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.
Article – The Energy Illusion (for budding physicists!) http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/2012/03/energy-illusion.html
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.