Today Finn broke free from the nursery slopes and started to get some serious mileage under his belt. We warmed up initially using familiar slopes and when I was sure the Finn could follow my tracks and understood the need to stay in the tracks then we took the long blue run down the valley. There was nothing new technically for him to deal with here – just lots of reinforcement of all the things that we had already been working on. Finn clearly isn’t used to hard physical effort outside of anything directly considered “play” – so some gentle prodding was needed to motivate him at times to make the required effort – especially regarding skating along the flats or even staying in my tracks. He responded directly to this! It’s normal to be a bit lazy when you are unaware of your capacity.
I explained to Finn that when he fell he shouldn’t become discouraged – learning anything worthwhile is difficult but that’s what makes it rewarding. It’s also important to fight this by getting up quickly. This habit is important because if you fall on something steep that fight can save you!
Before lunch we started to work on technique again – lifting up the inside ski during the turn – swinging the airborne tip into the turn at the turn initiation (diverging skis) and then padding the ski on and off the snow during the turn. In the very short video clip at the very end of the session it shows how Finn was muddled and in the last turn he starts to lift the outside ski. This is not just a misunderstanding – it was his right leg he lifted at the wrong time because he has a strong bias towards his left leg. Work needs to be done to compensate for this unconscious bias.
Finn had to be told about “peripheral vision” and the fact that his brain would see the ground and skis even though his attention was on some other object when looking ahead. Looking at the ground is not a great idea when skiing as it gives a false perception of speed plus of course it’s most important to be looking ahead and around about for safety reasons. When Finn had a final run on his own on the button lift at the end of the day, he was given the task of keeping his head up and looking at us all the way down (we were at the bottom of the run). He managed this well even though as a consequence he forgot to turn!
Meanwhile Ayesha had on a hired pair of lady’s ski boots and nearly all the problems of the metatarsal arches and the calf muscles were gone! No mystery here then! They don’t make lady’s ski boots just to look pretty – they are anatomically adapted to the lower leg.
After lunch I ran through an explanation of which foot to lift – explaining again “inside” and “outside” ski and making sure that Finn completely understood the objectives. The idea here is to get him accustomed to standing more and more on one leg and to remove the “stabiliser” of the inside leg progressively. Eventually the stability will come from the “inward” directed (centripetal) forces from outside ski generating a turn.
Jumping Part 1
Finn was however responding to steeper terrain by widening his stance even more – and frequently stepping his skis too wide apart causing spins and falls as the inside edge would catch and spin him around. To alleviate this problem we worked on jumping – which both in preparation and execution causes the skis to naturally come together. The jump requires a sitting (not bowing) action and when taking off the legs straighten when in the air. Jumping prior to executing the step turn gets the body and legs active and the skis closer together – reducing the tendency for a wide stance and stabiliser effect.
Jumping part 2
For Finn’s next trick the jumping was altered so that instead of jumping vertically and landing vertically he had to jump the body off down the hill over the top of his lower ski. There would be no need for a step turn with this now. When Finn realised he would lose his outrigger stabiliser he started to complain about having a sore little finger! That didn’t work! We carried on and he did a really good job, looking much stronger in his turns. Something that helped here also was that Finn began to understand dynamics.
I told Finn that we need to get that inside ski out of the way so as to fall into the turn. Finn then asked if we are meant to fall over! Excellent question! “Yes” is the answer. This impressed Finn and appealed to him. I briefly explained the “invisible wall” to push up against and had him push hard with his shoulder against mine – correcting his edge grip at the same time. This is the feeling (except for the pressure on the shoulder) that the body should discover when falling into a turn – and the same level of security. The harder you try to fall the more secure you become just the same as when you push harder against my shoulder…
Finn’s progress has been consistent and other than his being exhausted nothing should get in the way of this continuing.
There was an hour to fill at the end of the day so it was a good opportunity to continue the work with Jamilla. Predictably when skiing on steeper ground she had found herself completely reverting to her normal habits. Carving can only be practised on gentle terrain initially and even for normal turns the correct coordination will be lost when it becomes more challenging. To begin to overcome this issue I decided to work directly on pivoting skills – mainly to reinforce good fundamental and appropriate coordination. The correct coordination is actually the same for all turns.
Although Jamilla can ski strongly on a good piste this is a deceptive situation. Her normal “pushing out” of the outside ski to find the inside edge at the start of the turn would make off piste skiing impossible and also create great problems on ice – plus it just wouldn’t work at all in a race course. While skiing on perfectly groomed slopes is flattering it disguises the real limitations and hides the technical problems. “Real” skiing is off-piste – far away from machines and groomed slopes!
We began with side slipping on steeper terrain and then went on to side slipping on the uphill ski only. The first thing to correct here is to be able to roll the foot onto its downhill edge inside the ski boot and still keep the ski on the uphill edge with the centre of mass directly above it. The shaft of the ski boot keeps the ski from flattening completely and the ski remains on the top edge. With the foot on its inside (downhill) edge the adductor muscles can be employed to pull the front of the ski downhill into a pivot with no resistance – because the inside edge (downhill) of the ski is not in contact with the snow. This also makes the uphill edge of the ski continue to grip and so it is now impossible to push the tail of the ski outwards as the turn is initiated. I assisted Jamilla through a few turns until she felt the effect clearly and then by using a ski pole stuck in the ground at the front of her ski I explained how to use lateral force to pull the ski tip downhill using the adductor muscles. My pole gave the resistance necessary to feel the correct muscle use and force. (Initially Jamilla pushed her heel out instead!)Finally the use of support with the ski pole – planted behind the feet – was added to replace the support that I provided when I assisted her in discovering the correct feeling of a full pivot.
There is quite a lot to handle here in effect – but Jamilla managed very well and successfully pivoted with all her coordination working towards the new turn centre – instead of her usual “pushing outwards”. I also explained that no matter what edge the turn starts on or whether it is carving – all the applied forces must always be inwards – all contributing to centripetal force. (Not fictitious centrifugal outwards forces)