Friday, January 31, 2014

Emine and Derin

Emine Last Day

Due to a late start we didn’t do the normal warm up run and I warned Emine that we would have no time for a break to watch video or have a hot drink in the middle. There was just too much to get done – but with the sun being out it was the sort of day where you don’t want to stop for a break anyway.


We went into the Tommeuses bumps to use the bumps to help Emine overcome her pivoting difficulties. First of all the situation was only made possible because she wasn’t afraid of the steep bumps. Bumps are formed by skiers pivoting. The skis are always sideslipping on their uphill edges and only go flat for a moment when pointing downhill while the edge change is made. With many skiers doing that in the same place a bump forms with the top (apex) of the bump at the place where the edge change takes place and snow isn’t pushed away anywhere.

The skier stands on the upper shoulder of the bump and has the ski tips are suspended in mid air. The pole is planted on the apex of the bump and used for support. Just a very slight movement of the centre of mass towards the pole starts the skis slipping downhill and due to being in the air it is extremely easy to swing the tips of the skis down and inwards. The centre of mass itself must be moved downhill directly between the pole and the ski tips to make this happen. Emine soon had her first ever sensation of a pivot without resorting to a twist and started to feel how the motion of the centre of mass initiated the process – not a forceful twisting action.


Back on the piste I wanted to use the first run to develop Emine’s carving. My plans had been to travel over to a wide flat piste for this purpose but we didn’t have the time now. Straight away I showed Emine how to make the edge changes necessary for high speed carved turns. Most people struggle with this even on a gentle slope! Standing across the slope I had Emine use her poles for support either side and move her centre of mass to change from uphill edges to downhill edges – a very difficult thing to get right as the lower ski always slips away when doing this statically. With a little bit of assistance Emine soon had it working. Off we went then carving down this blue piste and Emine got it immediately. The purpose of this exercise was to prepare her for slalom. Yesterday Emine’s inclination was due to pushing the skis away – not due to anchoring the skis on the ground and getting the body to fall over. Carving was being developed here to change this. One more run – on the Vert training piste and then over to the slalom – which is effectively a black run with poles! Emine did a fantastic job and was able to get it right even in the slalom course!

Slalom 29.39 Seconds

Emine’s target was to get below 30 seconds – so she made it – another 1.5 seconds improvement – and after the most rapid crash course in carving in history! In reality Emine was much faster than the time indicates because she was simply not used to dealing with all the speed and so ended up with a very poor line in the race course. Just a little work to correct this and she would be very fast already. The main problem that Emine was now experiencing was that she didn’t know how to get out of a turn effectively – because she had not yet bee taught this – so despite trying hard she could not avoid getting later and later on her turns and then losing time as a consequence. We would begin work on this aspect of dynamics next – but before that there was a small detour to make – because I figured that gymnast Emine might like the opportunity to make a big jump!


What can I say! She even waved to me on the run up to the jump!



Off Piste, Dynamics (part 2)

Going off piste I used the deep snow as an opportunity to introduce “turn exit” dynamics. Until now I’d only mentioned how to move the centre of mass into a turn – but not how to move out of one. The key is to link skating with the turn exit. You come up to come out of a turn – like a motorbike – and you come up to complete a skate. The key is to come up and out of the turn on the downhill leg – bringing the body out over the lower ski. This can be scary for people because there is then nothing below to catch them as they are already falling by the time they have come right up perpendicular to the slope. Emine managed it amazingly well and can be seen doing this on some steep off piste on the video – only she found the slope too steep and and picked up too much speed – and so this then led us on to “foot forward” technique to better control the turn radius…


Prior to working on Foot Forward technique we returned to the bumps and tried pivoting again – but with the addition of “turn exit dynamics” – coming over that lower ski. Emine immediately felt how the pivot was now much easier. She had improved the use of her centre of mass though improved dynamics and could now bring that subtly into pivoting.

Off Piste, Foot Forward Technique – For Steeps

I used a static exercise to introduce foot forward technique to Emine. With skis off and one heel planted in the snow the other leg was placed behind the body and the foot swung in an arc out from the body right round to the front – with the leg rotating and the foot changing direction as a result. This was then done with the edge of the boot making an arc lightly on the snow – until it was done smoothly. Then some weight was placed on the foot so that it had to be pushed. I explained to Emine that this is what it feels like to push the ski forwards and it had to be done all the way through the turn. We tried this on the piste and when I asked Emine what she felt as a result she described the feeling of more security and tighter turns. This is correct. Pushing the foot forwards combined with dynamics is the way we control a turn radius. We then applied this successfully off piste on very steep and difficult wind packed snow that absolutely nobody else was skiing – seen here in the last part of her video clip.


Afternoon Derin

Today was the day Derin finally skied on her own – and parallel.


The only “technical” thing added today was that she was made fully aware that she could stop with any turn – and she did this on her own. Now that she knows that she can stop the only problem is that she is now doing it a bit too much at times – though I’d much rather see that than the classic “tout droit”! Today was about building control, confidence and freedom. Despite one fall with a twisting of the knee and a binding that couldn’t properly release she rapidly recovered and the leg appeared to be fine – giving another two hours of skiing with no complaints. We worked on the psychology all the time and Derin’s response was very constructive and positive.

Just watching Derin waving to all the people she passes on the slope is – well, incredible!



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Emine and Derin


Our warm up run was a quick descent into Val d’Isère. Emine was secure and confident in her skiing behind me so there was no need to stop.


The first thing to do today was a quick bit of revision. Emine was clear about both dynamics and skating. We did the “skating into skiing” exercise again – skating straight downhill and introducing dynamics to turn it into skiing. Emine had retained yesterday’s information well.

(Emily Harrop, UK junior Super G champion)

When revising the dynamics I explained the Centre of Mass a little bit more. The tip of a pencil is something that you can feel when drawing but it isn’t part of your body. Your skis are the same in that you can feel what they are doing but they are not part of you. The centre of mass is also a point that you can learn to feel and move – even if it comes out of your body. Skiing is about moving this point around and everything else just supports this.

Chi-Skiing – Centred Skiing

I asked Emine to tell me what part of the body provides the power for a punch. Being a martial arts student I was curious to hear her answer. She said “the arm”! Well the power for a punch comes from right down at the hip – through the core of the body.

If everything is loose between the ribs and the pelvis then the body is not connected up properly. In skiing as in punching the whole body is used so it all has to be connected up properly. The key to getting this right in skiing is to simply pull the hip backwards on the ski that you are standing on – the outside ski in a turn. Only the hip should come backwards, not the shoulders. When turning left the right ski is being used so the right hip is pulled backwards. This creates a tension across the stomach area. I had Emine push her shoulder against my shoulder when doing this to be able to feel the tension as the core muscles contracted.

Pulling the hip backwards also gets the body into a better skating stance and allows better angles (hip angulation) to be created. A full page of detail on “Chi-Skiing” can be found at this link “Chi Skiing”. I call it “Chi Skiing” but perhaps it could also be called “Centred Skiing”. 

The first move you should make in turning is this adjustment of the hip – moving and aligning everything from the core at the same time as you move the centre of mass to make the turn happen.

When Emine worked on this she tended to forget her dynamics and skating so after a while I told her to put it aside and concentrate on dynamics. The main thing is to get started on perhaps the most important subject in skiing – the hips – and protecting posture, the lower back and knees!


While skiing I noticed that Emine’s feet were too close together for her to have effective dynamics. I told her to widen her stance so as to be able to get a bigger range of dynamics. With the feet close together the body has to travel much further and for a longer time to get from one inside edged ski in one turn to the inside edge of the other ski in the next turn. Legs wide apart makes the edge change almost instant.

Slalom 30.93 Seconds

Emine used the wide stance in the slalom and gained almost another 3 seconds on yesterday’s time.


Emine has a great competitive spirit which makes up a lot for her present lack of technique and strategy. Unfortunately we don’t have much time to build on this but we will make the most of the time we have. Currently Emine is throwing her skis sideways and twisting them a bit to get into the turn – which compromises her ability to anchor the skis on the snow and move her body instead. In the photo above of Emily Harrop the ski is anchored and Emily’s body has moved inwards – but in Emine’s photo the opposite has happened. To cure this we will need to work a little bit on “carving”.


