Leyla – Carving

Getting above the “sea of clouds” by going up to the glacier was the first objective of the day…


Leyla said that the work with the feet had been the least clear to her out of the topics that we had already worked on – so I decided from that to pursue this topic further by teaching carving – which clarifies the use of the feet and introduces another essential subject. Leyla had no trouble with the carving exercises and achieved this just as easily as with her initial pivoting. We first of all just worked on traversing across the hill with both feet rocked uphill – until railway lines were left in the snow… The stance used for this when standing still resembles a snowplough in the sense that it is wide and on two edges – but the skis are kept parallel and one is on the inside edge and the other the outside edge. The point is that it is a two footed artificial platform when moving slowly or standing still. This is being used only as a prop to cultivate other skills. When the feet are rolled uphill the centre of mass follows the feet uphill slightly and when standing still this puts most weight on the uphill ski – but  this is only because we are completely static. When moving with any speed the skis will arc on the snow and all the pressure will move to the lower “outside” ski in the turn – even in a relatively slow shallow traverse. Moving onto flat terrain and standing still across the hill – with just a very gentle gradient – I introduced the method for changing edges in carving. The poles were used to hold up the body when moving laterally and when the feet were rocked one way the centre of mass was displaced that same way to edge the skis. Inclination (of the centre of mass) is the major factor in edging the skis and the feet and adductor muscles (inside muscles of the outside leg in the turn) only assist in creating inclination. At first Leyla had a tendency to twist her knees into the turn but soon felt how it was the centre of mass that had to move and that the legs had to pull inwards only laterally and tightly – no ankle collapsing and knee twisting. Standing on the heels helped to resolve this issue quickly. Flipping over onto the downhill edges was initially tricky for Leyla just due to not being used to support herself with her pole and wrist. Rocking the lower foot and ski quickly onto the outside, downhill edge can be quite tricky if you are not used to it.  Once this is mastered statically across the slope it tends to become clearer that the whole process is one of moving the centre of mass from one side of the skis to the other – in such a way as to lock the skis on edge with no drifting. We next used the shallow gradient to make some gentle turns downhill (with very little turning) from one side to the other and from the outset Leyla had no trouble making clean transitions and avoiding the skis drifting during the edge changing. Leyla had not been clear about the definition of carving and did not previously know that it meant the edges had to be literally cutting the snow or ice.  Leyla was videoed here on her first attempt on a faster slope and once again everything was correct – including the symmetry of the legs. It would take some practice to be able to handle this on steeper faster slopes where dynamics has to become far more proactive. I explained how in reality the ski is not now turning but is following a banked track caused by the inclination. Visualizing the situation in 3D instead of 2D helps to relate better to what is actually happening.    

Off Piste

The wide glacier off piste looked ideal for introducing dynamics and pivoting in deeper snow – but unfortunately it was wind packed and not appropriate at this stage – so we didn’t persist.


Back on the piste Leyla practised her pivots and her improved angulation, awareness of edges and centre of mass all combined to help her start to find this easy and functional.  I mentioned how the pole and angulation help to get the centre of mass downhill without the skis changing edge and that by watching the skis (only while learning this) you can learn to control their behaviour better. The pivot is due to the motion of the centre of mass and the adductors and feet only assist. Skiing down the next narrow section I pointed out that I was using my pole for support and pivoting to keep my speed down. What I didn’t mention was that I was now pivoting in a wide stance for stability in the poor visibility – and that pivoting does not always require a narrow two footed stance.

Pole Touch

Having used the pole plant for pivoting it was appropriate to explain to Leyla that pole planting is exclusively for pivoting. When skiing in a more flowing manner – initiating the turns on the inside edge instead – then only a pole “touch” is used. This is when the pole touches the snow as the body drops into the new turn and with steady arms it only requires a slight motion of the wrist. It’s more of a timing and feedback issue here – not a support.


During the descent to Tignes Le Lac we reverted to carving on the flat section and then back to working on other aspects. I asked Leyla to focus on one or two things at a time – dynamics and feet/adductors or skating and hips. This is to instil an appreciation of how to focus properly when skiing. When Leyla became distracted by the hoards of idiots bombing down the piste I told her that she must not allow this sort of issue to cause her skiing to degenerate. The solution is to either stop and let the idiots go by or to focus more directly on her skiing – centering her attention internally and removing the distractions. She must at all costs avoid reverting to stemming and repeating those defensive but inappropriate and ineffective actions that only amplify the vulnerability.      

Leave a Reply

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