Saturday, January 2, 2016

Atilla - Ski Operating System Update

Last time I actually worked on Atilla’s skiing he must have been half his current height and  probably about age 11 or less. Not surprisingly Atilla couldn’t remember much from this and his skiing had continued to evolve of its own accord – but not quite in the direction we would like to see it heading. The initial part of the video clip shows Atilla skiing with his own adaptations – and when asked to “carve” basically nothing changes – but in his mind he is now carving!

Studying the video of Atilla’s skiing I made it clear first of all that I was aware of his strengths but was only interested in finding his weaknesses and problems with a view to improving his skiing.

Atilla has managed to adapt his skiing with a whole bunch of idiosyncrasies. He only uses the back of the skis and tends to be too far back – this means there is no angulation of pole use. The turn is initiated with an upper body rotation and despite projecting it into the new turn with dynamics he still manages to push the skis outwards at the rear. He does not flow over the downhill ski to exit the turn and does not use the power in the ski to complete a turn. All of this effectively causes Atilla to miss the entire first half of each turn and only when the skis are skidded around and below him on the mountain does he settle into a braking turn and traverse – so the turns are not linked in a flowing manner. The skis are always jammed together – the spine twists in the wrong direction and posture is poor and back unprotected from damage. Basically there is a lot to do here…. and I’ve only mentioned the most obvious issues. Atilla also has timing problems due to being stuck entering his turns – he is forced to go upwards to start the turn instead of dropping his centre of mass down and into the turn.

Carving – Wide Stance

Simply due to the obviousness of the issue with carving I chose that to work on first. In addition the initial task would be to try to get him to ski with the feet apart. The main reason for the wide stance is that it obliges you to move the centre of mass laterally instead to trying to rotate the upper body! Atilla initially had great difficulty keeping his feet apart – which is because this deprived him of his rotation.

To carve properly we need to be able to change the ski edges being used without the ski skidding at any point. Atilla was not clear about this initially. We had to look at the support from the feet first. The aim is to stand on the front of the heels just below the ankle joint. Both feet need to be rolled onto their inside edges using the feet muscles and the subtaler joint (beneath the ankle) and the adductor muscles on the insides of the thighs.The downhill ski will be on its inside/uphill edge and so will that foot. The uphill ski will be on its outside edge but that foot will remain on its inside/downhill edge. It’s critical to be able to separate the edge of the foot from the edge of the ski. The shaft of the boot is what keeps the ski on edge. This allows us to “rail” with forward motion using two ski edges. I explained that it is not important at low speed which foot the weight goes on.
Part of the idea of the wide stance was to give a stable and secure platform to help Atilla begin to pressure the fronts of his skis – using his shins. This is not done by leaning forwards – it is done by sinking down and into the turn – standing on the front of the heels and pressing against the shins to drive the fronts of the skis.

Chi Hips – Posture – Spine Protection

We proceeded with the wide stance in normal skiing for working on dealing with Atilla’s rotation. I asked Atilla to turn his shoulders downhill when standing across the hill and to feel the twist in the spine. I then asked him to return to facing across the hill and then just turn his pelvis to face downhill and feel the spine twist the other way. The first version wrecks the spine and the second protects it. Most skiers only use the first option. In simple terms during the turn transition pull backwards the outside hip of the new turn. Hold the pelvis tilted slightly upwards too. This firms the midsection and saves the spine. This also enable a far more efficient turn transition and entry into the new turn.

One Ski, Close Stance and Wide Stance Pivoting

Atilla had only limited control when skiing on one ski – with a need to separate foot and ski edge more clearly. The main issue was that he was trying to turn around his pole instead of moving the body laterally into the turn controlled with pole support and with the ski slipping sideways due to the centre of mass. Working on this started to help Atilla to overcome his body rotation.

Wide stance pivots were used to help Atilla to develop independent leg action – each leg rotating independently in its own hip socket – and each ski pivoting independently. This is the most effective way to ski steep fall line narrow passages and the skis don’t have to pass beneath each other on each turn – the feet remain across the hill from each other. Later in the carving again we would use independent leg action so that one leg would extend with the other would flex. This is how the centre of mass motion is actually controlled in carving. This is all to make Atilla much more versatile and open up possibilities that he is currently closed off from due to his fixed and artificial homebrew solution to turning.

Turn Exit Dynamics

To flow better and make the lateral motion of the centre of mass from one turn to another it’s necessary to use the forces at the end of the turn to lift you out and over the downhill ski – exactly as in the one ski pivot (left foot turning left etc). This also prepares the body to understand the carved turn transition much better.

Pulling In – Centripetal Force!

Despite all of the above Atilla was still pushing away his ski tails at the start of every carved turn. I then told him to pull the ski, foot, everything into the centre of the turn and not push outwards against a fictitious “centrifugal (outwards) force”. The skis work by deflecting you inwards and that’s the only force other than gravity. You need to help that by moving inwards and pulling everything inwards. You only move outwards with the Turn Exit Dynamics when you use the built up power to come out over the downhill ski. Both "Pulling In" and "Turn Exit Dynamics" worked well for Atilla.

Centered Awareness

Not only are we dealing with centre of mass and the control of pelvis and hip movement – but part of skills such as skiing is awareness and the ability to separate out specific muscles, feelings and actions from each other. The focus has to be internal – inside the body – centered. All motion is around the centre of mass and should begin from the centre. The abdomen and spine should lead all other actions. This centered awareness grows with time, always revealing more and opening new doors and pathways to explore. Atilla needs to get on this pathway now and stop the aimlessness!

Photo – Aime, Savoie…

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