I asked Emine if she knew what “carving” was and she answered no! Without understanding carving you simply can’t go fast in racing and this is the main area that Emine needs to develop next. We worked at leaving railway line tracks in the snow by traversing on two edges, feet rolled uphill (one foot on the inside edge and one on its outside edge). I had to correct Emine from trying to use her knees – only the feet roll and the centre of mass moves across to edge the skis – there can be a small amount of knee angulation from tightening the muscles on the inside of the lower leg in the traverse. Emine started to understand the feeling of carving. We will work on this again on flatter terrain because it will help Emine a lot in slalom. 

Off Piste

We had a short off-piste run again today and Emine had no trouble whatsoever in difficult snow. This means that she can really move her body well when there is no choice – because in this type of snow there is no choice.


We ran out of time for working on pivoting but we rushed about 20 minutes of pivoting exercises together. I supported Emine through several pivots and then encouraged her to put weight on her pole for support instead. She had a tendency to keep the centre of mass uphill and try to twist instead of angulating and using the ski pole to get the centre of mass downhill and into the turn – as is needed for a pivot. The pivot is controlled not by twisting but by a movement of the centre of mass lateral to the skis. Emine is such a fighter that she tried to force and twist to get there – but everything in skiing, martial arts and music works by skill not by brute force! We have to keep the fighting spirit to overcome fears – but we have to be smart with our actions and use our brains not just muscles! Using brains means recognising that nearly everything is done better in an almost opposite way from whatever your emotions initially suggest.


Afternoon Derin

Derin had new and much shorter skis today – and the difference was massive. From the first moment her level of control was clearly on a different level and her problem with the left leg had gone completely. I had suspected her other skis from the very beginning and wish now that I’d listened to my own intuition sooner. Most people think short skis are inappropriate but it’s really the other way around. Short skis are easily the best way to get clear feedback – clear information – through to the body so that it can understand what is going on in a natural way. Derin’s response to the little skis was perfect.



I developed a little game that Derin liked. I would tell her to go to sleep on the chairlift and then pretend to be a voice inside her head telling her “you are a very good skier”, “You are not scared”. Her part in the game was trying to catch me out saying the phrases by opening her eyes. Hypnotism is just a form of “suggestion” and we all do this to ourselves through our own self dialogue. Making a game out of this is an entertaining way to change your own self image. I also made up a song along the same lines that Derin would sing along with me as we skied.

Psychology grew out of Hypnotism – Freud being a hypnotist himself initially. Derin has an interesting psychology in that if given a rational explanation to do something she might not want to do then she will comply and get on with it. She turns out to be quite easy to work with. The problem up until now was that she was genuinely afraid due to the lack of control her other skis were giving – and thankfully I was able to respect her fear and appreciate that there was something wrong.  When told that fear has to be confronted and beaten – and that it is a normal feeling – she has no problem confronting it.


Technically there was nothing added to Derin’s skiing today other than I got her jumping as a game to take her off the back of her boots. Despite the trouble with her previous skis she actually did pick up some useful skills when working on them and this became apparent with the strength of her solo parallel turns today. It was great to see her confidence growing again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Emine and Derin


Emine is already a very accomplished young lady – in gymnastics, martial arts, and music – plus being bilingual. Her skiing however didn’t seem to be too comfortable – she described it as not bad but not good. Personally there was no need for me to make assumptions – I knew exactly what the reason for this was likely to be – and the fault would not be with Emine. I asked Emine to tell me what she knew about skiing, about how to move and how to make a turn – but she couldn’t think of anything – other than she had been told to bend her knees more and she couldn’t. That’s unfortunately quite typical after five years or more in ski school. To be honest it doesn’t really matter what the person remembers – it’s what the body remembers that matters. After a warm up run and watching Emine to see her level of comfort we stopped to video her current skiing, before I explained anything new to her. Emine displayed a typical movement pattern with an up movement to start the turn and down-sink and pole plant to end. She actually carried out this movement very well and demonstrated that she was obviously a good student. Once I mentioned this movement pattern to her she remembered that she was doing this.

The outcome of Emine’s correctly executed movements was very unstable and insecure skiing. This is demonstrated in the first video clip.


Centre of Mass

Despite the biting cold on the chairlift I used the time there to explain the “centre of mass” to Emine, giving some examples that she could relate to gymnastics, such as spinning or rolling about the centre of mass. In her case, as an upright skier, all she needs to know is that it is a point between the pelvis and the belly button just in front of the spine – but that it free to move outside the body when different shapes are made. The centre of mass is what skiing is all about. When we move the centre of mass then the skis work for us.

In all physical activity movements should also start from the centre and work outwards – this being where the real power of the body lies. (Most people do the opposite!)


Our first technical session was on dynamics. I explained that dynamics just meant “accelerations”.

Standing to the left of Emine I asked her to place pressure on her right ski – and she moved to the right – away from me.  This is what people do normally and it’s what Emine was doing when skiing at the start of each turn to the left. I then asked Emine to move to the left and push hard against my shoulder. When she was hard against me I asked her which foot had the pressure on it. Of course it was the right foot – but this time she had moved to the left instead. I explained that although I was holding her up when not moving the ski would hold her up when moving and she would feel the same pressure under her foot – but she would have to move left to turn left. To clarify this I asked her to bridge the gap between our shoulders slowly. Bridging the gap slowly the weight went on her left foot until she could push against me. Then I asked her to move fast across the gap so that she accelerated her body – and immediately she felt the pressure on the right foot instead. The point is that depending on whether you move with an acceleration or not the result at the feet is completely opposite in each case. Emine understood that she had to move into the turn with an acceleration of her body in the direction of the turn. She understood well enough that we didn’t have to waste time on exercises and she was able to turn with this almost immediately.

Emine’s reaction to the change was to remark that it felt much easier to ski this way. In first part of the second video you can see that she is immediately moving with a natural fluidity with only having made this one change. 

I later explained that this new movement pattern was down/up – that is down to start a turn and up to complete it – just like a motorbike, or anything else for that matter. This is the correct basic timing for skiing.


I explained to Emine that the real problem of skiing was not “balancing” or staying upright. When you try to fall over laterally to the skis you are quickly matched by the power of the ski bringing you back up. Most people can only manage to fall over about 20° to 30° at the very most. The goal of improving your skiing is to extend this dynamic range as far as possible. No matter how hard you deliberately try to fall over to the side you will not manage – unless you collapse your body at the same time. If you are trying to stay upright and in balance you will never ski well and you will always be unstable and insecure. The same if your timing is back to front – coming up to start the turn – because it will stop you from moving down into the turn like on a motorbike.

To complete the dynamics session I asked Emine to just observe the pressure under her feet and how moving the centre of mass from side to side caused the pressure to change from one foot to the other during skiing. After we stopped skiing I had a difficult question for her. I asked if that feeling reminded her of anything she was familiar with. She thought for about two minutes and replied “ice skating”! She was 100% correct! Skiing is a disguised form of skating and skating is fundamental to skiing. Once again this fundamental is completely missed by the ski schools and is only considered as an advanced racing element. We would come to skating in the coaching soon but first of all I wanted to be sure that she was aware of how to use the feet.

Feet and Boots

Emine’s boots were wet inside – they need to have the inners taken out and properly dried on a radiator each night!

With the ski boot off she showed me how she uses her foot. I have seen hundreds of people do this but she is the only one ever to have got it right without being told what to do. She rocked her foot onto it’s inside edge from beneath the ankle bone and the forefoot actually turned away from the direction of the turn – and this is correct! She also astonishingly showed that if she went onto the front of the foot she stood up on in instead of collapsing down which everyone else does. I’ve never seen anyone get that right before either!  She even understood that ski schools tell people to bend the ankle and push the knee into the turn, twisting and flattening the foot instead and putting the knee at risk of injury. Taking it from there I explained that the foot rocking onto its inside edge had to be linked with tension in the muscles on the inside of the upper leg and with the movement of the centre of mass – everything moving inwards together. The shaft of the ski boot prevents the ski and foot from flattening on the snow. I explained that when ice skating this isn’t necessary due to the edge of the skate being under the centre of the foot but in skiing all of this is necessary – including the stiff boots – because the edge is offset to the inside.

