Monday, March 31, 2014

Columba & Cameron 1

At the request of the boys we skied over to the bordercross at Tignes first thing – but unfortunately it was completely taken over by a competition. The boys had to ski in my tracks all the way there – this being to force them to develop a sense of “line” – which is how to control speed through change of direction and not through braking.

Given that there was no bordercross to go into we went off piste instead. Both had a good enough sense of dynamics to be able to cope even with crusty transformed spring snow – but this would be a new experience for them.  Cameron lost his skis once – but he had more trouble just getting his skis back on than he had skiing. He needs to pay more attention to scraping the snow off the bottom of the boots! At least he learned the correct procedure for putting on skis when stuck on steep off piste: Stand downhill of the two skis just behind the bindings, lift the lower foot and cross over putting it into the lower ski. Once the lower ski is on then the upper one is easy. This simple procedure gets everything at the right angles automatically.



When I asked the boys what they had to do to make a turn the answers were revealing. Columba said that he moved his hip into the turn and pushed his knee in. Cameron said he inclined. Cameron didn’t really know if he was in balance or not but Columba thought he would be in balance.

I used the standard “against the shoulder” exercises to help both of them to feel the manner that the the body has to move. It’s the whole body that moves (not just hips and knees) and it’s not just the inclination that counts it’s the acceleration – the action of moving the body inwards that counts.  This is a falling sensation and is definitely not balance. It’s scary but fun because it works. The harder you fall laterally then the more powerfully your skis respond by returning you to an upright stance – with a turn being the consequence.  The boys were given a brief explanation of the “centre of mass” and how moving your centre is how you get the skis to work properly. This was all done in a few minutes between the off piste and the slalom. The idea was to develop a common vocabulary so I could then give them some basic feedback in the slalom course.

Cameron 31.12 seconds

For completely inexperienced racers both boys did very well. The stance from the dynamics can be seen clearly here. Columba is bending at the waist so we will have to correct that to protect his lower back and make him stronger technically. Cameron is a bit in the “back seat” so we will address that issue next time – the answer is not “lean forwards” as you hear all the time – it’s just about recognising how to adapt to accelerations and what to feel. Each skier has different strengths and weaknesses so it’s going to be interesting to see how the competition develops. The key to success is in being able to correct the weaknesses – not “trying to go faster”!

Columba 29.98 seconds

Cameron definitely got the highest jump!

Columba was trying for a 360° but he looked down instead of up when he started spinning. You need to look up and behind (leading with the head) and you pull your arms in close to the body – with one up high above the head after you wind up. (We had practised without skis for a while but Columba was getting tired so he just went for it)


To introduce pivoting we began with some sideslipping on steep sections. Cameron had difficulty sideslipping without going forwards. Columba was obviously more experienced and comfortable. To make it easier for them both I explained how to roll the feet (inside the boots) onto their uphill edges to grip and downhill edges to slide.  This is a skill that is best practised for only a few minutes at a time – but frequently.

To get the boys interested I then demonstrated linked short, tight turns on one ski only – to show what very good edge control resembles. They naturally both had a go and quickly realised that it was impossible for them at this stage. Earlier on, when off piste, we had done some jump turns to change direction and the boys had found that fun so now I wanted to show them the connection with pivoting.

From a sideslip I demonstrated pivoting from the uphill edge of the uphill ski. To get this across to the boys I removed my own skis and physically supported each of them through the pivoting manoeuvre. The key, as in sideslipping is to roll the foot downhill (uphill ski) inside the ski boot – but to allow the boot to keep the ski on its uphill edge. This allows the ski to slip and for the tip to be pulled inwards into the turn – without any rotation of the foot. With my support the boys could clearly feel the effect. Next we used a ridge to suspend the ski tips in mid air and the ski pole planted downhill for support. With a slight motion downhill of the centre of mass the skis would start to slip and the terrain encouraged the tips to swing inwards.

Linking the pivot to dynamics it’s important to realise that everything moves inwards in both cases.

This mechanism gives great versatility to any skier. In future we will work on different versions – with jumping, linking the jumps, with contact on the snow and in bumps and on steeps. This is how “fall line” skiing is done without excessive speed. Racers always begin turns on the inside edge and mogul skiers begin on the outside edge. Steeps, deep powder fall line skiing etc. all depend on the pivot.

We only spent about ten minutes on this then went for a blast off piste using dynamics. Returning to the piste we then attempted 360° spins by applying the edge control awareness used for the pivot – always getting the skis on the uphill edges!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Flora, Beth, Robert

Following a demonstration of their skiing on gentle terrain I separated the skiers into two groups – those who were strong and those who were wobbly! Robert probably felt he was in the wrong group, but his technique made him very unstable and a session of concentrating purely on technique will have no doubt done him a lot of good.  Philippe would have probably separated everyone based on his past experience of the group – but perhaps in a way it was useful that I was the one there for this exercise as I judged everyone on skill with no preconceived ideas about anyone. This group here is the wobbly one!

Video of skiing at the start of the session.


Initial skiing summary

  • Beth was in a stem (semi snowplough) nearly all of the time and was trying to stay upright instead of inclining. There was no vertical motion of the legs and she was rotating.
  • Flora would rush the start of each turn and also try to remain upright causing the weight to move to the outside of the turn. The feet were being twisted into the turn instead of being rolled on edge. Her lower ski was tending to stem.
  • Robert was pushing his skis outwards (spray) and so was unable to move his centre of mass effectively. This is why he was unstable and it led to a stem most of the time. He also tended to lean on the back of his ski boots.


The common feature for all the skiers was “stemming” so we started the coaching by working on something to deal with that directly – skating! After checking that everyone could skate across the flats I pointed out the qualities we were looking for to bring into our skiing.

  1. The skis had to point outwards (diverging) – not inwards (converging)
  2. The knees had to be held slightly inwards tightly with the adductor muscles (muscles on the inside of the legs) – not pushing outwards with the abductor muscles (outside of the legs).
  3. The feet had to roll over onto their inside edges – not flatten onto their outside edges.

Each one of those sets of opposite actions corresponds to a correction for the snowplough. In fact snowplough develops all the wrong coordination. Robert may not have ever learned the snowplough, but the skis tend to force people into a similar situation so regardless of his background experience he still needed to work specifically on the right coordination.

The next exercise was to skate around turns on gentle terrain – always pushing the body inwards towards the turn centre and using the grip from the leg, foot and edged ski in the skating stance. I explained that it was OK and safe to ski with the skis diverging but not OK nor safe to ski with them converging.


Now that they knew a little about how to hold a ski on edge better we could work on building dynamics. (There is a fixed and detailed page on this subject here: Dynamics Page )

Dynamics and skating are the two main building blocks of skiing – everything you do has to be related to those things. Dynamics simply means “acceleration” or “disequilibrium” – the opposite of “balance”. Skiing is about falling over not about trying to stay upright. Our job is to fall over and the skis job is to bring us back up. If we don’t try to fall over then nothing works. Falling over however has to be done in a particular way and that’s what our exercises would be for. Standing next to each of the skiers in turn I got them to push their shoulder against mine and to imagine they were turning in the direction towards me. This way they could feel the force against the outside ski. We did this on both the uphill and downhill sides. I then explained that this had to be done when moving forwards and that they had to imagine an invisible magic wall which would replace me. Although magic walls can’t be felt by the shoulder they will cause the same force at the foot and will never let you fall over. The more you believe and trust the wall the more secure you become. Through a series of half turns then whole turns and then linked turns we brought the dynamics into the skiing – always moving inwards towards the turn centre. I explained that the foot and leg of the outside (supporting) ski had to be engaged exactly as in skating so as to be strong. The aim was to reduce or eliminate the stemming and pushing outwards of the skis.

