Thursday, December 31, 2015

Callum day 2

Callum turned up at about 10:15 am – already exhausted from a combination of both his ordeal on the slopes yesterday and a late night. Welcome to Skiing! The first thing he said was “Can we stop at 2:30?” to which he received a lecture from me about “persistence” and the value of suffering. Fortunately Callum actually has a sense of humour and this was proven later on when he fell over winding himself badly when getting off the chairlift. In fact he was doing well there but his ski poles had jammed in the chair somehow and knocked him clean over. Third time getting off the chair and he was on top of things.

Our second day session began inside with a brief explanation of dynamics. A more complete explanation can be found here: Dynamics  Relevant to Callum was the need to sometimes augment the force generated by the ski itself with the impulse of skating. However it was clear to me that he could only really understand the process properly by feeling it.  On the slope we revised some of yesterday’s session, including skating and then practiced for a while using the button lift. Moving on and helping Callum to feel things would require me to assist him using a ski pole for him to hold onto.


Getting ourselves across to the main beginner’s chairlift slope required  that Callum held onto the pole that I extended across in front of him. All the time I would remind him and try to bring his focus onto whatever was important. Here the important thing is to maintain the weight on the lower ski and hold that foot and ski on their inside edges. This makes the ski grip and keeps you going across the hill – even turning uphill a little – which makes you release the edge for a second to be able to slide downhill at a small angle to keep some speed.

Braking – Forward Diagonal Sideslip

The beginner’s lift has a gently inclined pathway down the steep start of the slope. Getting down this pathway slowly normally requires a snowplough for the beginner. Calum to his great credit has totally avoided snowploughing on both days even though he endured an hour of this nonsense on a plastic ski slope in preparation for coming out. The skis have to be diverged at the front and while diagonally sideslipping down the bank at the side of the path the uphill ski lets the tip drift even further uphill and is used as a brake. This ski is pointed uphill and is safe – whereas a snowplough points that ski downhill and risks a sudden acceleration downhill if the skier suddenly leans on it out of fear of the slope. The uphill ski still has the foot on it’s inside edge and the ski boot alone keeps it on the uphill edge.


We had a brief go at assisted sideslipping. I showed Callum that just moving the body downhill over the skis slightly flattens them and gets them slipping – while moving the centre of mass back uphill slightly digs in the edges and brings you to a stop.


I demonstrated the pivot to Callum so he could clearly see how it works: Pivot
I wanted him to understand this clearly because while holding onto the pole skiing together I was deliberately manipulating his centre of mass and ski edge angles to generate pivoting. All Callum really had to do was to stand on the appropriate leg – right to go left – left to go right – and I would move his body the right amount into the new turn for the pivoting effect of the supporting ski to work. When Callum eventually felt it and understood he became far more secure on his skis and so we returned to the button lift for him to try again on his own.

Parallel Turn

With his new understanding we returned to the button lift for Callum to use the gentle gradient again to see how turning on his own would be. The result was that he could link parallel turns at low speed and without even stepping or skating. It’s actually quite hard to do this because the dynamics are much more subtle than when you have speed and the confidence to use it.

What Now?

Callum’s progress is correct for someone who is absolutely new to accelerations of this manner.  He must from here on practice with the gentle turns until he is very comfortable and then only gain height and speed when the desire arises naturally – as it will if he persists. He can practice traversing and sideslipping individually as exercises. Most of skiing involves some sideways motion so getting used to sidesliping really helps.
Focus on the legs and feet (edges of the feet, subtaler joints, adductor muscles) and do this in the context of moving the centre of mass while standing on the appropriate leg and “falling” in the desired direction.

Callum still alive at the end of it all… perhaps even smiling?

Mini vultures circling in a weird sub-zero thermal – waiting to pick Callum’s bones clean…

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Callum day 1

8 am photograph of the top of the Bellevarde in Val d’Isère.

Callum has never skied before and appears to have led a life so far that has been relatively averse to physical activity. That’s a shame because he basically has good coordination and learning ability. Physical challenges are truly essential for robust physical and mental health. If Callum can start to believe in himself and develop some confidence in his abilities he will one day be very glad to have confronted the difficulties of learning to ski. Meanwhile this learning is far from easy for him because everything about it is totally alien to him. Despite all of that there is video proof here that on his first day ever on skis he managed to achieve parallel turning – at least in one direction.

I’m not going to explain the exercise progressions here – or the reason for them – because they are all explained in detail on a fixed page to be found here: Beginners

After the initial session on the snow we had to change Callum’s boots because he was floating around in the ones he had. The hire shop found us a far better pair which also had a canting system which enabled me to tilt the boot shafts to give Callum more edge grip as in standard boots his leg shape puts him on the outside edges of the boots/skis. The boot soles were almost flat after adjustment…

During our boot changing break I showed Callum how to use his feet correctly inside the ski boots. This involved standing with the support directly beneath the ankle bone at the front of the heel to stimulate a reflexive strengthening of the ankle joint (front of heel) and use of the foot muscles. Supporting the weight of the body on the front of the heel permits the use of the subtaler joint which enables a rocking of the foot from edge to edge. We use the subtaler joint in conjunction with the adductor muscles (interior of thigh) to hold the ski on edge. The new boots would allow a better interaction and feedback from the activity of the feet and the motion of the body above.

