Instruction From the Ground Up, Through a Coach's Eyes

Instruction
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Instruction

Most of us tend to look at skiers as a whole. But great coaches and instructors start their analysis by looking at the ground, where the edges meet the snow. Every move a skier makes from that point up-whether a slide of the hips or a flick of the wrist-impacts what happens at the interface between skis and snow. Trained eyes notice how the snow comes off the skis. They then scan upward-to the feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, head and arms-to determine what is creating the action at snow level.

This special three-part instructional series ("Skiing from the Ground Up") has two goals: It is designed to teach you to dissect and understand your own technique much as a veteran coach does, so you can then take your skiing to the next level.

In this issue, we'll explore what should be happening from the thighs down. In December, we'll examine the powerful center-hips, butt, lower back and abdomen-which controls where we go. And in January, we'll conclude the series with an analysis of upper-body technique-chest, shoulders, head, arms and hands-that when mastered fine tunes a skier's overall performance. And because numerous factors, from terrain to skier level, determine which approach should be used when, various techniques are analyzed.

So read on and study the pictures. Whether you're a Newcomer, Aspiring Carver, Player, Executive, All-Mountain Expert or Racer, this series will let you focus on your problem areas so you can improve your overall performance.Working The Turn
Turning style is not so much about ability; it's a matter of choice.Newcomers, Players and All-Mountain Experts use similar turning techniques when their skis are only slightly edged. In a wedge, stand flexed, balanced on the entire length of your foot and over the center of the ski. Turn the leg on the ski that is already pointing in the direction you want to go. You should feel more pressure build up along the sole of the turning (outside) foot than on the inside foot. You'll also feel pressure on your shin bone, against the upper tongue of the boot. This presses the edge into the snow nearer to the ski's tip (slowing it), and eases pressure at the tail (letting it skid). Such forward leverage creates tighter turns.Parallel turns are possible only when feet, ankles and knees work together (though the outside, or downhill, leg works harder). Drive both knees forward and in the direction you want to go. This rolls each ski onto a higher edge. It's natural to feel the skis drift sideways (skid) as you turn. To get more leverage on the tips, apply forward pressure again, but a little lower this time-into the tongue behind the middle two buckles of your boot. Achieve this pressure not by leaning against your boots, but by flexing your ankles and knees.Your Stance Dictates The Skis' Path
Know where your feet are and how they work together.A Stable Stance, often called a wedge, is used by all skiers at one time or another. Changing direction is a matter of "pivoting" the ski beneath your boot to rotate the tip inside, and displace the tail outside. You'll feel these rotary forces inside your boot as gentle pressure along the side of your big toe and on the outside of your heel. Vary that pressure to make the turn as sudden or as gradual as you like.In a Parallel Stance, both skis continue to point in the same direction. Speed control is achieved by forcing the tails to travel a greater distance than the tips. Stand mainly on your downhill ski and feel foot-to-boot pressure just below and in front of the bone on the inside of your ankle. As you steer the skis (to the left, in this case), the edge near the tip (where the ski is widest) grabs the snow, slowing you down. Meanwhile, the tail releases to pivot around the point where the tip grabs hold. Because the tail has farther to go, it speeds up. Making skidded turns like this leaves a moon-shaped track in the snow.Carving is strictly a pressure move aceved with very little leg twist or knee drive. The bones in your lower leg must tilt way to the inside, tipping the ski on a high edge. Direct pressure straight down through your heel, to the narrowest part of the ski. This is the ski's "sweet spot." You can't muscle a ski to carve, but any modern ski, particularly a shaped ski, will scribe a narrow, clean arc when you pressure the sweet spot. Stand on the arch and heel of your foot, get that ski on edge, press down (as if on an accelerator) and hang on!Carved turns are made from an Athletic Stance that is "beyond parallel." The idea is not so much to turn the ski, but to edge it, pressure it, and let the ski's sidecut do the work. This move is made entirely with your outside leg and foot. (If you are at all conscious of the inside foot, just think about continuously driving it along the inside path of the turn.) Roll your downhill knee to the inside early in the turn, and press down on the back part of your sole, without leaning against the back of your boot. Apply moderate pressure for longer carved turns, more for shorter ones. Strive for a perfect, ice-skate arc. (But it's no sin to skid a little.)Taking Control With Your Feet
Your boots are your steering wheel. Small pressure changes inside them can increase or decrease speed.If your knee is over or in front of your toes, you are exerting forward pressure on the ski. Because forward pressure puts a shaped ski in slow mode, this is a speed-control stance, good for any level skier in steeps, tight spots and otherscary places.With your knee over your foot's arch, you are balanced along the entire length of the foot and are standing over the ski's center. This is where you want to ski most of the time, keeping the ski in cruise-control mode. You have the most options from this stance: It's easy to pivot, skid or otherwise guide the skisWhen your knees are still flexed, but less bent, you apply optimal force on the ski's waist-directly under your lower-leg bones. Pressure over this narrowest "sweet spot" shifts a shaped ski into carve mode, where it's easy to preserve speed and attain the G-forces we love. Remember, you are less stable in this stance.Three Means Of Control
