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