Thursday, February 20, 2014

Alex 4


This was the day for Alex to master his 360° jump, beat his slalom record, ski bumps and hit the off piste (which he did literally!)

Warm Up

I asked Alex if his back had hurt at all after our descent down the Face yesterday and he confirmed that there was no pain. Correspondingly I suggested that during the warm up run he should work on maintaining his upright stance and pulling the hip (chi-hips) back at the same time – this being because I noticed on yesterday’s video that when standing upright he had a tendency to let the hip rotate forwards.

Extending Dynamic Range

The main objective I had in mind was to try to extend Alex’s dynamic range so that he could be stronger and safer in slalom. It’s obvious when watching Alex ski that he is not trying to “fall over” he is trying to stay upright – so this error had to be addressed directly. I explained to Alex that the goal in skiing is to REALLY try to fall over – laterally – to the inside of the turn. As long as the body doesn’t do anything weird – like turn to jelly – then it is next to impossible to achieve this target. The skis increase in power exponentially as inclination increases and so the skier soon hits a limit – perhaps only 30° of dynamic range and nothing like the 80° or so that is possible with highly trained racers. The first task however is to have the correct target and to be at least trying to get there.

When Alex had previously inclined a lot in slalom it was because his skis were skidding away from him and he was actually falling inwards onto the inside leg – a technical error! The correct way to incline is the move the centre of mass and this makes the ski grip.

Slalom 33.85 Seconds

In the slalom course Alex was predictably faster and despite the increased speed still managed to stay in the course. This is an objective sign of improvement – 3 seconds gained in the course and with only a total of 6 runs since the start of the holiday – so not a lot of practice in the poles. H

His legs are still stiff due to being clamped to the back of the boots and there is no sense of skating rhythm yet – so those aspects will limit his ability currently to alter his timing in the course (to react earlier when the speed is higher). If we can develop some feeling for those things then the dynamics will improve again too.


We did one run in the Tovière bumps – working on pivot, sideslip and compression. Perhaps more of this would help to loosen up Alex’s legs. Tomorrow if the visibility is ok we will do some running over the bumps and absorbing with the legs. Mike was still tending to reverse his timing on the bumps – going up to start the turn instead of “compressing”. Until you ski fast in bumps it’s not really possible to know what “compression” is . Compression is similar to a car shock absorber being forcibly compressed. When the legs are correctly relaxed there is a reflexive selective muscle use that lets the legs work like shock absorbers. It resembles the way the legs bend automatically when you jump off a wall. The pivot should be timed along with the compression. Slow exercises with retraction of the legs does not really replicate the feeling – but Mike extending upwards does not even get into the ball park! The reason people revert to extending upwards is the anxiety of the steep drop  to follow – however it’s even higher if you extend upwards. Why do emotions always make us act so inappropriately? The other reason is that people are taught to move that way by default in ski schools and this can be hard to break when it it massages the emotions so well.


Alex repeated his 270° jump and then when asked to do a 360° in just his ski boots on the snow he couldn’t make that either – so we went to work on changing that. He needed to get his arms out wide to spin and build momentum – drawing them into the body  and the lead one upwards. Once the feeling was clear he then had to time this on skis so that the spin was generated before take off. Once off the ground it’s identical to being in outer space so there is nothing to generate rotation.


Off Piste

The Off Piste snow wasn’t good so there was no way of pivoting in this snow. The key to skiing this stuff is the  “end of turn” dynamics that we had worked on yesterday. You have to ski this aggressively with a strong platform from the lower leg taking you up and out of the turn. Emotionally you really want to do the exact opposite – as usual. Alex looked great until he caught a ski and was pulled over. Mike skied this difficult snow looking functional and effective.

Pole Use

Dynamic, flowing skiing,does not require a pole plant. Pole planting is reserved for tight pivoting where a support is necessary. There is however a “pole touch” as the skier moves into the new turn caused by the body inclining into the turn. It occurs with the down movement of the Centre of Mass into the new turn and the arm is not moved. The pole is swung out into position only by the wrist and the touch is very light.


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