Jannette was feeling a bit fragile after her big wipeout the other day – which was still quite a small wipeout by real standards. We discussed the way ageing can cause people to lose their sense of adventure and I promised to look up the words of Samuel Ullman and his poem “Youth” which was made famous due to being the favourite of General Douglas McArthur.
Youth is not a period of time. It is a state of mind, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, of the taste for adventure over the love of comfort.

A man doesn’t grow old because he has lived a certain number of years. A man grows old when he deserts his ideal. The years may wrinkle his skin, but deserting his ideal wrinkles his soul. Preoccupations, fears, doubts, and despair are the enemies which slowly bow us towards earth and turn us to dust before death.

You will remain young as long as you are open to what is beautiful, good, and great; receptive to the messages of other men and women, of nature and God. If one day you should become bitter, pessemistic and gnawed by despair, may God have mercy on your old man’s soul.”
I don’t buy any of the “God” of “soul” stuff personally (I think we can explain things much better than that) but I get the idea and agree with the principles.

Jannette in the video was attempting to sideslip with her lower hip pulled backwards and her bottom facing uphill to generate some hip angulation. It was not happening. This is quite a tricky combination of things to do anyway – but this combination of skills is essential for effective pivoting. We had been working on the hips for a while so attempting to integrate that with sideslipping at this stage was not unreasonable. 
Jannette had been actively rotating her shoulders into the turn so I explained to her that this was not desirable – just like you wouldn’t want to do that on a bicycle either.

Upper Lower body Separation
Indoors we had looked at the function of the hips and spine when walking and outdoors had already tried to integrate this with pelvic tilt and postural control. The idea was to go directly to the main ingredient in unwanted hip rotation and build awareness from there. When using the static exercise of pulling Jannette downhill with my poles she went naturally into a strong countered position with her lower hip pulled back and lowering her bottom and centre of mass towards the snow uphill. This was just not happening at all in the turns and she needed to know this – and that it was desirable to do this to keep the body inside the turn as the forces built up that would unceremoniously eject her from the turn as they had done on the first day. Part of the work we did was aimed at feeling the twist in the spine as the shoulders and hips were counter rotated to each other. I’ve described this in previous posts this week so I won’t detail it here.
Feet Forwards
I introduced the “feet forward” techniques without skis on – so that she could see the arc made by the foot when swinging a leg out to the side. The foot is not “twisted” but it follows an arc in the air – and then on the snow leaving a line when dragged on the surface. When pushed into the snow further then it needs to to pushed forwards and this is the sensation required when skiing. The outside foot has to be actively pushed forwards to make the turn more active. This also encourages hip angulation as it naturally varies the angle between the leg and the upper body. Additionally, due to the tightening of the turn by the more active ski there is less body rotation and so this also helps to prevent the rotation linked to lack of hip angulation. 
During the session I mentioned a few time certain issues regarding the training of the mind. Focusing of the body – and continually re-focusing when you are distracted – trains the mind to focus but also shuts out all the unnecessary chatter. It’s a form of relaxation as well as concentration. This makes mindful skiing – or any other activity – much richer and more valuable than a simple “disstraction” or pastime.


In the evening I went out for a 12km hill run (7km climb) and was focused on the same upper lower body separation and actively using the spinal twist mechanisms. Whenever I felt tired during the climbing (400m vertical) I concentrated on the spine and it was impressive how much lighter and easier everything felt. My lower back had felt tired earlier on from working the core muscles in skiing, but they had recovered from that already and there was no discomfort in the lower back – or anywhere else when running uphill.  The legs and body felt good all the way – there was no sense of heaviness or fatigue. Minimalist running shoes were used and a 1200 lumen Chinese head torch to blind oncoming cars during the descent in the darkness. Spotted two winter rabbits or hares in a field and noticed that their eyes reflect with a rich shade of amber.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *