Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Derin Day 8

Derin’s first ever off-piste experience! The crashes are all a perfectly normal part of it. Her use of dynamics – seen when inclining in carving – is what enables her to cope without any previous experience. The deep snow causes the “lifting up” power of the ski to be amplified so even more motion of the centre of mass to the inside of the turn is required – this takes experience to adjust correctly.

Close up of the snow shows how the fractal nature makes it indistinguishable from mountains.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Derin Day 7

No photography today. The conditions – snow and weather combined were probably slightly overwhelming for any 10 year old. All good experience though.

First of all we were tricked by the Lanches chair on the Grande Motte. It was warm and sunny at the bottom – but the top was freezing, in the shade, really high winds and humidity. We skied a little then I deliberately went off the side of the piste onto a very steep wall of deep snow – without warning Derin. This is to get her used to the wild and deep snow. There was no risk involved but getting Derin to work her way down it – sidestepping and slipping – was a learning experience for her – and hopefully allowing her to see new potential ways of “playing” in the snow.

Regarding skiing in the off piste this was not the day to introduce it to Derin as that requires very light powder for it to go well. The snow was very heavy and compact making it difficult for even very experienced skiers to turn efficiently. Consequently we were forced indoors twice to warm up and dry off (using the hand drier machines in the toilets) during this session.

We tried the Tichot lift with a view to working our way around to Le Lac – but were blasted frozen on the chair. Then – after abandoning that objective we tried the Fresse and with the wind behind us on the chair it was all good until trying to ski back down – frozen again!

In the end we stayed at the Bollin and Derin grudgingly accepted to do some technical exercises – but the cold is not very tolerant of that either. Eventually we were in the café warming up again and I was being educated on “Five nights at Freddy’s”.

Altogether we worked on hand carriage, angulation, pressuring the front of the boot and front of the ski – but only for a brief periods. Hopefully tomorrow brings a better day – though I’m already considering heading down to Les Brevieres to escape winds and cold at altitude. The snow should be good down there now.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Derin Day 6

Today was another non-stop trip to Le Fornet but we managed a little bit more technical work along the way. Due to the constraint of trying to cover terrain and the limited time with a “half day” the coaching side of things becomes much more pressured – but Derin still responds very positively. We worked on both improving carving and control on the steeps. There wasn’t much time for explanations so it was “on the go” coaching – some of which was filmed…



Short Swings

Derin standing in a sentry post constructed by Napoleon Bonaparte – they are spaced about 100 metres apart and were used for sending messages across the Alps by shouting…  

The South side of Mont Blanc in all it’s dramatic glory. At the foot of this side was the Italian Celtic “Bear” clan – the Aosta valley having a long Celtic tradition and standing stone circles still present on the hilltop border with France. The Centre of the Celtic world was actually in Ankara.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Derin Day 5

Today Derin skied her first black run – an icy Face de Bellevarde. She managed without any difficulty. I’d been concerned that on the ice her tendency to rotate the body might cause problems – but either she adapted to the challenge or the work on angulation with the pelvis that we did yesterday helped.

We managed to use the “up and over” chair to Le Fornet and then came back over to Solaise on it – skiing non stop down the “L” and taking the bus back to the centre to ascend the Face on the return journey. Derin did start the session today with her usual request to ski on the Bollin – but I successfully deflected that!

The video is of Derin’s first linked carved turns with no skidding in the turn transitions or initiations. Now that she has a proper feel for this she will be able to develop it much further. Getting to this point is the hardest part for most people. Carving is the basis for racing. Speed is no longer controlled by skidding to any degree – the skis are completely locked on edge and it’s the line and trajectory taken that control speed.

We worked on arm carriage (Elbows out and thumbs turned in) and used skating on the flats.

Pivoting from the uphill ski was practised and the link between this and short turns explained in more detail. Derin needs to pull her skis closer together – bringing the uphill ski down to meet the lower ski before initiating a turn – and getting on the uphill edge (of the uphill ski) to pressure it before moving the body downhill. The effectiveness of this development in technique also depends on how well the skier can angulate. There’s a lot of work to be done… Derin doesn’t like working on technique and says “Can we just ski normally!”. Well “normal” right now might be appealing but I think we have to change that idea of “normal” slightly…


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Derin Day 4

Work and play today! Derin actually allowed me to train her in technique – in exchange for a little bit of playtime in the snow! In reality she didn’t have much choice – it’s time to strengthen her technique and move forwards.