We repeated the “push against the shoulder” exercise to try to get everyone to stand up strongly on the uphill (outside) leg from the start of the turn.

I explained “Centre of Mass” to the children – a point near the belly button – which we specifically move to control our skiing. Skiing is all about moving the centre of mass.

Robert was corrected for leaning on the back of his ski boots – and told just to stand up – to try to never lean either forwards or backwards against the boots – they are just not for leaning on. This tendency for leaning against the back has come from his habit of pushing the heels out.

Video after working for a while on skating and dynamics.


Kick Turns

There was a very short excursion off piste to check the snow conditions and to learn how to do kick turns. Beth ended up with some practice at putting her skis back on in deep snow!

Side Slip

The steep top part of the Borsat was used to develop sideslipping skills – keeping both skis close together and rolling the feet downhill to slip and uphill to grip and stop. Sideslipping is essential to help to get Beth away from her plough but also for everyone else because it is the basis of more advanced skiing. I gave a short introduction to pivoting, where the turn is initiated and the entire first half of the turn is carried out on the outside edge of the ski. Until now all they had ever experienced was the sensation of using the inside edge to grip and turn. Most versatility comes from the opposite! Simply getting better at sideslip will make development of this skill rapid as the week progresses. Pivoting is essential for competence in bumps and steep terrain where there is a need to keep the speed under control.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ski (Chi) Fitness

While skiing still has more than a month to go here it's time to get back into running and cycling now that the weather has improved, the days are longer and the vicious winter bugs have backed off at last.

Chi Running

First Spring run this year was a 5k using Mizuno low profile trail running shoes. Although I enjoy using "barefoot" style shoes for running and all walking (even through winter) the lack of cushioning doesn't seem to suit for long distance running. Despite years of working on improving technique and awareness any break in running with “barefoot” shoes would lead to debilitating "doms" (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) on returning to the sport and on any subsequent increase in distance or speed. Usually when the legs finally adapted to this a painful issue would then crop up with the upper metatarsal joint leading to the little toe on the right foot. This always became chronic and for a couple of years was actually mistaken as being caused by narrow cycle racing shoes. This run effectively proved that good technique along with some cushioning underfoot can completely avoid "doms". The legs were certainly tired and a bit stiff for skiing next day but there was no “doms” pain or discomfort.

Chi Running just comes naturally now, especially thanks to practicing the movement deeply all winter with every turn made on skis. It's not just an "extra" movement or minor adaptation it is the core movement and key to everything else; a big and significant movement. While developing this skill it was previously always hard to engage the core muscles. There is a strong emotional connection with the abdominal area (we vomit when scared or get "butterflies" etc.) so somehow it's very easy to avoid using the core when moving and it's hard to connect with it when dealing with the discomfort of sustained effort. Skiing provides the opportunity to focus on initiating every movement strongly and clearly directly from the core - over and over again. Integrating the cross lateral body movements involved in skiing through active use of the core has a powerful consolidating effect. The action in skiing is very clear and pronounced even compared to other activities so this is very beneficial and is why when starting running again it feels more natural and effortless to use the core. Having all the body actions initiated from the centre when running gives a feeling of connectedness with the body. The active core protects the back as the postural muscles are only activated through reflex (there is no conscious control over them). If the core doesn't work with the appropriate coordination with all motion beginning there and the stride extending behind (not in front) then posture automatically collapses. During the past year, running, skiing or cycling I've experienced no lower back problems whatsoever despite having a history of three major surgical interventions on the lower back and a permanently compressed sciatic nerve.

Chi (nasal) Breathing (and Posture)

I’ve decided to stick “Chi” in front of everything now. All my running this is year going do be done with nasal breathing. What is “Chi” about this? Well all of the coordination is concentrated right down in the centre of the body. The abdominals have to relax to breathe in properly and then they have to be allowed to contract to breathe out effectively. The cross lateral motion of the body can be used actively in this contraction process. The hard part is maintaining posture while relaxing the abdomen. The key here is to maintain a pelvic tilt – up at the front. For many years  I thought this was wrong for my lower back – which is generally too flat – but the answer is to keep the hip flexors relaxed and free so that all the parts are independent. Breathing makes you much more acutely aware of the pelvic alignment necessary for good posture (and hence for good breathing). Breathing is about quality not quantity – it must be in and out through the nose and low down in the lungs using the diaphragm and abdomen. This is coordinated with the running motion – all the motion coming from the centre and all attention being centred there.  Just completed another 10k run – it took 5k just for the breathing to sort itself out. The body (nervous system) adapts quickly to higher CO2 levels from deliberately restricted breathing (the exercise itself generating higher CO2 levels) and this gives better tissue and brain oxygenation – the oxygen release being dependent on CO2 being absorbed into the blood.

Chi Cycling

The first hill climb of the year was the usual Granier 8km workout. Interestingly, despite a heavier belly it was minutes faster than the final miserable attempt at the end of last year! The good part was the great feeling of "technique" working. All the bits and pieces of technique hanging together and doing so automatically is not something you might ever expect to be relevant to cycling efficiency - but it is! Many cyclists are already at the 2000km mark this season but that's just not possible nor appealing to me. The goal is to lose weight, increase technical efficiency and then ramp up performance while enjoying it and using it to improve the body - not to wreck it with repetitive strain injuries pedalling blindly and in horrible weather.

Climbing while working the core gives constant pressure on the pedals. The slight (backwards) internal rotation of spine works in conjunction with the forward push at the start of the downstroke through the core muscles.  This ties up to the backward "scraping" of the recovering foot through the cross lateral body action. If the hip doesn't move backwards as the foot presses forwards and down then this cross lateral core function is not possible. In skiing, if the hip is not pulled back as the ski begins its turn then likewise all connection between the upper and lower body vanishes and there is genuinely "upper/lower body separation" in the sense that this disconnection causes posture to collapse and the back to be destroyed. Having the workload shared through all of the main leg muscles and core simultaneously (quads, glutes, lower abdomen, lower back, obliques) means that the potential for endurance is far higher.

Chi Skiing

Using this mechanism clearly in skiing all winter seriously helped me avoid tiredness during long days on the mountain – frequently with no lunch break. Given that we don’t get stronger as we get older it pays to learn to make smarter and more efficient use of the body.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Steeps Technique Development

After weeks of unseasonably hot weather we are now back to winter temperatures at altitude. The sun was out but it remained cold at even 2000m.

Twenty years ago I heard about how Silvain Saudan used jump turns from the uphill ski when on steep terrain. Being brainwashed like everyone else my attempts at experimenting with this always meant trying to get onto the inside edge of my uphill ski – and it never worked.

Over the past several years I’ve been developing pivoting techniques from the uphill ski – but on the outside edge. Some of my exercises for developing better skiing mechanics in general also involve standing up on the uphill leg and the outside edge prior to starting a new turn. From all of this it dawned on me that Saudan must have been jumping up from that outside edge! Trying this out on relatively steep ground this does appear to be the case. It feels weird at first but the steeper it gets the more natural it feels. It makes more sense than jumping off the extended lower leg and allows you limit the height you drop down the mountain better.  Normally such turns are done by jumping from the lower leg – but with the legs being independent and apart on the steeps this changes the possibilities.


