David’s only experience of skiing prior to today was on indoor snow in England – not managing to turn confidently in a snowplough. We started over from scratch – in the sun at the top of the Solaise.
Prior to going out on the snow we went indoors and removed the ski boots to look at how the feet work. First of all David flexed normally with weight distributed over the whole foot and he could feel the ankle bend. Placing the weight directly beneath the ankle on the front of the heel, bending was totally different with the ankle reflexively tensioning – leaving the bending to the hips and knees. With weight on the heel you can also accurately feel the foot rolling from edge to edge due to the function of the subtaler joint between the heel and the ankle. In contrast attempting to roll the feet on edge with the ankle flexed just causes the knee to be levered from side to side with a dangerous twisting action. Rolling both feet on to their inside edges activates the adductor muscles on the insides of the legs – this playing a key role in skiing. In skiing we want the ankle strong and the feet to roll on edge – both feet inwards.
The reason the adductor muscles and feet edges need to be used is because the edge of the ski is not centered beneath the middle of the foot – it is displaced far to the inside. The sk iactually works by lifting the skier up – but if those adductors are not employed then the ski just flattens on the snow instead. This actually turned out to be a hard area for David to work on because he had a tendency to allow his knees to bow outwards – probably pulled outwards by the skis flattening. I checked the equipment/leg alignment indoors and there was no trace of bowleggedness or misalignment – so this issue is caused by a habit – not by bone structure. (This may be occuring at the hip joints)
The shaft of the boot running up the leg is what really stops the ski from flattening – and this is dependent on the lateral stiffness of the ski boot. The feet and adductors just assist holding the skeleton in place with the bones stacking up correctly.
Skating in circles – One ski – Two skis
The action of skating – with skis diverging – helps to promote correct body mechanics and coordination. Grip with the ski edges is essential so if a person cannot skate they will not ski. We began by going round in a circle with just the outside ski (relative to the circle) on and stepping inwards to turn incrementally. The goal was to get used to the ski and how to use it to displace the centre of mass. There is a full section about this on a fixed page in this blog; http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/beginners.html David rapidly improved for all the exercises.
Skating in circles to learn how to change direction with the centre of mass was continued with two skis on.
Straight line skating was also strengthened with an exercise where David had to push me along on the flats. Acceleration in skating is achieved by continuing this process without the weight in front. In fact the forward propulsion actually comes from gravity – repeated falling forwards actions.
We worked on side–stepping both uphill and downhill on a short steep section.
To proceed from here we would have to descend back down to the main beginner’s facilities and slopes at the bottom of the Solaise.
Instruction recommenced with simple straight running and an explanation of “perpendicular” and “vertical”. The feeling when standing across the hill and so vertical to gravity is exactly the same as when standing perpendicular to the slope when sliding downhill. You adjust to the slope and do not try to “lean forwards” relative to the skis and boots. Initially David reflexively moved into vertical when straight running downhill but he soon corrected this once it was explained.
Straight running into stepping/skated turn
Changing direction from the straight running was first accomplished in both directions by skating out of the fall line.
Straight running into parallel turn
Within no time David was able to make a turn just by moving the centre of mass in the direction of the intended turn – instead of actually stepping. His first attempt at a parallel turn was successful.
The button lift was mastered without incident and this brought to an end the tiring need to climb uphill – though at the initial stages the climbing served to develop a feel for the ski edges and coordination.
The chairlift was once again handled without any problems – despite it having a tricky acceleration on the exit. The path down from the chairlift is normally descended by snowploughing but David easily mastered the art of controlling his speed thorugh the use of diverging skis instead!
Parallel Turns – Dynamics
Parallel turns were worked on by engaging the uphill leg (adductors/inside edge of the foot) and standing up on that leg prior to moving the centre of mass into the new turn. David had mixed success with this due to his tendency to let the knees come outwards and skis flatten. There was a supporting explanation and static exercise for dynamics (including the Magic Wall) http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/dynamics.html
Correction for the apparent bowleggedness was introduced by moving onto the front of the foot, pressing against the shin and pulling the knee directly inwards. This is an attempt to correct or compensate for an inappropriate habit and appears to be effective.
We worked on “pulling in” as a counter to the illusion of “centrifugal force”. All actions through a turn should be pulling in towards the centre but most people instinctively push outwards instead.
The skis were too long to allow clear feedback so I requested that they be changed for tomorrow.
Traversing – Side-slipping
Traversing was worked on including carving with the edges locked on solidly. Side-slipping was introduced by moving the body out over the downhill ski to flatten the the skis enough to remove the grip.
The tendency to twist the ski into the turn was one of the obstacles David encountered. This is partly a result of the introduction he had previously had to “snowplough”. The ski is controlled by the centre of mass and the other actions which support the movement of the centre of mass. The ski turns you – not the other way around.
Pushing outwards – also a derived from the snowplough was another obstancle already mentioned here – but this too has a defensive emotional element.
Collapsing the supporting leg and falling onto the inside leg: This is a normal issue for beginners because it takes a measure of overriding of the emotions to stand solidly on the uphill leg and then allow the body to fall downhill.