Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Haluk’s Farewell to the 2019 Season…

Season’s changes – (before today’s modification…)

  • no comment – this was filmed just to show how good it was in Tignes at the end of April.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Billy, Patrick, Lilly, Holly 5

Today we began with a warm up run, nonstop pivoting, carving, pivoting, carving etc. Lilly did a great job keeping up. The intention had been to go into slalom straight after the warm up but the button lift broke down so back up we went to work on more technique...

(La Grande Motte and La Grande Casse today)


Hip Angulation

When carving (or even just carrying speed) you will not stay in such a steep course and still improve your speed without good hip angulation. This can be a very complex subject but I kept it very simple and effective. Basically – when working the second half of a turn and you are fighting gravity you have to be able to first of all fight the forces but then still very rapidly get the body out of the turn and into the next one. Creating an angle at the hip joint is mainly how this is achieved. (There are more consequences than this really but I’m keeping it basic for the moment) The children were taught to create the angle by turning the pelvis (and only the pelvis ) to face downhill. It’s important to avoid doing this with the shoulders instead – both for efficiency and to protect the spine. All of today’s development work was about generating angulation and improving it. Lilly managed it outside of the gates, Billy used it to get his carving going and Patrick manged it so well that he started getting airborne from rebound at the end of the turn.

All the body management issues are found at this link here: “ChiSkiing” – or by clicking the ChiSkiing tab at the top of the blog page.



Patrick with “rebound”…


Billy with great dynamic range – looking like a real racer…


Great dynamic range…



Holly in the gates!

Lilly also working well on angulation…



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Billy, Patrick, Lilly, Holly 4



Carving

Introduction to “carving”. The skis run along their edges – as if locked to a railway line – no sideways drifting. The exercises started with traversing from a very shallow gradient with the goal being to hold the skis on edge and let them turn you up the hill to stop.

  • Stand on inside edges of feet
  • Stand on the uphill edges of the skis
  • Move the body (CoM) uphill to insure the uphill ski is on its uphill edge
  • At low speed the two edges act as a platform of support
  • Two solid lines must be left in the snow – with a slight arc uphill

On very flat ground we then repeated the same from pointing straight downhill – then continued with very shallow turns attempting to have the skis carve all the time. Patrick struggled to keep the skis from skidding as he rushed the starts of his turns – a legacy from his “two footed” skiing and pushing the tails outwards. Patrick was encouraged to widen his stance and be patient at the start of each turn. Lilly was skidding initially but soon managed clean carving for most of her turns. Billy was amazingly quick to understand and is perhaps the fastest to learn carving that I’ve ever seen.

Group photo on the carving piste with Mont Blanc in the background…


Holly following Hunt on a green slope – then directly onto a black slope… (That’s called “trust”!)


Impressive bank of cloud in the Val d’Isère valley…


Slalom

Forget the times today – big ruts are not ideal for attempting to bring carving into slalom for the first time. Higher speed from carving is almost guaranteed to launch you straight out of the course and into the banks of snow building up outside the ruts. The course also appeared significantly slower today. In reality accurate comparisons can only be made “on the day”.  The training predictably started out with crashes – but the boys did extremely well to bring this under control, constantly adapting and becoming more stable.


Lilly

Lilly was working on developing a strong and confident impulse with the uphill leg to push the CoM into the new turn – but not only moving laterally to the skis but forward over the fronts of the skis and downhill at the start of the turns – so as to avoid being left back on the tails of the skis as they turn downhill. The aim is to anticipate the change in slope pitch (from the horizontal traverse) and the acceleration. In the video she is starting to use the fronts of the skis and is parallel even on the steeps due to successfully moving her body instead of stemming the uphill ski. 


Billy

Billy was taking a relatively slow line today (turning high on the rise line) to try to contain the speed of the carve and avoid tangling with the ruts below the gates. (I didn’t tell them that this form of line is longer and so quite slow!) Billy’s fall was mostly just bad luck (before he changed his line) – this time he wasn’t on the backs of his skis – the carving seems to have provided clearer feedback for him to be more centred. The only way to have prevented the fall (other than changing the line) was to have committed even more forcefully to the outside ski – the same thing that Lilly was working on. The line Billy had taken on this early run (and fall) was “late” due to his carving speed.  Billy’s dynamic range is starting to get interesting with the extra grip and support from carving allowing him to incline much more than before. 


Patrick

Patrick’s fall actually started at the same rut that took out Billy – and for the same reason! Patrick however stayed up until losing control at the next gate. More commitment  to the outside ski would have prevented the problem at both gates. Patrick was also later working on turning high on the rise line but what’s more important is that he managed to start to get his feet apart when necessary and start to use independent leg action. Perhaps the rough course conditions were exactly what was necessary to encourage this change to take place.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Billy, Patrick, Lilly 3

Mont Blanc today – 4810m altitude


Video

  • Working on pivoting skills
  • Lilly’s first black run descent
  • Fastest Slalom runs
  • Patrick 31.39 seconds
  • Billy 31.68 seconds
  • Lilly 48.82 seconds
  • Billy’s spectacular crash – caused by being too far back on the skis and against the backs of the ski boots.


Today we had to begin work on “Pivoting”. The program was initiated by skating with both feet on their inside edges, then side slipping with both feet on their inside edges but both skis on their uphill edges (separating the uphill foot edge from the ski edge) – then we launched into full pivots.

The complete teaching procedure is presented here: “Pivot”  and is also reached by a tab at the top of this page.


Although the pivot is a special skill in its own right it also has a critical role in developing slalom and for skiing on steeps.

  • Pulling the uphill ski front “inwards” using the adductor muscles (inside of upper leg – taught so it was felt) – to make the ski follow the CoM
  • Learning that it’s not which edge the ski is on that counts – it’s which edge the foot is on that counts
  • Stop trying to get on the inside edge of the uphill ski to start a turn – unless there is a clear and safe opportunity to accelerate

Lilly later used the turn initiation from the uphill edge of her uphill ski on the steeps to enable good parallel skiing – though she struggled a bit to hold this together in the race course – understandably. Lilly did incredibly well for her level of skiing – taking a deliberately slow line but on a very steep slope.

