Demet’s session began indoors at the Blizzard hotel where we took a moment to look at the feet and how to use them properly in the ski boots. The most useful way to develop the appropriate skills is to stand on the front of the heels directly below the ankle joints. This stance permits the subtaler joints between the heels and ankles to roll the feet onto their edges effectively – those edges corresponding to the edges of the skis. Secondly, when bending the legs this stance causes the ankles to stiffen, with the anterior tibialis (shin muscles) contracting and locking the ankle joint – into the same forward lean as the ski boot! Most people actually stand in the middle of the feet and allow the ankles to collapse and erroneously use the ski boots for support instead. Bending the correct way involves only the knees and hips. (This is the default stance for initial development – but it is far from the only way available to constructively use the feet.)
The correct stance for nearly all skiing requires both feet to be rolled onto their inside edges simultaneously and for the adductor muscles (inside of upper legs) to be contracted. Many people teach the rolling of one foot onto the outside edge while the other is on the inside edge but for reasons I won’t attempt to explain here this turns out to be incorrect.
Bone structure and boot alignment were checked while in the hotel and Demet has good natural alignment – the supplied equipment not requiring any adjustment.
On the slopes I checked Demet’s skiing and found her to be a snowpougher and definitely currently limited to green runs at best. The snowplough is taught all round the world but unfortunately it is totally retrograde and disruptive – so the first decision to be made was whether or not to completely start from square one or to try to make use of Demet’s current mobility. I chose the latter. She did two warm up runs to get her skiing legs back and for me to assess how she was reacting and coping with things. The goal would be to eliminate the snowplough as rapidly as possible.
Prior to skating I asked Demet, when standing with the skis parallel across the hill, to simply roll the downhill foot onto its inside edge and use this to side step uphill. This was then repeated while traversing forwards. The next exercise was to point downhill slightly on a very gentle inclination and to step out of the direction across the hill by diverging the skis – lifting the tip of the right ski first when going right and effectively changing direction by stepping – or skating.
When skating on the flats Demet had to be asked to roll both feet on to their inside edges – and she was surprised at the difference this made to her ability to skate. For a while we practised just sliding parallel downhill and skating out of the fall line across the hill.
Demet was shown how the skis can turn quickly without having to be pushed outwards onto their inside edges in a snowplough. Pivoting was demonstrated and then Demet was assisted through a pivoted turn – standing on her uphill ski – uphill ski edge – lower (inside) edge of the foot – and then held through one complete pivot. The point of showing this early was to explain that when traversing the hill all that is necessary to begin a turn downhill is to stand on the uphill ski and allow the body to fall slightly downhill – then the skis start to pivot and change direction dowhill – with no plough required.
We then worked from traversing starting a pivot downhill and then skating back up to the traverse again before crossing the fall line. This permits a full new set of skills to be worked on without the fear of crossing the fall line and over-accelerating. It encourages both pivoting and skating – both controlled by the motion of the centre of mass.
Parallel Turns (Dynamics)
The first parallel turns were done just using the ski poles to get the skis pointing downhill in a stationary position. Then once some speed was built up, instead of skating (which permits a small fall in the direction of turning) the idea was just to let the body fall slight in the direction of turning – supported by the outside foot being rolled onto its inside edge). Prior to doing this Demet was give a short explanation of dynamics by pushing her shoulder against mine and feeling the pressure on the outside leg as a result. (Full details of “Dynamics” can be found in the fixed page accessed from the top of the blog). This static exercise allowed her to feel how she had to move her body and gave a clue as to what to feel at the level of the feet. (Skis are controlled by the motion of the centre of mass)
Stage two of parallel turning is to then link up turns on gentle gradients with shallow turns (not going too much across the fall line). Both feet are held on their inside edges to support the dynamics. This was about as far as Demet managed to get today with a good level of success – before tiredness became obvious! There is a great deal of concentration required and making such fundamental changes is a lot to ask of anyone.
Moving onto steeper slopes predictably caused Demet to become defensive and to immediately revert to her plough and stemming of the skis – twisting the feet in an attempt to turn the skis – instead of using the centre of mass and supporting it correctly at the feet.
Making constructive use of this situation is possible only through giving physical support. Demet was asked to hold onto my ski pole which was held across her for her to hold onto firmly. Turning to the left she had to lift her left foot and stand firmly on the right ski – which allowed her to feel how strongly the commitment to the outside ski really needs to be. Holding the pole allowed her to be taken at the appropriate speed required for the steeper gradients. Dynamics only works with some speed – like with the riding of a bicycle.
If left on her own it is very important for Demet not to rush the development of her new skills and to stay only on those gentle gradients where she feels confident both straight running and properly using dynamics and parallel turning. The defensive plough actions must be avoided completely. Progress would be more rapid if supported one-on–one at this stage but either way there are suitable slopes at the top of the Solaise.