Mike Day Two

The weather today did not obey the instructions of the weather forecasters. Instead of sun we had snow. Despite the humidity the air temperature was not low so although proper snow fell the underlying snow pack remained humid and not frozen. We stayed on the piste because visibility was relatively poor with fog and snow plus there were plenty of things to work on.


Our main objective was to continue work on loosening up Mike’s hips and stance in general. 
Pushing Up Timing
Straight away it was clear that Mike’s timing had a tendency  to flip around when he tried to ski on steeper terrain. He had a built in tendency to extend up at the start of the turn instead of at the end. When changing to down/up timing it is normal for this to flip back involuntarily. Some people have  great deal of trouble even just being aware of which timing they are using – but Mike was well aware of when it was going wrong. A strong push up was required from the lower leg to assist the power of the ski at the end of the turn to bring the skier up and out of the turn. Next turn starts with a down-motion.
I was concerned specifically by Mike’s inability to stand comfortably on the skis without the legs bowing outwards. This issue was obviously linked to his “pushing out” tendency and twisting the foot into the turn – but it also appeared to be that he didn’t have a reference regarding what he should be feeling instead. For this reason we did some side stepping up a steep section and sure enough Mike’s lower ski slipped away a few times instead of gripping during the steps. Mike’s bottom had to be turned to face uphill slightly and then the adductor muscles used to pull the upper leg (lower ski) inwards and create a strong stance over the inside edge of the lower ski. Mike felt a lot of muscle tension when doing this but my impression was that it was only because of being unaccustomed to it.
To encourage an even stronger effect I had Mike point his poles downhill (with his skis across the hill) and pulled his poles hard while he adopted the correct stance. When he permitted his centre of mass to fall uphill he was able to hold his adductor muscles in well and to prevent his hip from rotating outwards. He could basically hold a very strong position so that proved that there was no physical impediment towards doing this correctly.
Fall line Pivoting
Employing the work done on the stance we developed this further with practise on pivoting. With skis off we stood on the heels facing downhill – both feet at the same altitude on the hill. We worked on rotating the legs independently – like car windscreen wipers – and preventing any motion of the pelvis. Rotation of the legs was in the hip joints only. I pointed out the “swinging” effect of pulling the feet in one direction or the other when standing on the heels – and how this changed to a “twist” outwards of the heel if you placed the foot on the toe. Mike realised that he was used to doing the latter and needed to change this. I demonstrated how to use this in skiing with very short pivoted turns and Mike made a good effort copying. The idea is that feet apart like this prevents the whole pelvis from having to swing around in the turn as it tends to do when the feet are closer together. The leg rotating in the hip socket would permit Mike to separate his upper and lower body and to create the “angulated” stance he was looking for through the turn. 
We continued to work on pivoting in the fall line. When Mike was getting a bit caught up on his inside ski I suggested two options – one being to stand on it and do the turn on it (lower ski pivot) and the other being to stand solely on the outside ski instead. Mike predictably found the second option easier. Using a strong pole support we worked on getting the centre of mass further downhill to start the pivot even more easily without any edge change. This is tough to learn but Mike did fine with it. – it’s not  something anyone gets first time. Completing this exercise I simply asked Mike to pivot on the outside ski but to remember to actively swing the inside one from the start from the start of the turn.
Timing and Pivot
Combining the work done so far we did a few short swings. Here all the correct basic aspects have to be correct. There has to be a strong push up (as at the end on a turn). The power comes from the lower leg and although the legs are independent they must act simultaneously – both for the jump and the following swing of the skis. The jump up is equivalent to coming up out of a turn and then the swing of the skis into the new turn takes place – a swing inwards – facilitated by the skis being airborne. This “lightness” or “unweighting” is also useful at the start of any pivoted turn. If in error (or through incorrect teaching) the skier extends upwards at the start of the turn then this lightness cannot be achieved and in tricky snow the pivot will not work. Please note that racing turns require the opposite – they require more pressure at the start of the turn not less. The jumping “short swing” makes the action very clear.
Hockey Stops
To reinforce the down-sink and pulling inwards of the hip we practised linked hockey stops on steeper terrain. Mike tended to react the opposite way by straightening the lower leg, stiffening and rotating his upper body uphill – instead of completing the stop with the shoulders facing downhill. This clearly showed that we were tackling the appropriate issues. 
Traverse – Pivot
The final exercise was to traverse – holding correct “anticipated” stance and then pivot into a turn by rising up out of the traverse in preparation and then starting the turn by sinking down and pulling everything inwards – to hopefully end up in the same stance traversing in the opposite direction. Mike is trying to do this in the video posted above – but basically it went completely out of the window (except the very last bit). The video here only serves as feedback regarding the issues that need to be properly addressed.
Proactive Dynamics
At the end of the session I touched on the subject of “proactive dynamics” and that although Mike was trying to get into the right position and drop into the turn – this was no where near the amount of vertical movement (down and into the turn) that was really required. Racers learn this dynamic range through exposure to physical constrains of turning around poles: Don’t move enough and you are straight out of the course. The recreational skier is not aware of how much motion is required to make the entire “system” active and fully functional. The down-sinking skier actively generates his own dynamics that permits a greater range of function and possibility with the skis – also creating stability, security and the power to spring back up out of the turn at will. The turn takes place so quickly it’s as if the skier doesn’t realise that the geometry of the hill is rapidly changing the ski’s edge angle – gravity is lining up against the skier and the power of the ski to spit the skier out of a turn has increased exponentially.

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