Monday, February 27, 2017

Don, Jennifer, Marcia, Wade Day 3

Wade was out before the start with a twinging knee from yesterday’s misadventure. Fortunately it doesn’t appear to be anything serious but it’s best to aim for rest and recovery – with lots of ice! 

Photograph on the Pissalias glacier…



My Homework

For my own homework I had to find out what “Motte” means regarding La Grande Motte. It’s just French for a flat topped mound. Also the origin of the English “moat” where a castle is built on a mound with water surrounding it.

Wikipedia had the answer for the meaning of “Isère” from Val d’Isère…

[Quote]… The name Isère was first recorded under the form Isara, which means "the impetuous one, the swift one."[3] Not originally a Celtic word, it was very likely assimilated by the Celts in ancient times. This word is related to the Indo-European *isərós, meaning "impetuous, quick, vigorous," which is similar to the Sanskrit isiráh with the same definition.[4] It was probably based on the reconstructed Indo-European root *eis(ə) (and not *is), which incidentally has not been found in the Celtic languages of the British Isles.[4]

The word Isara figures in the etymology of many other river names, from ancient Gaul and its neighboring lands. Examples of this are the Isar River in Germany, the small Franco-Belgian Yser River, or even the ancient name of the Oise River, Isara (the French adjective isarien still exists in the language and continues to describe anything related to the Oise). In non-Celtic countries, we find the Isarco, a river in Northern Italy, the Éisra and Istrà in Lithuania,[4] and the Jizera in the Czech Republic.

The Isère's course measures 286 kilometers (178 miles)[1] and runs through a wide variety of landscapes: from its source near the Italian border in the western Alps, it crosses the Pays de Savoie and the Tarentaise Valley, cuts between the Chartreuse and Belledonne mountain ranges, follows the Vercors Massif, passes through the Dauphiné province, and finally meets with the Rhône at the foot of the Vivarais.

Lower Isère valley (basse vallée de l'Isère) in the north of the Plain of Valence.

The upper valley of the Isère is called the Tarentaise, and its middle valley the Grésivaudan. …[Unquote]



Shaping the Turns

Stable, warm weather meant the Val d’Isère Pissalias glacier was our destination for today. Watching everyone skiing it seemed appropriate to work a little on context and strategy rather than specifically on techinque. Even the steepness of the glacier was exposing a loss of control of line and speed common to all three skiers. Some of the problem was definitely technical but most of it was lack of awareness of how to use “line” and how to shape turns to control speed and also how to develop and exploit the forces in the turns.

We began by sidestepping uphill. Both feet were on their inside edges but both skis were on their uphill edges. The uphill foot therefore had the foot on its lower edge but the ski on its upper edge. This separation of the edges of the foot and ski is very important: It’s the basis of successful edge control for pivoting. The ski is prevented from flattening by the vertical shaft of the boot against the leg – and the lateral stiffness of the ski boot. Sidestepping was just being used to develop this feel.

From sidestepping uphill we moved on to skating across the hill while stepping up onto the uphill ski with each skate. Our aim was to stand up on the uphill ski (uphill edge) after the final skate onto it and fall downhill with the centre of mass into a turn. The ski being on its uphill edge and being solidly stood on means that there is no way it can be pushed away outwards – it can only be pulled into the new turn. In addition the lower ski is lifted so it can’t be used as a platform to push that top ski outwards either. By the means detailed above a turn is made with full committment to standing on that one ski – especially through the start of the turn.

During the skating the ski tips are diverging and this also works against the tendency to stem with converging ski tips. We skied for a short while with reducing the skates to two and then one at the end of each turn – to try to return to the natural skating rhythm of skiing.

Good skiers don’t brush off speed, they take a line that meanders down the mountain by crossing the slope and almost turning back up the hill – building forces through angulation to close off the turn and then using those forces to lift the centre of mass up and out of the turn and over the downhill ski with stability – into the next turn – while simply standing now on the new uphill leg. There’s no “weight transfer” there’s just a change of leg and commitment to a new outside leg. There’s a "pressure” transfer though and this can be enhanced by really stomping the new uphill leg into the snow as the body prepares to move downhill.

Later on with Marcia I asked her to angulate – (statically) holding her ski pole across in front of her -  pulling against me. The point is that it’s not “pulling against” me that counts – during a turn it would be a pulling into the turn to resist the effects of gravity toppling you out of the turn and the ski lifting you up – building up forces and directing you consequently across the hill. You only release those forces when you are almost turning back up the hill. This way you can feel all the components of body mechanics, the overall motion and the effects of the skis – and this demonstrates real mindful and effective skiing.


Don’s “near miss”

When everyone skied down being filmed there was anything but mindful skiing going on. Don had a spectacular “near miss” which we won’t mention other than in the context of mindfulness. Real mindfulness not only makes the turns fiercely controlled but it enhances awareness of your surrounds – it doesn’t generate tunnel vision. There’s a tendency for people when being filmed to be focused on “doing their best” for the camera. The focus is not directed internally and on feelings and the result is very clear. While Don narrowly avoided catastrophy the others were not a whole lot better. Earlier Don had been the one shaping his turns the best – so perhaps tiredness was creeping in.

Jennifer pulled herself back by focusing on dynamics – as on day one – but also by realising that this is also what committment to the outside leg is all about. She repeated the static exercise of pushing against my shoulder to feel the solid pressure on her outside leg.

In the video Marcia was working hard here on her line and on developing her turn purposefully. She was more mindful and focused internally than before. In the sencond clip she loses angulation due to anxiety – but this is because of the emotional anticipation of skidding sideways and so throwing out the bottom to protect defensively. This is a vicious cycle of events promoted by her previous stemming. Practice of good movement patterns on easy terrain will help to overcome all of this – but turns must be shaped and those who just bomb down the fall line skidding must just be allowed to disappear into the distance for the meantime.