Callum was clearly uncomfortable in this physically challenging environment so I took some time to make comparisons to other things he could better relate to – such as the stress of performing music in public. The point is that we all have fears and limits and one major goal of physical activity is specifically to overcome those things.  Distraction through anxiety is a key issue in sports – which is overcome by training the mind to focus internally – either on body movements and relationships or on exactly what you need to do in that second. It’s a form of meditation – but active. Usually it involves visualisation which includes all the senses. You also just need to be patient and let the body and brain adapt to accelerations and a whole new environment – because it will adapt.

Callum’s “brain to left leg” connection however still has to be made – but other than that he made a good account of himself for the first day. His apparent over-reaction to accelerations is just perfectly normal for someone who is really not used to doing anything like this. Callum has never skated in his life and the reality is that skiing is actually just skating in arcs and on a slope.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Victor day 4

Everyone was waiting in Tignes this morning at 8:45 am for the first lift. Rodion was anxious to make the most of his last day of coaching with the understanding that there was quite a lot to work on.

My feeling was the it was more important to consolidate things today than find new things to work on. I always work within the given time frame (in this case four days) - covering as much as possible and then leaving some time for revision and practice.


Timothy had made a lot of progress and was now happy to work on his "one ski pivots" and one ski skiing. He could ski with a close or a wide stance, carve cleanly when on a wide piste. Body management issues are a bit too complex for him to deal with yet. He has a tendency to let his left arm fall behind his body when turning on the right leg, but I suspect this is just a form of laziness that he is still small enough to get away with. He was instructed to pull back his right hip when turning to the left to help to stop this issue - but I'm not sure that this was really the problem. When he skied with his ski poles held in front of his body there was no sign of the problem.


Rodion developed a clearer picture in his mind and body of the need to control his pelvis and use the core muscles. When he focused on this in the slalom he didn't fall over, but as soon as he took his mind off it he fell - the postural issues returning and losing him the support of his outside leg. Even in the photo below there isn't really enough separation of the hips and shoulders. It wasn't really possible to work on advancing technique when this more fundamental issue required so much focus. It's a hard thing to learn and coordinate and very easy to forget or confuse. 

Before slalom we had worked at coordination of the hips in pivoting - which is even harder to get right as the skis turn completely across the fall line and seriously pull the hip around with them in the wrong direction. At least in slalom the skis never turn anything like that amount - but the forces involved make strong use of the core muscles extremely important. It's a major error to have the core completely relaxed and inactive instead.

We did some work with this in bumps too - with the addition of "anticipation" - using the compression on the bump to brig the body over early into the next turn. Rodion was not compressing and not anticipating, though he was probably using his hips correctly. This shows that until he masters the hips and core then he can't really focus on anything else - and it also shows up why he is late in his turns in slalom due to lack of anticipation. 

Rodion is unlikely to grow much more so he will get used to the bigger body and next time we will be able to sort out the technicalities of skiing at this level. 

We covered the use of the hips, core and spine - up to the rib cage - in movement for running too. Running makes the action extremely natural and helps to develop awareness. Rodion is now clear about how to control the pelvic tilt during running and skiing and how to feel the appropriate muscular tension. 


Victor was quietly working away on his own skiing in the background and letting me focus on the boys. There were clear changes in his carving efficiency and next time he will have to get back into the slalom himself because I'm sure he will find it interesting!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Victor day 3

Today started off with our usual warm up carving run. The goal was to give Rodion the chance to work on the changes he was making yesterday before going into slalom. Unfortunately when we got to the slalom Rodion was falling most of the time – most of the falls being identical. It was hard to see on video exactly why and after trying various technical changes the underlying cause eventually revealed itself as being a postural problem.

Timothy at last managed to pivot correctly in both directions on one ski. This is a good achievement for someone who normally skis with feet wide apart to make a big stable platform and who has until now been unable to move his body across the downhill ski because of this. We later skied with a two footed pivot by holding the knees together with the adductor muscles – both feet on their inside edges – and Timothy did well here too by skiing in a close stance for the first time ever.  Timothy was also able to bring some of this into carving and looks great carving on a wide slope, with a clear and natural timing and feel to the motion. Timothy achieved 29.26 in the slalom - getting into the "Silver" category" for the first time.

Rodion tried to find a stronger hip angulation through pulling his inside knee towards the outside of the turn to allow the pelvis to face the outside of the turn more. While this does enable better angulation it didn’t prevent Rodion’s problems in the slalom. The fact is that he has a much bigger body than two years ago and accelerates a lot faster. The forces in the turn now require very good posture and Rodion has managed to get away with poor postural management until now. It became clear that not only was Rodion unaware of how to manage his posture but also he had not fully understood the “chi hips” – pulling backwards of the outside hip during the turn.