We had hot chocolates and watched the videos of “before and after” of her skiing before going back out to work on skating.


I checked Emine’s skating on the flat and saw that she is a strong skater – which is not surprising considering her awareness of her feet. The only exercise I gave was to skate straight downhill and once there was some speed to start to allow the centre of mass to fall more to the inside of the supporting leg – so this would create dynamics and allow the skating to evolve into skiing. She had a great skating/skiing rhythm immediately. This can be seen in the second part of the second video clip.

Slalom - 33.37 seconds.

Emine was keen to try to timed slalom so I sent her up while I filmed from below. After the first run I told her to focus on bringing some skating in at the start and then to remember the dynamics and so she improved by a second on this run. Conditions permitting we will work more in slalom now that Emine is aware of dynamics and skating and will understand my instructions and how they apply in the race course.  The race course adds natural physical constraints to the equation and so when you work on applying the technique you get very clear and honest feedback. Emine looks good in the course from the start and as she gets used to working with dynamics her time should rapidly improve.

Off Piste

We went into some deep chopped up snow over variable terrain using the dynamics and Emine had no problem staying with me. She appeared to enjoy the off piste. If you can ski with dynamics then off piste is fun.


Before ending up our session I wanted to introduce the third major aspect of skiing to Emine – Pivoting! Skis have two edges so either can be used to initiate a turn. This is also totally missed by ski instruction world wide. I demonstrated in front of Emine and asked her to watch and see if she could spot the difference but she couldn’t see it. I’d have given her my pro license if she had spotted it but at last I’d found something she couldn’t do! 

There is a full section on pivoting linked here “pivoting” so I’ll not write about the details. Emine was struggling and trying to force everything but we will spend more time on that tomorrow and sort it out. Pivoting is a major aspect of skiing and we will go deeper into this next.


Afternoon Derin

Derin was becoming more and more reticent about trying anything on her own – without me holding her -  until her sisters and parents appeared and then she flipped and wanted to do everything alone.  My objective today was to extend her freedom to work on her own but this was just not getting anywhere in the first half of the afternoon. We did run after run and I simply worked on different exercises with her to encourage her to stand up on her own and to feel the skis supporting her.

With every turn I try to get her to feel the right amount of drifting of the skis and the right turn radius with the right amount of movement of the body into the turn. She is aware of the need to push the outside ski forwards and now she can also pull it inwards without any twisting outwards that would resemble an inappropriate snowplough action.

Her fear is not really irrational and it became clearer to me this afternoon that it’s linked to her slight lack of control over the left leg and ski. The skis seem just a bit too overpowering – they are strongly shaped and they carve a bit too easily. She tends not to stand securely on the left leg and so moves over her right leg pulling the left ski over onto its edge – so the ski just tracks off on a fast carved turn. (Many advanced skiers can only dream of doing this!) The acceleration frightens her because the turn takes too long so she then backs out of it instead of just completing it. Rather than get bogged down with this issue it seems more appropriate to change the skis for shorter less overpowering ones that will encourage more confidence to stand on the left leg. Some specific exercises will be needed anyway – but normally the body balances out such problems when given a chance. Her “pulling inwards” of the skis will also help to overcome this blockage. We also just need to be patient – it will all fall into place when she is ready.  Thanks to the added presence of mum and dad she saw the rest of the session though happily. Just getting as much constructive time on skis as possible is the most important thing of all and keeping it all positive!  Tomorrow we will work on some skating exercises to make her more active with the left leg.

Tout Droit!

The video is Derin being set off to make turns down towards me. Instead she does the classic kids “tout droit” heading straight for me! I had zoomed out the camera as she approached and just looked up in time to spot that she was about to go straight into me and managed to step my skis out of the way with a fraction of a second to spare!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Two Derins


Morning Derin


First run was in the sun today – on the Tichot. We spent a moment looking at pivoting. At first Derin couldn’t remember anything about pivoting until I demonstrated and then of course she remembered everything and could easily execute a pivot from the uphill ski. My goal however was to address Derin’s dynamics and the difficult part was still to come. The exercise I wanted her to do was to turn from the downhill ski – the “wrong” ski! This requires good angulation and control of the motion of the centre of mass inwards towards the ski pole – especially in the second part of the turn. Derin predictably found that she couldn’t do this. Rather than fight to get it her attitude was “I can’t do it”. I told Derin that the reason we were working on her skiing was because there were things that she couldn’t do so this wasn’t something to be surprised about. The point being that if she worked on those things then she would become able to do them. The way to approach difficult things is to spend a little time frequently on them – so after a short while we just skied down to get warm. Derin admitted that she could not copy my short pivots when skiing down.

Off Piste

With the Tovière chair closed the “Familial” off piste route had hardly been skied so I decided to take advantage of the emptiness and put Derin’s transceiver on her for an off piste excursion.  The photo and video here is of this route – where Derin skied some very steep, deep snow and handled it very well. She moves very dynamically when staying in my tracks but has to learn to create similar tracks for herself without leaning backwards.  This trail took us right down to La Daille and massive queues that we had to fight through all the way back to Tignes. We had the incredible bad luck of the Borsat breaking down too. Thankfully lift priority helped us through and we managed to get back to Tignes for the end of the lesson. Our 3hr plan (in line with the ESF classes) however left no time for a hot drinks break to warm up Derin when she was chilled – one reason why I prefer always to plan for 4 hour sessions. 4 hours gives time for flexibility in many ways and a break if needed without rushing the lesson and having to just ski from A to B instead.

On the way back to Tignes we managed to spend a moment off piste working directly on dynamics – specifically the “end of turn” dynamics. The aim here is to finish the turn by standing on the downhill leg until the body comes right over the ski and almost into the next turn. (a great way to get off the back of the ski boots) This is obviously a bit scary until you realise that it works and makes the start of the next turn easy. Normally I wouldn’t introduce this subject off piste but as our morning had been so messed up I just wanted to try to salvage something and to move Derin on with her progress. After a few static exercises – leaning up against me and simulating the move across the ski with me standing below - Derin was able to execute the move quite well when skiing and turn smoothly in chopped up snow. In the video at the end she is doing this but she started to lean sideways from the waist a little and this will be corrected next time.




Afternoon Derin

No pictures of little Derin today – but she presented me with a great drawing of me skiing!


Consolidation today! After several trips around the Bollin we headed off to Tignes Le Lac and then used the beginner’s area there for a while. To change the scenery we went up the Chaudannes lift and tackled Derin’s first ever long proper blue run – with me of course holding her. She was a bit anxious about doing it herself but I reassured her that I’d be with her all the way. When Derin started to ask about going home I stopped her for a hot chocolate and sure enough after that she was fine again.

Foot Forwards

I wasn’t sure what technical information I could get across and when I tried to explain the use of ski edges I wasn’t convinced that Derin was understanding so I changed tactics. First of all we did a few exercises in making sure that Derin knew her right and left. Once that was clear we distinguished between right and left turns and right and left feet. She then understood that to turn left you push the right foot forwards. All I asked her to do as I guided her though the turns was to push the correct foot forwards. This should automatically take care of her tendency to lock the left ski on edge. Pushing the outside foot forward on a turn is the main way to alter turn radius so it’s a pretty good place to start with when learning technique.

Derin made one nice turn on her own but still felt too insecure to continue skiing on her own. This phase will just take a little more time and patience to pass  - because rather than being timid her other issue is that she likes to go fast. I’ve explained over and over that she can’t just go fast without control so perhaps I’m the one making her a little bit afraid – but for the right reasons. She is covering more and more mileage along side me so that itself will grow her confidence. We will continue to add bits of technique that she can take on board. We also worked on sideslipping for controlling speed and we did some forward and backwards sideslipping. Getting used the the sideways motion of the body on skis and the skis drifting sideways on the snow is a big part of skier development – and something the body really isn’t used to from anything else.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tale of Two Derins

Morning Derin

Our warm up run was an off-piste descent on the sheltered lower East facing slopes where avalanche is not a threat. It was great to see that Derin had lost none of her agility from last year and coped really well off-piste. If anything she was able to ski faster and stronger than before and her technique had not deteriorated – which is excellent. The second run was an even faster off-piste descent and Derin was like a shadow glued to me all the way – impressive!