Steering, edging, pressing. Use these skills separately or in combination to achieve maximum control of your skis.Rotating The Lower Leg. When terrain is mellow and the snow soft, you should steer the ski by turning your lower leg and foot. Rotating the lower leg requires that the thigh turn too, as your upper leg rotates in the ball-and-socket joint at your hip. Your steer is gentle, with the skis running almost flat. Let them drift sideways, allowing the tail to drift more than the tip. Steered turns are relaxed turns.Edging The Lower Leg. Your knee becomes the focal point in an edged turn. Forcefully turn your thigh and drive your knee forward to create an angle at the knee joint, by tilting the lower leg to the inside. You might want to steer the ski first, then edge it. On a conventional ski the resulting "edge set" creates a somewhat jerky turn as the sideways skid is suddenly stopped. Though you may throw snow off the tail, you'll feel a smooth carving surge. A shaped ski is designed to edge more naturally.Powering In The Lower Leg. Make a pressing (carved) turn by getting onto a high edge early in the turn. That's key. Once the edge is engaged, your job is to deliver as much power to that edge as you can. Natural turning forces get you started, but power comes from the quadricep muscles in your thigh. Sense that you are pressing down, against the ski, making it bend. Anyone watching should be able to read the logo on your ski base and see a steady plume of snow curl off the edge.Guiding Your Skis
Guiding is about steering and changing edges. Sometimes your feet and legs work together, but more often they work independently.Carving, particularly on shaped skis, offers the stability of a platform-though it's a moving one. Confident the ski will not skid out, you can be more athletic. Change both edges, press against the sweet spot of the outside ski, but also guide the inside ski with your lower leg and knee. Because there is no pressure on it, you can steer the inside ski faster than the outside ski-moving its tip farther inside. Guiding the inside ski aggressively helps pull your outside ski through the turn, and sets you up for the next one.When the situation requires caution, when snow feels unstable or when you're just feeling a bit unsure of yourself, fall back on the stable stance. Change the edge of one ski, steer it, get settled on it, then change the edge of the second ski to "match" the first. Roll one knee and then the other.To make a parallel turn you must change the edges of both skis at the same time. Make this simultaneous edge change by rolling both knees into the turn. Once both skis are on the same edge, use both feet, both ankles, and both knees to steer the skis through the fall line and complete the turn.Timing Is Everything
When you change edges is as important as how you change them.A late edge change is the easiest to make. Keep the skis flat on the snow as you steer and guide them toward the fall line. Gently rotate the feet and legs into the turn. When your skis are pointing straight downhill, roll them onto their new edges. This is the most natural time to make the changeover. Complete the turn in a soft, braking skid with both skis. You've done two things: changed direction and slowed down.Late edge changes are often associated with Newcomer technique. But All-Mountain Experts and Racers also delay an edge change when the situation demands it. If you need to turn suddenly, or the surface threatens to trip you up if you roll from edge to edge too early, lift yourself off the snow and redirect the skis, pivoting them beneath you. To succeed, they must be flat. Now, drive your knees forward and sideways, and finish the turn on a very high edge. This is a safe, solid move in tricky snow and terrain.A carve, as noted previously, must be set up early. Get on the new set of edges well before the fall line. This is more a matter of good balance and timing than special skills. By making an early edge change, you give the outside ski no opportunity to skid. Get it out from under you-something we'll discuss in detail in the next issue-and drive past the fall line. This is the ultimate skiing turn. Five years ago it seemed only experts could pull it off. Now, with shaped skis, skiers at all levels can carve-including you.a platform-though it's a moving one. Confident the ski will not skid out, you can be more athletic. Change both edges, press against the sweet spot of the outside ski, but also guide the inside ski with your lower leg and knee. Because there is no pressure on it, you can steer the inside ski faster than the outside ski-moving its tip farther inside. Guiding the inside ski aggressively helps pull your outside ski through the turn, and sets you up for the next one.When the situation requires caution, when snow feels unstable or when you're just feeling a bit unsure of yourself, fall back on the stable stance. Change the edge of one ski, steer it, get settled on it, then change the edge of the second ski to "match" the first. Roll one knee and then the other.To make a parallel turn you must change the edges of both skis at the same time. Make this simultaneous edge change by rolling both knees into the turn. Once both skis are on the same edge, use both feet, both ankles, and both knees to steer the skis through the fall line and complete the turn.Timing Is Everything
When you change edges is as important as how you change them.A late edge change is the easiest to make. Keep the skis flat on the snow as you steer and guide them toward the fall line. Gently rotate the feet and legs into the turn. When your skis are pointing straight downhill, roll them onto their new edges. This is the most natural time to make the changeover. Complete the turn in a soft, braking skid with both skis. You've done two things: changed direction and slowed down.Late edge changes are often associated with Newcomer technique. But All-Mountain Experts and Racers also delay an edge change when the situation demands it. If you need to turn suddenly, or the surface threatens to trip you up if you roll from edge to edge too early, lift yourself off the snow and redirect the skis, pivoting them beneath you. To succeed, they must be flat. Now, drive your knees forward and sideways, and finish the turn on a very high edge. This is a safe, solid move in tricky snow and terrain.A carve, as noted previously, must be set up early. Get on the new set of edges well before the fall line. This is more a matter of good balance and timing than special skills. By making an early edge change, you give the outside ski no opportunity to skid. Get it out from under you-something we'll discuss in detail in the next issue-and drive past the fall line. This is the ultimate skiing turn. Five years ago it seemed only experts could pull it off. Now, with shaped skis, skiers at all levels can carve-including you.