Pelvic Tilt

I taught Rodion how pelvic tilt (tilting upwards at the front) protects the lower back by creating a reflex in the abdominal muscles when under load (by pushing down on his hands held in front of his body). When the pelvis in is the right place his reflex contraction creates a “hydraulic sac” through the midsection of the body (all the fluids and organs) which distributes evenly the vertical load through the body. If the pelvic tilt is wrong then the spinal column takes the entire load itself. Eventually this wears down the discs in the spine – though diet (high carbs and Omega 6 fats) will speed up any degenerative disc issues.

Chi Hips

Once the pelvis is corrected then the “chi-hips” has to be correctly understood. When walking of running the power to the leg should come mainly from the large muscles at the back – the glutes. This happens as the leg straightens behind the body pulling the hip along with it and twisting the spine naturally in the process. The actual “separation” point in the upper/lower body is the 12th thoracic  vertebra – just below the ribs. The spine should be mobile up to here.  The problem with skiing is that the load comes on the leg when the ski pulls it in front of the body – not behind as in running. When the skis does this it also pulls the hip joint along with it and twists the spine in the wrong direction – causing a postural collapse. If this is then combined with poor pelvic tilt the result is disastrous  - both for the back and for skiing. In fact Rodion had suffered back pain on the first two days of his holiday (though I didn’t know this) and now when at his limits in slalom he could no longer stay strongly on his outside leg – causing himself to fall onto the inside leg weakly and lose all grip.

Working with Rodion on this subject it became clear he had not been feeling the twisting of the spine in the correct direction and the associated stretching of the abdomen and strengthening. This was because he always allowed his shoulders to follow the pelvis and so never generated the internal tension. We looked at the consequences of  allowing the hip to follow the ski in front of the body – which causes the spine to twist the wrong way and the ribs to compress into the pelvis. It becomes clear that the only way to create strength and maximum movement is to pull the hip backwards more than the shoulder at all times regardless of the ski trying to  pull the the pelvis/hip the other way. We must preserve the natural “running” function of the body to both protect it and to get maximum strength and performance even in an unnatural situation.

Rodion skied with this for a while and then used it in the slalom (his complete run in the video) and the difference is striking! After one run in the slalom he stopped holding it all together. We worked outside of the slalom so he could feel how the Chi Hips enables turns transitions to be incredibly easy.

When running he must work to train himself to hold the pelvis upwards as the leg stretches behind. It turns out that he gets back pain from running too. This is because the running pulls the pelvis down at the front and due to his flexibility he is allowing this to happen too easily. This is easily corrected if trained until it becomes automatic.


Rodion knows that he must move his centre of mass. Today I made it clear that all of his biomechanical actions must come from his centre. Every movement should start from his core – from just in front of his spine – and it’s the opposite of what he has been doing in skiing. The pelvis must be tilted correctly for this to function. His focus must be not only where he is moving his centre of mass but on that centre itself. This also centres the mind and removes distractions.

Rodion asked when he will ever “make it” to the level he dreams of in skiing. I explained that it doesn’t work this way. The very best skiers (as in any skill) are just the most aware. They are more aware that perfection is an illusion that recedes further and faster than ever before them – but that the process of discovery and improvement is endless and endlessly challenging. It’s this growth and development that makes anything worthwhile – not a victory in a race. “Mastering” any one thing like this in life teaches a universal principle that is the same in everything. I believe that everybody should aim for mastery in at least one thing in life and apply the same principles to everything in life where possible.

Here however is target for Rodion to aim for...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Victor day 2

Both Rodion and Timothy were dealing with the effects of a slight cold today. Rodion would not let that hold him back but Timothy jumped at the opportunity for an easy option especially when that meant avoiding working at pivoting on one ski.

One Ski Pivots and Wide Stance Pivots

After a long carving run to warm up I physically supported Timothy through several one ski pivots in both directions. This was so that he could get a real feel for the efficient pivoting actions and also feel where his body had to go relative to the skis to make this happen. Only a few minutes were necessary so that he would sense things. We all then set about working on wide stance pivots – feet across the hill from each other – body travelling straight down the fall-line. I explained how this develops independent leg action at the hip joints as each leg rotates separately in its joint beneath the stationary pelvis. Everyone managed this but nobody initially managed to use their ski poles. The function of the poles is to get the centre of mass moving out over the downhill ski in a controlled manner – and ensure pressure is present on the fronts of the skis. Timothy predictably had no pole use at all and this fits with his problems with the one ski pivot – and his limits in skiing in general.  We later repeated the supported pivots for Timothy so as to reinforce the right feelings. Between the two pivoting exercises both the boys had one slalom run and from the video I could see that Rodion was being blocked by his inside leg – so that would become the subject of Rodion’s later work outside of the poles.