Of course all but the steepest slopes with modern skis can be skied without losing snow contact – but there are situations where this is not the case! Some people do like to keep speed down through turning and do not feel obliged to tear around like freeriders at high speed. I’m fairly convinced that the popular tendency to ski fast off piste on wide skis is what caught out Michael Schumacher. I had been in the same ski area as him on the same day – but when going off piste kept it very slow and careful – focusing on turning and technique as there were rocks everywhere!

Here’s Silvain Saudan himself practising on rocks (no snow) – with no crash helmet - and no injury due to controlling his speed… (practising his jump turns from the top edge of the top ski!)

Empty dam exposing the old Tignes village and bridge over the Isère on the road to Val d’isère…


Friday, March 21, 2014

Chantelle 4

Chantelle had no specific concerns about her skiing however Andrew happened to mention that she had “spun out” several times yesterday but saved herself from falling over. Watching her skiing during the warm up run clarified that the most relevant issue would be to develop some Cross Lateral activity within the body – in arcane and misleading skiing terms this would be “Upper Lower Body Separation”. In essence this means going beyond just limiting rotation to following the direction of travel as had been the case so far.

Pissaillas Glacier (3350m)… border with Italy on the distant ridge over the Maurienne valley.

Chi Skiing

When the hip is pulled back in skiing it should be very visible. I can demonstrate this well thanks to my rucksack which is attached at the shoulders. The hip being pulled back causes a displacement of the pelvis from one side of the rucksack to the other which is easily seen by someone following. The point is that the movement is internal and it is a big movement – not a subtle one.  The aim is to open a space between the hip and the rib cage – involving a rotation at the base of the spine. The spine is twisted in a manner similar to wringing a cloth – with the mid point being at the 12th thoracic vertebra – where the ribs start. The tension this creates is due to the core muscles and reflexive postural muscles being activated.  The action could be described as facing the pelvis towards the outside of the turn – always more so than the shoulders. Success with this would obviously prevent active hip rotation into the turn so it is a good place to begin.

Chantelle has a slightly hollow lumbar area when skiing, with the elbows carried behind the body. Before the chi mechanics can be implemented it was necessary to work a little on posture. The key to good posture is to raise the pelvis at the front and then sit slightly to relax the hip flexors while maintaining the pelvic tilt. This should normally achieve “neutral pelvis”.

With a bit of practice Chantelle’s hip action began to be visible.

Unfortunately around about this time Chantelle had a nasty fall on hard ice – when mounting the button lift – smack on the right hip – and then another fall on the same hip when getting off the lift. One heavy duty pain killer and she was able to live with it. Landing on the hip joint like that when there is no way of protecting yourself can be quite dangerous. Happily we were able to continue but it’s a bruise that will ache for weeks to come.

We did a retrograde snowplough exercise with the ski poles pointing outwards throughout the turn and coming to point forwards when in neutral across the hill. The plough allows neutral to be sustained and so for all the parts of the manoeuvre to be broken down into clear sequential steps. This involved turning the shoulders outwards even more than the hips (technically an error) which felt awful as the ribs and pelvis crunched together. The exercise is mainly to give a visual reference to the fact that the body counters the direction of turning – something that had not been clear to Chantelle before this session.

Connecting Hip and Foot Forward Technique

Using the static exercise of swinging the leg from behind the body for developing Foot Forward Technique we were able to combine this with pulling the hip backwards at the start of the swing. Initially we swung the leg with the hip following to feel what it was like. Then pulling the hip backwards at the start of the swing it was easy to feel how this prevented any rotation or “follow through” of the hip but even more how the hip folded in securely beneath the body.

We did this interesting exercise because Chantelle had mistakenly thought that pulling the hip back would also pull the foot back. The exact opposite is the case when it is done correctly. The combination of the two is important for dealing with steeper slopes – to tighten the turn radius and to deal with the consequently greater likelihood of rotation.



Now was the time to extend the control of rotation beyond a “passive following of the skis”. The pole plant for a pivot is done by pulling back the hip and then tilting the upper body forwards to generate an angle at the hip joint. This gets the upper body further downhill and more weight on the pole – while the skis remain on the uphill edges. The shoulders appear to face downhill, but this is not achieved by twisting the shoulders to face downhill as this would twist the spine in the wrong direction completely breaking down any muscle tension in the core. The 12th thoracic vertebra region has to be where the centre of the spine twisting is with the shoulders trying to face more in the direction of the skis. This “angulation” and “anticipation” are essential components of pivoting but should be present to some degree in all skiing. One aspect of the pivot is that it is so tight that most people spin out when the come around instead of slotting into an angulated and anticipated position for the next turn. In fact the angulation and countered hips are essential for controlling the end of the turn as well as preparing  for (anticipation) and starting the next turn.

Chantelle worked for a while at this and made a marked improvement towards controlling the rotation. When she failed to control the rotation the lower ski had a tendency to jam on its edge then spin her around and make her fall between the skis – so the incentive to correct this was quite strong.

Short Swings

Short Swings were introduced to get the legs more active along with all the rest of the pivoting coordination. We started by just looking at jumping. To jump well the centre of mass needs to be moved upwards. Most people jump by just moving a little then lifting their heels and slapping back down with very little shock absorption. To jump well the legs need to be fully extended in the air and then bend on landing.

Pushing off for a Short Swing is mainly from the downhill leg – exactly as with “End of Turn Dynamics”. The jumping is technically the end of a turn. The skis can either be swung into the turn a few degrees or 180°, landing hard on edge or pivoting. There are many options. This might be the preferred way to ski down a steep and dangerous couloir.

We practised  traversing with jumps and then using the final jump to initiate a pivoted turn. The idea was to work on the cross lateral  (anticipation and angulation) aspects at the same time. Use of a pole plant shows that the body is in the right place and rotation is controlled. Short Swings require linking the jumps with a rebound and rhythm.

Part of my goal with the jumping along with the pivot and rotation control was to try to narrow Chantelle’s stance naturally. Her tendency towards a wide stance comes from her rotation and slightly stiff legs.

Compression Turns

Andrew had a go at compression turns. Compression turns simulate the compression from a large bump – which pushes the knees up to a 90° bend or more. On the flat we retract the legs to simulate this and it is the opposite of jumping – with the body moving out of a turn by extreme flexing instead of jumping. This is an adaption to severe terrain to maintain the same effective motion of the centre of mass in either case. We only spent a moment on this subject just to show that it existed and has to be learned to master proficient bumps skiing.


I explained that the exercise for “Foot Forward Technique” with the foot behind the body – was not exclusively for pivoting. This comes from skating straight downhill and developing turns without the body rotating. If the body continues to skate directly downhill then the skating action can be more complete than if the body follows the skis around. The “push forward” is actually a push outwards from behind. It’s not always advantageous to ski like this – with the upper body constantly facing downhill – but on a groomed slope it is the strongest way to ski. When conditions are rougher it’s best to follow the skis with the upper body instead.

One of the major errors in standard teaching is to tell people to face downhill and come up to start a turn. They do this and then react by pushing the skis outwards sideways to get them around and below them - because they can easily twist them in that manner from this position. This parody of skiing mechanics has to be avoided at all costs.


We took a moment to look at carving – both Chantelle and Andrew managing to stand on the two edges of their skis – rolling the feet and moving the centre of mass across and leaving railed lines in the snow. I explained how the turn transition was made – going through neutral – by moving the centre of mass from side to side. With this exercise there is no way the feet can be allowed to slide so it is clear and pure dynamics through moving the body. Andrew did this well but it was too steep for Chantelle to manage immediately. The goal here was just to make sure that Chantelle had no confusion over how to distinguish carving from other things because the word “carving” is used a lot in skiing and some skis are specifically carving skis.