Who has her bottom sticking out (turning to the right) ? Who has “angulation”?



Sunday, February 26, 2017

Don, Jennifer, Wade, Marcia Day 2

Today my plans were hijacked when we were diverted by Don into addressing “angulation” during our warm up run. Wade went off with Philippe – the living Duracell Bunny – to test his own batteries to destruction.



ChiSkiing (Angulation)

All three, Don, Jennifer and Marcia were having issues with angulation however this is really a tricky subject to teach correctly to a group – because each person can bring different complications to the table. The hip joints and lower back are key areas for postural control so each person can have a lifetime of baggage to be dealt with there that has nothing even to do with skiing.

The first thing here is to prioritise the protection of the lower back. Normally people are taught to face the shoulders downhill. Inevitably the outside ski coming around the turn will pull the outside hip in front of the ribs and slightly twist the spine by turning the whole pelvis in this direction against the shoulders. When there is load on the body at the same time this collapses the posture and exposes the lower back to serious risk – and it also produces very ineffective angulation and can introduce “hip rotation” problems and poor turn transitions.


Here is a video of me demonstrating this (inappropriate, incorrect and dangerous) standard ‘'”Upper/Lower Body Separation” as taught by national ski teaching systems around the world…


The next version demonstrated is the ChiSkiing version – the principles being take from ChiRunning and applied directly to skiing.

Pulling back the hip so that it counter rotates the base of the spine to the turn allows the postural muscles to be activated under load. We carried out the “load testing” static exercise so that everyone ould feel the lower abdomen contract.

Pulling back the hip during turn transition and then holding it back for the whole turn evolution directly improves turn transition and Don remarked how he felt better edging without even consciously trying to “angulate”.


Correct “Chi” generation of hip angulation… (It takes careful observation to see the difference visually)


Foot Forwards

When using dynamics in skiing (when the skis are moving forwards) there are two ways to alter turn raduis; increase the dynamics or push the outside foot forwards. When on steeps both of those strategies are employed. We used a static exercise to cultivate the feeling for pushing forwards – but this is not on film here. The exercise is to scribe an arc on the snow with the inside edge of a ski boot – using one leg as a prop and the outer leg swinging around. Tomorrow we will stop and video this for the record. This is a good exercise for Jennifer because it exposed her tendency to twist the leg and foot rather than swing it through an arc with the foot held on edge.

Applying this provides more grip in short turns – but later on I saw a couple of times that Don’s skis were still running away with him so for him the key issue was likely to be that he was not using the fronts of his skis. Before working on using the fronts of the skis we have to do some work on angulation, dynamics and foot forward technique – so events were moving in the right direction.


Turn Exit Dynamics (Perpendicularity)

Today it was important to introduce the second main part of dynamics to the group – even though information overload was already threatening. Using dynamics to get out of a turn is just as important as it is for getting into a turn. Off Piste it is even more important.

We used “hanger” turns to explore this principle – completing the turn by supporting the body on the downhill leg until it came right out into “neutral” momentarily with the skis flat across the slope and the body perpendicular to the slope. Hanger turns exaggerate this effect but are good for demonstrating and making it obvious.

Everyone got the dynamics both into and out of the turn. The foot is kept on its inside edge all the way through the turn – whether the centre of mass is moving into or out of the turn the foot and adductors remain the same because they are really concerned with the integrity of the body and posture.

The aim of introducing this principle now is to eliminate the tendency to use the downhill ski as a platform for stemming out the uphill ski – which is a defensive alternative way of making a turn transition but extremely inefective in comparison – especially off piste or on ice.

The perpendicularity of “neutral” helps the skier to be on the front of the ski as it tilts downhill for the next turn.


Pivot  The link here gives a detailed explanation of pivoting and how and why it builds important skills.

Everyone tried skiing on one ski only but nobody could get anywhere close to success – and this is specificially due to the lack of pivoting skills and the edge control required and developed through pivoting.

Jennifer was assisted through a nice pivot and felt the mechanism clearly. Marcia revolted. Don grumbled but still managed a half decent pivot on his own. I’m sure he will come to appreciate this over time!


The following video shows one version of Short Swings – a training exercise used to develop good technical form …


The next video shows one reason why we learn such things… Steeps …


Here is a single pivoted compression turn as used for mogul (bumps) skiing…


Fronts of Skis

Thankfully we had enough time to directly address the issue of Don getting stuck on the backs of his skis. The best way to tackle this is to go directly  for the jugular and lean forwards like Superman – almost breaking out of the bindings at the backs. The first thing is to learn to identify the feel of the fronts of the ski so you just ski on gentle terrain cranked right forwards. The heels almost pull out of the boots and you will end up on your toes – but that’s fine because the ankles are definitely not collapsing!

I demonstrated to Don how the aim is to angulate (during a turn) to stay forwards in the fronts and have the resultant force through the centre of mass coming frrom the middle of the front of the ski – driving you around in a turn. This morning I demonstrated how a seated stance – bottom up the hill – always kept the pressure forwards as the turn developed – but without risk of being pitched over the fronts of the skis. (Without angulation – bottom facing across the slope – weight falls back on the tails of the skis as the turn progresses)

It’s fine standing up and leaning forward against the boot with the foot extended inside the ski boot – though control of edging of the foot and sensing the adductors is lost to some degree (at least at early stages of development).

