I would say that Hirscher is moving forward continuously in that montage--but almost never in the way that many instructors and race coaches, and even many top racers themselves--believe or describe.
There is usually some degree of truth behind almost all myths, dogma, and "conventional wisdom," and so it is with this one. "Stay forward" is one of the pillars of skiing dogma, I realize. It is the epitome of "conventional wisdom." Questioning it is heresy! As Tog has parodied, and Mikaela Shiffrin has confirmed, developing skiers are indoctrinated with "get forward" from childhood on. But I submit that it causes more bad turns than perhaps any other bit of "coaching wisdom" out there.
Do we need to move forward when we start turns? Yes. Absolutely. What does that mean? And how do we do it? That is the question. Here are a couple montages of developing racers training early this past season (images degraded to obscure identities). Clearly, they are trying very hard to "get forward" quickly at the start of these turns. I would imagine that they idolize Marcel Hirscher (overall World Cup Champion for the past two seasons), and are doing their best to do what they think Hirscher does--and what their coaches have told them to do. Can you see the fundamental differences between Hirscher and these skiers?Developing racers training (images degraded to obscure identities)
And a couple more montages of another current top racer--Ted Ligety, World Cup Giant Slalom Champion, for comparison (follow the urls to see the original YouTube video clips):
The differences should be obvious. The top skiers in the world simply do not do what many instructors and race coaches quote as dogma. Yes, they DO move "forward" as they initiate the new turn. But that movement is NOT "knees to skis." It is NOT "move your hips forward along the length of the skis," or "get your hips forward" (in the direction the skis point).
Where the developing racers are trying to get their hips and upper bodies quickly "forward" and ahead of their feet (in the direction their skis point), Hirscher and Ligety are allowing their feet to move considerably ahead of their bodies (again, in the direction the skis point).
like they are getting "in the back seat." But I challenge anyone who believes that to look it at from another perspective. Start by redefining "forward" as not "in the direction the skis point," but down the hill.
This movement takes place in the transition--the "float phase," when the skis have little to no pressure on them. They won't start carving and shaping the turn until later, in the "shaping" or "pressure" phase. At that point, the skis will need to be outside the arc of the body, obviously, off to the side as the skier inclines into the turn for balance.
With that understanding, it is clear that the skis are not so much getting ahead
of the skiers in the transition, as getting out to (what will be later in the pressure phase) the side.
That is the key--what appears to be a fore-aft "backseat" error is actually a critical lateral
movement that creates the necessary inclination and edge angle that will be needed later in the shaping/carving phase.
Meanwhile, Ligety and Hirscher move down the hill at the same time, as their bodies and skis change sides. Down the hill is the critical "forward"--regardless of which direction the skier or his skis may be facing at any given moment. In the transition of turns that carry the skier across the hill, downhill (forward) is, of course, off to the side. So while their skis are jetting "ahead of" them across the hill, they are moving and tipping downhill to get into a position that will, indeed, be appropriately "forward" when they re-establish pressure and start to carve.
In great linked, high-performance (ie. carved) turns, the skis and the body (center of mass) travel constantly on separate paths, never going quite the same direction or speed. Because they follow the longer path, the skis must travel faster than the body. Here's a simple animation I made up a few years back (for essentially the same discussion), showing the principle:
The feet take the longer and faster line. The body takes the shorter, inside line. The paths cross in the middle of the transition, as the feet move faster across the hill than the body while the body moves faster down
the hill than the feet. If "forward" means "in the direction the skis point," the feet clearly get ahead of the body in the transition--and the skier must let them do it. Meanwhile, the body takes a bee-line shortcut down the hill to cut them off at the pass, so to speak. It is this critical crossing of the paths of the body and skis that I call the "X Move"--which describes both the paths, and the mystery that seems to surround this part of the turn.
