The first time ever on skis is the most important of all. Initial impressions of success or failure tend to be imprinted indelibly. Ski Schools invariably allocate trainee instructors to the job of working with complete beginners and reserve the most experienced instructors for the highest level skiers. Beginners however require the absolute best of instruction to set up a proper open-ended development process based on the encouragement of appropriate natural movements and instincts. Achieving this is impossible for the trainee instructor who is already brainwashed with teaching dogma which contradicts even the most basic laws of physics. In reality it is impossible for nearly all instructors – though many experienced ones have at least abandoned the worst of the dogma and found some tricks of their own to compensate with.
Keith had good deal of water-skiing experience though Gail didn’t seem to be so enthusiastic about that sport. Keith had already heard from others that what he would be taught in skiing is the exact opposite of his water-skiing. This would normally be true and is the consequence of the ignorant dogma of the international ski school systems that I mentioned in the first paragraph. My job today was precisely to ensure than all of that nonsense and the incapacitating consequences were completely avoided.
Bony Crossing The Alps
There wasn’t much time for looking around but the place where we would work on the skiing was where Napoleon Bonaparte had his passage over the Alps stationed with troops. Stone signal towers still line the route every few hundred metres apart parallel to the Télecabine du Vallon and even in Val d’Isère itself. The music accompanying the edited video is therefore appropriately “Bony Crossing the Alps” – which was historically a very popular tune used to rile up people in revolution – especially in Ireland. In those days people actually valued “freedom” – even if they were mostly often deliberately misled into banker’s wars. Today they prefer to just give up and sink towards irretrievable globalist totalitarianism!
In the morning I’d met Keith and Gail to ensure they were going to be equipped with the most appropriate equipment. Beginner’s boots are really no good so should always be avoided. I won’t go into all the whys and wherefores here. They ended up with intermediate boots and the shortest adult skis available – which was fine.
Up on the mountain, following a brief description of the function of bindings both Keith and Gail put on one ski. It takes a while to get the feeling for such an enormous extension to the foot so the idea was to just move around on the flat ground, using the poles for support and sliding were possible. After a short while the ski was removed and transferred to the other foot. This builds familiarity with the bindings and cleaning the snow off the soles of the boots – as well as accustoming the body to accelerations. The terrain was flat enough to allow us to quickly progress to having both skis on.
With both skis on we practised turning on the spot (star turns) with little steps to avoid crossing the skis. Straight running was possible on a gentle gradient with a run-out and no threat of accelerating out of control. The first turns were executed simply by stepping the skis over in the direction of the turn with a slight divergence – much the same as in skating. To return back up the gentle gradient we use “herringbone” steps – once again with the ski tips diverging in a skating stance. No problems were encountered. All that is required at this stage is patience and repetition. Gail had a tendency to look at the ground and her skis so this was quickly brought to her attention to deal with. Looking at the ground has a paralysing effect and it’s best to deal with that immediately to prevent it from developing into a habit. The tendency to do this is just a response to tension and apprehension. The answer is to deliberately look up and towards the place you want to go to. It didn’t take Gail long to connect with this difference.
With Keith’s skis diverging I stood in front of him first and asked him to push me forwards – to encourage him to use the inside edges of his feet and skis to grip and push. This is the basis of skating. Both Keith and Gail had no difficulty doing this. To skate properly (with me out of the way) the pushing translates into a “falling forwards” and acceleration instead of overcoming a resistance. This exercise was intended to help the skated turns to develop and to introduce more active leg use.
From there on I allowed both Keith and Gail to choose for themselves the height they climbed up the small slope to launch themselves from. Sidestepping on the two uphill edges was introduced to make climbing simpler. Gail took a while to appreciate how the skis had to be completely across the fall-line of the slope to prevent them sliding away. It can take a while to get used to reading terrain and slope angles.
Keith had a slight tendency to remain “vertical” when sliding downhill and be on the back of his boots. I explained that he needed to stand in the middle of the boots – not lean on the backs or the fronts and to try to get perpendicular to the slope – not vertical to gravity. He had clearly also heard from someone that he should lean forwards – so I dispelled this myth too. Standing perpendicular to the slope when sliding feels exactly the same as standing vertical on perfectly flat ground.
All skating exercises are useful in skiing and develop independent and active use of the legs. Skating is fundamental to skiing - skis being not much more than big skates which scribe an arc instead of a straight line. The second of the two real fundamentals of skiing is “dynamics”.
Parallel turns and Dynamics
Once both Keith and Gail had a little speed it was time to immediately introduce “dynamics”. Skis work just like a bicycle or Keith’s water-skis. You fall over to one side and the skis cut in front of your trajectory and bring you back up – making a turn in the process. For this reason I explained to both to get a little bit of speed – use a fairly wide stance for stability – then just move the centre of mass (around the belly button) to the side – towards the left to go left or towards the right to go right. I explained that there would be a bit of a delay but that the skis would eventually respond and that it didn’t matter which foot the weight ended up on. The key is to control the direction through the motion of the centre of mass. Both managed this very well and despite only being in their first few hours on skis and on a very short section of snow with no lift available – they were both able to make effortless parallel turns. “Dynamics” is what makes parallel turns!
Neither Gail nor Keith learned any defensive snowploughing with converging skis. They were not encouraged to be in “balance” and to shift or transfer weight to the “outside ski” in the turn as snowploughers always are. They were given the basics of Dynamics – the branch of physics (mechanics) with is the opposite of “balance” (Statics) – and which comes completely naturally if not interfered with. Gail had a tendency to try to force the turns by twisting her body in the direction of the turn – once again induced by tension and apprehension. Once this was quickly pointed out she was immediately able to work on correcting it. Building skill in this manner allows very clear feedback and correction right from the start – before any destructive habits can take root.
Both Keith an Gail appeared to be inspired by their day in the mountains and their experience of skiing. Luckily the weather at high altitude was kind on this day – a fitting compensation for the lack of snow in the valley below.
The struggle to produce snow in the nursery slopes of Val…