Billy was taught how to push against the magic wall from the uphill edge of his uphill ski – while remaining on the inside (downhill) edge of his foot – thus getting earlier pressure and grip from the turning ski. He was being taught this to try to provide the pressure beneath his support foot early and use the resultant postural reflexes this induces to get him to stand more centred over his feet instead of hard against the backs of his boots (which caused his earlier fall – and lack of turning power on the steep sections). When on the backs of the skis they go straight – they don’t turn!


Rise Line

Billy’s big improvement came when he understood the “Rise Line”. Until this point Billy was aiming straight for the gate and leaving the turning too late – causing him to actually turn lower and lower beneath the gates until all his speed was blown off. What you do is visualise a line from the gate in front going straight up the hill and you aim to cross this line as high up as you can – instead of aiming at the gate. Then you start the turn as you cross this line – which brings you back just under the gate itself instead of way downhill from the gate.

Patrick never quite managed to sort this out – but I don’t think he really understood it – at least with regards to putting it into practise. He seemed a bit tired today and apparently he didn’t sleep much last night. Regardless he did still have the fastest time overall quite early in the session.


Tignes glacier – early morning


The Bellevarde summit – early morning

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Billy, Patrick 2

Everyone today is working on extending “Dynamic Range”.

  • The skier has only one job – to fall over
  • The ski has only one job – to lift the skier back up.

Patrick got his time down another 5 seconds to 32.07 and Billy down to 33.4

Skating

We worked briefly on skating on the flat:

  • Diverging the skis
  • Rocking the feet onto their inside edges
  • Falling forwards and accelerating with gravity
  • Lifting the legs up from behind when falling forwards
  • avoiding using the legs for direct propulsion

Later we skated directly downhill and then introduced dynamics – converting the skating into skiing – but without the legs stopping their skating action.


Timing

The skating “down /up” timing of the legs corresponds to the down/up timing of dynamics – the toppling over into a turn and coming back up out of it. This is like a motorbike going down into a turn and back up out of it. We worked a little on this and due to his independent leg action (wider stance) billy was very good at this from the start. Patrick needs some attention in this direction due to his “two footedness”. Currently however Patrick is managing better dynamics due to his close stance – but unless he gets the legs working independently this will eventually become limiting.


Side Slipping

Increasing the awareness of the feet, ski edges and control of the skis through the motion of the CoM (Centre of Mass) we worked on side slipping on the steep sections.

  • Both feet are held close together below the skier
  • Both feet are rocked onto their inside edges inside the ski boots
  • Both skis are on their uphill edges
  • The uphill ski is on its uphill edge but the foot is on its downhill edge
  • This is the first experience of feeling the independence of ski edge from foot edge.

The skis simply don’t flatten due to the lateral stiffness of the ski boot shafts running up the lower legs – allowing the edging effects

  • Move the CoM downhill slightly to slip downhill
  • Move the CoM uphill to stop
  • Move the CoM slightly forwards to slip diagonally forwards
  • Move the CoM slightly backwards to slip diagonally backwards

The motion of the centre of mass and control this provides resembles a “joystick” control.


Slalom

Billy: good work on the dynamics – falling due to drifting too much sideways in the ruts – but generally the weight is too far back and the fronts of the skis are not gripping and turning – leading to body rotation and being spun around.

Patrick: also very good work on the dynamics – sideways drift of the skis also causing falls. Less rotation than Billy but a “two footed” version of the same problems. We will work on changing this tomorrow for both of you.

Both are reaching the speed that their technical level will allow – hence the difficulty staying on line and the falls. This is all positive and part of the feedback process that exposes the need to make changes – and highlights the most appropriate things to work on at any particular stage of development.







Lilly, skiing strongly parallel, working on dynamic range, good centred stance – and nice smile!


Monday, April 15, 2019

Billy, Patrick 1

Beautiful clear weather – but a cool Foehn wind at altitude. Billy and Patrick needed a good, easy, long run to find their skiing legs again after a year without skiing. Other than providing an appropriate line for them to follow on the piste I was watching carefully to see how they were moving and how they understood their skiing – ignoring the inevitable shakiness during the run.

The video initially shows the boys skiing before we began working on technique and changing things. Then in the slalom the boys are already beginning to work properly on technique. They both started off near the 42 second mark on the course and both ended up near the 37 second mark – this 5 second difference at this stage mostly coming from getting used to the course and gaining confidence – but also from conscious application of technique already.

Initial Skiing

The boys look different from each other on their skis but for one reason only. Billy has a wide stance and this creates “independent leg” use. Patrick has a close stance and is much more two footed. Other than the difference in stance everything else is very similar. In the slow motion clips you can see that Billy pushes outwards the tail of one ski during his turns and Patrick does that with both skis. The main goal to begin with will be to change this. Both boys tend to get caught on the backs of their ski boots but this and many other details are not really worth mentioning because we will be going straight to the cause of all the issues and avoid correcting “symptoms”. One additional purpose of filming at this stage is for later comparison after changes and progress have been made.

The boys have a good natural aptitude and feel for things so they will learn from here on how to make the best use of those attributes. Another thing very visible to me is that they are both fast learners in general, well disciplined and adapt well. They are also competitive so will push each other forwards in slalom!


Dynamics

Despite both boys being keen on science I decided to avoid explaining anything with physics and went straight into “magic”. The boys have previously been trained to displace their feet and legs (outwards) when turning – but real skiing avoids this totally. The body has a point between the pelvis and belly button which we call the Centre of Mass (CoM) – you can see this as just a single point that can be moved around in space. Skis really work entirely due to this point being moved – not the feet or legs being moved. In other words – you try to move your body not your feet.

There is a complete explanation of the principle of dynamics and the exercises used today – plus the “Magic Wall” imagery used to teach the boys – here at this link “Dynamics”. There is also a menu tab to this fixed page at the top of the blog. Please refer to this as we applied all of it today prior to using the slalom course.

Feet

After checking the ski boots for accurate fit and already having one boot off each we looked at how the feet are used in skiing. For the time being the aim is to stand with pressure on the heels (front of heels directly below the ankle joints). When bending and avoiding pressure on the fronts of the feet you are forced to bend only at the knees and hips and this causes the ankles to stiffen and strengthen reflexively. Secondly, the joint for rocking the foot onto its edges (inside or outside) is between the ankle and the heel and when standing on the heel it is easy to feel this working clearly. The boys were asked to rock the right foot onto its inside edge beneath the ankle (Magic Foot) and to lean against the table to their left (Magic Wall). In addition to feeling how the edged foot held them strongly against the Wall they each felt the “adductor” muscles on the inside of the upper leg. The message here is that everything “pulls inwards” and nothing pushes outwards.


