Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Alex 2

Alex should probably have been selected for the Sochi Olympics ski acrobatics team – however at only 8 years old he is probably not eligible yet.

It was a busy day and a lot of progress for Alex including Slalom, Off Piste, Bumps and jumping plus a lot of work on technique including pivoting, carving and control of posture. His skiing is starting to look good.

If the videos seem to focus on Alex’s dramatic crashes it’s only because he loves to see them!

Slalom 36 Seconds

The thing to see in the slalom video is that Alex is not inclining enough into each turn. He feels like he is inclining a lot so it was important to film this so that he could see the reality for himself.  He tends to bend over forwards, compensating partly for being quite hard against the back of his ski boots and this gives him the illusion that he is getting close to the ground by falling into the turn. There are many other technical issues but the most important have to be dealt with first.

On his final run he did incline better and this increased his speed but he wasn’t ready to deal with the increased speed – which requires more inclination again. When he gets that right then we can modify his timing. The slalom course provides clear feedback  and exposes problems so that they can be much better dealt with.  His first timed run was 37.8 seconds and second run was 36 seconds. He should be able to get down to around 31 seconds with some work.



We repeated yesterday’s pivoting and sideslipping in the bumps but this time I added “compression” timing to introduce the idea of coming down with a strong leg flexion into the turn. At speed the bump compresses the legs in this way – but when done slowly the legs have to be both contracted. Mike finds this difficult because he blocks the motion of his centre of mass into the turn with the downhill leg and so he can’t easily flex down into a turn. His usual formula is to come up instead, force a turn through some form of twisting and then lift the lower leg out of the way before it causes the skis to cross. We need to break this habit! Alex in contrast is managing to pivot better in the bumps and sideslip better. This is steadily bringing his feet closer together when skiing in general and helping his overall stance.

We later on looked at Mike’s pivoting and it transpired that he hadn’t understood that the foot can be on one edge with the ski on the opposite edge (due to the shaft of the ski boot). It’s necessary to pivot from the uphill ski with the ski on its uphill edge and the foot rolling inside the boot onto its inside (downhill) edge. The ski meantime remains on its uphill (outside) edge. This allows the ski to slip into the turn with no edge resistance while using the adductor muscles on the inside of the leg to keep the body firm. There is no “twisting” involved – it’s a lateral movement relative to the skis led by the centre of mass.

Real Inclination!

Off Piste

Alex did well with no falling over on his first major excursion off piste. He managed to get a good bouncing rhythm and use it for subtle turning. Despite this being only his second time off piste he was already hooked. Later on we we went into some steeper snow but the snow was sun crusted and wind packed so it along with being too steep this was too difficult for either Mike or Alex to turn in. Alex only had one fall in the crusty snow and unfortunately dropped his ski pole down the mountain. This is where he now has to realise that it’s important to not let go of the poles each time he falls. I tried to work with Mike to get him to move the body over the lower leg to prepare for a turn in the deep snow but he was determined to keep that leg jammed downhill below the body and preventing the turns from happening. We need to work on that in slightly less hostile territory.

Posture (Chi Hips) - Carving

Alex was constantly complaining about his lower back hurting so despite posture being a very difficult issue for most people to deal with I felt it was important to tray to do something to protect Alex’s back. We began with an exercise with the arms where both ski poles are pointed towards the inside of the turns, but the outside hip in the turn is pulled backwards. Most people when pointing the poles inside the turn would automatically let the outside hip rotate outwards – so this makes it a really conscious effort to do the exact opposite. Mike seemed to immediately turn more effectively when using this exercise.

The next exercise was to get Alex to hold my pole handles while I stood in front holding the opposite ends – to keep his shoulders immobile. Meanwhile the idea was to get him to move one hip back at a time and to feel the twist in the spine ( up the axis of the spine). This tightening is what strengthens the core and allows the upper and lower body to connect properly. Most skiers miss this because the ski pulls the hip forward during the turn instead of backwards. I explained to Alex that he had to do this on every turn. This clearly worked because even on the last run of the day down the face de Bellevarde he had at least a 50% improvement with his back – and the short turns on the steeps are very difficult place to apply this coordination when learning it.

We used the chi-hips in carving too and Alex eliminated his back pain.

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