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… 

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