The day was completed by skiing all the way down from the glacier to Le Fornet at about 1900m. Chantelle kept a good pace behind me all the way and negotiated all the steep, icy and tricky parts with no issues at all – no spinning out of control, no falls and no hesitations.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ian & Diane 4


Our warm up run would be on groomed ice so prior to setting off it was worthwhile giving a brief explanation concerning skiing on ice. International race courses are injected with water so that they become solid ice. Ice means that there is very little deformation of the course between the first and last skier in the competition. Extremely sharp skis are necessary for skiing on this type of ice but the racers have another advantage. All high level racers automatically use some variation of “down/up” timing and this gives a solid “on/off” pressure cycle the makes the ski grip. In fact the one parameter that makes a ski grip and turn tighter is greater speed! This is counter to standard advice which is always “ski ice tenderly – like you are treading on egg shells”.  Sure if your skis are blunt and you are tired then just skid over the ice and then turn on a soft patch – otherwise good timing and greater commitment are the keys.

When the ski is felt drifting away on the ice then remember that if you are already turning then you are already succeeding in creating a deflection inwards  - so the response should be to move more inwards and pull the foot over and inwards with the adductors. Most people try to back off instead and try to stand over the skidding ski  - which flattens it and makes it skid even more!!!

Chi Skiing

Diane was still concerned with her tendency to rotate, particularly on the left side – and she reflected Chantelle’s concerns the day before about not being able to turn tightly or deal with bumps on the piste. Targeting the rotation directly we first of all worked on the hips. Although Diane’s understanding of how to correct the hip was correct she felt very unsure of herself about it. We worked for a while revising this in the context of dynamics. When I ski the hip correction is made visible by my lower back displacing against my rucksack which is really attached to my shoulders. The change takes place during the neutral phase between turns (dynamics) or when switching from one leg to the other. It is NOT a subtle internal movement – it is major!!!!! Even when Diane and Ian were managing to do this it wasn’t ever clearly visible.

Moving on from here it was obvious to me that it was time to develop Foot Forward technique so that turns could be made more tightly along with the dynamics.

Foot Forward Technique

Foot Forward Technique was introduced through static exercises. First the skis were removed and then facing downhill one foot was placed behind the body. The exercise is on the video so I won’t explain it in detail. When the foot is pushed with pressure along the snow then this simulates the feeling of the action required when skiing. It is necessary to prevent the hip (pelvis) rotating during this exercise so it is also a good exercise for working on hip rotation issues or for developing “Chi Skiing”. The body facing downhill and the foot starting behind the body is a prelude to dissociating the upper and lower body but I didn’t want to take us into this area of development specifically.

Ian and Diane immediately felt a strong impact on turn radius when trying this for the first time. Neither had been told what would happen. This is the primary tool for altering turn radius when combined with dynamics – and it gives the potential to “work the ski”. The outside foot never actually gets ahead of the inside one because it only alters the turn radius instead.

Combining Chi Skiing with Foot Forward Technique

Pushing the foot forwards can be likened to pulling the hip back – as they are relative to each other. They don’t have the same effect because the hip involves the spine – but they do compliment each other and it is very easy to combine the two of them – in fact they help each other. Both were able to combine the techniques and use all of this with dynamics – but although the effects were visible at the level of the skis sometimes the body movements were imperceptible. We tend to have a false concept of proprioception (positioning of relative body parts in space) and serious exaggeration is often necessary to even get close to what we actually think we are doing. Ian was letting his hands down again and this tended to drag his shoulders back and leave him a little in the back seat. He corrected this largely when skiing on the steeps later on.



Once the Foot Forward Technique was working it was time to move onto steep terrain to apply it properly. Some things can only really be understood in a context that exposes them properly. Steep terrain makes it clear how effective the combination of dynamics and Foot Forward technique really is. 

Naturally Diane was apprehensive, but I explained that this is part of the excitement. There is always a sense of risk about launching yourself out of a turn on the lower ski – but the real risk is by NOT doing this! In reality of course there is very little risk – but this is the magic of skiing. Skiing can generate a thrill without life threatening measures being taken. Some like to get thrills from riding motorcycles on the road – but a good number of them are in bits or in the morgue.

The steeps really showed how Ian is now able to use his legs. His turns looked lively with plenty of up and down movement. We had tried the “Skate to Skiing” exercise first thing in the morning and there was a strange dip in his timing – a throw back from when he would have come down to “check” at the end of a turn previously. When skiing with Dynamics and Foot Forward Technique, hands held up (goalkeeper) and hip correction on the steeps then his timing looked good and the range of down/up motion overall was good – the legs clearly working independently.

Diane had to work to make herself commit to the “End of Turn” Dynamics – but she managed to ski well with control, tightness and no rotation. This only has to be drilled until is becomes automatic as a defence against apprehension.


Diane mentioned that she had heard that when in powder it is necessary to “lean back” so it was time to explain a little about stance. I’d avoided the topic until now because Ian’s previous “squatting” stance would have muddled the issue. Taking the skis off and standing facing downhill I asked Diane to stand up and lean backwards. This lean causes great stress on the knees and quads. Next I asked her to go down into a sitting position and feel how the slope would still keep her over her feet and there would be a gentle contact with the front of the ski boots. This places the centre of mass behind the feet and knees – allowing the knees and hips to absorb shocks and to keep the centre of mass behind without “leaning backwards”. Skiing in bumps or deep snow necessitates this type of flexion – but not without a full range of  motion of the legs when required. Ian’s previous “squat” actually had some merit in this sense – but all of the freedom of range of motion of his legs was missing at that stage.

Off Piste (Traverse/Kick Turn)

We went off piste again but the snow was crusted and I felt it would be too risky for Diane to try to ski it at this stage knowing that she had weak ACL in one leg. We backed out and traversed back to the piste. Diane let the situation get to her a bit and started staring at the ground when traversing. The snow was rough and sun pitted but not difficult so she exacerbated the problem by looking too close to her feet. Ground staring gives a false sense of speed and causes people to become paralysed. When this happens it’s important to lift the head and look ahead.  Look out a train window at the ground and you will be overwhelmed by the speed. Look into the distance and that problem vanishes.

I explained that when traversing you can stand on either leg. If the lower leg gets tired then stand on the top one. When on the lower leg pull the hip back to create the most efficient alignment of the bone structure and this spares the muscles in the legs.

Once back on the piste we practiced Kick Turns. Both were able to do them without any difficulty. This is actually harder to do on the flat where we were – but it’s slightly scarier to do on a steep hill. It requires a little practice to be proficient. When stuck out in the wilds it can be the safest way to get down a mountain – Traverse and Kick Turn repeatedly all the way down  - if the snow seems like it’s likely to require either a superhuman effort to ski or it’s likely to break your legs when trying.

Short Swings

The other way to get through very tricky snow – especially in steep narrow spots where traversing is impractical – is to jump turn, or link “Short Swings”. When jump turns are linked they are often called Short Swings. I first of all demonstrated how to do a single jump and swing the skis inwards as we had done when pivoting – this being to change direction inn place of a Kick Turn. Without much explanation we went on to linking them in Short Swings. We didn’t discus how to extend the legs properly of how to land – all I commented on was the need to jump mainly form the lower leg (same timing and motion as dynamics) – and to try to use the pole for support as we had done in pivoting. Both Diane and Ian had a good go at this. Most first attempts are very poorly coordinated but both managed good efforts. Diane needed to use more rebound and rhythm – as in her skiing in general. I’d explained that as an exercise Short Swings exposes the general weakness in your skiing. Ian needed to get more support from his pole. This brings us into areas of technique however that we haven’t specifically looked into – such as “angulation” and “anticipation”. My main intention here however was to develop the pivot mechanism and also the range of use of the legs – plus to show a little the context of why and where such actions are applied.


