Thursday, December 1, 2016

Don Day 1

Snow and weather conditions being near perfect in Tignes we started out with a warm up run going over to Val d’Isere where there was World Cup training going on. During the run I observed Don and saw that he had received standard training based on the snowplough and up/down timing – and that it would be counter productive to spend any more time “warning up” with such a tiring process going on. Correspondingly we went straight into “dynamics” on the next run.

The video has three clips – before dynamics, working on skating and with dynamics…



Standard explanations and exercises were used to introduce dynamics. The menu button at the top of the blog links to the full details. The video shows that Don is already using some dynamics naturally so I had no doubt that he could manage to develop this to more useful levels. In the “before” clip Don skis parallel most of the time – with only a little bit of stemming. This of course would not be so tidy in a demanding situation. The first half of the turn is being rushed with the skis being pushed away from the body and probably the feet being turned into the turn (big toe directing the outside ski) which forces the foot onto the outside edge and causes the leg to straighten and stiffen. The displacement of the skis is how people tend to ski when they have learned initially from snowplough – because they are taught to push outwards and twist the feet in the direction of the turn. The centre of mass cannot be directed in this manner and in fact is generally moved towards the outside of the turn to try to pressure the ski – so the skier remains unstable – with the quads generally burning.

The choice is that you either displace the skis or displace the centre of mass – the two are mutually exclusive. Don had to work at moving the centre of mass and we began just by clarifying this overall objective. Without any detailed work Don’s feedback was that his legs were feeling far less strain and tiredness – so I knew he would now be able to last the whole day !

To take Don on a little further I explained the rocking of the feet from the subtaler joint below the ankle – so that he would have better grip to move the centre of mass and less tendency to twist/steer his feet into the turn. Keeping both feet on their inside edges was emphasized with the connection up through the adductor muscles on the insides of the legs. Immediately Don could feel improved control.

Indoors we looked at the feet and at how heel pressure could be used to develop a clear rocking at the subtaler joint. While doing this exercise we also looked at how bending down with heel pressure locked the ankle – stiffening it through tension in the anterior tibialis muscle (shin) then moving the flexion away from the ankle to the knee and hip. This is of course desirable – but bending with weight not on the heel caused the ankle to collapse and for the boot to take over support – to be avoided! This is only an intermediate stage in a more intricate process – but a very useful way to develop strong, functional skiing coordination.


Mont Blanc – Italian side seen from Tignes



After skiing for a while with more active use of the feet added to support the dynamics I started to introduce the Pivot. Leaving the pivot too late in the learning process is never a good idea – even though it can appear to inject some confusion at this stage. The Pivot has a dedicated fixed page accessed from the menu at the top of the page and this time there are full video demos of all the basic exercises. The main idea was to reinforce the coordination with the inside edge of the foot and to address Don’s concern about stiffening his outside leg. Don was aware of the leg stiffening but did not realise that this was due to pushing it outwards. Pivoting is all about pulling inwards. First attempts were assisted but already, due to the inability to push the ski outwards when starting a turn from the uphill edge Don was struggling. All of this is great for breaking that heavily trained “pushing out” habit – but it is challenging and takes time. When i saw Don becoming tired and flustered it was time to put it aside and return to the dynamics. This was when the penny dropped for Don that it was all about “pulling inwards”. Later on I explained how “centrifugal force” is an illusion and in physics it’s actually centripetal force – a force towards the inside. The skier has no outwards centrifugal force generated by the turn – it is all inwards and needs to be managed accordingly and encouraged – not resisted by a pushing outwards. (D’Alembert’s fictitious forces and “dynamic balance”!)




Later in the day we worked on the basics of skating. Initially Don allowed the skis to slip out to the side – with the feet falling onto their outside edges inside the boots and the body moving too much over the skis and flattening them. Just opening the legs and getting the skis wider apart allowed the edges to grip and the feet/muscle sensations to be restored. Flattish terrain was used to bring this skating into turns. Initially Don completely rushed the start of the turn and only started to skate once the skis were already around – this being done to avoid accelerations. I explained that instead of brushing off speed with skidding by pushing out the skis or by snowplough the speed control should come from completing the turn across the hill each time – requiring an acceptance of the acceleration at the start of the turn. In the video clip the skating turns to the left are good but to the right the pushing out is still there – this happening mainly due to the slight banking of the slope causing a slightly bigger acceleration and provoking a defensiveness.


Timing comes from both dynamics and skating. I demonstrated the difference by showing conventional ski school up/down – pole plant timing and then skating/dynamics down/up timing. When you “fall” laterally into a turn you come down (motorbike analogy) and you come up to complete it. When you skate the skating stride is down – up. They wed together in a natural rhythm and are the fundamental basis of skiing. In the third video clip with Don using dynamics intentionally at the end of the day this rhythm was starting to come through naturally. We need to remove the interference of the “pole plant” arm reach and corresponding rotational issues – but we will get around to that in good time.


Leg/boot alignment was checked indoors and appeared to be incorrect – with the boots not being enough on the inside edge. Tomorrow morning this will be adjusted. Also the heavy duty foot beds would be preventing the feet muscles and articulations from being used actively so it is better to replace then with the original footbeds. Alignment was checked when seated – legs unloaded and knees locked out – legs parallel with respect to hip width.

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