Both Don and Marcia significantly improved their feel for the skis and their stance. Marcia’s skiing is alreaady looking totally different and Don’s stance now looks far more natural and relaxed.



From the top of the Bellevarde…

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Don, Jennifer, Wade, Marcia

The decision was made for the ladies to focus on instruction and remain with Don for the day while Wade would take advantage of the fresh covering of powder with Phillipe. We had an easy warm up run on the Vert and then began to separate after going up the Borsat lift. I took a second run to observe and get a clear idea of how Don, Jennifer and Marcia were skiing.




Don had clearly improved since his December skiing and the technique difference was obvious. Jennifer and Marcia would need to learn dynamics from scratch but each was likely to respond differently so I took time to study their movements. Both were sometimes stemming on the steeper slopes and the predominant action was always pushing the skis outwards and missing the starts of the turns – all the result of standard ski instruction.



The introduction to dynamics was carried out with my standard procedure – explanation, static exercise and then single turns across the hill from the fall line.

The full details of dynamics are given here in this fixed page – also accessed from the tab at the top of the blog… Details of the exercises are described under the subheading “The Magic Wall”. For children I tell them tha when they slide forwards an invisible wall appears either side of their body – and if they really believe in it then they can push hard against this wall and will lean against it but never fall over. The invisible wall always protects them – but they must actually try to fall and trust it 100%.

This is only the first part of dynamics but it’s where people begin to understand the great fallacy of “balance”. Marci found it a bit confusing initially but she asked appropriate questions and gradually the issues were clarified. Jennifer immediately noticed that much less energy was expended when skiing with dynamics. I explained on the charilift that the reason for the relaxation when using dynamics is that it permits selective muscle use. When the Centre of Mass moves the wrong way (to the outside of the turn) then all the muscles in the legs are activated due to the conflict in mechanics and so you are fighting against yourself.


Feet and Adductors

For rapidity I only demonstrated how to use the feet with one boot off and everyone watching instead of copying.

  1. Pressure beneath the ankle – front of the heel
  2. Flexing at the knees and hips with the anterior tibialis (shin muscle) activated and strong ankle
  3. Rocking the foot onto its inside edge with the subtaler joint (between the ankle and heel)
  4. Activating the adductor muscles (inside of upper legs) though the rocking of the foot
  5. Connecting – Centre of Mass, adductors, rocking of the foot – all pulling into the new turn

Dynamics is next to impossible if there is not a good support base to work from. Those taught to push inwards with the big toe are going to have the foot flattening, the ski twisting and being torqued into the turn with the knee falling inwards and being made vulnerable to injury. The foot in contrast is best operated from the heel initially so as to develop the rocking action related to skating and to sense the adductors.

Think in the order: Centre of Mass – Adductors – foot starting your movement from the centre.



Skating was introduced without much introduction. I explained the connection between the down/up timing of the dynamics (inverted pendulum) and the down/up timing of the legs in skating. The idea was to skate downhill directly and when speed built up then fall inwards between the skis to increase dynamics – progressively converting the skating into skiing – maintaining the same rhythm with the legs. This can help people to rapidly see the natural rhythm and resonance that skiing is really based upon. Skis have been manufactured since the 1960s to function with this movement – unfortunately schools have never taught it – yet racers who ski in poles discover it for themselves – at least the very small percentage who survive do.

Jennifer was good at this and for Marcia there was a breakthrough connection made through the feeling of skating.

Skiing is fundamentally a combination of dynamics and skating.



Perhaps the most important part of our process here is to use the focus on the body to develop the habit of mindfulness. All of the movements that cause trouble in skiing are emotionally driven (twisting, pushing, braking, forcing and avoiding dynamics). Many of those actions are unfortunately also taught in ski schools. Those defensive actions are our primary response and totally unconscious for the most part. We use our conscious  focus to override all of this and progressively retrain the unconscious mind to new responses and actions – skills – which eventually end up unconscious and automatic themselves.

Mindfulness – focus within the body – calms the mind from all external distraction and actually permits a better connection with the outside world though a more relaxed body and greater awareness. We can only achieve this state when the movements we are working on literally make sense to our senses. This is how skiing becomes a regererative act and endlessly interesting – instead of frustrating, tiring and all too frequently disappointing for many people.




Studying the video it’s clear that the fronts of Don’s skis are flapping about in the air – so we need to get more over the fronts and use the fronts of the skis. This can sometimes be seen to send Don into the backs of his ski boots and cause his outside ski to flatten (not in the video). Dynamics are strong but the evolution of the turn is compromised by lack of angulation.

Jennifer – foot twisting and knee falling into the turn is too clearly observed for comfort. Dynamics are reasonable but compromised by rushing the start of the turn. There is a twisting of the spine with the shoulders trying to face downhill that is causing the posture to collapse – we need to look at this with a view to protecting the back while generating angulation.

Marcia has definitely found the right timing and connected it with dynamics. There is a whole body rotation into the turn – exacerbated by reaching forward with the outside arm for pole use. This action removes any angulation and then causes a large skid at the start of each new turn.

Wade’s timing and dynamics looked good so I assume that Philippe was working on it and bringing out the natural qualities. The feet didn’t look like they were actively rocking and the posture was unstable – not standing clearly on the outside hip (skating stance) – which then makes the lower back vulnerable. The stance is probably linked to the first half of the turn being rushed and not commiting to the outside leg early enough (hence the big skid in the slow motion view). If you stand really solidly on that outside leg right from the start of the turn then there is a better chance of standing strongly on the hip joint and shaping the turn progressively through the use of the ski.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Alex 4

Predictably, today was going to be a battle for Alex and it was. He was determined to get back into the long poles and overcome the great difficutlies they present. There was hope that improved technique itself would do the trick but the problem is that he hasn’t had enough time to drill this into being an unconscious automatism.