Active Feet

After studying the video over a drinks break Rodion worked on his carving. The aim was to use a closer stance with pressure on the outside edge of the inside ski – but on the inside edge of that foot. At the same time we wanted pressure through the shin against the front of the boot – and pressure beneath the front of the heel – so as to ensure pressure on the fronts of the skis when lowering the centre of mass into the turn and holding it down inside the turn. It became clear that Rodion didn’t really understand how to be aware of the inside edge of his foot.  After working on carving for a while we stopped for lunch and had a proper look at the function of the feet. I showed Rodion how to roll the feet onto an edge with the subtaler joints beneath the ankles – and how this works well with pressure just at the front of the heel. The foot and ankle muscles are also activated either by standing up on the balls of the feet or by stretching downwards with the ball of the foot (inside of the foot). The only situation to avoid is lazy feet with the ankle relaxed. The boot is not there to hold people up with collapsed ankles – it’s there to transmit forces between the skis and the skier. When the foot goes on its edge inside the ski boot this hardly affects the edges of the skis due to the rigid shaft of the ski boot running half way up the lower leg. What it does effect is the shape of the body and the action of reflexes. Most postural reflexes are controlled by pressure under the feet.

Slalom Timing

Next think we worked on was “timing”. The aim is to spread the maximum forces through the turn instead of having them all at the same time right at the end. This is done by seeing the turn in 3D and as a trampoline a the outside of each gate. You are going downhill (facing downhill)  but bouncing from side to side on the way down. The turn apex has to be to the side of the gate not beneath it. Reactions have to alter so as to be releasing the turn as soon as the gate is passed. There is no “centrifugal” force sending the skier outwards – only gravity. As long as there is still a high speed carried the skier will reach the next pole before gravity pulls him that far downhill. There is no need to hang on to an existing turn for as long as people imagine – the centrifugal force is an illusion.
When Rodion went back to the slalom after lunch he focused mainly on timing. His result of 23.95 seconds is a significant improvement on his personal best.

Correct inside leg...

Inside leg blocking the body...

One very good reason for avoiding the pistes and skiing off-piste...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Luke & Léonie day 5

Final day of the 2015 Xmas trip. Following a warm up run we went straight into technique in preparation for slalom. Unfortunately the slalom piste hadn't been groomed the night before and so was not in an appropriate condition for setting speed records regardless of how many technical improvements were achieved.

Front of Ski

We had used wide stance carving already for working on independent leg action (retraction/extension), improving control of body rotation and foot forward/hip backward techniques. We revised and worked on improving the power of the extension of the uphill leg to maximise pressure and movement of the centre of mass out of one turn and into the next.

Today I wanted to add to this the pressurising of the front of the ski. The idea is to stand on the front of the heel, push forwards against the shin and strongly engage the front of the ski – more by use of dynamics, dropping down into the turn than by any leaning forwards. It’s the edged ski biting into the snow in front that creates the pressure on the shin.

I explained the timing of the slalom with the apexes of the turns being at the side of the poles not below the poles. This prevents all of the forces combining at the end of the turn (also permitting the front of the ski to be used more strongly). Gravity and momentum/ski generated maximum forces are separated by using the momentum of the body across the hill to get the maximum force against the ski at this apex (skis pointing almost directly downhill) and then reducing the gravitational force at the end by avoiding holding onto the turn too long. Timing requires training because the natural tendency is to hold onto a turn far too long. (This timing is perfect also for tricky off piste - because it stops the sudden overwhelming build up of pressure at the end of the turn giving a more progressive and smoother pressure gradient through the turn)

Taking this into slalom allowed at least the opportunity for everyone to stay upright on an otherwise icy hard and difficult course. Tibo however was able to engage his skating experience and actually improve his best time down to a respectable 28.99 seconds. Florence also improved her time despite the poor conditions and managed 39.64 seconds – breaking the 40 second barrier. Florence was surprising today – being the first one down the large Tovière bumps, first down the steep Familial off piste and first down behind me on our rapid non-stop final descent of la Grande Motte.

On the bumps I pointed out that the tips of the skis have to be forced downwards when pivoting into the trough. Unfortunately nobody has quite understood the role of dynamics in the bump – using the bump to cause compression – spitting the body directly down and out of the existing turn and into the next almost faster than the brain can follow. Similar perception issues to slalom exist here in that when people are not used to those physical constraints they are usually far too slow to respond and the quickly become late in their actions.

On icy slopes I explained that it pays to stand up on the ball of the foot to bring the pressure to the centre of the ski and to use the front of the ski – so if there is a skid the tail doesn't slip from beneath you and spin you into a rotation.

Our brief venture off piste in Spring snow concerned us more with how to navigate grass on a steep slope. This was an excellent opportunity to practice jump turns. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Victor day 1

It was great to see Victor with Rodion and Timothy after an absence of two years. Rodion has grown an amazing amount in this time which suggested that he might struggle a bit in slalom with such big changes to his body. However Rodion surprised me with the high level of skill he has maintained and also his memory of all the detail of the content of the work we did on his skiing 2 years ago. Victor was skiing very well too. Timothy is the one who’s skiing needs most work – but he has had very little input into his skiing compared to the others.

