Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Derin and Zeynep


One word describes the weather today – “harsh”!  80km/hr SE freezing winds at altitude and snowfall getting stronger all day with poor visibility at best, except low down at Tignes les Brevieres. The only advantage of this we experienced was that the gondolas were empty from Brevieres so with Derin fitting nicely on a bench she managed some proper rest and recovery. Until now Derin has been happy about growing but she was disappointed to realise that by next year she probably won’t fit the gondola bench any more – at least without removing her helmet and boots. 

Most of the morning was about dodging the worst of the wind and weather and trying to find shelter to fit in a few exercises when possible. We practiced wide stance dynamics to make rapid, grippy, edgy and aggressive turns and emphasise the use of the centre of mass. This was also to help to keep warm. I continually corrected Derin for her arm carriage and encouraged her to keep her arms forwards – which helps to keep her off the backs of her boots. Asking Derin what was the main thing she should focus on when making a turn she still didn’t realise that it is the centre of mass – and that we have to move this point to make our turns. Although she uses dynamics in her skiing she doesn’t really seem to be aware of the centre of mass – especially when making either really big moves such as in carving or very fine moves such as in pivoting. She is certainly not aware of how changing the shape of the body (angulation) affects the centre of mass – as her difficulties in pivoting demonstrated.


We worked on pivoting for a while but she was struggling to use the pole for a support and to relate it to the motion of the centre of mass – which actually controls the pivot. She would get her body stuck uphill on the uphill edge then try to force the ski around instead of moving her centre of mass downhill with the support from the pole. Even when succeeding the start of the pivot there would still be a twist and push out of the skis later on – which means she wasn’t really feeling the correct mechanism. She was getting very close and I intended to persist with this but instead we ended up just skiing to keep warm. Her pivoting problems are related to her long term tendency to be in the back of her ski boots. Mastering the pivot with some angulation and pole support would go a long way towards helping to eliminate the use of the rear of the ski boot for support.

As usual when it is windy Derin was struggling to cope with the cold. She is very thin and simply can’t hold enough heat. Sure it was harsh weather – but only from the point of view of teaching/learning and staying focused on those things. She said her legs and feet were cold but not her upper body – but keeping the core temperature up usually keeps the legs and feet warmer. She never asked for her extra top but she should have been wearing it systematically. I knew before the day started that she would struggle with this cold. Clothing! Clothing! Clothing! – as somebody said “There is no such thing as bad weather… ” If she was dressed like an Eskimo (and ate more perhaps) there would be no cold  – end of story!


Best gondola ride of the season!


Little Derin was persuaded to stay in out of the cold so this gave Zeynep the chance to come out for the afternoon – even though she had also been out all morning. We both knew that the trip back from Les Brevieres was cold so we took the risk of going the opposite way – up the train to the Grande Motte. During the wait for the train I used a stone surfaced concrete pillar to help to explain dynamics to Zeynep while we were inside in the warm.

The first video is Zeynep skiing with the standard ski school technique which she executes correctly – sinking down to plant the ski pole and then standing up to start the turn transferring weight to the outside ski – by moving the centre of mass over it. She look stiff and unstable – as is predictable. Her wish was to be better at slalom to improve her race times – so that meant she would need to learn about alternative ways of moving!


Dynamics (There is a fixed page on the subject at the top of the blog)

I used the pillar to get Zeynep to move and push against it for support – explaining the various effects at the level of the feet. Before doing this I asked Zeynep to transfer her weight to the right ski as if she was turning to the left on skis – and she moved to the right! I then showed that a quick move to the left caused pressure on the right foot and then if the pillar was on the left it would continue to give support and maintain this pressure on the foot. I showed how a slow movement placed the pressure on the left foot. The pillar made it easy and comfortable to demonstrate the range of effects of dynamics. Just like the pillar can never be pushed away and so there is no chance of falling over – the lifting power of a ski is every bit as strong and makes sure the skier will never fall over when making this move.

The analogy of a motorbike going into and out of a turn – leaning down into the turn – helped Zeynep understand the subject better. She could see that this timing was the opposite of what she was used to.

I explained the Zeynep that her job is to fall over to the side and the ski’s job is to lift her back up – but the ski can’t do its job if the skier doesn’t try to fall over . The ski provides a force that is effectively every bit as strong as the pillar for holding you up.

We repeated the exercise statically on skis and then in action with turns to one side from the fall line. Zeynep moved with ease and could feel the mechanism. Before long Zeynep was skiing with dynamics.

The video is Zeynep getting used to moving the centre of mass and also adding skating at the same time in the second scene…



Before bringing skating into her skiing I had to teach Zeynep how to skate better. This only took five minutes.  I stood in front of her facing her on the flat with my ski poles held horizontal in front of me. I asked her to diverge her skis and to grab my pole and push me backwards. This caused her to lean forwards and to push from the insides of the feet. When she repeated this -  leaning forwards  but without me there – she accelerated in proper skating. Skating uses gravity with the body falling forwards – and skiing is only an extension of the falling. We tried skating downhill and then making the forward fall more lateral until it developed into dynamics and skiing. I explained to Zeynep that the timing of skating is “down/up” and that matches the timing of dynamics with is also “down/up”.  Everything works this way – from a bicycle to an aircraft to a skater to just somebody changing direction when running.

Zeynep picked this up very quickly and showed that she could connect with the right feelings and understand them. Her legs immediately began to look functional instead of stiff and her overall body movement looked natural.

She asked bout using the knees to “carve” and so I explained that the knees are never to be pushed inwards to carve because that risks breaking them. Carving comes mainly from the inclination of the body due to dynamics and partly from hip angulation created from skating – but not from the knee. We didn’t have time to look into greater detail but the knee can appear to move inwards when the muscles on the inside of the leg are tightened – but this is not a “twisting inwards” action.

Arms and Poles

I asked Zeynep to hold her poles across in front of her to bring her arms up from her sides and out in front into the “ready” position. When the arms hang low by the sides this pulls the body backwards and downwards. I then showed her how to get the height right by “walking” the poles stabbing them into the snow with just a flick forwards form the wrist – continually as we moved forwards. The “pole touch” on the snow when skiing should be when the centre of mass moves into the new turn – it’s the body going down into the turn that causes the pole to touch the snow. The pole does not go into the snow at the end of a turn and is not followed by an up movement. They stopped teaching that nonsense in the USA in 1992. Zeynep has to watch when she skis that if she uses her poles she might find this sending her back to her old ineffective timing along with the rest of her movements.

Pivoting (There is a fixed page on the subject at the top of the blog)

Now that Zeynep understood dynamics and skating she would be able to see them in some skiers. I explained that when she didn’t understand those things they would have been invisible to her. Our vision is dependent on the database inside our brains and can only see what we understand – which is the reason why new born babies are blind. People make the mistake of thinking that they can look at something like skiing and work out what is going on – but that is not how it works because they will only see what they understand.

To emphasise this point I decided to show Zeynep “pivoting” and to ask her to watch and tell me what the major difference was. She couldn’t spot it of course! It’s that the first half of the turn is made completely on the outside edge of the ski. I had her hold my pole and assisted her through a few pivots until she could feel the sensation and understand about the edges. I then explained that this is why I had been holding little Derin this way when skiing with her but that nobody can see or understand what we were actually doing! This is why little Derin can already ski parallel off piste and has never needed a real snowplough – which uses the wrong edge for a beginner in the first half of a turn – but the right edge for a racer!  All the things we worked on today were similar examples of “opposites” that are invisible to people who do not understand them.

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