Sunday, December 31, 2017

Alex winter race prep-day 5

Not a lot to say today. Alex’s training was a continuation of yesterday’s work due to being unable to set up a slalom course early on – not common these days to have excess snow problems! We focused on skiing on one ski to cultivate the movement pattern for completing a turn with the body coming over the “outside ski” – each second turn leaving no choice in the matter!!! Meanwhile we also worked on developing a clearer awareness of the “pivot” because Alex was automatically trying to force his tails out by rotating and twisting his foot – instead of directing his centre of mass – and when he at last “got it” he described the ski turning mechanism as “magic” – which tells me he got it right! Later on we were the only ones to actually set up a 15 gate slalom course and Alex applied some of his new found magic there.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Alex winter race prep-day 4

Short blog today – due to a 5 hr drive to get down the mountain due to moron drivers. Analysis encrypted…

Friday, December 29, 2017

Alex winter race prep-day 3

Alex weakened from his throat/chest cold and no sleep at all was barely hanging in today. We were surprisingly able to still carry out some constructive work that will definitely pay off – so it was worth all Alex’s effort.

The full technical report is in the encrypted file:

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Alex winter race prep–day 2

… hello rotation!

Alex was finding breathing very difficult due to his cold going to his chest – so we called off slalom and went off-piste instead, still working on technique. The analysis is in the encrypted link after the video…

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Alex winter race prep–day 1

The Bonnevie Stade in Val d’Isère is steep – which makes it tough for launching into a slalom course after being off skis for almost two months. Alex was rusty and reverting back to his defensive options – however he was able to identify by himself the key technical issues involved much more quickly and accurately than on previous occasions.

We didn’t video in slalom at this stage as Alex was correcting and making big changes on each run. I’d noticed early on that Alex was struggling to catch his breath after a run – which is not like him. Eventually – without too many runs in the course he was showing signs of exhaustion – due to being in recovery from a bad cold. We took it easy and stopped the slalom – working on some free skiing instead. The analysis from the free skiing and the slalom are contained in the encrypted file below.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Just stopped by the roadside to capture these photographs with the dramatic light and shade. Black and white shows up the contrast in this case far better than colour. The photographs were taken in B&W mode.

Monday, December 18, 2017

William, James, Johnny

All great skiers with great attitude!

I felt proud to ski with two boys that I taught who have retained everything. To ski so little and yet handle those conditions like that is great. However WTF are you doing with your ski poles William?

William’s dynamics are great in the deep snow. Judicious use of the mechanical pivot (from the skis not the legs) is also present. James nails it back on the piste with chopped up snow – avoiding overturning and using very good dynamics. Those chopped up conditions is where William needs to maintain his dynamics and avoid too much pivot.

Johnny’s skiing is very disciplined and tidy – as should be expected from someone with instructor training. All three boys have good athleticism and ability. For Johnny to develop his skills in interesting directions it’s worth observing the much greater dynamic range of the other boys here. They are not highly disciplined or trained skiers but this brings them a great liberty and capacity beyond the expectations of occasional recreational skiers. Here’s a photograph of Ted Ligety demonstrating standing upright, in balance and in a snowplough! (Right?) Refer to the fixed pages (accessed from the menu) for some technical explanations – or go through the blog to look at some relevant case studies – there is a lot of information available for anyone who is curious.

Johnny will be sent a carbon tax bill for all the CO2 he emitted and Anthropogenic Global Warming caused when overbreathing after climbing back uphill in the deep snow after damaging a hidden rock with his ski.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Lac d’Annecy

Water 3.2°C

Takes a while for the face and neck to get past the cold “burn” and feel comfortable. Just a thin wetsuit feels remarkably warm for swimming even at this temperature. My goal is working on swimming at the moment  - and it’s a choice between swimming or cold adaptation. Doing both doesn’t really work.