We did a long carving warm up run to start with on an empty and freshly groomed pistes, then when back in the sunshine we started technical work with “one ski pivoting”. Although Rodion could do this excellently he wasn’t aware of the possibility of separating the edge of the foot from the edge of the ski – and standing on the inside edge of the foot while on the outside edge of the ski so this had to be carefully explained. Victor had no problems here but Timothy was struggling. We explained the pole use and movement of the centre of mass but Timothy had trouble moving his body over the top of his downhill ski even with support from his pole. This proves to be his main weakness in skiing – affecting him strongly on steep slopes and bumps.

Pivoting – one ski and two skis (close stance)

The pivoting exercises finished with some two footed close stance pivoting. The emphasis was holding both feet on their inside edges and holding both feet close together – using a two footed platform for the pivots. I explained that this was mostly used in bump skiing and in soft off-piste snow.


Rodion then impressed my in the slalom but predictably didn’t get to the end of his one run. I knew the weight and size of his body would catch him out with higher accelerations. Timothy did fine in the slalom but uses skidding to control his speed and remains very upright. When we get him moving his body across that lower ski then all of this will change.


I then took everyone off-piste on progressively steeper pitches to check whether or not Timothy would be safe on longer and high north facing steep faces. There is great chalky hard pack snow available on such slopes but if you fall you can slide a long way so I needed to be sure of Timothy’s level before taking him anywhere like that. Although technically not great he turned out to be stable and secure – thanks mainly to good natural hip angulation.  The work on pivoting would come into service when we eventually climbed up to ski the north face of the Borsat. Rodion commented on how he felt the motion of the body over the downhill ski helped on the steep – where it is scary to make such a move.


We spent a little time in the bumps using the two footed pivot and working on using compression/retraction to lower the body downhill into over the lower ski and over the crest of the bump below. Timothy didn’t get it so this will have to be an area of focus for him in the days to come.

Spring Snow

There was properly transformed Spring snow available  – a little too late in the day though because it was slightly too soft to support us well. Still this was a new experience for everyone because this sort of snow is usually only ever encountered in the Spring and not everybody gets the opportunity to ski it. In Springtime the entire mountain off-piste can become like a carpet to ski on – turning it into an amazing playground. So far on all of our off-piste adventures we had been wonderfully on our own – nobody else in sight.

Independent leg (extension/retraction) and Double Carving

Up high on the Rosolin T-bar training area on the glacier we worked on a few advanced aspects of race carving. The first was independent retraction and extension of the legs in a wide stance. The lower leg is retracted to exit a turn and then the uphill leg is extended to force the body across the skis and down into the next turn. Overall timing remains unchanged but the use of the leg extension at the start of the turn is different from out standard down/up timing.

Finally I brought in the concept of double carving – by standing on the inside ski, on its outside edge but still on the inside edge of the foot – exactly as in pivoting.  These are some of the additional things I want to use to get Rodion in particular even faster than before in slalom. This however tends to narrow the stance again and separation of the skis becomes more in the vertical plane than in the horizontal.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Luke & Léonie Day 4


Warm up and Revision

Today started off with a warm up run then some revision of yesterday’s technique for the benefit of Ella who had missed some due to having to quit early. We looked again briefly at the issue of “foot forwards – hip backwards” so that Ella would have the opportunity to understand and try this on fresh pistes.

Independent leg action – retraction.

Prior to taking everyone into the slalom I decided that it was about time to introduce some more advanced technique. We had been working on independent leg action to cultivate hip awareness but now it was time to relate this to dynamics. From a wide stance across the hill the lower leg would be retracted to bring the body out of its turn (or traverse) and when the body passed the perpendicular to the hill the upper leg would extend. This is a very rapid move to both get out of an existing turn and into a new one. Despite this use of the legs – with an extension of the support leg at the start of the turn – the Centre of Mass still comes down through the turn start and up during the retraction at the turn completion – this being because we have to factor in the overall changes of inclination of the body (motorbike analogy).

Wide stance independent leg use allows for very rapid access to edge changing compared to close stance where the body has to move a long way with dynamics to engage the edge of the new outside ski. The main feelings to be looked for here are very early edge grip from the uphill ski and immediate pressure as the Centre of Mass is actively pushed downhill. Hip angulation is retained as was the case for the wide stance pivots.

Overall the action is equivalent to a single skate from the start of the turn to the end but with a deliberate retraction of the load bearing leg right at the end of the turn – creating a fast lateral movement of the body across the skis. We worked on all of this for a few runs before attempting to take it into the slalom.

I explained that the basic problem in slalom involved being able to avoid “resisting” by bracing and holding onto turns too long – which makes you “late” on a gate and then propagates the same problem down the rest of the course. You have to learn to retract and escape the turn much sooner than expected – immediately on passing the gate. Training for this early action is what allows flowing skiing in other situations off piste such as in bumps.


