Don, Jennifer Day 1

P1200002It was great to find Don and Jennifer this morning – raring to get out on the slopes and to get going. Knowing there was a long day ahead it was important to keep everything calm and measured. First runs of the year are always wobbly and it takes a few to really find your feet again. I didn’t have to worry about when to begin to offer feedback because Jennifer began to ask questions by herself when she felt the need for it.


Jennifer’s question was concerning her need to lift up the lower ski to get into a turn – and regarding confusion about when to go up or down.

Problems in the turn transitions come specifically from not being clear about “dynamics” – the need to generate accelerations of the centre of mass. I stood downhill of Jennifer and asked her to push her shoulder against mine to feel the pressure on her uphill ski. She did this well and so it didn’t take long to pick up the idea of how to enter a new turn strongly with the pressure on the top ski. I chose this solution because I’d seen Jennifer initiating the turns on steeper ground by pushing the tails of the skis out – instead of moving the body into the new turn. The “step” was happening because the lower ski was being used as a platform in preparation for pushing the skis out. Changing this movement pattern to a simple active motion of the centre of mass eliminates the step. Don alluded here to a more advanced aspect of this – his patented “Getting out of your own way!”.


Timing comes naturally from this motion of the centre of mass – toppling into a turn is like a motorbike toppling into a turn – you go “down” into the turn – and then you come back up to complete the turn. This generates the correct pressure cycle on the skis and to fit body mechanics, muscle function and ski design. The pole use is just a light touch in the snow with the downhill pole as the body crosses the skis. This moment of transition causes the skis to be flat on the snow and the body perpendicular with the hill – while going diagonally across the hill – so the pole touch fills the gap in feedback to the body caused by the skis no longer being on edge – at an otherwise precarious moment.


Part of the dynamics issues with Jennifer arises from being trained to face the shoulders downhill. This tends to cause the start of each new turn (on steeper terrain) to be rushed – pushing the tails out – to get them around and below the body. This is partly a psychological issue because the skier is facing downhill and referencing everything to the vertical – instead of running with the skis and referencing everything perpendicular to the slope.  My goal was to begin to break this habit by changing the issue of “facing downhill” to one of just facing the pelvis downhill. This is the “chi” application to skiing. We began with an exercise of statically standing across the hill – shoulders facing downhill and poles held across in front of the body. With the spine rotated this way the hip comes in front of the ribs and when loaded up with pressure (me pushing down on the poles) it’s felt in the lower back. If the opposite is done, turning the pelvis to face downhill while resisting a turning of the shoulders then under load the lower abdomen and core muscles contract by reflex to protect the body. I know that Jennifer is able to relate to her body so this is the appropriate approach to facilitate change. Due to the pelvis being adjusted immediately at the initiation of a turn it both facilitates and improves dynamics and prevents this rigid blocking of the body facing downhill. Pulling the pelvis into this position is described as pulling the hip joint – outside of new turn – back, which allows hip angulation to be increased and improved easily.


Meanwhile Don wasn’t being completely ignored! In fact he was skiing well and smoothly so I was happy to let him be for the time being. Don’s only concerns were his arms falling down by his sides and dragging – but I explained that arm issues tend to be an “effect” not a “cause” and that we would have to identify the cause. Partly for this reason and also for issues of speed control on the steeper terrain I explained how the second half of a turn is a fight with gravity – so you have to increase angulation (and/or inclination) building up even more forces instead of giving in to them. The ski is trying to lift you up and out so it’s real work staying down and inside the turn – but then this shapes the turn and controls the speed (Actually it’s real work – but it’s even more work if you don’t do it!!!). Unsurprisingly this also helps place the hands correctly – because most of Don’s hand problems come from blocking the hip and skidding sideways at this part of the turn – instead of building a secure base and working the turn correctly. Immediately this brought an improvement for Don – but shortly after this we encountered poorer skiing conditions and tired legs – so quitting for the day was the best option!


We had a brief “carving” interlude as it’s important to develop this feeling and skill. Don’s rigidity at the hips and Jennifer’s “facing downhill” issues are causing difficulty in holding the ski solidly on edge for complete turns. This is very typical and common and by addressing this directly and working on it bit by bit it will change completely. The main point today was to “pull inwards” with the leg (outside ski) to prevent the ski from flattening when forces built up. I also had earlier explained that “centrifugal” force is an illusion – we are being pushed inwards not pulled outwards. We need to therefore also pull inwards to assist the ski. For Jennifer this is a very big change to make because she has been unconsciously pushing the ski outwards through the initiation of most of her turns until now.

Off Piste

Our brief excursion off piste was to begin to help Don to build up confidence. Once again this has to be tackled in small chunks – frequently – to let confidence build and changes emerge. The key here is dynamics – but with a slight delay in feedback – so just being aware that the feeling underfoot is modified and knowing not to tense up makes a huge difference. The goal currently is to progressively gain experience.

La Grande CasseP1200005a
Mont Pourri, Mont Blanc and TignesP1200007a

Leave a Reply

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