Our first session started off with a warm up run so that those who hadn’t skied for a year could have a chance to recover their ski legs. Having two teenagers in the group meant that standing around was not a realistic option so I rapidly filmed everyone skiing for the record and to observe the movements carefully.
Everyone skied in a similar and classic “ski school” manner – facing downhill - up to start the turn and down with a pole plant to finish – weight sent out over the outside foot (wrong direction) accompanied by a strong heel push - skis pushed outwards and away from the body – skidding and braking – rushing the starts of the turns – legs stiff and inappropriate posture (etc). This is typical recreational skiing and is not a reflection on the skiers – it’s a reflection on teaching.
All of the above is seen in the video below and because everyone could actually ski the most important issue to address first was going to be “dynamics”.
(Fixed Blog Page http://skiinstruction.blogspot.co.uk/p/dynamics.html )
Following an explanation of both dynamics and “static balance” and demonstration of the differencies each person carried out the standard exercises with me – which are detailed on the “fixed Page” linked above. We only did the static exercises (not exercises when sliding) then went straight into using dynamics in practise.
Immediately on the first run the feedback from the group was interesting. Harry commented on how his legs weren’t hurting for a change, Ant seconded this and Katherine agreed that it felt like considerably less effort was being used. Only Emma was a bit unsure initially – but after another run she was feeling the same as the rest. Both Ant and Catherine commented on how they didn’t need to use their poles. All of this is correct feedback
When the centre of mass is moved the wrong way – towards the outside of a turn – then you end up in a constant fight with yourself and the skis which is exhausting, unstable and even dangerous. This inappropriate application of “statics” (placing the centre of mass over the oustide ski to be in balance) makes you very vulnerable.
The skis work by responding to you falling over – by lifting you back up. Forward speed is required – like on a bicycle. For the system to function you need to fall into a turn and allow the ski to then lift you back up. When this is done correctly there is no fight against yourself or the equipment. The reason the pole is not needed is that the lifting up effect of the ski supports and directs the centre of mass – and so the pole is not required to do this job.
When falling into a turn the body acts like an upside down pendulum – falling down towards the inside of the turn to begin the turn and then back up and outwards to finish. This is the opposite of “ski school” timing. The correct timing from dynamics is natural and all skis have been designed to work with this since the early 1960s. What is good is that the skiers sensed the difference and without be told instinctively stopped trying to use their ski poles – which otherwise may have interfered with the natural timing.
Looking towards Le Fornet today…
We looked briefly at the use of the feet – my feet at least. The points covered were the following…
- Standing on the front of the heel below the ankle joint
- Flexing with the ankle stiffening – the anterior tibialis muscle tightening by reflex – flexiion then happening in the knee and hip instead of the ankle
- Rocking of the foot using the subtaler joint between the heel and the ankle joint
- Rocking both feet onto their inside edges
- Feeling the adductor muscles tighten (inside of the upper legs)
Interestingly Katherine sensed (when skiing) how the use of the adductors with both legs strengthened her lower abdominal postural muscles.
Pulling not Pushing
Putting together everything so far it came down to focusing on the order of execution – moving the Centre of Mass, pulling with the adductors, rolling the foot onto the inside edge and making sure that everything was “pulling inwards” – the complete opposite of “pushing outwards” that everyone had been doing all the time until now. The important point here was in starting from the Centre!
I explained how “pulling” works with the ski to generate centripetal force (and about the illusion of outwards centrifugal force that people instinctively push out against). When you push out you lose your support for dynamics.
Dynamics and “pulling in” are the key to both skiing on ice and skiing off piste – because quite simply in both cases pushing the skis away from the body is catastrophic in those situations – yet pulling inwards is rock solid.
The real purpose of skiing – to experience the sensations and environment – can only be fully attained through mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply about focusing within the body – on how parts move, sensations, the feet, adductors, centre of mass etc. Constantly pulling the attention back to thoose things is like someone meditating constantly returning the focus to breathing. This keeps you “in the moment” and able to adjust and adapt spontaneously.