Inna day 1

Prior to coaching Inna was comfortable on her skis on moderate pistes. Her movement was fluid and there was no indication of any underlying biomechanical issues. The only limitations in her skiing were clearly coming from poor teaching methods – the effect of which could be clearly seen in her movement patterns.

Initial Technical Assessment

In the first photograph the feet are left way behind the body due to all the weight being on the front of the feet and against the front of the ski boots with the ankles collapsing.  Nothing can function correctly in this situation. In the second photograph there is a stem with the outside ski in the turn being pushed out at the heel as the foot is twisted into the turn. This is fundamentally incorrect coordination and prevents the skis and body  from working correctly. The “vertical” movement timing is the wrong way around – going up to start the turn and down to finish.  All of those problems have been created by teachers. There is no awareness of dynamics and the body and legs are static. Posture tends to get blocked and stiffened at the hip joints to compensate for the ankles collapsing. Despite Inna’s clear and natural sense of movement there is no understanding of how to use the body or the skis – the result of many years of exposure to mainstream international ski teaching! The skills that have previously been absorbed by her body do not make sense to her so she cannot explain how to make a turn. The good news is that those “skills” do not make sense to anybody because they are nonsense. Anybody skiing this way will encounter serious limitations sooner or later in their skiing that they won’t be able to get around. Sometimes aggressive people can get a bit further along – but often the most intelligent people get into great difficulty – because they are more accurate with the movements they have been taught.                  

Stance and Feet

Due to Inna’s stance I decided to start with the feet. If nothing works properly until this is corrected then there was no point starting to work on anything else. I explained that it was necessary at this stage to get the weight onto the heels – not against the back of the ski boots – but accurately over a point precisely over the front of the heels and just beneath the ankle bones. This requires standing up and supporting yourself – not leaning on the boots for support. This should really be taught with the boots off – but we will get around to that tomorrow. The foot rocks from edge to edge using a joint beneath the ankle bone called the subtaler joint. When standing on the heel you can make this joint work and rock your feet clearly from edge to edge. When bending you have to “squat” using the knees and hips when remaining on the heels. This happens automatically when you stay on the heels. When you fail to stay on the heels and go on the front of the feet then the ankles collapse and the feet cannot be rocked – instead, when the ankle bends the knee twists into the turn as the heel pushes out and this places the knee at risk of injury. Bending when on the heel causes the quadriceps in the leg to be used strongly and also tightens the muscles on the front of the lower leg (anterior tibialis) – which strengthens the ankle and prevents it from flexing. This strength is what we are looking for and it’s why racers use very strong ski boots – not soft and flexible ones. Ingemar Stenmark – the most successful racer in history – claimed that the muscle he felt the most when skiing was his anterior tibialis. Another problem with the ankles collapsing is that the hips tend to lock up in compensation causing the upper-body to “lean back”. We would not be looking at posture just now but correcting the feet would lead to better posture automatically. Inna understood the principles and was immediately able to modify her stance. I explained to Inna the principle of “perpendicularity” to the slope and how sliding when perpendicular should feel like standing up vertically on the flat. You do not “lean or push” forwards!


Once the stance had been worked on for a while I introduced Dynamics (link here to full explanation). Understanding that Inna had studied psychology and not physics I used the “Magic Wall” explanation instead of Newtonian mechanics. Fortunately Inna had never been told the “wrong” things about “balance” so there weren’t too many problems to correct – but the concept of disequilibrium was totally new and had never been explored before. We did all the static shoulder pushing exercises and related them to pressure on the feet – then went straight into using the magic wall in turning. Inna understood the idea of trying to “fall” to the side and managed to coordinate this very well. Some people have great trouble with this even when the feet and stance are working well – but as I pointed out at the beginning Inna has a good sense of movement and so she was able to achieve this correctly immediately. The result was  more effortless skiing – perhaps feeling a bit strange to begin with – but that’s good because it means that changes were clearly being made.