We worked on four specific areas:

  • Arm carriage
  • Skating
  • Pelvic Awareness
  • Angulation

Arm Carriage

Derin skis with her elbows close in by her sides and fists (thumbs) turned outwards . We need the exact opposite. Although we did drills (as in the video) this is really a postural issue and it will be more profoundly dealt with through developing awareness of the roll of the pelvis.


I explained to Derin that efficient propulsion in skating mainly comes from falling forwards. This is not only an exercise for getting the legs working and developing a feel of appropriate timing in skiing – it is specifically at the moment to help Derin move away from her tendency to lean on the backs of the ski boots.

Pelvic Awareness

Much more can be found written about this from the menu tab at the top of this page on “ChiSkiing”. The aim here is to become aware of the pelvis and separate out its movement and actions from the rest of the body. Derin has never really thought about her pelvis and tends to move everything else along with the pelvis. In skiing the goal is to counter rotate the pelvis against the direction of turning – so as the skis come around the turn the pelvis doesn’t. This slightly twists the spine in a favourable direction – tightening the abdomen and activating the involuntary postural muscles.


Correct hip angulation commences with pelvic awareness. When side slipping Derin tends to push her bottom downhill and lose all angulation – instead of moving her head and shoulders downhill and the bottom uphill. Working from the pelvis we started to correct this today.

Alp Day 6

Today was all about getting Alp onto some far longer suitable runs that would provide far more opportunity for feedback and repetition. There was a minor battle with the lift company due to the only suitable lift immediately braking down and wasting about 50 minutes of our time – leaving us freezing in minus 16°C and needing to go indoors to warm up. Eventually we got going and managed to include two complete runs of the Fresse piste. Alp was only assisted on the short but overly steep start for about 150 metres – then he skied the rest by himself – half a kilometre of altitude.

There’s nothing to report today about “technique” – it was a management day but very critical for development and progress. Alp did extremely well – picking his own path in front of me when I was filming.  His exclamation at the end probably sums it up best “It was my best day ever – in my whole life!” I’m sure there will be many more “best days”!

The Grande Motte glacier to the left and the Grande Casse to the right.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Derin day 3

Quite an impressive amount of skiing today from Derin. We started with a non-stop descent from the Grande Motte chair, short turns all the way – and when asked at the end if her legs were tired she just said “Nope!”. The idea today was to stay warm – using the Perspex cover on Les Lanches chair. After our “warm up” run we went over to Val d’Isère to ski up and down the new telecabine at La Daille – also to stay warm (We met Berin and Bruno there for a run – and we filmed it). It was great to see Derin being so active and when I gently suggested we work on some technique tomorrow – the response was another “noooo!” We’ll get there – I’m still the boss! (I think).

Alp Day 5

Today was mainly reinforcing and consolidating progress. Notably we returned to the blue piste several times (instead of the usual one off attempt) and Alp’s anxiety level was far less than previously. Other than reinforcing technical work that is already understood (though perhaps roughly executed) the only completely new thing we did was to jump and swing the ski fronts into the turns – incrementally during a turn. This exercise has several benefits; naturally narrowing the stance, getting off the backs of the boots and more perpendicular to the slope, relaxing the legs and making the muscles functional instead of rigid, reinforcing the pivot action (swinging the tips into the turn), actively using the adductors of the outside leg in the turn. The main reason for using this exercise was to combat Alp's super wide plough stance when he would go defensive on the steeper terrain. The important thing is to not let that defensive reaction become the default setting. On the steeper turns Alp was told to bring the wayward uphill ski back down to just beside the downhill ski and make sure it was on it’s uphill edge – prior to (starting a new turn) standing on it to move the body downhill into the new turn – swinging the uphill ski tip downhill following the body. Jumping shares much of this coordination.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Derin Day 2

Derin – after riding up the Funicular for the first time ever. (Mont Blanc to the right – Mont Pourri to the left)

Understandably Derin just want to ski and not to work on technique – but skiing is much better, more fun, safer and more interesting when technique is improved… so we have been working on a few things.


