Before starting today’s session Jenny told me that she could only manage to get her body into the turns when she did the exercise with both ski poles going into the turn – otherwise her body wouldn’t move into the turn. I agreed that this was in part a problem of unconscious programming taking over. For me the real problem appeared to be one of  understanding, perception and feedback – the tools needed to be able to begin reprogramming  the unconscious mind.  If the skis don’t grip and you don’t get secure feedback then you will always struggle and get stuck in a vicious circle of events. The best way to break this chain of events is to sort out the understanding and perception – because as Jenny has demonstrated, feedback alone (poles inwards) won’t necessarily cause the rest to change. We have to be very clear about how skiing works and what our goals are. Knowing to “move the body” is not enough. Some people respond well to “feeling” and the feedback from battling though poles, bumps or off – piste but they are a very small minority. Anyone can learn to ski very well and strongly but most people need a very clear understanding to get there in a reasonable time frame. Watching Jenny ski it was clear that despite some improvement from  two days ago she was still drifting sideways to some extent during the turns and was not in full control.  


Part of Jenny’s problem is that there is a lag in response from the skis at the start of a turn. When you move the body into a turn there is no secure-feeling feedback initially. This is normal. You have to be aware of this. In racing on steep ground you may have to throw the body downhill very hard while having no pressure from the ski or any other feedback – only the knowledge that this will lead you towards that. It’s no good going tentatively into a turn and thinking that once you feel the edge of the outside ski you can then use that pressure to lean into the turn (very common) – by then it’s too late. This “lag” or “threshold” is quite hard to overcome for some people. When people want to “press on the outside ski” and move their body outwards over that ski to begin the turn then it’s usually to avoid going through this lag period of no support when moving correctly inwards to begin the turn. It doesn’t help that ski schools always teach people to actually do those things (moving outwards and pressing down) in snowploughs. When I have to use a snowplough I teach people to move inwards and stand over and weight the inside ski at the start of a snowplough turn – the exact opposite of the ski schools – because I know that training the body to move in the right direction is far more important than anything else and that for various other additional reasons a snowplough done this way works much better. Jenny had to become aware of the threshold she had to get over in order to feel the feedback from the skis – and avoid backing off and going for the wrong moves instead. We worked for a while with this, not to change any details in Jenny’s skiing but to allow her the time to sense the threshold issue and begin to deal with it. I explained to Jenny that she needed to be crystal clear:

  1. The ski lifts you up
  2. and to make it work you need to fall over.

A bicycle works the same way but not as obviously because rubber doesn’t grip very well to the ground. With skis, the further you incline the more they grip. Beginning at the “threshold” where there is no feedback and no “lifting up” from the ski, then the skier needs to use either gravity to fall over or some form of push with one or two legs or terrain features  – or any combination of those. The skier is fully in charge here – but as inclination into the turn increases, or the slope angle to the ski increases as the turn progresses the lifting power of the ski grows to rapidly overwhelm the skier. The ski is more powerful than the skier and will more than repay the energy that went into falling by literally throwing the skier back up and effectively out of the turn. (James felt that a few times as he flipped over off-piste.). The real problem for the skier is in not being able to fall over far enough and to maintain that for long enough as forces build up as they line up with gravity. Failure to get down and inside a turn with the body turns the process into a very tiring physical battle that the skier always loses. Efficiency and ease come with aligning the body well inside the turn.    

Short Turns

I decided that the best way to generate appropriate feedback would be through working on short turns. The goal was to get Jenny to feel the effects in a more active and dynamic context rather than on long cruising turns. Watching other skiers it was obvious that all the recreational skiers visible were simply pointing downhill then throwing their skis across their path to dissipate speed and energy. Those people had clearly never been taught how to relate properly with the skis and terrain. The skier needs to complete a turn to load up the ski and let it do its “lifting up” job. It’s a dance with the skis which requires timing, feeling and rhythm. The skier coming up out of at turn is then being directed or the speed controlled – using the energy intelligently instead of dissipating it all in a big skid. To achieve this the skier needs to stay down to the inside of the turn and complete the turn – but not so much so as to kill it off by traversing at the end – the turns must be linked without a traverse. Often a slight turn uphill at the end helps to lift the skier out of the turn and into the next, strongly controlling speed directing of momentum. This is a playful act highly tuned into rhythm and breaking of rhythm (As slalom courses are set to do). The skier descending a hill in this manner will not be first to the bottom, but will be the one with the most creative and enjoyable route – and constant development of skill. Place this in a race course and the results are obvious. The “dissipating” skiers thrashing downhill will be useless in slalom and will not progress. Eventually they even get bored with thrashing around and go and get drunk somewhere to forget about the tired legs. Jenny skied the short turns well. With the increase in grip and feedback her body started to adopt a better stance at the hips with more angulation  and with less body rotation naturally.  The first clip in the video still shows a tendency to generate an uphill ski stem with the right leg – pushing the ski out rather than moving the body in. This is due to feeling insecure on the left leg and feeling uncomfortable about allowing the body to come up out of the turn on the left leg. There is still a bit too much rotation – but those small errors are because this in on very steep terrain. The main goal was achieved – of using the body to the inside of the turn to generate control and rhythm. Initially Jenny looked for security on the steeps by trying to jam the ski on edge. I explained that as in carving this is a fallacy and that just holding the body to the inside of the turn would do the right job.  Going back onto less steep terrain for the second video clip Jenny is turning with much better rhythm, angulation, control of rotation, grip good timing (down/up), control of speed and directing of momentum. When we got onto ice skiing down to La Daille I explained that if the skis didn’t grip then to be sure to work even harder to hold everything inside the turn because that always gives the best grip. When trying to hold on the ice Jenny brought her inside hand and shoulder downhill and towards the outside of the skis – to the point where they were pulling her body to the outside of the turn. She then worked to correct this. In this case that incorrect move was being made to “balance” over the downhill ski – not to move inside to increase the grip – which feels quite counterintuitive on ice.  

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