Tibo 30.57, Luke 31.79, Ella 36.66, Léonie 37.99, Florence 40.36

Léonie has clearly improved. Tibo’s skating background is starting to pay off – and the slalom removed most of his odd lurching motion – but he is failing to adjust for the slope to keep his body perpendicular (probably the source of the lurching issue!). His ice skating was of course on totally flat ground and this is currently his biggest weakness now – his body tending to remain in the vertical – which gives the impression of leaning backwards. Luke just forgot everything when in the race course – same as he does in bumps and steeps etc. The game here is to be focussed internally and not to be distracted by the environment. Focus on what the body is doing – centering the mind works along with rooting actions with the centre of mass - or the centre of the body. Florence was lacking dynamics, inclination and angulation. Those things only come by exaggerating movement much more. Contrary to expectations this – when done correctly - generates security.

Off Piste

Rather amazingly for Christmas we found properly transformed Spring snow. Everybody felt confident enough to attack the steeper slopes with less hesitation today. Even if rotation issues are not fully resolved they are certainly much more clearly understood.


Ella had to address her postural issues to protect her back. She tends to allow the pelvis to dip at the front, hollowing the lower back and then twisting it during turning – which is a very dangerous combination. The key is to be able to separate body parts and be able to tilt the pelvis up at the front to achieve and maintain “neutral pelvis”(neither tilted up nor down ideally). Many activities tend to pull the pelvis down at the front – such as walking and running as the leg extends behind the body. It’s for this reason that the default action should be an active upwards tilt – making the body “thin”. Once the pelvis is set then a slight sitting action is needed to free the upper thigh muscles surrounding the hip – otherwise they tend to be locked due to the pelvic tilt action. Either sitting or tilting the upper body forward from the hips provide appropriate and safe postures for various aspects of skiing. 

The actual postural muscles cannot be operated by conscious choice. They are activated by reflexes mainly through pressure under the feet. This is why good movement and timing are critical. Control of the pelvis is just another aspect of management necessary to help the body function efficiently on all levels.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Luke & Léonie Day 3

Following yesterday’s fairly heavy technical sessions it felt like the best way to start the day would be to ski without too much stopping, taking advantage of fresh, empty slopes and and fresh (hopefully less empty) legs. It takes a considerable amount of skiing in both consistent and varied conditions to allow feelings and awareness to develop. Not many people can directly translate exercises into fully realised skills without a fair amount of experimentation.  The only thing I mentioned about technique was to begin pulling back the outside hip in the turn during the whole turn – right from the turn initiation.

Unbelievably for Dec 23rd we found transformed Spring snow off-piste and had it all to ourselves. Varied and steep pitches and working on the control of hip rotation had Léonie noticing her Centre of Mass distinctly for the first time. It’s a big step in dynamics when you can clearly identify the effect of the Centre of Mass. There’s a definite shift in perception when the Centre of Mass is sensed as an active physical participant – rather than a theoretical concept.

Skiing proceeded with feedback being given from time to time but no real technical work. We managed to avoid the crowded pistes and consistently find some good off-piste conditions. Only in mid afternoon was attention returned to technique.

Initial technique work was a brief revision of yesterday because everyone was still struggling with control of hip rotation. New exercises included “hockey stops”. Tibo was strong at this once he calmed it down a bit, but everyone else had trouble on the left leg with the hip coming around. It did however demonstrate that those stops need to be practiced. My feeling was mainly that whole body inclination was not being used enough during the braking. If the body lean/inclines more uphill during the braking action then it’s easier to control the hip and prevent it from rotating. When skiing it’s this aspect of dynamics that also permits good hip control. If the body doesn’t get far enough inside a turn (usually because it didn’t exit the previous one by coming over the downhill ski) then it’s hard to manage the hip joint correctly.

Wide Stance (cowboy) Pivots

After this revision, including one ski pivoting and “The Exercise From Hell”, very wide pivots were used to try to substitute dynamics and keep the Centre of Mass well displace laterally from either foot. The idea here was that it would enable better hip control as a result. Leonie did a good job. Luke was still managing to lift the front of his inside ski on each turn. Florence didn’t quite manage to keep her legs independent enough.

Foot Forwards – Hip Backwards

I thought about increasing dynamics now to continue towards hip rotation progress but then considered how pushing the outside foot forwards in the turn while pulling back the hip simultaneously actually significantly helps and even enables dynamics – so I suggested this instead. Léonie commented that when doing this action during the turn transition the dynamics seems to happen automatically. That’s a good observation. You know something is working when you have the sensation that things “happen to you” instead of you making them happen. In the past people have often not responded to adding the push forward of the foot to the hip action but have responded this way to the initial pulling backwards of the hip.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Luke & Leonie Day 2

Our warm up run started out where we left off yesterday – working on dynamics – moving the body out over the downhill ski into the next turn. To try to reduce the fear of moving the body over the downhill ski we focused initially on “one ski” pivoting. The key is to always stay on the inside edge of the foot while the edge of the ski being used changes during the turn. This helps to develop a feeling for edge control and a sense of motion of the centre of mass – which drives the pivoting action.