Video shows the disaster of “reaching and boxing” and the difference between left and right – then the Jiu Jitsu version with reduced reaching and successfully clearing every pole…


To try to bridge the gap between short stubbies and long poles I prepared a slalom course alternating between 3 stubbies and 3 long poles so that he would have a chance to recover if the long poles threw him off. Unfortunately all the good new technique went out of the window and the long poles triggered a defensive mode of functioning. Alex raises his arm and reaches forwards for defense. This complete distraction from his skiing makes him feel obliged to turn early to set up a high line – then when he defends in the poles he skids and brakes frequently after the pole. Initially we took a psychological approach – trying to just ignore the poles and allow them to strike anywhere because with body armour on they just don’t hurt that much. None of this helped Alex and his reflexive defensiveness was deep rooted. Losing the good line he managed yesterday compounded the problems and there was a lot of frustration and a few teary moments from Alex.  I pointed out to Alex that frustration, anger and tears don’t solve problems and it’s best to put his energy to positive use instead. None of the other issues we dealt with already were resolved by shouting at them – that’s just a wasteful and destructive approach typical of some spoiled brats who are not very useful as role models. Character is easily spotted by how someone responds to difficulty – and always thoughtful, intelligent reflection will get you much further than a brainless rant. All the previous problems were circumvented by working out what the limiting factors were and changing the right things. Alex has to understand that he isn’t on his own here.

This photo is of  Alex’s line shadowing the stubbies slightly to the skier’s right. The point is that he is clearly getting the apex of the turn far too high above the poles…


On the slope I demonstrated to Alex how to defend from the poles by simply brining the outside hand across the front of the body and turning the palm of the hand outwards – using just the gloved palm to push the pole away. The point here is that the arm is brought inwards and towards the body and turn centre – not outwards and reaching away from the centre of the turn. When punching forwards or reaching out and up this pulls the centre of mass out of the turn, causing rotation and loss of hip angulation and inclination. Alex simply couldn’t stop doing this until attempting this exercise – but even then his defensive reflex was overwhelming. Alex only made one descent with his palms deflecting the poles then he made several slow descents using his ski pole pulled inwards in front of him. He should probably have done more work without the ski poles.

Yesterday I showed Alex statically that when he used the blades he should try to get his bottom on the snow andbut also BOTH his hands – turning the shoulders relatively inwards (pelvis outwards). He didn’t try this but now he was regretting it because he was starting to see how this is the same as pulling the arm inwards – as with every other part of the body – to help to generate centripetal force from the ski.

Alex was still lashing out at the poles and relating it to “boxing” the poles. I pointed out that it shouldn’t be like boxing – it should be like Jiu Jitsu – let the pole come to you and demolish istelf against you and your relaxed suppleness. Finally the penny dropped because Alex has actually done some Jiu Jitsu at school and so he grasped the idea. From this point onwards he could stay in the course and take all the long poles correctly – though there is still a tendency to reach a little and enough to detract from good form with his technique. He was also on his final two runs able to begin to think about using his outside ski and line better – yet still keep the contact with the poles relatively clean.













Tallulah was demonstrating how she “shivers” and skis backwards and without skis. Also on film is her fist ever solo ascent of the steep slalom stadium button lift which she was determined to do on her own. She specifically brought Husk (Her Husky toy) for me in the morning so I suggested Husk would love to ski with her… Husk took care or her all day and apparently even inadvertedly had some of her hot chocolate.



Tallulah also has her moments of down time – but Husk made sure she didn’t cry for long.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Alex 3

Yesterday Alex finished the day with a change in technique that stuck with him and he was able to reproduce it immediately this morning – being able to use the front of the outside ski while taking a line with it further from the pole. When Alex changed his line the result was so obvious that we had to reset the course to avoid his old ruts.

Alex used 3m carve radius blades for warming up – to develop his dynamic range. He was told to move more at the start of the turn through the transition period where there is not much feedback from the ski – don’t wait unitl the ski provides pressure before dropping deeper into the turn.

Today Alex improved strongly upon the following:

  • Staying forward and using the front of the ski – bending the whole ski
  • Instead of stivoting and skidding towards the pole he used the outside ski to carve towards the pole on a better line
  • Today he didn’t try to get the outside ski near the pole – but to incline against a solid carving outside ski and use the inside knee to clear the pole
  • Instead of throwing his hip out to stivot at the start of the turn he was able to move more effectively (and rapidly) across the skis and engage the edge for carving
  • Improved line – changing from a high line (slow) to a lower line with the middle of the turn right on the apex. Initially Alex thought that this was “late” but it was in fact optimal – his previous “high” line being too slow.



Two of the best slalomers in the world today…


Ted Ligety Audi FIS World Cup Men Slalom c_CCr-x_OiNl































The last two photographs show the whole outside ski bending.


The following diagram shows the lines – the green being “high” and the red being the optimum line with the middle of the turn on the apex and so the maximum pressure being there too as there is not so much turning across the hill. In Alex’s case there is also less skidding – which was also part of his way to get a “high” line.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Alex 2

Alex predominantly stivoting and on the backs of his skis…


Alex, is Mikaela trying to get her skis close to the pole so she can hit it with her ski boots?

Alex, is the front of her ski bent?

Alex, is she going sideways and stivoting?



On the backs of the skis – forced to stivot because the fronts are completely inaccessible. Being forwards is not just pressure on the fronts of the boots – it’s angulating and aligning the resultant force through the centre of mass with the front of the ski. Meanwhile the CoM itself is driving inwards until the turn is released.


