Ski Tips of the week 2021
Over the winter of COVID when everyone was hidden behind more layers of protection than ever to include mandatory face masking, it became a season where communication took on another layer of complexity. Few realized how much we communicated by visually having eye contact with each others facial features? It became obvious right away to me that it would be more important than ever to followup in some manner after a session in order to verify that the intended message was getting through.
So, I started a weekly email to my team with the idea of covering the important points of the session. I had been doing something along these lines for a number of seasons already, but this season, I think it took on a whole new meaning. Here are The Tips of the Week that evolved.
The 20 -2021 Team Members - Karen Beadon, Sally Turton, Jane Rockendel, Brian Wallace, Malcolm Stewart & Cynthia Orr.
Session 1, Blackcomb December 8, 2020
Good morning All:
It was a good session despite the conditions I would say and thank you for requesting the review of the key points by email; as has become the custom with my teams over the seasons.
The simple act or concept of sliding on snow is such a wonderful experience and as you get into it, there's nothing like getting better and better at doing it. And there's nothing like sharing the experience with fellow sliders and this combination is at the heart of the SST experience.
Our sessions are really a focus point for your week in the hopes of drawing you out for a day before or a day after or even more so that you end up skiing a minimum of 21-40 days per season and hopefully even more than that.
I used the words "skiing relaxed" this week and gave you some "cues" to awaken ideas on how to adjust your overall stance so that you can feel "comfortable" while you're skiing.
They were the Heel to Toe movement on the LTE, little toe edge, to acquaint you with the Fore/Aft movements and the "2 Footed Release" exercise to work on the lateral movement of the ankles. The feet are your base of support and by getting a "tipping" activation down at the ski, it forces the legs, hips and torso to angle up in a counter balancing effort.
There are 3 lower body primary movements that you need to attend to in order to make "comfort turns" a hallmark of your skiing. They are:
1) your Fore/Aft,
2) your ability to move Lateral also referred to as Tipping [the skis by an ankle movement] and
3) Your Timing and independent leg use of Flexion/Extension which we tested out in the undulating terrain with a bit of crust on it on the Stoker Run before lunch.
Of course there are many fine points to all of this and my plan is to add some background to what we covered in each of our sessions with a video clip or two that expands on each week's main theme.
Before I do that though, here is a caveat. One of my students from 12 or 13 seasons ago who forever after has called me "Coach" when he greets me, told me this when we had a farewell party for him and his wife as they headed off to Vancouver Island for another chapter in their lives.
"Wendell, you taught me everything I needed to know on one ride up the Horstman T-bar where you showed me how to edge the little toe ski while we were going up." Jokingly he added, you kept mixing me up by adding more and more "stuff" to the equation in the years that followed.
Moral to the story, no matter what it is, once you get it, you'll have it and the rest is simply refinement.
The video clip I've attached here is related to the 2 Footed Release. This is Harald Harb and the clip is 11 years old now but just as relevant as it was the day it was made.
Interesting to see the skis he was using, 68 mm underfoot instead of the one's I was skiing on today at 106 mm. One of the refinements to how we do it today because of the wider skis is to focus on making the ankle tipping faster than we did back then. You'll see in future sessions when conditions permit, we too will ski on our own skis with narrow waists and we'll be able to finesse from edge to edge too. As he says in the clip, this is the basis to good skiing and there is a whole progression from the base. It all starts with rock solid fundamentals.
Jan 12, 2021
I hope you got dried out at long last after our soaking yesterday. Today, well, it was pretty challenging too with a light crust over the dust and where it was groomed, pretty much a vertical skating rink especially for all the folks wearing powder skis.
Back to our session and your introduction to the "Phantom Move", here is a follow up and the tip of the week is to incorporate the phantom move into every turn.
The first clip here is 11 years old and is a very quick intro to the patented phantom move, basically a teaser but will acquaint you with the lingo at the very least and serves as a jumping in point for the next clip.
In the next clip, Young gun Paul (Lorenz) breaks it down a bit for us starting at the 1:30 mark, where he makes the point that it is critical that we feel muscles engaging as we turn, tip, roll or evert our foot in the boot as described at the 1:15 mark. So perpetrating the release is more than simply pushing your knee toward the outside isn't it? That action alone can leave your ski dangling in the breeze as Brian may recall on one of his first cracks at trying to do the movement and nearly catching his tip in the fresh schnee. Luckily he didn't because he had just enough muscle engagement to hold the ski on course.
