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!

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