Alistair–Off Piste

Today was about taking Alistair out of his comfort zone and leaving the realm of theory and exercises. Skiing is about confronting the physical constraints of the mountain together with the emotional constraints of the mind. Progress here is never easy and never rapid – but every little bit gained yields insight, changes paradigms and wakes up the desire and ability to learn even more. This is where the real value and enjoyment of skiing is to be found – though initially it might feel more like some form of self imposed medieval torture. I had three messages for Alistair today: Dynamics, Dynamics and Dynamics! Work the turn! Work the skis! Make the turn purposeful, fully evolving each and every turn from start to finish.  Move that Centre of Mass (CM)! Move the body! Come up, out and over that lower ski – let it support you out into the perpendicular and then let gravity pull the CM into the next turn. Swap support legs by reflex once the CM has gone over the lower leg (we did an exercise with Alistair pushing against me to feel when the legs switched – after coming over the lower ski). Don’t just move into a turn and then brush off the speed with a skid! Turn almost back uphill and use hip angulation (or inclination at higher speed) to drive the CM down into the turn as forces build up – then use this pressure to control the CM lifting up and over the downhill ski to finish. Never go static when linking turns – always bending or extending – always directing the CM inwards or outwards. With short swings don’t kill the dynamics – bounce! Use leg retraction (lifting the knees) on steeps with both jump turns (short swings) and dynamics in deep snow. Find the rhythm! In deep snow the rhythm and resonance are slower but much more powerful – look for them and keep moving. Skis lift you up very powerfully in deep snow (the whole base is used) so always try to err by moving the CM more inwards and driving the CM harder inwards during second part the turn (after the fall-line). Emotions try to stop you from moving – they make you hesitate and paralyse your muscles. They create a defensive veil that stops you from seeing what really needs to be done. They make you move in ways that stop the CM from leading – such as throwing the body (and/or skis) “around” the turn – which stops the CM from going into the turn! Speed is controlled by line and the effective evolution of a turn – by directing the CM – constantly. Hip angulation and the likes are just details to help to achieve this. Speed is not controlled by brushing off energy through skidding and holding the CM static. We had very limited short sections of suitable snow available to work on but Alistair soon managed to make rhythmic pivots – controlling his speed on shallower terrain and then string together a few well evolved dynamic turns on steeper and deeper snow. That’s good progress by any standards! A couple of nice turns in deep snow… Not moving into the turn far enough with the centre of mass – either at the very beginning or during the evolution of the turn… How the “sitting” stance for deep snow (or bumps) keeps you relaxed and on the fronts of your ski boots – not “leaning back”…. …it’s all to do with either facing downhill or decelerations during the turns. The Grande Motte seen from mid “Col Pers” at Le Fornet.

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