Friday, December 30, 2016


Yesterday’s video in reality didn’t show much improvement for Timothy but this was partly due to the challenging terrain and snow where it was filmed. While Timmothy was definitely better centred over his skis and more relaxed and bending at the hips, he had very little control of rotation, rhythm, use of poles, anticipation, angulation etc. He was told this straight away today and that his current level of effort would be unlikely to bring results. Rodion – his elder brother – was always truly excellent with instruction – genuinely giving his best efforts and getting corresponding results. Timothy appears to have his own agenda – but it seems to be partly guided by fear/anxiety and over-controlling.

Todays skiing began with me asking Timothy to ski very close behind me – to turn where I turn. This is so that he is forced to follow my line and not turn where it is easiest for him – a bit similar to the way a slalom course imposes constraints on the skier. He didn’t get it at all and within two relatively slow turns he was distanced – as is usual for him. I asked him to engage his brain and stay close – there being no reason at all why he couldn’t if he tried and put aside his own agenda for a while. Of course he then did manage to ski right on my tail. Later, when on steep, icy ground I let him fall behind because the issue was more technical and due to his fears and I could watch him then from a distance too and analyse what was likely to help him most.



After our warm up run we skied the Face de Bellevarde while the snow was still in good condition. Timothy struggled with the steepness but we focused on applying the principles that we had worked on yesterday – fronts of the skis, fronts of the boots, hip pulled back to stop rotation, create angulation (increased edging) and anticipation plus prepare for a pole plant and motion over the downhill ski. The type of turns we were doing were braking, pivoted turns designed to slow down and remain safe. I’d expected to see Timothy struggle here but this is the sort of situation he needs to stimulate change.


Arriving at the top of the Solaise sector it was time to structure the training better. Timothy appeared to be more receptive and responsive when pushed so that was encouraging. He didn’t appear to be discouraged by the earlier criticisms and seemed to try harder. It takes a while when properly training someone to get inside their head and read exactly what they are doing. There are many aspects to skiing, not just physical actions. Actions are driven by emotion, instinct and self preservation as well as ego (trying to look good) – but all that counts is correctly learned appropriate skills. There is an infinite number of ways to mess up skiing – but a very narrow path of “getting it right”. We had now reached a stage where I knew the main areas to focus on with Timmothy and how he would respond so it was clear how things should proceed with appropriate exercises.


Skating exercises

– using the adductors, insides of the feet and separating the edges of the feet from the edges of the skis. Skating across flat ground the insides of the feet correspond to the inside edges of the skis. Skating across a steep slope the uphill ski goes on its outside edge – but with the aid of the shaft of the ski boot the foot remains on its inside/downhill edge. On the final skate you stand up on the uphill ski and then let the centre of mas fall downhill into a turn – starting from the uphill edge of the uphill ski – but the foot on its downhill edge. Once this was achieved we then started to get the turn to start by coming over the downhill ski with the centre of mass – both from a traverse or from the end of a turn. The body has to come up out of the existing turn – standing on the downhill ski (inside edge of foot) – centre of mass moving over the lower ski. This is quite a scary move compared with standing on the uphill ski – but the point of the exercise is to clarify the differences. The timing of the second exercise is still “skating” – coming up out of the turn. If you hold back instead and go onto the uphill ski then this delays the turn start – but if you use the energy of the existing turn to come up and out over the downhill ski you are very quickly and securely into the next turn. This move is always scary but it always works. Timothy was able to work on this but had a strong tendency to delay his turn with a slight traverse and so lose the energy, momentum, rhythm and ability to get over that downhill ski with confidence.



We used bumps to practice the pivot  and to work on flexing/compressing to come over the downhill ski – using the bump and pole support. Leg timing needs to be reversed in this way in bumps or else you become airborne due to the bump if you try to come “up” and over the ski.


Short Swings

The video is of linked short swings. Timothy is trying to jump downhill (to get perpendiculqr to the skis as they swing into the fall line). Failure to get over that downhill ski is one of the main reasons for ending up on the back of the skis and the body being stuck vertical – instead of perpendicular to the slope during the turn. Short swings are the opposite from bumps with all the energy comming from the legs (not from a bump and so jumping is necessary). There are many ways to do short swings but we did not have time to go into that. All I wanted was to see control of rotation, angulation, anticipation, solid pole use and expecially a bouncing rhythm. Timothy failed to use his left pole so struggled. He also killed his bounce – just the same as he kills the energy in his longer turns. He did however manage to jump downhill and significantly improved his efficiency from his previous efforts. Victor didn’t have enough angulation and was not braking enough with the action – the skis running too fast forwards and the pole use being weak and late – as if in a slalom turn – so his speed control was limited. Short swings are to exaggerate the braking action and this is the only time (other than bumps) where heavy pressure goes on the poles.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


We started out with a warmup run over to Val d’Isère from Tignes. Timmothy is growing and as his body changes it’s important to supervise his skiing correctly because it’s this period when things can go wrong. The first clips in the video are of both Timmothy and Victor skiing just after a warm up run so we could record and study the current level and any issues that might be present. Timmothy’s main problem here is that he is on the back of his skis and boots with no flexion at the hips and a strong rotation. Victor was skiing well – but later on I spotted that he was defending his right hip – this turning out to be due to back pain. Those two issues for both Timmothy and Victor are partly connected and can be helped by working on the same principles.





