Today began with a long descent from the top of the Glacier chairlift (Solaise sector) all the way to the valley floor at Laisinant. Alex’s very first turn was a horrible stem so she was instantly pulled up on that and advised to centre her focus on her body and movements. The idea here was to warm up on the wide blue run which then connects to the “L” which is a far steeper “blue” run and narrow in parts. This was intended stretch Alex’s experience and technique. There wasn’t a lot to say to Alex at this point because she was doing a good job of containing her body rotation issues and just needed practice and appropriate feedback. Brian was generally not working the ski on the first half of his turns so he was asked to stand on the uphill edge of the uphill ski (inside edge of the foot) during turn initiation to try to ensure pressure on the ski. We would come back to this in more depth towards the end of the day.
Heading over to the Signal in Le Fornet I tested out Alex on some fairly steep, ski pisted off piste next to the piste to see if her pivoting and rotation control would handle it and she managed well. It wasn’t really much steeper than the wall on the blue slope, only the context was different though that can really throw people off for many reasons. The technique that Alex has been learning is universal – fitting into all skiing situations and not just limited to the piste. Once there is a solid understanding only minor adaptations are required for changing terrain and snow conditions.
Jumping – Range of Motion - (Turn Exit Dynamics)
Before going onto the off piste we worked a little on the main goal for today, which was to create a greater range of motion of the legs. Both Alex and Brian jumped on the spot by retracting the heels so they had to learn to jump with leg extension – and absorb the landing with flexion. This teaches how to use the legs efficiently. The next step is to jump repeatedly while traversing – and then jump into a turn. Eventually we would just traverse and then jump into a turn changing edges in the process – leading on to then loading up the downhill ski in a turn and coordinating this force with an explosive release and jump into the next turn. This is strong use of dynamics – particularly “turn exit dynamics” – which is extremely important for off piste when the snow and terrain are tricky. The most important tool to guarantee a successful turn off piste is to finish the previous turn by coming strongly over the lower ski with the body – and this is best learned with leaping from that lower ski. In reality the body is being supported through dynamics while passing between the vertical and perpendicular and into the next turn. It’s one of the main keys to effective racing dynamics. Brian was quite effective with this when taking it into carved turns with strong forces to make it feel clear.
The next run was on steep terrain down the new red run from the top of the Signal. Alex coped well and naturally restrained her rotation better than ever when pivoting – which is surprising because nearly everyone else does the opposite. This indicated to me that she would potentially be able to cope with far more than most people off piste at this very early stage in her skill development.
In the video the jumping was taken to the next level with short swings. Alex here did astonishingly well for a first ever attempt at short swings. I think it’s the first time ever that I’ve seen anyone able to coordinate linked turns like this on their first attempt. There’s work to be done of course but this is way ahead of the curve already. Brian however requires detailed feedback at this stage. Short Swings are great for identifying shortcomings in technique.
Leg extension incomplete (heel retraction)
Skis pivoted mostly around their fronts (heels going from side to side) – instead of beneath the feet
Weight too far back – lifting fronts of skis – not jumping downhill over the downhill ski
Spine twisting the wrong way – endangering posture
The list of above issues ties in with Brian’s tendency to miss the first half of the turn and to reach out to the side with the ski pole (left hand side especially) interfering with dynamics as the turn turn progresses. There’s a kink of the body towards the outside of the turn affecting posture and being used as a braking action.
Alex is starting to get the feel for a ski locking on edge through a whole turn. This also encourages her to sink towards the inside of a turn to both build up fores and hold the ski locked on edge. Holding the body so far inside a turn is also good practice for developing dynamics range for off piste and all dynamic skiing. Brian is a lot more comfortable with his carving than with pivoting and is better centred over his skis. He is working here on trying to hold pressure on the front of the skis but still needs more – especially on the left side. This is achieved by getting the hip action correct and being able to sink down into the turn at the hip while maintaining pressure on the shin and front of the ski (without collapsing the ankle).
We skied a few off piste trails including the full “Pays Dessert”. Some of the skiing was in tricky non-ski-pisted snow that was broken up and crusted or wind packed but both Alex and Brian coped without incident focusing on dynamics. The steep sections were ski pisted and so Alex coped well through pivoting.