Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Robert 4

Before going off piste we had a brief discussion about technique. Asking the group what they thought might be the most important technical issue for successful skiing brought a list of standard replies including the following: Plant the pole and come up around it to enter the new turn, Weight more on two skis, Weight transfer. While those are all taught in ski school they are unfortunately all wrong (even on piste). A good analogy would be how anyone can learn to ride a bicycle without knowing any theory then somebody has provided an intellectual and verbal explanation which is in fact how to cook apple crumble instead. It’s just not very helpful though it probably won’t stop you from riding the bike!

Dynamics (End of Turn)  The key to off piste is the dynamics which are applied at the end of the existing turn. The skis load up with pressure due to the whole base bending in the snow and this extra force is used to lift the body up and out of the turn – with pressure on the downhill ski through the end of the turn and then the body coming all the way out of the turn over the top of this downhill ski. Pressure only comes off the downhill ski once the centre of mass crosses over the skis – into the void – so it can be a little bit scary at first. The turn is completed with this upwards movement of the centre of mass and only then do you come down into the new turn (visualise a racing motorbike going into and out of a turn) by coming down and into the turn – touching the pole downhill due to the inclination of the body. (Pole Touch as opposed to Pole Plant). This is the ultimate weapon for off piste skiing – ensuring that you will not fail to initiate the next turn.

There wasn’t enough time for demonstrations or exercises (usually a “hanger turn” is used to teach this) – but I tried to just get across the idea so that people could experiment. There was also no opportunity for individual feedback and correction – but that’s the nature of off piste. In reality there is no “off piste” technique – it’s only an application of good on piste technique – which is where it all needs to be learned first.

The dynamics explained how “weight transfer” through “balance and statics” is incorrect (though today the time spent on this was very minimal) and how the pole plant for dynamic skiing is wrong and also the associated up/down timing.


Considering that we were about to tackle some tree skiing and the snow was heating up rapidly and becoming sticky – I decided to spend a moment introducing pivoting (for quick turns). Only a couple of the group had been taught this a little already and once again there was no time for a proper progression.

There is a fixed page here where pivoting is explained in detail:

I carried out a few demos of one ski pivoting and then skiing on one leg in both directions with accurate edge control and then using two skis as a single platform. Other than the ones who had already had coaching nobody knew that the outside edge of the ski played a key role in pivoting (Apple crumble again). So nobody at all could manage to pivot intentionally with any real level of control – this being a huge area that they all need to develop. I mentioned to Laurence that this two footed platform is when two skis are actually used more than one – but the feet need to be close together and it only applies truly when the skis are sliding sideways – as in bump skiing or in a steep couloir. Deep powder allows it too. For most skiing including today’s snow we would be mostly on one ski and only a degree of pivoting of two footed platform could by exercised because considerable forward motion was required with this snow. (Carving is the opposite extreme from pivoting because in carving all sideways motion is eliminated - most skiing is a blend with both forwards and sideways motion)

Today’s goal was just so that everyone might try to pull the fronts of the skis into the new turn in conjunction with the dynamics – as they entered the turn. This enables quicker and shorter turning. However to do this well requires great coordination and postural control. Laurence and Fabian need to develop the inwards and downwards sink into the turn so that hey can use the fronts of their skis more and safely. All the girls were rotating and making it hard for themselves – and so were unable to sink into the turns and manage the build up of forces and subsequent dynamics accurately. This seems to be a very common issue with women skiers and I suspect that it’s linked to anatomy. The wider pelvis seems to make it harder for women to prevent the hip from following the outside ski around the turn. What is also clear to me is that this is easily overcome with specific awareness and training.

All in all – everyone managed well and I’m sure some ideas and good experience were gained.

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