Luke struggled initially to complete the turn on the outside edge without falling back onto two skis. I explained that this was due to failing to keep the centre of mass moving into the centre of the turn as the forces and geometry of the turn altered. This is a critical aspect of awareness regarding control and function of the centre of mass.

Focus then moved on to developing this aspect of evolving the turn correctly with the centre of mass through the turn, specifically regarding “hip rotation”. It turned out that nobody – except perhaps Tibo – could complete a short turn without the hip rotating outwards and pulling the centre of mass along with it. Skiing off piste on steep terrain made this issue very clear.

Emphasis now moved away from coming out over the outside ski (into the next turn) to staying down and inside the turn – prior to coming out and over. Both actions are linked – with the body shape that permits the hip to be held inwards also permitting an easy motion out over the outside ski.

Wide Stance Pivots

We used wide stance pivots – feet across the hill from each other – to cultivate the feeling of the legs rotating independently in the hip sockets with the pelvis being held stationary.  This was practiced with static exercises – with Léonie inventing a new “Charlie Chaplin” version which successfully allowed her to stop her pelvis from swinging around (Video clip).  The idea is to maintain most of this leg rotation even in close stance pivoting because it prevents the hip from swinging out.
More general turns were executed with ski poles held horizontal in front of the hip joints and by preventing the poles and pelvis from  turning during the turn.

Wide Stance Carve/Skating

We took the same mechanics into carving and then added the full skating action – with limited success.

The limited success prompted me to introduce the “Exercise From Hell” – which is even hard to describe let alone carry out. It’s a snowplough with the body and weight moved over the inside ski. The inside ski flattens and is used as a sideslipping brake and support to control speed. The outside ski edges strongly and carves a turn – initially with the ski behind the body and eventually with it in front. The hip has to adjust to this all the way through the turn or the pelvis ends up rotating and the hip is forced outwards. Here the leg swings in a arc from the hip joint. There is still  leg rotation but combined with a fore/aft and out-to-the-side swing. In effect, the rotation in the hip joint is in all three axes – X,Y,Z. This is probably why it’s the “Exercise From Hell”.

We then went off and skied off piste with everyone working on their hip awareness. The thing is, it’s a chicken and egg situation! Moving the body actively into the next turn creates the freedom to organise the hip correctly – which then allows good security in the turn and the ability to move actively into the next turn.

It’s important to remember that holding yourself inside a turn with strong hip angulation and the skis on the uphill edges does not make the start of the next turn difficult – because with pivoting there is no need to “change edges” to start the next turn.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Luke & Leonie Day 1

Rather than launch straight into ski technique today I decided to let it happen naturally  - to let everybody get used to being back on skis, find the best snow and empty slopes and let everyone wind down and relax a little. That was made a little bit harder with an unexpected amount of cloud, reduced visibility and fine grained snow falling. Eventually questions about technique started coming all by themselves. There’s a wide range of individual differences within the group so I didn’t want to risk becoming bogged down on any particular technical issue which might not apply to everyone. Just giving a few ideas and individual tips was enough to get the ball rolling and changes to start appearing. Luke has a strong tendency to stiffen his supporting leg – but rather than labour the point we just went for a high speed blast and I’m sure that did him a lot more good! 

In the video everyone was trying to use the pressure at the end of the turn to move the body out and over the downhill ski in a flowing and dynamic manner. We had prepared for this a little in advance by working on dropping into the turn and trying to improve hip angulation and reduce rotation. Florence used the forces more naturally and effectively than anybody else. I remember from years ago that she was the most natural skier of the family – but also apparently the most easily discouraged.

Florence doesn’t realise her capacity and tends to come down hard on herself with anything that falls short of perfection.

Tibo discovered that the uphill ski will bring him around without the need to throw it around – but still doesn’t quite believe it.

Luke can bend his legs when he focuses on absolutely nothing else. (Pressure on the shins and heels) Nobody in the family connects better with dynamics and flow – but in a highly inefficient and tiring manner (which the goal is to change).

Leonie is the opposite from Luke – hesitant when it comes to dynamics but organised and aware.

Ella is consistent. Just a bit too much rotation but there is a good base to build on.

The photo today is indoors due to poor visibility outside. It is one of Luke’s favourite snacks. There was a token piece of meat along with the bone. There were a couple of eager Spaniels hovering around the table and it’s not hard to understand why. I think the garlic clove on the plate is to ensure the protein is balanced properly with vegetables.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Andrew, Jenny, James, William and Tom


To kick off the session I had a quick look at everybody’s skiing. Tom has never had any input from me before and it’s been 3 years since James and William have had any.