Regarding Derin’s questions about “what time is it?” and “where are we going?” – I can answer them here. Nobody knows what time it is because we don’t know when time began – or even what time is. Nobody knows where we are in the universe so we can’t know where we are going either. From now on there is no point asking those questions! The idea is to concentrate on skiing and forget everything else! Thankfully this is what happened after the hot chocolate.


Derin’s Qualities

Derin’s qualities were obvious – good timing and rhythm with independent leg action and great control of both hip and body rotation. Clearly Derin is moving unconsciously and has no awareness of how she learned to move this way. This is normal for children – how much can any of us remember from when we were four or five years old? The body does remember though.

When watching Derin moving slowly along the flat pushing with her poles I asked her why she wasn’t skating. Her response was that she was a bad skater! Now I know that this isn’t the case at all, but this is what she believed.

I explained to Derin that the reason she is a good skier is because she is also a good skater. She first learned how to skate in her skiing at about age five or six and she has never lost this connection. Skiing is made up of two things – skating and dynamics (falling over). Derin can manage both well.

Back of the Boots

Derin’s main technical problem at the moment is her tendency to get stuck on the back of her ski boots when it gets steep. We had worked on that before – a year ago – and managed to control it much better – but it is something that must not be allowed to sneak back in and take over when there is nobody there pointing it out!

To help Derin I took hold of the tips of her skis while she was standing on the slope and pulled the tips downhill so that she was facing downhill and I was stopping her from sliding off. I then asked Derin to try leaning back in her boots to feel the great tension that this puts in the leg muscles – then asked her to relax and sit down instead. The seated position when facing downhill does not cause you to fall backwards and it brings the legs in contact with the fronts of the boots – but relaxes all the muscles. It also places the feet and knees ahead of the body which is ideal for deep snow. When skiing in the powder after the exercise I continually corrected Derin when I could see her in the back of the boots. This problem is visible in the video clip when on the steeper section.


Actively skating is not only fundamental to good skiing but it also helps to prevent the skier from leaning on the boots because the legs can’t be active when pressed up against the boots. I wanted to develop Derin’s skating further anyway in her skiing and her awareness of it in general. In the video clip her skating is great and her timing when she takes it into skiing looks excellent. This was after we had worked for a while on the principles.

First on all – on the flat – Derin thought that we propelled ourselves using the power of the legs – which is why she didn’t think she could skate. She does appear to have slightly less leg muscle than I do. I explained – by using a falling ski pole – that we propel ourselves by falling forwards and using gravity. The push should only be small and used to keep the body up. Gravity provides all the propulsion. This is easily done on the flat by diverging the skis and leaning forwards – then one at a time just pick up a ski and fall – replace the ski on the ground and pick up the other – you go forwards with hardly any pushing involved.  I was using this to encourage Derin to skate on the flat for getting about faster anyway. The key is to look for efficiency not power  - and to use the free energy that nature is providing – gravity in this case! This is a key that applies to everything in skiing and in life!

If we then face downhill on a gentle gradient then there is no need any more to push yourself back up and the effect of gravity becomes even more obvious. The fall between the skis has to become a little bit more lateral – to the inside and less forward leaning is necessary due to the slope doing that for you. What I have just described is “skiing” – as far as the body mechanics go.

Derin’s natural timing came from her skiing several years ago – her dynamics (falling to the inside) contributed to this timing (down /up) – her skating developed hip angulation and independent leg action and her pivoting skills enhanced this.  Now she needs to become a little bit more aware of what she possesses and to build upon it.


Afternoon Derin

I wish that puppy dogs and little girls could stay like this for ever! Some people like wine tasting but Derin has invented Powder Snow tasting!  Nobody can consider themselves a real powder skier unless they know how to taste it properly. Definitely Chateau Val Claret vintage 2014 – doesn’t go well with hair in the mouth though!











We began almost from scratch – knowing that Derin had only just managed to ski the wide part of a green run on her own last year and that the natural way I’d taught her didn’t give her any defensive snowplough – it was best to begin from the beginning and let the feelings re-awaken in her body before trying anything else.  Her body and coordination had obviously changed a lot too since last year so allowances for that would need to be made. The key here is “patience”. Derin knew exactly how to hold on to my pole and we were able to pick up from almost where we had left off. There was an issue with Derin’s left leg not cooperating as well as the right one and at first the left ski was all over the place but as expected this settled down after an hour or so. Once Derin’s body got used to sliding again we began to surpass her previous level in certain ways – in that we were able to ski the blue run while I only held my pole with one hand all the way – and with tight turning in both directions. We repeated and repeated until almost 5pm when Derin was obviously getting tired. Her only complaint however was that we weren’t going fast enough! We stopped for the toilet at one point – resulting from the Powder Snow tasting – but missed out on a hot chocolate due to service being too slow. Next time the hot chocolate will need to replace the Powder Snow.

Tomorrow I’ll start to try to teach some specific skills – something she was too young for the last time. Until now the issue has been to just feed her body with appropriate feelings and sensations and to avoid teaching anything that can cause defensiveness, discouragement and tension or inappropriate coordination. Even just achieving that is an art!  When I can let Derin ski on her own again then I’ll be able to use video. My main concern for her skiing unassisted is that she will almost certainly “tout droit!” – that is fly off straight downhill – because she has no fear or idea of the consequences. All the time I’m talking to her as we turn explaining why we finish the turns to control speed, why we link the turns, why we don’t go straight! I want her to understand this for the right reasons – not because of fear.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Leyla (Summary)


  • Focus


  • Centre of Mass
  • Dynamics – Turn Initiation
  • Feet
  • Carving
  • Dynamics – Turn Completion
  • Pole Touch


  • Timing
  • Foot Forwards


  • Hip Angulation
  • Pole Plant
  • Compression Turns



The whole aim of changing skiing is to be able to become centred and still within the chaos of movement in a wild environment.  We become centred by focusing internally on the awareness of the physical process of skiing.  In practical terms this means that distractions and fears are shut out and the artificial boundaries between body, mind and nature disappear.

Becoming centred is a constant journey because it is a state that exists far from equilibrium that requires work, attention, constant input, adaptation and creativity. Just when you feel centred something will turn up to throw you off. No two turns are ever the same, just as no two snowflakes or people are identical. No two moments are the same in time or in form.

We recognise and study elements of movement that help us to work towards this goal – optimising the use of the body, equipment and terrain – and they become the focus that pulls us to this centre. Those elements are fractal in nature, once again resembling the snowflakes beneath our feet so the deeper we zoom into them the more we see that the journey is not an end but a process…. endless…



The centre of mass is not a fixed point in the body – it is an abstract point that moves relative to the body depending on the shape made by the body. Upright and steady it is usually somewhere between the belly button and the pelvis just in front of the spine. When somebody folds their body over a high jump bar they are deliberately making sure that the centre of mass passes below the bar. When somebody spins they spin specifically around the centre of mass.

We can become aware of the point of a pencil on paper as if it belonged to our body and likewise we can become aware of the centre of mass as a point which we can guide with similar precision. All of dynamics is about guiding this point. Our movements themselves should begin from our centre and move outwards through the body. Breathing should be focused towards this centre – in and out through the nose if possible and deep in the belly with the diaphragm – breathing in between turns and out slowly while building up force and pressure during the turn.

The feet are the only solid contact with the Earth and most of our postural reflexes are controlled by the pressure on them. The intelligence of the feet has to be respected. Your feet have 52 bones, 66 joints and 214 ligaments – yet most people can’t name any.  In a real sense the ski is a high-tech extension of the intelligence of the foot and the boot is an additional exoskeleton. All of this has to be understood and related to its relationship with the centre of mass.

