Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Allison - Session 1

Allison is returning to skiing after a four year absence – linked to a serious skiing injury. On top of working to overcome confidence issues she manifested a bad cold/flu type bug on arrival which left her weak and the weather today was pretty bad – so she did incredibly well just getting out and onto the slopes. The video was taken after only a few very short warm up runs – but is still a good indicator of technical skiing issues – which tend to show up more when going slowly.  I watched the skiing for a while so as to accurately assess Allison’s skiing history and movement patterns prior to altering anything. Not everything is clearly visible here  so some of the details listed will be from further observations.

  • Basic stance is good
  • Movements are disciplined and clear
  • Standard Up/Down timing
  • Pedalling action – inside leg being lifted
  • Transfer of weight to the outside ski
  • Facing the shoulders downhill (not too visible in the video)

The skiing is a typical example of “ski school” training and is actually being executed very well and accurately. The unfortunate fact is that nobody skiing with this standard “technique” can ever be secure, confident and safe – and the more accurately you try to follow this instruction the worse the problems that arise. The following list of basic problems is present actually because Allison has been a good student.

  • No awareness of dynamics and restricted natural dynamics
  • Limited awareness of edge use and control – tending to stemming and stepping.
  • Range of leg motion limited (can’t use legs due to the timing being used)
  • Timing reverse of natural skating, functional movement – needs to be “down/up”
  • Skis tend to be pushed outwards or even stemmed (using abductor muscles)
  • Weight on the fronts of the feet, with corresponding lack of stability and control (no constructive use of the feet muscles and relation with the boots)
  • Feet twisting into the turn and “steering” being used
  • Hip rotation present (lumbar spine rotating in the wrong direction)
  • Posture collapsing due to attempting to face shoulders downhill (endangering the lower back)
  • Body not standing properly on the outside hip


The session began by going straight into dynamics. There is a fixed page describing dynamics and the appropriate exercises here: 

The key here is to understand that skiing is not about “balance” and transferring weight to the outside ski – it is about actively falling over with an acceleration of the centre of mass towards the inside of the new turn. This is a global fundamental shift from the overall movement that Allison was using. Allison’s immediate response was the it used much less effort. This is correct.


Working on the feet is best tackled indoors so we went into a café for that. I demonstrated how placing the weight on the front of the heel – below the ankle – causes the ankle to stiffen (anterior tibialis contracting) when bending down. This induces bending at the knees and hips instead of at the ankles. With weight on the heels the subtaler joints can be used to rock the feet onto their edges. This “foot rocking” engages the adductor muscles and creates a strong base of support. for most purposes both feet need to be rocked onto their inside edges simultaneously.

When turning the outside ski is the focus as weight naturally vanishes from the inside one due to dynamics. This support leg should have the foot rocked onto its inside edge at the subtaler joint, the adductors engaged and all pulling inwards towards the turn centre along with the centre of mass.

Centripetal force was explained – a ball on a string being spun around your head – all the force on the ball coming from the string – inwards. In skiing we have to pull everything inwards like this – we have to be become that string. Most people fall for the illusion of centrifugal force (outwards) and push or brace outwards against this non-existent entity. (Centrifugal force is an example of a fictitious d’Alembert force used in mechancis calculations – as is “dynamic balance”)

Pivoting – Separation of feet edges from ski edges

We did a little work on pivoting to both introduce the phenomenon and to make Allison comfortable with the idea of always standing on the inside edges of her feet (instead of “big toe, little toe). Part of the nature of pivoting is to become aware of the separation of the edge of the foot from the edge of the ski. This is felt when standing across the hill and putting pressure on the uphill ski when in a narrow, close stance. The ski will be on its uphill edge even when the foot is rocked onto its downhill edge – the ski boot shaft preventing the ski from flattening on the snow. The point of introducing this so soon is so that Allison begins to realise that all that counts is being on the inside of the foot and that there is no need to stem a ski out into a plough to find the inside edge of the ski. You can turn from either ski edge. In fact what really counts is ensuring that everything pulls inwards towards the turn centre. We did a brief “pulling” exercise, pulling a ski edge inwards across the snow from a very wide stance – to show how this pulls the foot over naturally and engages the adductors naturally.

There was already quite a lot for Allison to focus on but she was pulling it all together well. It’s important to keep the head up when skiing – not to finish the turns off too much when the gradient is small and speed low and to run through the feelings in the body and visualise just before moving off.

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