Monday, February 3, 2014

Two Derins

Morning Derin

Cold and Clothing!

There was a very strong wind from the South East which made going over to Val d’Isère from Tignes a bit unpleasant. Once on the other side the Bellevarde was strangely calm and windless so we were fine in the area for working on slalom. It seems the wind was as localised as the clouds. Derin however just wasn’t wearing enough clothing to stay warm later on. The past two times when skiing with her she has suffered from the cold – while I have remained fine because I have five layers! This is my “light“ dressing too – with a very thick down jacket at home for the really cold days! Children don’t have the body mass to hold heat so they need to be wrapped up very well. We did stop for a warm up and drink to look at slalom video but Derin drank only cold water so that may have been a mistake!

Slalom 31.51 seconds

During our first two runs I checked Derin’s carving. Her timing initially looked great but the start of each turn seemed delayed and with the skis skidding. She also seemed to be sinking into the turn late. I videoed her from behind and then we went to the slalom to establish a reference time for her. During filming from behind the spray from the skidding almost hid her from the camera at times – but she was very lively. The course was in very good condition and almost empty so this would give her confidence. Due to the course conditions her first run was her fastest of the day. She enjoyed it! Last year her best time was 33.55 seconds so her first run was a personal best by 2 seconds at 31.51 seconds. We tried a few changes with dynamics and timing in the slalom but could not increase the speed with seven runs so it was obvious that we needed to sort out some technical issues away from the poles first. The goal over the next few days will be to get the speed under 30 seconds – through improving technique.


Derin has good inclination in the photograph – but she got there by drifting sideways and losing grip with the outside ski instead of the far more secure way of having a solid grip and moving the body inwards. Our work on carving aims to change this so that the body can be moved with far more confidence. Derin moves with great dynamics when off piste and has a deep track to follow – because she sees the banked wall of the track in front of her – but she has not yet identified how to generate the same movement on piste.

In the slalom Derin is not able to take an efficient line due to the skidding of the skis. With the skis skidding excessively at the turn initiation she cannot generate enough inclination or dynamics and so then she drops down into the turn late when the skis are downhill and she feels more secure. Until the turn initiation is sorted out she will not have any choices available regarding timing or tactics. With this in mind we set off for the Grand Pré to work on carving. (We managed to fit in an off piste descent on the way…)


We worked on leaving railway line tracks in the snow  - in a shallow traverse - by edging both skis and using the centre of mass (belly button) to move the skis onto their edges. Derin has a tendency to try to use her knees instead and this has to be corrected for safety reasons.

Stationary and using ski poles for support I had Derin working at changing edges just by moving the centre of mass from one side to the other – with changing onto the downhill edges being particularly difficult due to the need to use the poles for support and to avoid using the knees. Derin had to understand that edge changing requires this clean movement of the centre of mass – with no skidding from the skis at the start of the turn.

The video shows Derin working on this after the slalom – but there is still some spray visible and the turn initiation is still slightly rushed – as if she is looking for a braking action and not an accelerator. We had to keep moving due to the cold so we couldn’t spend as much time focused on this subject as was really needed. We can pick it up again first thing tomorrow.

Derin also needs to learn to maintain a wide stance while on two edges. This makes carving much easier and it allows rapid support from the inside edge at the start of each new turn. It is the best way to develop dynamic range – moving the body from a solid platform – the ski carving and locked on – or even if skidding all the body parts pulling inwards in the right direction.

When the skis begin to grip properly then we can work on timing to seriously improve slalom times!

Short Swings

To try to warm Derin up I asked her to do a series of jumping short swings but she couldn’t do them. This requires pole support, angulation, being centred on the skis and in the ski boots – plus accurate coordination and dynamics. Tomorrow she will be working on this for sure so she needs to eat plenty of porridge for breakfast!


Afternoon Derin

Derin is going through an “expansion” phase – where her universe of skiing experience is being rapidly stretched. Today she skied from the top of the Col de Fresse by herself. Not only did she ski unaided but she picked her own line and established her own control – while I was filming and generally keeping an eye on her. (I noticed that she skis faster when the camera is on her!) On the way up to the Col she was very scared – which is not surprising when you are going up a big mountain in a howling wind at the age of five and not really knowing what to expect. I reassured her and allowed her to hold on to my pole at the start where  it is quite steep. Once she got into her rhythm and focussed on her skiing she was fine on her own. All this effort of course merited a hot chocolate at the bottom – the round trip taking about an hour. Next time up there was no fear and she skied entirely on her own.

The plough she is using is not a problem. She initiates the turn by pulling her outside ski inwards and that is fine. She is not trying to push the tail outwards. She also naturally moves her body inwards in the direction she wants to go. There are no rotational problems of the body or parts of it. The only “fault” that can be seen is that she is in the backs of her boots – but at this stage that also is not a problem. Part of the “back of the boots” issue is that she is naturally pushing her foot forwards – which is great! She will progressively come off the back of the boots when her “expansion” phase is over and she is able to accumulate mileage, speed and experience. The boots, the wide stance and the wedge are being used as balancing aids - as was my pole - but she has been trained from the beginning to fundamentally use dynamics (accelerations) and so bit by bit the natural accelerations will grow to replace the balancing aids. She has already abandoned my pole, the wedge will go, the stance will become closer and she will stop leaning on the boots – all because of natural dynamics. Eventually we end up with “flow” instead of balance – as Okan commented when he watched the video of Haluk skiing powder – it looks like dancing.

Her universe is still growing just now and she is the one in charge – she isn’t having to even follow me! Her ability to straight run at speed increased by 200% today alone. Her distance travelled by about 1000%, and her ability to chose a line for control of speed also by about 500%. It’s like a big “waking up” process!


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