We did a very quick revision of dynamics – but Derin was clear on this subject so we didn’t have to take too much time. Dynamics can however be taken to completely different levels but we are not interested in that for the moment. I simply wanted to help Derin develop a narrower stance as she tends to ski with her legs wide apart as a substitute for moving her Centre of Mass.

In the video above Derin pulling her legs together with her adductor muscles while working on dynamics – actually pushing up from the uphill edge of the uphill ski just prior to the end of the existing turn. The job of a ski is to “bring you up” so it actually doesn’t matter too much which one is used! Getting Derin to modify things in this way encourages a narrower stance and this is clearly visible in the video.


Derin was asking to finish early but it wasn’t until we eventually were indoors that I saw her hands were freezing. She has been told now that she must let people know when this sort of thing is happening because it can be dangerous. It’s not “complaining” it’s just necessary! I’d made her put on a thick extra upper body layer before going out. When temperatures are as low as they are currently you can’t put on too much clothing.

Alp Day 4

Another freezing day – but no complaints from Alp. Today’s focus was mainly on building confidence. Greater speed provides clearer feedback from the skis and allows a stronger connection with the appropriate feelings and outcomes.

Magic Wall

For the first time we consciously added “dynamics” through the “Magic Wall”. This is fully described on the fixed “Dynamics” page accessed from the menu at the very top of the blog.

Foot Forward

Our attempt at skiing on steeper ground made Alp defensive again so he was given a lesson on “Foot Forward” technique – which he is seen doing in his ski boots at the end of the video clip. Pushing the ski in the same manner as he is pushing the ski boot dramatically tightens the turn radius on steeper slopes – especially when combined with dynamics. Alp is already partially pivoting but that in itself is a harder skill to develop for steeper slopes initially – and “Foot Forward” is an important skill in it’s own right.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Derin Day 1

Derin’s return to skiing began with a slightly wobbly few runs on the Bollin and then we were off – her request being the Fresse – which she skied well. There was a point blank refusal to work on technique and that presented no problem because an afternoon of strong skiing was probably the best thing we could do anyway. Derin promised to work on technique tomorrow.

Starting to get a little bit grownup for playing in the snow – but hey, I think I was still playing with my toy cars at age 10 and quite honestly never really wanted to stop!

Alp Day 3

Today Alp’s boots were one full size smaller – which he didn’t really notice because we told him they had shrunk a little due to getting wet yesterday. His feet were absolutely fine in the boots and this must have helped a great deal with respect to edge feel and control.

Almost immediately I started to get Alp to attempt short sections of the descent on his own. Sometimes technical development problems are actually because the person is being supported and dependence on this support prevents them from adapting and correcting properly. Today this risk proved to be justified because Alp responded very quickly and never made any serious misjudgements or mistakes.

Technically the focus was on the same things as when he skied supported – but now he was on his own – with only verbal feedback from me. Alp continued his progress on every descent – just as he had done on the previous two days. There’s still a little lack of coordination with the left leg – hence a bit more of a snowplough safety mechanism cropping up occasionally. We attempted the “blue” descent but it was icy and made Alp defensive – however, on returning to the easier “green” descent he had once again improved.

On the video Alp is being encouraged to skate/step his turns to diverge the ski tips and avoid snowploughs. I know that he works with his adductors and is generally making the right moves but it’s easy to become snagged in a defensive plough regardless. In the middle part of the video he is generally turning parallel – on day 3.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Alp Day 2

Alp began the day with his batteries fully charged up and with impressive confidence – showing mastery of all the skills and adaptation he had picked up from yesterday’s hard work.  Despite a wobbly start yesterday he has clearly taken up the challenge and is on his way – with determination. The fear of steeper slopes and speed was no longer visible so we were able to move onto better terrain and soon start using the Bollin chairlift.

Today’s objective was to cover much more mileage – assisting Alp all the way – helping him to apply new skills (never in a snowplough) and to feel the effects and feedback from his actions. During the morning Alp was given progressively more autonomy with him leading the turns and my just holding the supporting pole lightly.

