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.

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