Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Finn Day 2

Persistence with the ski hire shop eventually rewarded us with properly waxed skis for Finn. Thomas also decided it was time to retire his 25 year old Nevica ski clothing – which had acquired a distinctive “Last of The Summer Wine” allure – so things were all moving in a positive direction!

Slippery skis came as a surprise for Finn so we had to take time to revise some of the previous day’s work with the addition of the new feelings and accelerations. Slow queues at the button lift held us up quite a bit but he needed to get used to the higher speed before attempting anything steeper. Skiing is such a strong activator of emotions and impulses that by pushing too hard it can very rapidly ingrain defensive or inappropriate mechanics – especially at an early stage of development. Patience is very important at this stage. Most of the morning was taken up reinforcing the principles we had worked with on day one – the rolling of the feet – the movement of the centre of mass (belly button) – avoiding twisting the feet or the body – trying to step cleanly from one foot to the other to tighten turns by stepping (diverging skis).

Eventually when we were ready it was time to start the introduction of new elements. The first thing to be added was the use of the adductor muscles – specifically concerning the outside leg/foot in the turn  - so that the muscle (inside of the thigh) was pulling inwards to compliment the foot rolling inwards onto its edge.

I explained how the ski actually works – that there are two important things to understand:

The skier’s job is to “fall over” and the ski’s job is to lift him back up!

This relationship creates a turn. However the “lifting up” causes the foot to be easily flattened and taken off its edge and for the knee to be pulled out also – so it’s important to control this by using the adductor muscles to hold the leg inwards and keep the foot on its inside edge.

Foot Forward Technique

The main new element added today however was “foot forward” technique. I used the analogy of a compass drawing a circle – with the inside of the circle just rotating on a point and the outside scribing a path. In this way the outside foot in a tight turn has to travel further than the inside foot – so to make this all work it’s best to push it forwards. This actively in fact tightens the turn up and combined with the active motion of the centre of mass it is one of the two main ways to change and control turn radius.  To give Finn the idea of how this feels we did an exercise to simulate this effect with the skis off – and this was recorded on video. It’s a tricky exercise so we will return to it for a short while each day. However, the increased tightness and control of his turns could be seen on the steeper terrain immediately following the exercise. This of course combines with all of the other elements he has been working on and can actually only be accomplished when there is already some degree of coordination of all of those other things. The pushing of the foot forward is related and derived from skating skills.


Finn’s excitement over day 1 had effectively burned him out so he had a short day with me – though he skied with his father later on for a few runs on familiar terrain. Our afternoon session continued with Jamilla – who is self taught but now confronting apparent limitations in her skiing.

We began with me both observing and filming prior to attempting to change anything. Jamilla is a strong skier but clearly at the limit of the potential of her current technique. It took me a while to separate the symptoms from the causes in her skiing so that I could target the most relevant issues directly. It was in fact clear that she was deliberately pushing her skis outwards in a braking action – all the time. She admitted always skiing this way with no real variation so it was obvious that she wouldn’t be able to carve a ski – so “carving” became the point of entry. The “symptoms” of her skiing issues were  A – Timing: an up motion to start the turn. B – hip rotation. C – the skis skidding outwards. D – the ankle collapsing and knee falling inwards. E – poor dynamic range. F – no fore/aft adjustment through the turn. The hard thing here is spotting what is a deliberate action and what is an unintentional consequence – which is why I posed Jamilla several questions about what she thought she was doing to make a turn.


The accessible gentle gradients and wide slopes makes this resort ideal for learning carving skills. Jamilla was initially unable to hold her skis on a carving edge even in a traverse because the sensation was so unfamiliar to her.

We worked on correcting the stance – moving more onto the heels – rolling the foot over onto its edge at the subtaler joint beneath the ankle and avoiding the knee being twisted inwards. The traverse was gradually made to point downhill and the stance widened for a strong support base. I explained how to move the whole mass (shoulders included) as Jamilla was trying to edge the skis with just her knee or her hip. Doing this correctly at low speed can feel odd because it puts the weight on the “wrong” foot – which is why we use a wide stance. Once there is speed that changes and the pressure will be generated by the outside ski immediately – however this depends on the skier holding the carve at higher speed – which at this stage was eluding Jamilla. The important thing however was that Jamilla was stating to become aware of the issues and the need to always make muscular efforts and movements of the body inwards to the turn and not outwards!

I demonstrated effective pivoting from the outside edge to Jamilla and assisted her through a couple of pivots herself so she could feel how even pivoting does not work through pushing outwards. The main goal of this session was to generate a paradigm shift and reset Jamilla’s overall objectives. I also explained and demonstrated when different stances where appropriate – the narrow stance for some pivoting and wider for carving – which is inside edge to inside edge skiing.

Just one special tip for today! Never put your mobile phone in the same pocket as your lift pass! It somehow makes the pass literally invisible – both to magnetic readers and every feasible pocket search!

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