Turn Initiation is not an attempt to throw yourself downhill and towards the ground – it is an attempt to generate pressure beneath the uphill foot. Gravity itself will not do this because falling actually reduces pressure so this pressure depends on either an impulse from the leg or the ski design. Pushing the ski (or skis) forwards and  using this to create more disequilibrium – separating the trajectory of the skis from the trajectory of the centre of mass even more – will ultimately create more pressure. It also creates a far greater sense of freedom – but requires greater sense of belief!

Carving gives the solid feedback that the feet and reflexes can relate to most of all – but to extend the dynamic range in carving requires great commitment and courage to throw the body into physical extremes and the mind beyond emotional barriers. Racers take this aspect of skiing to its limit. Turn completion requires the greatest athleticism – not the turn start. Pressure grows towards the end of a turn, but the job of the skier is to create and harness this pressure not to be dominated and spat out by it. The exit from the turn has to be chosen and timed  - through experience – coming out over that lower ski – and the pole touch just marking the occasion afterwards.


Skating is simply what the body does. We generally miss the fact that when walking and running our forward propulsion actually comes from gravity – but in skating we are wonderfully brought back into contact with this phenomenon. Hip angulation and “feet forwards” techniques are extensions of  skating actions. Down/up timing of dynamics is complimented and matched by skating with the legs – eventually creating a resonance leading to a bounce off-piste and giving skiing a life of its own in general.

Skiing is the great destroyer of the human lower back! Next to Nike running shoes! Unlike normal skating, skiing pulls the leg around in front of the body, pulling the hip further forward and the pelvis further around than nature ever intended by a big margin. This act causes posture to collapse under loading and for the back to be damaged progressively.  Understanding how to work from the centre the core of the body can protect us from this as well as enhance skiing performance and efficiency. The first move from the centre of the body should always be to pull back the hip on the supporting leg – especially when pushing the foot forwards. The core of the body should be felt to tighten in response and the core muscles and reflexes kick into action.


Pivoting is a creation of skiing – the choice of two edges! The ski boot, with a stiff lateral shaft keeps the ski base more or less perpendicular to the leg no matter which edge is used for support. A skate in contrast only has one edge in the centre of the foot – which is why it doesn’t need a rigid boot. Pivoting is the only legitimate “braking” form of turning, the skis always sldeslipping on uphill edges and the feet always below the body on the mountain. Dynamics here are still in charge but they are far more subtle. The key is to always move inwards to create a turn – think of moving towards the centre. In this case the pole being used as a support can be directed towards the centre. In Bumps (Moguls) when skied fluently, the dynamics become strong again but the bump shape itself still permits an easy pivoting action. The toes and ski tips have to be pushed down into the troughs because the body has to stay perpendicular to a constant gradient despite the shape of the bumps. The skier will look like the upper body is still and the legs are moving a great deal. This wonderfully centred skier is actually creating a visual illusion of stillness because the body has to be moved very strongly to create it – the turns effectively cancelling out the lateral movement visually. Reiterating: being centred is a state very far from equilibrium.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Leyla 4

Today’s program was to develop three topics:

  1. Foot Forwards Technique (intro)
  2. Turn Completion Dynamics 
  3. Introduction to Bumps

La Grande Motte


Foot Forwards Technique (intro)

Control of turn radius is a direct consequence of a combination of dynamics and pushing forwards of the outside foot in the turn. The pushing of the foot does not cause the foot to advance ahead of the other foot, it simply causes the turn radius to reduce instead. (More advanced versions involve both feet going forwards)

When you look at a bicycle you can see that it turns because the front wheel changes direction and cuts beneath the trajectory of your body. Skis work the same way and pushing the foot forwards makes this process more active and rapid, generating a tighter turn and more solid support.

We worked on static exercises with the skis off – first rotating the whole body around the inside leg, swinging the outside boot in the air. The edge of the boot was lightly placed on the snow to make an arc then pressure was added so a resistance could be felt when making the arc on the snow. I explained that this was the same feeling that we look for on skis. We then did the exercise with the pelvis fixed facing downhill, starting with the leg uphill behind the body and finishing with the leg below the body. This turns the action into a skating action and integrates angulation and anticipation – it can and should also be done with the “chi” hips but I left that out for the time being. Just controlling all of this so far is normally very difficult for people but Leyla was experiencing no difficulty.

Leyla was able to reproduce the actions on skis as can be seen in the following video clip…



Crystals in the air


Turn Completion Dynamics

Until now Leyla was only aware of dynamics as a way to get into a turn and we had not discussed the role of dynamics in the rest of the turn. There are two essential parts to the completion of a turn. First of all the skier has to fight to fight against increasing gravity, increasing edge angle and increasing deceleration – all trying to lift the skier up and effectively out of the turn. This battle is won by pulling everything towards the inside of the turn. At high speed inclination is the best weapon but with more contained speeds and for quicker turns hip angulation is also required. When the body is travelling in the required direction then the stored energy is used to bring the skier up and out of the turn. A skating action of the legs may be used if more energy is needed. The turn in this case is ended when the skis are flat, pointing across the hill and the skier is perpendicular to the slope. With the skier perpendicular and not now vertical the entry into the following turn is already guaranteed and cannot be stopped – so a great commitment is required. This commitment can be very scary (especially off-piste) but it is always preferable because it works. Strong commitment to this movement over the lower ski is the key to safe and successful off piste in demanding conditions.

Leyla caught on quickly and in the following video clip the improved flow from turn to turn can already be clearly seen…



Air crystals forming a halo – which looks like an iris


Introduction to Bumps

Rather than just practising the pivot I decided to apply the pivot directly to a practical situation – namely “mogul” skiing. The best way to learn this correctly is to start out on flat terrain and to simulate the compression of the bumps (legs get literally compressed when skiing bumps with speed) with a conscious retraction of the legs. This simulation is not exact but it is close. Leg retraction, can be used in racing and off piste and is really another aspect of skiing but it is close enough to substitute a bump compression that it permits the right mechanics to be developed.

The idea is to keep the skis on the uphill edges while angulating and pole planting (behind the feet). The legs are then flexed to around 90° at the knees and hips with the centre of mass simultaneously moving towards the pole – beginning the pivot. The pivot is completed with a leg extension bringing the body up – which represents the legs and feet dropping down into the trough below the bump. Ideally any body rotation is prevented. When in actual bump skiing there would be no down or up movement of the body – the legs just conforming to the terrain instead.

Initially Leyla had trouble bending so far without falling backwards so I had her remove her skis and stand facing downhill to “sit” down into this position and feel how natural it is. In our static exercise the pole support slightly behind the feet substitutes the decelerations of the turn that make this stance work in action.

Leyla worked through some compression turns and then individual turns on bumps with the tips of the skis free to pivot in the air. She initially lifted her inside ski instead of relaxing and lowering the body, but when brought to her attention she was rapidly able to correct this.



Mont Blanc through a sea of clouds


For the rest of our skiing we practised carving (rolling feet/adductors and moving centre of mass) when the slope was gentle and wide and then practised focussing on each of the topics so far developed – turn start dynamics  and foot forwards, skating and hips, turn completion dynamics and foot forwards… 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Leyla - Carving

Getting above the “sea of clouds” by going up to the glacier was the first objective of the day...


Leyla said that the work with the feet had been the least clear to her out of the topics that we had already worked on – so I decided from that to pursue this topic further by teaching carving – which clarifies the use of the feet and introduces another essential subject. Leyla had no trouble with the carving exercises and achieved this just as easily as with her initial pivoting.

We first of all just worked on traversing across the hill with both feet rocked uphill – until railway lines were left in the snow…

The stance used for this when standing still resembles a snowplough in the sense that it is wide and on two edges – but the skis are kept parallel and one is on the inside edge and the other the outside edge. The point is that it is a two footed artificial platform when moving slowly or standing still. This is being used only as a prop to cultivate other skills. When the feet are rolled uphill the centre of mass follows the feet uphill slightly and when standing still this puts most weight on the uphill ski – but  this is only because we are completely static. When moving with any speed the skis will arc on the snow and all the pressure will move to the lower “outside” ski in the turn – even in a relatively slow shallow traverse.

