Tuesday, March 1, 2016

David & Melanie - Day 1

Sunshine is in short supply this season but fortunately we had a short break in the horrible weather to allow David and Melanie to get to work on changing their skiing. The day started off with a warm up run where the current level of skiing was filmed – which corresponds to the opening scene in the video.


Initial Assessment

David was obviously the stronger skier of the two. Answering my questions on technique David revealed a wholly conventional understanding of skiing and skied accordingly. Facing  shoulders downhill, transferring weight to the outside ski and standing up to go into the fall line, standing on the fronts of the feet. Those are all signs that he understood his instruction and applied it accurately. He showed a natural tendency towards using dynamics.

This classic instruction then results in the following compromising issues.
  • The centre of mass essentially moves in the wrong direction relative to the skis at the turn initiation.
  • The start of the turn is rushed due to the shoulders being blocked facing downhill.
  • Timing “up/down” is the wrong way around – should be “down/up”.
  • Posture is compromised due to the core/abdomen not working.
  • Ankles collapsing inside the ski boots, causing the hips to be blocked and almost leaning back at times from the hips.
  • Stemming – pushing out of uphill ski instead of pulling inwards.
  • Limited range of movement of the legs – mainly due to timing being wrong, hips being blocked and skis being stemmed sometimes.

Melanie skied to a similar technical level to David but with less confidence and less of a tendency to create natural dynamics. Although Melanie was less aware of “ski technique” when it came to explaining things – her skills demonstrated a similar learning path had taken place to David's. The main difference between the two was that Melanie would follow the skis around the turns with her body remaining square to the skis – instead of trying to keep her shoulders facing downhill. This can be interpreted as “body rotation” when it has a negative influence in generating a sideways skidding and instability.
  • The centre of mass clearly  moves in the wrong direction relative to the skis at the turn initiation.
  • Timing “up/down” is the wrong way around – should be “down/up”.
  • Posture is compromised due to the core/abdomen not working.
  • Ankles collapsing inside the ski boots along with the twisting of the feet in the direction of the turns (instead of rolling onto the edges).
  • Stemming – pushing out of uphill ski instead of pulling inwards.
  • Limited range of movement of the legs – mainly due to timing being wrong, stemming and rotation.

Dynamics Part One

http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/dynamics.html (There is a description of dynamics and both static and moving exercises at this link)

Despite seeing problems at the level of the feet I decided to work on dynamics. Inappropriate use of the feet can make the development of dynamics difficult, but  David’s description of “weight transfer” showed that it was more important to change some basic concepts first. We carried out the standard static and moving exercises to communicate the difference between statics and dynamics and how this affects pressure under the feet and skis.

Melanie commented that she felt less effort was required when using dynamics – which is correct. Perhaps there wasn’t a huge difference visible in her skiing – but it’s a fundamental change which feels very clear and significant to a skier. Melanie also commented that she was able to focus on her body instead of concentrating on her skis. This is also a valuable observation because internalising focus is a key to success in any athletic activity. Just being able to focus internally (on the body) has a meditating effect – calming the mind and allowing a relaxed and reflexive response to the environment.

David was initially hindered due to facing the shoulders downhill. It’s actually easier to initially learn dynamics by following the skis – like you would when turning on a bicycle. David’s tendency to rush the start of the turn was interfering with the generation of dynamics. However even a partial change makes a difference. Skiing is holistic – there is a certain redundancy in all the parts – so no part has to be prefect to still get a result. This is both a blessing and a problem – because it’s also the reason why most skiers do most things badly and get away with it. The blessing is because this also allows improvement to be progressive and for errors to be tolerated. Once goals are made clear and good feelings are recognised then they can be worked towards.

Down/up timing was partially explained in the context of the body falling down towards the snow (like a motorbike turning) and coming back up out of the turn.


Most of my skating demos are in the beginners page here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/beginners.html

Introducing David and Melanie to skating involved using some of the beginners exercises. At this stage we hadn’t studied the correct use of the feet so it wasn’t ideal – but as both could skate anyway it was still a constructive exercise.

The main goal was to get the body (centre of mass) being directed and the feet, adductor muscles (inside of legs) and centre of mass all working together. The skis being forced to diverge at the tips prevents any stemming. Good skiers displace their centre of mass inwards – poor skiers displace their skis outwards! All skating exercises are useful for developing good dynamics and body mechanics.

The skating stride is a down/up action so this weds perfectly with the down/up of dynamics. I demonstrated this with a “direct method” example of skating straight downhill and introducing dynamics – staying longer on each ski (stability coming from the turning effect) and allowing the skating to morph into skiing while maintaining the same rhythm and use of the legs. This was to demonstrate how timing is developed and how skating and dynamics are the two main fundamentals of skiing.


Indoors we were able to run through a rapid description of what goes on inside the ski boots. Each foot has 26 bones and is complicated, yet most people just try to ignore them inside the skis boots. All the feedback we have comes through the feet and our postural reflexes are controlled by pressure beneath the feet.

The key points were:
  • Pressure beneath the ankle – front of the heel.
  • Rolling of the foot from the subtaler joint beneath the ankle (always onto the inside edge of the foot).
  • Ankle collapsing if flexing with pressure on the balls of the feet.
  • Rolling of foot impossible unless weight is on the heel (knee moves around instead of foot rolling on edge)
  • Foot turning outwards in a skating stance rather than twisting inwards.
  • Tensioning of muscles and stiffening of ankle during flexing of knee and hip joints – anterior tibialis (muscle in front of shin) being used strongly.
The use of the feet is critical. Melanie – even at the end of the day (second video scene) was still tending to let the feet twist and fall onto their outside edges.


Dynamics Part Two

Sometimes I call this “Turn Exit Dynamics”. This is the key aspect of skiing that permits bomb proof off piste skiing. Basically it’s just using the outside ski (downhill ski) near the end of the turn to complete the turn – bringing the body right out beyond “vertical” to at least the perpendicular to the slope – using the power of the ski and energy of the existing turn. From here it there is no avoiding the start of the the next turn – but the pay off is that it works and the next turn entry is guaranteed to be successful. Apprehension when off piste can cause people to hold back instead and is a major source of difficulties. This often has to be a very conscious act – to overcome apprehension. 


ChiSkiing was introduce to help David re-organise his “shoulders facing downhill” blockages and for Melanie to re-program her rotation: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/chiskiing.html

The essence of this here is to learn to generate angulation through efficient and protective biomechanics. It’s the pelvis that needs to face downhill – separately from the shoulders. The lumbar spine twists in the opposite direction form “shoulders down the hill” and this has a dramatically protective aspect to it. Both David and Melanie felt the reflexive contraction of the abdomen during a loading test.

Movement should commence from the centre – pulling the hip back on the leg that is being loaded. (Right hip pulled back when on right leg) Commencing movement from the centre allows the body parts to align correctly before loading takes place.

By the end of the day David seemed to have made the greatest changes. His turns (final video scene) are far smoother with clear dynamics and far less rushing of the start of the turn. Melanie was also more efficient but the dynamics were still being compromised at times at the feet at turn initiation and with rotation later on in the turn when the forces are greater. Practice with all of the principles above will bring improvement.

The impressive Bellecote

Mont Pourri

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