Drifting sideways after a stivot – with carving skis???? Huge speed loss! In addition your maximum pressure is not at the apex because of this, it is well after the pole and beneath it.


Ther was improvement right at the end when we couldn’t film – so keep that last run in mind for tomorrow!

Ant 5

Today’s session was in two parts – one-on-one with katherine then an introduction to slalom with the rest of the family.

The video shows Katherine doing an exercise for Feet Forwards technique then skiing on steep terrain – with dynamics both in and out of the turns, perpendicularity, on the fronts of the skis, pushing the outside foot forwards and generating angulation to finish the turns strongly – not to mention rolling the feet and using the adductors and anterior tibialis and perching herself on one hip joint!!! The video continues with everyone’s best slalom performance.




Yesterday’s video had shown that Katherine was too much on the backs of her skis so the first subject today was “Perpendicularity”. Standing across the hill the skis are horizontal and the body vertical – perpendicular to the skis. When the skis head off downhill they are no longer horizontal but at the angle of the gradient of the slope. Skiers have a tendency to remain vertical – which puts them on the backs of the ski boots and skis.

The goal is to be perpendicular again to the skis and to the gradient of the slope while pointing downhill. This is achieved through the “end of turn” dynamics because “neutral” is already perpendicular to the slope and so in the right place for the skis coming around. The fact that the body is already there before the skis turn actually facilitates being on the fronts of the skis instead of the backs.

The sensation of being perpendicular is the same whthere standing static across the hill or sliding downhill – it’s a form of “free float” when sliding with only wind resistance to make any adjustments for. Basically this means that perpendicularity is not a deliberate “lean forward”.


Feet Forwards

The exercise for pushing the outside foot forwards is shown in the video. The arc originates in the hip joint and when skiing this simply reduces the turn radius. The foot is not twisted but remains on its inside edge. When combined with dynamics the two are used to control turn radius. On steep slopes the dynamics are greater and the push has to be more rapid – from start to end of the turn.



We continued with carving on the flat as before (and the carved traverses)  – experience being the only way to develop and become used to greater forces at higher speeds.


Chi Skiing

Showing Katherine that pushing the foot forwards did not conflict with pulling the outside hip backwards was vaery important. In fact the two movements reinforce each other. I showed Katherine how the hip’s motion is activated during the trun transition – during the neutral phase. This is the best way for her to combat her tendency to rotate into the turn on her right side.

We also did a load test – first with the shoulders facing downhill and Katherine trying to lift her poles held in front of her body with me putting my weight on them to stop her from lifting. She could feel her lower back take the load. When turing the pelvis instead – against the stabilised shoulders then instead she could feel the abdomen contract and nothing in the back. This is why “chi skiing” is so important. The postural and core muscles are activated to protect the back. Turn transitions are also far more efficient.

Starting the motion of the body around the certre like this also aligns the bone structure efficiently permitting the correct use of the adductor muscles.

Katherine tends to fall off her right hip joint (and the left sometimes). We looked at how the skating stance involves the hip being tucked right beneath the body when standing on one leg. Katherine was able to do this well when it was clarified. This is how the support leg is always used in skiing and why it is inherently a one legged activity.


Fronts of Skis

I wanted Katherine to discover the fronts of her skis and this meant leaning rght over the fronts and hanging in the boots with the heels almost popping out. We skied in a snowplough like this on our tiptoes to really feel the fronts and learn to sense them.

Afterwards I explained to Katherine that the fronts pull you into a turn and as long as there is good angulation later in the turn there is no risk of going over the fronts. In fact on Ice this is the most secure stance because if the front skids then you simply stay on top of the ski – but if the tail skids you spin around and lose control.



During turns on the steep you have to generate angulation and a forcing inwards of the centre of mass towards the turn centre right through the turn so as to complete it and build up pressure to then lift you actively out of the turn at the very end. Most people fail to work the turn through like this and just yield to the pressure too early and the structure of the turn breaks down. I used the static “foot forwards” exercise again to demonstrate visually how this works on the steep slope and how most people just fall downhill when trying this exercise on the steeps instead of pulling the hip inwards and ecffectively uphill as the turn develops.


Introduction to Slalom

  1. Anthony 34.93 seconds
  2. Harry     41.02 seconds
  3. Emma   42.60 seconds


The introduction to slalom basically just consisted of the rules for safety in the stadium, how to use the timing and follow the gates and then an explanation (and demonstration) of a “high” line turning in below the gate. This line permits a safe approach to the course and good technique to be employed – followed by a tightening of the line and increasing of speed while still being able to concentrate on technique.

Ant did a good job and this shows in his time. Emma and particularly Harry were hampered by being on the backs of their ski boots! They were both in survival mode even at a low speed. The “gold” on this course is around 23.6 seconds.

Timed slalom is the best feedback for measuring skiing level because it simply doesn’t lie. The physical constraints provided by the poles expose shortcomings that remain invisible when turning at will on a piste.

Other constraints that help to develop skiers are bumps and deep snow off piste. With well developed dynamics and pivoting skills all of those are accessible to anyone.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Alex Slalom 1

While Alex is strong now in Giant Slalom he still has a lot of work to do in Slalom. There are so many things going on that it’s difficult to separate things out at the moment when analysing. Trouble with dealing with the poles is one part of the problem but so is quickness of movement – particularly “down/up” timing which is too passive. Even when free skiing the short turn pressure cycle doesn’t look active.

