Saturday, February 27, 2016

Alex Day 2

Video progression – scenes:

  • Hip Control (angulation – ChiSkiing)
  • Pivot
  • Pivot Integrated (narrow stance)
  • End of Turn Dynamics
  • Resonance and Rhythm (through dynamics)
  • Pole use added and more accentuated use of the legs

Separation of Feet and Ski Edges

Today’s session was started off with a warm up run revising yesterday’s skating turns and associated basic dynamics. The only thing added here was that some attention was given to explaining the separation of the edges of the feet from the edges of the skis. The lateral stiffness and height of the ski boot is so that the ski doesn’t flatten when you try to hold it on edge. In the photo to the right both feet are held on their inside edges but only one ski is on its inside edge – due again to the shaft of the ski boot. The left foot is on its inside edge and the left ski is on its outside edge. Skating to the left would exploit this issue – there is no need to try to be on the inside edge of the left ski. We worked on appreciating this subtlety in skating because it would become very important later on when we came to look at “pivoting” – which can be a very difficult skill to learn.


Alex was managing fine with skating and basic dynamics and was controlling the shoulder rotation that had been present yesterday. It was time to improve the rotation issue further now and develop hip angulation. While rotation was causing a severe limitation and instability, angulation opens the door to genuinely dynamic skiing. However! Angulation as is taught normally is extremely detrimental to the lower back – but the alternative requires a considerable amount of body awareness.

Classic angulation is created by facing the shoulders downhill – twisting the spine slightly from the shoulders (ribs) downwards. When in a close stance (feet fairly close together) this causes the downhill hip to be placed in front of the front lower rib and consequently for posture to collapse and the abdomen to compress. Any load going through the body now will be exclusively be taken up by the spine. We did a loading test to allow this to be felt – pole held across in front of the body and with me holding on supplying a weight Alex tried to lift up – and felt the strain in the lower back.

ChiSkiing angulation is created differently – the pelvis only being turned to face downhill – twisting the spine slightly from the bottom upwards and stretching the abdomen in front of the downhill hip. Effectively – the hip is pulled backwards in the middle of the body. When the load test is repeated the abdomen contract and this causes the load to be distributed across the entire midsection (hydraulic sac). Good basic posture (neutral pelvis) is critical for this to work but thankfully Alex had no issues to deal with there and she could apply this to her skiing immediately. (The photograph is angulation produced with ChiSkiing)

The engagement of the pelvis in this way starts right at the beginning of the turn and the hip needs to be pulled back even more strongly as the turn progresses. Transitioning from one turn to the next is when the hips switch – and this actually meshes with dynamics enabling far smoother turn transitions.


With Alex having been a sprinter I knew that teaching her how to ChiWalk – similar to ChiRunning – would be both interesting and useful for her. She was able to feel the change in use of the muscle groups involved when walking up a shallow hill. We used the “falling forwards” in skating to show how less energy is needed when gravity is exploited correctly.

A few years ago I had a look at comparing East and West ideas of “energy” and the result of that investigation is surprising:


Alex commented that feeling the core/abdomen made her focus on her body and that it altered the skiing experience. I explained that this was part of the goal – to internalise focus. The movements begin at the centre of the body and radiate outwards – plus the motion of this centre interacts with the skis. The focus on this area of the body develops awareness and improves concentration – calming the mind and allowing better reactions and athletic performance. There’s an overall “certering” of the individual – a solid sense of contact and grounding.


Alex learned the outside ski pivot following my usual protocol detailed in the above link. The work on separating the edges of the feet and skis carried out earlier made the exercise far less confusing for her. Alex is probably the only non-pro skier ever I’ve seen manage to execute her first unassisted attempt perfectly. Part of the exercise was to improve edge awareness – part was to improve the relationship between use of edges and dynamics and part was to being to introduce the pole plant for use in controlling the motion of the centre of mass.

After the exercise we skied as before but now Alex was able to pull the outside ski inwards more consciously and avoid searching for grip from the inside edge unnecessarily. The result was that her stance narrowed automatically when focusing on this. Later on when focusing on other things this close stance widened again – but that’s normal. With training all those things become automatic and consistent.

