Friday, December 1, 2017

Mark 2

Mark continued his improvement today but the main focus was in soaking up a lot of information for a more complete understanding of the fundamentals of skiing. We covered a great deal of ground due to Mark being quick to understand complex issues. Now there lies ahead a long road of skill development – which takes time for anything of quality.

The day began with a warm up run crossing over into Val d’Isère and then instead of sticking to my intentions I allowed the plan to evolve according to needs. I’ll generally only stick to a plan if nothing else pops up. Mark had been asked to ensure engaging the uphill foot and leg prior to starting the next turn and prior to the edge of the ski changing. Although this was working to some extent there was an issue frequently blocking Mark in his turns and causing him to revert to tactics that he was trying hard to avoid. Yesterday we had only worked on the idea of moving the body into a new turn – but we hadn’t yet looked at how to get back out of a turn using dynamics.

Turn Exit Dynamics

When a motorbike goes through a slalom on a road the transition between each turn is marked by a passage through the vertical (with reference to gravity). Things are more complicated for a skier due to being on a slope. Turn transitions are marked by a passage through “perpendicular” to the slope – which in this case doesn’t coincide with gravity. Most skiers unconsciously back off  when they reach the vertical because they know they will begin to fall downhill if the go all the way to perpendicular – and remaining on the downhill ski to achieve this seems to be undesirable. The reality is that we do need to get all the way out over the downhill ski – until it is flat with the body momentarily passing over the top of it. The ski’s job is to bring you up and so it’s the downhill ski that needs to be used to get you there. This implies commitment into the next turn and so anticipation of the intended trajectory – it’s a flow. Moving out over the lower ski then allows the uphill foot and leg to be engaged naturally – pulling inwards to the next turn – being led by the centre of mass.

Mark was only given a single demonstration and he picked up the idea straight away. The video clip shows the improvement this brought – working on both aspects of dynamics – exit and entry – one leg to the other.

One of the tweeks later on was to take extra care to maintain the “pulling in” with the foot/leg all the way until the body passes over the perpendicular above it at the end of the turn.


One of the difficulties mark was having was due to a desperate need to begin each turn on an inside edge. This is a legacy from being taught in snowplough. I use the term “pivot” specifically to relate to the mechanical pivoting action of the ski – not a torque or “steering” applied by the skier – and it is achieved by using the outside edge of the ski for either just the initiation of the turn or anything up until half way through the turn. There is a detailed explanation of the pivot here: (this is on the menu buttons on the top of this page).

The main goal was to reassure Mark that here was absolutely no need to push the ski out – away from the body – to find an inside edge. Most good skiers eventually employ this action without ever being aware of it. When skiing in powder where the snow permits a pivot this is how short turns are made and it is the key to skiing moguls and to keeping your feet below you in steep couloirs. It’s a fundamental part of skiing but completely ignored. Bump skiers and instructors are trained to push their ski tails outwards – which is simply incorrect. Overall body mechanics remains the same as before – pulling everything inwards and using dynamics – no coordination changes – only the degree of movement and the edge of the ski being used.

ChiSkiing (Hip Angulation)

During the first clip in today’s video you can see how much Mark is rotating his whole body during the last few turns. Especially on the left leg the leg/body is straight and rigid  - with no angles or relaxation at the hip joint. For this we need to develop a certain amount of hip angulation and upper/lower body separation. We didn’t spend much time on this but it turns out that Mark has already been taught the classic version of this – so it was important to show how dangerous it really is when executed that way. (fortunately he wasn’t doing it anyway!)  In normal ski instruction the shoulders are turned to face downhill with the upper body twisting against the pelvis – turning to the right the shoulders would be countering left. This brings the left hip/pelvis around in front beneath the left lower ribs and compresses them. When you receive a load shock when like this your posture collapses and the load goes straight through your lower back – wrecking it. What I call ChiSkiing is when you do the countering with the pelvis only instead – causing the spine to slightly twist in the other direction and stretching out this same part of the lower abdomen. Under load this causes the abdomen to contract and protect the back. There is a detailed section on this here:

Pole Use

The pole is used for support – to control the centre of mass motion – in the pivot. It is a critical part of pivoting. This is the only time you use a “pole plant” with any load on it. This action is only truly solid when there is no forward travel of the skis – they are in pure sideslip mode.

For “normal” skiing we have the “pole touch”. The hands are held in the “goalkeeper” ready position – both visible constantly in peripheral vision and they normally don’t move from there (In racing there are exceptions). The body moving down into the new turn is what makes the pole contact the snow and it is positioned with only a flick forwards with the wrist. The handle is best held firmly between the thumb and middle two fingers – to allow the wrist action to be free. In forward moving skiing this is only a kinesthetic feedback mechanism.

Mark skis with his hands down by his sides and the right hand disappearing behind his body when completing a turn on the left leg – due to excessive rotation. Cultivating hip angulation, upper/lower body separation (ChiSkiing way only!) and thus combating rotation will enable a more functional arm carriage.


Visualisation of skiing is only possible when you are working with the right movement patterns and information – because all the senses are involved in visualisation. If your actions are not compliant with the laws of physics or nature then forget visualisation. The goal of skiing is to bring your focus away from your daily concerns and distractions – being able to focus entirely on what you are doing. Working with accurate information generates constructive feedback and internal dialogue which facilitates this process – called “centering”. It allows us to be fully in the moment – to fully experience it – and in skiing that puts us in contact with the incredible natural environment that it is engaging with. Now you can choose to do this – or ski with crap snowplough/balance bullshit and just focus on your hangover – as you unconsciously hack down the hill desperately trying to go faster than all the other numpties. It’s a choice!

No comments:

Post a Comment