Monday, March 21, 2016

Brian - Alex 1

Today’s focus was on Alex to try to bring her recent training in Val Thorens into practical use. When in Val Thorens in fairly bad weather and on crowded slopes we could only really focus on building a technical base – starting from scratch. Today could have been a revision day but it seemed better to ski more and then pick up the previous threads and revise as we went along. Approaching things this way allowed Brian to ski along and work on his own skiing meantime – even though he received minimal focus and feedback from me on this occasion.


Alex’s main issue at the moment is to overcome the tendency to use rotation to turn – either with the hip, shoulders or the whole body. Rotation was previously Alex’s main way of negotiating a turn and it can take a while to replace this once it is installed as a habit and reinforced through training. After warming up we went straight into chiskiing – counter rotating the outside hip to the direction of the turn. Sure enough Alex was easily confused as her hip was trying to rotate and her brain was trying to make it counter rotate.

There was also some confusion with the hip action relating to dynamics but eventually it was all straightened out. The outside hip in the turn has to be pulled back – counter rotating using the lumbar spine – and the body has to move in and down towards the centre of the turn. To try to discourage any unconscious rotation we carried out an exercise with the ski poles held across in front of the body and also held facing the outside of the turn (countered) for the whole turn. (Prior to this we worked a little on arm carriage)

Removing rotation and all twisting actions is fundamental to good, safe and secure skiing. The emotional act of twisting is counter productive but people fall into this trap due to “snowplough” and other ineffective teaching programs which use the wrong physics, bio-mechanics and muscle groups. People find themselves relying on those inappropriate actions and reinforcing them with their emotional impulse to force things around – because those erroneous principles do not physically counteract the defensive emotional responses. (Latin – emotion “e” impulse  “motere” to move)

The key here is to begin all movement from the centre – from the core. This shouldn’t be an after-thought – it should start the turn and everything else. Gradually through the day Alex gained more control over both the hips and dynamics, allowing her to successfully ski off piste without incident.


Alex was introduced to carving through basic traversing with the skis locked on edge. We kept both feet on their inside edges and both skis on their uphill edges – locking the edges by moving the centre of mass uphill over the uphill ski. I mentioned the feet a few times for holding the edge of the lower ski but felt that due to a late start to the day I didn’t want to dwell on the feet.

Later we worked on “pulling” and extended outside leg inwards – first statically by stepping the leg out and then dragging it in across the snow and then doing the same while sliding forwards using the flexed inside leg as a prop. This allowed – on flattish terrain – Alex to effectively experience the bite of a carving ski – without putting her knees at risk. It also encourage the “pulling in” sensation which is fundamental to good skiing. (opposed to the pushing out sensation derived from snowplough!)


For pivoting I first of all held Alex and supported her through a turn – placing her weight against me. The idea was to show how the pole would have to take her weight to effect a turn on her own. Alex managed to go through the main versions of one legged pivoting and onto a two footed pivot in quick succession.

The point of focusing on both Carve and Pivot is that they are the two extremes of skiing skill. The carve has the ski going exclusively forwards with no sideways motion and uses free dynamics to go from turn to turn with no pole plant. The full Pivot has no forward motion of the ski – only sideways motion and the dynamics are restrained with the ski pole to control the motion of the centre of mass. Most skiing is somewhere between those two extremes but without a clear choice between them there is only confusion and lack of awareness about what is going on.

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