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.


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