Friday, February 7, 2014

Derin and Zeynep

Afternoon Derin in the Morning

Completely different weather today- wind from the North West and clear skies in the morning, getting warm by afternoon.

Little Derin was not as chirpy as usual and it turned out that she had been late to bed so she had more desire to sleep than ski…however as usual she skied completely without complaint. Even a face plant in deep snow for Derin just becomes an excuse to play with the snow! This was perhaps the last day of skiing for Derin so the most important thing was just to take advantage of the conditions and add as much as possible to her mileage, increasing her speed whenever possible. I was impressed at her intelligent management of speed and line.

This encouraged me to let her ski in front as much as possible. On green runs where she was confident her skiing was completely parallel. She could stop at will by turning tightly and negotiate fairly steep, icy and narrow paths. She even figured out that bumps could be used to make turning easier. Only the deep off piste posed a small obstacle for her because of her lack of weight for pushing through it – but when she wanted some speed she cleverly looked for tracks already made by others. Nobody told her to do this she just figured it out.



The only negative of the day was the stupidity and lack of respect of many out of control boarders and skiers. It was by coincidence that I met up with French ski teacher and friend Olivier Sante who told me he is mounting an association to deal with the lack of respect of the mountain safety code – to at least force the ski schools to teach it. Personally I don’t think it will make any difference because the problem is one of selfish attitude, drugs and broader education.




Zeynep managed to collect the equivalent (it was on the  Bonnevie Stade – which is harder than the actual race) of the bronze in the “Fleche” race in the morning – so she was obviously happy about that. She used the dynamics and said that she didn’t slide sideways so much. We were going over to the slalom to do some work on technique but before hand I wanted to improve Zeynep’s carving a little.

The first thing I wanted Zeynep to do was to roll her feet inside her ski boots. She didn’t know anything about how to use the feet, but without going into a separate lesson on the feet I had to just give her a general idea. The feet have a total of 52 bones and 214 tendons and ligaments – so they are mechanically very complex and can’t be just ignored. They are our only contact with the ground and all our reflexes depend on the way they deal with pressure. To simplify things we can think of the edges of the feet corresponding to the edges of the skis. I asked Zeynep to roll her feet to the left – onto the left edges to make a carved turn to the left. The edging should be done by the inclination of the centre of mass supported by the rolling of the feet – not by pushing the knees inwards. I had Zeynep hold onto my ski pole and pulled her sideways towards me so that she could incline and edge her skis with me supporting her – then I did the same the other way by pushing her away from me. While the body was inclining I asked her to roll her feet onto the correct edges.

We then tried this in traversing across the hill in a carve – both feet rolled uphill. Zeynep had trouble getting the left foot to roll onto its outside edge when traversing/carving with the left side uphill. eventually she managed to make a two-skied track in the snow with two cutting edges and the legs symmetrical. The real reason for having the “inside” foot (relative to the turn) on its outside edge is just for body symmetry.

Once this exercise was working a little better I just asked Zeynep to link carved turns without skidding on gentle terrain – with the feet rolling supporting centre of mass moving inwards from turn to turn.

Once she had practised this for a while I demonstrated how far over it is possible to incline with dynamics at speed when carving and so she had a go at it herself – and then it was time to go over to the slalom.



Slalom lasted about 3 turns and with the new speed gained from carving Zeynep was thrown straight out of the course! Now she has to learn how to generate more dynamics so as to deal with the effects of her better grip (she is no longer brushing off speed by skidding so much). The speed control now has to come from increasing the dynamics so much that the turn tightens and so the new line of travel does the slowing itself. Slalom courses are set to special rules to have this effect.


We briefly revised “skating into skiing” to ensure that Zeynep could still move with the right timing and rhythm. This was also to help her feel movement in the legs – something she loses when “resisting” with tension in the slalom and in challenging situations. She carried out the exercise well and this was preparation for going off piste. The whole base of the ski builds up pressure in off piste snow so the lifting power of the ski is much more powerful and this then requires more dynamics again to stay inside at turn. The skating timing gives a clue as to what to look for when the skis begin to “bounce” in the soft snow. We have to tune into this rhythm and use it.

Off Piste

For off piste I just told Zeynep to more her body – with dynamics. You can’t overdo the dynamics and if anything goes wrong it will be because to not using enough dynamics. We went into her first real off piste excursion ever into soft deep snow  and I knew she would be fine because of her understanding of dynamics. She only had one fall at the very end and discovered how soft and forgiving powder snow is.

Bumps and Pivoting

I showed Zeynep how to use a bump to help the skis turn. You place the skis on the bump with the tips in the air then plant your pole downhill. Use the pole to let the body fall in a controlled way between the ski tips and the pole and when the skis begin to slip then pull both tips inwards. Once this had been practised for a while we did this while on the move.

Steeps Off Piste

Visiting some steep off piste I showed Zeynep how to use the bump/pivot movement to initiate a turn in really steep terrain. She did this successfully. It takes courage to do this because you have to overcome the little emotional voice in your head that tells you not to let your body fall down this steep hill. When Zeynep tried this on steep terrain she got it right, but when she completed the descent wih dynamics she didn’t complete her turns enough and so the speed started to get a bit out of control. This is what slalom teaches people – how to fight to hold yourself down into a turn and allow pressure and energy to build up and to then release this energy by letting the ski bring you up towards the end of the turn – once your direction and speed are controlled.

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