In GS there is high speed and so just getting over and getting the skis on edge there is a rapid build up of pressure – but to get the skis to turn more tightly this “park and ride” won’t work. The turn exit has to be earlier and the body has to “drop” into the turn initiation. Meanwhile reaching for the poles has to be stopped as it causes body rotation and loss of angulation. Over the next few days we will attempt to untangle this knot! Tomorrow we will work on the pressure cycle outside of the gates for a while.




Ant 4

Today Katherine chose to hae a one-on-one session which was a good choice. After a brief warm up run I listened to Katherine’s concerns about her skiing and agreed with everything she said. The pressure of the group situation wasn’t working in her favour regarding improving her confidence and skill. I had to clarify that the goal is not speed and adrenaline – even for the rest of the group – it is about quality of feeling. With the group there is just a bit too much of a compromise going on to allow Katherine to be in this optimal zone.

Katherine’s ingrained defensive skiing actions could potentially be difficult to change so I took some time to watch her skiing and allow my own intuition to direct me towards the best approach to take. Watching Katherine ski from behind I could see stemming - particularly with the left leg, rotation – particularly with the right hip, the turns being forced and skidded and a general instability. Posture and stance had no obvious problems (except being a little bit too far back on the skis). Thinking back to how Katherine knows how to skate and how absent this was from her actual skiing in terms of gripping with the ski I decided to tackle the situation from this direction – keeping an open mind and being prepared to alter the approach if necessary. Soon it became clear that this was actually the best place to begin.

We eventually worked on skating, feet, traversing and carving all in the context of improving general performance.




First of all we returned to skating. This time the skating would be on a very slight slope so as to make speed minimal and we started by skating donwhill to incrementally skate out of the fall line to one side. The ski on the outside of the turn would be the one that had to grip to move the centre of mass across and into the turn. The “inside” ski in the turn is not so important though the foot needs to remain on its inside edge also. The best way to visualise this is to think about skating directly up a hill and holding the skis on their inside edges with the inside edges of both feet. Even when skating across the side of a hill, turning, traversing or carving the feet always remain on their inside edges but the uphill or inside ski will often be on its outside edge. The shaft of the ski boot provides a lateral support that prevents the ski from coming off this edge regardless of which edge the foot is on inside the boot.



Katherine could skate out of the fall line and then skate complete turns on the flat without trouble but relating this to actual skiing and overriding her muscle memory would still be difficult so we went to a dry terrace to remove a ski boot each and take a better look at the feet. Katherine had already had an explanation of the feet on day one but this time she would have the opportunity to feel it all properly. We revised standing on the heel and bending with pressure on the heel to reflexively activate the tibialis anterior muscle (outside of shin) – bending at the knee and hip instead of at the ankle. We looked at the rolling of the foot using the subtaler joint and we looked at how none of this works when bending with the ankle collpasing. The strong ankle only bends as far as bringing the shin in contact with the front of the ski boot. This time Katherine felt all of those things and fully understood their significance.

In this video clip Katherine is working on “pulling in” from the feet, adductors and centre of mass… stemming is a great deal less evident than before.



With the traversing the work we did on angulation yesterday came into play. Pulling the feet onto their inside edges allows the downhill hip to be pulled back more easily to generate angulation. Today Katherine managed to carve the traverses correctly and stop the skidding. Two days earlier she could only skid.



Once the traverse was mastered it was a simple transition to actually carving. The rule here was to have both feet rolled onto their inside edges and to use hip angulation to edge the skis at very low speed. When Katherine remembered to keep her feet about hip width apart this worked fine and she is now carving and actively preventing the ski from flattening and twisting her foot. Practise will now permit this to work at ever increasing speeds providing rock solid security. Until now any speed at all caused the ski to overpower her actions and flatten out. The inside edge of the ski is offest to the inside so the foot has to be rolled over and the adductor muscles used to prevent flatening of the ski. Alone though this is not enough and it only works in combination with angulation and/or inclination from dynamics.



All the above details of how to use the anatomy should be seen in the context of “mindfulness”. Focus should move from one body part to another and always the focus should be returned to the body when otherwise distracted. Centering the focus within the body removes anxiety naturally because outside distractions become secondary issues – which ironically are actually dealt with far better as a result. Internal focus never becomes boring and new awareness always develops – so this is the ultimate game changer in skiing. The skier needs to provide the opportunity and appropriate conditions for this to happen. It’s the quality of movement that counts – not adrenaline, speed or how good (or bad) you might think look!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tallulah 1

One of the first things little 4 yo Tallulah said to me today was “You look like a parrot” referring to the colours of my clothing. Let’s say that it was pretty clear that it was going to be an interesting session. My objective was to do the most possible to prise Tallulah away from her recently acquired Canadian snowplough. We worked on four main things – Sideslipping, Rolling the feet for better grip, Pivoting and The Magic Wall. She liked the Magic Wall best so watch out Alex you will soon have some very determined competition! (Congratulations to Alex today getting the Gold in the main Bonnevie GS course – by two hundreths of a second.)  




Tallulah held onto my ski pole while we used a steep slope to develop sideslipping with the skis held parallel and close together. She had to work hard to stop the uphill ski from stemming out and pointing downhill on the lower edge. later on she worked at this on her won but was less successful. Supporting her helps her to get it right at the moment.


Inside edges of the Feet

I showed Tallulah how to rock a foot onto its inside edge – by removing one of my boots in a dry location. When I rolled both feet inwards she rolled both of hers outwards – but she got it in the end. One remaining problem is that she can’t separate the actions in the feet from the rest of her body. Rolling her feet inwards caused her to pull her knees in and her elbows too! We had to abandon that for the moment and only make use of it for skating uphill – to stop her skis sliding away. In my “pivoting” fixed page (tab at top of blog) I expalin why both feet need to be kept on their inside edges regardless of which edge a ski is on – and this surprisingly applies even to carving. When she was holding my pole skiing alongside me she could keep her skis parallel, close together and very smoothly enter a turn. Seeing this encouraged me to teach her a little about the pivot.



