Luke & Leonie

Bad weather and hangover day today! Not a great combination but the cold wind is a good way to forget a hangover – though personally that’s not been an issue for me since stopping drinking around twelve years ago and I never miss an opportunity to gloat about it when others suffer self inflicted carnage. Being far too cold to stand around working on detailed technique – and being the last day skiing – we had to ski. Staying  warm is easy when you rhythmically put together millions of short turns – so that’s what we did. Each turn is an opportunity to practice – mindfully – selectively focusing on a few relevant components of biomechanics or the feedback and  actions of global movement (simplified by focusing on the centre of mass – which is why the concept is used in physics). Weather and self inflicted issues were clearly affecting Luke, who appeared to have locked into default mode in the back of his ski boots – so we gave the slalom a miss, leaving that behind on a positive note from yesterday. Luke was happy to allow Leonie to be the main focus of attention so we started to put the short turns to use to help her to conquer the issue of “flow” that had emerged as the current limitation of her progress. The video clip shows Leonie finally managing a consistent and intentional flow – doing even better than Luke who specifically dragged himself onto his shins for the camera.  

Anticipation and Bumps

The answer to Leonie’s “flow” lay in a doctored version of the old concept of “anticipation”.  Anticipation was always an extremely nebulous subject due to all the other technical issues connected to it being hugely incorrect in their own definitions. However, like most of those issues there is an element of truth in it if only it can be extracted and identified correctly.  The ground work for this “extraction” was simply the total of all the work we had been doing in the previous four days – but just with a slightly modified goal and feel. On the spot, I thought up an exercise for Leonie that worked.   Yesterday Leonie had started to complete her turns better – first angulating more deeply to build pressure then releasing it for dynamics out of the turn – instead of just skidding and dissipating all the energy in a braking action – though she wasn’t really tapping into the energy generated at the end of the turn. We had been working on forming turns to control speed and direction through line and rhythm – as is normally developed in racing through adaptations to poles (over many years of brutal Darwinian natural selection!). Despite this advance in her skiing Leonie was still not flowing well – a quality that Luke on the other hand finds spontaneously even in his worst technical moments. The exercise for Leonie was to stand across the slope statically and adopt a strongly angulated position with pressure against the shins and the downhill pole held ready. I then pulled Leonie from the downhill arm literally straight across her skis – causing a pivoted turn. The sensation of the complete movement from deep angulation – still against the shins – to coming over the fronts of the skis with the body facing downhill, is very distinct and goes far beyond the range of movement that Leonie was finding on her own. Leonie immediately understood the feeling and was able to replicate this in her skiing directly – flowing from turn to turn using the energy built up from one turn to get into the next. Prior to this Leonie had a short delay where she killed the energy induced by the ski and failed to use the end of the turn dynamically – so no rhythm or resonance could be developed or exploited – hence no natural flow. The missing ingredient was “anticipation”. Anticipation is when the development of the end of one turn is formed in a way that it becomes the critical mechanical facilitator of the start of the next turn – and the subsequent motion of the body over the skis is appropriately and intentionally applied. In the video Luke made a determined effort having been battling with the backs of his ski boots and although not as flowing as Leonie it was better than he had skied earlier in the day. More importantly, Luke, just by watching had picked up the same idea. Further down the slope we came to substantial bumps and I showed how to apply this anticipation to the bumps – as usual a solid pole plant being the guide as to whether or not adequate anticipation was present. Bumps are classic for leaving the skier in the back seat but Luke skied them smoothly and effortlessly for the the first time ever – remaining flexible and freed from the glue on the back of the boots. We called it a day at this point to finish on a positive note.

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