Approach this as passing through a doorway that's opening your mind to an important element of skiing; independent leg action where the roles of the two legs are very different.
Once the inside ski is released and the muscles continue to engage to roll or tip the ski, the inside leg effort directs the turning effort while the outside leg simply carries the freight or our weight as we complete the turn.
The key is to practice this movement to recognize exactly when we have engaged our muscles enough to release that edge and what we need to do TO KEEP THEM engaged as we make the turn.
Why is this called "THE PHANTOM MOVE?" It's because the weight is all over on the outside ski and the new inside one is released and effectively free of the snow yet, at the same time, the muscles are engaged and orchestrating the turning effort!
Finally, here is a clip of Harald free skiing. Watch to see if you can see the 'tipping to release' and phantom part in each turn. Happy skiing until the next session.
Jan 27, 2021
Further to our session this week, the emphasis was on bringing your attention to the 'top of the turn' and to play around with that part of the turn and see what might happen if we made a weight transfer to the LTE (little toe edge) before we transfer the weight and tip the ski to the new edge. The idea was to let you feel a new turn shape and discover how this changes the dynamics of our turns.
Click through on this link to review the video clip for this week; it's Paul Lorenz demonstrating how the weight transfer actually takes place before the edge changes, (1:22) into the clip. At (1:40), he points out the weaker results if you release your edges and start to turn before you transfer/shift your weight. This is a great way to skid your turns but it prevents you from balancing on the ski when it's traveling in a forward direction. As we skied in powder schnee the other day, I pointed out that when we made the weight transfer before releasing the skis, then we would create the 'platform' that is so desirable when skiing dee steep und zee deep.
Paul goes on to show how building the transfer to the LTE is an integral part of a carved turn. Fast forward to (2:17) you will see the subtle lightening of the old DH ski forces him to tighten the other leg in order to take the weight and make the edge change and do it all without rising up too much; which tends to disrupt your balance.
In fact, we will be leaving weight transfers in the practicing phase and eventually be talking about transferring our 'balance' from side to side as we ski. That my friends is truly when skiing becomes a thing of beauty.
I know this is a mouthful but your confidence will take a big bump in the right direction as you start to reap the benefits associated with mastering this movement so review it as long as it takes to ingrain and recall at your beckoning.
I hope this has helped round out your skiing thoughts for the week and that it will be a part of your dream cycles until we meet again next Tuesday on Blackcomb.
Feb 4, 2021
Cynthia, I've added you here as well as the group was saddened on hearing about your foot and that they all wanted to wish you a full and speedy recovery. I also thought that you might like to continue to receive the Tip of the Week. If so, confirm and I'll leave you on the mailing list.
As well Teresa, this is a synopsis of the session you missed and hopefully, it will give you a bit of insight as to what we are playing with out there and trying to accomplish in our skiing.
Finally, welcome to the new coaches that have asked to be added or were invited to the list this week, welcome aboard.
In yesterdays session, I introduced you to "Toppling 101" as I called it as this is the best version I've seen to date of at the most basic of levels.
The concept is not new as it goes back at least to "Ski The New French Way by George Joubert". This was the early 1970's and when I first became aware of the concept. Joubert referred to as "la transition" or transition where the body mass and your center of gravity would cross over from the inside of one turn then, BOOM, into the next. This leaning in and out is exactly what you need to do on a bike when you turn from one direction to the other. Although it should be intuitive, like anything technical, it never hurts to isolate and study it closely and master the nuances so that you can refine and hone them into that point of disequilibrium between the turns.
As ski technique moved into the 80's & 90's, another influencer by the name of Ron Lemaster gave this movement the moniker "crossover" and you can still find reference to the crossover to this day. Ron and a few others interpreting Joubert would eventually be responsible for creating what would become known as the American Ski Technique.
