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Bad Patch Remediation

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Started out my season with a string of a few great days in soft snow. Felt like I was skiing well, especially for early on. Was very enthused.

 
The new year came and we moved out of the snowy pattern. Got out on three Wednesday nights for the beer leagues on hardpack. Still felt on my game despite the transition to a different kind of snow, different goals, and different expectations. Race results were at par for me, or a bit above. Was having fun with it. All good.
 
Now, somehow, inexplicably - or maybe explicably, which is why I'm posting this - I'm in a bad patch. My skiing has been lame. On race night I couldn't be bothered to put the suit on - spirit too dampened by the wet weather, coming as it did that day between arctic periods. Generally speaking, can't seem to pull the turns together in the way I know - or just think, in my delusion - I can. Specifically, on anything but really easy terrain, with the current crop of hard snow, my skis are alternately wandering or catching too much or chattering - tips or tails, take your pick - and the nice round relaxed (or energetic) "scarves" I once thought I was getting good at are neither round nor relaxed (nor energetic). Did they ever really exist or did I imagine that? Suspect I'm periodically in the back seat a bit, as you will have deduced already eek.gif but even determinedly moving hips, shins, and hands forward didn't seem to change much about the middle and end of the turns. (Did help with initiation a bit.) Feel like I've gone from a solid level 8 to a level 6 in the space of a week or two. Also feels at times a bit like someone has put two new stiffening rivets in the backs of my boots. (Cold weather? Seen that before. Nothing too new there.) Wouldn't have thought ice the main problem - been skiing on ice my whole life ... but maybe I've lost the touch or the interest or the reaction time. Tune is essentially the same as a couple weeks ago when I was doing fine. Plenty of grip. Maybe too much grip for turns where I'm trying to keep the edges unlocked? Did I just get spoiled - both from a technique POV and from a motivational perspective - by the early season luxury conditions?
 
This morning for the first time in two years I took a lesson ... from a pro recommended by someone on this board, actually. My logic was that I had the technique blahs and needed a kick start - something new to try and think about to get me out of whatever kind of rut I'm in. Picked up a couple things to work on, but no "ah ha!" moments, or even close. Continued to flail off and on for the rest of the day, with only brief glimpses of competence, disappearing as quickly as they'd come.
 
Ideas? Sorry no video. I know you're going to ask.
post #2 of 8

My guess is that the "good" snow was letting you get away with something that you can't get away with now. What were you hearing in your lesson?

post #3 of 8

This is one of those times that I really like Weems' "diamond" philosophy (power, purpose, touch, will).  Instead of thinking about technique (which I think is the "power" corner), I try thinking about other aspects of skiing.  i.e., focusing on my line, focusing on top-to-bottom runs no-matter-what, seeing how "light" you can be on the snow, etc.

 

I'm sure there's still some aspect of skiing that you can hit-out-of-the-park as it were.  Find that, let your confidence come back, and the rest will come back with it.

 

At least that's how it works for me...

post #4 of 8

I'm in NH, you're in Maine.  We've been dealing with the same weather pattern.  Three weeks of windy single digits has been rough.  How could anyone not be affected by so much arctic freeze with wind chill factors below zero?  I've been reluctant to venture out in this stuff; went anyway, and each time I was glad I went, but just getting the car started was an issue.  Go a face mask?  Got boot gloves and Hotronics?  Mittens?

 

There was a two day 50 degree thaw last week.  Snow melted and refroze.  My mountain has been blowing snow furiously in this cold weather to get something skiable on top of the dense layer of sheet ice caused by the thaw.  Skier traffic moves that blown snow off to the side of the trail fast revealing the shiny stuff, or compresses and polishes it down to very hard surface on flatter terrain.  Are you keeping your edges sharp?  Really sharp?  Do you need a new file?  Do you need to plane your sidewalls to get those edges genuinely sharp?

 

I see you're at Saddleback.  It hasn't snowed much this season.   Are the trees skiable?   Does your day go sour if you can't get into the trees?  

 

You race.   During this bad patch, have your times gone south?  That happened to me after I took two race camps.  I'm still trying to embed some new things that I learned in the camps into my racing, and my times are still worse than before I went to them.  What I think is happening is I haven't done enough gate training with the new skills to get the timing and balance straightened out.  If your times are falling off, maybe this is the issue.

 

When free skiing, are you trying something new that has recently worked for you?  Did you have a "breakthrough" before this bad patch?  If so, you might simply be encountering the normal drop-off in performance that comes before everything gets synched up with the new skill.


Best of luck fighting off the blues.  

