Bugra, Ataner & Cüneyt

After a brief warm up run took a moment to observe each skier. All three skiers were at a very similar level, but each displaying very different characteristics. Ataner was clearly moving his body towards the outside of each turn and was unstable as a result. Cüneyt had a strong tendency to push his heels out and he started each turn with an up motion and finished with a down-sink and pole plant – so although this looked respectable on a good piste it was all the wrong mechanics for anything more challenging. Bugra had already had a brief lesson on dynamics and this was clearly visible in his skiing so he was the only one to move his body clearly in the right direction – but his legs were totally static and he skied overall in a two-footed and crouched stance. Despite all of the above differences it was still clear that I had to begin with teaching dynamics.


I used my standard approach to dynamics – with stationary static exercises to begin with. My shoulder acted as a support so that each skier in turn could lean and push against it. I stood uphill of each skier in turn and then asked them to push with their shoulder against mine, noticing that pressure would build up on the foot furthest from me. Accelerating rapidly across towards me would give instant pressure on that foot. Moving across slowly would have the opposite effect with weight going on the other foot. The idea was to show the different effects of acceleration of the body or centre of mass (CM). Accelerating the CM to the left puts pressure on the right foot. Pressure is sustained on the right foot by continuing to press hard against my shoulder – or when actually skiing because the ski causes the body to be continually accelerated towards the centre of a circle.
People are afraid and do not consciously think to move in this way when skiing, because they are determined to “stay upright”. They are taught to think that they should remain in balance. You can actually get pressure on a foot when in balance by moving the centre of mass directly over that foot. (which is what Ataner had obviously been previously taught to do) Balance and placing the CM over the foot both belong to the subject of “statics” and this is exactly the wrong thing to do for skiing. The skier has to enter a world “dynamics” which is the mechanics of “disequilibrium”. The skier has to intentionally fall over – to the side when moving forwards. The next exercise we used involved  doing this when moving forwards –  and falling over to one side – causing a turn in that direction. Gradually complete turns were made and then they were linked together. 
Dynamics comes from Newton’s second law; F=MA. Any unbalanced force will be related to an accelerating mass.

Dynamic Range
I explained that the skier’s job is to fall over and the ski’s job is to bring the skier back up. The ski becomes more powerful the further over the skier falls and eventually the skier finds a limit beyond which he cannot fall. For people not used to dynamics this limit is around 15 to 20 degrees maximum. The skier should not be worried about “balance” and not falling – the skier should be worried that he simply cannot fall into a turn and stay there without being lifted up and out too soon. The number one task for a developing skier is to increase his “dynamic range” and learn to fall over further – but this is a life long development task. The first requirement is to become aware that this is the objective and it is the complete opposite of the mistaken belief that the skier should remain upright or be concerned with “balance” in any way other than avoiding it.

Off Piste
Once the basic dynamics had been grasped it was time to head off piste into powder and put it straight to the test. This was a bit of a shock to the system for all of the skiers! Ataner quickly took me out by running straight into me when I was standing still. Bugra did a really impressive head-plant and somersault and Cüneyt kept on losing his skis. I explained that the lifting up power of the ski was much greater off-piste due to the entire base loading up with snow so that hey had to force the CM even more into the new turn and try to keep it there. Unfortunately apprehension tends to make people freeze and so the exact opposite happens – they don’t move any CM anywhere. The result was predictable with bodies pretty much all over the place. Ataner, who had really caught on to the dynamics quickly and clearly was definitely having the best results here – apart from having almost killed me. 

At this point I explained that it was best to just follow the skis and not try to face the body downhill. dynamics are simpler to execute if the body just follows the skis around – and the snow conditions were soft and easy so this would work fine in those conditions. The timing for the turn comes from the dynamics so I asked that no pole plant be used – because most people are taught to sink down and plant the pole at the end of a turn and for dynamic skiing that is inappropriate. (This particularly concerned Cüneyt who had the wrong timing at the start) The skier topples into a turn like on a motorbike and comes back up out of the turn – so this is where the pattern for timing comes from. At the end of the turn the skier has been brought up and out from the turn centre – so he shouldn’t be bending down and sticking the pole into the snow.


