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.


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”. 


  • 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.


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.


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. 


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 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.


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



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.


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.


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.


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!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Andrew - Sarah

Crash course in the real fundamentals of skiing. Good weather – pistes a little bit icy but OK. Andrew and Sarah have different amounts of previous experience and different issues to address but due to time constraints there would be minimal opportunity for individual feedback. The goal was to give a broad and comprehensive picture of the building bocks of skiing skill – to impart a different “way of thinking” about skiing that will enable unimpeded learning in the future – and good protection from injury. 

The video consists of “before (without dynamics)” and “after (with dynamics)” parallel skiing, pivoting and “foot forwards” technique exercises.

Outline of stuff we covered…

  • Dynamics – controlling direction with the centre of mass

  • Feet – pressure front of heel – below ankle joint

  • Bending – ankle stiffens – anterior tibialis (shin muscle) tension – shin touches front of boot – bend at knee and hip – not ankle

  • Subtalar joint – rocking the foot on its inside edge – boot/shaft keeping sole from flattening and enabling constant edging of the foot

  • Alignment – boots must be accurately aligned (shaft of boot adapted to leg)

  • Adductor muscles activated when rocking foot on inside edge – limits motion of knee inwards

  • Foot, adductors – centre of mass (global movement) In that order – outside leg of the turn

  • Both legs constantly using adductors  - always on inside edges of the feet – only one leg usually “active”

  • Perpendicularity – no “leaning forwards” – the goal is perpendicularity to the slope (or horizontal traverse)

  • Line – good skiers use the “line” they take to control speed – poorer skiers push their skis outwards to the side to get them below to skid and then brake

  • Pivoting – separating edge of foot from edge of ski – skis always on uphill edges – “fall line skiing”

  • Pole – used to support centre of mass – only in pivoting

  • Side Slipping – skis close together – inside edges of feet  - uphill edges of skis – moving Centre of Mass to control slip

  • Independence of the legs – strong / early push of the Centre of Mass into the new turn with the uphill leg (no need to change edge before the push initiates)

  • Centrifugal force – illusion! Pull everything inwards – foot, adductors, centre of mass – “pulling the string”…

  • Foot Forward technique – to control turn radius on steeps while using dynamics – push forwards for increased grip and rapid turns

  • Upper / Lower body separation – static exercise allowing the femur to rotate in the hip joint and avoid the body rotating

  • Timing - Down / Up – explanation of how the skier moves like an inverted pendulum – down into a turn and back up out (motorcycle)

  • End of Turn Dynamics – for Sarah – project the body over the front of the downhill ski to exit the turn and enter the next one (links to perpendicularity as it changes from traverse to slope) Gets you off the backs of the boots! Stand up more!

Dynamics and Pivoting

Both developments were carried out following my standard methods which can be studied in detail from the fixed tabs/pages at the top of the blog.

Andrew found the dynamics made skiing less hard work – which is correct. There was a rapid improvement which was also continued when learning to pivot removed the tyranny of the “inside edge” (snowplough legacy). His biggest change was probably due to the work on the feet giving a secure foundation and removing all the fore/aft confusion. When the stance is solid then reflexes kick in automatically, removing uncertainty and confusion.

Initially Andrew had the greater problems so he was the main focus of my attention – and that worked. Meanwhile Sarah was doing fine but was also heading for a crash because her underlying issues hadn’t really been receiving enough attention. This always happens when there are a few people together with different things going on – priority goes to where there is the most struggling. Looking back at the video I can see that Sarah was very stiff in her legs at the start – with almost no movement. The body was tilted forward at the hips – but the legs were against the backs of the ski boots, stiffening the legs. Sarah really needed more time and individual work on this – but did really well regardless. From this point onwards however there’s no point focussing on “correction”. It’s best just to persist with dynamics, pivoting and all the details. Reflexes will start to take over naturally and direct the body.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Caroline Session 2

Warm up / Revision / Mindfulness

Our warm up run over into Val d’Isère was used to focus on yesterday’s dynamics and work with the feet and adductor muscles. When you are focused on the global motion and the action of the parts of the body then you ingrain those actions, progressively moulding them into skills. This conscious activity also steadily increases awareness but more importantly it centres the mind and pushes aside distractions and anxieties.

When the pressure cycle and movement pattern are correct then reflexes function to stabilise and centre the body – so many apparent difficulties just vanish and higher levels of performance are automatically realised. We will look at how pressure under the feet activates reflexes later – but also at how the body has to be aligned correctly for this to happen.

