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