Timmothy was told that we were going to work on being on the fronts of the skis and boots – but carefully – so as not to bend/collapse the ankles. Victor translated into Russian for me so I tried to keep the explanations as simple as possible. The goal was to stay on the heels but press against the shins of the boots at the same time – lifting up the toes and trying to apply pressure on the fronts of the steeps. Timmothy had said that he found steep ice the most difficult so this was an appropriate way to start the session because it is also the best way to grip on ice.


We did a few exercises – just leaning hard forwards (this time up on the fronts of the feet) and exaggerating the action of using the fronts of the skis. Almost immediately Timmothy’s stance looked far better now that he was not locked in the backs of his boots. To help all of this I asked Timmothy to roll both feet onto their inside edges, squeeze the adductor muscles together and tighten the muscles in his legs in general.


Victor mentioned about how in the past I’d explained that the feet and knees remain ahead of the body in deep snow – so there appeared to be a contradiction. There is no contradiction but it was necessary to explain – however this made a good lead more deeply into the subject exactly in the direction I was intending.





Standing still facing across the hill – if you bend the knees and hips in ski boots so as to “sit” then you fall backwards. Face everything downhill and then as you “sit” you end up resting solidly on the fronts of your ski boots – knees and feet “in front of the body”. Gravity pulls you into the boots. Now only turn the boots across the slope below you and keep your bottom sitting uphill and you still remain on the fronts of the boots. To achieve this when in action you need to pull back the outside hip more than the shoulder to face the pelvis downhill. By pulling the hip out of the way you can sink down into the turn – sitting on an invisible uphill chair – staying on the fronts of the boots and with no danger of being pitched over the fronts of the skis in deeper or unpredictable snow. This also allows the hip to flex while removing strain from the lower back and permits postural muscles to function correctly – helping Victor’s back issues. (Though we didn’t go into that much due to language issues for Timmothy) I explained that the hip action was made during the turn transition. Victor found for himself that this mad the new turn initiation automatic by getting the hip out of the way for the body to cross over the skis.


We looked at how the build up of pressure and edge grip was developed by this sitting action – but then with the aid of preparing for the use of the downhill pole this would then be used to bring the body out over the fronts of ths skis downhill into the next turn (called “anticipation”). Only short pivoted turns use the pole in this way – to restrict the dynamics but give support instead and to act as a feedback so that you know you have avoided rotation and are not too far back with the body to start the next turn. I did one static exercise when Timmothy was held by me and pulled over the fronts of his skis so he could feel the process. Timmothy did well skiing with this – correcting his pole use, stance and rhythm whenever it fell apart – as seen in the second series of video clips – where also Victor shows no problem with his right hip.

We used the same movement pattern for carving – fronts of the skis – hip position/flexion. Feedback is often clearer when carving so it is good to develop both the carve and pivot together.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top Up 2016

After watching all four ski I decided that with Jenny’s skiing being very similar to Leonie’s from last week – and that with Leonie improving so much – it would be appropriate to try the same approach with Jenny – which would also be a program for addressing fundamental issues with the three stronger skiers simultaneously. Leonie had almost five days – but working with her through her particular issues had provided insights that Jenny could perhaps benefit from. With Jenny having only half a day of coaching she might not get quite as far – but as she had retained much from previous years this could still be very significant. This set the scene for the session.




The session began with James being asked what he felt with is feet when skiing. James answered “nothing”. “Nothing” is pretty much what most people think about when skiing – or they are concerned about how they look, how fast they are going (especially people named Andrew apparently), where their friends are, which lift or restaurant they are headed for etc – basically a lot of superficial noise.

Skill is a trained and acquired quality – a programming of the body and mind to be able to do something that is not instinctive to the point where it is automatic and unconscious. However, there are endless layers of skill and when one level is acquired then it becomes the base for building the next level. The need for awareness, attention and focus actually grows – it doesn’t disappear. This “mindfulness” brings its own rewards as focusing within the body induces calmness and removes stress, tension and anxiety that come from otherwise being otherwise distracted by the external world. Effectively, your thoughts are engaged directly in the moment and not absorbed in worrying about consequences. Through mindfulness and internalizing your thoughts within your body you then relate to the outside world more accurately, rationally and with better results. The recreational skier who is anxious, terrified, frustrated or bored by the end of a week on skis has missed the boat entirely in this respect – but it’s not usually the skier who is to blame – it’s usually the teaching. First of all, you can’t even visualize if you don’t have sensible (literally – relating to the senses) and accurate technical information to work with – because the physical results just won’t add up. Most people don’t even start to focus correctly – because when they are not taught correctly they simply can’t. Being taught “balance” and “snowplough” or “up/down timing” is like being brainwashed into mindless oblivion.

