Derin, Defne day 3

Whatever plans were in store for today were rapidly thrown out and the day was allowed to evolve according to snow, weather and willing participants. Defne began the day upbeat and positive. I’d previously remarked on how her confidence goes up and down in big swings and so it was good to see a positive swing today. I’ve noticed the pattern before that a bad day always follows a very good day – and a good day always follows a very bad day. Defne was cautious about going off-piste but willing to give it a go. Fortunately the fresh overnight snow was soft and powdery so it was ideal for developing confidence.

Defne asked me if the jumping that we used in the race course “pivots” also applied off-piste. This is why I never like to plan lessons because Defne’s question was perfectly timed and allowed me to see an alternative continuation from the race course lesson straight into developing off-piste technique. We had worked on various aspects of pivoting but the jumps had been made very deliberately – though in a real race situation the jump is more often a rebound or spring from the skis. For off-piste the same effect comes from a bouncing of the skis in a manner resembling a trampoline – due to the entire ski base loading up and bouncing the skier back up out of the turn. Once the skier is bounced up the skis are unweighted and this permits an easy start to the pivot in the direction of the new turn. To begin to learn this we found gentle gradients where we could straight run and just bounce to feel the resistance of the snow slowing us down and develop a feel for the bounce of the skis. Defne picked this up quickly and moved on to introducing the pivot effortlessly. Sometimes she forgot to bounce before pivoting but again she quickly realised that it was best to get the bounce first because it makes the pivot much easier. I explained that the skis hardly need to turn at all and that this is a good example of “fall-line” skiing – where we avoid turns that sweep across the hill as in carving. We eventually moved onto a slightly steeper gradient with deeper snow. Despite the snow being very slow, perhaps fast walking pace when running straight downhill and the gradient not being very steep, Defne had a confidence crisis and was visibly scared. I gently encouraged her because it was genuinely safe and she managed to point herself downhill and let the skis run. Defne later opened up to me about her fear and said that she couldn’t explain it because she knew it was safe and that she wouldn’t go fast and that even falling wouldn’t hurt in the deep soft snow. In return I explained to Defne that most fears are irrational and we often can’t explain them. There is nothing to be ashamed about because such fears can visit anyone when they least expect it. Fear is something that every healthy person experiences. When we have fear and manage to still do what we have to do then we call that “courage”.  I explained to Defne that I was very proud of her courage in overcoming her fear today and that she should be proud of that too. Normally the only way to easily overcome irrational fears is to prepare for them in advance – especially when we know from experience that they are likely to appear. On the return home we skied fast on piste over bumps and through crowds of skiers and boarders and Defne never hesitated – staying close to me the whole way non-stop. That was another display of courage. Courage grows if we practice it – just like physical skiing skills grow if we practice them. Derin began the day by telling me she didn’t want to go to slalom. I asked her who was boss and she admitted that I was – but she knew that she was going to get her way anyway.  I asked how her sore throat was today and she replied “eh!”. I said that “eh!” doesn’t mean anything in English so could she please explain that – to which she refused stating that there was no way to explain “eh!”. I then replied to her that I thought her skiing was “orhhh!” To which she replied “Thank you!”. I could see how this session was going to go. Derin could not repeat the same lesson as Denfe because she could hardly move in the soft snow as she simply doesn’t have the body mass for gravity to pull her through it. With the combination of snow resistance and wind resistance we had a fair bit of waiting, skating and towing to do today. In the end, without Derin realising it I was the one who got my way because she ended up doing slalom all afternoon – by skiing in my tracks off-piste. Depending on the depth of snow and gradient I modified the turn radius so that she would end up about the right speed when following me in my tracks. We did three complete off-piste excursions beginning with a classic flat and easy one and eventually ending up on some really steep (short) pitches and some deep fresh snow. Derin followed me over everything – with amazing competence and only one very minor fall all afternoon. I deliberately aimed for some very gnarly snow and very steep drops and all I could hear behind was her giggling and yelping for joy! To be honest I was amazed that she could follow me. By the end she could ski at my own normal pace right behind me (in my tracks) in deep untracked snow over long sections. She was totally worn out by the end but that’s not a surprise. We had a hot chocolate stop when her feet were too cold (due to being in deep snow all afternoon) and she already wanted to go to sleep then! It was clear that the work in pivoting was shining through though she was really unaware of that herself.

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