Today was a fairly extensive technical program. The goal was to fix as rapidly as possible all the stemming and rotating issues so we began immediately, taking advantage of the improvement in weather.
I decided to start by securing the initiation of the turn on the outside leg. This means standing up strongly on the uphill leg – prior to beginning the new turn. Once standing up on the leg, which raises the lower leg off the snow, you then allow the foot to roll onto its downhill edge as the body falls over into the turn. The ski remains on the uphill edge initially so that it cannot be stemmed in any way. Yesterday we had already started work on feeling the isolation of the edge of the foot and edge of the ski – and how they are separate things. This took practice as nobody was used to the sensation of really standing on the uphill leg to initiate the turn – something which takes commitment and confidence and is somewhat counter-intuitive when plunging down a hill.
The end of the turn is an up motion (bike coming up out of a turn) so you need to stand up on the lower leg at the same time – thus actively stepping onto the uphill leg. It’s a natural walking action. This can also be condensed into perceiving it as a single action – standing strongly on the uphill leg at the start of the turn and then sinking into the turn on it – to stand back up on it again at the end when stepping onto the other leg.
Once everyone was more or less comfortable turning on one leg I decided to move directly to working on activating the core muscles. Not very long ago it came clear to me that the way to communicate this to people is to stand behind them and hold the foot and shoulder while they pull their hip backwards on the same side. Sometimes postural adjustments need to be made but today there wasn’t much time needed on this.
I showed how the pulling back of the hip aligns the leg, activating the adductor muscles and assisting in pulling the foot onto its inside edge. The aim is to do this immediately on standing up on that leg to begin a new turn – and to hold that hip relationship throughout the turn – preventing the damaging action of the hip being rotated around in front of the ribs.
Everyone immediately connected with this new feeling and when skiing down the Face de Bellevarde they all noticed the ease that it brought to the turn transitions.
From this point onwards we were aiming to ski mindfully, focused on the centre of the body and initiating movements from there – both muscular, internal movements and global movements of the body. The first action to make is to pull the hip back when standing on the leg then feel the adductors and foot engage as the centre of mass moves into the new turn.
We spent some time using pivoting to work on awareness of how to direct the centre of mass – always inwards towards the turn centre. There is only centripetal (inwards force) produced when skiing and we have to direct everything inwards to generate this – no stemming or pushing outwards. The centre of mass drives the turn – and the organisation of the body just supports this.
Working from the centre of the body – has the strange effect of also centring the mind and helping to focus internally. Mindful activity is necessary for effective and rapid training and skill development – reprogramming the unconscious mind so that new automatic patterns can take over. Apart from the meditative aspects of centring the mind (removing distractions) there is a whole process initiated leading to perceptions changing and developing on a constant basis. Awareness just grows – and this accelerates over time – apparently endlessly.
When we skied with this aspect of dynamics Leonie managed for a while to identify a resonance – where the skis lifted her back up out of the turn and into the next one. It’s when things start happening to you – instead of you trying to generate them – that you know you are on track! Feedback like this has always served me personally as clear confirmation when working things out.
In the video above Ella is not allowing the turns to develop from standing on the uphill leg solidly. There is a “snatching” and braking then traversing instead of a smooth arc. There is limited leg movement, core activation and dynamics – also indicating a partial failure to form the turn on one leg and shape the turn purposefully by directing the centre of mass.
Leonie is moving well and applying everything that we were working on clearly – but she was not closing her turns and so gained too much speed. We worked on the “line” after this – turning almost uphill to complete the turn and control speed – lifting the centre of mass up and out of the existing turn.
Luke was struggling on his right side with trouble with rotation – though his left side was much better. Once again the turns were not being worked strongly or purposefully.
We explored a little off piste but Ella was feeling a bit too fragile. The feedback from the skis is much more powerful off piste and this can frighten people initially – but all they need to know is that movements need to be amplified to cope with this. Ella’s weakness is currently in dynamics so she just didn’t feel secure and the snow wasn’t forgiving enough to allow for timid dynamics or to facilitate pivoting actions. Tomorrow we will work a little on dynamics directly to prepare everyone for a more aggressive approach with such challenging snow – though the basic mechanics and principles remain unchanged.
Our final run touched on carving where the Core Activation can be much stronger and more pronounced than in any other aspect of skiing. We didn’t really spend enough time on this but I wanted to show how the lower and upper body integrate through the core much more extensively than we had looked at until now. I used the “plough-carve” exercise to begin to introduce the basic movement pattern and Luke did quite well with this for a first attempt. I won’t cover that here because we will return to that in greater detail again – repeating it a few times over the next few days.
On the final descent I asked Ella to stop adding an automatic “downsink poleplant” because it was preventing her from coordinating the timing with her legs. This is exacerbated when there is a break in rhythm and a traverse added between each turn. When Ella started to link the turns more she was able to stop poorly timed pole planting.
Luke – End of Turn Dynamics
Finishing up the day I skied behind Luke for a while to see what he was doing and saw a large rotation on the right side. This prevented Luke from using any of the technique he was working on for his left turns. My hunch was that this was caused by him naturally avoiding allowing the body to complete the turn by moving freely over the left leg – due to him being right handed. We hadn’t worked on this aspect of dynamics yet – as we had focused mainly on pivoting and internal mechanics. When sliding with forward momentum however pivoting won’t happen so we need more complete dynamics and so I demonstrated to Luke how to move over the lower leg. This immediately cured his rotation problem and allowed him to stand on his right leg correctly.