Indoors each skier removed a boot so as to see how to use the feet correctly – at least at a useful basic level. Summary as follows:-
  • Stand on the heels to strengthen the ankles so as to bend only at the knees and hips.
  • Rock the feet – edge to edge – from the sub-taler joints (beneath the ankles).
  • Activate the leg adductor muscles- foot/aductor/Center of Mass – all pulling same direction.
  • Do not lean on the boots – either forwards or backwards.
In addition to showing what should be done I also demonstrated what not to do and why. Standing on the whole foot and bending the ankle as most people appear to do spontaneously causes a complete weakening of support at the ankle and causes the skier to lean on the ski boot consequently losing support from the leg.  I demonstrated also how the correct stance – which causes the CM to move backwards when bending (as in sitting), actually does not place the CM behind the feet due to the gradient of the slope. Place a chair on a steep slope and you can’t sit down on it because you can’t get the CM back far enough- even with the body in a “sitting” position bent at the knees and hips.
Dynamics + Feet
After studying the feet I asked that awareness and use of the feet simply be added to the dynamics already developed. The feet need to be rocked to the right when the CM is accelerated to the right – and the adductor muscles in the left leg would then be active – “pulling inwards”.

Introductory Slalom

Prior to lunch we had enough time for a brief introduction to slalom. I explained the rules for safe use of the training area and how to use the timing system in the course. We had one slow run though with everyone following me on a slow and high line cutting close beneath the gates. The directive was to ski technically with the gates indicating the direction to drive the CM towards. Any difficulty experience in the course indicated a failure to get the CM accelerating towards the correct pole at the correct moment.

Skating Timing
We had a brief look at skating and how it compliments dynamics. Simply skating off downhill I then started to move my CM towards the inside of each stride – to show that this transformed the skating into skiing. Skiing is really just skating with dynamics added – because the ski can sustain an inwards acceleration of the CM longer than an ordinary skate can. When the ski starts to turn me strongly the actual skating by the legs becomes invisible to an untrained eye – though it never stops. Good skiing is constituted from a combination of dynamics and skating. Everyone had an attempt at this with Ataner having the best result. Cüneyt had the most trouble because his previously learned timing was the complete opposite.

Dynamics Part 2

Prior to leaving the subject of dynamics I explained that there were actually two parts to dynamics – entering the turn and exiting the turn. Up until now we had only looked at entering the turn. If we see a motorbike entering a turn it leaves vertical and drops down – then it comes back up to vertical when exiting the turn. Vertical is perpendicular to the road. In skiing it is not so simple because with the slope the vertical and the perpendicular are different. For this reason the turn is not completed when the skier is in vertical – but only when the ski lifts them up and right out to the perpendicular. This means that is is necessary to remain on the downhill ski right up until the ski is flat and the skier has fallen beyond vertical into the perpendicular and cannot escape from falling into the next turn. You would be standing on the lower leg and falling with nothing below to stand on – so it is scary at first – until you learn that it works and it’s easy to then just switch legs and take over with the new outside ski in the new turn. Each skier appeared to understand the principle and to carry it out to generate a more flowing turn transition. I explained that this was a key in being able to use dynamics effectively off-piste. The sensation felt when doing this manoeuvre is that the body passes over the top of the lower ski (perpendicular to the slope) and the edges change prior to the new turn beginning.