The video shows

  • Turn completion dynamics
  • Side Slip
  • Pivot
  • Dynamics with facing the pelvis facing downhill (angulation)


When you stand on flat, level ground in ski boots and on skis you can feel quite relaxed. You feel gravity and you stand vertically, with the body slightly flexed. When on a slope and sliding you need to stand perpendicular to the slope and this achieves exactly the same feeling – part of the gravity converting into an acceleration. The component of force coming up through the snow (under your feet) is also perpendicular to the slope and is called the “Normal “ force. The point is that you are oriented to the perpendicular – not to the vertical now – but the feeling is the same and you do not “lean forwards” – it feels “Normal”.

The “lean forwards” mantra comes from trying to correct people who slide on a slope and insist of keeping their body vertical – but it’s a misleading instruction.

We do use fore/aft adjustments for various functions – but those are “additional “ actions – not fundamental basics.

Dynamics – Turn Completion

The turn dynamics consist of  three parts – we began by learning how to accelerate into a turn and next we look at how to complete a turn. Completing the turn requires the body travelling across the hill being lifted up  and so “out” of the turn – all the way beyond vertical and into the perpendicular until the skis are flat on the snow pointing across the hill – and this is called “Neutral”. We did a few static – assisted – exercises to communicate the feeling and then Caroline was able to achieve this in her dynamics – linking the turns more fluidly and hence improving her stance.

Dynamics – Developing the Turn

Towards the end of the session Caroline was struggling a little on a steeper and bumpy/icy slope. The main problem at this stage was that we had not yet worked on “developing” the turn and the fact that in the second half of a turn the forces on the ski are much greater so it lifts you up and takes over. Awareness of this issue (and experience) teaches you to drive the body harder inside the turn as it progresses and hold it until you actually need to start to come out of the turn and complete it. The rest of the dynamics have to be in place before this issue becomes evident.

Side Slip

Due to years of snowplough or stemming Caroline finds travelling sideways a bit too alien – so it needs practice. The uphill leg needs to be brought down close to the lower leg and although the uphill ski is on its outer edge that foot must be on its inner edge. The downhill foot is also on its inner edge but this corresponds to the inner edge of this ski. Both feet are on inner edges – but both skis are on uphill edges.

The slipping is controlled only by moving the centre of mass. (Likewise pivoting is only controlled by moving the centre of mass – assisted with support from the planted ski pole!)


Use the “Pivot” tab at the top of the page to see the demonstrations and full explanations. Caroline managed this very well for a first attempt. Practice this in small chunks only.

Later when we were skiing to the Tovière lift and using foot forwards technique and the pelvis on steeper ground I saw Caroline blending the pivot with her dynamics turns – specifically because (from pivoting a few times) she was now aware that it doesn’t matter what edge of the ski you are on to start your turns!

Angulation (pelvis)

Use the “ChiSkiing” tab at the top of the page for detailed discussion.

The key here is that you do NOT turn your shoulders to face downhill because the ski will bring your lower hip around in front of your rib cage and deactivate your postural reflexes – making the spine totally vulnerable to disk damage. We did the “loading “ test with Caroline trying to lift me up while facing her shoulders downhill and feeling the strain on her lower back. The test was repeated with only the pelvis (belly button) turned to face downhill (effectively  turning the base of the spine counter clockwise to the direction of the turn and opposite to the previous situation with the shoulders facing downhill). This time the lower abdomen contracted (by reflex) and the distributed the load – protecting the spine. The loaded hip should always be behind the the rib cage and never in front.

Starting movement from the body centre – near the pelvis – aligns the femur – and leg – in the same way that we had until now been doing starting from the foot and working upwards.  So – right side of body (turning left) – pass through neutral (dynamics – skis flat) pulling right hip backwards, pulling adductors inwards, roll the foot onto the inside edge at the subtalar joint – maintain this for the entire left turn.

In the video clip the use of the pelvis makes Caroline’s turn transitions more lively. In the future this should be developed into effective “hip angulation” allowing very efficient upper/lower body separation.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Caroline Dynamics (session 1)

Fairly miserable weather day on the mountain with restricted lift operations and overcrowding on the few areas that were open – but in revenge, despite making things harder, it’s a useful time to work on technique in preparation for making most of the good days ahead.

