Don, Jennifer–Day 3

Working around the unseasonal weather…

Visibility was reduced with the snow and clouds so my principle concern today was with helping Don to overcome the anxiety this generates on steep terrain. Once Don tenses up the skis run away with him and “all is lost”!  I spent some time explaining how the “pivot” is “braking” skiing – designed to be able to ski in the fall line – body travelling directly downhill – without charging across the slope and picking up speed.

The key to skiing in the fall line is “sideslipping” – linking the sideslips – hence the “pivot”. Traditionally this is taught by pushing the tails of the skis outwards and “steering” by twisting the foot and knee inwards. Basically people are being taught to wrench the ski around – and probably eventually break their knees. This is also accompanied with strong hip angulation generate by keeping the shoulders facing downhill – eventually destroying the lower back (we had already looked properly into that aspect!)

Unfortunately the way to generate truly effective and safe pivoting is very counter intuitive – and a real challenge – but correspondingly rewarding. Even just having the right information – changing how you think about it – goes a long way. Modern carving skis really do cause people to miss properly developing the skills for “braking” skiing because the skis lock far too easily on their edges and run away with the skier. This is also why in racing GS skis are now not allowed to have a carve radius lower that 35m.

Jennifer patiently allowed me to assist her through a few supported pivots and we could see that she was getting the ski quickly jammed on edge and unable to complete the turn with any sideways motion. I explained here that it was essential to keep both skis downhill (relative to the slope) from the centre of mass  (keep the feet below you on the hill) all the time during the pivot. While this worked to some degree complications came in because Jennifer was collapsing her ankle, twisting her foot and knee into the turn. This is visible (stemming and twisting – steering) in the video clip despite a good improvement with pulling the skis into the turn.

Studying the pivot (link in the menu top of page) you find that it is all about getting the centre of mass to pull the skis inwards into the turn – not pushing outwards. Only the pelvis remains facing downhill – outside hip pulled back. Both Don and Jennifer had improved at pulling inwards for the video clip – but we still had some work to do.


Indoors Jennifer took off her ski boot and we looked at how to change the mechanics of the stance during the turn. First of all we checked what she was currently doing and sure enough the ankle was collapsing, knee twisting inwards, hip outwards, foot flattening by attempting to twist in. Shifting the weight to the heel and bending Jennifer could feel her muscles differently – the ankle going stiff, the muscles up the outside of the lower leg and the quads working by reflex. The ankle bends enough to touch the front of the ski boot – but now the boot is not taking over support – the leg strength is being used instead.

We next looked at the foot rocking on the heel – using the subtaler joint below the ankle. Jennifer could see the foot actually turns away from the turn when rolled on edge. This links to the adductor muscles on the inside of the leg – limiting automatically the inward movement of the knee. This links to pulling the hip backwards for alignment. Basically the entire motion pattern and support system changes – so it would be a huge change to her skiing and will eventually enable far greater control over just about everything – not just the pivot.


Meanwhile to encourage Don to avoid his slight tendency to push his new outside ski outwards at the start of the turn I asked him to stomp hard on the ski before initiating the new turn – still on the uphill edge (as with a pivot) – and only then with full pressure on this ski begin the turn. Starting the turn from the top edge facilitates an element of pivoting and once this starts it’s easier to keep the pivot going because the ski hasn’t been pushed out and jammed on its inside edge. This certainly did allow Don to narrow his stance and generate a better pivoting effect and there was a clear improvement in control on the steeps. One the runaway accelerations are fully under control – the skis not systematically jammed on edge – then this deals with the problem of getting thrown onto the backs of the boots and skis.

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