Back on the Grande Pré it was time to switch into carving mode for a while. Ian asked about when and where carving was appropriate. Moderate, wide and well groomed slopes are best – when there are few people around. Specialised short radius carving skis make carving possible on narrower passages without too much speed being generated. Even race course regulations put a lower limit on carve radius of skis because they are so powerful. Carving everywhere would soon exhaust you anyway. Race courses are the ideal playground for carving. “Freeride” skiing is similar for Off Piste though the entire base of a wide ski is used – the ski being wide to prevent it from sinking as the pressure builds up on it at speed.

Diane was still confusing the sensation of “carving” with a general skidding of the ski. She could do both – certainly at low speed – but seemed blurry about the distinction at higher speed. Ian needed to hold his adductors tighter to hold the knee in laterally when inclining. If the foot is rocked over (inwards) with the forefoot turned outwards then the knee can be pulled in slightly laterally. This is desirable most of the time. This is not to be confused with people telling you to flex the ankle and push the knee inwards with the big toe pressing inwards – which will cause the knee to twist inwards and expose the ACL to potential risk.

Here is a photo to show the issue with the knee and adductors. The photo is a frame from the Short Swing video and it was not happening  all the time so this is just for illustration…

Using terrain with dynamics

Just before lunch I had the opportunity to demonstrate that with “End of Turn” Dynamics bumps can be used to launch the body up and out of a turn – so that the bumps become a help instead of a hindrance. With speed and good timing the same effect can be used to get air and to change edges (turn transition) completely in mid air. Diane could feel the advantage of using the bumps when following my line.

Centring (Self Confidence)

All of the technique that we had been working on involves building awareness of he body. The focus nearly all the time is directed inwards. Focusing in this manner centres the mind and removes many distractions and fears. This form of mental exercise is similar to a meditation and it while it gives us a deep seated contact with ourselves it also removes us form the worries that we went skiing to escape from anyway – which is a pretty good result!  Strangely, skiing is also about moving the centre of the body – the centre of mass - and through “chi skiing” we develop the power and security of the core muscles and postural reflexes. All effective motion comes from the centre outwards. Centred actions and attitudes are trained until they become our new unconscious program – and self confidence begins here!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chantelle 3

Chantelle’s concerns from her free skiing yesterday were that she had trouble negotiating narrow passages and bumpy areas. I watched her skiing for a moment to get a feel for where things were going and decided that she was ready to learn more about dynamics and that this would probably deal with the issues that were troubling her.

Dynamics Part 2

On the fixed “Dynamics” page in the blog this is called “Turn Exit Dynamics”. The coming up and out of the turn at the turn completion has to be managed in a particular way. The goal is to get into “neutral”, standing up, skis flat, going across the hill with the body perpendicular to the hill. Imagine a motorbike upright between two turns and now place this across a slope.  Chantelle understood the analogy with ease and then after watching my “hanger” turns demonstration was able to complete her turns this way from the first attempt. When someone has already developed the ability to ski with dynamics – moving the body – and being strong on one leg – then this additional step is quite easy to get and it can be quite liberating. Chantelle immediately began to flow in her skiing – connecting her turns and eliminating the traversing. She immediately found that starting the next turn was easier. This permits the quicker linking of turns. Cleaner dynamics – with the skis running forwards – makes it easy to let the skis run over bumps and just about any obstacle.


The off piste was now out of bounds with the heat so we went into the slalom area to work on steep terrain. Other than feeling a little nervous Chantelle had no trouble adapting and using dynamics to stay in my line. Her instruction was to move over the downhill ski into the new turn and immediately push the outside ski forwards. This is effectively a “black” category run.  Chantelle managed to stay in my tracks the first time down even though my turns were linked and tight on the steep. When skiing on her own for me to film she had to get used to making her own rhythm.



Working on the pivot we used small bumps until Chantelle began to develop a feel for the mechanics. The key is to get on the inside edge of the uphill foot and remain on the outside edge of the ski at the same time. This allows the adductor muscles to be used to swing the ski tips inwards as the body moves off downhill. It is also a good counter against hip rotation and this helped Chantelle gain control over her tendency to rotate – especially the left hip. Good pole support is necessary and this starts to lead us onto dissociation between the upper and lower body – which necessitates an explanation of “chi” mechanics to protect the back.  I also wanted to explain this so as to provide a mechanism to counter the hip rotation in all skiing – not just pivoting.

Chi Skiing

There is a fixed page on “Chi Skiing” here: “Chi Skiing Page”

We went through walking exercises to see the difference in the mechanics then I explained how skiing is unnatural for the hip positioning and how the strong and deliberate pulling back of the hip on the support leg is necessary to allow the core to function the same way as in running or walking. The change of hip should be made when going through the “neutral” phase between two turns and the hip held back all the way through the turn.  Managing to do this successfully would not only protect Chantelle’s back but it would prevent her rotation and help her skiing in general.

We discussed the direction in which the base of the spine was twisting so that when we eventually get onto more advanced aspects with the upper and lower body facing different ways (anticipation and angulation) she would be already aware of how to work to protect the spine from potential dangers.

Kick Turn

We made a brief detour into some rotten snow off piste to introduce the Kick Turn. Chantelle being an accomplished ballerina made easy work of her first kick turns – doing them so well that she even looked like a ballerina on skis.

Ian & Diane 3

Diane was a little bit down after the hard day yesterday, especially after seeing the video and realising that instead of skating the skis were reverting to snowplough. She had finished the day feeling confused and probably tired. Yesterday was a particularly hard session because I knew that we had to break some tenacious habits and hearing about all this didn’t surprise me. Trying to change so much in a short period of time is always going to be very demanding but experience has shown me that those who accept this and push through get there sooner rather than later.

Diverging Skis

We began with an attempt to ski with constantly diverging skis. I wanted to show how converging skis are just a result of conditioning and in reality diverging skis are much more natural. If people learn their skiing from skating right from the start then they do not converge their skis. Both Ian and Diane found this hard to do but the reason for showing this was just to impress Diane with the notion that persistent skating will eventually eliminate the tendency to converge the skis – and that her current issues were normal and not a worry.

Watching Diane ski she may have felt confused but her stance had improved due to improved dynamics and she was now standing properly and not rotating into the turns. Ian also was standing up and using his ski through the start of the turn. It was clearly time to move on to the next stage. Diane may have still felt confused but she was correctly improving and there was a good chance that additional technique would actually help to clarify things.

Dynamics Part 2

The dynamics for the turn completion had not yet been explained. The motorcycle analogy was used to give the picture of a bike being vertical in neutral between two turns. The skier would be perpendicular in neutral between two turns going across the hill with skis flat and standing upright. This is only sustainable for a fraction of a second due to being tilted over from the vertical. I explained that the lower ski supports and even causes the lifting up into this neutral position. It‘s a scary move to make because there is nothing to catch you downhill.  Most people are emotionally driven to do the opposite and to use the pressure on the lower ski to stem out the upper ski and then move the body uphill over the upper ski. Once you know that it works to let the centre of mass come out over the lower ski and that this facilitates the start of the new turn – then with a bit of training this becomes the default action.