Christiane is just working on “cold adaptation” – where the cold strengthens the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system (vagal response).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

La Niña Effect

The start to this winter was predicted to be bitterly cold and with constant snow due to the La Niña in the Pacific ocean – which apparently caused a long warm and dry summer here. So far predictions appear to be accurate… The ski stations are struggling to open up fully due to the amount of snow and weather – and the associated high avalanche risks. We handled this today by sticking to moderate gradients at high altitude when off piste. Officially avalanche risk was posted as 4/5 above 2200m and 3/5 below but I think they got that the wrong way around. Temperatures were fluctuating wildly at the the lower altitudes (snow becoming damp and heavy) while slab accumulations at higher altitude from the wind were fairly obvious. The main problem is that the base layer all over is formed from a thin layer of snow transformed into hoar frost crystals (like ball bearings) due to and extended period of extreme cold, going below -20°C.

Just a few technical pointers here… You can see the head starting off the rotation of the upper body – blocking clean movements across the skis. Knowing that Haluk is aware of those issues it strikes me that the underlying reason they persist is due to overturning. I’ve linked a short Salomon video below with racers – there are two things to notice here:

  1. their turns have their apex out to the side and not below them on the mountain 
  2. the only technical issue mentioned is the need to feel pressure on the front of the ski!

Those two issues combine off piste (or anywhere else) to direct the skier without the need to crank the skis around below the body on the majority of turns. This allows the skis to run over just about anything – even in poor visibility – with far greater security for protection of joints and against accidents. Speed can be modulated by tightening the turn radius but without changing the basic form or timing. Control over this movement pattern is quickly lost if rotation is allowed to creep in. The upper body almost has to relate to the fall line – with the sensation that all its motion is either across the hill or directly in the fall line itself. The arc travelled is independent of the motions and impulses of the upper body. This gives the sensation (when there is good angulation/inclination) of the ski pointing downhill but the bending of the front of the ski pulling you across the hill. The sensation of turning in an arc to the inside of the ski is largely eliminated.

Although we were protecting our lives by avoiding unnecessary exposure to avalanche risk, protecting our knees and backs from wear and damage from poor ski technique and generally trying to improve in all those directions – there is perhaps an even more important aspect to skiing which is perhaps surprising – and that’s “longevity” itself. Watching through this next video clip reveals some interesting insight into the connection between lower body strength and longevity…

The following photos are taken in Panasonic’s unique 4K Photo mode (8mp at 30 images per second)  I’d used a “program” setting but the images would have been even clearer if I’d set the shutter speed instead – to 1/1000th (goes all the way to 1/16000th)

This is an experimental photo taken in 4K (8mp) post focus mode. The subject and background are all in focus due to the merging of several different images taken in rapid succession with focal/aperture settings. To get the backlit subject exposed correctly the background is relatively over exposed. I need to investigate to see if HDR (High Dynamic Range) multiple image mode can be combined with Post Focus mode!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Water 5°C

Water 5°C – not easy after an hour cycling at low temperatures.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Don (Short Turns)

Today’s video is of short turns – on moderate terrain. There are a lot of components and a great deal of body management – so in all fairness Don should have had a few opportunities to repeat this and to have been able to use video feedback on the mountain. Short turns on flattish terrain are actually quite tricky. Don’s steep skiing was much cleaner but we didn’t get that on video.


Following on from yesterday Don suggested working on short turns. The work we did for the steeps yesterday naturally leads into short turns but not without the addition of pivoting skills. Pivoting is tricky to learn and can be frustrating. Most people – even at a strong level of skiing fail to grasp the value of pivoting and that is largely due to modern ski design. Perhaps that’s why in racing the ski design is now being forced to return to less aggressive “shaped” skis and longer radius sidecuts. There is a complete section on pivoting here:

Don was taken through my standard pivoting exercises – where he was supported during pivoting on the uphill ski only. The goal here is to get the front of the ski sideslipping directly into a turn -  being supported from below either by me or a firmly planted ski pole. To get this right it needs angulation, a firm pole grip and to have the pole planted downhill and behind the feet. You effectively pivot around the pole. The pivot is controlled by the motion of the centre of mass moving downhill – modulated by using the ski pole. The ski pole prevents the body just falling downhill and through tension in the adductor muscles of the leg the force/motion of the centre of mass is used to pull the front of the ski into the turn in a controlled skid.  The ski comes around and the body must adapt with hip angulation to avoid being rotated – so remaining able to both complete the turn with the hip inside the turn (upper body facing downhill) and yet ready with the next pole already in place to lead the turn exit dynamics and flow into the next turn.