Slalom

Today was really about familiarisation with the slalom and the environment. The key to success in slalom and making it a useful part of all skiing is in training to be able to focus on the body and eliminate distractions. Most high level skiers are simply the product of extremely brutal natural selection (leaving only a handful) out of hundreds of thousands of racing club children. However, even those skiers can be beaten through intelligent “conscious” programming of the body and mind – and nothing is more enjoyable or personally rewarding while providing a lifetime of inspiration, open ended development and passion.


Skating

We very briefly began looking at skating. The point here was to use the diverging ski tips to rock both feet onto their inside edges and feel this when skating. Later on in racing (and all skiing) the boys will understand that both feet are held like this constantly while skiing – even with the skis parallel.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Jules, Amelia, Ellie, Mia, Matilda, Jemima

Dense fog everywhere. Other than when filming that seemed to pose few constraints.

Continuing our “What do you want to be when you grow up” theme:

Matilda – Scientist and skier (or ballet dancer)

Mia – Scientist and skier

Jemima - “Don’t know” (However when asked what she liked doing most in the world the answer was “Skiing!” This was modified by one of her peers who said “Skiing in front of everybody else”.)

The slushy snow was a bit slow for the lightest group members so when we passed the slalom course I decided to do our technical training early today. Training involved a few runs in the slalom, some pivots with some feedback from me and some improved short swings.


Meanwhile, Jules was adding sugar to his drinks in preparation of Escape #3 – which was successfully foiled this time. Perhaps it wasn’t so urgent today because he was let off the reigns to come along with me and Ellie for a proper ski, right up to 2704m altitude and on the first ever red run for both of them. Unfortunately the dense fog meant they would be deprived of the phenomenal view from the ridge between the Meribel and Val Thorens valleys. It’s easy to forget that this was also the first week ever of skiing for Ellie – just because she’s bigger doesn’t make it any easier. The red runs were of course handled by both with consummate ease.

The only technical advice necessary on the steeps was to bring the uphill ski down close to the lower ski to facilitate a pivot at the start start of the turns – to make the starts both highly effective and quick. This prevents the uphill ski getting jammed on its inside edge at the start of the turn and turning into an accelerator pedal straight downhill.


Matilda Unleashed

Matilda joined our advanced team for the afternoon (Mia and Jemima retiring for the day early) and I was a little bit worried that it might not work because only a few days earlier she was struggling just to “stand up” on the nursery slopes. Well, her excellent appearance in the slalom and with her exercises was no deception – she had assimilated everything. After testing her out on a narrow blue – same as Jules did yesterday – she looked very capable after all. This time Matilda joined us going up to 2704m altitude and we did the entire descent into Meribel twice. She was even skiing over vertical drop-offs at least her own height and not only staying upright but really enjoying it.

Amelia led for some short video shoots. Poor Amelia has been a bit neglected this week because all the attention has gone to the complete beginners – though she has learned all the same things as they have and changed her skiing. Amelia really needs personal feedback – to improve posture and get off the backs of her boots, develop angulation and other skills. Those were subjects that the rest of the group were not ready for so there was no time to go into them during the week. In general – with correct biomechanics and physics – most “faults” vanish – so given the constraint of the varied group the focus had to be on transmitting this universal information to everyone.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Jules, Ellie, Matilda, Mia, Jemima, Amelie

First ever blue piste for the little ones – in dense fog. The huge advantage of this is that everybody stayed very close together in a line and with Jemima on form shouting at everyone who didn’t conform to her expectations we had our own built in foghorn. Everyone coped easily with the long route to the next lift which would lead to much higher, steeper and longer blue runs. I decided to go ahead with the challenge of the steeper runs while everyone was fresh.  Our only incident was when several skiers had snow stick to the wax on their skis half way down a steep section. Fortunately it didn’t take long to spot the problem and clean the skis.

While descending later on in slush Mia and Jemima tended to “plough” – but when they were told to keep the skis closer together they automatically achieved correct use of the feet and dynamics. This is because the uphill ski was allowed to stay on its uphill edge and was easy to “pull inwards” (downhill) into the new turn. This is mostly an unconscious blending of pivoting and dynamics. Having learned the two skills separately the blend happens spontaneously just by avoiding a wide, defensive stance. (When the uphill ski is held down close to the lower ski it is on its uphill edge – when spread out uphill it is on its inside edge). All I have to say to the girls though is “put your skis close together” – and immediately they are skiing parallel and with good dynamics even in slush and bumps. 

Cloud Breathing

The nose is the breathing organ – but all the children were breathing through the mouth. While in the cloud, breathing in and out through the nose lets you smell and feel the humid air differently. The slight restriction in breathing this causes increases blood CO2 – which in turn controls tissue oxygenation – giving more oxygen to your brain, heart and muscles. The greatest advantage however is that Jemima had to be silent when cloud breathing. Usually two seconds after setting off it was evident that the cloud breathing had already stopped!

Short Swings

We had a brief practise at pivoting, with Mia receiving a quick lesson having missed it yesterday and there was impressive progress all round (Mia also did some foot work indoors at the chalet in the morning). Tomorrow I’ll film the pivoting again to show the improvements. Today however it was to lead into Short Swings. The Short Swing is really a pivot but executed partially in mid air. Everything is the same but instead of pushing the body downhill against the ski pole you literally jump. (It gets more complicated but I’m keeping it simple here). The current goal is to give a method of getting around quickly when on something very steep and narrow. The exercise also enhances all the muscular coordination and movements we have been working on – but makes the legs more active and mobile.

Later, we also used bumps for pivoting the fronts of the skis downhill, making great use of otherwise challenging terrain and conditions. The children were all enjoying the bumps and slush due entirely to the fundamental techniques they have learned being suitable for all conditions.


Slalom

The slalom was filmed from behind to show how dynamics were being used to produce good parallel skiing. Not bad for day 5 beginners! Nobody was “pushing out” the skis, stemming or getting any major movements wrong. Magic foot, Magic Pull (front of ski), Magic Wall…. all the way!


