Jon, Duncan

I asked Jon what he wanted the objective of our group session to be and he stated that although he was skiing strongly and fast he found himself tiring much more rapidly than his friends and couldn’t understand why. Once again I knew the reason for this without seeing his friends skiing but promised to address this issue directly during the session. In fact this set the common theme for a session involving three completely different skiers.
Duncan’s skiing was a typical “ski school” product with 5 or 6 years experience. He was a relatively strong skier but trained in ineffective movement patterns.

Jon and Duncan working on edge awareness, dynamics and timing.

Exercise one: Short Radius Turns
I set off and did 50 short radius turns over a very short distance. The others had the objective of trying to match this. Jon managed 25, and Duncan 15. So why did I do this?
The key to very short tight turns and control of speed in direct fall line skiing depends on awareness of the edges of the skis and how they are being used. Both skiers had already demonstrated on a very short run a limited awareness of the use of their edges. Jon was solidly on the inside edge of his outside ski from the beginning of the turn but was not aware of any alternatives. Duncan was not intentionally using any aspect of edge control at the start of the turn – that is – he was not on the inside edge, but he was not aware of this. The reason for Jon’s tiredness is simply that his being constantly on the inside edge of his ski meant that he was always generating strong forces through his carving skis – whether carving properly or not and this was wearing his legs down very rapidly. Duncan was not generating forces to the same extent but was not aware of this either. His skiing was lacking direction (in every sense of the word) but Jon’s choices were limited too in a different way. It was no surprise to me that nobody could get close to matching my number of short turns – which could have been tightened up much more had I felt inclined that way at the time!

To execute the short turns this way it is necessary to initiate the turn from the top edge of the uphill ski – with the ski pivoting into the turn and only changing edge in the fall line. To achieve this it is necessary to keep the feet below the CM (Center of Mass) on the mountain. I showed how, relative to the perpendicular to the hill, that just standing vertically on the skis meant that the feet were further down the mountain than the CM. This places both skis on their top edges. Both or either skis can be allowed to easily pivot into the turn from this position. This is the reason why most fall line skiers ski with their feet together (think mogul racing). When you are in a steep couloir you want your feet to remain always below you – so this is also how you would want to start your turn there. It works in deep powder and makes skiing crud or crust off piste relatively effortless. This is also precisely what Jon needs to master to eliminate his tiredness problem. Predictably Duncan couldn’t do this consciously or where required – such as in tight short turns – despite the fact that his “more effortless” skiing was due to an element of this being exploited all the time unconsciously and naturally. Both skiers needed to become much more aware of what they were doing. A skier’s level is defined by his awareness.

Exercise two: pivoting on the top ski
We worked on pivoting on the uphill ski, letting the foot roll down onto the inside edge but relying on the placement of the foot below the body and the shaft of the ski boot to keep the ski on the uphill edge. The rolling onto the inside edge of the foot should also cause the adductor muscles to contract on the inside of the uphill leg. Normally I have to tell people to contract those muscles but this is one exercise where it actually “happens to you”.

Exercise three: blocking with the pole and pulling with the adductors
During the pivoting I asked both skers to block with the downhill pole slightly behind the centreline of the feet and to pull the tip of the ski downhill slightly using the adductor muscles of the leg. This is not the same as “twisting”. To show that this is not the same I tested both skiers by asking them to raise the uphill ski off the ground and pull the tip against my ski pole planted in the ground to block it from moving. Both to some extent ended up pushing outwards with their heel instead of pulling inwards. I adjusted both so that they could feel the correct muscular action and the heel then tended to come inwards instead.

Exercise four: skiing on one ski
Predictably both struggled badly attempting to ski on one ski. This is because it can only be smoothly done by avoiding early contact with the inside edge of the ski.

Exercise five: pivoting on the lower ski
We worked for a short while of pivoting on the lower ski and I pointed out that either or both skis could be used. (This is actually why – if I’m forced to teach snowplough – I teach it with the weight over the downhill/lower ski and use it as a brake into the turn – instead of a weight transfer on to the outside ski. This keeps the CM always going in the appropriate direction and the skier always on an uphill edge and safe.)

This section of the two hour lesson finished with me explaining that the principle of avoiding the inside edge can be applied to general skiing on any turns. In deep snow fall line skiing this contributes to the skis slowing you down as they are constantly acting as brakes downhill of your body.

Exercise six: skating
To begin with I just checked that both could skate OK and they were fine.
Exercise seven: the wall
Brief explanation of dynamics and the “wall” exercise. I included “pulling in” with the adductors so that while they were pushing against my shoulder they could also pull in with the adductors (since we had already been using them in the previous exercises). I explained how when skiing there is no actual force felt on the shoulder because it is replaced with an angular acceleration – but the force felt on the leg and foot are the same. 
This exercise was really for the benefit of Duncan: Jon already understood dynamics.
The fall line pivoted turns still use dynamics but they never get the CM crossing below the skis on the mountain – the CM always remaining somewhere between vertical and perpendicular – but never crossing the perpendicular.
Carving/racing or even just good clean development of dynamics requires practise at completely crossing the CM over the skis – beyond perpendicular at the very start of the turn. Jon was in fact doing this all the time without realising it and Duncan was practically never doing that. This is another aspect contributing to Jon’s tiredness. I was trying to get him more aware of his options in both directions. I pointed out that it is best to “follow ” the skis when developing dynamics to keep it simple – instead of trying to face downhill.

Exercise eight: toppling and timing from dynamics
I explained that “timing” comes from dynamics – you drop down into a turn and come back up out. I started to deal with this because I had observed some jumping up to initiate his turns and the timing was clearly back to front. I wanted them to practise dynamics but to start to become aware of the vertical aspect of it. 

Exercise nine: skating onto the uphill ski

At this point I wanted everyone to become aware that good skiers don’t displace their feet – they displace their CM instead. The best way to develop this skill is to work with skating – because it is all about gripping with the ski or skate and displacing the body. We tried the exercise of skating across the hill and stepping up onto the top ski and then toppling into the turn – but someone found that confusing. I explained that it was mainly because standing up on to the top ski physically prevented him from doing what his body wanted to do – that is to push out the top ski. This can’t be done if the skier is standing on the top edge of the ski!  This would appear to be “confusing” as the body would initially react against this constraint. However to save time I suggested cutting out the skate and to just stand up on the ski and topple to initiate the turn. I pointed out that the skating at the end of one turn helps you to stand up on the other leg to start the next turn. In fact I was aiming to eventually show how even the rhythm of skating – the down / up action of the leg – compliments the vertical motion of the dynamics – and works with it.

I point out that the ski “brings you up” at the end of a turn and that this is NOT the start of the next turn. It makes no sense to come up at the start of a turn. Skating just compliments and helps the ski to bring you up – because you are pushing up.

Exercise ten: skating into skiing
In skating you use your adductor muscles – you move the body to the “inside” between the skates, you go down and up. In fact when you ski you are just skating in an arc – that’s another reason why skiing is “one legged”. If you push out the skis then you can’t remain “one legged”. I demonstrate skating off down the mountain and increasing the dynamics until the skating converts into skiing – but without any transition or change of rhythm or mechanics.

Exercise eleven: short turns
I demonstrate short turns with a clear push up from the lower leg to complete the turn and control the momentum of the CM. This is to show how this the exact opposite timing from the common jumping up to start a turn. You can jump up even with this – but it has to be perceived as taking the power from the lift up at the end of the turn.

Exercise twelve: introduction to slalom
I introduced both skiers to slalom as a means to objectively test their skiing. The point is to use the poles as a visible clue as to where to direct the CM.

Leave a Reply

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