Fast forward to today, Tom Gellie, another one of the Aussie Young Guns who follow and interpret ski technique similar to Harald Harb and his Primary Movements has given the crossover movement the moniker "Toppling." The reason I like the description is, it is expressive in using the 'ing' so it's not a transition or a crossover but it is the act of transitioning or crossing over. This is very much in line with PMTS or Primary Movements Speak such as the Tipping Movements etc where you are encouraged to understand and to put the "action component" into your skiing.
The takeaway here is this discussion isn't reinventing anything rather it's taking a stale technical part of the turn and making it into a lively, dynamic movement.
Once incorporated, expect your skiing to be more lively as well. Depending on where you are on the ski learning spectrum, getting the COM from the inside of one turn to the other can be a daunting task and because of alignment or fore/aft issues it can be more difficult to topple on one side versus the other leading to further challenges.
Toppling incorporates establishing higher and higher edge angles as a positive side effect on the "Outrigger" ski that, as you practice the "inriggers" or turns with the training wheels on, you start to transfer the weight to the outrigger ski on an edge angle heretofore never attained. This leads to the potential of harnessing more and more energy from the ski as, the higher the edge angle, the more the ski can potentially bend or arc.
Here is the link to Tom's video lesson. Give it a once or twice over and see if you can pick up some more cues to add to what we covered in our session. Be alert to what you had difficulty doing in the drills; see if this review helps you understand why.
As we ended the session, I alluded to soon, I will be introducing you to the upper body essentials that are complementary to the lower body Tipping, Fore/Aft and Flexion/Extension movements.
They are called Counter Balancing and Counter Acting. When incorporated with Toppling, you'll be introduced to another new word; and it is, Hip Hike or as we've become accustomed to saying, hip hiking.
Those of you who skied with me last season will recall this video clip from Paul Lorenz. This is where we left off last season and on review you will see he references "toppling inside the turn" at the 1:02 sec mark. To put what we were doing in perspective, our session yesterday can be summed up by the time the clip runs to the 1:21 sec mark.
At about the 1:44 sec mark, Paul explains an internal cue that helps him to maintain a more level hip and it feels like a lifting or pulling up of the inside part of his body i.e. his leg & hip. This is the HIP HIKE.
Will we ever be able to attain angles of this magnitude? One thing's for sure, if you're never shown the proper movements and inspired to attempt them, then there is zero chance of getting there.
Hopefully, you're enjoying the ride so far and are prepared to put the training wheels on for long enough and maybe exceed your own expectations. Here's to great skiing this week and see you on Blackcomb next Tuesday.
Now that schnee was a workout on Tuesday wasn't it? There were a pile of tired puppies Wednesday and 0 lineups after 0820.
So what did we learn? That transitioning to skiing powder can be shocking and especially cut up pow where you need to have that special combination of both speed and pressure control in order to stay balanced over the DH ski and effectively link up a series of turns; and most importantly, enjoy them!
And, when any of the essential movements are missing, there's not much chance for error. So let's get at it.
Under fire and duress due to the conditions, the new Essential I introduced to you was one of the two complementary movements to the lower body Essentials of Tipping, Extending/Flexing and the Fore/Aft [ing], and we call it Counterbalancing. I had you imagine and try your best rendition of an Angry Mother with her hands on her hips and had you play with that. The idea was to mentally make you determined to develop a mental image of a basic counter balancing of your torso over the outside ski as you go around the curves. We also introduced you to the "SnowBoarder Blocker" in the form of a strong upper or inside arm extending forward toward the tip of the inside ski.
Here are a couple of images of what we were attempting to attain; even though the shots are separated by 50 years or so.
This is the Canadian icon of ski technique, Ernie McCulloch pictured on the front of his book on how to ski circa the 1960's. He would have been skiing on 215 cm length wooden skis and check out the boots.
Fast forward to 2015 or so, and here is a stop action picture of our Austrian skier from the video clip of the week from Bergfex; click through and have a boo.
Those of you who have been with me for a season or two will recognize this video clip but hopefully will be bringing a whole new perspective to it this season.
Take a moment now to review the video clip a couple of times. OK? Now, back to the discussion.
When you compare the two photos above side by side, even though taken 50 year apart, you can see, as much as things change, some things stay the same. Other than our demonstrator in 2015 is skiing on much shorter skis with exaggerated parabolic sidecuts, likely 165 cm or less in length, when compared to Ernie's 215 cm skis, will cut a much shorter arc of about 13 m or so.
