Saturday, December 2, 2017

Don & Mark Part 1

Another windy and cold day with no new snow – only a rearrangement of existing snow. The inclement weather however made it more important to ski to stay warm instead of focusing heavily on technique. Mark needed that just to get some decent mileage in with all the stuff he is working on and Don had no complaints either – getting an extended opportunity to get his ski legs back.

The video clip was taken towards the end of the day when working on “stomping” on the uphill ski during turn initiation – to generate early pressure and commitment to one leg. This action rendered both skiers more solid and more active on one ski instead of two.


With each skier being very different it was important to find some common ground to work on together.

Don’s timing and rhythm were looking nice from the start – always something that’s good to see. However, my job is to look for the cracks and find key to open the door to new levels. For Don the most relevant issue appeared to be his need to sink more into each turn at the hip – to build pressure during the turn. This is a normal problem for any developing skier but for Don extra weight makes it a bit harder – though when mastered the extra weight is often advantageous. During the first part of a turn the inside edge of the ski is at a shallow angle to the snow and there is not a powerful lifting up/out effect from the ski – plus there can be an impulse to throw the body downhill combined with gravity making the centre of mass fall down the hill – so it is easy to get moving down and into the centre of the turn. From about the fall line onwards (second half of the turn) the angle of the ski to the snow increases greatly and you have to switch to resisting gravity instead. Now everything is either working to pull you up or out of the turn (note: this is not centrifugal force). Although there was initially an active motion into the turn the hard work isn’t yet done – that is the job of driving the centre of mass still inwards (back up the hill) during the second half of the turn. This is actually the hard physical part.  You can do it by just inclining the entire body into the turn or by flexing at the hip. For shorter turns you must flex at the hip and this is also required to limit body rotation issues. The high forces generated when someone is heavy can make it easy to just cave in to them and not work at this. However when this is understood the weight can be used to direct the body – through the skis – very effectively. The difference is that when done correctly there is an easy flow instead of a battle.

Mark wasn’t ready to work on the same aspects as Don – so his time was best directed towards coming out and over the lower ski. It turns out that he really wasn’t clear about this. I supported Mark standing with his skis across the hill and pulled him over the lower ski to feel what it should be like. It’s a scary thing to do until you learn that it works.

The two aspects being worked on here actually go together – the pressure builds up during the turn by holding yourself into it and then it is used to lift you up and over the lower ski into the next turn.


Skating incrementally around the turn is a great way to develop both functional use of the legs and stronger dynamics (driving into the turn). We had to work on the act of skating itself for a moment – especially standing on the inside edges of both feet regardless of which ski edges were in contact with the ground. Both Mark and Don initially had very feeble steps but gradually confidence and the range of motion in the legs increased.   We reduced the number of skates per turn from 3 to 2 and then to 1 – which confused Mark for a moment. Each turn made on a ski is like one skating stride. We tried skating straight downhill and then adding dynamics to convert the skating to skiing – but even on quite flat terrain both Don and Mark did a sudden switch from skating to a braking version of skiing. This will take more practice. My goal really was just to cultivate more active function of the legs and to show how skating is the basis of skiing. In Mark’s case the aim was to reduce stiffness at the hip joints and get the legs flexing and extending. In both cases the goal was to spend longer parts of the arc on one leg.


When parallel skiing both skiers were still failing to be strong on the uphill ski and to use it for pressure and grip at the start of the turn. We simplified the matter by just stomping on the ski before allowing the new turn to start. This is an emotionally challenging thing to do because people want to stand on the ski below the body until they feel some other pressure beneath the top foot once it is already around the turn to some degree – hence the reason they fluff the starts of all their turns and then just jam the skis into a brake further around. The stomping worked for both to bring the “one leg” feeling as in skating.

Don starting a new turn – definitely NOT coming over the top of his lower ski. Removing the ski (lifting it) is still valid – with the focus on the stomping – but things really come together when you get the feet closer and come over that leg.

There is good inclination towards the end of the turn but looking at the hip you see there is no angulation. The pole is held forwards but gets no closer to the snow when coming over the skis. Stronger hip angulation is needed and correspondingly the arm should only be about waist height – leading across the skis into the next turn when ready and then contacting the ground.

Rotation – obliterating hip angulation!

Instead of coming over the downhill leg this is caused by blocking the dynamics by keeping the leg downhill as a crutch – obliging the top ski to stem – then once it picks up pressure from resistance from the inside edge then finally transferring pressure.

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