…from left to right – Aslan “The Lion” (claims to be aged eight but is really seven and a half), Hudson the ice hockey star and Dakota (who would rather be playing chess).
Before we begin – slalom times – Ersin 28.14”, Hudson 31.16”, Dakota 35.16”, Aslan DNF (Did Not Finish!)
Asking the boys ‘”How do you make a turn?” the response was the standard answer – offered by Aslan “Put the button (pole) in the snow and turn around it.” Predictably – for skiing parallel - that was the sum total of their understanding. This is the normal “ski school” outcome. The boys would be skiing with practically no dynamics – trying hard to be “in balance” and very upright. We filmed this – all the boys skiing together (video clip) before teaching them all how to understand and create real dynamics and taking them into a race course.
Skating – Intro
We began making changes with skating – simply turning by skating several steps into each turn. Dakota was the best at this initially. The aim of skating is to get used to the ski tips diverging and then moving the centre of mass inwards during the turn – all the way through. We reduced this down to three skates per turn. All the boys did well – with Aslan doing a great job and never giving up or complaining.
Invisible – Magic Wall
Getting the boys ready for slalom in just a couple of hours meant that we had to move on quickly. To explain dynamics I used the Magic Wall (Fully explained here: http://www.skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/dynamics.html ) We did a few exercises with the boys pushing against me to understand how hard they needed to try to “fall over” and push into a turn. We did one turn from the fall-line out to the side and then straight into linked turns. Of course – despite trying to “fall over” the boys didn’t! The Magic Wall works and their skiing started to come to life.
The goal here was really to combine skating with dynamics. In the video clip Hudson nails it first time! The idea is to skate directly downhill and then introduce dynamics (falling inwards) while continuing the skating. The dynamics converts the skating into skiing! Dakota wasn’t so comfortable with the dynamics and Aslan made a great attempt but needs more skating experience.
We practiced the dynamics with skating timing and all the boys were clearly much more dynamic and so ready to tackle slalom.
The rules of the slalom course had to be explained and then a course inspection carried out. The snow was slushy and the course rutted so I side-slipped the it a few times to try to flatten the worst of the ruts to prevent an accident. Aslan wiped out once so I took him down the rest of the way – but next time he was completely undeterred by his fall and asked to go by himself. He wasn’t strong enough to stay in the course where it was steepest (black run) - but he never fell over again.
After the first run by Hudson and Dakota I asked them what they were thinking during the descent. Dakota replied “nothing” and Hudson “turning”. Despite their protests I impressed upon them the need to “think” and be mindful about their body movements – about skating and dynamics. Hudson in particular caught on and improved by several seconds. Aslan and Dakota were really working in the right direction.
After lunch break the weather closed in and so I wanted to slow down the skiing a little. Realising that it might be pushing things slightly too far I decided to introduce “pivoting” to the boys. They could all manage short turns – Hudson with a strong outwards heel push, Dakota with limited control over his speed and Aslan somewhere between the other two. I rapidly demonstrated the “upper ski pivot” and when giving feedback explained about being on the uphill edge of the ski but the downhill edge of the foot.
Dakota did a really good job here and managed to pivot correctly despite the lesson being very brief. Hudson had a fascinating surprise in store though – he did the pivot backwards! Despite seeing me pull the front of my ski downhill and into a normal turn – Hudson pulled the tail of his uphill ski downhill and into a spin backwards. Later on I realised that he had picked this up from our earlier 360° spins on the flat from the fall-line – where the tails need to move outwards and downhill to spin around backwards! Being an ice hockey player and so skiing with a tendency to push the skis outwards into a hockey stop – I could see why Hudson had this overwhelming tendency to interpret things in this direction. It’s even more important then that he learns to understand the requirement to pull everything inwards! We tried working on this by pivoting on bumps – but the limits of concentration had been well exceeded by now!
Skiing down the mountain I deliberately went to a very steep black run where there is good protection with safety nets. I wanted Aslan to get experience of holding himself “inwards” on steep turns – so that he would understand physically how to hold a tight and steep slalom turn. Aslan managed to ski this well and he would probably have managed to stay in the slalom course after this. All the boys had massively increased dynamic range by the end of the day and had acquired a different way of understanding skiing.