Both Diane and Ian saw me demonstrating “hanger” turns – ending one turn, transitioning and almost starting the next turn on the same downhill ski. This demonstration renders the “end of turn” dynamics very visible. From the first attempt Ian and Diane were comfortable with this aspect of dynamics. Ian found it made things easier and both were flowing much better from turn to turn.  We practised this for a while to get it ingrained.


Off Piste

Once someone has complete basic dynamics then they can go off piste with relative ease and ski in practically any type of snow conditions – even on narrow slalom type piste skis. We went into some excessively melted Spring snow and true to form there was no real difficulty negotiating the tricky conditions. Both moved strongly to the inside of the turns and were secure.


The off piste route I’d chosen was picked to lead us over to the Grande Pré flats were we would be able to work on introductory carving. Carving is where the skis rail along their edges and there is no torsional rotation of the ski or any lateral drifting. We worked on this initially by traversing in a two footed stance with the feet rolled over on their edges – and the centre of mass moving over to the “inside”. This placed weight on the inside ski when very slow or static but I explained that this would change with speed and the two footedness was only a crutch to help us to learn at the moment – we needed the two edges as a base of support. When skiing at proper speed the weight all goes to the outside ski automatically. Diane was not aware until this point that carving was not what she had been doing when skiing – she had thought that all turning on the inside edge was carving.

First carved tracks for Ian and Diane…

I showed the edge changing with the motion of the centre of mass going through the “neutral”, “flat ski” phase – from side to side. Diane had trouble getting this when sliding and somehow managed to edge her right ski but not her left (when turning to the right). Ian caught onto the carving more easily.

The carving ski is locked on edge in the same way as a skating ski so practice at carving will compliment skating and help to learn to prevent the ski from overpowering the foot and leg and breaking the edge lock. carving is also dependent on pure dynamics – you can’t move the feet, you can only move the body.


Once Diane realised that she had to stand on the inside edge of the foot, but remain on the outside edge of the ski then she caught on quickly with pivoting. Ian had trouble using his adductors and keeping the foot on its inside edge – but this seemed to be linked with not getting enough weight on the ski pole and so keeping the body placed too far uphill – making it hard to get off the outside of the uphill foot. The aim of pivoting is to keep the skis downhill of the body and always “braking”. It’s important that the skis don’t slide forwards and only sideslip. The body shouldn’t travel across the hill. I demonstrated how the body travels directly downhill when pivoting correctly.

Snow covered in sand from the Sahara…

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ian & Diane 2

Although both Ian and Diane had understood yesterday’s session they were only having a partial success with the dynamics. The ingrained movements from about 15 years of skiing were constantly dominating. Both were rushing the starts of their turns and displacing their skis sideways to some extent. Diane was using rotation and frequently an upper ski stem.  Both still had inactive legs although Ian was standing more upright in general and managing to keep the hands up.  The main problems all take place during the turn transition and initiation so It was clear that we would have to focus on eliminating the undesirable movements by making the body do something very clearly different at those points. Both Ian and Diane described how they worked on “leaning” into the turn yesterday – which indicated to me that they had not fully appreciated that “dynamics” is not a reactive leaning – it is an active acceleration of the centre of mass. This was why the were still struggling. They should have focused on generating pressure.

Extending the Leg – Turn Initiation – Dynamics

The key for both Ian and Diane would be to stand strongly on the new turning ski from the very beginning of the turn. One way to do this is to powerfully extend the uphill leg – not to pop upwards but to move the centre of mass down (hill) and in towards the centre of the new turn. We tried this first of all because it combined clear dynamics with pressure. To facilitate the action I suggested a wide stance and we practiced this statically – moving the body from side to side. Even standing still Diane tended to twist her hips when moving from side to side as if she was twisting into a new turn. To counteract this I asked her to pull her hip backwards as she extended the leg.

In action this didn’t bring much success because both were still rushing the starts of  the turns – so the extension action was not sure enough to replace the undesirable actions.

Standing on the Leg – Either Edge – Gravity

The next exercise was just to stand up on the uphill leg prior to starting the turn. If the stance is quite wide then the fact that the uphill leg is more bent to start with when traversing means that even to stand up on the ski requires a similar leg extension. If this extension is done either during a traverse or at the end of a turn it is then it’s only involved in the “preparation” of the next turn. The skier can stand up on the uphill edge of the uphill ski and this is also useful because then the ski cannot be stemmed or pushed outwards . The turn is initiated by letting gravity make the body fall into the new turn while all the support remains on this leg. This exercise had more success in general.

Traversing – Hip Angulation

We worked for a while on traversing on the downhill ski while padding the uphill ski up and down. To hold the ski on edge better I explained hip angulation. This is when the upper body is tilted forwards at the hip joint and then perched on top of one hip from which it can pivot around securely. If hip angulation is used on the lower leg while traversing this helps to keep the upper body centred over the foot. The typical “face downhill” issue is related to hip angulation – but in reality most hip angulation happens naturally from skating. The point is to stand securely on the hip joint and on one hip at a time. To make a turn the commitment has to switch from one hip to the other during the turn transition across the hill. Skiing is one leg at a time!!!!!

Skating to Skiing

“Skating to skiing” exercises were repeated several times. Skating directly downhill dynamics is introduced to allow the skating to convert into skiing. Care must be taken to prevent the ski (and emotions) from overwhelming the skating action. The ski tries to flatten and twist but has to be held in the skating attitude by the feet and leg muscles. Any tendency to rotate will cause the skate to wash out – the movements have to be lateral to the skis.  Diane made a lot of progress with this and gradually started to move her body instead of pushing away the skis. Ian also made a lot of progress and started to get the legs to work rhythmically.

Turn Shape

The important issue overall is to commit to standing on the uphill leg 100% from before or at the start of the new turn. The first part of the turn must not be rushed – it is rounder and longer than the finish of the turn. Both Ian and Diane had a strong tendency to try to force the skis around and then get security form having them downhill. The security has to be established by standing on the ski right at the start. It’s the way the turn accelerations are progressively organised from the beginning of the turn that generates security. A strong stance at the start of the turn is critical. Stability on one leg comes from the way the ski organises accelerations – as happens on a bicycle – but it has to have the stabilisers removed to work!!!!

We used a banked track to help to improve dynamics. I explained that the ski and lateral support from the boot worked to create a banked track for every turn on even flat terrain. The ski travels forwards and this is how we need to perceive it from the start of a turn with our dynamics . It resembles a velodrome scenario– not a skid on a flat surface – every turn (except when pivoting).

Ian in particular managed to stand much more strongly on his ski through the first half of the turn though Diane also made a lot of improvement in eliminating the rush and snatch at the start of her turns.

Towards the end of the day I introduced the exercise of lifting up the inside hip and arm during the turn. This was mainly to prevent Diane from seeking security on her inside leg – which she has a tendency to do . When she does this it is visible because the inside hip does the opposite – it drops. This is partly due to her tendency to rotate so all of this work in general will eliminate it. The exercise was also good for Ian because he confused it initially and then needed to exaggerate it more – so it was helping to develop his awareness.


Chi Skiing

I introduced the chi skiing posture control due to it being an effective counter measure for Diane’s strong tendency to rotate. There is a fixed page on Chi Skiing here: “Chi Skiing

The concept was introduced through walking exercises but kept simplified for skiing – just pull back the hip on the supporting leg – and allow the spine to be involved. This also protects the lower back from the dangers inherent in skiing – which is to some extent unnatural (as is cycling). The body is designed for running and walking – but not in Nike running shoes on the backs of the heels.