Jules successfully escapes

Impressively, Jules managed to escape this time (only 2nd attempt) – completely unseen. Just as Amelia, Ellie and I were about to leave the top of the Plattier’s lift area at high altitude in dense fog out pops little Jules from a telecabine – having navigated the lift system by himself and not wanting to stop skiing. Luckily I’d stopped to clean Amelia’s goggles or we would have been off already without him. Meanwhile his distraught mum thought he had wandered off somewhere in town far below and didn’t even imagine he had somehow bypassed everyone and followed us up the mountain. While she must have felt horrified I felt overjoyed to have him safe by me. I called his dad immediately to let him know we had him at the top of the mountain.

Until now I’d only seen Jules a bit out of control when skiing slowly with the girls and thought this might be a long, slow descent. However I immediately put Jules to the test with our short turns on a steep and narrow run that serves as a boarder cross type circuit – and he was rock solid and on my tail the whole way. The entire descent was at a good speed and Jules skied like a seasoned skier – fully in control – even over big slushy bumps and in good rhythm – leaving the stronger girls way behind. Jules definitely has the right aptitude and his frightening escape turned out to have an incredibly positive outcome.

The new rule is “Never take a lift when there is nobody you know to accompany you. Just wait at the bottom if you are lost.”  Also – all the children should have a note with telephone numbers and residence written on it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Jules, Amelia, Ellie, Matilda, Jemima

What do you want to be when you grow up…

Jules –    Skier (policeman or fireman are too dangerous according to Jules)

Amelia – Author or Scientist (my advice – do both together!)

Ellie –     Actor or Singer


Wet and Dry Humour

Amelia says my humour is “bad” because she can’t tell when I’m joking. I explained that it is “dry” humour and that in contrast her humour – which comes from her joke book - might probably be called “wet” humour. So we agreed that I’m bad and Amelia is wet.


Poles for Petites

Time for the little ones to have their poles, because they are all skiing quite confidently without them. However the poles aren’t just for pushing along the flats; they serve a specific purpose which would be immediately introduced. No it’s not the mindless “pole plant” at the end of a turn. All would be revealed by learning the “pivot”.  The challenge would be in teaching a group of children something that in reality is formidably technical – without losing them completely along the way. Even the bigger children would be learning this from scratch.


Pivoting (Magic Pull)

Full details of “pivot” teaching are found here: “Pivot” (Tab also at the top of the blog page)

Dynamics requires forward speed (like a bicycle) and the ski works by providing lifting power as your centre of mass falls over – and there is no use of the ski poles. In contrast Pivoting is about travelling completely sideways – no forward speed at all – and using the pole solidly downhill from the body to prevent the centre of mass from falling. In both cases the centre of mass operates the skis and drives the entire system but the two mechanisms are completely different: Dynamics – support from the skis and Pivot – support from the poles.

Once the separate skills are learned then they can be blended together in degrees.

The pole planting seen here on video is completely spontaneous after being only physically assisted through one single pivot to feel what it is like – and free practice for a few individual pivots.

The main purpose of teaching this so early is to enable “fall line” skiing – the ability to turn tightly in a narrow couloir – without long traverses across the hill. The trick is in making the skier aware that there is no need to start the turns on the inside edge of the uphill ski – so that the uphill ski can slip into the turn (on its uphill edge) by the leg pulling the front of the ski inwards following the centre of mass. The skier must stand on the outside (uphill) edge of the (uphill) ski while being aware of standing on the inside (downhill) edge of the foot. Jules needed a bit of clarification here but still got the idea.

We initially worked on an exercise by lifting a ski and pulling the front against a pole planted in the ground between the two ski tips. When pulling the inside edge of the ski against the pole you look at that ski tail to see if it is twisted outwards or if it falls inwards bringing the heels together. If the ski tail twists outwards the skier is trying torque the ski and using the wrong muscles so this must immediately be corrected to learn the correct muscular sensations. Pulling the tip inwards is the opposite from “stemming” or “plough” where the tail is pushed outwards. It is counter intuitive and needs to be learned – using the opposite muscle coordination from stemming.

The Magic Wall uses the Magic Foot and now also the Magic Pull – all of this directed inwards to the centre of the turn.



Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Jules, Amelia, Ellie, Mia, Matilda, Jemima

Magic Wall

Today everyone skied in a disciplined manner down to the slalom area. The aim today was to remain in this area for a while to begin more serious work on ski technique – sorry, wrong terminology there – …work on magic!

How do you explain to a child that when you are standing upright you are really an “open, dissipative, feedback driven disequilibrium system” – and NOT in balance? Well I demonstrated that quickly with my two ski poles – but better ask them what they saw because I either write a book on it or we just agree to call it magic for the moment.

The “Magic Wall” was taught quite simply – the full breakdown of the procedure is found at this link “Dynamics” (Also tab at the top of the blog for the fixed “Dynamics” page) The goal was to get the children to move the centre of mass much more into each turn and use to slalom to encourage that. The invisible “Magic Wall” is what they trust and lean/push hard against – it NEVER lets them down – as long as they believe in it.

Magic Foot

The Magic Foot is the one that holds you against the Magic Wall. This means standing on the front of the heel beneath the ankle joint, then rocking the foot onto its inside edge (using the subtaler joint – between the ankle and heel).

Both the Magic Wall and Foot brought visible changes in everyone.



Great photo of Jules with the Magic Wall and Magic Foot



The Great Escape of Jules

Towards the end of the day Jules made his solo escape – straight down the main slope towards the bottom of the mountain – bypassing the slalom area lift system and heading straight into town. He almost got away with it but as I plunged down an off piste wall to go after him he somersaulted and his great escape was over – all that remained now was to walk all the way back up the hill because we could not continue down without the others.

Now Jules the escapee took full blame for this misadventure – but is that really what happened? No – not really. He had inside help!!!  …Instead of following my instructions to stop and wait with me until Jules was beside us – Matilda and Mia headed off on their own towards the button lift. They didn’t respond to my calls so I set off after them to stop them. When I caught them I turned around to find Jules – and there he was on his break for freedom! Now I had to think quickly and abandon everyone up the hill and get Jules to return him to the fold. The real masterminds were in fact Matilda and Mia.

