Don, Jennifer, Wade, Marcia

The decision was made for the ladies to focus on instruction and remain with Don for the day while Wade would take advantage of the fresh covering of powder with Phillipe. We had an easy warm up run on the Vert and then began to separate after going up the Borsat lift. I took a second run to observe and get a clear idea of how Don, Jennifer and Marcia were skiing.   1-DSC06437-001   Don had clearly improved since his December skiing and the technique difference was obvious. Jennifer and Marcia would need to learn dynamics from scratch but each was likely to respond differently so I took time to study their movements. Both were sometimes stemming on the steeper slopes and the predominant action was always pushing the skis outwards and missing the starts of the turns – all the result of standard ski instruction.  


The introduction to dynamics was carried out with my standard procedure – explanation, static exercise and then single turns across the hill from the fall line. The full details of dynamics are given here in this fixed page – also accessed from the tab at the top of the blog… Details of the exercises are described under the subheading “The Magic Wall”. For children I tell them tha when they slide forwards an invisible wall appears either side of their body – and if they really believe in it then they can push hard against this wall and will lean against it but never fall over. The invisible wall always protects them – but they must actually try to fall and trust it 100%. This is only the first part of dynamics but it’s where people begin to understand the great fallacy of “balance”. Marci found it a bit confusing initially but she asked appropriate questions and gradually the issues were clarified. Jennifer immediately noticed that much less energy was expended when skiing with dynamics. I explained on the charilift that the reason for the relaxation when using dynamics is that it permits selective muscle use. When the Centre of Mass moves the wrong way (to the outside of the turn) then all the muscles in the legs are activated due to the conflict in mechanics and so you are fighting against yourself.  

Feet and Adductors

For rapidity I only demonstrated how to use the feet with one boot off and everyone watching instead of copying.

  1. Pressure beneath the ankle – front of the heel
  2. Flexing at the knees and hips with the anterior tibialis (shin muscle) activated and strong ankle
  3. Rocking the foot onto its inside edge with the subtaler joint (between the ankle and heel)
  4. Activating the adductor muscles (inside of upper legs) though the rocking of the foot
  5. Connecting – Centre of Mass, adductors, rocking of the foot – all pulling into the new turn

Dynamics is next to impossible if there is not a good support base to work from. Those taught to push inwards with the big toe are going to have the foot flattening, the ski twisting and being torqued into the turn with the knee falling inwards and being made vulnerable to injury. The foot in contrast is best operated from the heel initially so as to develop the rocking action related to skating and to sense the adductors. Think in the order: Centre of Mass – Adductors – foot starting your movement from the centre.  


Skating was introduced without much introduction. I explained the connection between the down/up timing of the dynamics (inverted pendulum) and the down/up timing of the legs in skating. The idea was to skate downhill directly and when speed built up then fall inwards between the skis to increase dynamics – progressively converting the skating into skiing – maintaining the same rhythm with the legs. This can help people to rapidly see the natural rhythm and resonance that skiing is really based upon. Skis have been manufactured since the 1960s to function with this movement – unfortunately schools have never taught it – yet racers who ski in poles discover it for themselves – at least the very small percentage who survive do. Jennifer was good at this and for Marcia there was a breakthrough connection made through the feeling of skating. Skiing is fundamentally a combination of dynamics and skating.  


Perhaps the most important part of our process here is to use the focus on the body to develop the habit of mindfulness. All of the movements that cause trouble in skiing are emotionally driven (twisting, pushing, braking, forcing and avoiding dynamics). Many of those actions are unfortunately also taught in ski schools. Those defensive actions are our primary response and totally unconscious for the most part. We use our conscious  focus to override all of this and progressively retrain the unconscious mind to new responses and actions – skills – which eventually end up unconscious and automatic themselves. Mindfulness – focus within the body – calms the mind from all external distraction and actually permits a better connection with the outside world though a more relaxed body and greater awareness. We can only achieve this state when the movements we are working on literally make sense to our senses. This is how skiing becomes a regererative act and endlessly interesting – instead of frustrating, tiring and all too frequently disappointing for many people.    


Studying the video it’s clear that the fronts of Don’s skis are flapping about in the air – so we need to get more over the fronts and use the fronts of the skis. This can sometimes be seen to send Don into the backs of his ski boots and cause his outside ski to flatten (not in the video). Dynamics are strong but the evolution of the turn is compromised by lack of angulation. Jennifer – foot twisting and knee falling into the turn is too clearly observed for comfort. Dynamics are reasonable but compromised by rushing the start of the turn. There is a twisting of the spine with the shoulders trying to face downhill that is causing the posture to collapse – we need to look at this with a view to protecting the back while generating angulation. Marcia has definitely found the right timing and connected it with dynamics. There is a whole body rotation into the turn – exacerbated by reaching forward with the outside arm for pole use. This action removes any angulation and then causes a large skid at the start of each new turn. Wade’s timing and dynamics looked good so I assume that Philippe was working on it and bringing out the natural qualities. The feet didn’t look like they were actively rocking and the posture was unstable – not standing clearly on the outside hip (skating stance) – which then makes the lower back vulnerable. The stance is probably linked to the first half of the turn being rushed and not commiting to the outside leg early enough (hence the big skid in the slow motion view). If you stand really solidly on that outside leg right from the start of the turn then there is a better chance of standing strongly on the hip joint and shaping the turn progressively through the use of the ski.

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