I used my standard static exercise to hold Tallulah though several pivots from the uphill edge of her uphill ski. She was good at standing on one leg to achieve this. The only goal here was to show her there is an alternative to snowplough and it comes with the skis parallel and close together. All the time in sideslipping I had to encourage her to put the skis close together to stop the uphill ski catching its inside edge.


The Magic Wall (Dynamics)

Tallulah now knows that the snowplough stop magic from working. Only if the skis are held parallel and close together – then if you move forwards – an invisible magic wall appears either side of you. You push against that wall with your body and you can’t fall over – instead you just turn. She liked the Magic Wall. (She practised pushing against me first) She’ll be told the physics in about 12 years time.



Ant 3

Starting the day promptly made the five consecutive lift journey up to the Pisaillas glacier relatively painless. Considering the weather – sunny, warm and windless it was a good day to beat the queues up there and take advantage of the empty and well prepared pistes.

The high mountain in the backgroud of the photograph is La Grande Motte with the sharp peak being La Grande Casse. Courchevel is about the same distance on the other side of it.



Wide empty glacier pistes are perfect terrain for carving and so the temptation was too strong. Unfortunately only Ant had picked up enough yesterday to cope on this steepness and hold it together. In yesterday’s blog I’d explained how Katherine required a lot of practice at the exercise we did on very flat terrain because she didn’t feel it yet – and Harry and Emma were just managing to carve on the flat terrain. Unfortunately we were on the wrong mountain for continuing with such development – but this would be a good opportunity to introduce other aspects that can help both carving and skiing in general.


Chi Skiing

Fixed Page

Article – The Energy Illusion (for budding physicists!) 

In order to help Katherine in general I decided to start working on angulation – through the development of more efficient use of flexion at the hips.

There is a fixed page which explains the elements of “Chi Skiing” and this describes in detail why the hip is pulled backwards against the upper body to create angulation. In simple terms “face the bottom up the hill” instead of facing the shoulders downhill.

Emma was slightly confused by “facing the bottom up the hill” and that’s fully understandable. To keep it simple here and within the scope or our current goals the overall issue (during dynamics) is one of the body (centre of mass) moving across the skis in a “translational” not a “rotational” manner – ie – a straight line. From the point of view of dynamics it doesn’t matter what way the body parts are oriented – as long as they pass over the skis into the new turn.

The aim of adopting this stance with the bottom up the hill is to create angulation and permit it to develop and increase as the turn progresses. Angulation increases the amount the skis are on edge and so for carving this is an important aspect of control. Katherine, when anxious, actually allows her bottom to rotate right around facing slightly downhill and losing all angulation (in her general skiing) – so this was a very appropriate subject to give some attention. With one-on-one coaching it is the sort of area that would be given much more time and attention.

Good use of the hip in “Chi Skiing” protects the back and makes turn transitions far easier in all conditions – whether carving or pivoting or any blend inbetween.


End of Turn Dynamics

One other aspect of technique that can aid the development of carving involves awareness of more of the specifics of dynamics. Until now we had only covered the entry into a turn – moving the centre of mass so as to fall into the turn. We had also used skating to help lift the body up and out of the turn – but actually being aware of the need to take this all the way out to “neutral” (flat skis – body perpendicular to the slope facing across the hill) is a game changer.

Turn transitions executed this way – or even just from a traverse – ensure effective starting of any new turn even in the most difficult snow. For Katherine this was a big step because she has always done the opposite – using the donwhill ski as a defense and never deliberately moving the body over the top of it. Hanger turns were used to develop this skill – exaggerating the amount of the turn transition done on the downhill ski and slight entering the new turn with the outside ski still slightly in the air. If you watch a Giant Slalom race you will see many turns commenced like this with the outside ski still in the air and only the inside ski in contact with the ground.

Using a small “half pipe” gully above the Signal the need to move out of the turn early to set up for the next could be clearly felt – this being a serious issue for racers in poles as the most common fault is to delay the exit of the turn and then end up too late for the next pole. By the time you reach the bottom of the gully on each turn you already have to be in “neutral”.

Ant had mentioned earlier how he was now very aware of moving the body and not the feet/skis. This is completely correct – however anyone watching him make short turns without this knowledge woud interpret his movements as “keeping the body stationary” – it’s a powerful illusion reinforced by poor ski instruction.

In the Video Harry in particular has changed his skiing with a more natural stance and allowing the ski to make the turn progressively instead of pushing the heels out and abruptly skidding. Katherine was warned about her tendency to rotate her upper body into the turn – which also affects angulation.


Early morning…

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Paula-Esme 2

Today we didn’t really cover anything new. Reinforcement of all the concepts from yesterday was absolutely necessary. Initally Paula was dealing with a loss of confidence and later on Esme was to have a couple of crises to deal with. All of this is constructive though because it just means that more clarification and work is required.

Esme was aided by revising the “skating” turns (Crocodile dance) and Paula was helped by padding the inside leg up and down during the turn. The idea of standing strongly on the supporting leg (uphill leg to start with in a turn) was reinforced. Skiing (as with skating) is really a one legged activity.

The video shows traversing, sideslipping, garlands and linked basic parallel turns – all with an appropriate level of competence for day two with those techniques – and on appropriate terrain.