Swinging the Ski – Adductors – Side Slipping

While assisting Alp I’m paying careful attention to his body position, motion of his centre of mass and which edges each of his skis is on. Without explaining I’m introducing the feeling and experience of “pivoted” turns – which is “braking” skiing and the safest way to control speed.  To help with this we would sideslip down steep sections together. Rather than allow Alp to push his uphill ski tail outwards and place the uphill ski on its inside edge Alp had to learn to pull the front of the uphill ski downhill – inwards – effectively starting the turn with the ski on its outside edge. This overall cultivates very short turns with a built in braking effect – because in all sectors of the turn the skis are on uphill edges working against acceleration. Alp did a few static exercises to learn how to use the adductor leg muscles to swing the ski tip inwards without using a twisting action. Visually, it’s hard for an observer to distinguish this from a slight snowplough – but technically it’s extremely different.


Alp is understanding how to use the edges of the skis for traversing across the slope. Side stepping, side slipping and traversing area all ways to move down the mountain – each having its place and each promoting different skills.


Alp made great progress when his right leg was leading the turn. His left leg was not so cooperative. When asked what was in control – Alp’s brain or Alp’s leg – Alp decided it was his leg that was in charge. Personally I wasn’t sure because on checking his ski boots the appeared to be a bit on the large side – which doesn’t help – especially when someone is determined to damage their calf muscle with serious pressure against the back of the boot at times!

With most obstacles we have to tackle them with a strategy leading to progressive changes. Skating gets the legs to bend (knees, hips), so does side stepping. Directly trying to bend down into a turn can help too – combating the tendency to be pitched back into the rear of the ski boot (which in this case was causing the ski to flatten and be unable to control and direct the turn). Regardless of the boots, Alp was locking his left leg rigid and using the bone structure for strength. When all the muscles are locked tight like this nothing can bend anyway. Good boots, exercises and increased awareness will sort this out. When this is fixed Alp will be able to ski unassisted.

Turn Structure

Alp is being constantly drilled to use the width of the slope to turn, completing each turn until properly slowed down. People have to be told that instead of braking defensively – as with a snowplough, we control speed by the shape and line of the turn – and through the turning technique of pivoting which naturally brushes off speed.

Yesterday evening’s moon seen from Tignes…

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Alp Day 1

Although Alp had spent a few hours on skis before, we started completely from scratch. Alp’s natural caution was immediately making him a little bit too tense and over-reactive to sliding – so we would need to proceed very progressively to allow this to settle down. Patience and lots of repetition are required.

One Ski Stepping – Direction Change

First of all we established that Alp was left handed – and left eyed. It’s useful to know this for reference. We began on completely flat terrain – only one ski on. The free foot can be used to push forward and the inside edge of the other foot and ski are used to push the body inwards so as to travel around in a circle – continually taking steps inwards to change direction. Alp was getting used to the long skis, the rigid boots, the feeling of an edged foot and the edge of the ski. Alp then removed the ski by himself and put it on the other foot – changing direction with the circle.

Our basic idea here – other than getting used to equipment – is to learn to change direction by moving the centre of mass in the direction you want to go and without “twisting” anything at all. Towards the very end of the day we used the same principle to side step uphill – just the lower ski on.


With two skis on we worked at skating forwards – the ski diverging wide apart at the tips. Tilting the whole body forward (falling forward) helps you to skate faster. Training this movement while developing awareness of the edges of the feet and skis is good preparation for climbing easy gradients – something Alp managed to master well by the very end of the day.

Skating Turns

The skating would also be introduced for turning – with a similar stepping action as with the original “one ski” exercise but when sliding downhill and with two skis on.  We began simply by picking up a little speed while the skis were parallel then stepping out to own side causing a turn and stopping completely – repeating this several times on each descent. The idea is to learn that turning controls speed and stops you if required.

Initially Alp tried to twist his body and shoulders into the turns – but when told to keep the body facing downhill and just step away from the fall line with the legs and skis he managed this very well.


The concept of “perpendicularity” was introduced to Alp – that is – staying perpendicular (whole body) to the slope, as opposed to remaining constantly vertical with the body. This was demonstrated visually so that he could clearly understand it. When accelerating Alp tends to remain rigidly vertical and on a slope this jams you into the backs of the ski boots. The solution is not to “lean forward” it is to tilt the whole body to be perpendicular and avoid leaning on the ski boots and locking up all your muscles.

