Following a thorough sand blasting (but with sticky ice instead) at 2700m altitude we eventually found reasonable tranquillity half way down to La Daille, where we could being to work on ski technique. Jenny had actually skied through the storm much more strongly than I had expected and so is showing significant improvement. However… When I asked to look at her skiing there was a strong tendency to stem the upper ski outwards. Stemming undermines dynamics and this was obviously not there all the time in Jenny’s skiing – but it was there at least when she felt defensive. Scene one in the video shows the stemming problem clearly.
It was clear that skiing was going to be limited today as the lifts were all being shut down one by one. When skiing is limited then it’s the perfect occasion to work on tedious exercises that otherwise would never get enough attention – and so we embarked upon a mission to cure the stemming by cultivating “pivoting” instead. http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/pivot.html
The link above leads to demos and explanations for most of the variations of pivoting involved – so here I’ll only discus the specific feedback that was relevant to Jenny. Jenny initially found pivoting awkward and difficult – but with persistence this situation dramatically improved before the end of the session.
Jenny has a tendency to stem the uphill ski outwards to find the inside edge (snowplough legacy) then then this accelerates her across the hill and then down into a fast turn where she is unstable. The acceleration and forward travel of the skis force her to remain “square” to the skis (shoulders facing the tips) – following the skis around the turn - and any sideways motion destabilises her. Consequently there is always a battle with hip rotation going on when the skiing becomes slightly challenging.
Pelvis – Hips: To help combat the hip rotation we worked a little on “ChiSkiing” – that is – turning the pelvis to face downhill instead of the shoulders. This action twists the lumbar spine from the pelvis upwards instead of in the opposite direction which happens when the spine is twisted from the shoulders downwards. Using a weight loading test/exercise Jenny could feel the reflexive abdominal contraction when under load with the pelvis facing downhill and the hip pulled backwards on the supporting (downhill) leg. I explained to jenny that this is how to safely and effectively create angulation – not “turn the shoulders downhill” – because the posture collapses with the shoulders being used – and hip rotation is inevitable as a consequence – plus damage to the back.
Initially Jenny was unable to pivot because her ski would always accelerate forwards. I spotted that the underlying cause of this problem was that she was not putting weight onto her ski pole – so was not using the pole to ease the centre of mass towards the centre of the turn. Due to this the ski could not slip sideways, downhill into the turn – it had to slide forwards instead. Using angulation – pulling the downhill hip backwards – and then tilting the upper body forwards from the hips – Jenny was able to get more support on her pole and then start to have success with pivoting.
Independent Leg Action: We covered examples of pivoting on either or both feet and then went on to using a wide stance and encouraging independent leg action – that is – each leg rotating independently in its own hip socket and each ski pivoting independently. The wide stance also acts to reduce hip rotation – which is exacerbated with a narrow stance and feet held together as one ski then has to come around completely below the other ski – pulling the hip with it. The wide stance makes tight pivoted turns easier on steeper terrain and makes it easier to keep the body travelling directly down the fall line and the skis travelling sideways.
Foot Rolling: Jenny also showed a tendency to let her foot twist into the turn – instead of standing on the heel just below the ankle and rolling the foot onto its inside edge and maintaining it there. Pushing her ski tip against my pole Jenny’s ski tail swung outwards which indicates that she was twisting her foot inside the boot. Just pulling the ski tip laterally causes the tail of the ski to move inwards if the correct muscles are being used and the foot kept on its inside edge during this test/exercise where motion of the ski tip is deliberately blocked by my pole. Everything from the foot, adductors to the centre of mass must all pull together in the right direction.
We finished the session with trying to link pivoted turns – pulling everything “inwards” instead of stemming – wide stance, pole support, angulation (chi hips). The essence of all of today’s work was to build awareness that the leg/legs must never be pushed outwards – but everything must move inwards together.
Sinister welcome at the top of the Olympique in Val d’isère – powerful winds blasting snow and ice were awaiting us outside…