Today started with a quick warm up run then straight up the Borsat lift and off piste. We were looking for transformed snow but it wasn’t ideal – being sometimes hard and rutted and other times breakable and crusty. This didn’t stop us from skiing it and making our way over to the Grand Pré to begin work on carving.
The Grand Pré is an ideal slope for developing carving, being wide, relatively empty and with a gentle but varied gradient. I asked the boys to show me what they knew already about carving and both demonstrated that they already had a basic grasp – being able to lock onto the edge of at least one ski.
Our first exercise was to stand on the two uphill edges facing across the hill with the skis parallel. To get on the edges the feet were rolled (from beneath the ankles) and the centre of mass moved in the same direction. Most edging is from the positioning of the centre of mass – not “knees” or “hips”. Standing on the two edges we had to point the skis downhill and allow the two skis to rail progressively around in a turn across the hill leaving two sharp tracks on the snow. When actually skiing nearly all the weight will go to the outside ski naturally – but for a slow exercise we stand on the two edges for a platform.
After railing successfully the next exercise was to look at edge changing. Once again standing across the hill the boys had to adopt the same edged position – on the uphill edges – then using poles for support attempt to roll onto the downhill edges without the skis slipping away during the edge changing. They both managed but fell over in the process. Edge changing when carving involves a pure motion of the centre of mass and no skidding of the skis to get from one turn to the next.
The next exercise was to use a gentle gradient and repeat the edge changing when running forward – this being on today’s video clip. Cameron made his turns a little too short and forced things instead of waiting for the skis to bring him around – hence he didn’t remain as symmetrical as he could have. The next part of the video is when carving at speed and Cameron does a much better job but Columba keeps his feet too close together and tucks his knee in for edging instead of using his centre of mass! Similar issues will crop up in slalom because racing is mostly about carving.
We ventured off piste again and this time managed to find some nice Spring Snow which had softened up perfectly. The corresponding video clip however was just before this and the snow was a bit too hard. The boys both picked up too much speed so I had to explain that skilful skiing is about being able to control your speed through picking an intelligent line. This initially can appear to be contradictory when put in the context of racing – but the intelligent line is created by a licensed course setter and racing is about being the most efficient through the course.
Slalom (Columba 28.61 secs, Cameron 29.47 secs)
True to yesterday’s prediction Cameron took the lead from Columba on the first slalom run – dropping a few tenths of a second below Columba’s best time. Columba struggled to stay in the gates because his feet were too close together so he couldn’t move quickly enough. During the carving exercises I’d explained how a wide stance allows independent leg action and a rapid change of edges without too much movement of the body needed to get the new outside ski on edge. Columba was probably going faster but the narrow stance caught him out causing him to lose seconds. Columba at first didn’t listen when I tried to correct him because he thought he had just made a mistake – but the cause of his difficulty was obvious so I told him to widen his stance for the next run.
On the second run Cameron improved again down to 29.47 seconds but then with a brave attempt at widening his stance Columba made a 28.61 to take the lead again. Cameron however won two out of the three races so Columba needs to work at making his changes stick!
We needed now to work on other things out of the course to be able to improve further.
Both boys decided to have a go at completing a 360° jump onto the airbag. Yesterday one mistake Columba had made was to leave his rotation until after taking off. Once you have taken off your body is effectively in free-float, exactly as in outer space – so you have to set up the rotation when there is still contact with the ground.
Columba was having trouble coordinating his practice jumps without skis due to a tendency to bend forwards and not raise his arm up in the air. Eventually the same happened on his jump but he did more or less get around. Cameron made it on the very first attempt – arm in the air - and had an incredible landing which would have been perfect if a ski had not popped off.
Small bumps were used to prepare for the larger moguls and we initially worked on pivoting. The skis are placed across the ridge at the top of the bump so that he tips were in the air. Planting the downhill ski pole on the apex of the bump gives support to get the body downhill without changing edges (keeping the skis on the uphill edges). The body then moves between the ski tips and the pole and when it starts to go the tips can be swung inwards and cause a sideslip down the bottom side of the bump. The bumps effectively become linked sideslips. The body position with the pole plant (pole planting is only used in pivoting) helps to cultivate “hip angulation” which will become important in all other parts of skiing.
Developing the pivot further we went on to “short swings” which are linked, rhythmical jump turns with all of the pivot mechanics involved. With this exercise we were making a start at getting the legs to be more active. On the flatter ground the jump and rebound has to be mainly from the lower leg but on steeps it has to be from the upper leg – and in both cases from the uphill edge of the respective ski. We tried both versions. Columba did some great steep short swings behind me but allowed too much forward motion when he was filmed. The short swing should eliminate any movement of the body across the hill.
Skating was introduced to improve timing for racing. Dynamics gives a simple down/up timing – like a motorbike falling down into a turn and coming back up to finish. Skating is added to this down/up motion to get the legs working in time with it. Our first exercise was just to see if the boys could skate. Columba is more experienced at skating so Cameron struggled a little. We did some skating around turns – always pushing inwards with each skate – several to each turn. Using the “direct method” I asked the boys to just skate straight downhill and to then add dynamics by falling inwards (between the skis) on each stride – an action which converts the skating into skiing without changing anything. Both boys started to feel the correct rhythm and active use of the legs. When they get a little stronger with this it will help them in the race course as the legs can be much more active. This is the correct basic timing for skiing in general.