the turns would be secure and safe.


Poles Towards the Middle

When explaining this to Jenny she admitted that telling her to move her body or centre of mass was a waste of time because for no particular reason she could not make the connection between the brain and body to bring this around. Static exercises on the hill didn’t change this outcome. When asked about what she felt she was doing at the start of a turn she showed that she was standing on the uphill leg and “pressing down” on it. She demonstrated this with a movement of her body away from the turn! Jenny said that for her the only way to come close to the feeling of dynamics was to lift the lower ski so as to fall into the turn. While that is a valid exercise it’s also a sign of poor dynamics. If the centre of mass is moved then there is no need to lift the inside ski at the start of the turn. This image of Jenny skiing is the same as I remember from before. Although she responds well during coaching there seems to be a default setting that she returns to after a break in skiing. With all of this in mind I decided to try another tactic and that was to use the “poles to the inside” exercise. The main reason for this is that there is no need to “think” about it – the exercise takes over by itself so if Jenny couldn’t create dynamics voluntarily perhaps the exercise would do it for her. This turned out to be a good intuition because it worked and she automatically had better grip and stability along with a naturally narrower stance. Up until now the stance had been wide in an attempt to create stability while the skis weren’t gripping.

Banked Track

I explained to Jenny that she had to try to see each turn as a banked track as in a velodrome. The ski (hence the skier) generates this banked track. Perceiving the ground as a banked track makes it relatively easy to see where the body has to be relative to the skis. This also worked for Jenny and she was starting to feel secure. Steeper hills mean a greater motion crossing from one banked track to another but nothing different needs to be done – just a deliberate amplification.

Range of motion

Watching the video Jenny was surprised to see how little her range of motion was.  This is one of the most useful aspects of video feedback. When people see themselves it means a great deal more than hearing it from somebody else. I repeated the explanation about how the hard thing is skiing is to stay down and inside turns and that it is practically impossible to overdo the effort create dynamics down and into a turn. Having a more secure grip now should enable Jenny to move more strongly and have a greater dynamic range.


When the slope was steep Jenny reverted to her old timing of staying up high when going into a turn. It’s very difficult to come into a turn when staying extended at the beginning. We worked for a short while on making sure the timing was clear and that “coming up” was only through the end of the turn on the lower leg.


I decided to carefully introduce Jenny to carving because when there is solid feedback from carving edges then it’s easier to feel free to move the body (centre of mass). Jenny did quite well at this and understood that the edge changing was really caused by simply moving the body across the skis. There’s no need to roll the feet or anything.


James, William

James was clearly showing some bad habits creeping into his skiing. He was tending to push out his skis at the start of the turns and to remain upright and above the skis instead of moving into the turn centre. This had already caused him several falls in the crusty wind packed off-piste. William in contrast was steady and consistent with clean movements that show he has really listened and taken on board everything in the past. The primary goal was to stop James’s heel pushing and then to increase and improve the dynamics for both of the boys.


When James was made aware that he had to move his body and not his skis he was able to return to using dynamics properly very easily. In carving he was however not able to hold as clean an edge or line as William and tended to keep his feet too close together for this type of activity. We tried to “Poles to the Middle” exercise to increase dynamics but this didn’t work well for either of the boys. With this in mind we went onto skating instead – skating straight downhill and letting the skis generate the arcs by falling inwards into the turns. I figured that would help with timing, getting the legs apart and naturally facing inwards at the start of each turn and facing outwards at the end as the skis rotate the legs beneath the body. I demonstrated how the skating action made the leg work in the hip joint (rotating). We only worked at those things for a few short runs and then went into the slalom course.


James looked quite tidy in the slalom from the start but William’s timing was far too late. William corrected his timing by both releasing his turns earlier and moving into the next one before even being directly above the gate. This improvement significantly helped William maintain a better line in the course. James was mainly limited by his dynamic range so I explained to him that he needed to get his bottom nearer to the snow during the turns. Angulation is essential in slalom turns to be able to force the centre of mass down in and back up out of a turn rapidly. We discussed tactics and about bringing the timing of the maximum pressure to the outside of the gate and not beneath it – imagining each gate having a trampoline on the outside and bouncing laterally from one trampoline to the other while facing and travelling downhill.

Off Piste

All of the tactics described are also applicable to very unpredictable windpack snow off piste. Making the pressure cycle match the slalom stops the skis being loaded up too much at the end of the turn in breakable snow. The commitment to using the lower ski to lifting up the body out of the turn – is equivalent to getting out of the slalom turn so as to avoid being late for the next gate. This sets you up to ensure the start of the next turn no matter what the snow does. James would sometimes confuse this and try to extend or jump from his uphill ski – usually with dramatic consequences. Both boys were a bit timid in confronting the difficult off piste when it was a little bit steeper, causing reduced dynamics (not moving the body into the turn) and inevitable ski loss and face plants. Those errors were used to highlight the point that bad snow has to be skied like a race course.

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