Warm up / Revision
We began our warm up run on the training piste with a view to combining the warm up with revision of yesterday’s key points. Mark declared that he couldn’t ski without a snowplough so we began by skating straight down the hill – into turning – so that snowploughs were not an option. The warm up involved focusing on dynamics (invisible wall), skating and pushing the outside foot forwards. Mark could only remember one of those three things from yesterday – the invisible wall - until he was reminded.
Slalom Max 38.74, Mark 42,22
Yesterday I had prepared the boys so that they could easily ski black pistes, but what I hadn’t told them was that this would be so that they could manage to begin slalom training. The morning revision was also to strengthen them technically in preparation. It’s important also to get to the slalom course early while it is in good condition so the first part of the morning was structured around achieving this. I took them through the slalom course, explaining the electronic timing and how it is triggered. They also had to know what to do in the event of a fall and how to avoid the finish line so as not to mess up the timing for someone else. Once familiar with the system I could let them use the button lift and do circuits while I could observe and film from below – then give feedback after each run.
The brothers decided to race each other first time and Max scored 43.17 seconds to Mark’s 46.13. Second run Max fell off the button lift so Mark went on his own and scored 42.22 to go ahead of Max. Considering that Mark yesterday believed that he couldn’t ski a black slope it was interesting to see him trying to go faster and succeeding in beating his brother – despite his precarious “racing snowplough” stance! Max however responded straight away with a 38.74 second run to take the honours for the day. I stopped them both then because they were on their limits and needed to go back to working on technique for a while. Mark asked to continue – obviously wanting a chance to take the lead again but it was time to move on. The slalom had exposed some technical faults that would have to be worked on. Max was clearly rotating into the turns with his upper body (hips and shoulders) and this was destroying his attempted dynamics. Mark had a horrible snowplough issue which dominated him. Both the boys admitted that all they had thought of in the race course was “speed”. It was clear watching them that they had totally forgotten their technique training. This is an important lesson. It’s when remaining centred – focusing on your body and being aware of what you are doing – that creates speed. When you are distracted by external goals then you lose track of yourself.
I started to give Mark a hard time for his snowplough – especially when we had to sideslip and he found his uphill ski compulsively switching to the inside (downhill) edge as if he had no control over his leg. I told him that the snowplough was stupid and that it was totally avoidable and that it was wearing out his legs – and that he would have to just stop it and use dynamics instead when turning.
With Max the issue of rotation required some explanation and the solution I gave him initially was to skate his turns but then I added that he had to pull back the hip on the outside leg. Pulling back the hip allows a skating stance from the very start of the turn (this comes under ChiSkiing). Combining the conscious pulling back of the hip and skating did prevent Max from rotating his body into the turns. He also understood that this would facilitate and improve his dynamics. I explained that when he is on a bicycle he does not rotate his body into a turn – instead all he does is incline and the bicycle turns his body. Skis do the same thing. Out of the blue Mark announced that he could ski without a snowplough. Either he had been listening to the advice given to Max or he had just decided to stop the snowplough as I had suggested – nobody is sure which – but he was right and I filmed it. Not only does Mark have his skis parallel but he has pretty good dynamics and inclination too.
To help Max I pointed out that the inside edges of the skis are not beneath the centre of the feet and in his case this was pulling his knees out when he was skating and skiing. To compensate for this the muscles on the inside of the legs need to be used (adductors) to hold the knee in place. Rocking the foot over onto its inside edge and feeling the inside of the heel can help this process. During a turn the foot and the adductors need to be pulling inwards along with the centre of mass moving inwards. This can be tricky with teachers have always taught you to push outwards into a snowplough (using the outer muscles in the leg – the abductors) and to transfer your weight moving your centre of mass outwards over this leg that is being pushed outwards! With the ski trying to flatten and pull your foot flat and knee out all at the same time then obviously it’s important to rebuild a new skillset to deal with all of this. With Max this will take a few days and tomorrow I intend to go into that with him more carefully – but today we just had to get the machine rolling – there were lots of things to do.
Later – in the afternoon we did have another slalom session. This time on his second run Max did remain centred and managed to focus on correcting his technique and preventing the body rotation. Mark in contrast was only focused on regaining the fastest time and so returned to his racing snowplough and blew straight out of the course…
All kids love to jump but they are not aware of the risks of injury on landing. The beginner’s jumps in the snowpark are relatively safe so we had one run over those jumps and then Max decided that he was up for a go at jumping onto the airbag. He was a bit shaky from nerves on the run up to the jump and so compressed on the ramp – which threw him onto his back. Next time he will be ready for it!
Off Piste (Russell Award)
There was a dramatic difference off piste today – especially regarding Mark’s reactions. No more drama! Max managed an early face plant himself and came up laughing. Both the boys were autonomous and quick at sorting themselves out after any tumbles and there were no more complaints. In the picture here you can see both their helmets covered in snow as they sort themselves out. By this time we had entered into the competition for the “Russell award”! I spotted that Mark is in fact Russell - the cute little boy scout from the “Up” animated film. Russell then became a name associated with snowploughs and falling – so it started to be attributed to who made the next fall or did something silly. Max had done a lot of silly things today – including falling off the button lift twice so at some points he was leading the chase for the Russell award himself.
Pivoting (No 3 fundamental of skiing)
I introduced work on pivoting (Pivot). This is a big subject and but we just touched on it lightly as it has to be introduced as soon as possible. Bumps were used to get the idea across without the need for any technical explanations. (explanations may begin tomorrow) All the boys were shown was how to stand on a bump with the ski tips in the air, plant the pole downhill to lean on and the move the body between the ski tips and the pole – pulling both the tips inwards to create a pivot. This ties in with the sideslipping that I’ve been making them do. The general idea is to begin the turns from the uphill edges – not changing edges until the skis point downhill. This is dramatically different to the snowplough where the edge change has happened even before the turn starts. At this stage I’m tricking them into doing this without them knowing what is technically significant or different. They just watch and copy with the terrain (bumps) providing the mechanism. There is an example of Max pivoting in today’s video clip.
Carving (No 4 fundamental of skiing)
There was also a very brief introduction to carving – railing the skis along two edges. This is essential for more advanced racing but it is important that there is an early introduction and awareness of the specific qualities of carving. We started with just carving tracks across the slope in a shallow traverse. Carving provides very clear feedback and solid grip and so helps to develop good dynamics. Very short carving skis (like skates) help with this so I might see if some are available for hire for the boys later in the week for a session. The photo shows three sets of carved tracks.