When you do have the right information, understanding, perception and the opportunity to practice – then make a point of being mindful – applying attention, awareness, focus and visualizing with all the senses as much as possible. The rewards are unlimited if this is done – otherwise the ubiquitous learning plateaux are the usual long term outcome.

In skiing attention can sequentially move between individual aspects such as muscle tension in a foot to the slight rotations between the base of the spine and the 12th thoracic vertebra – but mostly it should be directed at the centre of mass and its overall motion. Skill levels are associated with ever finer and more detailed selective muscle relaxation. Muscle contraction takes energy – consuming the ATP molecule at a cellular level. What most people don’t realise is that it takes more ATP to relax a muscle than to contract it. Relaxing requires focus, effort and practice – and is very counter intuitive in many ways.


Feet, Adductors, Skating

Beginning from the feet upwards everyone was asked to stand on their heels – specifically the fronts of the heels just beneath the ankle joints. Supporting the body from here permits the feet to be clearly rolled over onto their inside edges by using the subtaler joint just below the ankle. This also activates the anterior tibialis (shin bone muscle) and strengthens the ankle – providing stability and security – enabling feedback and transfer of power and pressure with the shaft of the ski boot – both laterally and in the fronts.

Both feet were required to be rolled inwards and the corresponding adductor muscles tensioned right up to the groin. Previously I would have taught both feet to be rolled to the left or right together – one being on the inside and the other being on the outside edge – but this common understanding appears to be limited and generally inappropriate. Rolling both feet inwards and tensioning both sets of adductors provides core stability and a correct technical base for all aspects of skiing from pure pivoting to pure carving. This became clear to me through apparent paradoxical issues with pivoting whereby it was already clear that no matter which foot or ski edge was used it was always necessary to remain on the inside edge of the foot. Later this proved to be effective in carving for maintaining a powerful stance on the skis – and to instigate “double carving”.

We used skating exercises to cultivate the required feelings and control – skating on flat terrain on the inside edges of the feet and skis. Going across a slope the uphill ski would have to remain on its outside edge – separately from the foot being on its inside edge – thus developing the feeling whereby the lateral stiffness of the boot comes into play to permit this. The reflexive response is to let the foot roll onto its outside edge to match the ski – so the opposite has to be cultivated – prioritizing the stability of the body and the body’s geometry.

The skating in steps was simply taken to the end of each traverse with the final skate onto the uphill ski then being used as a platform to allow the centre of mass to fall downhill into a turn – the point being that the turn initiated from the uphill edge of the uphill ski and that the foot and body were already oriented over the inside edge – thus clarifying that there is no need to be on the inside edge of the ski to start a turn – only the inside edge of the foot. We didn’t have a lot of time to practice this as the overall goal for today was much further along the progression. Everything so far was just to establish a base to develop upon.


Hips, Posture, Fronts of Skis

Moving up the body only Jenny was properly aware of how to work with the pelvis and hips. The boys had totally confused and literally dangerous interpretations of posture control taken from weight training and rugby – so this turned into a very valuable part of the session.

James in particular was actively hollowing his lower back, tilting his pelvis downwards at the front as he had been instructed in the gym to do so. Static loading demonstrated to James and William how in fact “neutral pelvis” reflexively activates the postural muscles which protect the spine – and that this nearly always requires an upwards tilt of the pelvis with a relaxing of the hip muscles when flexing. If the lower abdominals are not felt to contract reflexively under load then the spine is in danger. The contraction compresses the fluid filled organs creating a “hydraulic sac” which distributes the vertical load over the whole cross sectional area – instead of only through the spine itself.

Skiing poses a special problem for posture and is an exaggeration of the same problem created with “over-striding” in running induced by thick and soft heels in running shoes. Notably in skiing any effort to face the shoulders downhill for “anticipation” causes the outside hip to be pulled in front of the ribs and for all postural control to be lost even more surely than with the above pelvic tilt problems. When you combine pelvic tilt with this issue it’s a surefire one way trip to disaster for the spine in the long run. When the shoulders are turned downhill during the turn completion then you can visualize the spine (from the pelvis up to the ribs) twisting slightly in the same direction as the turn – bringing the hip around in front of the ribs. Static load testing in this position reveals that the postural muscles will not activate and there is no protection for the spine. Those also with a poorly tilted pelvis will even kink their spine sideways – and anyone can see that there is an unnatural problem present. (James was doing all of this!)

The antidote to the above is to pull the outside hip backwards during the turn – twisting the spine deliberately in a counter direction to the turn from the bottom up. This stretches the supporting hip backwards opening up a space between the ribs and the hip joint and allowing the abdominal muscles to contract under load the fully protect the spine. Pelvic tilt is quite simple here – always tilt upwards at the front – because the pulling backwards of the hip tends to tilt the pelvis downwards.