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

I think ALL THREE responses I've gotten so far are probably on the money, each in its own way. Thank you. Having slept on this now I have an idea that I want to bounce off you guys, but it'll have to wait 'til evening. Meanwhile I'm really appreciating the thoughtfulness.

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post

I think ALL THREE responses I've gotten so far are probably on the money, each in its own way. Thank you. Having slept on this now I have an idea that I want to bounce off you guys, but it'll have to wait 'til evening. Meanwhile I'm really appreciating the thoughtfulness.

 

KevinF: Yes. Great idea. Wish I had been able to bring this to the surface of my consciousness yesterday. (Part of me was thinking something similar, but it was like when you're in a dream and know you need to wake up, but can't.)

 

There definitely is a technical problem too, though, as well as an attitudinal one. Thinking back on it a bit, here are the pieces I'm putting together:

 

  • Skiing hard snow on my race-carvers, well sharpened tip-to-tail .75 x 3. (Yes, LiquidFeet, they are sharp. I know because when I really lay them over onto a locked edge they hold fine; it's only when I try to modulate the skidding component that I run into trouble. If anything, they probably could have used a pass with a gummy.) It's really not that common that I free ski on these for a whole day; typically I use my mid-fats, which are tuned slightly less aggressively and have a rounder, more forgiving tail, less rebound, and softer flex. Honestly I have a bit of trouble bending the race-carvers at low speed in a skid. Recall I am 5'7" and weigh 135lbs.
  • At higher speeds, In locked-edge arc-to-arc turns on easy grades, I felt fine, even on very hard surfaces, and in various turn radii ... even short ones ... though a few times I did get very slightly stuck on my heels in the old turn too long - see next bullet. For that matter, arcs on steeper grades were mostly fine, too. It's just that I'm not currently at a place where my level of conditioning, vision in bad light, or reaction time allows me to sustain this for very long. You really have to be on it to do that.
  • When attempting drifiter turns on steeper slopes - what seemed like the right turn for the job at the time - I did feel from time to time that I was getting back on the tails at the finish of the turn more than I typically do. This is consistent with the coach's observation that I was making too much of a "J" (vs. "C") turn shape, with micro-recoveries after each one, as opposed to staying ahead of the game all the way through. (And no, before you even start: I am not an old-school backseat-driving feet-together heel-pusher even on my worst days.) 
  • Felt like I was having trouble being flexible enough ("snaky" is a way I think of it) in my hips, knees, and ankles to enable the skis to come back under me smoothly and quickly.

 

With these clues in mind, I'm thinking that I need to practice my release -> transition skills. Specifically I need to be able to get off of the old turn cleanly and without any hitches, even when terrain demands that I come around quite far out of the fall line with on each turn. (Recently saw a video here of Holiday doing exactly those turns, except he was doing them on soft snow, and I still seem to be able to do that okay.) Seems like part of the issue is that I'm falling behind the turn at some point, even when I'm initiating from what feels like a good hips-hands-shins-and-eyes forward position. This is one place where Epic's comment about getting bad habits in the soft snow may come in ... when you're skiing soft snow - especially in bumps, you get a chance to "cheat" when your skis slow down in the thick stuff and your body can catch up. My ego needs to let go of the fact that I once had all this down, or think I did, and just move directly on to behavior modification. Anyone want to suggest some good drills for this, using language that a non-instructor can understand?

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post

 

KevinF: Yes. Great idea. Wish I had been able to bring this to the surface of my consciousness yesterday. (Part of me was thinking something similar, but it was like when you're in a dream and know you need to wake up, but can't.)

 

There definitely is a technical problem too, though, as well as an attitudinal one. Thinking back on it a bit, here are the pieces I'm putting together:

 

  • Skiing hard snow on my race-carvers, well sharpened tip-to-tail .75 x 3. (Yes, LiquidFeet, they are sharp. I know because when I really lay them over onto a locked edge they hold fine; it's only when I try to modulate the skidding component that I run into trouble. If anything, they probably could have used a pass with a gummy.) It's really not that common that I free ski on these for a whole day; typically I use my mid-fats, which are tuned slightly less aggressively and have a rounder, more forgiving tail, less rebound, and softer flex. Honestly I have a bit of trouble bending the race-carvers at low speed in a skid. Recall I am 5'7" and weigh 135lbs.
  • At higher speeds, In locked-edge arc-to-arc turns on easy grades, I felt fine, even on very hard surfaces, and in various turn radii ... even short ones ... though a few times I did get very slightly stuck on my heels in the old turn too long - see next bullet. For that matter, arcs on steeper grades were mostly fine, too. It's just that I'm not currently at a place where my level of conditioning, vision in bad light, or reaction time allows me to sustain this for very long. You really have to be on it to do that.
  • When attempting drifiter turns on steeper slopes - what seemed like the right turn for the job at the time - I did feel from time to time that I was getting back on the tails at the finish of the turn more than I typically do. This is consistent with the coach's observation that I was making too much of a "J" (vs. "C") turn shape, with micro-recoveries after each one, as opposed to staying ahead of the game all the way through. (And no, before you even start: I am not an old-school backseat-driving feet-together heel-pusher even on my worst days.) 
  • Felt like I was having trouble being flexible enough ("snaky" is a way I think of it) in my hips, knees, and ankles to enable the skis to come back under me smoothly and quickly.

