Before today’s warm up run I suggested to Victor that we try the slalom for Timothy. Timothy would either respond by becoming even more defensive – or it could work the other way and encourage him to be more assertive. The best strategy would be to go straight to the slalom stadium and use a fresh course where there would be no additional complications.
Rushing the Turn Starts – Perpendicularity – Line
During the warm up I had a look at the skiing and commented that Timothy had improved but was rushing the starts of his turns. The start of the turn should take the longer than the end because it is a spiral which tightens up towards the end. Timothy was effectively just trying to get his skis around beneath him on the mountain and was pushing the skis outwards to do so. I explained that when standing on the flat or across the hill we are vertical to gravity and 100% of gravity is resisted, stopping us from falling through the snow. When pointing down a slope a percentage of gravity (say 33% – actually Fg sin α where α is the slope angle) is used to accelerate us until matched by air resistance giving a constant speed – but the remainder acts perpendicularly to the slope (say 66% – Fg cos α). It’s like our entire world has moved into a new reference plane – exactly the same as when vertical but with reduced force beneath the feet. In both reference frames we are perpendicular to the ground. The point is that you have to remove the idea of uphill and downhill to a large extent and reference the slope to “perpendicular”. This mental reset helps to avoid rushing the start of the turn as you see it in your mind’s eye as being on flat ground.
Good skiers control speed through the use of “line” – not by braking. The skier may actually travel faster but by shaping the turns and completing them the time to get down the slope may be considerably longer. This of course is the basic principle of a race course which is set to determine a skier’s speed for a given discipline. The best skiers will all be within a few seconds of each other while negociating the complexities of the given line and using the least braking and most acceleration possible.
Timothy had a fast 29.33 seconds first run in the slalom and was clearly positive about attacking. In fact he would have to be slowed down at this stage to correct his technique. The slalom really showed up his lack of understanding of line and his strong tendency to brake for speed control. He was told to take a wide and high line to bring him directly close to and below each gate. The idea is to improve the technical skiing and forward speed even though it is a slow route. Once the technical skiing is stronger the line can be tightened up accordingly, more directly downhill and faster altogether. Timothy in the video is deliberately using this slow line, attempting to avoid rusing the starts of his turns and also trying to come over the lower ski with his centre of mass just after he passes beneath each gate. He does a good job but is still pushing out the skis and braking.
Timothy going sideways still half a mile from the gate!
Racing is essentially about carving as much as possible. This is not always achievable in Giant Slalom because men now have to race on 40m radius skis – but the principle remains. My feeling is that skiers should develop first on properly carving slalom skis giving clear feedback – and then learn to make the appropriate compensations for artificially limited GS skis. We started our carving exercises simply traversing holding the skis on their uphill edges (inside edges of both feet). Keeping the legs quite close together allows the two skis to be angled by almost the same amount. Part of the obvective was to use the fronts of the skis to carve – using the mechanisms we had already worked on during previous days. The start of a racing turn – where carving is possible – is aided by pressure on the front of the outside ski – pulling the skier into the turn. The main goal here was to move Timmothy away from his rushing of the starts of his turns. Although Timothy’s fist few traverses showed that he could not lock the skis on edge this rapidly changed and he managed good linked carved turns on flat and moderate terrain.
Despite Timothy’s carving he was rotating and failing to generate any hip angulation as a result. Racing requires good hip angulation to be able to generate greater edge angles and more agile movement of the body across the skis at turn transitions.
Victor has his legs too far apart and the outside leg is trailing. Unlike Timothy he almost has too much angulation. This is probably due to weight going onto the inside ski allowing too much angulation for the relatively low speed and turn tightness (not tight). Working on “Feet Forwards” technique would help to address this.
Timothy’s much improved perpendicular stance…
Using the Feet
Both Timothy and Victor had been complaining about having sore shins so we needed to spend some time looking at the support they were getting from the feet. “Shin Bang” really comes from allowing the ankle to go weak and flex inside the ski boot. The best way to strengthen the ankle is to stand on the front of the heel – right below the ankle bone. If weight is manitained there during bending (hips and knees) then the ankle reflexively stiffens and the anterior tibialis muscle tenses up (outside of the shin bone). With this stance the feet are also easily rolled from edge to edge.
Even better is standing on the balls of the feet – the heels raised – but this makes rolling of the feet and awareness of the adductor muscles a bit more complicated. The advantage of this stance however is that it pre-tensions all the muscles in the legs and protects the joints plus guarantees greater elasticity in movement. This is probably best reserved for more advanced skiing when there is already good control of the rolling of the feet and adductor muscle use.
Feet Forwards Technique – Generating Angulation and Stopping Rotation
Our video today finishes with a tricky exercise for pushing the outside foot forwards during the turn. The foot never gets in front of the other foot – it just tightens the turn instead. The exercise is hard to do because it involves coordination of the whole body and centre of mass. Using pole support the body is moved downhill with the feet facing across the hill. The outside boot is pulled over onto its inside edge and pushed forwards in a natural arc. When the boot faces straight downhill the centre of mass must start to move uphill so that angulation is created. All of this happens in a real turn and is very active. Timothy can be seen flattening his boot and letting the heel push outwards - not moving the centre of mass uphill and losing all angulation – exactly as he does in skiing. Due to this his hip comes outwards and he rotates instead of creating angulation. The message here above all else is “PULL IN” do not push outwards. Victor passed on my explanation about the illusion of “centrifugal force” by translating it into Russian. There is no “outwards force” and nothing to “brace against”. Everything in skiing is a deflection inwards (gravity later on in a turn is an exception to this). The ski deflects us inwards and we must work with it – moving the centre of mass inwards – pulling inwards with the legs and feet. The reason people fail to grip on ice is because they usually fail to perceive or do any of this at all. Timothy improved a lot and was able to stay behind me when skiing even on hard, icy terrain. Directing the centre of mass towards the inside of the skis is critical.
In preparation for tomorrow’s slalom training we worked on racing timing. Looking down a course the apex of each turn should be towards the outside of each pole not underneath it (The slow line I gave Timothy this morning has the apex below the pole). This generates a higher terminal velocity – but it is still controlled and permits a free-skier to travel very fast over bumps and in cruddy off-piste snow as well. The turns are simply not finished off to the same extent – but a racer has to be able to use both timings to cope with a complex race course where there are changes of line and rhythm.