Self Organisation

Learning in reality is a process of self-organisation. Alex was comfortable with my process of constantly moving on to different aspects of technique. Self organisation or optimisation of a system happens when there are a certain number of parts and a limited relation/connection between them. Each aspect of skiing – for example dynamics and skating and pelvis control etc are all connected. The idea is to work a little bit on all of them and to allow the entire system to self-organise. Edward de Bono discovered this process probably first  and named it “lateral thinking”. I figured it out independently – but don’t relate it to  “thinking” –  it just happens when the environment/constraints are provided. It’s a fundament process for all complex systems – especially systems that learn and adapt.

End of Turn Dynamics

Most people would be saturated by now but as Alex was coping with everything so far it was time to move on again. Now the most important part of dynamics needed to be explained. The turn should complete with the energy built up with pressure beneath the ski being used to actively lifti the skier up and out of the turn. The leg itself can be used to help by pushing up as if at the end of a skating stride. The scary part is bringing the body out and over this downhill ski while still standing on it – but the ski is designed to make this work – it’s designed to lift you up. For dynamic skiing the body has to come out of the turn beyond “vertical” and right out to “perpendicular” and with the skis flat and then body able to fall freely into the next turn.

I demonstrated “hanger” turns to give Alex a visual on this and when she tried she was – as usual – immediately able to do it. Scene 4 of the video.


Efficient use of energy requires a rhythm – almost a bouncing action. This is where the skating and full dynamics come together to create a resonance. Nicola Tesla trumped Thomas Edison as an inventor because he focused on resonance – inventing radio as a result (not Marconi!) and lighting up Boston from power carried using alternating (resonant) current transported from Niagara Falls – the first ever city to have been lit up. The biggest machine in the world now is the electricity grid. (He told his father when aged 12 that he was going to harness the power of Niagara Falls)

With turns linked together and flowing due to dynamics then skiing begins to come to life.

Pole Use

Until now I was happy just seeing Alex learning to use her legs and hadn’t mentioned her arm and pole use. The pivoting had explained and developed some arm and pole awareness however. Now the goal was increase angulation with a view to building stronger pressure and more active dynamics and increase the range of motion of the body and legs. The pole touch when coming over the lower ski shows that the body is well placed and it gives a sensory feedback that brings confidence. Arms don’t move around – the body motion causes the pole action and only a wrist movement is necessary for aiming the pole. In the final video scene Alex manages to use the poles and increase her range of motion and dynamics.

Part of this is active use of the front of the skis – which is only secure when correctly angulated. Pressure can then be held on the shin and the front of the ski used if we are angulated well inside the turn. Alex commented that she always had sore shins in the past but not any more. This is probably due to having moved her centre of support to beneath the ankle joints instead of the balls of the feet. Flexing when on the middle or balls of the feet collapses the ankle joints and then the boots hold the skier up. Flexing when on the front of the heel causes the ankle to stiffen and for flexing to take place at the hips and knees – creating appropriate angulation and contributing to successful dynamics and use of the skis.


Nutrition was a subject that cropped up a few times. Basically, I don’t eat during the day and have no energy swings even on a demanding day outdoors on the mountain due to a ketogenic diet. Some insights are shared in the following article :

Friday, February 26, 2016

Alex & Sam

Alex and Sam have both skied but today they started again almost from scratch with a different set of movements. Knowing that they are here for only two half days we had nonetheless to cover a lot of ground rapidly. Wind and crowded blue pistes were the only real obstacles. Most people seem to get stuck permanently at Blue/Red piste level in Europe so the pistes are saturated beyond belief. All the more reason to learn properly and to escape all of that off piste.

Val Thorens is a high altitude resort – which makes it a bit harsh in the wind as there is no tree line to escape beneath. The photos show the wind blown frozen spindrift.

Dynamics and Skating Introduction

All of the exercises and progression that we did today are described in detail…

There wasn’t a lot of time for individual feedback as we had to get through the progressions and practice. Only issues that were holding things up significantly could be addressed directly.

Sam - Early on with easy skating turns Sam had a problem stemming out her left leg instead of diverging the right ski and lifting it to skate to the the right. Video was used to help to overcome this by allowing Sam to see herself. Mostly this is an issue of awareness – though there was something odd going on with Sam’s right leg. While standing Sam couldn’t lift the foot of the ground and rotate the leg outwards (diverging the ski tip) and she was convinced that she couldn’t make that move. Though the reality is that during the exercise she couldn’t lift the right leg because she was busy stemming the left one instead. Then when sitting on a bench with both legs straight ahead and the knees locked out – the opposite happened and the right foot locked into an outwards rotation of about 45° – and now she couldn’t make the feet parallel. I have no idea what was going on – but it does need more investigation. The right boot was canted to increase edging but when standing I could see nothing strange in Sam’s stance at all – so it’s a puzzle – except for her perception of the problem during that exercise – which was clearly mistaken. Moving on from that exercise.

