Callum turned up at about 10:15 am – already exhausted from a combination of both his ordeal on the slopes yesterday and a late night. Welcome to Skiing! The first thing he said was “Can we stop at 2:30?” to which he received a lecture from me about “persistence” and the value of suffering. Fortunately Callum actually has a sense of humour and this was proven later on when he fell over winding himself badly when getting off the chairlift. In fact he was doing well there but his ski poles had jammed in the chair somehow and knocked him clean over. Third time getting off the chair and he was on top of things.
Our second day session began inside with a brief explanation of dynamics. A more complete explanation can be found here: Dynamics Relevant to Callum was the need to sometimes augment the force generated by the ski itself with the impulse of skating. However it was clear to me that he could only really understand the process properly by feeling it. On the slope we revised some of yesterday’s session, including skating and then practiced for a while using the button lift. Moving on and helping Callum to feel things would require me to assist him using a ski pole for him to hold onto.
Getting ourselves across to the main beginner’s chairlift slope required that Callum held onto the pole that I extended across in front of him. All the time I would remind him and try to bring his focus onto whatever was important. Here the important thing is to maintain the weight on the lower ski and hold that foot and ski on their inside edges. This makes the ski grip and keeps you going across the hill – even turning uphill a little – which makes you release the edge for a second to be able to slide downhill at a small angle to keep some speed.
Braking – Forward Diagonal Sideslip
The beginner’s lift has a gently inclined pathway down the steep start of the slope. Getting down this pathway slowly normally requires a snowplough for the beginner. Calum to his great credit has totally avoided snowploughing on both days even though he endured an hour of this nonsense on a plastic ski slope in preparation for coming out. The skis have to be diverged at the front and while diagonally sideslipping down the bank at the side of the path the uphill ski lets the tip drift even further uphill and is used as a brake. This ski is pointed uphill and is safe – whereas a snowplough points that ski downhill and risks a sudden acceleration downhill if the skier suddenly leans on it out of fear of the slope. The uphill ski still has the foot on it’s inside edge and the ski boot alone keeps it on the uphill edge.
We had a brief go at assisted sideslipping. I showed Callum that just moving the body downhill over the skis slightly flattens them and gets them slipping – while moving the centre of mass back uphill slightly digs in the edges and brings you to a stop.
I demonstrated the pivot to Callum so he could clearly see how it works: Pivot
I wanted him to understand this clearly because while holding onto the pole skiing together I was deliberately manipulating his centre of mass and ski edge angles to generate pivoting. All Callum really had to do was to stand on the appropriate leg – right to go left – left to go right – and I would move his body the right amount into the new turn for the pivoting effect of the supporting ski to work. When Callum eventually felt it and understood he became far more secure on his skis and so we returned to the button lift for him to try again on his own.
With his new understanding we returned to the button lift for Callum to use the gentle gradient again to see how turning on his own would be. The result was that he could link parallel turns at low speed and without even stepping or skating. It’s actually quite hard to do this because the dynamics are much more subtle than when you have speed and the confidence to use it.
Callum’s progress is correct for someone who is absolutely new to accelerations of this manner. He must from here on practice with the gentle turns until he is very comfortable and then only gain height and speed when the desire arises naturally – as it will if he persists. He can practice traversing and sideslipping individually as exercises. Most of skiing involves some sideways motion so getting used to sidesliping really helps.
Focus on the legs and feet (edges of the feet, subtaler joints, adductor muscles) and do this in the context of moving the centre of mass while standing on the appropriate leg and “falling” in the desired direction.
Callum still alive at the end of it all… perhaps even smiling?
Mini vultures circling in a weird sub-zero thermal – waiting to pick Callum’s bones clean…