Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Katariina Day 1

Today’s session began with a look at Ketariina’s current skiing. In the video below the first clip shows the skiing before working on anything. Clip two is a very good first attempt at “pivoting” and clip 3 shows Katariina using basic dynamics…




Katariina’s skiing was a typical “ski school” product. We discussed what she was doing and it is all visible in the video. The turns were started with an up movement and transfer of weight to the uphill ski and towards the outside of the turn. The upper body was kept facing downhill. Combining those things causes the body to remain very upright and static, the skis to be pushed outwards with the hips following in rotation and then a sideways drifting and irreversible instability to set in.

The fastest way to correct the worst aspects of the above is a direct introduction to “Dynamics”.




The above link takes you to the fixed page explaining dynamics and the exercises that we covered. Everything was standard protocol. The goal was not just to change physical actions but to bring about a fundamental change of understanding and perception as to how skiing works. Your job is to Fall Over – and the ski’s job is to lift you back up. The turn is a consequence of this “dissipative, feedback driven, disequilibrium system” as it is described in modern physics.

I took time to explain the underlying mistakes of physics (d’Alembert fictional forces) and how this leads to “Statics” (balance) being used by mistake in ski instruction instead of “Dynamics” – the physics of “Disequilibrium”.

The immediate feedback from Katariina was that she found it very relaxing to ski this way – but she seemed worried that it was too easy! Early on it is important to just follow the skis with the body and move laterally – as on a bicycle – because this is the development of a fundamental isolated basic component of skiing – a very critical one. Attempting to face the upper body downhill easily confuses the mind (spatially) and muddles the learning process. Katariina found this out for herself later on when we included some work on the hip and angulation. Relaxation comes about because the unnecessary battle between the body and the skis caused by “balancing” is removed.  Forward motion – speed – is needed for the lifting effect of the ski to function. Comparisons with cycling and motorcycling are accurate.

After explaining that “centrifugal force” is a fiction and giving the example of the ball on a string being swung around the head – we translated this into skiing terms. The Centre of Mass moving into the turn is like the string giving a “centripetal” – “inwards” force on the ball. The skis maintain this inwards force but we have to do everything we can to help the ski – everything moving and pulling inwards – the exact opposite of what katariina is doing in her first video clip. When we work with the ski in this way there is no waste of energy or strength or conflict with the system – which is why if feels naturally relaxing.

Photo – overlooking the dam at Tignes



During the work on dynamics I explained that “timing” was “down/up” instead of “up/down” because we move the body like an upside down pendulum. A motorbike goes down into the turn not up! Skis have been manufactured since the 1960’s to function with this motion. Correct timing comes naturally from dynamics.

We needed a basic introduction to skating and after finding out that Katariina can skate we just went straight for a direct approach – skating straight downhill with the skis diverging and then falling inwards between the skis on each stride to create dynamics – morphing the skating into skiing. Katariina did manage to demonstrate a natural feel for the enhanced down/up timing with the combination of skating and dynamics. We aim for “resonance” here where the combined effects create even more power and stability. This timing of course is the complete opposite of the ancient and irrelevant up/down timing taught in ski schools – dating from a period when skis were totally dysfuctional and jumping was the only way to get them to do anything. Even then skis were never as bad as all that!

Part of the reason for skating is that it teaches the need to use the inside edges of the feet and the inside muscles in the legs (adductors) – a subject that we were about to go into more in depth. 



We started working on the feet a little bit before skating but afterwarrds we looked properly at this indoors over a relaxing drink.

  • Standing on the front of the heel – below the ankle joint
  • Flexing with the ankle going strong – bending only the knee and hip
  • Anterior Tibialis (Shin bone muscle) tenses – stability in the ankle
  • Feet muscles activated
  • Sub taler joint (between ankle and heel) rolls the foot onto the inside edge
  • Adductor muscles tense up to create a supportive structure right up to the hip
  • Later ‘'Chi Hips” – pulling back the hip is added on one side to align the femur better
  • Starting from the centre of mass this all operates in one action right down to the foot
  • Both feet are kept on inside edges (to be explained in the future relative to pivoting)


Mindful Skiing

When skiing we have the overal motion of the body concerned with directing the centre of mass – then all the detailed internal aspects. The more we focus on all of this the more we develop awareness. Along with awareness comes a form of “mindfulness” which pushes distractions out of the mind and keeps us focused on our acts. This surprisingly increases our ability to deal with the external environment – it’s like all the instruments are switched on and all sensors functioning. 

Visualisation can only function in the mind when actions make “sense”. Once we understand the right patterns of movements and feelings then we can reinforce this through active visualisation.




The above link gives full detailed demonstrations of pivoting. I demonstrated one in front of Katariina and asked her to try to spot what is different from other skiing issues – but predictably this was impossible for her to spot.

Katariina had a very brief introduction to pivoting and did extremely well with this – a subject that most people find intensely frustrating. I assisted her through one single pivot and then explained how to use the pole for support instead of me and she immediately executed a good pivot first time – better than when I brought out the camera!

When skiing with dynamics the ski moves forwards and the speed allows it to lift the centre of mass and create support and interaction. When pivoting the ski does not move forwards and so the pole is used for supporting the centre of mass. The centre of mass still controls the turn and and the same muscular actions as used in dynamics are once again exploited here.

Part of the goal here was to reinforce the “pulling in” muscular actions and coordination common to all effective skiing.


Chi Skiing


We spent some time on an introduction to “angulation” and the use of a counter rotation of the pelvis in skiing instead of “facing the shoulders downhill”. I carried out a “load test” with Katariina where she stood side on to me and turned her shoulders to me and tried to lift my weight – feeling it in her lower back. Then instead of turning the shoulders she turned the pelvis towards me – and when taking the load this caused a spontaneous reflex contraction of the lower abdominals to protect her back. Failure to pull back the hip during the turn causes the hip to rotate (pull around) in front of the ribs and for posture to collapse. This in Katariina’s case is exacerbated by her habitual tendency to tilt the pelvis downwards at the front.

Changing the “hips” takes place during the turn transitions – but as we have not worked on turn transitions yet it was not surprising that she found this a bit confusing at this stage. My point was that angulation and hip rotation control are critical for developing higher levels and better control on bumps and in tight turns and on ice – particular concerns of Katariina.

We used a few small bumps to get the ski tips in the air and then exploit this for easy pivoting.

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