Today was a highly technical day for Ersin and a lot of concentration was required! Although Ersin felt that he needed to improve his pivoting it was clear to me that the fundamental issue involved was the “evolution” of the turns – the “purposeful working of the centre of mass”. Ersin had no bearings here or clear reference to work from. When pivoting this issue is generally rendered too subtle to be learned – which is why it is normally acquired through about 10 years of violent race training (with an incredibly high drop out rate). Instead, we could intelligently exploit carving to build the appropriate awareness because the feedback and forces are very strong and clear – which when combined with the right information leads to a far more level playing field – and chance for very rapid success for all ages and aptitudes. Ersin’s slalom benchmark time is 28.88 seconds (Silver) after only three runs.
Carve – Plough Exercise
We only needed to work on one exercise – but on several aspects that could be applied to it.
The principle was to provide a slow motion platform for integrating skating with dynamics as would be applied in a race course. A wide snowplough would be used for the support.
With the plough facing across the hill the shoulders need to face downhill – because this is simulating “skating downhill”. The body moves (downhill) across the skis with all the weight bearing on the lower (inside) ski – which acts as a brake – feeding very slowly into the turn) the uphill ski is pulled onto its edge. Body mass must be moved strongly towards the centre of the new turn – which at this point means facing downhill and extending the body downhill. In effect the carving ski is behind the body now (uphill).
As the turn evolves the hip (carving ski) must be strongly pulled backwards to allow the centre of mass to sink (gradually creating hip angulation) as gravity begins to build up pressure. The leg swings around to come in front of the body – but without pulling the hip along with it. The skier’s body is still solidly over the inside ski – which is now the uphill ski – and the shoulders are still facing downhill.
The goal here is to learn how to first of all get the body down and into a turn and then how to maintain this against increasing pressure as the turn evolves. This way when skiing the centre of mass can be used actively to form the turn and control speed though developing an efficient line.
Ersin had clearly been previously taught to carve with lateral movement of the hips and the body facing the outside of the turn. This makes it impossible to skate and to move or maintain active use of the centre of mass. Only very long turns can be maintained in this manner and with the centre of mass being used reactively. Here we were aiming to make the whole evolution of the turn dependent upon a proactive use of the centre of mass. The Centre of Mass has to effectively drive the entire turn and this has to be done consciously.
Ersin succeeded in improving his awareness of the role of the hip (being pulled backwards) – we did some revision of how to use the hip properly (Chi – Hips) and how to correct the pelvic tilt - raise the pelvis at the front and sit slightly to relax the hip muscles. The improved hip use allowed greater hip angulation to develop during the turn.
I explained later that all motion should begin at the centre – the pulling back of the hip re-aligns the leg so that the adductor muscles can be easily used and the foot rolled onto its inside edge.
To help prevent Ersin’s tendency to face his shoulders and hands too much to the outside of a turn (all the way round) I asked him to try to have one hand either side of his INSIDE ski during the turn. He can be seen doing this spontaneously here in the bottom slalom photo. This helps to drive the centre of mass inwards more effectively.
Boot Canting and Alignment
One of Ersin’s ski boots was canted differently from the other – so this had to be corrected. Asking Ersin to sit on the edge of a chair - hip joints relaxed and legs completely straightened out I placed the boots at walking width apart. Both boots had to be adjusted to have canting at the maximum to increase edging – thus giving a flat base for the soles of the boots. This simply conforms the boot shape to the skeleton in the strongest position – when then body cannot compensate.
The boots have very thick footbeds inside which prevent active use of the feet – but I was worried that removing them would create too much space.
Stance – Foot and Boot use
We looked indoors – boots off – at how to stand to activate the anterior tibialis and to make the ankle strong. Standing just over the front of the heels this muscle contracts when bending – forcing the bending to occur at the knee and hip instead of at the ankle. Also – when standing with the ankle strong like this the subtaler joint below the ankle can be used to rock the feet from edge to edge. I made sure Ersin could feel the distinction between collapsing the ankle, twisting the knee inwards – and rocking the foot, pulling the knee across laterally with the adductors and a strong ankle.
With the boots back on he could feel how the boots would give a strong support when pushed against with the shins and a strong ankle – but how this was not the same a squashing the boot by collapsing the ankle (bending when on the front of the foot). Ersin later reported feeling this strong stance while skiing.
Leg Retraction (Wide Stance)
Although for the slalom Ersin had managed the skating “downhill” and great angulation holding the body down into the turn – his dynamics into the turn were not so positive. To encourage the feel of powerful commitment at the start of the turn we used a very wide stance – retracting the lower leg to move across the skis and strongly extending the upper leg to thrust the body downhill into the new turn. The wide stance gives confidence to develop this powerful action and the understanding that the turn initiation must be very active with the centre of mass. Earlier on Ersin was waiting a moment to feel pressure and support from the outside ski before fully dropping down into the turn. This needs to be reversed – dropping down is what then generates the force through the immediate turning effect of the ski. There is a short delay before this kicks in – enough to stop most people from ever discovering this.