Sam has no skating experience – though she was able to skate correctly on the flat. Much of her current insecurity on skis lies in her unfamiliarity in standing on one leg in a skating action. I suggested getting inline skates back home. Sam’s dynamics at the start of the turns were quite strong but then she would struggle to hold her body inside the turns – especially on steeper terrain – due to body rotation. We will work directly on that tomorrow. There is nothing holding back Sam now if she practices dynamics and skating – once she gets use to the independence of the legs and forget all the false security of the snowplough and stemming.

Later in the session Sam’s tendency to rush the start of the turns was brought to her attention. This is a legacy of the horrible snowplough and the need to push the skis outwards and get then downhill of the body quickly. Sam was able to work on correcting this.

Alex – Alex found the skating exercises a little easier but was later hampered by a strong shoulder rotation into the turns when it became a bit steeper. Once this was explained she was able to improve on it – though this will improve again when we work directly on the pelvis and hips tomorrow.

Alex remarked how she was able to feel how much easier her first deliberate turns were with dynamics – just by removing the skated step and only moving the centre of mass.

Dynamic Range – Centripetal Force

I demonstrated increased dynamic range at a higher speed and then filmed both Alex and Sam to let them see their dynamic range. (second part of the video clip here) Alex said that she felt she was moving a lot – but the video reveals how proprioception can be misleading. The video is used here to train proprioception to be accurate. The movement  need greatly amplified.

The illusion of centrifugal force was explained and the idea of reinforcing the inwards actions was emphasised. The session had started with standing on the heels beneath the ankles and rolling the feet inwards (from beneath the ankles) onto their inside edges and feeling the tension in the adductor muscles in the legs. This was then linked to the motion of the centre of mass and then the idea that everything pulls inwards from the outside foot/ski in the turn – like a string pulling a ball in a circle above your head (analogy).


We finished today’s session with looking at how to combine skating and dynamics. I skated off down the slope and then started to bring in the dynamics – staying longer on each ski and transforming skating into skiing – but maintaining the same rhythm and function of the legs. The down/up movement of the legs joined with the down/up movement of toppling over into the turn and the ski lifting the body back up out of it. We look for a resonance here. Both Alex and Sam made a good effort at trying this.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ahmet & Refica

Around eight years have passed since I last skied with Ahmet and Refica. Both have meanwhile developed into real skiers – which is great to see. Well done!

First of all I skied behind Ahmet down the Face de Bellevarde to both warm up and observe his skiing with a view to targeting the best way to improve it. The most significant issue was a lack of angulation – which of course affects most things but in particular makes the turns long and with less grip than desired when on a steep and groomed piste.

The best shortcut to developing good angulation is through isolating the hip/pelvis action in the manner I call “ChiSkiing”. ChiSkiing is my own development of skiing biomechanics based on ground breaking information from the book Chirunning by Danny Dreyer. The difference is that in running the leg moves behind the body and in skiing the leg moves in front – but in both cases the hip must move backwards. The main error in running is also due to the hip moving forwards – though in running the error is at the start of the stride. In skiing this problem arises at the end of the “stride” or turn.

Normally “hip angulation” is taught by telling people to “face downhill” with the shoulders and torso. This causes the hip to rotate in front of the rib cage and for all abdominal strength to vanish – basically collapsing the posture and exposing the spine to injury. The problem here is that those who might show impressive angulation are often seriously damaging their lower backs at the same time.

Immobilising the shoulders (square to the ski tips) and just pulling back the hip instead causes the spine to twist in the opposite direction (right up to the rib cage – the 12th thoracic vertebra) – to stretch the abdomen and allow the core muscles to work. I carried out a loading test with Ahmet so that he could feel it. Fortunately Ahmet could physically understand the sensations and was immediately able to put this into practice in skiing and reap the appropriate benefits from it.