While deciding which direction to go and then later on the chairlift I interrogated Caroline about her skiing – collecting useful information and having a pretty clear idea of what was going on even before the skis hit the snow. The first short video clip is where I watched Caroline on suitable terrain, before deciding where to step in and begin work on technique…

Caroline explained that she was nervous on steeper terrain, especially when the passages are narrow. The fact that she was already tackling reds and blacks made it clear – without need for explanation – that the “nervousness” was due to lack of control through technical skill issues. Asking Caroline to explain her technique to me told me all I needed to know – every aspect being classic ski school training (which incidentally she correctly understood and diligently applied). From the video a trained eye will see that there is no intentional use of “dynamics”, vertical timing is up/down during the turns. There is stemming to push the skis out (plough) and there is poor control at the level of the feet, boots and with fore-aft movements. Nothing there can be “corrected” – the changes have to be at a very fundamental level so we started with the introduction of “Dynamics”. Meanwhile Caroline’s basic stance was strong and there was good control over her movements in general so there were no personal idiosyncrasies to distract and delay progress.


The top of the blog page has fixed “tabs” that lead to pages where my standard explanations and exercises are presented. In this case I suggest going to the “Dynamics” tab because we followed this protocol accurately. Caroline doesn’t have a science background but was perfectly able to follow the logic describing the difference between statics and dynamics – and later on to understand why there are serious misunderstandings of this subject and how it affects something like ski instruction.

Dynamics is the use of “disequilibrium “ or “accelerations” “Your job is to fall over and the ski’s job is to lift you back up.”

When you fall over laterally on a forward travelling ski it immediately deforms, changes shape and cuts under your new trajectory to lift you back up. The ski is designed to “over respond” and lift you more strongly than you can actually fall – which eventually makes you realise that you literally cannot fall and your “dynamics range” is your real limitation as a skier – and not your ability to stay upright “in balance”!


Very shortly after starting with dynamics we were blocked a bit by large queues so we went indoors to look at the use of the feet and ski boots. While inside I checked the boot alignment and it was good. It helps enormously that Caroline does Pilates and clearly has a good body awareness – so when I asked to sit with the pelvis in a certain position it was done without the normal confusion I see in people!

Caroline demonstrated her current way of bending the legs – with one boot off – and predictably the weight came forwards on the foot and the ankle collapsed and the knee flopped inwards – all very dangerous but hidden inside a ski boot due to its strength. I’ll just recap the outline of the changes we made as an aide memoire.

  • Weight on the front of the heel
  • Flex at the hip and knee
  • Engage (by reflex) the anterior tibialis to stiffen the ankle
  • Ankle stops bending at 12° – shin against front of boot – legs giving the support not the boots!
  • Roll the foot onto its inside edge using the subtaler joint (between ankle and heel)
  • Forefoot turns out – away from the turn
  • Adductor muscles engaged

Bringing this all together – the outside leg in the turn does all of the above and you can think of just “one leg” – foot, adductor, Centre of Mass – all pulling inwards during the turn. We discussed how “Centrifugal Force” is a Fictional Force (hyperlinked) and how previously Caroline had been taught to react to this fictional force by moving everything outwards in a turn instead of helping real “centripetal” (inward) forces by pulling inwards with everything and generating a solid and secure platform – with pushes you inwards away from a straight line.


The timing is now related to that of an upside down pendulum – down at the start of the turn and up at the end – like a motorbike turning on a flat track. There is no need to use ski poles and no need to use their straps either. For the moment the simplest way to progress is to follow the skis – like you follow the line of a bicycle – instead of trying to face the body downhill. The toppling /dynamics is lateral to the direction of travel.


Caroline had a quick lesson on skating – falling forwards and using the feet and adductor muscles to grip the skis on edge. This helps to begin to relate many of the aspects of skiing to skating in general.

Feet Forwards

Linked to skating is “feet forwards” technique which Caroline was shown at this stage to enable her to tighten her turns on steeper terrain when using dynamics. This is actually how turn radius in controlled in dynamic skiing (racing). Dynamics are consciously increased and matched with a rapid push forwards of the outside foot – all the leg rotation taking place in the hip joint and the foot remaining constantly rocked outwards.

The next video clip is with dynamics and then showing the “feet forwards”  static exercise in the ski boots.

Dynamics are now visible in Caroline’s movements and she reports  smoother turning and less “fighting “ her turns – which is less tiring in general. Speed should be controlled by the “line” of the turn and not by sudden braking later on in the turn. Having the correct dynamics and timing make the pressure cycle on the ski produce grip and control through the whole turn. The stiffened ankle support allows more natural centering over the skis and the postural reflexes are controlled by appropriate reflexes stimulated from the pressure under the feet. (making it easier to ski in poor visibility!)

Conscious Skiing

When your actions actually make sense – then your senses reward you with appropriate feedback. You can then focus successfully internally and the exercise resembles a moving meditation – always revealing new aspects and new levels of awareness. Visualisation also becomes spontaneous and natural. Furthermore – because you only actually see what you understand you penetrate a realm where you can actually see many things that other people can’t see at all.