But, you can see in both examples, the hip is (toppled) back and inside relative to the feet and the torso is counterbalancing over the outside ski. And oh yes, even Ernie has his snowboarder blocker left arm out there in case a phantom boarder were to try to blow him out of his bindings while he's making his turn.
It all looks so dynamic doesn't it? It's like it's an 'attacking effort to balance on the skis' because it is. Another word that comes to mind is "fluidity."
Counterbalancing is dynamic because it's an active movement unlike the nemesis of 'hip dumping', 'banking' or posing with a reverse shoulder.
Did you know that the Webster dictionary tells us that the Greeks believed that Nemesis, the Greek Goddess of vengeance didn't always punish an offender immediately but might wait generations to avenge a crime.
In English, nemesis originally referred to someone who brought a just retribution, but nowadays people are more likely to see animosity than justice in the actions of a nemesis.
Clearly, it's important to do your homework before you start down any technical track (in skiing) as you indeed wear the results of your efforts for some time.
Counterbalancing starts with the lean or toppling to the inside of the turn followed by waiting for our skis to patiently come along and start turning. This, fellow skiers, is the secret to the age old question of how do I get my skis to turn if I don't push against them and force them to change direction? The key is to remember that it's not you turning the skis, it's the skis turning you!
As the commentator points out at 0.34 sec mark, the objective of the video is to show you how to get more control, speed and angles when you're carving your skis.
Starting at about the .040 sec mark, you'll recall the first exercise even though we retained our poles, we practiced placing our outside hand on the iliac crest and pushing the hip towards the inside of the turn while pushing the uphill hand and arm ahead toward the outside of the turn giving you a balanced and stable body position as illustrated through to the .051 sec mark. Make a mental note of the 3 arrows at the .055 sec mark the end of the turn which is precisely the point where the topple begins for the next turn.
We'll review this again next week followed by the second exercise starting at the 056 sec mark where you place and press the inside hand on the inside thigh while placing the outside hand on or near the hip. The objective here is to create symmetry by finding the muscular effort required to hold the skis parallel; which will bring us to the 5th Essential, Counteracting. Can you see or say the Phantom Move?
As you continue through the exercises illustrated, you see at the 2.00 minute mark he introduces you to a drill to reduce the up/down you learned in the parallel turn (ancient past), and at the 2.45 sec mark a variation on the Toppling 101 drill we worked on the week before.
I hope you've enjoyed this wee tip and have fun playing with it this week and until next week, happy skiing.
Feb 11, 2021
I hope you enjoyed the session this week as the conditions were absolutely magnificent and it led to some great skiing by everyone today, congratulations.
This week's Ski Tip is more a review of what we did and how we applied our training as we progressed to Black's and a touch of Double Black diamond terrain at the entrance to Cokolorum off the shoulder of West Bowl. Everyone made it down successfully but what most people experienced was that there was still a huge effort required in order to get the turns initiated.
I quickly pointed out the culprit was the lack of commitment to the "topple" and finding the courage to commit to a 'topple' when under fire. To your credit, once we practiced the topple movement again a few times, we made some significant improvement as we continued down the bowl.
Then there was still the issue of trying to force the ski around the curves instead of putting the effort into balancing such that you let the ski do the work. This is something we're still working on but most are making significant progress with "activating the Kinetic chain" and feeling the energy. Perhaps Jane took the prize for the biggest Ah- Ha moment of the day while practicing this.
Starting here, I will refer you back to the Bergfex Man in the White & Red Suit, the one that Malcolm wants for his next wardrobe upgrade. Please review the whole clip but stop at about the 1:55 sec mark and zone in on how he demonstrates what needs to be done to move left & right by rolling the knees in the direction of the turn. At the end of the day, Manon supplied a bonus when she skied by and gave us a demo as well.
We practiced this a bunch on the flats today and down my 'Field of Dreams' with an added caveat that was, how to engage and match the inside ski edge with the inside knee (Phantom Move) in such a manner that we symmetrically control the edging of the weighted outside ski. Subtle but powerful. Again, I refer you to the .55 sec mark on the clip to the counteracting movements that lead to a balanced and stable body position. See yourself at the point where those arrows converge, when the right knee and left shoulder are moving counter to each other completing the kinetic chain.