When Refica arrived it was clear that she had even more pronounced rotation so to get both on the same wavelength I decided to work on the same issues. This is where Ahmet said that he could teach it better in only 30 seconds! Ahmet and Ahmet’s ego are like two different characters and sometimes you don’t really know which one you are dealing with – however this can be very entertaining! I offered Ahmet the opportunity to teach Refica – which he naively jumped at – not realising that I was setting him up. The lesson was short, sweet and classic and I fought hard (unsuccessfully) not to laugh. I asked Refica to show us and off she went – then I asked her what she felt and she unsurprisingly looked confused. Ahmet had completely reversed the hip instructions and had her pushing her bottom out to the outside of the turn – and it was funny to watch. Teaching cannot be done without a great deal of experience and people only see a fraction of what is going on so this is completely typical. Ahmet might think that few words are needed to communicate – but that’s just not true for most situations. Different people perceive things in different ways and getting anything across to a cross-section of different people requires a very thorough understanding of both the subject and the different channels of communication – understanding, visual, kinaesthetic, experiential and so on – plus a knowledge of everything that can block those perceptual  pathways – including issues such as dyslexia and dyspraxia. Nobody – absolutely nobody – will successfully teach something in 30 seconds that is so obscure as to be perceived completely incorrectly worldwide by professional teachers and that even with my own  unique insight – and three major back operations – took many years to work out!

Anyway – entertainment aside, Refica picked up the idea and had reasonable results that she could feel very quickly.


Later on I explained the Chi derived concept of “centering” – starting all movements from the centre of the body. Already the dynamics principle that has been the foundation of my teaching for 20 years requires that people understand that everything is controlled by the centre of mass and the interaction of gravity and generated forces passing through it. Now all physical actions need to commence from this centre and radiate outwards to the adductors of the legs and the inside of the feet – to the skis and ground beneath. Also – focus has to be centred on this centre – the more it is internalised the less distraction there is from outside of the body and the calmer and more effective the mind – the more relaxed the body and selective the use of the muscles. This circumvents tension on all levels – fighting against the laws of physics, fighting against your own muscles and fighting against your own mind.

End of Turn Dynamics

Both Refica and Ahmet have a tendency to stem slightly and to lift the inside ski. Those are tell-tale indications of a failure to use the force from the lower ski to bring the body up and out of the turn – moving over the ski with the centre of mass. Doing this actively not only is necessary for good flowing skiing but it is critical for enjoying trickier off-piste, for skiing bumps and for gripping well on ice or racing. I demonstrated this with “hanger turns” – carrying out complete turn transition phases on the downhill ski. Both Ahmet and Refica understood this and felt the difference. Later when off piste Refica forgot this a bit and so had a few falls – but part of that was clearly tiredness setting in.

The ChiSkiing and this aspect of dynamics work together. The angulation allows pressure to build up while the body is held well to the inside of the turn. This pressure is then used to cleanly exit the turn when the moment is right. Without this angulation and control over body rotation the body cannot stay to the inside of the turn and everything falls apart – leading in this case to Refica doing a spectacular  “swimming pool” dive head first into the snow.  Ahmet, being the perfect gentleman, didn’t stop to help but carried on past her towards the camera as she lay in the snow – in a manner that said “That didn’t happen and nobody noticed!”. Ahmet’s chivalry appeared to be lost on Refica.


I wanted to spend a brief amount of time to explain the pivot (exercises explained on the above link) because having asked both Ahmet and Refica to describe what is different with “short turns” it was clear they had no knowledge of this. Unfortunately Ahmet’s other persona kicked in again after about 10 seconds and he said “I’m not interested in that!”. Refica however spotted the implications and continued – managing to get a basic grasp of the skill. We tried later to apply this in bumps but by then she was clearly too tired. Ahmet simply avoided the bumps altogether with Ahmet’s other side stating that “I’m not a bumbs man”"!”. No Ahmet – you are just unaware of how to pivot from the outside edge of your outside ski – and how to separate the edges of your feet from the edges of your skis. Sorry – but this cannot be taught or learned in 30 seconds by anyone.

Deep snow – where the skis can slide sideways – bumps and steep couloirs (keeping the feet downhill of the body all the time) all need this skill.

Still shots from the video…

This image shows Ahmet working his turn strongly once it has already started – with inclination, hip and knee angulation and diverging skis. Only the arms are out of position and not serving a useful purpose…

This is Ahmet stemming due to the issue described earlier with dynamics during the turn transition…

Refica  - also strongly working the turn – with only a lack of hip angulation being an issue. More ChiSkiing would help…

Rotation is now more evident as the turn evolves… (look for the angles at the hips!)