On the final descent we spent some time pivoting on the small bumps – working with a pole plant (support) and swinging the tips of the skis inwards to follow the motion of the centre of mass. We didn’t spend much time on this because it had been critical to prepare the ground for better dynamics through the rest of the session. Without the support from the outside leg from the start of the turn good dynamics is impossible and this is the real number one issue in skiing.

When turning it is important that all muscular effort and motion is towards the centre of the turn – not pushing or resisting outwards (against the effects of imaginary centrifugal force). Generating the forces that drive the skier inwards is an active process. When the skier moves over into the turn there is a delay before pressure is felt (unless there is a strong push with the uphill leg) and most people panic in this moment. They then stand on the lower ski and stem out the upper ski until it resists and pressure can be felt before committing to it. This tendency has to be eliminated. The ski is a powerful tool but it has to be trusted and the skier must be proactive with generating pressure through the initiation of the turn – with a strong stance on the ski and dynamics and inclination – not just moving later by reacting to pressure. The body must always be displaced – not the skis!!!!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Chantelle 2


Chantelle had been working on getting off the back of her ski boots and was making progress but needed a little help. If anything she was going too far forwards but leaving the elbows and hands behind the body in the process.  I told her about the arm carriage but more importantly we discussed the correct “feeling” to search for. Standing across the hill you feel that you can stand up with no pressure on either the front or back of the boot. This keeps your “normal” to gravity. When sliding downhill the “normal” force is perpendicular to the slope and so the feeling should be exactly the same if the body is kept perpendicular to the slope. It shouldn’t actually feel like leaning forward. In outer space we float. On Earth if we remove wind resistance and then jump its identical to outer space. When sliding all we should feel is less pressure up through the soles of the feet as the slope gets steeper – the body being tilted downhill to be perpendicular to the slope does not feel like a lean – due to the “outer space” aspect. Chantelle got it and started to be able to relax her legs and use the adductor muscles more freely. When you are locked up on the back of the ski boots then you can’t selectively use any muscles.


Chantelle was practising her sideslipping and improving. She still had a bit of trouble keeping the uphill ski down beside the lower ski but at least this was no longer in a snowplough but in a diverging manner. I asked her to try putting pressure on the upper ski to start to feel the edge and let it contribute to controlling the sideslip. This was also a prelude to pivoting from the upper ski later on.

3D Banked Track

We used the small ski cross section of banked corners to get Chantelle running a bit faster and seeing how to use the slope to incline. This worked quite effectively. I explained how the ski along with the laterally stiff boot worked to generate a banked track for every turn and that on banked tracks you just follow straight ahead – there is no “turning” as there is on the flat. For all skiing other than pivoting it should be seen as a self-generated banked track.



Chantelle was unable at this stage to increase her dynamics and she still had a strong rotation and instability. Attempting to overcome this through greater dynamics was not working. I then decided to show her how the uphill leg can be extended without an upwards motion of the centre of mass. The extending leg is used to push the centre of mass downhill and down into a new turn. When there is a complete commitment to standing on the leg and pushing the body in the right direction to begin the turn – there there is security and dynamics can be increased. This also eliminates the need for any rotation and for holding onto the downhill ski for security to enable the uphill ski stemming and rotation. Gradually Chantelle connected with this and was able to change her coordination to being able to stand up on the leg and move the body – instead of stemming.

I showed chantelle how she could even just stand up on the leg while traversing and then fall over into the turn and this would still work.


We began using the pivot in earnest and although Chantelle fell over the first few times she managed the correct movements and to turn from the outside edge of the uphill ski. Gradually she realised that the foot could be on its inside edge while the ski was on its outside edge and this helped to use the adductors  (foot on inside edge) to swing the ski into the turn. The coordination of the pivot and the dynamics is the same – only the edge of the ski being used in the first half of the turn is different. All of this adds up to reinforce the same fundamental movement pattern. The ski pole is used for support in pivoting – allowing the body to be controlled while keeping the ski on its uphill edge for as long as possible.


We used bumps to develop the pivot on the final descent. The bumps allow the ski tips to be in the air and so the swing of the ski tips into the turn can be much more easily seen and felt.

Foot Forwards

Prior to tacking the blue run down into Tignes I decided that Chantelle was ready to learn about pushing the outside foot forwards. We did a static exercise – skis off – facing downhill – one foot swung around behind, toes pointing outwards, then swung in the air in and arc around until in front and toes pointing inwards. Eventually the foot was lowered until the edge of the boot scored an arc on the snow. Then the boot was pressed onto the snow to create a resistance to push against. This is the feeling required when pushing the outside foot forwards during a turn. Attacking a steeper slope this is what I asked Chantelle to do when skiing with her dynamics. She could so this immediately due to her improved stance (no longer on the back of the ski boots). Asking Chantelle what she felt happening she replied that it tightened her turns – made them quicker – which is correct. Pushing the foot forwards along with dynamics is how turn radius is controlled when on the inside edge of the ski. The foot never actually gets ahead  - the turn shape just changes instead.

Chantelle skied all the way down the blue run into Tignes with no difficulty.

Ian & Diane 1

Both Ian and Diane were reasonably strong skiers before we set to work to change and develop their technique. Ian was a bit more secure in his skiing than Diane but technically there was not a great separation in level. Diane had a distinct rotation at the turn initiation and was very static with a wide stance for security. Ian twisted his feet occasionally with a heel push or single ski stem and used a static and squatted stance – mainly from which to get purchase for the two footed heel push and rushing of the start of the turn. It was clear that neither skier would be able to cope with any form of challenging conditions. 

When asked about ski technique there were a few standard stock answers to explain the turns – mostly centred on weight transfer – but as expected – with the wrong mechanics. Given that both were reasonably strong already on skis the best place to begin appeared to be with “Dynamics” – especially as this directly concerns weight or pressure issues.

My camera battery was totally flat so this meant improvising with videoing from my Android tablet in bright sunshine. The quality with the digital zoom is pretty dire but at least it saved the day for establishing a record of Ian and Diane’s skiing at this stage.



The dynamics explanation and exercises – both static and moving – were standard and can be found in detail on the dynamics fixed page: “Dynamics Page”.

Diane felt the clearest difference switching to dynamics because she had been more diligently moving over the the outside ski than Ian during her previous skiing. Ian’s habitual rush of the start of the turn made it a bit confusing for him to stand on the new turning ski properly to generate the dynamics. His usual way to relate to pressure was on the “downhill” ski  - not the outside ski through the whole turn. Those sort of issues when changing already established movement patterns are to be expected. 

I wanted the session to give an overview of the three main principles in skiing – Dynamics, Skating and Pivoting. Once the basic dynamics were understood we moved on to skating. The reason for this is that each aspect supports the other so it’s not wise to try to develop any aspect too far without respect to the others. I also wanted to commence each aspect so that each would have plenty of time to develop during the week.


It turned out that neither Ian nor Diane could properly skate so we had to commence with learning how to skate. Yesterday the same method was used with Chantelle so that can be referred to for detail. Both were able to skate reasonably well after only a few minutes. This will be repeated during the week. I wanted the legs to begin to be less static and as this is how legs are used properly in skiing then a few skating exercises are an ideal place to begin. Falling forwards between the skis in skating is the same basic movement as dynamics in skiing – except the falling is more exaggerated and more lateral in direction in skiing. Once we were actually skiing I asked Ian and Diane just to observe the pressure under the feet during the turns – how it comes on and off. Ian correctly recognised that the pressure cycle feels like skating.

