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EpicSki › Performance Articles › Pedaling Technique In Skiing

Pedaling Technique In Skiing  

The action of flexing and extending the legs in skiing is a lot like the action of pedaling a bike. Think about extending one leg while flexing the other, and reversing the process at the edge change. The legs should always be in motion--never static. The length of the turn determines the rate that each leg shortens and lengthens. In this photo, Eric DesLauriers demonstrates his mastery of the technique.



Table of Contents

  1. The Mother Analogy
  2. Technical Analysis
  3. Pedaling at Different Levels
  4. Pedaling for Steeps

The Mother Analogy

Weems Westfeldt calls pedaling a bike the "mother analogy" for skiing. We do it to some degree in every turn, but much more emphatically in more radical situations of speed or pitch. The powerful pulling up of the shortening leg releases the downhill ski and helps it find its turning edge. The powerful pedaling down of the lengthening leg helps pressure the outside ski and connect it to the snow as the body comes forward and across. 

The reversal happens at the edge change. The movements should be fluid, and feel connected through the hips. Part of the analogy suggests keeping the feet clipped to the pedals (boots connected to the snow). This way the edges change easily. In some ways it's less like pedaling, but more like moving the inside pedal of a turn to the top of the crank so it doesn't hit the pavement.

Two important points:

1) Keep the butt on the seat (hips forward).
2) Avoid dropping the inside handlebar, although this works in powerful carving.


Technical Analysis

Extending the old inside leg (new outside leg) as a means of completing the prior turn and beginning the new turn is a tremendously efficient turn transition, and when performed properly it offers a flow from one turn to the next that can't be matched by any other technique. I've introduced it to coaches on the staff here this season, and their immediate reaction was to rave about the continuous contact to the snow it provides and the instantaneous turn initiation it provides.

A few things to keep in mind:

1) The extension of the old inside leg is the move that serves to end the prior turn. It immediately transfers weight from the old outside foot to the old inside foot(new outside foot). No preliminary relaxing of the old outside leg or tipping of old outside foot is needed.

2) The extension should not be an explosive move, it should be subtle and controlled so that the momentum of the extension doesn't unweight the new outside ski. This gains importance as the hill steepens.

3) As you extend don't attempt to move your center of mass up the hill. If you do it correctly and allow the CM to remain where it is laterally you will immediately feel the new outside ski begin to roll off it's uphill edge and back to flat, and the CM fall into the new turn. This can only happen if you don't move your CM laterally up the hill as you extend. If you do move CM up hill you will remain balanced on the uphill edge and in an arcing traverse, a new turn will not begin, and you will be condemned as having performed a "negative movement".

4) The extension should occur in the knee only. This is key to producing a forward extension and quickly getting forward into the new turn. Ankle extension and hip extension are joint articulations that move CM back, knee extension moves CM forward. Didn't know that? Prove it to yourself, stand up, isolate these joints and try it. If the extension happens in the ankle and hip along with the knee you will end up in the back seat like coach reported.

5) Now this is very important. The extension should be combined with a forward drive of the old outside hip and foot.

At the end of a turn the hip is slightly countered and outside foot is correspondingly back. As soon as old inside leg extension begins the old outside foot becomes immediately unweighted and this allows for the old outside hip and foot to be driven back thru neutral until they are leading into the new turn. It feels and looks like your making a forward step.

This move quickly drives the skier into a forward position, positively engages the inside edge of the new outside ski, and puts the pelvis in an orientation that allows for effective angulation of the hip when and if needed. (Rick Schnellmann)


Pedaling at Different Levels


The pedal movement can help in linking turns. Extension and flexion similiar to the pedaling of a bicycle will yield a series of linked turns on gentle terrain. The student is urged to push right, left, right and left. It reproduces the advanced movement patterns where one leg is constantly shortening while the other is lengthening, and then you switch at the edge change for the new turn.


Pedaling is a great way to focus on flexion and extension movements. You could describe it like having pedal straps or clips on your feet As one leg extends, the other ankle flexes similar to lifting with your ankle (dorsi flexion) on the pedal with a clip. It is like maintaining a slow speed in 15th gear.

Another focus for intermediate skiers might be the gradual transition of pressure from one ski to the other.  A sense of the pressure on the outside ski going from 80% gradually to 70%, 60%, etc. while the pressure on the outside ski goes from 20% to 30%, to 40% at the same time.

If the focus is to get the center of mass more inside the turn, try pulling up on the inside ski but not allowing the ski to actually come off the snow.  This "up pedal" pulls the inside hip closer to the snow.


Imagine sprinting on a bike out of the saddle. Your hips are more forward, directly over the downstroking (extending) foot. A good out of the saddle sprint is also a smooth continuous lower body movement, with minimal upper body movement.


Pedaling for Steeps

The pioneering French mountaineer and skier, Patrick Vallencant, coined the term "Virage Saute" which translates as "Hop Turn," that featured the pedaling action described below by Eric and Rob DesLauriers and demonstrated by Vallencant in the movie El Gringo Eskiador, 6,000 meters, 60 degrees

Steep technique requires more of a "pedal" move in transition--that is, an active switch in leg length during the transition, mimicking the action of pedaling a bicycle.

The goal is to minimize the vertical drop between edge-sets, and therefore minimize the time you accelerate in free-fall as you get from the control phase of one turn to the control phase of the next...

To release the turn and flow into the next, there is an active weight shift onto the uphill ski, created by retracting the downhill foot as you actively extend the uphill leg. As the downhill foot is retracting and you are pushing off with the uphill leg, immediately tip your new inside foot decisively toward its little-toe edge (down the hill), so you lead the edge change with this light foot. This movement will draw you down the slope, naturally releasing the uphill foot and ski to flow through transition and become the weighted outside ski in the new turn. 

--from Ski the Whole Mountain by Eric and Rob DesLauriers 

EpicSki › Performance Articles › Pedaling Technique In Skiing