Refica – same as Ahmet in the turn transition and stemming here…

Ahmet needing to tilt the upper body more forwards at the hip joint. This facilitates hip angulation through the turn…

Both Ahmet and Refica with a lack of hip angulation. The hands are far too low in both cases – indicating the core muscles are not working…

Rotation – exacerbated by reaching ahead with the outside arm and behind with the inside arm…

The blockage of the hips is causing the ankle (outside leg) to be over-flexed – causing confused signals through the body and to the skis…

Angulation and dynamics please! You were spat out over the downhill ski…

Good effort – the inside leg in the air indicates that the “end of turn dynamics” needs to be stronger…

I just want to explain to Ahmet's "other side" that this blog is not about advertising! It's a learning resource - for everyone's benefit. It's a daily "report" as is required on any sort of professional project. It's also a record and a useful way to monitor progress - both for students and for me and my teaching. In 6 years of spending hours every working day with this effort the blog has attracted only one single client - but in contrast has proven useful for all of those who have participated - at least I hope that is the case!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tatyana, Sergei, Maria, Ivan day five

Final day of the Les Arcs holiday and the weather wasn’t fully cooperating. At least the cloud and falling snow meant that half the skiers were missing from the slopes and the snow itself was good quality. Sergei had recovered from the “stomach flu” but this bug usually leaves you weak for a few days so I expected that Sergei wouldn’t have great energy levels for long.

In the video clip everyone has improved since the start of the week.

Ivan has probably improved the most because his skiing is completely different now. He needs some work on posture and angulation – but we never had time to work on this so that’s understandable.

Sergei’s skiing is markedly different too – with good dynamics minus the pushing out that was present before. Next time we need to work on the part of dynamics associated with the turn exit  - but Sergei didn’t have any input regarding this – only Ivan and Maria had some when they were alone with me late afternoon one day. Sergei would probably be able to exploit that information better than anyone else.

Tatyana and Maria both showed far better control of rotation. At this stage neither understood the need for grip through correct use of the feet – so both were still unable to improve much on dynamics. The previous problem with rotation had prevented dynamics and grip from the feet from developing naturally. Now that both know how to control rotation everything would have a better chance to develop and if the feet are understood clearly and made to work intentionally by rolling onto their edges then improvement would be rapid. (Remember Tatyana only skied three days!)


We began with our usual warm up run and then the chairlift up to the ridge above Les Arcs 1600. At this point I decided to explain the use of the pelvis and hip actions that could help Maria and Tatyana control their rotation. Neither of them had managed to gain much control over their rotation for any of the other things they had tried and so it was a good idea to introduce this key aspect of coordination. The subject is covered in the following link: 

Skiing is actually very unnatural – in that the ski pulls the hip around in front of the body in a way that collapses the posture when under load. I had each person hold a pole in front and pull up against my resistance – first with their normal posture – then with the pelvis tilted up (to neutral) and the hip on their supporting leg (downhill) pulled back. Everybody could feel the difference – the first causing a stress on the lower back and the other causing a reflex contraction of the abdomen and protecting the body.

The outside hip needs to be pulled back like this right from the start of the new turn – not when already into it. It needs to be held like that all the way through the turn. This protects the body and facilitates the turn transitions – from one turn to the next. With the hip being pulled back instead of going forwards there is a definite control over rotation – but this is still quite difficult coordination to learn.


With everyone feeling a bit cold today (no sun) the Sergei, Ivan and Maria peeled off to ski faster on the red runs while I had a few runs alone on the blue slopes with Tatyana. This turned to be very useful because we were able to discuss what was happening with Tatyana’s skiing. She complained about her turn to the right being too sharp when following me. This I had already noticed was caused by a marked tendency to stem the left ski – pushing the ski outwards and twisting the foot inwards. For this reason I carefully explained the use of the foot inside the ski boot. We had been through this at the start of the week but nobody understood it. Ivan only understood it yesterday when we took our boots off to look at the feet. I described it this time in terms of the foot rolling over from beneath the ankle joint and feeling a pressure of the inside of the ankle/heel against the inside of the ski boot – with the forefoot turned slightly outwards. Once it was clear that Tatyana understood this we skied with it and the improvement was immediately clear. Unfortunately this was after or video filming and we headed straight back to finish the day after that run so there was no opportunity to film the final improvement.

I explained to Tatyana that to remember which hip to pull back just associate it with pushing the foot forwards on the same leg – hib back and foot forwards. The pulling back of the hip also aligns all the bones and muscles differently and makes it far easier to roll the foot onto the inside edge.