James had a lot to focus on to correct his posture but he did a good job once it was understood – the pelvic tilt being the main issue in his case. William had a different problem due to facing his shoulders strongly downhill to be able to pivot effectively – so he had to swap this for facing his pelvis downhill instead and reversing the twist in his spine. He did a good job of changing this and looked vastly better on his skis as a result.

The point of all the above was just to integrate everything from the feet up through the body in a coherent biomechanical movement pattern. In reality we move from the core – the centre – and working from the core actually aligns the femurs correctly for using the adductors and the feet. The overall effect can be felt directly through incredibly smooth and effective turn transitions. The switch from pelvic rotation one way to the other is made during the turn transition and is once set it assists angulation and anticipation as the turn develops.

All of the above was aimed to eventually allow the possibility of being able to maintain contact in the fronts of the ski boots throughout each turn and so to be able to use the fronts of the skis – everyone until now having a tendency to end up on the tails of the skis – particularly in steeps, bumps or off piste.

I demonstrated to Jenny how – without skis on – standing across the slope, if I “sat down” I’d fall backwards. However, facing down the slope I’d settle comfortably on the fronts of the ski boots – without the ankles collapsing and without falling backwards. With all of the components of movement built up correctly this frontal pressure can be maintained and exploited throughout the turn as angulation and anticipation are developed – the bottom still sitting uphill on that invisible chair even at the end of the turn. If any of the components – feet, adductors, hips – are out of alignment – then this can’t be achieved and so the skier starts to rely on the tails of the skis and finds ways to compensate. The point is that even in unpredictable off piste snow the directing power of the ski, stability and security all come from the fronts and there is no danger of being pitched over the fronts as would happen if this was all constructed incorrectly.

The boys in particular did an excellent job towards the end of the session applying this very effectively off piste.


Short Turns, Pressure Feedback, Turn Development

The overall goal for the session was to help Jenny turn into a more stable and secure skier on steeper terrain. Typically an anxious skier like Jenny will rotate defensively on the steep and skid sideways to brake – dissipating energy and trying to slow down but in a very unstable and insecure way. What the skier really needs to do is to sink the centre of mass down into the turn, not only resisting the build up of forces (partly due to opposing gravity) later in the turn – but to use the skis to build up the forces (pressure) and exploit them. When you get deeply enough to the inside of the turn then you win the battle against the ski trying to lift you up and so out of the turn – but this takes control, coordination, strength and determination. The energy is used then for directing the centre of mass – either farther around the turn, across the slope or off into the next turn in a stable and controlled manner – this can be viewed as “turn development” and is a complete contrast to the skidding, dissipating failure to control the mechanics. Speed is controlled then through choice of line – any single fully completed turn being able to totally stop a skier – or the rhythmic linking of many shorter turns in the fall line etc. Rhythm itself generates stability and when the timing is correct the effects of the energy harnessed tunes into a natural resonance (like someone on a trampoline).

To help Jenny I set her up statically in an angulated stance to represent the build up of pressure through the turn (holding her arm) and then physically pulled her out out of that position directly over the fronts of her skis – and each time off she went into a successfully pivoted turn. The “anticipation” is in effect the knowledge or intention that the deepening of the turn and build up of pressure is going to provide the entry into the next turn. Preparation with the pole – for solid pole support during the turn transition – is critical here. If there is not enough angulation or pressure on the fronts of the skis – then the angulation and pole preparation will not be adequate and this is very visible – usually seen as the complete absence of pole use in even short pivoted turns (fast dynamic turns do not require pole support). The first stage for Jenny to develop is the containing and build up of pressure during turn completion on the steep – instead of just giving into the situation and drifting sideways. Jenny was able to make progress with this – and this was the target of today’s session. The boys also did a good job with greatly improved coordination in all aspects. Andrew linked it into his awareness of the need to use pole support in bumps – but tended to be a bit on the tails in general – though he is more likely to hold onto the information than the boys – of course, that remains to be seen.

The video clip is when working on the steeps. The boys performed markedly better later on off piste with the same principles.



Monday, December 19, 2016

Luke & Leonie

Bad weather and hangover day today! Not a great combination but the cold wind is a good way to forget a hangover – though personally that’s not been an issue for me since stopping drinking around twelve years ago and I never miss an opportunity to gloat about it when others suffer self inflicted carnage.

Being far too cold to stand around working on detailed technique – and being the last day skiing – we had to ski. Staying  warm is easy when you rhythmically put together millions of short turns – so that’s what we did. Each turn is an opportunity to practice – mindfully – selectively focusing on a few relevant components of biomechanics or the feedback and  actions of global movement (simplified by focusing on the centre of mass – which is why the concept is used in physics).