Firmer rules and security are going to be implemented from here on in. 

Perhaps Jules was more suspected because he had almost fallen off the roof of the grotto already today.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Jules, Jemima, Mia, Matilda Ellie, Amelie

Everyone making great progress – but all with one thing in common – the need to move the centre of mass much, much more. That is – move the body inside the turn much more and to avoid all pushing outwards of the ski and leg or any rotations of the body or leg to attempt to turn the ski. I think tomorrow we can begin technical work…






Here’s an example of real use of the centre of mass.



Interesting note here – I photographed the ingredients of the commercial children’s sun cream: Counted 39 ingredients – most of them chemicals that are incomprehensible. I’m using for myself nothing but healthy or natural ingredients: Raspberry seed oil, Wheatgerm oil, Shea butter, organic beeswax, zinc oxide powder, peppermint essential oil. Overall SPF around 30 – add more zinc and go white for glaciers! SPF 30 means only 1/30th of light gets through.



Out of interest I looked up – just three chemicals ‘Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine’ was the first…

“In Europe, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine is an approved UV filter, which means that this ingredient can be added to sunscreen products that are designed to protect the skin from the sun. In Europe, sunscreen products are considered cosmetic products. In the United States, sunscreen products are Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs and only certain ingredients have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in these products.

In assessing sunscreen active ingredients, the FDA reviews both safety and efficacy. The safety and efficacy of Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine has not yet been reviewed for sunscreen use by the FDA and it cannot be used in sunscreen drug products in the United States. For cosmetics and personal care products in the United States, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine can be used as a UV light absorber. In this case, the ingredient serves to protect the product from deterioration by absorbing UV light.”

Proplyparaben was the second – turns out to be an estrogen mimicking compound.

The third was - Benzyl benzoate – which  “has low acute toxicity in laboratory animals. It is rapidly hydrolyzed to benzoic acid and benzyl alcohol. Benzyl alcohol is subsequently metabolized to benzoic acid. ... Benzyl benzoate can be a skin irritant when used as a topical scabicide.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Alex, Michael Day 2

Another shaky start to the day from Alex – but this time the side slip was managed unaided. The lack of confidence however was clear so we needed to get a proper breakthrough today.

Video

The video shows:

  • Good use of dynamics – with control over body rotation
  • Individual pivots
  • Dynamics incorporating angulation – counter rotating the pelvis


Conscious Skiing

Skiing is really about connecting with your own body and through that then connecting with the environment – and it’s a pretty special environment in the snow and high mountains. The movements we have been working on all interconnect and become self-reinforcing and focussing internally – inside the body – literally centres the mind. Yes – this leads to overall control of the centre of mass – and great skiing. Unfortunately all of this quality quickly evaporates when skiing with friends and attention is drawn towards group dynamics and needs. Do everything possible to keep your focus targeted. Skiing is an individual experience – between you and the mountain and you within yourself.


Dynamics Revision

Today’s session began by looking to see where everyone was technically. Alex had slipped back a bit but Michael was more or less where he ended up the day before. My attention had to fall on Alex for the moment. After a bit of revision of the issues to focus on – mostly around committing-to/standing on the new outside leg Alex was back to where he had previously left off.


Dynamic Range

Both skiers had a glaring lack of dynamic range so I explained “The Magic Wall” and how you cannot fall with dynamics – the ski getting exponentially more powerful as you increase the dynamic range. Competent increase in dynamic range is proportionate to the increase in security and stability.

Both managed to increase dynamic range a little – but what appeared to be holding them back the most at this stage was that both were using whole body rotation (Alex the most) to force the body around into the turns and hence lose organisation of the foot and leg support and control of the outside ski.


Control of Rotation

Just clarification and awareness of the rotation issue was enough to bring Alex the breakthrough he really needed to free up his skiing. Swapping the forced rotation with a conscious use of the legs – foot/adductors/centre of mass – and realising that this absolutely had to happen BEFORE the body was turned by the skis (instead of by twisting the body ahead of the skis) – Alex was able to feel secure enough to increase his speed and get better feedback (stronger forces) and stability.

Michael was rotating with his right side at the start of his turns to the left – but he was not quite managing to correct this so I decided to introduce another aspect of dynamics.


End of Turn Dynamics (Dynamics Part 2)

Sometimes the emotionally driven “rotation” issue can be eliminated by learning to complete the turn using a “neutral” phase between turns. This is when the downhill ski is used to support the skier coming up out of the turn at the turn completion – all the way until the skis are flat on the snow – travelling across the slope – the skier perpendicular to the mountain. The skier feels like he is falling over the front of the downhill ski into the void! It’s scary – but fun – because it always works. The skier’s mass has crossed over the vertical into the perpendicular so there is an unstoppable flow into the next turn – hence no need for body rotation!


Pivot

We only had a couple of shots at pivoting today – but this was backed up with a fair few steep side slips earlier on. The definite improvement is visible in the video. Both skiers still do not have the reflex to do this when needed though – they revert to snowploughs! Work at it!


Hip Angulation (ChiSkiing)

The main reason for brining this subject in towards the end of the session was to warn against the health dangers of “facing downhill” without properly understanding what this means. In skiing terms this is really called “hip angulation” but it is more complex than it first appears. This property being completely absent in both skiers it was also obvious that if the teaching was successful then it could also dramatically improve the control of rotation.

Notes on “ChiSkiing” (Tab at top of blog page also)

Hip angulation can be seen here – the angle specifically at the hip joint.

First of all I asked Michael to “face downhill” while standing stationary across the slope. He turned his shoulders. Asking him to put out his hands in front I placed a ski pole for him to hold across his hands and then put some weight on this so he had to pull up. What this does is put pressure on the feet – through the body – and all he could feel was the lower back instantly hurting. We then repeated this but by only turning the pelvis to face downhill and when the pressure was applied there was no back pain – only a reflex contraction of the abdomen to protect the back. The point is that If the shoulders are turned – twisting the spine from the top down the downhill (weight bearing) hip ends up in front of the ribs and posture collapses – endangering the back when pressure builds up. When instead the pelvis is turned it pulls the hip backwards away from the front ribs and then pressure under the foot activates the contraction of the abdomen to protect the spine.