Moving onto flat terrain and standing still across the hill – with just a very gentle gradient – I introduced the method for changing edges in carving. The poles were used to hold up the body when moving laterally and when the feet were rocked one way the centre of mass was displaced that same way to edge the skis. Inclination (of the centre of mass) is the major factor in edging the skis and the feet and adductor muscles (inside muscles of the outside leg in the turn) only assist in creating inclination. At first Leyla had a tendency to twist her knees into the turn but soon felt how it was the centre of mass that had to move and that the legs had to pull inwards only laterally and tightly – no ankle collapsing and knee twisting. Standing on the heels helped to resolve this issue quickly. Flipping over onto the downhill edges was initially tricky for Leyla just due to not being used to support herself with her pole and wrist. Rocking the lower foot and ski quickly onto the outside, downhill edge can be quite tricky if you are not used to it.  Once this is mastered statically across the slope it tends to become clearer that the whole process is one of moving the centre of mass from one side of the skis to the other – in such a way as to lock the skis on edge with no drifting.

We next used the shallow gradient to make some gentle turns downhill (with very little turning) from one side to the other and from the outset Leyla had no trouble making clean transitions and avoiding the skis drifting during the edge changing. Leyla had not been clear about the definition of carving and did not previously know that it meant the edges had to be literally cutting the snow or ice.  Leyla was videoed here on her first attempt on a faster slope and once again everything was correct – including the symmetry of the legs. It would take some practice to be able to handle this on steeper faster slopes where dynamics has to become far more proactive. I explained how in reality the ski is not now turning but is following a banked track caused by the inclination. Visualizing the situation in 3D instead of 2D helps to relate better to what is actually happening.



Off Piste

The wide glacier off piste looked ideal for introducing dynamics and pivoting in deeper snow – but unfortunately it was wind packed and not appropriate at this stage – so we didn’t persist.


Back on the piste Leyla practised her pivots and her improved angulation, awareness of edges and centre of mass all combined to help her start to find this easy and functional.  I mentioned how the pole and angulation help to get the centre of mass downhill without the skis changing edge and that by watching the skis (only while learning this) you can learn to control their behaviour better. The pivot is due to the motion of the centre of mass and the adductors and feet only assist. Skiing down the next narrow section I pointed out that I was using my pole for support and pivoting to keep my speed down. What I didn’t mention was that I was now pivoting in a wide stance for stability in the poor visibility – and that pivoting does not always require a narrow two footed stance.

Pole Touch

Having used the pole plant for pivoting it was appropriate to explain to Leyla that pole planting is exclusively for pivoting. When skiing in a more flowing manner – initiating the turns on the inside edge instead – then only a pole “touch” is used. This is when the pole touches the snow as the body drops into the new turn and with steady arms it only requires a slight motion of the wrist. It’s more of a timing and feedback issue here – not a support.


During the descent to Tignes Le Lac we reverted to carving on the flat section and then back to working on other aspects. I asked Leyla to focus on one or two things at a time – dynamics and feet/adductors or skating and hips. This is to instil an appreciation of how to focus properly when skiing. When Leyla became distracted by the hoards of idiots bombing down the piste I told her that she must not allow this sort of issue to cause her skiing to degenerate. The solution is to either stop and let the idiots go by or to focus more directly on her skiing – centering her attention internally and removing the distractions. She must at all costs avoid reverting to stemming and repeating those defensive but inappropriate and ineffective actions that only amplify the vulnerability.




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Leyla Day 2

Today began with a warm up run on the Grande Motte – moderate controlled skiing to warm up the muscles and to get  out of the wind.

Leyla remembered the dynamics, skating and pivoting from yesterday and so after verifying that by watching her skiing we were able to move on without delay.  Because of the ease that Leyla showed at handling the new moves I decided to work on posture and feet – coming to this decision during the first run. There are usually corrections to make at this stage instead of introducing new concepts but Leyla proved to be comfortable and stable with yesterday’s changes. Posture can be very tricky for people to deal with so the subject has to be approached with great care and I was surprised at being able to move into this subject so early. The appropriateness of the choice was confirmed when Leyla unexpectedly asked me about posture at the top of the next lift, while I was actually looking for a place to carry out static postural exercises.


Classic Upper/Lower Body Separation

In order to explain “posture” I had to explain “angulation” and “anticipation”. Hip angulation is the angle made by the upper-body flexing forward on a single hip joint below the pelvis, and then rotating outwards relative to the leg. This can also be perceived as the leg rotating in the hip socket – but with the leg out to the the side (as in skating) and following an arc relative to the upper-body. In other words the rotation is not in the same axis as the femur. I prefer to see it as the body turning relative to the leg and ski because this helps to stop people trying to achieve it by twisting the leg – which would be inappropriate. “Anticipation” is the facing outwards – or downhill – towards the end of a turn – which increases angulation and has the body anticipating a rapid movement of the centre of mass from deep inside one turn, across the skis and into the next. “Anticipation” refers to the direction the body faces and it facilitates sharp building up of pressure and turn changes. At very high speed and in longer turns there is no anticipation – the skier basically follows the skis and uses massive inclination to both create and deal with the forces involved.

The static exercise used to explain this involved standing in skis side on to a snow canon and using the canon as a support. The shoulders were anticipated towards the outside (away from the canon) and the bottom then turning towards the canon could be pushed with both buttocks against the canon. Tilting forwards completed the angulation and Leyla could feel that the upper body was loose even when pushing hard against the canon with the legs. I explained that this is classic technique and the upper-body becomes pure dead weight. There is no protection for the spine and there is some twisting of the spine opposing the direction of the turn - from shoulders down to the base of the spine. This twisting is vaguely referred to as “upper/lower body separation”. It is often described as “winding up the body like a spring” and is then accompanied by an up motion and unwinding to begin the following turn. Unfortunately Leyla had to be made aware of all of this – I say “unfortunately “ because it is all wrong and extremely damaging for the body, yet it is taught universally by international ski teaching systems around the world.

Chi Upper/Lower Body Separation

To describe Chi Upper/Lower body separation was now simple. Just hold the shoulders facing the same way as the skis and only turn the bottom towards the canon. This now twists the spine in the opposite direction and still pulls the hip into place. The hip is now back relative to the shoulder above instead of ahead of it and this is what protects the back and activates all the core muscles and glutes. Amazingly Leyla connected clearly with this difference immediately and could feel the protective contraction of the core muscles when pushing against the canon. With only a few exercises using it in a traverse she was able to fully integrate it into her turning – making the hip shift during the turn transition for each new turn.  To keep it simple – pull back the left hip to go right – but don’t pull back the left shoulder…

The core muscle contraction creates a “hydraulic sac” that protects the spine – the vertical forces travelling through the body being distributed over the whole midsection instead of just through the spine.

More information can be found describing ChiSkiing at the following fixed page link: “ChiSkiing” The only slight problem Leyla experienced was with pelvic tilt and holding the pelvis up at the front while relaxing and sitting slightly at the hips. This is normal and didn’t actually appear when she was skiing.


The second new item today was regarding the use and awareness of the feet, anterior tibialis and adductor muscles. Indoors, with one boot removed Leyla tried to bend her legs and automatically collapsed her ankle. I pointed out that the other ankle was simply supported by the ski boot but that the boot is not designed to support collapsed ankles. The solution was to place the weight on the heels and then try to bend. Without me explaining Leyla then bent correctly, with the ankle, foot and anterior tibialis (shin) muscles tensing and rigidifying the ankle automatically. The bending was now in the knee and hip with the ankle going into a strong shape conforming to a ski boot with about 12° forward lean.