Weather and self inflicted issues were clearly affecting Luke, who appeared to have locked into default mode in the back of his ski boots – so we gave the slalom a miss, leaving that behind on a positive note from yesterday. Luke was happy to allow Leonie to be the main focus of attention so we started to put the short turns to use to help her to conquer the issue of “flow” that had emerged as the current limitation of her progress.

The video clip shows Leonie finally managing a consistent and intentional flow – doing even better than Luke who specifically dragged himself onto his shins for the camera.


Anticipation and Bumps

The answer to Leonie’s “flow” lay in a doctored version of the old concept of “anticipation”.  Anticipation was always an extremely nebulous subject due to all the other technical issues connected to it being hugely incorrect in their own definitions. However, like most of those issues there is an element of truth in it if only it can be extracted and identified correctly.  The ground work for this “extraction” was simply the total of all the work we had been doing in the previous four days – but just with a slightly modified goal and feel. On the spot, I thought up an exercise for Leonie that worked.


Yesterday Leonie had started to complete her turns better – first angulating more deeply to build pressure then releasing it for dynamics out of the turn – instead of just skidding and dissipating all the energy in a braking action – though she wasn’t really tapping into the energy generated at the end of the turn. We had been working on forming turns to control speed and direction through line and rhythm – as is normally developed in racing through adaptations to poles (over many years of brutal Darwinian natural selection!). Despite this advance in her skiing Leonie was still not flowing well – a quality that Luke on the other hand finds spontaneously even in his worst technical moments. The exercise for Leonie was to stand across the slope statically and adopt a strongly angulated position with pressure against the shins and the downhill pole held ready. I then pulled Leonie from the downhill arm literally straight across her skis – causing a pivoted turn. The sensation of the complete movement from deep angulation – still against the shins – to coming over the fronts of the skis with the body facing downhill, is very distinct and goes far beyond the range of movement that Leonie was finding on her own. Leonie immediately understood the feeling and was able to replicate this in her skiing directly – flowing from turn to turn using the energy built up from one turn to get into the next. Prior to this Leonie had a short delay where she killed the energy induced by the ski and failed to use the end of the turn dynamically – so no rhythm or resonance could be developed or exploited – hence no natural flow. The missing ingredient was “anticipation”. Anticipation is when the development of the end of one turn is formed in a way that it becomes the critical mechanical facilitator of the start of the next turn – and the subsequent motion of the body over the skis is appropriately and intentionally applied. In the video Luke made a determined effort having been battling with the backs of his ski boots and although not as flowing as Leonie it was better than he had skied earlier in the day. More importantly, Luke, just by watching had picked up the same idea. Further down the slope we came to substantial bumps and I showed how to apply this anticipation to the bumps – as usual a solid pole plant being the guide as to whether or not adequate anticipation was present. Bumps are classic for leaving the skier in the back seat but Luke skied them smoothly and effortlessly for the the first time ever – remaining flexible and freed from the glue on the back of the boots. We called it a day at this point to finish on a positive note.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Luke & Leonie

We started off with a warm up run as usual, taking advantage of a well groomed and empty piste. The only chair in the sun was the Borsat so I headed straight for it. Luke had a clear idea of what he needed to focus on in his skiing and Leonie needed to work on her dynamics to improve her flow. The Borsat brought us back down to the Bonnevie Stade so I decided to make use of it for working on steeps in security. It’s one thing developing technique but at some point it has to be applied in appropriate circumstances. Most “fall line” skiing is on steep terrain – with braking, pivoted turns in a narrow passage.



Luke found himself automatically glued to the back of his ski boots again and with a rigid outside leg – despite all of his efforts. I pointed out the need to get across the downhill ski and how this merged with “perpendicular” as the skis turned to point downhill. Getting perpendicular is important for avoiding being superglued to the back of your ski boots – but this didn’t shift things. Softening the legs with selective muscle relaxation however follows a pattern and that most closely resembled “sitting down”. Standing facing across the hill if you “sit down” you fall backwards – exactly what we are trying to avoid. Facing downhill however the body goes into a very secure resting position with pressure against the shins! With skis off you can really feel this as gravity pulls you into the boots. During a turn there is a component of gravity and also the centripetal force from the skis. Once you turn into all of this you can relax and using the front of the boots is not an artificial or forced issue and neither is bending the knee. The hip angulation (with counter rotated base of the spine) then serves to maintain pressure on the front of the ski as the turn progresses and ends up across the hill – because the bottom is still facing uphill on that invisible chair.



Leonie found herself tending to stem on the steep terrain as a reflexive and mostly unconscious action. We drilled individual pivots starting cleanly from the uphill edge of the uphill ski and made sure that dynamics were applied appropriately – but the stemming remained. The steep was making Leonie tense and the technical issues that emerged from the tension caused more tension. Perhaps the main underlying issue however was that Leonie wasn’t containing the forces through the end of the turn by increasing angulation and so eventually the skis would run away with her. The insecurity that this created just ensured more stemming. Leonie worked on finishing the turns more strongly and began to appreciate how much more effort she needed to contain the forces and develop the end of the turns.

