Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Leen Day 2 – Introducing Pivoting

On meeting Leen this morning she was clearly suffering from painful calf muscles – so the day began with a trip to the hire shop and a change of boots. Leen’s stance had been very good and natural so it was obviously her generic “men’s” hire boots that were the problem and she needed anatomically adapted lady’s boots. If ever buying boots in future they must be designed for female anatomy. (longer, larger and lower soleus muscle)

Leen began her second day on skis with some revision – quickly covering everything we had done yesterday. Improvements were visible all round so this was really about reinforcing the new skills while building confidence by covering familiar ground. Once we had worked through this process it was time to head over to the main nursery area to access the long, wide and gentle slopes so that there would be more opportunity to ski and practice. On the way over there Leen had her first experience of “side slipping”.

All of today’s new work would be about building towards pivoting skills

Side Slipping

From standing across the slope with skis parallel side slipping is easily done just by rolling the feet downhill slightly so that the edges lose edge grip. Leen picked up on this easily and quickly. The skis do need to be kept quite close together so that they both remain on their uphill edges. Leen’s only mistake was due to leaving the uphill ski uphill of the body and letting it catch the lower edge as a result. The skis need to remain more or less vertically below the skier’s body on the mountain. Side slipping and traversing are major tools for descending any steep slope under control. They are also important elements and skills required for getting skis to properly work for turning.

Diverging Traverse

For want of a better name I’m calling a traverse with the uphill ski diverging uphill a “diverging traverse”. Instead of a snowplough to negotiate the trail down from the top of the nursery slope we made the skis diverge and used the uphill ski as a brake in this manner. The uphill ski was placed on its uphill edge and dragged in a side slipping manner. One main goal here was to develop better foot/ski edge awareness. Sensitivity and control of speed from the uphill ski would come from keeping the ski on its uphill edge and the foot on its downhill edge – the lateral stiffness of the shaft of the ski boot facilitating this.

Reinforcing Dynamics

During our descents I’d been reinforcing the use of the adductor muscles, foot rolling at the subtaler joint and the motion of the centre of mass. I made it clear that the inside ski could always be used to skate if there was any difficulty or instability getting the centre of mass into a turn. Later on I described dynamics and centripetal force again and the fact that EVERYTHING must work towards the centre of the turn – nothing should be pushed or twisted outwards.


After demonstrating pivoting from the uphill ski I assisted Leen through a few pivots. A full explanation of the pivot can be found here 

Leen had difficulty at first remaining on the inside edge of her foot – but she probably didn’t realise at that point that the ski itself would change edge automatically half way through the turn and all she had to do from start to end was stay on the inside edge of her foot. Considering this is only day number two on skis it is only normal to expect some confusion. Very few people – even professionals – are the slightest bit aware of the issues involved here – yet they rapidly become very obvious.

The goal for today was not to create perfect pivoting – but only to develop the use of it to help skiing in general – to remove the false belief that a turn can only start on the downhill/inside edge of the new outside ski in a turn. I also wanted it to be understood that pivoting is a far more rapid way of turning and is a braking form of turning and so gives better control over speed. Just the confidence to begin a turn with a small degree of pivoting can make a great difference.

To make sure the “swing” of the ski into the turn – the lateral pulling inwards of the tip with the adductor muscles – was executed correctly we did the exercise of pulling the tip of a ski against the resistance of my ski pole. The pivoting ski must not be twisted or “steered” into the turn as this will force the tail outwards and cause all sorts of problems (the tail will jam because the ski is on its uphill edge and so it can’t be pushed outwards…). The pull inwards with the adductors is really just a connection with the core muscles of the body to ensue that the ski is pulled in the right direction following the centre of mass.

Leen was able even at the very early stage to use her ski pole as a support to control the motion of her centre of mass while pivoting from a stationary position across the slope.

Integrating the Pivot

The first attempt to use the pivot while skiing was from the Diverging Traverse. I asked Leen to stand up on the diverging ski and then let the centre of mass fall into the new turn. Leen didn’t quite get this but Ben did. This action really shows how the pivot is still fundamentally connected to a skating (diverging) action. Next we simply integrated the pivot by standing up on the uphill edge of the uphill ski while crossing the slope and starting the turn by rolling the foot onto its downhill edge, falling into the new turn and pulling the ski tip inwards with the adductor muscles – everything inwards. The position of the ski vertically below the body at this point guaranteed a pivoting entry into the new turn. This also guarantees a stronger “one footed” turn with greater commitment to the outside ski/leg – giving a more effective/quicker shorter turn and greater stability.

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