We referred to the analogy that this kinetic chain of energy is like holding a bottle with one hand (the shoulder) and unscrewing the top with the other (the inside knee).
Next, let's review the "Topple" again. Until today, you were introduced to toppling on easy terrain in order to move the torso down the hill and to the inside of the turn while skiing in a 'safe zone.' All of a sudden today, you had to muster up a much higher degree of courage in order to topple into a turn where it was steep, black diamond and plus terrain.
So let's go back to the clip with 'ol Tom (Gellie) to the 3.25 sec mark where he goes over Tip # 1, setting up at the end of the turn. Notice how he explains the most common problem occurs when you want to hang on to the turn and not release and the ensuing pickle that you create. You will hear ski instructors tell you that you need to move up and forward to get into the next turn. Clearly, even with the training wheels on, the movement is... inside and down.
To build courage in a safe manner, he moves to Tip # 2, using the inside leg as an inrigger that allows us to "fall inside the turn" without the fear of falling. Once we reintroduced you to the 'training wheels,' you managed to do some decent toppling in the turns through the lower part of the bowl and linking the turns improved didn't they?
Doing a review of this movement again should have greater meaning to you now that you've faced the music or lack thereof on making turns on der upper Cockolorum where toppling makes or breaks successful linking of your turns.
I want to leave you with this clip showing many versions of carving a turn. It comes to us from Italy where I have had the opportunity and privilege to visit and ski about 5 times over the past decade. We're always blown away by our visits on so many levels and areas of comparison but one very visual difference for me is the general level of the skiers you see on the slopes there; you see a disproportionate number of skiers who carve well compared to here (Whistler) likely because the Euros have never embraced the wider skis to the level we have and tend to ski on piste most of the time. Anyhow, enjoy the clip and pay attention to "zee toppling" when you can recognize it in particular and discover how using it adds power and dynamics to the turns.
I hope this has been helpful; that even in spite of the frigid temps expected over the next few days, that you get out and have some fun with these new and exciting movements. Have a great week of skiing.
February 18, 2021
Another great day and session with outstanding conditions. We did a lot more skiing this week which will continue to be the theme as we move through the rest of the season.
This week's tip is more a reference to what we've been practicing but finding the way to refine the movements especially when we take it to steeper and more challenging slopes like the Jersey Cream Face, Blowdown and Undercut.
Although these slopes are well within our 'comfort zone' now, balancing on the outside ski is still a challenge as well as linking the turns together or transitioning from turn to turn; these are areas that still need refinement on the steep undulating terrain.
Today, I've included an older video clip by our Bergfex Man in red & white; in fact this clip is now 9 years old but it references some very important basics that we're still challenged at doing. As well, going forward is often as simple as going back to the basics and reviewing the movements in their simplest way.
In a perfect world, I would have introduced you to this clip before but due to its age, they demonstrate the UP to initiate a turn at the top of the turn and I didn't want to confuse you with the way we do it today by "flexing to release at transition".
Fortunately, there will only be a slight reference to this in here. Everything else will look familiar by now as you've practiced the tipping/counterbalancing as shown from the 1:15 sec mark; reference the arrows. You'll also recognize the next phase where you ride the skis around the curve until you come to a stop with the tips pointing uphill; (1:45 sec mark). Notice that the feet are 'hip width' apart; boys and girls....you might want to practice this in front of a mirror at home until you can tip and counterbalance at the same time with some space between your knees and feet.
Pay attention to the part where he talks about edging both skis with equal pressure. This is done by pushing both skis towards the mountain and we recognize and identify this as the Phantom Movement. (2:15 sec mark) The key takeaway here is that the effort is on balancing over the outside ski while empowering the inside ski. When we accomplish this we have a new paradigm that is crucially important and totally measurable; the degree to which our skis are 'symmetrical' in the turns.
Why is turn symmetry important? As explained in the overview of this movement in the CARV app, great skiers turn symmetrical in both directions to allow them to ski with flow and control. Accomplishing this metric helps you to transition between the turns smoothly and ever more efficiently ultimately allowing your legs to stay fresher for a longer period of time.
