Derin, Defne – Day 4

Derin – Morning
The warm up run was a shuss in a straight line from the top of the Fresse. I asked Derin to focus on touching the shin against the front of the boot.

Val d’Isère viewed from the Tovière summit (clouds indicating a storm coming)

Uphill Edges

After shussing we went straight into skiing backwards. Derin was still very cautious at skiing backwards and went very slowly. We tried a few 360° spins but she didn’t manage it yet, though I explained about the need to keep the skis on the uphill edges to make this happen. 
Coming off the Marmotte chair we went straight into sideslipping and even initiating pivot turns from a backward diagonal sideslip. All of this was working on ski edge awareness and improving stance. 
To encourage Derin to move her body into the turn more I started her working on pivoting on the inside ski only. This really forces the body to move in towards the planted pole because otherwise you just fall back onto the outside ski. It’s a tricky thing to learn and nobody gets it straight away. 
Later on (after skiing the bumps) Derin managed to do her first 360° spins through controlling her edges (edge/body relationship) and keeping the skis on the uphill edges. 
Seated Stance
We did some pivoting and then returned to shussing over to the Grand Pré. During the shuss I tried to get Derin to sit low and bend her knees and hips to do this. Small children have a tendency to just tip forwards at the hips and not bend the legs – being small and light they can get away with this. The “seated” position was something that we had already worked at to help to improve Derin’s overall stance.
Our main aim today was to get off piste on some small bumps to learn how to use the pivot properly.  First of all we used individual bumps – standing on the crest with the tips and tails in the air and planting the ski pole just below the feet – then pivoting rapidly into a sideslip down the side of the bump. Derin managed this quite well but was a little scared of the steep drops over the bumps – so we stayed on small bumps only. When turning on her left leg in particular Derin had a tendency to be left behind by the acceleration and in both direction this produced a little hop. This issue was putting her in the back of the boots again.
Skiing more and larger bumps later on I explained to Derin that she had to act quicker than she realised. As soon as the ski tips started to go into the air she had to start the pivot or else it would be too late by the time she moved. This is a fundamental training aspect of both bump skiing and slalom training – and the reason why those physical constraints teach us to move differently.


Derin was given an explanation of how the body has to be moved to remain perpendicular to the hill when going into a turn. When going across the hill we automatically stand perpendicular because this is in line with gravity – but as we accelerate downhill we have to come out of alignment with gravity. It takes an effort to get yourself perpendicular with the hill. This is a big part of the reason why Derin leans against the back of her ski boots so working on this in normal turning and on the bumps with pole support will gradually get her into a strong and centered stance.
Body Sensing
Part of being a well centered person (on or off skis)  involves being in touch with your own body. Derin struggled to balance the bottle of water on her head at first because she couldn’t keep herself still enough. Just a few minutes of concentration and she was able to still her body (and mind) enough to succeed. The skiing “focuses” are the same as this – bringing attention to your body and sensing the constant feedback – relaxing the mind and keeping you in the present. 
The bottle was definitely perpendicular.

Defne – Afternoon

For Defne’s warm up we carved – with attention on 5 focuses – Shin, Hip, Pelvis, Adductors, Shoulders. Notice how the focuses are within the body. It occurred to me that we should perhaps just consolidate at this point but then I decided to let things take their own course. If I saw it all starting to go pear shaped then we could revise and consolidate.
Skating Timing
I had wanted to start work on the subject of timing and when Defne seemed comfortable with all that she had been working on already I decided to go with this approach. Timing is like a glue that holds everything together so there is no harm in introducing “another” thing. There is no risk here of overloading with too many things. It’s essentially a self reinforcing process with each part adding strength to the others.
Prior to starting I asked Defne what she understood already about the timing of up/down motion during a turn. She showed with a diagram that she came up at the beginning and down at the end. This is classic ski school understanding – and categorically wrong. The principles of mechanics of both ski design and the function of the body demand exactly the opposite and this has been known for at least 30 years. Ski schools still teach it the wrong way around. I explained to Defne that a motorbike going into a turn falls down at the start and comes up at the end – and she understood. I also explained that when skating a leg bends at first to then be able to push back up. The dynamics of a turn and the use of the leg compliment each other. Defne followed all of this. 
I knew that Defne could skate so we started with skating. The idea was to skate inwards with steps during a turn – in perhaps two or three steps. Initially this was done only after the turn had started but soon I had Defne diverging the skis to start the turn with an aggressive skate inwards. The idea at this point was to reinforce the principle of moving the body actively inwards. This exercise is good for Defne because she commonly pushes her skis outwards and this makes her do the opposite – pushing the body inwards. (The two are mutually exclusive). 
After doing this skating for a while we moved on to the “direct method” of skating straight downhill then starting to move the body “inwards” between the legs – so that the falling inwards causes the skating to change into skiing. The legs maintain the skating rhythm. Defne manged this very well. 
Taking the timing into carving I explained that she had to drop down quickly into the turn with the hip in the correct alignment so as to increase the edge angle of the ski on the snow. This would generate powerful pressure and allow the carved turns to be much tighter than when being more passive. This only works with correct skating timing. Defne looked great doing this first time and I regretted not having the video camera out. She felt it too and that showed in her smile.

Inside Leg Pivot
Between skating exercises we also practiced pivoting. Defne already has a very clean normal pivot so it was time to get her working on pivoting on the inside ski – as Derin had tried in the morning. Defne found this every bit as tough as Derin but had a good go at it. I stopped her after a while so that we can return to it fresh tomorrow – but explained that this was to encourage the motion of the body in the same direction as the dynamics in her skating and carving.

Close Stance
Defne also managed her first 360° spin and she made the breakthrough when she brought her skis close together. Now she understands why the skis are held in a closer stance when pivoting.

Banked Track
On the final descent of the day it was very slushy so I explained to Defne how to cope with it to avoid tiring her legs out completely. The trick is to stand up tall and stack all the bones up straight for support, then simply incline into the turn and let the skis run forwards over anything that might be there. The body follows the skis through the turn facing forwards all the time. The skis effectively create a banked track like in a velodrome – so there is no resistance from the slush or bumps. You have to try to visualize this in 3D.
No Fear!
Defne apparently took the initiative this morning and led her family straight into the bumps – twice! All it took to bring this around was a little understanding and clear communication yesterday. I didn’t even need to be there or touch the issue again. In the days to come I’ll attempt to reinforce her awareness of the principles involved. This is probably more important for her than anything else here.  Skiing has to be a self-affirming and positive process. Going about it the right way there are few things better than skiing for this purpose. 
Val d’Isère in the unmistakable presence of Mont Blanc. (The girls didn’t know this is Mont Blanc!)
The Grand Motte and Grande Casse in the distance

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