The pelvis is effectively “counter rotated” during the turn – which is a strong antidote to body rotation.

Simplifying this – it’s all one leg! Foot, adductors, hip(pull back),  centre of mass.

Both Alex and Michael looked stronger immediately when skiing with this addition so it was the right time to introduce it. The last part of the video today is with this included.


Skating Rhythm

Our very last pitch was an opportunity to demonstrate how the down/up timing of the “inverted pendulum” action of dynamics is complimented by the down/up skating action of the legs – making the legs more functional and the skiing stronger by adding muscular impulses.

We stood facing downhill – skating directly down the fall line – with a little speed you can then “fall inwards” by adding dynamics – then the skis arc and soon don’t need to be stepped – the skating morphs in skiing – but the legs keep on working and maintaining the skating action and rhythm. Michael found this effective and strong because he is a skater – but Alex successfully connected with it too.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Alex, Michael Day 1

The steep entrance to the Vert training slope was very challenging for Alex at this stage – perhaps partly due to the icy surface. Side stepping and side slipping down took a fair bit of attention and time – but every moment was useful and constructive. Michael was clearly far more comfortable and experienced so that allowed me to take care of Alex properly. When arriving at the training slope I decided to start completely from scratch – using the unique beginner’s teaching methods that I’ve developed over the past 23 years. Not only would this give Alex the best chance of rapid success but it was probably also the best option for Michael, beginning again with a clean slate and discovering exercises that would provide clarity and deeper understanding.
Most of the teaching process is shown in graphic detail here: Beginners  (There is a tab at the top of the blog for this too)




Video

The video was taken after most of today’s work. Michael is skiing very parallel and Alex is growing in confidence. Alex is still pushing the ski tail outwards at the very start of turns on steeper ground – especially the left ski – and often twisting the ski into the turn. However in general he skis with a good degree of successful dynamics. There is no “perfection” in skiing and just improving aspects by degrees has an overall impact. Skiing is “holistic” in the sense that you can remove parts but the whole will still function.


Beginning

There were a few specific things added to the “beginners” exercises that are worth mentioning here. When skating on the flat we used gravity/falling forwards for propulsion. Both feet were rolled onto their inside edges for gripping with the ski edges. I explained that this was a sensation that had to be maintained with the feet and legs all the time – with the skis parallel. The skating helps to get the legs active, mobile (instead of rigid) and to make the sensation of the feet on their inside edges very clear. This would be used in developing further skills later on.

Alex had to become aware of his tendency to stare at the ground and lose perspective of his speed – but he did a good job of overcoming this.


Dynamics

We used my standard teaching progression for dynamics. There is a tab at the top of the blog named “Dynamics” which takes you to a fixed describing the teaching and principles behind it.


The most important point to remember is that “You have one job; to fall over. The ski has one job; to lift you back up”.


Feet

  • Stand on the front of the heel – directly below the ankle joint

  • When flexing use the hip and knee – the ankle stiffens reflexively if weight is kept on the heel

  • Shin muscle “anterior tibialis” tenses up – ankle only bends to around 12° – same rake as the boot shaft

  • Shin touches the front of the boot

  • Use the subtalar joint beneath the ankle to rock the foot onto its inside edge

  • Forefoot turned outwards – away from the turn

  • Feel this activating the adductor muscles – inside of upper leg

  • Feel the knee pull laterally inwards but stop at its limit (instead of wobbly and twisting inwards as happens when the ankle collapses)

Turning - In this order: Foot / Adductors / Centre of Mass – this is what you say to yourself when moving the centre of mass into a turn. The outside leg is all you have to be concerned with. Meanwhile both feet actually remain on their inside edges all the time.

The ski boot alignment and size were checked and static exercises carried out with one boot off. This is important because you cannot see what’s going on inside a boot and you cannot feel the function of the joints clearly either.


Centripetal Force

The turning ski drives you “inwards”, away from a straight line. This why it is called a “centripetal” force. With the strong stance on the outside ski and by rocking the foot on its inside edge (forefoot turned outwards) and holding the adductors taught – driving the centre of mass inwards – you develop the turn. Everything “pulls” inwards. In the “beginners” exercises we principally learn to propel the Centre of Mass inwards with skating steps – instead of pushing the ski tails outwards.


Don’t push the ski out

The skis are always trying to flatten – which is how the actually lift you up if you work properly with them. If the ski tails are pushed outwards then the leg twists and this causes the foot to flip onto its outside edge and the ski to flatten – losing almost all functionality.  In addition the wrong muscles are used – on the outside of the leg – pushing out instead of pulling in.


Perpendicularity

Your basic stance on skis should not be “leaning forwards”. Just stand on the horizontal across a hill and feel what it’s like to be “vertical to gravity”. This should be the same feeling when sliding straight downhill – the body perpendicular to the slope now. In mechanics the component of gravity pulling you into the ground is perpendicular to the ground – the other component pulls you downhill.

We did some straight running while working on perpendicularity, using skating steps into turns and then just the motion of the centre of mass.


Side Slipping

Keeping both feet close together vertically beneath the body and both feet on their inside edges the aim was to sideslip down a steep incline – using the motion of the centre of mass to both slip, stop or go diagonally forwards or diagonally backwards. Michael noticed correctly that the Centre of Mass become like a Joystick control. This of course fully applies to skiing in general – not just side slipping. The side slipping would take us onto “Pivoting” – where in its pure form there is no forward motion of the skis and the ski pole is used to control the centre of mass because there is no real lifting up effect of the ski.


Pivot

Standard progression was used here. There is a detailed page with full demonstrations accessed from the tab at the top of the page: “Pivot

You have to work on this diligently – but only in small chunks at a time as it can be frustrating.




Combing Dynamics and Pivot

The reason for working on the Pivot at this early stage was to get across the message that it’s absolutely not necessary to get the outside ski onto its inside edge to turn – and eventually to see that all that’s important is being on the inside edge of the foot. The ski will turn from either edge – following the centre of mass.


Avoiding Rushing The Turns (With Dynamics)

Alex had a tendency to anxiously rush the starts of the turns on steeper terrain. Once the "acceleration” phase of the turn is accepted and that this is not a thing to fear – the second half of the turn bringing speed under control – then it’s easy to avoid that impulse to rush the starts. Good skiers avoid forcing the ski around to get it downhill and skid  to brake – instead controlling speed just through the overall line and change of direction. Alex was able to feel how he could obtain better control with this change.