At the 3 minute mark you can ignore the summation in this clip where he wants you to move the body forward and upwards; think of that as ancient history now.
Thanks for reading and I leave you with this caveat; take the time to go back to the basics any time you want to move ahead. Have a great week of skiing and see you next week.
February 24, 2021
That was quite a weather day on Tuesday; reminded me of the good old Sunshine Ski Area at Banff, Alberta where you'd go from brilliant sunshine to blinding schnee storms in a matter of minutes. Luckily, we had the sun while we skied the T-bar and then had the treed area off the Ho Chi Minh Trail and Franz' Creek when it was really coming down. All in all, we got some good skiing in and some adventure to boot.
Before we got into the fun stuff, we reviewed the edging from last week where we focused on the basics related to cutting arcs which is the pressing of the edges of both skis towards the mountain using the ankles, knees & hips while counterbalancing the torso towards the valley as demonstrated in this photo by our Bergfex Man.
One of the major ah-ha moments that Brian expressed that he had from last week was the amount of effort needed to direct and control the inside ski to the point where it is equal to the amount of effort given to the outside ski. This is where you start differentiating between equal weighting of the skis to using the ankle and knees to get equal effort to both skis.
When we are actively engaging the inside ski with the ankle and knee while balancing on the outside ski, we call this the Phantom Movement. Embracing this move is becoming the proactive part of your every turn and is key to the enhanced "can-do" attitude that is starting to evolve.
You all made me proud by the way you were able to ski the big bumps at the bottom of Franz' Meadow so much so that as a reward, I had no hesitation taking you into Franz' Creek and along the Lower Ho Chi to the bear habitat under the VD Shoots then down to Highway 86.
You were able to do that in part because you are using both legs independently and purposely and especially executing the Phantom Move with the inside leg all the while skiing wild & wooly terrain. Focus and study the arrows in this photo.
Can we still do better? Of course. Can you imagine actually skiing the VD's? There is a whole new world of discovery straight ahead once we are comfortable enough to open up the pole plant by bringing the pole out and back by the boot instead of up by the ski tip and replacing the plant with a tap or touch.
As we get into the rougher und tougher terrain, an open pole plant becomes an invaluable assist that positions you so that you can "topple" off of the bumps and replace the dreaded up und jump "Hail Mary turns".
So there you go; just like that another session for advancing the adventure and pure pleasure of skiing. Enjoy your skiing this week and see you next Tuesday on Blackcomb.
March 3, 2021
This week's tip falls under the category of "The Transition Part of the Turn" the almost mythical area between the end of the ski turn and the beginning of the next one.
The first video clip is by Warren Jobbit and I refer you to this as he shows 4 different transitions and points out that there are many ways to 'transition' between turns. This in itself leads to why there are so many variations to the story.
At the 40 sec mark, Warren refers to 'anticipation of the upper body' that's required in every turn. Interpreted to my lingo, you know this as counterbalancing and counteracting; the active effort to keep the torso over the outside ski and we identify them as the upper body complimentary essentials to tipping, flexing/extension and fore/aft positioning of the lower body parts.
He first shows what it looks like on gentle terrain with reduced forces. At the end of a turn, the ankles, knees and hips are to the inside of the turn. At transition, you release (ankles, knees & hips) and the basis of support moves from the inside to over the skis. For a moment, there is an alignment of the upper and lower body which allows you to 'transition' to the new edges. At this stage, there can be a twisting of the feet, often referred to as a steering effort that allows you to move to the new edges and depending on the snow and speed usually results in a skidded arc or brushed carve turn.
His second illustration shows the same movement pattern but on a slightly steeper slope. In the 3rd illustration, we get to the meat of the conservation where there is a combination of an increased angle of descent and speed involved. At the 1:40 mark, he refers to staying over the outside ski until his COM topples over into the new turn.
In the final illustration, he refers to the abductor group of muscles that will look after the desired amount of edging. We know this as the effort of tipping the free foot and knee towards the little toe edge.
In summation, the first half of the transition is to start the toppling effect and the second part is to develop the platform on the new outside ski to determine the shape and performance of the turns arc.