Parallel Turns

We managed some slow parallel turns on the easy slope – the faster slope making Alp a bit too uncomfortable – obliging us to keep it slow for the time being. Alp was told to simply shift his centre of mass slightly across in the direction he wanted to go – if going to the left then the right ski and foot should go slightly on their inside edges and the inside of the leg should pull inwards towards the same direction. Alp managed to successfully change direction several times.


Alp tends to look at the ground and has to be constantly told to look up and ahead. There is a good chance that this is what worried him when he picked up any speed because staring at the ground makes it appear to rush at you when there is speed.


Alp doesn’t seem to know his boundaries – in that sometimes he appears to disobey instructions or ignore them. This could of course be a language or communication issue but it doesn’t appear to be. The problem with that is “safety” – because skiing is inherently a risk environment – it’s not a controlled environment like a school classroom!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Liliana 4

Blue skies again today – Christmas day in Russia! We started off a bit slow – yesterday being a day off and recovery for Liliana and Timothy with a badly sore throat.

Liliana was still lacking confidence and rotating on the steeps and failing to use her poles – and Timothy was swinging his shoulders around – so it was time to focus more carefully on technique. For Liliana posture was an issue here. When pulling the outside hip backwards it’s important to hold the front of the pelvis upwards – because it tends to get pulled down during this process as the hip moves backwards. The combination of upwards pelvic tilt and counter rotation of the pelvis to the turn (shoulders kept slightly more facing the skis – not “downhill”) is critical for postural control. Getting the hip to come back and the pelvis to remain stable allows far better hip angulation – which makes it safer to tilt further forward over the fronts of the skis with the upper body during the turns – allowing a much freer entry into the next turn on steep terrain.

Liliana understood this and progressively managed to launch herself downhill into each new turn better and to use the downhill pole for support as she pushed her centre of mass with the uphill leg into the new turn. Liliana’s skiing jumped up to a new level by the end of the day. Timothy also stopped swinging his body around and made significant progress.

Timothy angulating during carving

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Liliana–Timothy 3

Another clear, sunny and cold day – Liliana doing well but at her limits with physical tiredness. Regardless of the tiredness skill and confidence are improving rapidly. Today was more about taking full advantage of the empty slopes of “changeover day” than doing technical exercises. I could see Liliana working properly on her technique on the steeps, side slipping and pivoting more and staying in the fall line instead of locking the skis on edge and shooting off across the hill out of control!

Timothy had a low level cold so he was happy to just ski in my tracks. I filmed him with a GoPro but unfortunately the SD card was faulty – next time!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Liliana–Timothy 2

P1510002Today was mostly focused on Liliana – helping her to regain confidence in her ability. We worked on pivoting to have both feet working simultaneously on their inside edges and the adductor muscles working in both legs. Completing the old turn on the uphill edge of the uphill ski – to get early pressure on the uphill ski – independent leg action and extending the uphill leg to project the centre of mass down and into the new turn. This was done with a wide stance – the goal being to stop Liliana from stemming when in difficulty. This hip was also pulled back – continuing yesterday’s work. We enhanced this work with side slipping exercises and pivoting on the bumps. Liliana had to stand more upright to prevent tiredness in her leg muscles.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Liliana - Timothy 1

Cold but clear and perfect day for skiing. Timothy skied a year ago but seems to have a very good physical memory and is immediately at home on his skis. Liliana – slightly worried about fitness – is taking it easy, not having skied for several years. She too looks good on her skis right from the start. I took some video just for a record and picked one thing for each to work on. This wasn’t a technical day – it was meant really for Liliana to recover her confidence. Timothy had a good hard ski with me towards the end of the day.

Timothy was rushing the starts of his turns a little and his upper body is a bit too upright and far back. To help to change this I asked him to think of finishing the turn on the uphill edge of the uphill ski and to push up with that leg as he started to complete the turn. This generates pressure on the top ski in the new turn and so prevents you from rushing the turn and also gives clearer feedback to the body for standing more perpendicular to the mountain.

Lilian was worried about a weakness in her left hip and she was also showing her familiar tendency to sit a bit too much – pushing her bottom behind and losing strength and posture. We worked on turning the pelvis alone – not the shoulders – to pull the hip back with a slight counter rotation at the base of the spine. This action begins with the start of the turn and continues all the way through. The second video clip of Liliana shows her focusing on this and she looks much more upright and stronger.