Another place where tight turns are necessary is when there are bumps – especially in narrow gullies – so we used the bumps to encourage the skis to pivot. When the ski tips are airborne the easily swing into the turn following the centre of mass. Leonie became unnerved by the combination of tight narrow turns, steep pitches, bumps and people. All of this together conspired to take her focus away from the internal processes and generate anxiety.


While taking a lunch break we were able to watch the World Cup women’s Super Giant Slalom. The following is an excellent demonstration of dynamics at work…























































I suggested to Leonie to avoid fretting over the stemming and make sure her attention was internalized in constructive ways. The more you focus on the body the less you are distracted by the outside world and the more rationally you can process events. Leonie still had to work of forming her turns well to control speed on steeper slopes – instead of brushing off the excess speed by skidding sideways. One single turn taken to completion will stop you any time. Speed control is from the line of the turn or the number of turns made. The braking action of pivoted turns is integrated into the mechanics. It’s always the turn itself that should determine speed control – not braking.

For Leonie to improve her flow she needs to use the forces in the turn. It’s not just a case of using dynamics to come out of the turn on the lower ski, it’s about making use of the pressure built up on the ski through the end of the turn to lift you up and out. This is where the completion of the turn is critical and the build up of forces is critical – it has to be then used to link up with the next turn and to move the centre of mass. Leonie experienced this already on the Val glacier when successfully linking short swings on the steep – jumping in a bouncing rhythm downhill over the lower ski. Luke would have been able to exploit this too but his system had shut down by this point so it was just a case of getting down to the bus now.

Earlier on both had skied well in tricky off piste using dynamics – though Leonie still needed to use more – the actual detail here being identical to the issue described above!


Grande Motte and Grande Casse

Mont Blanc


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Luke & Leonie

View from the top of the Bellevarde – sun on the far left and moon on the far right (small dot due to wide angle view)

Starting out with a nice long unbroken warm up run we followed that up with a rapid revision of the previous two days during a single run down into Tignes. Leonie had been a bit unsure of the act of spreading the turn transition over a period where both legs are active simultaneously – coming over the downhill leg while taking over with the uphill leg (outside ski edge). Following that we continued all the way up to the top of the Grande Motte – around 3500m altitude.

My goal for the day was to try to get Luke off the backs of his ski boots  - but instead of looking at it this way I’d decided to direct him towards using the fronts of the skis actively. Ever since we first met he has been effectively glued to the backs of the boots and no amount of persuasion, tricks, torture or technique have succeeded in altering this in the slightest. We had previously discussed posture and looked at pelvic tilt etc. plus Luke now also spends about 2 hours per week on yoga – so clearly the underlying problem was significant and so far, deeply intractable. The problem manifests as an apparent hip rotation – with collapsing posture – the upper body falling off the outside (in the turn) hip completely and the upper body angulating inwards instead of outwards. Meanwhile Luke gets jammed in the backs of the ski boots. All the efforts to use the feet and adductors correctly – to pull inwards, use dynamics, avoid rotation, pivot, ensure perpendicularity and many more things – including directly looking at posture – all failed to rectify the problem.

Basically, instead of focusing on an intractable problem I wanted to extend the work from the previous two days into developing a feel for the fronts of the skis in a fully functional capacity. The hope was that this would change the nature of the issue. We had already worked on most of the components right up to Leonie executing jump turns very well yesterday with good angulation, dynamics and using the whole ski – not getting stuck on the tails. Luke lost it at that point and glued himself again to the backs of the boots so this was the cue to take a more direct and exaggerated approach.

Traversing, with strong angulation – downhill hip pulled back – chest over the front of the downhill ski – I pulled against  Leonie’s outstretched poles so that she could side slip downhill but against the resistance of the front of the downhill ski – pressure on the shin – up on the ball of the foot (foot/ankle extended). Leonie was able to coordinate this and feel it. Luke in contrast ended up in a muddle because his posture simply failed and all the feedback went sideways. We attempted on the spot to correct the posture but it wasn’t happening – and past attempts at this warned me that it wouldn’t be likely to either. Abandoning that effort we retreated to more level terrain and used a snowplough with the body leaning forwards from the feet right out over the ski tips to force pressure onto the fronts of the skis. Releasing the left ski/edge allows you to turn to the left – feeling the force of the pressure on the front of the right ski driving you around (this foot can be rocked onto its inside edge and the adductors used) with the hip placed in more or less the right position automatically by the snowplough. Luke managed this fine and could at least now feel and identify what we were aiming for.