The next video clip is Paul Lorenz' take on the transition. This clip to me, shows not only the picture but epitomizes the energy that is possible when the transition is nailed. Again, Paul refers to the many interpretations of the transition but his take (and mine) is to try to attain a compact position at transition in the effort to capture as much energy from the ski and schnee as possible.
Finally, here is how der scimeister Harald Harb breaks it all down for you on his Blog. Enjoy and see you next week.
Skiing traditions: Debunked and Explained! 1st in a Series, by Harald Harb
Just a short history:
The transition in skiing has been misrepresented or not described correctly in ski literature since the beginning of time. In fact, in Warren Witherell's two books, it is never addressed at all. George Joubert, the French coach, in the late 60s and early 70s, wrote two books. In them he does address the transition, however his descriptions are incorrectly focused. I can make that statements because skiing at the highest levels has evolved differently from the way Joubert described it. Many so called ski technicians even today reference these books as the "gospel" never looking to evolve or properly analyze skiing after Joubert. Therefore ski teaching has stagnated since.
In this series I will explain and break down how 21st Century skiing works at the highest levels and how recreational, intermediate and advanced skiers can add significant improvements to their skiing enjoyment and performance. With these methods and approaches you will ski with more efficiency, control and ease, rather than fighting gravity. You will learn to enjoy relaxation and the ease of acquiring ski performance with less effort. Let's get into it!
The Transition is the most complex part of ski turns and requires the biggest change in the body. In the transition, your lower body, from below the hips, moves downhill, and the upper body stays the same until the lower body engages the skis to the new edge angles. Once this is done, the upper body needs to move from one side to the other over you skis. Ideally, this is accomplished without a pivot or and effort to create direction change. Once in the arc or a turn, the movements are relatively simple and consistent with how you stand on the ski. The transition is the point at which, everything happens, all this
changes and you move from one ski to the other and from one turn to the other. The best free skiers and racers can get this done before they reach the fallen. Let's have a look at the basics.
For the first session of body movements in this series; I focus on lower the body.
To achieve a good transition, you have to have the skis engaged, not slipping, and the inside leg bent more than the outside leg. This happens with inside flex bending and tipping. Also, the upper body needs to counter-act the turning forces, called counter-acting. More on that later.
Through the bottom of the turn continue building your angles to load the outside ski. Many skiers give up the turn too early and therefore are rushed, therefore never getting the lower body released.
The actions of the release have begin already in this photo. The outside leg has shortened through bending and lightening the pressure. How do you lighten pressure? You physically retract or pull the ski and knee up. Photo below.
The red arrow is the movement to retract. The blue arrow is getting that ski released. The black arrow is where your balance and pressure goes when you create these movements.
Now the tip of the ski is lifted, both knees are equally bent and the angles from the previous turn are gone.
The skis are flat, and half way through the transition. Notice nothing else has moved, only the lower leg flexing and bending up toward my chest, has created the transition. Now both legs have the same amount of bend.
The lower body transition is complete, now you build the actions for the arc. The inside leg keeps bending and tipping,toward its outside little toe edge of the ski, until it is shorter than the outside leg.
The red arrow is for continued action of bending and flexing. The yellow arrows are
to indicate increased tipping. Never push against the outside leg, common
error taught to skiers.
In the turn, all is good.
Once on the new ski, it's important to understand that it's not an absorbing of pressure as much as managing the energy coming from the ski and playing with the timing of the release to allow a fluid, effortless crossover without any unnecessary movements
Another great day in der schnee, this one was filled with adventure, challenge and fun. We really rallied today on the Peak especially on Frog Hollow and upper Ho Chi Minh Trail west.
Skiing the blacks & double blacks is exciting but when done correctly, becomes just another walk in the park except with a much higher feeling of achievement. I was particularly impressed by the advancement everyone was having with the separation between the lower body effort and the core or torso (Counteracting) and getting the feet under the COM (Fore/Aft) which is improving the transitions by leaps and bounds on the rough stuff.
Referring to the video clip of Benni Walch and his Tip #2 his Zig/Zag Turns or what we know as the "Falling Leaf" looks easy enough, but it requires both a good counter acting effort with the torso instead of rotating it then this needs to be combined with a quick, precise (clean) edge change at the transition as illustrated at the 5 min mark.
