Day one – a return to snow for Alex after a successful first season on plastic with his school. First time in the gates for Mike who is keen to use them help to bring his own skiing on. The reality is that this is what all skiers should be encouraged to do. Simply having to conform to physical constraints brings an entire meaning to skiing that is otherwise totally missing. Just like for racing cars and motorbikes the track defines the setup, tactics and a whole host of parameters – a few slalom poles brings the same dimension into skiing. Once you leave the poles this new awareness tends to stick.
Unfortunately Alex has been following some extremely bad advice – to push the skis out and tilt the upper body outwards. This combination of actions is utterly wrong and is totally NOT how to create angulation – which it is aimed at achieving. The reason it’s wrong is simply because it sends the centre of mass completely in the wrong direction – towards the outside of the turn instead of towards the inside. Alex also admitted to not thinking about anything at all when he skis in the poles and was unable to answer any basic technical questions on skiing at all. It was like everything I taught him before had been wiped from his memory banks. We put it down to excessive sugar consumption. Fortunately the body does remember so the aim would be to once again make Alex aware of what he is doing and access the correct movement pattern – which his body already knows.
We focused of getting Alex to move his centre of mass into the turn – instead of pushing his skis out. The idea was to drop down into the new turn as fast as possible – by being relaxed at the hips – seen in the video with the exercise on the bench. In the stills from his video we can see he was doing this quite well with the stubby poles – but lost it totally in the long poles by reaching for the pole and causing body rotation. The problem here is that the stiff, inclined body will not be able to get across the skis quickly enough into the next turn.
Alex tends to still push his skis outwards to some degree – skidding and losing a lot of speed and control. Also he wasn’t looing ahead to read the course and misjudged the verticalé completely being far too wide from the poles when entering it. We will have to discuss tactics.
Holding the ski poles across the front of his body to deflect the slalom poles seemed to significantly help him to both stop rotating and to move more effectively down and into his turn.
Mike has struggled with skiing but clearly is clearly determined to convert that struggle into something positive. Interestingly enough I think that slalom is the ideal way to go about that. The physical constraints provided by the gates turns this into something very real – instead of just a set of exercises or ideas. We are forced to adapt – beyond the normal boundaries that our imagination permits. The physical constraints give us clear feedback – which the skier and coach can both work with.
Mike was working to try to move over his lower ski to exit each turn – to allow the centre of mass to move unobstructed from one turn to the next. What’s clear to me in the video is that he was barely managing that – hence was lifting the ski in the turn transition instead of the body moving down into the next turn. This was exacerbated due to body rotation – turning around the poles instead of skating straight downhill through them. It was a positive start though and I think we will see some real progress quickly.
The entrance to Val d’Isère today…