Friday, April 7, 2017

Suzanne, Ella, Daisy Day 6

Suzanne bravely decided to proceed with her last day despite hardly being able to use her left arm – a problem worsened by being left handed. We started out on the familiar Vert to see how things would go. Clearly there were a few considerations in mind including not holding the girls back – but nothing was certain and this just meant being flexible with plans as the day progressed. In the end it all worked out very well and was just about optimum for everyone. Suzanne did extremely well regardless of her injury and it was probably good holding back the girls a little – working on technique - until allowing them to have a real uninhibited blast at the very end when their skiing had strengthened even more.



Skating Development

Suzanne felt that she had gone backwards regarding her control over the hips/pelvis so we initially took a step back with technique to correct this. First stage was to re-establish good grip in the turns and we knew already that for Suzanne the best way was to initiate the turn by getting onto the uphill edge of the uphill ski and falling into the turn from there. This simply prevents any unconscious stemming and promotes simple dynamics.

Once Suzanne had found her grip the stance improved somewhat naturally and her confidence began to return. We would simply concentrate on dynamics through the day because when using dynamics the Centre of Mass is supported by the skis in all of its activity – poles and arms only being used for support in pivoting. Removing the need for any stress on the arms would give the greatest opportunity for Suzanne to develop her skiing, avoid compounding the injury and enjoy the last day.

Hip use is fundamentally related to skating. The body has to perch itself on one hip joint at a time and for this to happen the hip has to retract inwards beneath the centre of mass – requiring a certain flexibility at the joint. Skating, for most people, naturally brings them to a good strong use of the hip in this way because it is necessary for the functional use of the legs in the skating action. Additionally, holding the ski on edge with the foot and adductor muscles and “falling inwards” (inclination and angulation) are all necessary parts of edge control and gripping – so any use of skating exercises helps to develop better hip function.

We skated across the hill from the bottom ski – stepping up onto the upper ski with each stride – onto the upper edge (through remaining always on the inside of both feet). Each stride had the skis diverging and each step was like preparing to initiate a turn by standing on the uphill edge of the top ski. On the final skate the idea is to stand up on the top ski and this time actually fall into the turn. The skating is not only developing hip angulation but cultivates timing, stability, independent leg action, cooordination and  dynamics.

Suzanne was momentarily confused with the idea of initiating the turn from the outside edge of the top ski – noticing that this is how a pivot is executed. In this case only the dynamics are being controlled by allowing the ski to roll over and change edge before the new turn begins. The skis are travelling forwards as opposed to sideways in the pivot and the support comes exclusively from the lifting force of the ski – not from pole use.

Later on in slush we would revert to “End of Turn Dynamics” where the body would come over the downhill ski in the same way, completing the the turn on the uphill edge of the downhill ski and allowing the body to lift up and “out” of the turn using that edge until moving into “neutral” – thus assuring easy entry into the next turn through the deep slush. We left this until later in the day and until it was appropriate and necessary.


Foot Forward Technique (also related to skating)

The first video clips are of “Foot Forward” technique and the exercise that we use to develop it. Pushing the foot forward is also related to skating and by keeping the upper body still this develops a good function of the hip joint – and awareness of how to make the outside ski far more active. The foot/leg is not twisted it simply swings around in an arc – the foot inside the ski boot always remaining turned slightly outwards to hold the foot on its inside edge.

Diasy in particular noticed when skiing with this that the outside ski never actually went ahead of the inside ski and that her turns were sharper. Suzanne noticed that she felt more grip and stability.

Actively pushing the ski forwards – when combined with dynamics – reduces the turn radius and is the principal way to alter and control turn radius in dynamic skiing.

With foot forward technique in place we now went onto a steep “black” rated slope and everyone managed to ski it fully in control – working the turns to completion and linking them rythmically by exploiting the build up of forces on the outside ski. (The second series of clips in today’s video)


Mindful Skiing

How do I answer the question “What level of skier am I?” ? Perfection does not exist so the idea of level – especially based upon obsolete, commercial and senseless standards – is essentially pointless. Children need to have incentives and are greatly motivated by getting badges and awards – but much of this can be scarily superficial and misleading. I have met French instructors who have been told off by their schools for improving students too quickly and stepping them through their official awards system too rapidly – skipping stages  - believing that without this incentive for the “next badge” the student won’t return.

What counts is not the illusion of “levels” it’s the process of development – something inherent in life itself. People get value and self esteem from improving competence and also from becoming better at learning istelf. In skiing competence translates into freedom and fun opposed to frustration and injury. Learning translates into awareness and self mastery. There are no “levels” just an ongoing process and the efficiency of this process. I asked the girls to rate how well they were focusing on their body, internally – bringing their attention to the parts of the feet, legs, muscles and centre of mass motion. This is the practical key to development – not whether you can “snowplough in control” or not. (Hopefully after this week the grils cannot snowplough at all because I strictly avoided teaching them this as it violates all principles of development both in terms of physical coordination and psychology.)

We eventually settled on a “mindfulness” scale of between 0 and 10 at 7 for everybody. Suzanne did amazingly well to overcome her injury concerns and make significant progress in learning during the day while the girls were flying by the end of the day – but intelligently controlling every aspect. This figure reflects a process and ability to move onwards – not some arbitrary level.


Daisy and Ella using dynamics like pros! – making difficult slush and bumps look easy. No one will believe this is only their 6th day on skis – and 4 of those were only half days. Well done girls! Notice their hands and arms are placed really well and the subject has never been mentioned to them once.




Mont Blanc close up



Two shots of the cable car at Tignes glacier viewed from Val



Daisy’s favourite vertical run – which we didn’t quite manage on this occasion




La Scara - huge international children’s race (12 to 15yrs)

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