Connie, Eve – Wind Tunnel Day

Arriving in Tignes at 8am the blue morning sky held a moon that was surrounded by a unique halo.  Somehow it wasn’t possible to capture the image of the halo, only the moon floating in the blue sky. The day was going to be very windy with no connections to Val d’Isère or even down to Tignes Les Brévières where it might have been more sheltered. Despite the marginal conditions we managed to get through the day with only two stops. The girls had different skis today – Rossignol “double rocker” technology, wider beneath the foot for support off-piste. This wide ski appeared to suit Connie fine but deprived Eve of too much feedback for the time being. Eve seems to need the quick response of a more “carving” ski with traditional camber (no rocker) to feel confident in her movements at the moment. The great advantage of renting is that skis can be quickly changed out for any reason. We had one warm up run to get used to the new skis and then got stuck for ages going up the freezing, wind blasted lift to the Col de Fresse – only to find the passage to Val closed. Finding some shelter at the top of the lift I decided to at last launch into technique.


Eve could remember how to pivot well and Connie wasn’t far off. Connie had a tendency to twist and force the pivoting ski around to deal with her anxiety of having the ski pointing down the fall-line during the turn. Eve remembered that it resembled the sideslip and so was relatively comfortable at it. I explained to Connie that the ski had to sideslip and for the leg to simply pull the front of the ski downwards (inwards) like “spreading butter” – not with a twisting action. With a little practice Connie started to feel the action correctly – the first half of the turn being on the uphill edge of the uphill (outside) ski. I wanted Connie to work on pivoting to counteract her tendency to let the skis jam on edge and run away with her – losing control of speed or falling over. She needs a greater feel for control over the edges of the skis. This also helps to develop greater control of rotation of the upper body and better awareness of how isolate the appropriate muscles in the legs (adductors) – pulling the ski inwards (instead of pushing outwards). Connie still has a residual tendency to push the ski outwards into a stem – particularly the left one. Eve had to be patient and work on her own skills but Connie’s safety had to be my priority. My goal in reality was to try to accelerate Connie’s progress to catch up a bit with Eve. Despite Connie’s inexperience (only two weeks skiing) her responsiveness and determination indicated that this was a realistic goal. Prior to skiing off piste we did an exercise where the girls held onto the handles of their ski poles with the skis across the hill while I pulled them. Their job was to sink down and resist and even pull hard against me. They both got the right use of the hip joints and the right flex at the hip to make that work and I explained that this position is what they need to look for off piste in unpredictable  snow – so that they can resist any surprise sinking in through the crust etc.  This also permits a rapid up motion and exit from the turn and into the next one in a safe manner. To help to generate more active movements and a greater range of movement I decided to take this exercise on to another level with”short swings”.

Short Swings

When skiing there is usually a choice between starting a turn from a pivot on the uphill or the downhill edge (outside ski). If snow is unlikely to permit the ski to pivot at the start of a turn for any reason then either strong dynamics need to be used to get on the downhill edge with pressure – or a strong jump up out of the previous turn has to be employed to allow pivoting (uphill edge) to take place in mid air in the first half of the turn.  The jumping option is safer where speed has to be carefully contained.  “Short Swings” –  is really an exercise in the jumping pivot  – and is used to develop good coordination and range of motion. Trainee instructors might us this as part of their training program – sometimes aiming for 500 short swings per day and with several technical variations.       Both girls did brilliantly for beginners at short swings. This is an exercise that is notoriously difficult to learn but extremely important. Normally people cannot organise both legs and both skis simultaneously but both of the girls managed that no problem. Short swings are great for showing up strengths and weaknesses. Eve managed good angulation, upper/lower body separation, pole use, good dynamics, good speed control, good edge control and good coordination. She displayed a problem with the right hip rotating around in the turn (obviously forcing too much on the right side). Timing was off too with a double bounce instead of a single platform and rebound rhythm. Connie had good coordination but all of the other parameters were relatively weak – but not absent. I explained that the purpose of the exercise was to control speed. Just imposing that goal alone forces all of the other parameters to modify and strengthen. We used the short swings off piste as a form of exercise but I had to continually reinforce the need to control speed.


We had stopped for lunch after the short swings because Eve was suffering from a severe lunch deficiency and consequently forgot how to ski. All the blame however went onto the new skis. After lunch, a quick ski change and a search to evade the howling wind we finally managed to get back into working on dynamics – through skating. The new skis that Eve had gave more immediate response and she was happy again. I wanted to get the dynamics going and the independent legs of the skating action because too much work on pivoting can put those essential movements to sleep a bit – and I know that this is what Eve had already responded so positively to. While Eve was recovering her confidence Connie showed that she had retained the improved coordination from the morning and was even able to apply it to dynamics. This had been my main goal – to bring Connie up a notch particularly in this area because this is where security comes from.

One Ski

Neither Connie nor Eve had actually realised that nearly all skiing is on one foot – not just skating exercises. Although I ski mostly with both skis on the snow there is only pressure on one ski. I ran through the static exercise of pressing against the shoulder to generate force at the outside ski – with the inside ski automatically lifting off the ground – to show how good dynamics results spontaneously in “one ski” skiing. Secure skiing is always on one ski except for special exceptions.

Jumping Dynamics – Turn Exit Dynamics (Neutral)

Now we began to use the jump to make a turn transition while skiing at speed and with dynamics. The timing remains the same as with the short swing in that the up motion is to exit a turn. Refining this I explained “neutral” where the turn is exited by brining the skier into neutral – flat skis – crossing the hill – skier perpendicular to the mountain – momentarily – as part of a dynamic process. Both girls could then feel how this smoothly linked turns. For off piste dynamics this is actually the most critical part of the turn and it’s the only way to guarantee making the next turn in any type of snow – yet it requires great commitment and it’s quite a scary thing to do in tricky or steep snow. (Not edited yet!)

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