During a drinks break we discussed the pelvic/hip relationship to iron out any confusion. The goal is to first of all align the pelvis to the spine – through pelvic tilt – into “neutral”. For most people this requires tilting the pelvis up at the front and this can induce a tightening of the lower abdomen and the glutes. Separately – once pelvic tilt is established – the entire upper body has to be tilted forwards directly from the hip joints. We use the pelvic girdle as our reference for pelvic tilt and the relation of this to the spine must be fixed and not change. All the flexion must be in the hip joints – which lie beneath the pelvic girdle. This requires a selective release and relaxation of the leg muscles around the hip – but a conscious control and tension in the abdomen to maintain pelvic tilt relative to the spine. The whole upper body including the pelvis becomes one unit and the flexion is isolated only in the hips at this point.

Applying this to the skiing and angulation – when we then pull back the outside hip it also pulls inwards beneath the body (as the body tilts outwards). Effectively the upper body (including pelvis) is perched on top of one hip joint and rotates/pivots around it freely. If the hip moves out from beneath the body you just fall off it onto two legs instead – which is what had been happening to Luke. Ice skaters use this action of the hip naturally – which is why skiing is really built from two fundamentals – skating and dynamics.

The indoor exercise of perching the body on top of the femur of one leg – in conjunction with the clearer understanding and awareness – finally clicked and Luke could feel and understand the stance. Whatever history had driven him away from it – inappropriate ski teaching (pushing out) – not feeling a skating action – simply not identifying the mechanical action – it has now clicked and Luke gets it.

Yesterday on easier terrain Luke already felt the fronts of the skis just though working on technique (angulation – chi hips etc) but postural issues were eventually  overriding this progress and most of his efforts. Now the progress should proceed far more smoothly.

In the video Luke’s stance is mainly correct – but there is a slight rotation at the initiation of turns to the left. This is due to compensating for unconsciously not feeling as secure coming over the left foot at the end of the previous turn. The result is that the posture on the right side is sometimes still not quite right. Even when later on Luke did address this rotation successfully the posture was not fully accurate – it will take work to completely remove such a long term habit!

Leonie just needs to use more dynamics and keep the stance a bit narrower. She had plenty of action going on – just more is needed with the centre of mass. Leonie had been following all the exercises and lack of comment here is because things are going generally well. Leonie fell in some tricky and steep off piste due to backing off with the dynamics and angulation at one point – crossing the skis. This only ever happens when the weight gets far back – but we have not been practicing in conditions like this yet so such outcomes are perfectly normal.




We briefly started looking at dynamics in bumps – to be continued…



Mont Blanc in the background

Friday, December 16, 2016

Luke & Leonie

Day One

The first video is really just a record of our starting out point.

Luke was just getting warmed up when we took the video and prior to getting to work on technique. The right leg is being defended – being held rigid on the back of the ski boot and with a significant hip rotation – largely due to this knee having been badly injured last ski season. Dynamics are strong – but not though the end of the turn.

Leonie has a wide stance and too much rotation – looking a bit robotic and stiff but with a good basic coordination and dynamics.



Feet and Adductors

Luke requested that we revise everything from the very beginning – so that seemed like a good idea. Both Luke and Leonie were however comfortable with throwing themselves downhill in dynamics so we could clearly skip that part. It seemed to me that starting from the feet would be appropriate so that’s what we did. After explaining that we need the weight over the fronts of the heels (below the ankle joints) to develop skills we worked on rocking both feet onto their inside edges – using the subtaler joints below the ankles.  When both feet are rocked onto their inside edges then the adductor muscles of both legs are pulled together – providing an anchoring or stabilization of the body through the core.

Skating across the flats on the inside edges of the feet develops the appropriate sensations and the skis are required to be diverged to do this. Next , on gentle terrain we skate around turns by displacing the centre of mass inwards in steps. So far there is no complication because the slope is very shallow. The insides of the feet are used and likewise the inside edges of the corresponding skis.

Skating across a steeper hill requires the legs and feet to remain the same but the uphill ski now rests on its outside edge – separating the edges of the foot and ski. This takes a bit of practice to get used to. The shaft of the ski boot being laterally rigid permits this separation to take place – holding the upper ski on its uphill/outside edge. Skating turns on steeper slopes then requires this action in the last half of the turn.

The skates across the steep hill were practiced and enhanced by stepping uphill slightly with each skate (we even practiced sidestepping to isolate the feelings in the feet). Now the idea was to skate across the hill with about three skates and on the final one step up onto the outside edge of the uphill ski – but remain on the inside (downhill) edge of the foot. From this position the body would fall into a turn. By standing on the uphill edge it is impossible to stem or push the ski out and the centre of mass has to be used. The foot and adductor muscles were engaged prior to the turn initiation and the airborne lower leg would also have the foot on its inside edge and those adductor muscles engaged too.

Luke felt more control over his hip rotation and Leonie immediately developed a narrower stance. Her wide stance had been due to being on the outside edge of her inside foot. The turns were reduced to one single skate at completion of the turn – onto the uphill edge of the uphill ski.

