Kerim, Alp and Lal are all 11 years old – so that’s a good age to start taking on board some real coaching. Not having skied for a year we first of all had a couple of warm up runs in the Training Zone (closed off green run). Alp was much dismayed that he couldn’t go straight to either the snowpark to jump or straight down the Olympic black run on the Face de Bellevarde – but it was clear that he was being slightly over-enthusiastic at this point. The best way to test someone’s understanding is to ask a few simple questions – like… “How long do you think it takes the racers to ski from the top of this mountain back down to the village on the Face race course? “. The two answers were 2 hours and 1 hour! (1 min 50secs is the right answer – and 4 minutes on a mountain bike in the summer!) When I asked for someone to explain how to ski – there were two briefly mumbled attempts and then complete silence.
Here’s all three during our second warm up run and all looking a bit wobbly at this stage…
Alp is in the backs of his ski boots, he stems, rotates (upper body into the turn) and throws in a huge braking action especially at the end of his right turns. There’s an almost complete absence of dynamics and he pushes his skis outwards in his braking action and during the turns. Turn initiations are snatched and rushed and his inside arm tends to end up behind him during the turns.
Kerim is slightly on the backs of his boots but at least manages to avoid rotation – though he has no upper/lower body separation. He has no use of dynamics and is pushing his outside leg away – sometimes stemming and nearly always making the leg rigid as a result. He actually has a good natural timing which will have to be developed.
Lal is very insecure – standing on two feet – hard on the backs of the ski boots, stemming and rotating, no use of dynamics.
Dynamics, Skating and Pivoting
I decided that as they could all ski it was best to start with dynamics to try to increase confidence quickly. The top of this blog has links to fixed pages for each of these three subjects – the skating being referred to as “Beginners” and the other subject headers being more obvious. I won’t repeat all the detail here.
For dynamics we used the “Magic Wall” explanation and everyone got it – Kerim was first to get it right. All three found it made their skiing feel much easier – as of course it should do because it is extremely fundamental and none were using this key aspect of movement until now.
For skating Alp was shown briefly how to skate more strongly – but it would help even more if he finished his hamburger at lunch. If nothing else just eating a bit more would give him the weight the needs to go faster on the flats – so then less skating would be necessary! The key here was to get everyone feeling the inside edges of their feet and to begin to become aware of their bodies. To hold a ski on edge it is necessary to stand on the edge of the foot because the edge of the ski is displaced to the inside. Good mechanics requires both feet to remain on their inside edges with the adductor muscles on the inside of both upper legs pulling inwards. We worked on this for a while. The skating action also helps to take the skier off the backs of the ski boots and we discussed this issue – transferring pressure to the shins with the adductors pulled inwards.
Having already learned to move the centre of mass (near the belly button) into the turn (trying to fall over against the magic wall) the idea was to roll the foot over in the same direction – to the inside edge. This was the beginning of learning to “pull inwards” – the opposite of all the stemming and pushing the skis sideways outwards etc. Until now even the centre of mass had been going outwards and then everything else was just a compensation.
Lal was keen to learn how to turn very rapidly so we had a go at the “pivot” – which is essentially using the outside ski on its outside edge to initiate a turn. You simply cannot do this and push the ski outwards away from the body – you can only pull inwards following the centre of mass. I demonstrated then helped each skier physically through a pivot on one ski so they could feel it correctly. It’s good to start all of this right from day one because it then has time to sink in during the week as pivoting skill takes practice – as do all “pulling in” actions. Their original teaching had all been with “snowplough” which trains the use of the wrong muscle groups – pushing out – and the wrong overall mechanics – leading to “balancing” on two feet instead of disequilibrium and dynamics – the “magic wall”.
Alp understood the criticism about the “braking” and that he should look for speed control from the turn shape and line instead.
All three were told to focus on the body at all times – not on external distractions. Fear especially comes from being focused on distractions and is overcome by pulling the focus back into the body. Feet, Adductors, Centre of Mass, Pulling Inwards – those have to be the key focus. Learning to be mindful doesn’t only develop skill it develops a discipline that never becomes boring, frustrating or limiting.
Less wobbly here after working on new skills for a while – but most changes are progressive and take time – though they might already feel radical to the skier.