The dynamics is a “down/up” motion (motorcycle going down into a turn and back up out) and skating is down/up. The key is to connect them. On a trampoline you can either bounce higher or dampen by timing the use of the legs – and skiing is the same. The timing for this is basically a skating action.


Indoors it was “boots off” for a session with the feet. I showed how standing on the heel beneath the ankle permitted the use of the subtaler joint to rock the foot from edge to edge and how flexing when on the heel activated the foot muscles and the anterior tibialis (shin) to strengthen the ankle. Bending is at the knee and hip. The connection with the adductor muscles was made for the foot on its inside edge.  The major contrast with collapsing the ankle when using the “big toe” and twisting the foot (making it flat) was demonstrated.


Form a sideslip I demonstrated the pivot and turning from the outside edge. This was just to introduce the effect. Both Ian and Diane were physically assisted through a pivot to get the sensation. This was also used to explain the issue of “perception” and how our mental database is the key to being able to physically see anything – hence the main reason we can’t work things out just by looking.

Centripetal Force

Both Ian and Diane were encouraged to increase dynamic range – to fall over more into the turn. The temptation is to be very passive and just to react to forces but not to create them. We have to feel the forces driving us away from a straight line and then work inwards to generate more. Most people mistakenly think they are being thrown outwards and so push outwards to brace against this. The illusion of fictitious “centrifugal force” is almost as strong as the illusion of “fictitious balance”.


I asked Ian to stand up and stand on his turning ski from the start of the turn. His squatting stance needs to be changed. To help with this he needed to raise his hands up from beside his thighs to the “goalkeeper” position. Diane needed to avoid facing her body downhill systematically and to just follow the skis for the meantime to make her dynamics simpler and reduce rotation. Diane’s stance had already become naturally narrower due to the dynamics. Ian looked much smoother when standing up and using pressure to start the turn.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chantelle 1

Chantelle considered herself to have little confidence and little control on skis. With some people this can be due to a nervous disposition holding back progress but in this case the only problem lay in the previous teaching. Chantelle has a positive attitude and a healthy respect for danger but nothing more. Prior to anything else it was important to record Chantelle’s skiing at this stage – before winding back the mess caused by previous instruction.


The video clearly shows the classic ski school product of very upright snowplough, weight transfer to the outside ski, instability and very little motion, awareness or edge control. Everything is missing so there’s no point listing it all. Due to this situation I decided to start with Chantelle as I would with a complete beginner.


Chantelle did not know how to skate on skis so we began with a brief skating lesson. I held a pole across in front of me and asked Chantelle to push me – her skis diverging and mine straight and between hers. The ground was flat so pushing should be easy. I explained that the feet and inside of the legs had to hold inwards to keep the skis on edge to get a proper push. This is the first time I mentioned rolling the feet and using the adductor muscles in the legs. Later, removing myself I asked Chantelle to hold the pole as if I was there and still push – the push now causing an acceleration. This is how you skate – falling forwards between the skis and then recovering the leg left behind.

The first turns we did were skating turns, incrementally into the turn, on very shallow gradients. I wanted to cultivate the feeling of turning by stepping the body inwards into the turn. It’s seen more easily when thinking of “centre of mass” being pushed or stepped into the turn. The key here was to develop the base of support so as to be able to move the centre of mass effectively. If there is no grip with the ski then the centre of mass cannot be moved effectively and other parasitic compensations rapidly take over . Most people push out the skis in a turn – but the skis should never be pushed away – the body should be pushed inwards instead.


Chantelle was struggling to maintain grip with the left foot – probably largely due to poor lateral support from the ski boots – but it was the best time to explain how to roll the feet from edge to edge properly inside the ski boots.  I explained that it was the subtaler joint – beneath the ankle – that rocks the foot. To go left the feet are generally both rocked to the left with both on the left edges respectively. This is the opposite biomechanically to the twisting and flattening of the foot that happens usually in a snowplough. The foot that is rocked onto the inside edge will also tighten the adductor muscles on the inside of the leg (as in skating). When the foot rolls onto its inside edge the forefoot turns slightly outwards – away from the direction of turning – and the toes can lift slightly upwards. Chantelle had been doing the opposite and scruhching her toes together.


We moved on to then working properly on dynamics – the standard exercises were used and there is a dedicated page to this here: Dynamics Page

Within minutes of working on dynamics – with the basic supporting actions already developed – Chantelle was skiing parallel. We simply repeated this for a while, with some corrective feedback. The main correction necessary for Chantelle at this stage was for her to try to come off the backs of her ski boots – which she was using for false sense of security and “balance”. I also explained that as the ski went more on edge during the progression of the turn – due simply to the geometry of the mountain – the lifting up power of the ski increased so the second part of the turn required as much work to stay down and inside the turn as the initial motion into the turn.

The essence of the lesson was that – “the skier’s job is to fall over and the ski’s job is to bring the skier back up”. I explained this in the context of cycling and motorcycling, demonstrating dynamic range with some some higher speed turns with much greater inclination.

Chantelle herself sensed the “down/up” motion of the timing very early on without me explaining. I filmed her before lunch so that she could see the improvements and the areas needing to be developed. Her range of motion was good enough to allow dynamics to start to work but probably much less than she imagined. She also needed to see the image of how she was in the backs of the boots.



Sideslipping work was started to develop more confidence in sliding sideways – controlling with the feet. Chantelle had the classic snowplougher’s uphill ski issue of having to fight its tendency to try to jump involuntarily into a plough by switching edges. Sideslipping skill is not just a useful thing in its own right it is a prelude to learning how to pivot properly. Just to clarify issues I physically assisted both Chantelle and Andrew through a proper “pivot” so they could feel the difference. Snowplough points the uphill ski downhill on its inside edge like an vicious accelerator. It’s important to have an alternative to this and most turns are actually executed with this alternative. There is a dedicated page to the Pivot here: Pivot Page

Fore/Aft exercises

Trying to break Chantelle’s attachment to the back of her ski boots we did some slow skiing hanging forwards in the fronts of the boots over the fronts of the skis. After this exercise I explained that the feet can sense where the pressure is on the actual ski and that you can try to pressure the middle of the front of the ski at the start of a turn. Failure to use the whole ski during a turn is a most common fault.  When you use good dynamics there’s no need to sit in the back seat for security.


Trying to help with the positioning on the skis we had already worked at physically moving forwards at the start of the turn to anticipate the acceleration downhill. I’d explained about staying perpendicular to the hill and not vertical to gravity – but the issues remained stubborn. Andrew was also a bit in the back seat and this was affecting his dynamics too and also causing him to rush the start of his turns as he wasn’t relating to “perpendicular” – he was relating to “vertical” and rushing his skis around below him on the mountain.

Removing the skis I showed how by facing downhill and by sitting down (as if on a chair) the legs would come off the back of the boots and everything could relax. The sitting – bending at the hips and knees – does not cause falling backwards due to the slope. When skiing the turn accelerations have the same effect. Andrew as locking up his hips (not sitting properly) until this was pointed out. To encourage this relaxed flexion in actual skiing it was necessary to go back to skating exercises – because the bending is also related to timing and rhythm. Andrew looked much better centred on his skis and his skating rhythm looks natural in the video. By this time Chantelle was in pain with poor ski boots so it was time to get down and into a ski shop to get all that sorted out. Chantelle showed a good capacity for improvement and an instinct for natural movement – so investment in equipment was definitely a good idea.