All turns in skiing other than pure carved racing turns involve an element of pivoting. People will do this unconsciously – yet will not be able to execute a pure pivot (from a sideslipping ski) when required. Most people however are taught a parody of the pivot – involving pushing out the tails of the skis – either by stemming or flicking the heels out to one side together. It usually takes a lot of work to correct those faults. Most people never feel the need to make those corrections but then find they cannot ski off piste, lose control in bumps and are annihilated on ice.

We had a few attempts at pivoting – which is best learned in small chunks to avoid frustration. I’d demonstrated the rapidity of pivoting by skiing on one ski with very short turns. I also demonstrated one ski “edge to edge” skiing with no pivot – so the difference in turn radius could be seen.

The pole is only used for support in pivoting – and its dependence vanishes as the skis gain forward speed – which engages other ski mechanics (lifting up power of the skis).

Angulation (Carving)

After a drinks break we returned to flat terrain to repeat the work we had done on angulation yesterday. Don was feeling a bit saturated with all the things he was trying to do so this would clarify issues for him. This time I held Don in the hybrid-plough so that he could actively pull the “outside” ski onto its inside edge while moving his pelvis over the top of the inside ski (brining the hip in and creating hip angulation). This time Don was able to hold a solid edge and get the ski to carve during the exercise.

We took the angulation further into carving by using a parallel wide stance and repeating the same set of movements – this time minus the “wedge”. The idea was to get the outside ski to carve due to hip angulation without the contortion of holding the horrible, demented plough shape.

Short Turns

Bringing it all together – the angulation and the pivoting – Don was much more able to execute rhythmic short turns with his pole (aided by angulation and control of rotation) leading him from turn to turn much better.

Don also looked much more controlled on the steeps on his last run – while remaining fluid. He lost some control once but had correctly stopped to “reset” and then carried on.

La Grande Motte

Monday, December 4, 2017

Don (Angulation)

Magic Wall – Fronts of Skis

Today began with a warm up run over to Val d’Isère during which I had noticed that Don was not shaping his turns properly – by not using the uphill ski for grip and pressure at the start of the turn. We revised “Turn Entry Dynamics” – the “Magic Wall” to make sure Don felt the connection between the direct acceleration of the body (into the turn) and the pressure on the uphill ski. Don pointed out that the previous time he skied with me he had managed to make progress in this direction through our focus on using the fronts of the skis. When you send the centre of mass downhill – followed by the ski changing direction this automatically centres you on the middle/fronts of the skis during the turn. However to get strong pressure on the front of the ski to use the whole front half of the ski for directional effect at the start of the turn (like car steering with the front wheels) you often need to move forwards towards the ski tips at the same time as moving downhill. This modification to the trajectory of the centre of mass did work for Don and he started properly using the ski through the first half of the turns. For the moment the upper body was more or less facing the same direction as the travel of the skis – so “forwards” was obvious (not so obvious when there is upper/lower body separation!).

Consistent Control on Steeps

Stopping for a break and to warm up the feet Don clarified that his objective was to ski steeps consistently in control. I was in full agreement with that and it fitted perfectly with my observation that he really had to improve his hip angulation and control of rotation so the rest of the session would be to tackle this issue head on. This had been my original intention for the day until spotting the other issue – which was important to address first anyway. Don’s quads were worn out yesterday due to not using the fronts of the skis enough. I had thought yesterday the “being back” was only an issue for him on the steeps – but it was more prevalent than that even if not clearly visible.

