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!