 

Independent Leg Action

I wanted to make the starts of the dynamic turns more solid and effective for both Alex and Michael so we did an exercise of turning with a very wide stance. The uphill leg is bent as a turn is being completed when the stance is very wide so you use it to force the body – by extending that leg – both out of the existing turn and strongly into the new turn. This gives a powerful and stable grip at the start of the new turn and ensures competent dynamics.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Anthony, Suzanne, Olivia

Anthony and Suzanne had not skied at all this year so far and only had a few weeks of experience altogether – so there was a short warm up and some time allocated to get used to sliding again. This is useful time for me to spend observing also. Despite having a clear overall goal to aim for, each individual may have their own ongoing issues to be accounted for within the teaching approach. Both skiers were a little bit rigid and on the backs of the ski boots – something very normal for inexperienced skiers, mainly as they are unconsciously keeping the body vertical to gravity. Learning any new skill requires time, even with accurate information. It takes time to build awareness and separate out body parts – even individual muscle actions. The main goal today was to make sure correct basic mechanics, biomechanics and concepts were put in place – a prerequisite to any real development.

The video clips show Before / After learning basic Dynamics.


Dynamics

Anthony and Suzanne received my standard teaching progression for dynamics. It takes time to assimilate and iron out any confusion that might arise when learning this. There is a tab at the top of the blog named “Dynamics” which takes you to a fixed describing the teaching and principles behind it.

The most important point to remember is that “You have one job; to fall over. The ski has one job; to lift you back up”.

Dynamic Range is the goal in skiing – increasing how much you can move your centre of mass. In contrast “balance” is simply a HUGE MISTAKE. You feel “stability” derived from organising accelerations – not from “balance”. 

Feet

  • Stand on the front of the heel – directly below the ankle joint
  • When flexing use the hip and knee – the ankle stiffens reflexively if weight is kept on the heel
  • Shin muscle “anterior tibialis” tenses up – ankle only bends to around 12° – same rake as the boot shaft
  • Shin touches the front of the boot
  • Use the subtalar joint beneath the ankle to rock the foot onto its inside edge
  • Forefoot turned outwards – away from the turn
  • Feel this activating the adductor muscles – inside of upper leg
  • Feel the knee pull laterally inwards but stop at its limit (instead of wobbly and twisting inwards as happens when the ankle collapses)

Turning - In this order: Foot / Adductors / Centre of Mass – this is what you say to yourself when moving the centre of mass into a turn. The outside leg is all you have to be concerned with. Meanwhile both feet actually remain on their inside edges all the time – feeling like squeezing a tennis ball between the legs.

The main issue is to ensure that the ankle does not collapse and leave the boot holding you up instead of your leg. Instability generated by this issue contributes to the skier ending up being thrown to the back of the boots again – compounding problems. Creating a solid stance from the foot upwards, then using this as the support for good dynamics – provides the basis for accurate feedback and auto-correction to develop naturally.

Centripetal Force

The turning ski drives you “inwards”, away from a straight line. This why it is called a “centripetal” force. With the strong stance on the outside ski and by rocking the foot on its inside edge (forefoot turned outwards) and holding the adductors taught – driving the centre of mass inwards – you develop the turn. Everything “pulls” inwards. 

In the final part of the turn you still hold the foot and leg the same way but you allow the ski to lift you up – effectively taking you out of the turn as it keeps on turning but your body doesn’t! We didn’t have time to get into the dynamics for finishing a turn – but teaching the “pivot” would later help to sidestep any issues that might have developed. In the future it is however critical to learn how to exploit the dynamics to finish the turn.


Don’t push the ski out

The skis are always trying to flatten – which is how the actually lift you up if you work properly with them. When stuck on the backs of the boots then the skis can manage often to flatten (without lifting you) and so flatten the foot and twist the heel outwards. This was happening a bit with Olivia on both sides and with Suzanne on her left leg. With Suzanne it was happening more at the turn initiation and with Olivia it was near the end of the turns. Fight to get the entire turn with the foot rocked onto its inside edge and the forefoot twisted outwards.


Perpendicularity

Your basic stance on skis should not be “leaning forwards”. Just stand on the horizontal across a hill and feel what it’s like to be “vertical to gravity”. This should be the same feeling when sliding straight downhill – the body perpendicular to the slope now. In mechanics the component of gravity pulling you into the ground is perpendicular to the ground – the other component pulls you downhill.

When you begin a turn you launch the centre of mass downhill so that as the skis come around from the horizontal traverse you find yourself perpendicular and sliding downhill. Often there is a small “forwards” projection too – anticipating the acceleration – so you launch the body into the turn with dynamics and a slight forward projection. This is actually how skilful it is staying off the backs of the ski boots!  Work on this and experience will accumulate. Only experience will provide you with the ability to get this right in all situations.


Timing

The timing for the turn is “down into the turn” and “up out of the turn” – exactly like a motorbike going through a corner.  There is no need for pole use here. Follow the skis and don’t complicate matters by trying to “face downhill” – unless done correctly that can be dangerous for the lower back.

Anthony – holding your hands down low by your sides is what gives you the “bent over” appearance. Just imagine you have a hula-hoop in front of you and you are holding the outside rims – “goalkeeper” or “ready” position. Keep the hands up at this height – but some work is needed on your posture too. Protect yourself meanwhile by avoiding trying to “face downhill”. Just move laterally to the skis for dynamics. 

Pivot

Standard progression was used here. There is a detailed page with full demonstrations accessed from the tab at the top of the page: “Pivot

Everyone understood this well and started to feel the effect. You have to work on this diligently – but only in small chunks at a time as it can be frustrating.

The main reason for brining this into the picture is to remove the dogma that obliges people to try to always start their turns on the “inside edge “. The only important thing is how we move and control the Centre of Mass! (for the moment this smooths out the turn transitions without being full experts with dynamics)


Skating

Skating is fundamental to skiing – providing timing and muscular impulses compatible with the “inverted pendulum “ of the motorbike cornering. We had a moment on the flats where we did a little bit of skating – diverging the skis and rocking both the feet on their inside edges. This is the same sensation that I was referring to earlier when I wrote that both feet  remain on their inside edges all the time when skiing!