Standard procedure was used to introduce the pivoted turn. After demonstrating I explained that if the skis were kept downhill of the CM then the turn could be initiated on the uphill edge of the uphill ski – with the ski slipping into the turn in a pivot – aided by the adductor muscles swinging the front of the ski inwards and the CM also moving in this direction – but without the CM crossing over the skis as required for dynamics. The idea is to turn with the outside ski remaining on the outside edge until it reaches the fall-line and then goes momentarily flat before changing edge to the inside edge. In the dynamics the outside ski had been used as an accelerator but here is is always used as a brake – it is always on whichever edge is uphill.
I demonstrated that in this manner either very short turns could be executed or rapid turns on steep terrain without picking up any speed. I showed that either or both skis could be used to pivot – provided they were always kept lower on the slope than the CM – so that the skis remained on their uphill edges at all times. Pivoting is why some skiers – such as bump skiers – ski with their feet close together – because it is one way to ensure that they both stay below the CM on the slope – and because either or both skis can be used as a pivoting platform. Racers and people carving tend to use a wide stance with feet apart because that way they can access the downhill/inside edge of the uphill ski easily for acceleration.

Facing Downhill

With the pivot I showed how by facing downhill the stomach muscles could be solicited for swinging the ski into the pivot. Following the skis prevents a strong muscular action from being used with the pivoted turn – so it is best not to follow the skis for this technique. Facing downhill also permits the CM to drop in further into the turn due to increased hip angulation – thus building up more pressure on the lower ski but keeping the body stable and secure inside the turn – though we didn’t have time to look at that aspect properly.

Short Swings

In order to try to improve the simultaneity of the swinging of the two skis I introduced “short swings”, jumping up to exit a turn and then swinging the skis into the new turn. Everyone found the coordination for this to be difficult and that is normal. I demonstrated how the use of a good downhill pole plant helped to prepare for the jump by using the pole as a support. The pole effect is similar to jumping beside a table while using the table for support with your hands on it – it makes it easier. The main aim in doing the short swings was to encourage a strong “push up” exactly as in the skating timing and also the simultaneous swing of both skis. 
The only difference between a “pivot” and a “short swing” is that the skis stay on the snow during the pivot. The push up or the jump up serve to remove pressure from the skis so that the initial pivoting is made easier – this being especially useful in deeper or difficult snow. The jump is useful when the snow surface is really poor or difficult and it is necessary to turn in a steep confined place.

Pivoting on Bumps

Near the end of the final descent we came across some bumps so I showed how the skis pivot naturally on bumps. Bumps are formed by skiers literally braking – so bumps are made to fit the pivot. When standing on top of the bump the ski tips and tails are in the air – just like during a short swing – so the procedure is obvious. It is still emotionally difficult to “pull inwards” with the adductor muscles because the natural desire is to push outwards in defence as you plunge downhill over the bump.
One Ski Skiing
We completed the lessons with a brief session of skiing on one ski only. Needless to say nobody could quite yet manage this. To be able to do this requires the ability to pivot in both directions on the same ski and requires a developed coordination and understanding of edge control and the relationship with the motion of the centre of mass. We were working in this direction but it would take at east one more session to get to this point. If this is not developed correctly then the ability to execute this manoeuvre well does not come naturally to skiers even with many years of experience.
Earlier on the pivoting exercises had been interrupted for a moment to give a brief introduction to carving. The reason for doing this was purely to raise awareness and complete the picture. Short swings are the extreme for starting a turn on the uphill edges – with a reduction of pressure on the skis – and carving is the opposite extreme, starting turns on the downhill edges with a major increase in pressure from the start. I showed how to traverse on the edges of two skis – turning uphill and leaving two clear railed tracks in the snow. Everyone was able to do that. Rocking the feet and moving the CM into a turn, while standing sharply on two edges, I showed how to link one turn to the other while leaving complete railed tracks in the snow – no sideways movement of the skis on the snow whatsoever. Predictably no-one could do this – it takes time and care to develop this skill, which is the basis of modern ski racing and the real purpose of carving skis. At this stage only Ataner could even perceive the difference in the tracks we were making in the snow and identify the difference which distinguishes carving from everything else.

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