Tatyana herself noticed that the main thing holding Maria back was exactly the same issue – but with both feet. Maria – with her focus necessarily on studies had not had any one-to-one coaching so had missed out of this. Both Tatyana and Ivan had improved mostly with just a small amount of focused individual attention – something not really possible when even in a small group.

Today Ivan had clearly improved from the work we did on the feet – and this is seen in the video clip where he is holding his skis on edge well. The off-piste also got it through to him the fallacy of pushing the skis outwards and jamming the feet together.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tatyana, Sergei, Maria, Ivan day four

Today was Sergei’s turn to have the dreaded norovirus. I’m convinced this “stomach flu”  epidemic is sustained through even small amounts of gluten in the diet. 15 years ago those bugs were uncommon in ski resorts and  now they hit nearly everyone. I used to pick up the virus sometimes twice per season and having removed carbs and gluten from my diet I just don’t get it any more. Carbs also reduce vitamin C circulating in the body – with type 2 diabetics having 30% vitamin C – so whether it’s the carbs or the gluten or both I don’t know.


Ivan scored a day on his own and so we went straight up the Aiguille Rouge – but the cable car wasn’t open so we skied down a bumpy black run instead. I took the opportunity to teach a little about “compression turns” and Ivan understood the principle. This is where the timing is adapted due to the need to absorb the bump. You flex the legs (as much as 90° or more at the knees and hips) to fall down into the new turn – while pivoting and using the downhill pole plant for support.

Aiguille Rouge with a halo…

Off Piste

For our second run we went up to the ridge over Villaroger to introduce Ivan to proper off-piste. Ivan had a transceiver on and a vague idea of how it worked – but we wouldn’t be going on anything dangerous – just perhaps places with excellent views, soft snow, peace and quiet and freedom from the overcrowded pistes. As predicted Ivan soon found that he had to keep his feet apart on the steeps and in the deep snow he couldn’t push his skis to the side. I didn’t have to say anything – he already knew what to do.


Ivan had to ease off his skiing in the afternoon due to his right shin hurting too much. After analysing him a bit I asked a few questions and found that he was standing on the fronts of his feet. So we had to work on changing his stance.

I explained that it’s necessary to stand on the front of the heel, just beneath the ankle joint. With boots off Ivan understood how flexing with the weight kept only on the heel causes the ankle muscles to stiffen and the bending to take place at the knees and hips instead. When standing on the front of the foot – or even the whole foot – the ankle collapses when bending – sending the knee forwards and the weight is taken up by the ski boot instead – hence damaging the shin.

In addition, you can only roll the foot from edge to edge when standing on the front of the heel – it doesn’t happen when standing any other way.

Prior to doing the indoor exercise foe the feet we had worked a little more on – pulling inwards with the feet while pivoting because Ivan was still under the impression that he should be “turning” his feet. We did an exercise where I blocked the movement of his ski tip with a pole while he pulled the ski against it with a sideways action – to feel how this has nothing to do with “turning” as a physical action form the leg or foot. With the indoor work – boots off – added to this he was able to understand the issues clearly and why his shin had become so badly bruised.

Ivan in stealth mode beside Mont Blanc…

Glacier ice on Mont Pouri – right next to the Aiguille rouge…

Mont Pouri…

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tatyana, Sergei, Maria, Ivan day three

Touring day today! les Arcs 1950 to La Plagne Centre and back – all on blue runs – taking the long route there and the short route home. Ivan lost his lift pass just before the final lift back up to get in the correct valley but they kindly allowed him through without any fuss.

Sergei was really taking benefit from dynamics and had lots of energy left over. It was a perfect day to tour due to blue skies, no wind and a sea of clouds in the valley below.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tatyana, Sergei, Maria, Ivan day two

Short Swings

Maria and Ivan – first ever attempt at Short Swings….

What’s interesting here is Maria is controlling her rotation better than even due to an improved upper body position – and active use of her legs. Ivan is still retracting his heels when jumping and throwing the tails out to the side instead of pulling the tips into the turn. Sometimes he manages to pull the tips in a little bit. Ivan has no support at all from his poles and he uses a counter rotation of the body to through his heels to the side. There is improvement though.

We had worked on jumping – with full leg extension and a soft landing with flexion. Maria is managing this better.

Short Swings demonstration…

Jump Turns

Prior to working on the linked short Swings we were developing Jump Turns

Here is a demonstration of  the practical use of  “Jump Turns” on steep terrain…

Today Tatiyana was with us and skiing for the first time so we remained on the blue slopes and revised a little bit about dynamics so that she would be able to catch up with the others who were working on that yesterday.


