Deep Tignes

Difficult road conditions today and only a few ski lifts running at Tignes due to the wind and continued snowfall. There was about a metre of snow down the valley and it took half an hour just to dig out the car and start the climb up the hill. Once past the towns and the stranded heavy goods vehicles it was a clean blast all the way up the mountain. The snow was deep, heavy and tricky to ski in poor visibility. Haluk suffered a head plant into deep snow on the first run and took a mouthful of snow – and a big struggle to get out of the pit he’d created – leaving him exhausted before we really got going. The great thing about adverse conditions is that they show up weaknesses and motivate you to sort them out properly. The main issue we had to work on was preventing rotation. There are different ways of doing this but we also wanted to cultivate more direct fall line skiing and that means “pivoting”. Skiing this way you don’t lose speed by making wide turns but instead the speed is controlled from the resistance of the skis sinking into the snow downhill from the body.

We worked for a short time on the piste, getting the legs to work independently with the feet apart and with a pivot of the skis. Keeping the feet apart helps to get the legs working separately in each hip joint, instead of having the entire pelvis swinging around the turn with the feet together. Dynamics are still important, especially using the end of the turn to pull you out and down the hill for the next turn. The pole can play an important role here in keeping the body placed correctly for the dynamics to happen automatically. One key issue we worked on was the “seated” stance – which when facing downhill keeps the resultant forces going through the feet without having to lean back in the deep snow – and without the associated muscular rigidity of leaning back. The turns were initiated on the uphill edges and the aim was to keep the feet below the body on the hill. You can see from the video that when Haluk finishes a turn he tends to traverse slightly, allowing his body to come square to the direction of travel across the hill. This is then used to rotate the upper body into the following turn – with a big swing of the arms.  The idea of the pivot is that there is no time spent traversing and the body remains facing almost completely downhill all the time. The skis remain downhill of the body inside the deep snow and and the linking of turns is coordinated with a terminal velocity achieved simply from the snow resistance. Once a rhythm is established then retraction at the very end of the turn can help movement of the body downhill into the next turn  – but with the feet always remaining below the body in the snow. It is similar to linked sideslips – but with a deflection inside the snow instead of a sideslip. We spent a moment afterwards looking at posture and how to work the pelvis and lower back correctly – but that will have to be worked on over time. Haluk had been allowing the pelvis to drop at the front – which weakens the lower back. That was visible from the hip on the inside of the turn tending to drop lower than it should do. Also, a tension needs to be generated in the core muscles to protect the back and that is done by pulling the support hip backwards, but not the shoulder. This creates a slight spinal  “twist” in the same direction as the turn (not a counter or winding up action as is traditionally taught). It takes practice to develop awareness and clear separation of upper and lower body actions.

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