Surprisingly Tom had a very natural movement pattern. Tom normally snowboards, rides motocross and has the advantage of having had very little previous ski coaching to mess him up. It was good to see this and as it is quite unusual. The really good part was that I didn’t have to repeat any of the the basic teaching that the others already know because Tom’s overall motion was generally correct.

Jenny’s skiing was more or less unchanged from before – anchored on two feet and with the body more or less constantly square to the skis, little use of dynamics and a small range of leg motion.

Given a full spectrum of different skiers I had to go by intuition when deciding how to approach the session. Given that there were five people and only half a day to work on things it would not be possible to focus on any one thing for long or give much feedback. I decided that “control” was the key issue so embarked upon a session that would give a broad overview of the technicalities of “control”.

One Ski Pivot

We started out by taking a ski off and skiing on one ski. Predictably the boys were all over the place.
Pivoting was rapidly revised (fortunately Tom catches on quickly) and the separation of the edge of the foot and edge of the ski was clarified. Basically you always remain on the inside edge of the foot while the ski edges change. Tom had an initial tendency to try to torque the ski around but was able to quickly grasp that it’s the motion of the centre of mass across the skis that does the trick. The first part of the turn has to keep the ski on the uphill edge as long as possible – with the edge change taking place in the fall line. We then moved on to skiing forwards and linking turns with this pivoting action so easy control could be established.

I explained that two feet can be held together in a close stance for pivoting on two skis. This is necessary in bumps and some off piste where a two footed pivoting platform can be a useful option. The key issue is that both feet are held on their inside edges and this also helps to hold the feet together.

Apart from improving awareness of edge control the one ski pivot also encourages awareness of the motion of the centre of mass and flexion at the hip to allow the centre of mass to travel successfully in both directions over the ski. The Centre of Mass motion is controlled by use of the pole – placed downhill, behind the feet when the turns are starting from a standstill. When there is forward motion the pole isn’t planted so far back. The more forward motion in any skiing activity the less the pole is used.

Compression Turns

We used the close stance two footed pivot on bumps – standing on the shoulder of a bump with the tips and tails in the air to make the pivot easy. The turn was initiated with a flexion of the legs (knees and hips) and lowering of the body downhill during this flexion – then as the ski pivots around the bump an extension of the legs while sideslipping down the face of the bump. With some speed the bumps actually compress the legs instead of retraction being used. Tom and Andrew had a tendency to invert the timing and extend on the bumps.

Later we did a few compression turns on the flat – a very difficult exercise requiring a lot of control. William did it really well.

Two Skis - Wide Stance Pivot

Independent leg action is the aim of cultivating the wide stance pivot. This pivoting requires the boots to be across the hill from each other all the time – instead of one boot coming around and below the other. The legs rotate independently in the hip sockets and both skis pivot as before – feet always on their inside edges.

Wide Stance Short Turns with Dynamics

Next we moved on to skiing a little faster – still pivoting but now brining in dynamics. The wide stance and independent leg action permits quick movements of the centre of mass from side to side to drive the turns. The key here is to focus on the centre of mass and try to move it side to side. James was particularly good at this type of movement.

Working The Ski – Whole Turn (Independent leg extension/retraction)

On steeper ground we started to develop the independent use of the legs for alternate extension and retraction. The wide stance permits the uphill leg to extend to push the body downwards and downhill over the retracting lower leg. This not only gives a fast turn initiation but it gives grip from the start of the turn – encourages good hip angulation and a solid working/pressuring of the ski through the whole turn. The previous exercises are building up towards this so little further explanation is needed.


The independent leg action was taken into carving – wide stance – simultaneous extension/retraction. To pressure the skis for carving the “drop” at the hip, down into the turn needs to be a real “drop” – a very relaxed hip. The boys in particular all had very good timing for carving.

We added “double carving” by including pressure on the inside ski (outside edge of the ski – inside edge of the foot) in a narrower stance. William was the best at this with excellent hip angulation …

Tom has a lack of hip angulation and this limits agility…

James has good independent leg action but is also lacking hip angulation…

Jenny is slow and unable to exploit dynamics  - skis not carving at all due to rigidity – the hips need exposure to more independent leg work…

Strong inclination but no angulation – limits agility…

Friday, December 18, 2015

Brian Day 5

Today’s first goal was to link turns properly in one-ski skiing by using the pivoting skills. This was followed by a timed slalom run where correct timing was applied and a fast time of 25.66 seconds was achieved. Video from 2013 when I introduced Brian to slalom is link here – and after learning “dynamics” his fastest time next day was 30.98 seconds: link here

We spent very little time on the bumps today and only added some practice of using the “heel/shin” approach to pressuring the fronts of the skis when carving. Modern short slalom skis like those being used by Brian are usually used by pressuring the centre – but it is good to become aware of how the fronts of the skis can pull you strongly into a turn and make you secure on steep, icy terrain.

Mont Blanc in the distance...

Brian successfully used leg retraction to get out of his turns earlier and improve his timing….

Ladies World Cup Combined event today in Val d’Isère.