Despite unsuitable terrain and too many people on the pistes I decided to introduce skating as a skiing technique. There are many reasons for doing this – but mainly, when people skid and rotate their body’s too much then by learning the skating principles of skiing this can help to overcome those problems.  Maria and Tatyana were both rotating and skidding, plus Ivan was still doing his two footed heel pushing so skating was the obvious choice of exercise. I explained how the foot had to be rolled over, the muscles on the inside of the leg used and the body (centre of mass) moved towards the inside of the turn – with a stepping and diverging inside ski.

The skating improves the support (grip and movement) for dynamics. Sometimes people can’t create dynamics until they are proficient in skating with skis because the skis always skid outwards for them. The skating coordination changes this.

Skating demonstration…

I also demonstrated how skating straight downhill and then adding dynamics causes skating to automatically change in to skiing – with the same rhythm and leg use. This is important so that good timing and leg function can be developed. I wanted Ivan to understand this to help unblock his hips which are jammed solid due to pushing his skis away al the time. The legs need to be used like an ice skater.

To help both Maria and Tatyana who were still rotating I added “Feet Forward” technique – pushing the outside foot forward in the turn – which allows the outside hip to sink into the turn more easily. This also alters turn radius – tightening it and giving more control and reducing the tendency to rotate.  Both the dynamics and the “feet forward” are used together to alter and control turn radius. When it is steeper both need to be used more strongly.


Due to Ivan not understanding how to avoid pushing his skis outwards I rapidly showed him an exercise to develop the skill of “pulling inwards” instead. This is a tricky exercise and once again not much time was spent on it. This is also used as an exercise to develop control over rotation – but on this occasion it was to give a new sensation to Ivan.

“Pulling In” demonstration…

The next stage from “Pulling In” was to introduce carving – just tracking along on two edges – no skidding. This eventually leads to full carved turns and turn transitions with no skidding.

“Railing” demonstration…


We worked for a while on pivoting – this being mainly to help Maria but also to encourage Ivan to “pull inwards” once again. Later on we returned to pivoting to build up to the “two footed pivot” The basic pivot exercises are found here:

I helped Maria through a few stationary pivots and then she started to get it on her own. It’s not an easy thing to do because it needs good pole use and control over the upper body – but that’s what she needs to develop. Ivan is slowly improving here too.

Two Footed Pivot demonstration…

Monday, February 15, 2016

Tatyana, Sergei, Maria, Ivan day one

Unfortunately Tatyana was down with a winter bug and didn’t make it skiing the first day. Nobody in the group had skied for a couple of years so it was important just to let everyone ski for a while on easy slopes to recover the feel of it and just relax. This also gives me time to observe each person’s skiing. Of course I could immediately see all the things I wanted to change in everyone’s skiing – but avoided starting until after our first drinks break.

Everyone is having a rest from either hard work, exams or studies – so we are not focusing entirely on technique and learning. There has to be space for relaxation and play – and any learning has to add to the fun. With that in mind the following analysis of each skier’s technique is only intended to help understand and perceive the issues that will help lead to the most rapid improvements.

The video today was taken before working on technique and attempting to make changes. Everyone skis reasonably strongly.

The main common feature of the skiing was a general lack of dynamics and edge control awareness. Everyone has a strong tendency to push the skis out to the side – especially Ivan. Sergei probably had the most natural dynamics of the group but he wasn’t aware of how to exploit and develop this. Instruction began with straightforward exercises in dynamics. All the basic exercises in dynamics are explained on the fixed page found here: 

It was clear that everyone had learned to ski in the traditional way and so that the ideas behind dynamics would be very new and different. It’s not easy to change such a major thing and sure enough there were problems. Sergei was able to make an effective change when on easy terrain but the others were struggling initially, tending to bend the body into the turn instead of “fall” into the turn. There were obvious underlying issues that needed to be worked on but we had to start somewhere. I later mentioned how to “roll” the feet beneath the ankles to support the dynamics – but we didn’t spend long on any of this.

Here’s a list of individual feedback based on the above video. Having worked a little on dynamics it should be possible for each skier to now easily see the issues.

Maria: Tends to push the outside leg out – making it stiff – and rotates her entire body in the turn which prevents the centre of mass moving towards the inside of the turn. This makes her skid a lot and vulnerable. She actually moves well but needs a proper set of rules to be able to exploit her natural ability. 