I’ve found over the years that the best way to get people to feel hip angulation is to use a hybrid snowplough – with the weight on the inside ski and flattening it by moving the body (pelvis) over it – pulling the outside ski onto its edge. The hard part is avoiding the upper body from rotating to follow the skis as the turn comes to completion across the hill and this needs the body to bend in ever increasing amounts at the hip joint (outside ski). Don is doing this exercise on the start of today’s video clip. The full exercise is shown here below… including starting with the outside ski behind the body!

Don’s second video clip shows the improved angulation in his general skiing – but we still had to add one thing before making this effective on steep slopes. Foot Forward technique had to be introduced. There is a good video with Mark yesterday doing this so I didn’t film it today. We initially did the exercise on flat snow and Don could feel the co-ordination centering around the hip joint. Moving onto steeper snow there has to be an active effort at the end of the foot swing to stop rotation and the body coming out of the centre. This was done to emphasize the need to work harder at the end of the turn to deal with the geometry of the mountain and build up of forces.

It occurred to me that I should really have 3 phases of dynamics in my teaching – the “Turn Entry”, “Turn Development” and “Turn Exit”. Here we are concerned with the mechanism of “Turn Development”. The increased hip angulation is necessary to prevent unwanted rotation of the upper body.

Don could feel the reactivity of the ski and the support from pushing the foot forward. (the bare boot on the snow develops the feeling of pushing in the exercise)

The final video clips are Don putting this together on steeps and learning how to exploit it. If you make a mistake and pick up speed – then bail out by checking the speed and then resume – don’t pretend all is acceptably well and allow the extra speed to continue. Skiing is all about the discipline of shaping turns in a functional manner.

Note that with this new level of upper/lower body separation the torso is facing downhill during turn transitions – so moving forward onto the front of the ski needs to keep this in mind. There are of course subtleties involved in handling this that we are not quite yet ready to look at.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Don & Mark part 2

Mark, remember I said a few days ago that getting the body functioning correctly automatically puts the hands and arms in the right place? Well, when working on the Foot Forward technique in the first frame of the video here – you weren’t even thinking about the arms – and for the first time they were in the right place (not so when skiing!).

Don suggested a tour to the far reaches of Val d’Isère, partly to escape the vast hoards of really badly skiing students who had just been bussed into Tignes. With clear skies and no wind he couldn’t be refused. However this did mean that there would be less time spent on technical work. Along the way we did manage a little bit of technical input. Mark did a good job of skiing in my line to get the sense of shaping the turns and avoiding rushing the starts (ie. flicking the tails around to get the skis below you and brake etc). I explained the need to mentally remove gravity from the picture and imagine the terrain surface to be flat and level – then to think how the ski would be used the same from the start of the turn to the end. Einstein’s Relativity shows that gravity is not a force – it is a geometrical effect – and we can play with this geometry. In outer space you would consider yourself floating – but even falling of a cliff is identical – with only air resistance giving a sensation (and the splat when you hit the deck). In skiing our universe tilts on its axis to the perpendicular of the slope. We either enter this amazing new universe or we fight it and remain vertical “normies”.  Vertical skiing is the sport’s equivalent of chronic political correctness – fine for the professionally offended millennial generation (there is no wrong way to ski etc.) – but nobody else. “Triggered” skiing is immortalized here in song… it’s very tiring and “there ain’t no rest”…

In the video Mark was a left leg normie – due to the left leg being tired – but the other leg was getting it right.

Meanwhile Don was having a Tartiflette moment. The trouble with eating Savoyard food is that it induces hibernation – particularly at this time of year.

Mark will remember the Foot Froward lesson from the video without me explaining too much here. He picked it up very quickly. He could feel the increased “solid” grip and the tighter turning. Pushing the foot forward doesn’t make the foot go ahead when skiing – it tightens the turn instead – just increasing reactivity and decreasing turn radius. We looked at the issue of “rotation” and how it makes this Foot Froward action impossible – the body having to be placed facing downhill – and how the action is exactly like a skating action – totally on one leg from start to finish.

We all made it back together  to Tignes with time to spare – Don appearing to have a second wind as the Tartiflette began to wear off.

Mark – remember to take out your inner-boots and dry them in your room each night when skiing – gets easy with practice!