Both Paula and Esme were now able to see how that even when correct technical ideas are understood there are emotional challenges involved. Skill here has to be constructed and so it’s a progressive process with emotion and competence leapfrogging each other along the way. The key to it all is good clear and accurate information – not the dreaded “snowplough”!

Please revise yesterday’s blog and the appropriate fixed pages. The work on the pivot today was “extra” just to reinforce appropriate coordination and develop better edge (both foot and ski) awareness.


Ant 2

Today we introduced Pivoting, Carving and Skating techniques. Being holistic, skiing is impossible to get right by just focusing in a narrow area. Top notch racers can be terrible in bumps and off piste and top notch bumps skiers terrible in racing simply because they have specialised skill sets which are mutually exclusive. Pivoting (Bumps) and Carving (Racing) are polar opposites. To really get the most out of skiing and be a good general skier all the ingredients are necessary for the cake to emerge out of the oven correctly. Each part is necessary as a part of a self organising system which optimises automatically and in a self reinforcing manner. 

The video shows the first attempts at pivoting and carving on gentle terrain…




At this early stage the idea is to supply the group with  the basic information but not to give detailed individual feedback – whch is time consuming with four very different skiers. I assisted everyone through a single pivot so that the sensation could be experienced and then explained how the planted pole supports the centre of mass instead of me standing there for them to hold onto.

When skiing with forward momentum and dynamics the ski generates lifting power for interaction with the centre of mass – but from a standstill and sideslip there is nothing to guide the certre of mass other than pole support.

Rather than go into too much detail here there there is a fixed page for Pivoting with full demo videos here…

One common factor between pivoting and other skills is the “pulling inwards” coordination – which in this case permits the ski to sideslip from the front down into a turn. The centre of mass provides the pull – through the adductors and the rolled foot/feet – and the pole allows control over the handling of the centre of mass.

Pivoting is a “braking” form of skiing – for use in bumps, tight fall line sking (the body not crossing the hill) and in deep powder fall line skiing. The braking however is a consequence of the pivot – not a deliberate braking action.




When carving in front of Ant I was travelling much faster than he could keep up with so I asked him what he thought was the reason. From the answer given it was clear that Ant did not have a clear perception of carving as a property in its own right and this is why nobody in the group was ever seen even approximating a carved turn.

Carving is simply railing along the edges. We began by traversig until everyone was holding the skis locked on their edges. Actually Katherine wasn’t quite manging so she needs to focus on this for a while. We then worked on changing the edges (hence direction) statically by moving the body only – from both uphill edges to both downhill edges – using ski poles to prevent us from falling over. Ant did particularly well in converting this into real carving when skiing. Harry and Emma also came through strongly but katherine was not really locking on. This is common so it will come with further practise.




After checking that everyone could skate and finding that they were all strong skaters we went straight into “direct method” – skating directly downhill and introducing dynamics by falling more and more between the skis as speed allowed the skis to provide support  for dynamics through turning. The skating transforming progressively into skiing. Ant was the one who nailed it – picking up the natural timing and rhythm. The down/up action of the legs supports the down/up action of the dynamics (inverted pendulum).

For the others who didn’t manage so strongly we then went onto some skating exercises. Starting out by sidestepping uphill we sorted out the sensations in each foot. The downhill foot was on its inside edge and downhill ski also. The uphill ski was on its outside edge but this foot also was on its inside edge – just like happens in pivoting. Once this was clearly felt we used it to skate across a slope just pushing up from the downhill leg and standing onto the uphill one.

Following a few traverses with this downhill skating action we then made the final skate lead to standing up properly on the uphill ski – uphill edge and then falling into a turn downhill using the centre of mass. The fact the ski is on its uphill edge is useful for preventing any “pushing out” and the push up from the lower leg gives the impulse to stabilise the centre of mass ready for turning on one leg. Everyone managed smooth progressive turns with independent leg action. Harry initially still tried to push his heels out towards the end of the turns though.

The skating was tapered down to two skates athen one skate and a small traverse to just one skate linking turns. Harry in particular looked the most different from before with good independent leg action and using the ski to turn instead of his two footed heel pushing skid.

In both carving and when skating the control of speed comes from the shape of the turn and the line – not from a braking action.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Paula–Esme 1

Both Paula and Esme were more or less complete beginners. Paula had skied three days before and ended up with a broken ACL while knocked over in a snowplough. Esme had only skied yesterday and learned snowplough – unfortunately!

Initially I was unsure of their level so started from scratch – with what turned out to be “The Crocodile Dance”… considering they were really beginners the outcome was fine for both of them. Paula may be anxious due to her previous injury but it’s not holding her back.



The goal isn’t to “ski a blue run” or anything like that. The goal lies in the quality of feeling. Patience is necessary at the beginning and pressure to move on to harder slopes prematurely must be avoided at all costs. You move on when you start feeling things are getting too easy – it’s natural.

Although I explained dynamics to begin with we began our activity with skating. All of the skating exarcises are explained in detail on the fixed page here…

The dynamics are also explained on a fixed page…

Both skiers had to be taught the basics of skating and Esme picked this up strongly. Paula appeared more comfortable with dynamics – perhaps due to her cycling experience.

We worked on side stepping, traversing, sideslipping and  dynamics – up to parallel skiing. We worked on the feet and ran through the same exercises and demonstrations that I described on the previous blog entry for this morning – except that this time we all had our ski boots off to feel things properly. The feet are complex – each with 26 bones and 33 ligaments each – and they are our connection to the skis so they need to be used intelligently.

By the end of the session I could see that both were working hard on overcoming the snowplough and implicit defensive actions. Paula made some nice parallel turns on the gentle slope and Esme, although still in a slight plough, was clearly moving her centre of mass in the right direction.