I explained that with the weight on the front of the foot the collapsing ankle causes a loss of support and ultimately a falling backwards of the skier. The simplest solution is to stand on the heel. There are other ways but they are more advanced and not essential. Standing on the heel allows the foot to be rocked laterally at the subtaler joint below the ankle – permitting the foot to roll on edge inside the ski boot. Combined with the lateral support from the shaft of the ski boot the foot can be sustained on edge – rocking the outside foot inwards is the most important aspect of this action – though often to maintain symmetry the inside foot must be rocked onto its outside edge (though not always).  Rocking the outside foot onto its inside edge also activates the adductor muscles which pull inwards on the inside of the leg – up to the groin. Pulling inwards here is important in almost every turn and critical in pivoting.


Holistic Learning and Centering

When asked to ski with all of this and following behind me Leyla had no problem managing all of it – dynamics, skating, chi-upper/lower body separation and feet/adductor muscles. However the moment I wasn’t there in front for her to copy it all escaped her completely. This is why it isn’t captured here on video today. Leyla felt frustrated at this phenomenon but I assured her that the reality was that her ability to assimilate all of this and to copy me was already rather exceptional and unusual.  She has a natural holistic way of learning that requires a visual reference. This appears to permit her to handle a lot of information  with the visual “right brain” giving the “parallel processing” function and not the linear logical step by step processing of the“left brain”. The key now is to back this up with a very clear and precise rational understanding. Meantime I worked with Leyla to show her how to train herself properly by simply focusing on one aspect at a time – fist the dynamics then the skating etc. It’s necessary to trust the body to do the rest while only one thing is focussed on. Sometimes you can choose a couple of things and work on them both as one blends into the other – like the hips aiding dynamics or aiding skating – or the skating aiding dynamics etc.

Leyla was also distracted by the poor visibility so I pointed out that focussing internally on the body removes this problem – which is simply a distraction. The better you get at focussing on the body and movements then the more centred you are mentally and physically and the less you can be thrown off.


On the first run of the day I had introduced the concept of separating the edge of the foot from the edge of the ski to help Leyla with pivoting. The idea is to stand on the uphill ski and allow it to flatten slightly beneath the body – pulling the foot over onto its inside edge – but with the shaft of the boot keeping the ski on the uphill edge. This allows the adductor muscles and “rocked over” foot to aid better in the pivoting. Much of this would of course be felt more clearly after the indoors “feet” exercises. The key to pivoting however is angulation and anticipation with the use of a pole plant – then the active use of the centre of mass slightly downhill of the skis – with pole support (keeping the ski on the uphill edge as long as possible). The feet and adductors only gently assist the process. To enhance awareness of this process Leyla did some pivoting from the lower ski instead. I added a demonstration of “two ski” pivoting to explain why sometimes a two-footed and very close stance was sometimes useful in both bumps and off-piste.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Leyla - Three Fundamentals

Layla before coaching

Leyla explained that the last time she skied two years ago she felt intimidated on the steep because she thought she would not be able to control her skis. After a brief warm up run and before working on technique Leyla was filmed skiing. The skiing is fairly “pedestrian” with any errors present being slightly hard to spot – however - the timing is mainly back-to-front (coming up at the start of the turn and down from about the middle), there is a frequent stemming and the upper-body is slightly left behind at the start of the turn. The general stance looks comfortable and relaxed.

When asked about her technique Leyla was typically vague in her ability to explain her actions. When asked to demonstrate her her own explanation of “weight transfer” she moved her body towards the uphill leg and to the outside of the turn. This clarified for me that we should start the technical work directly with Dynamics.




I gave Leyla the full basic explanation of dynamics with static and moving exercises. (details are found at this fixed page link -  “Dynamics” ) Her mild confusion at first made it clear that it was an issue that was alien to her initially – but this was dealt with by simplifying things – stating that you move the body right to go right and left to go left. The movement is an acceleration (not slow) and is from the centre – meaning the whole body moves not just the hips. Leyla picked up on this easily and looked much stronger immediately. Her motion was natural and this automatically corrected her timing so that it was “down/up” – down from the turn beginning and up at the end – like a motorbike making a turn.




I explained the basics of pivoting from the uphill ski and supported Leyla through the static exercises. (details are found at this fixed page link -  “Pivot” ) Leyla managed this at her very first attempt – which is quite rare to see.




With very little explanation and only one demonstration I introduced to Leyla the concept of skating in a skiing turn. I had noticed her ability to copy and act intuitively so i simply went into the “Direct Method” approach of skating straight downhill and then adding dynamics by falling towards the inside – maintaining the skating rhythm and action at all times – and then asking her to copy this. She did!  The skating action of the legs and body is ”down/up”, matching the dynamics, so a natural rhythm is formed. Leyla as anticipated picked up on this immediately – her natural qualities simply being harnessed and used with a little more awareness than previously.



Leyla was able to carry out every task and to feel the appropriate feedback in each case. Consolidation and development are necessary to ensure that lazy habits don’t flood back to wash away all this rapid achievement. Leyla clearly has a strong potential for rapid development as a skier.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Luke, Leonie, Florence, Tibo – Conquering Comfort

Photo of Florence starting off the day doing her Jawa (Star Wars) impersonation…

This being Florence’s 21st birthday the day would be organised around her objective to get to the highest point in the 3 valleys. We actually achieved that because the Cime Carron is the highest point at 3200m. There is a higher point but technically it’s actually in another valley and there isn’t time to get there and back from Courchevel without skipping lunch.

Following an over-intensive technical day yesterday the goal for today was “FUN”!  This would mean keeping everyone within their technical limits but also looking for some adventure depending on the snow and visibility conditions.  The sky cleared and about 30cm of fresh snow was available at altitude.

Just skiing longer runs with Florence behind me revealed that she would keep up a good pace and even remain on my heels when we strayed off piste. It turns out that Florence copes better when she can follow and she is probably able to copy my dynamics directly to some degree. Some people operate well by copying and the related learning process is called “osmosis”.

There would be no other technical input today, partly because the travelling meant that we had to either ski or rest and partly because it was important for everyone to just get the chance to tackle terrain and snow by having the opportunity to simply try out all they have been learning. All I was doing was finding opportunities – good snow and safe routes off piste.


After skiing was over there was an official awards ceremony. Leonie took top spot for “most Improved” as she was tackling all sorts of black runs and steep off piste with good control. Luke won the “Best Jump” for his spectacular leap onto the Air Bag – and also “Best Face Plant” for his final fall off piste in deep snow where he flipped over backwards and headfirst down the mountain. (unfortunately not filmed). Tibo won the “Most Potential” award and we all agreed that he has the most potential energy – though nobody really knows what energy actually is… ( Florence won the “Most Natural” because she just functions by following and copying and can only ski her best when there is no mental interference. Her basic movements – when relaxed - are the most natural.


















Conquering “comfort” … the favourite poem of general Douglas McArthur …

By: Samuel Ullman

            Youth is not a time of life - it is a state of mind,
            it is a temper of the will,
            a quality of the imagination,
            a vigor of the emotions,
            a predominance of courage over timidity,
            of the appetite for adventure over love of ease.

            Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years.
            People grow old only by deserting their ideals.
            Years wrinkle the skin,
            but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
            Worry, doubt, self-distrust,
            fear and despair - these are the long,
            long years that bow the head and
            turn the growing spirit back to dust.

            Whether they are sixteen or seventy,
            there is in every being's heart
            the love of wonder,
            the sweet amazement at the stars
            and starlike things and thoughts,
            the undaunted challenge of events,
            the unfailing childlike appetite
            for what is to come next,
            and the joy and the game of life.

            You are as young as your faith,
            as old as your doubt;
            as young as your self-confidence,
            as old as your fear,
            as young as your hope,
            as old as your despair.
            When the wires are all down
            and all the innermost core of your heart
            is covered with the snows of pessimism
            and the ice of cynicism,
            then you are grown old indeed.