In the two photographs below the inclination from the dynamics can be seen supported by a much stronger stance. Here Inna is using her natural ability to control her direction through moving her Centre of Mass into the turn – instead of pushing her feet away out of the turn! Correct “vertical” timing is starting to happen spontaneously with a down/up movement induced by falling down into the turn and the skis lifting her back up out of the turn. Notice also how  the knee is held in strongly during the turn (this is called knee angulation) whereas in the photograph above (right photo in “technical assessment”)  when the ski is pushed out the knee is pushed out also and so there is no support from the outside ski during the turn.                


Extending Dynamic Range

I explained and demonstrated “dynamic range” to Inna. Basically, people try to remain upright and not fall over but the reality is that they need to do the opposite. When you try to fall over with dynamics you quickly hit a limit around 15° of inclination where the ski overpowers your efforts to fall over. It’s the job of the developing skier to extend this range of freedom as far as possible. The Magic Wall is so powerful that nobody can overcome it but it guarantees fantastic freedom to throw your body about like crazy and know that you will not fall because of this – you will just improve.


After the video was taken I introduced skating into the skiing. We began by skating down a gentle gradient and then around some gentle long turns. Inna had no trouble skating so we quickly moved on. The next exercise was to skate/step uphill while traversing and to finish the process by stepping onto the uphill ski and standing up on it then toppling/falling into the turn while standing strongly on this leg. This is an important move to learn because skiing is really about skating on one leg at a time (even when two are together and on the snow) – but this is not really visible to the eye.  This exercise was preparation for the “direct method” of skating straight downhill and then adding dynamics so that each skate evolves into a turn and then transforms skating into skiing – maintaining the same leg action and rhythm. This is how the legs become functional in skiing and the down/up motion of skating complements the down/up motion of dynamics. (motorbike dropping down into a turn and then coming back up out). Inna did well on her first attempt and managed to keep the rhythm going, the legs working and the body moving. This is how we change a static skier with inactive legs into a dynamic skier with active legs.

Off Piste

We experimented a little off piste. Form the first turn I could see that Inna did not move in strongly enough when on her left leg – and unsurprisingly that led to a fall shortly afterwards. The idea was to show that nothing needs to change for off piste skiing and that dynamics works. In fact the direct feedback of the deep snow is important for developing dynamics. The deep snow causes the ski to turn more strongly lifting you up and out of the turn more strongly – so you have to work better on the dynamics or you get thrown over to the outside to the turn. This happened to Inna!


We spent about 20 minutes on a rapid introduction to pivoting and “Edge Choice”  before the end of the session – because it is one of the three main keys to good skiing and I didn’t want to ignore it on the first day. The importance was to generate awareness that here is an issue that needs to be developed. The three keys to skiing are 1 Dynamics, 2 Skating and 3 Edge Choice. A full account of “pivoting” can be found at this link!  After checking Inna’s ability to sideslip – including forward and backward diagonal sideslipping – which she had no trouble with – I went straight into a demonstration. Inna predictably could not see the mechanism of the very tight pivot – until I explained how I was standing on the uphill edge of the ski throughout the first half of the turn. There wasn’t enough time for a proper explanation – especially as the foot needs to rock onto the inside edge (inside the ski boot) while the ski stays on the outside edge (made possible by the lateral stiffness of the boot shaft). I simply had Inna hold my ski pole for support and helped her through a few pivots so she could feel the mechanism. I demonstrated that this way of turning is in the “fall line” – the body and skis do not travel forwards across the hill (this is why it is developed from a sideslip). We will work more carefully on this tomorrow. Inna’s attempts at it were fine but we didn’t have time to develop it so I asked her to focus on dynamics and the feet for the rest of the day.  


Going to my car in the morning I heard a woodpecker pecking at a tree and managed to photograph it – unfortunately a branch was in the way. While was doing this a squirrel leaped from this tree to another tree in an incredibly athletic move that amazed me! Springtime is definitely in the air!

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