The trick when skating on the flat is to fall forward - using gravity – and just lift the legs from behind and step/place them underneath the body. Propulsion then comes from gravity itself. Anthony and Suzanne struggled here – showing that work in the direction would be a valuable asset.


Rhythm

Racing is all about “rhythm” and “breaking rhythm”. Courses are set to strict regulations regarding both – in slalom 6 turns max of the same rhythm and 3 turns min – with various pole configurations for breaking rhythm. Our idea of rhythm today was just to show how dynamics generates flow and continuity between turns – when you avoid killing the energy by sticking a traverse between each turn.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Patricia

Alignment

First job today was checking the ski boot alignment – all good! About 50% of the people I check turn out to be misaligned – requiring at least some adjustment of the boot shafts.

Observation

On snow the first task was to observe Patricia skiing and get an overall impression. Part of this involves filming – partly for helping later analysis but mostly for before/after comparisons.

Patricia had good coordination and no idiosyncrasies. The skiing was straight out of the ski instruction manual so she had obviously very clearly understood everything that she had previously been taught – showing that she is a good student, physically competent, free of unnecessary fear and ultimately confused as to why it doesn’t really work! This is a classic situation – and the problem lies 100% in the teaching – not the student.

In the first part of the video clip you can see the following…

  • lack of dynamics
  • movements intended to cause “balance”
  • a stemming of the skis and stepping
  • down-sink and pole plant at the end of a turn and up movement into a turn
  • body rotation made worse by reaching forward with the pole arm and letting the other arm fall behind – despite trying to face the body downhill
  • rushing of the start of the turn
  • braking through the turn

All of the above is either taught directly or a consequence of that teaching. There is little stability and security even on easy slopes.


Dynamics Part 1

The teaching of dynamics followed my normal procedure – presented in detail HERE This can also be reached by the “Dynamics” tab at the top of the blog page. Patricia preferred the “Magic Wall” explanation – which is precisely why I give this option!

There was nothing unusual to report about this – the change to using dynamics created some understandable confusion but that was mainly due to terminology. When making an arc we usually talk about “inside and outside” skis – not “uphill and downhill”.

Feet – Adductors

With dynamics functioning we took a break for a drink and then to look at how to use the feet properly – which required being indoors and removing a ski boot. First we looked at the problems of how Patricia was currently using her feet and ankles – letting them collapse inside the ski boots and making the knees very vulnerable.

  • stand on the front of the heel – directly below the ankle – lift toes if necessary
  • flex at hip and knee avoiding pressure on the front of the foot – causes a reflex tensioning of the shin muscle (anterior tibialis) and strengthening of the ankle – limiting flex to about 12° – same as the rake of the ski boot. (so your shin just touches the front)
  • rocking the foot onto its inside edge using the subtar joint – between ankle and heel
  • engaging the adductor muscles on the inside of the upper leg – through rocking the foot
  • feel the limitation of inwards movement of the knee
  • practising doing this simultaneously with both legs – feet fairly close together – to activate the core muscles and develop the correct overall stance for skiing

Only one leg is loaded at a time when skiing – the outside leg.

Think in this order: Foot – Adductors – Centre of Mass  all on the outside leg.


Posture (Facing Downhill)

We had a brief look at posture control and reflexes for protecting the lower back. The point was that Patricia for the moment must follow her skis and not try to “face downhill” until there is an opportunity to learn this properly. Facing the shoulders downhill disengages the reflexes that protect the back – facing only the pelvis downhill twists the spine the opposite direction slightly – and allows the protective reflexes to work and contract the lower abdomen when there is pressure under the feet. We did an exercise I have developed for this and Patricia was able to clearly feel the difference.

The main thing is to just follow the skis for now and develop the dynamics moving laterally to the direction of the skis – keep it simple!


Centrifugal Illusion

We discussed “Fictitious Forces” and how they create the confusion in ski teaching. The take away here is that all the actions of the ski and body are to be coordinated to “pull inwards” during the turn – and avoid any “pushing outwards” and attempted “resistance” to the non existent centrifugal force.


Independent Legs

We used a wide stance to feel how to push the body over (dynamics) with the uphill (future outside) ski into the new turn. The wide stance allows the uphill leg to bend more so there is more sensation of muscle use to make the push. This gives a distinct “walking” action – going clearly from one leg to the other. This sort of early pressure is what is required always. However this in practice is to be blended with the more important “Dynamics Part 2” (below).


Separation of Edge of Foot and Edge of Ski

One fundamental aspect of skiing is being able to sense when there is pressure on the inside of the foot – yet maintaining pressure on the outside edge of the ski. We discussed this briefly. The purpose here was to clarify that there is no need to try to get on the inside edge of the ski to start your turn – only the inside edge of the foot!!!


Dynamics Part 2

“Getting Out of Your Own Way!” During the turn initiation and development you drive inwards against the Magic Wall – then complete the turn almost back up the hill so that pressure builds up,  allowing the ski to lift you up out of the turn. This takes experience! You have to come out beyond the vertical – to have the skis flat and the body perpendicular to the slope (already falling now). This links the turns with great ease and fluidity.


Line

The first part of the turn takes the longest so don’t rush it – get pressure on the outside ski with the dynamics and ride it. Pull inwards. Good skiers control speed with the line they use – not by braking.


Foot Forwards Technique

Turn radius when skiing with dynamics is controlled by pushing the outside ski forwards. This is extremely important on steep terrain so that the turn is tightened quickly and speed controlled. You must “pull in” as you push forwards. The static exercise also begins to train the skier to feel the leg rotating in the hip joint – without twisting/turning the leg. The foot is always rocking on its inside edge and the adductors pulling inwards during the arc.


Observation

The main conclusion of the day was “Eat less bread”. Other than that the “after” video clip shows good dynamic range and pressure through the whole turn (for most of them) and smooth turns rather than snatched. The dynamics were visible both going into and coming out of the turns. The timing now resembles the inverted pendulum or motorcycle and the arms are natural with no “pole nonsense” going on. Good progress – and great ability to properly take on board the challenge of many new counter intuitive ideas without  the brain exploding!