Ivan: Upright, blocked at the hips, in the back of the ski boots and pushing both heels out to the side. This is a very ineffective, tiring and limiting way to ski – even with a young and energetic body it is better to replace all those defensive tactics with real skill. Ivan is strong but is being severely limited by technique. His blocked hips are causing him to to bend his spine laterally – which is dangerous to the lower back. Ivan skis with his feet too close together and so nearly falls over from time to time. He makes up with youthful energy and enthusiasm what he lacks in technique - but there's not reason not to have both!

Sergei: Good dynamics and control of rotation and good natural timing too. For Sergei it is more a matter of matter of making him conscious of this so he can develop it and use it more intentionally, to a greater extent and in more difficult situations. There is a pushing away of the skis but not as much as with the others. However when on more challenging slopes Sergei loses the dynamics because he has not been trained to use dynamics.

In general there is a lack of edge control awareness with everybody – nobody can either carve or pivot. I briefly demonstrated pivoting ( ) to show Ivan that skiing with the feet close together has to be reserved for this special technique which is all about edge control and subtle dynamics. I showed everyone how at speed it’s possible to incline very far over actively into the turn (extending dynamic range) – but in this case I was carving. Everyone will have to be taught the basics of carving before they can learn to extend their dynamic range too.

Photograph taken on the drive down from Les Arcs 1950  (The Dent du Géant in the Mont Blanc massif)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Derin 2016 Day 9

Derin has consolidated her skiing skills amazingly well in the past week. This provides a strong foundation for development of more complicated motor skills and coordination. Each day has been a progressive stretching of her boundaries - but in a way that allowed her to become confident and believe in herself. This requires a stubborn application of good overall mechanics of movement - which primarily means correct movement of the centre of mass. 

If you look carefully you will see that most skiers actually do not control their turning with the centre of mass - they push their feet outwards instead. Derin moves her centre of mass in the direction she wants to go - and pulls her feet and skis inwards. She also falls downwards into each turn at the start - the opposite of those who learn to go "up". This is why she already looks particularly stable. This can be seen clearly in Derin's pivoting exercises; What isn't so obvious to the onlooker is that the jumping she is working on represents the end of a turn (or traverse) and preparation for a turn - using the energy of an existing turn and it is not an "up" movement into a turn. (It's a bounce out of a turn!). We have been using the bumps on the slopes to jump with so that Derin picks up a natural feel for the pressure cycles involved.

Today for the first time I was able to begin to introduce upper/lower body separation (she uses it in her pivot exercise in the video.) 

One thing that has really impressed me is how Derin controls and shapes her turns. She finishes her turns properly and has a sense of purpose and function in her movements. She should do well in slalom when the time is right - because that's what racing is all about. I know that this has developed due to being taught dynamics (and never anything to contradict it) - but it also comes from her excellent ability to follow my line and feel what is happening to her. Most recreational skiers do not have any idea of how to develop and exploit "line" for control of speed and direction.

Derin demonstrating how to carry skis…

Derin climbing again. Last time this year so it had to be done….

Derin after skiing an unpisted black run – with no difficulty…

Monday, February 1, 2016

Derin The Leader

Today Derin had the opportunity to ski with her sister Beren and a slightly larger Derin. For filming I decided it was best to let Derin set her own pace rather than risk having the others try it and perhaps go too fast or choose an inappropriate line. I already have great confidence in Derin’s speed management. She’s a natural little leader and amazingly competent. It’s not so obvious in the video but there are quite large bumps which is why I’m struggling with the camera at the back!

We had another session of video with Bruno (perhaps I’ll try to get a copy to edit some for here) and most of the time Derin’s instruction when skiing behind me was to focus on pivoting. I use the bumps to get the ski tips in the air and then call behind for her to do the same and pull both ski tips with her into the new turn. She doesn’t know how to create angulation (upper/lower body separation) or use dynamics at the end of a turn (two different options for turn transitions) – so she sometimes uses a wider stance. That’s a good natural solution at this stage and gets her legs working independently. For now on she will have to start to learn more sophisticated coordination.

Later in the afternoon we sideslipped down some steep ice and she managed extremely well. Considering just over a week ago she couldn't sideslip at all this is an enormous step forwards. Many people would be scared to death when confronted with steep ice like that but Derin stayed in control and came down the slope competently.

Derin the  mountaineer…

Derin beside the Grande Motte glacier…

Natural colours (refraction) in the clouds…

Views of the Bellevarde (and Tignes 1800) when driving up to Tignes at midday…