To complete the session we worked on the dynamics for the turn completion. This requires holding the downhill foot well on its inside edge – adductors tight – while making the body pass over the top of this downhill ski while still standing on it. There are quite a few counterintuitive things going on here but Luke in particular was really freed up by the action. The feet/adductors work making the action of the dynamics phases more obvious than previously.

Today I explained that a turn transition can be a two footed issue – supporting yourself coming over the downhill ski but before getting fully across it taking pressure on the outside edge of the uphill ski and extending that leg to help push the body up and out of the existing turn. Both legs and ding different jobs simultaneously – not just only stepping onto the uphill ski or flowing over the downhill ski as separate choices.



Day Two

The Core

We began with a complete indoors session – boots off – looking thoroughly at the bio-mechanics of the feet, legs, hips and torso – including “chi- hips” and the effect on the base of the spine and posture control. The indoors exercise made it even clearer how significant a role the pulling together of both sets of adductors plays – the pulling back of the hip (counter rotation of the base of the spine) aligning the thighs bones to allow the adductors to work together. Likewise the adductors and feet working this way facilitate the hip being counter rotated (in relation to the turn direction). It’s not the “hip” in reality, it’s the pelvis being counter rotated. Luke had to be careful to correct his pelvic tilt in advance to maximize the effect.

Indoors demonstration included clarifying the relation of this action to angulation and overall rotational control – and for Luke especially the ability to maintain pressure on the front of the ski boot without risk of being launched over the fronts of the skis in deep snow etc. Back out on the snow Luke applied al of this very well and looked far more centered over his skis and feet (instead of jammed in the back seat) and reported that he felt pressure on the shins for the first time ever (without collapsing the ankles).

Working from the Core Is a strenuous action which takes place during the turn transition – the hip is pulled back relative to the shoulder and held there for the whole turn duration. This action facilitates the turn transition and all the associated bio-mechanics. Motion starts from the centre. Global motion of the centre of mass corresponds to this same principle. The Core is no longer passive – it has to be active and posture will then function by reflex. (load testing was done indoors to show how the postural reflexes are triggered). Today the aim was to have a global picture of the overall coordination we are working towards. Luke did well but was tired by the end of the day and lost it a bit – but it will return all the stronger tomorrow.



Pivot – Jump Turns

Luke knew his pivoting skills were weak and so wanted to work on them. Leonie was vague regarding turn transitions – with a tendency to rush the start of the turns to get the skis securely below her – so it was decided to work on the pivoting. Controlling the hip while pivoting is not easy. Personally I can only be sure to get it completely correct once I have a rhythm going. The pivot really exposes Luke’s weakest points and his hip rotation – so it just needs some work.

One reason for working on the pivot was to encourage Leonie to start the turn with full commitment to the uphill ski. The idea is to realise the ski acts as a brake through the first half of the turn and there is no need to rush it. There is always a “pulling inwards” never a pushing out. The pole is used for support and to restrict dynamics but the pivot is controlled by the motion of the centre of mass. This is very obvious when you pivot on the “wrong” ski and the adductors are still holding the foot on its inside edge but it’s towards the outside of the turn – in which case the only active ingredient is the centre of mass.

Luke needed to work on jump turns to “soften” his movements. Jumping up requires a full leg extension and then landing with straight legs and bending to absorb the shock – smoothing out the process. Leonie managed to coordinate this better but Luke had a tendency to jump from his uphill ski instead of over his downhill ski. Absence of strong use of the poles was clear for both – so we did pivoting exercises on the “wrong” ski to encourage controlled motion of the centre of mass over this supporting ski. If you do not jump downhill slightly then you cannot get over the skis – into perpendicular and then land centred on the skis – you end up jammed in the back seat again instead. Leonie got this quite clearly.

We went off piste and used a few jump turns and short swings in places and Leonie managed to eventually put it all together and stop her rotation – holding good angualtion through the turns – building up pressure and control and then coming up and out over the ski when ready. The turns were short lively and fluid.

I explained that pure pivot has no forward momentum – only lateral slipping. Dynamics is purest when carving and there is no lateral motion of the skis. When starting a turn with dynamics we aim for pressure on the upper ski (either inside or outside edge) and a strong stance on that legs. When using pivoting it’s the same leg but with a reduction of pressure – by releasing the uphill edge grip – to slip more easily sideways. The extreme example is the jump turn where with the aid of a strong pole support the skis are fully unweighted in a jump while swinging into the turn following the centre of mass. There is a full spectrum of pressure. In many instances the new inside ski can be used instead – as a substitute – in either pivoting or carving – but the overall principles/mechanics remain the same. (You can carve or pivot totally with only one ski on)





Saturday, December 10, 2016



Tignes (View from Champagny)


Huge cyrstals – 5 cm across

Drinking Dog


Electric Jellyfish


Ice Lady



Ice Toes





Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ice Swimming

Unfortunately the lake has been drained until next Spring – so it’s time for photography instead of swimming….