            But so long as your heart receives messages
            of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur
            and power from the earth,
            from man and from the Infinite,
            so long you are young.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Luke, Tibo, Leonie, Florence – lean On Me


This morning everyone was on short skis – though the 120cm skis were not really reactive enough for confident building up of dynamics. I found that they performed more like slalom skis with quite a long carve radius for short skis. In Courchevel none of the shops stock Snowblades anymore.  My own pair has vanished along with my 150cm World Cup Fischer slalom skis – probably lent to somebody. Leonie and Florence needed an introduction to carving on the blades so we repeated the carving lesson from yesterday – with rolling from edge to edge of both skis on the flat with a toppling of the centre of mass. Leonie had a tendency to push her hips to one side and keep her head and eye-line in the horizontal.  I explained that the head had to incline with the body to line up with the resultant forces in the turn – and not remain in the horizontal. Horizontal is only useful when we are relating to the vertical. At first Leonie couldn’t hold the ski on edge and would allow the ski to flatten and drift instead of carve but this was sorted out in a few minutes. We didn’t spend long on carving because the slope was a little bit too steep, so we moved onto pivoting.

Later on, near the end of the session we returned to carving and I got Leonie to “Lean On Me” with a view to refreshing how to generate active dynamics. The blades are excellent for developing active dynamic range so I wanted her to move more and she did achieve this. Later the sentiment was captured in song by Luke and Tibo in the following video clip…



Somehow Luke manages to initially do every new exercise correctly and then eventually to find a way to return to being glued to the back of the boots and skis. Yesterday the blades allowed Luke to be well centred but today he was in the back seat once again even on the blades. Leonie responded well to pivoting in a wide stance with the feet held at the same altitude on the hill (instead of one above the other). Getting Leonie to remove her skis I asked her to face downhill and jump, turning both legs in the hip sockets, landing with the feet facing the opposite direction (from left to right etc). When back on skis the idea was to feel each leg pivot independently. Leonie understood this and for the first time was able to get control over her hip rotation as a result. 

I helped Luke to feel this by physically pulling his skis through the manoeuvre – but although he seemed to get it at first he couldn’t retain it.  The right leg in particular was troublesome. Luke needs more time to develop awareness of the body in space and the relative positioning of the feet to the body – plus to be able to discern the causes of the physical differences in action between the two sides of the body. When you can do something well on one side and not on the other then main the issue is body awareness.

Tibo had an issue with rotating his pelvis into the turn with a major twist of his spine – so I pointed out that he was actually supposed to pull the hip backwards – the opposite direction – and that his current spine twisting could be very damaging to the body. The wide stance pivoting was partly to help him to realise that the pivoting had to come from the legs and not the pelvis or above.

We did a couple of runs working on this and then decided to head down to change back to normal skis. There were too many dispersed individual issues between the four skiers for enough attention to be given to any individual and so only Leonie had managed to make a real breakthrough. Tibo had also certainly reigned in his spinal cord. I could also see how Luke systematically pushed out his right foot and so this gave me more clues to his issues. Florence just worked along at her own pace and I pointed out that she needed to leave her comfort zone a little bit more to be able to bring about real change from her current situation. More control at lower speeds would give her more control at higher speeds and so lead to greater confidence off piste and in general.

Everyone managed one ski pivoting, thanks to the short skis.


After lunch we tackled the black “Sanglier” run down into Meribel and I asked Luke to bend the legs low to try to avoid being jammed in the back of his boots. A permanently flexed stance is called “midstance” and is an old Austrian technique. This appeared to work initially but then the back of the boots took over again. I pointed out to Luke that the foot of the uphill ski had to be kept well below the body – downhill – to be able to pivot. Awareness of the positioning of the skis and their edges is extremely important in this manoeuvre. To go one step further, the edge of the foot and the ski have to be felt separately. Standing on the uphill ski, with it kept downhill of the body you initially stand on the uphill edge of the ski and foot. You let the foot relax and so the ski flattens slightly with the shaft of the boot pushing the knee slightly laterally downhill and bringing the foot onto its inside edge. The boot shaft also maintains the ski on its uphill edge at the same time. Now the foot in on the inside edge and can pull “inwards” pulling the front of the ski downhill into the turn. This pulling accompanies a subtle motion of the centre of mass directly downhill.

I pointed out that Luke needed not only to start to avoid lifting up the tip of his inside ski high in the air but he should really be forcing the tip downwards instead – especially when going down the drop after a bump. In bump skiing in particular the toes have to push both tips down quite hard into the trough following compression and bending on the bump. This action later on becomes a common reflex even off piste.

To help Luke avoid snagging his inside ski I also pointed out that “inside leg steering” was necessary – where not only independent leg pivoting was necessary but the inside ski needed to be consciously swung out of the road whether on the snow or in the air.

Leonie struggled with her pivoting here because she had difficulty initiating the pivot from a sideslip and had a strong tendency to slide forwards and the try to grip with whatever edge she was sliding along. Her default defensive reaction to approaching the fall line is to look for the inside edge of the outside ski to grip with while still using the lower ski as a brake and platform (hence a stem). Allowing a slip sideways from the top ski into the fall line is still uncomfortably alien to Leonie. 

We had to go in for a drink due to Luke’s right foot metatarsal arch being in agony. It seems that whatever he is doing on his right side is leading to some sort of contortion and tension in the foot. Even his footbed inside the boot was in agony…

Off Piste

After drinks we stumbled upon some remaining unskied powder snow leading almost all the way down to Meribel. Leonie managed to ski some of this in the fall line, with control of rotation hence control of speed, with a continuous rhythm for the first time ever. Luke skied it well too but technically Leonie was now marginally better. Tibo was still on the blades and was doing a good job of controlling his rotation now too. Although he wasn’t getting a lot of direct input he was taking information on board. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to film any off piste – which ended up with a trip through the trees at the bottom. Part of the purpose of al this was to blow away the cobwebs from hours of sometimes frustrating exercises.

Short Swings

Near the bottom of the off piste, for Tibo’s benefit I explained the timing for jumping (short swings). The jump has to be from the downhill leg because it isn’t a jump into a turn it’s a jump out of the existing one – matching the bounce from the dynamics of powder skiing or the rise up at the end of a skate or simply the force of the ski bringing a skier up out of a turn. The jump is to permit the first part of the next pivot to be executed in the air when conditions are unfriendly to this weakest part of the pivot on the ground.

Pole Plants and Pole Touches

We completed the day with a couple of runs on some steep black runs. Leonie may have freaked out mentally but she held it together flawlessly with her skiing and had no problems controlling her speed on the steeps. Between runs I explained pole use, mainly to help Tibo reel in his wild arm gestures a bit.  In braking turns such as pivots we use a solid pole plant (in bumps or steeps) to support the body entering the turn. You can literally lean on the pole for this purpose. Being aware of this is a good trigger for preparing angulation and a strong completion of the preceding turn – as the angulation then automatically leads to a strong pole plant and entry into the next turn.  Luke had never been using his poles with his angulation being so week so this was also a good exercise for him. The pole use also helps to keep the body centred over the skis and prevents falling backwards.

In dynamic skiing where the turn is initiated on the inside (downhill) edge there is no “pole plant” but only a pole touch as the body passes the perpendicular in the turn transition and enters the new turn. Only a slight wrist movement is necessary as the global movement of the body places the pole touch. In general the arms are carried loosely in front of the body (goal keeper position) and are always visible in the peripheral vision.

Fronts of Skis

We completed the day with a last look at Luke’s fore/aft issue. On the steeps I asked Luke to remove his skis and stand facing downhill. This way he could find a relaxed and flexed stance. The point is that that when skiing the dynamics (accelerations) of the turn have the same effect as gravity which helps to maintain this seated stance without falling backwards:

Luke’s posture here isn’t perfect (lower back slightly hollow) but in general the legs are fine. There is no reason why this can’t be achieved when moving on skis. In deep snow an even lower stance can be maintained because the snow acts like a brake at the feet forcing the upper body forwards (as is gravity in this picture). The deceleration in the end of a turn has the same effect and gravity its self has this effect at the start of a turn. In contrast Luke when skiing tends to push against the back of the ski boots tensing up the feet, ankles and legs and then break forwards (bowing forwards) at the hip joints while hollowing his lower back.

I then asked Luke to ski a moderate slope while feeling the fronts of the skis by  tilting forwards from the ankles. This is just to get a feeling for this extreme and for the grip and stability of the whole front of the ski – to realise that it’s there! Luke had trouble doing this without locking his legs rigid but eventually realised that he could achieve this even with the legs flexing.