Thursday, February 19, 2015

Finn Day 4

Finn was following in the footsteps of his granduncle Andrea who is here this week. Andrea was the same age (7 years old) in the photo below on the left. Andrea’s grandparents came from the Ponte di Legno area. Andrea has always had a passion for the mountains – and still does! There were no ski lifts when he was a boy so he had to climb and he helped manually prepare pistes (using the skis) for race courses.

1942                                                                                                                                                            2015





















Finn started the day with a sore tummy and quite tired but he didn’t complain at all during the lesson. Unlike previous days we had no need to revise anything and we started the new session from where we left off yesterday at 4pm by jumping the body off downhill into the new turn. When the gradient was less this would become just a movement of the body across the skis from one turn to the next. Finn was still using his inside ski as an outrigger, however I realised the problem was just a little more complicated. When turning to the right he was holding the left ski far up the hill at the start of the turn to be sure to get on the inside edge and feel secure – but this was causing him to accelerate rapidly downhill and lose control. Our exercises would gradually have to lead us towards the “pivot” to be able to deal with this correctly.

Short Swings

From now on I wanted Finn to pull the tips of the skis into the new turn. Until now I’d actively discouraged him from twisting his feet and trying to steer the ski into the turn – because that causes the heel to be pushed outwards and makes the knee very vulnerable. He was now ready to cope with the correct coordination. This coordination is a pulling inwards of the tip of the ski – using the adductor muscles of the inside of the leg. We used the same exercise that Jamilla used yesterday with the uphill ski held in the air and me blocking the movement with my pole so that Finn could feel the correct muscles to use. However the idea was that Finn would do this with both the skis in the air from jumping. This is in fact called a “short swing” and is a valid technique – especially for skiing on steep terrain – though most people do it incorrectly. Finn did manage to do this well as is seen in the video clip and it helped to bring his skis together a little bit more reliably – because you have to have the skis close together to jump and you are pulling the uphill ski downhill automatically - instead of leaving it spread away uphill or or actively pushing it uphill. We would still have to take this further for a result that would deal properly with steeper terrain though.


Finn learned the words “Traverse” and “Traversing” and managed to hold a solid traverse across a fairly steep (but safe) section of the mountain – holding both skis on their uphill edges.

Side Slipping

From traversing we went into side slipping – which takes a lot of practice. Straight away I had Finn working on releasing his edges with rolling his feet so that he could start working on coordination skills.


The goal was to develop pivoting skills – even at this very early stage of development. Not having learned snowplough or any conscious defensive action at the start of a turn means that there is no real obstacle for Finn learning this skill – which most confirmed skiers find extremely difficult.

I assisted Finn through a few pivots so that he could feel the turn start from a close stance side slip and especially from the uphill edge of the uphill ski (lower edge of his uphill foot) – instead of the downhill (inside) edge that he is used to relying on. This is by far the most promising way to get him to bring his skis together and get that right turn under control. He then succeeded in applying this when turning on steeper terrain – at least for a few turns.


Thomas turned out to have very similar skiing mechanics to Jamilla. Once again there was no point dwelling on details – the goal would be to begin work on making sure all movements were designed to begin the turn with everything directed inwards rather than outwards. Being on steep terrain dictated our options and meant that we would have to begin with the “pivot”. There’s no point really in repeating the details here as it is the same as for Jamilla – but there is also a properly detailed explanation to be found here… 

Thomas bravely attempted to pivot on the downhill ski while on quite steep terrain – but without mastering the pivot from the uphill ski first this is probably impossible to do. I demonstrated how it works on either or both skis simultaneously (in all cases from a side slip) – a common solution to off-piste (two footed platform) skiing in deep snow.

I also wanted Thomas to understand the exact skills that I had started to develop with Finn – so that he was aware of everything that was going on there.

With something as difficult as eliminating an uphill ski stem – or two footed heel push to the outside – it’s best not to spend too long working on it in any one session because frustration can set in after a while – so after a couple of descents of the upper slopes we move on to dynamics.


Preparing Thomas for perhaps going off piste – and making use of his strengths in skiing I decided to focus for a while on dynamics – specifically the “end of turn” dynamics. We used “hanger” turns for this purpose. This turn requires the skier to stay on the lower ski and be lifted out of the turn – almost entering the next turn on the same ski. Off piste where the  “lifting up” response of the ski is even stronger this phase of the turn must be exploited to ensure effective entry into the next turn (towards the centre). Most people feel apprehensive in tricky snow so instead they hold back precisely at this point and kill the dynamics – then almost kill themselves next as they fail to start the new turn. Dynamics is the principle way to guarantee nailing any turn off piste! More detailed information can be found here…


In the video clip below we can see the body rotation and lack of hip angulation due to the skis being forced outwards at the start of the turn. This also causes a relative loss of control due to the absence of grip at the start of the turn. Thomas was aware that his rotation was probably causing a knee problem – what he wasn’t aware of until now was the reason for the rotation. The short carving section here really exposes how the start of the turn is affected.


We didn’t really spend enough time of carving exercises – but when a suitable slope presented itself I just wanted to see if Thomas was properly carving or not. We did some static edge change exercises but it was clear that Thomas would struggle to make a clean turn transition (edge change) when moving. With a painful knee manifesting itself I didn’t want to spend too long on this and so after filming we set off on the long descent down to the village.

New Boots

During the descent into the valley it was strange to see that while Thomas skied strongly down fairly icy black runs his skis were all over the place when simply going straight on a flat motorway section. This resulted in us going directly  into a ski shop at the bottom and as luck would have it finding a much better pair of ski boots. His old boots were ancient Salomons with a flex of 70! Really not good! His new boots are Dalbello’s with a flex of 110 and the apparent ability not to aggravate bunions! We will see tomorrow however if that promise is fully realised!

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