As you put the falling Leaf into play on more difficult terrain and snow, you can see the practicality it brings to the table. The more difficult terrain brings a sense of urgency to the movement pattern and promotes that rocking feeling required to quickly move the skis under you as you slide from tip to tail or tail to tip (when sliding backwards) on the curve to set up for the next "topple."
After all, the goal is to get the feet into the fall line without any upper body rotation. This is such a great goal for you at this moment so study it, then go out on difficult terrain and play with it until you can make it effortless and make it yours.
On easier terrain, you can always work on Benni's tip # 3, getting more grip with ankle and knee joints; the effort we know as tipping and the Phantom Move with the inside knee. We practiced this on the T-bar Bowl and any time we were on Highway 86 returning to the lift. The key is to focus the effort to the ankles & knees and away from the hip. When we move the hip in, we tend to bank or incline against the outside ski at best (park & ride) and often 'twist' the skis underneath us instead of getting a progressive tipping effort and an effortless ride down the arc.
Here is a link to another video clip that shows more drills
that may assist you in getting the accent on the right syllable.
March 23, 2021
Another smashing day on der schnee and we sure had a good go at the drills on Edge Symmetry and Rotary movements didn't we. Here's the review.
So first of all, what is Edge Symmetry and why is it important? Here is how it is explained in the CARV app.
With that in mind, here are some of the readouts from our run on Hugh's Heaven where we were doing the Falling Leaf Drill.
The first metric, edge symmetry shows my score of 65% which is in the acceptable range, the greatest edge angle I attained was 36% or a bit short of optimal for the terrain (need to roll/tip the ankles more) and Early Edging was 63% or just in the target range. These represent the average for the entire run all the way to the bottom of course and not just the top part where we were doing the Falling Leaf. For spending half of the time skiing backwards, it's a pretty fair score I'd say.
The takeaway though is that I have enough separation to be in the acceptable zone and by separation, visualize the torquing of the lower body against the core COM in order to allow my skis to pass from side to side without losing symmetry (skis parallel and equally edged).
Remember the analogy of turning the lid off of a jar. As well, reflect on the extreme limits we were trying to achieve while doing the drill which was to be looking over our downhill shoulder towards the tail of our DH ski while skiing backwards and executing the release while lowering to a squat at transition. With the torso torqued against the lower body this way, and you've tipped to release, the skis should unwind and come right around to the fall line; like the top letting go from the jar.
The Falling Leaf in a nutshell: if I want to attain edge symmetry, then I need to "tip both skis to release" when I am backing up and bringing the skis around to the fall line (opening the lid on the jar) and then "tip both skis to engage" to set the edges once across the fall line to complete the turn in the other direction; closing the lid on the jar..
When we threw in the pause where we allowed the skis to run straight in the fall line for a second, we drew a clear differentiation between the release and the engagement. Simply a thing of beauty; it is. That's the point when the lid let's go from the jar, POP!
I stressed the need to visualize a laser beam coming out of the tibial plateau below the knee and to place the effort on whatever it takes to keep the laser pointing directly down from there to the space between the big toe and the second toe. This maintains the proper fore aft pressure to the fore, to the tongue of the boot and ultimately to the inside tip of the ski.
The result makes sure that we keep the tip or shovel of the new inside ski engaged while we roll or tip the ski to the LTE using.... What body part??? The ANKLES, of course.
Remember, the goal is to get the outside ski (LEG) to mirror the inside one and once you master the effort that keeps the legs parallel, you elevate your skiing to the advanced skier level. Let the lasers cross each other, and you retain the intermediate turning level status.
To finish off, here is the link to a clip by Kaylin Richardson describing this big differentiator. Starting at the 0.38 sec mark, look for the point where the laser beam comes out of her tibial plateau and how it is 'laser focused' on the space between her toes; as described above. I quite like her pep talk at the 1.30 min mark where she coaches us to reach for the point where we can say, "I got this". Fun stuff especially skiing where she is. Anyone recognize the spot? That's the ridge above the hotels on top of Valle Nevado, Chile, coming down from the Tres Puntas (3 Peaks) above the city of Santiago. I can say that I've been there, done that; it was just a pleasure.
Then there's this clip where she says it all. Get out there and have fun. Thanks for reading.