Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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…

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