 

With these clues in mind, I'm thinking that I need to practice my release -> transition skills. Specifically I need to be able to get off of the old turn cleanly and without any hitches, even when terrain demands that I come around quite far out of the fall line with on each turn. (Recently saw a video here of Holiday doing exactly those turns, except he was doing them on soft snow, and I still seem to be able to do that okay.) Seems like part of the issue is that I'm falling behind the turn at some point, even when I'm initiating from what feels like a good hips-hands-shins-and-eyes forward position. This is one place where Epic's comment about getting bad habits in the soft snow may come in ... when you're skiing soft snow - especially in bumps, you get a chance to "cheat" when your skis slow down in the thick stuff and your body can catch up. My ego needs to let go of the fact that I once had all this down, or think I did, and just move directly on to behavior modification. Anyone want to suggest some good drills for this, using language that a non-instructor can understand?

 

Soft snow is so wonderful.  Why don't we have it all the time?  

 

So for the blue stuff, try this.  Hold the feet back.  Pay attention to the shin-tongue pressure you get.  Hold them back enough to feel more of that pressure than you usually feel.  Hold them back through the whole turn, 100% of the time.  Do this for hours, paying attention to the feeling at your shin-tongue connection.  What it takes to get those feet back is bending forward at the ankle using muscle power in your lower leg (a.k.a closing the ankle, dorseflexion).    

 

One more for the blue stuff:  You can hold the feet farther back relative to the body by raising the thigh angle.  The thigh can be horizontal (sitting), or vertical, or all the angles in between.  Open up the knee and hip angles and feel your thigh come upwards.   Try skiing around with your feet held back (that comes first in my book), and pay attention to raising your thighs to different vertical angles.  See if this pair of things helps eliminate the feeling of being behind your skis.

 

For the red stuff:  Try holding the inside foot up under you.  Start your turns by holding that new inside foot back under its hip, going bow-legged with the new inside knee, and turning that foot in the direction of the new turn.  This movement pattern involves three things: holding the foot back up under the hip, going bow-legged at the knee, and turning the foot.  Split these up into separate isolated things to do one at a time if you like.  It's a very powerful triad.  

 

This focus should result in the inside foot staying up under its hip and under you.  The outside leg will follow along like a dog on a leash.  The inside leg/foot/knee will be leading the turn. You'll feel the little toe edge of the inside ski's shovel biting the snow and pulling you into the turn. You won't need to get snaky or flexible to get your skis to come back under you.  

 

I have a metaphor for this triad:  pretend there's an very tall screwdriver extending from the inside ankle up to the inside hip, pointing directly down into the snow.  Drive a screw into the snow beneath you by turning that screwdriver.  

 

Hope these help.      

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
So, LiquidFeet, thanks for the thoughtful input. Some of it I'm already familiar with, but nonetheless am happy to be reminded about. Other parts represent useful alternative expressions of things I've had exposure to. (I love the use of "bowlegged" to help visualize what I used to think of as pressing the inside knee laterally toward the inside of the turn. And I like the idea of flexing the ankle as a way of facilitating getting ahead of the feet.) 
 
I had been struggling to articulate one kind of feeling I have when I'm skiing well, and settled on the word "snaky," but wasn't happy with it. You don't seem to have picked up on what I was alluding to, but as I read your post the light bulb suddenly went on when I realized that the precise expression I'd been looking for was liquid feet!
 
I've been too busy to spend much time on Epic the last few days, but wanted to you know that I did read and appreciate the response, even though I haven't been able to give more detailed (positive) feedback. I skied yesterday, and definitely got out of my funk. I'm not at all sure that I was really doing any better than normal, technically speaking, but the fun factor was definitely back, so ... I'll take it for now.

Edited by qcanoe - 2/7/13 at 2:47pm
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