If you look at the skiing of Marcel Hirscher and Ted Ligety (or any other top World Cup racer or expert skier for pretty much the last 30 years) from this perspective, you can easily see this principle in action. Nothing ever slows down--least of all their feet and skis--as they explode out of the turn with both their body and feet racing across the hill to the next turn. During the transition, their skis move quickly from the left side of the hill (relative to their body) to the right side of the hill, accompanying (and arguably, causing) the inclination that tips their skis and prepares them to balance against the intense forces of the upcoming carving phase. How do you think Ligety gets that extraordinary inclination that enables the ridiculous edge angles that let his "new FIS standard" straighter-sidecut skis carve those tight turns? A lot of it comes directly from the X Move in the transition.
Now, look at the developing racers again. They literally block the momentum of their feet and skis, pulling them back (relative to their body) as they strive to "get forward" into the new turn. The outcome is that, instead of letting their skis move out to (what will be) the side and inclining early in the new turn, they find themselves much more over their feet when the new pressure phase should begin. As a result, they must either delay the carving until they become sufficiently inclined, or push/twist/skid their skis sideways to get them to the right place relative to their body. It's a big, vigorous effort, and it literally moves them the wrong direction, into the wrong position.
Not only that, but in getting themselves pressed up against the tongues of their boots (which may well be intentional as they try to "crush" the boots and flex their ankles), those stiff boots then block the very forward movement they seek. They've hit a wall, and the boots end up pushing them back,
just when they really need to "drive" down the hill through the fall line and shaping phase of the turn.
Look again at Ligety and Hirscher. At no point (except when they make a mistake) does it appear that they make any particular exertion or effort to "get quickly forward" again after the transition. That's because when they do it right, they don't need to! As they exit the shaping phase of one turn, their skis and their body travel on their separate paths and differing speeds. All they have to do is allow the varying momentum of their skis and their body to continue, unabated, unforced, through the "float phase" transition until they arrive at the "landing point" of the next pressure phase, where they will be in perfect balance--again, if all goes as planned. All the work and effort are done in the shaping phase. The transition, including "getting forward" as well as inclining inside the new turn--is literally effortless.
What a contrast that is to the constant effort to "get forward" by the hoards of skiers trying the imitate the masters! Indeed, perhaps the greatest argument for challenging the "get forward" dogma is that it never seems to work! Coaches harangue and harangue, and racers try and try, and it never seems to be enough.
Racers and race coaches are not the only ones subject to the pervasive "get forward" dogma, I'm afraid. Instructional articles and video clips abound that perpetuate the myth. We've long discussed the unfortunate PSIA catchword of recent years, variously spelled "foragonal" or "forwagonal" (depending on what part of the country you're from) motion. It's the directive to move the center of mass (or worse--the hips, which are NOT the same thing) diagonally forward and down the hill from the feet to start a turn. Of course, the body does need to move in that direction--it shows clearly even in the simple CM/Feet animation of the X Move above. The mistake is to misunderstand or forget that while the body moves diagonally forward and down the hill, the feet move forward (across the hill) even faster.
give them permission to do that!
To show how ubiquitous and world-wide this myth and (in my opinion) misunderstanding is, here are a few more montages, of instructor demonstrations from the last Interski (international event where instructor teams from most skiing countries gather to demonstrate their technical understanding and share ideas for teaching). Here, representatives of each team demonstrate their version of the basic, or intermediate, parallel turn:Team USA (PSIA)--Basic Parallel TurnsTeam SwitzerlandTeam CanadaTeam France
And finally, since they surely wouldn't want to be left out:PMTS coach (not at Interski)
Notice that each of these sequences shows some degree of the hips and center of mass moving "up" and "forward," over or in front of the feet, in the initiation of the turn. Whether the emphasis and "mental cue" is to move the body forward of the feet, or to pull the feet back under the body, the outcome is the same--instead of letting the feet move out from underneath the body and off to the side, creating inclination, it moves the body over the feet, requiring some sort of corrective movement to twist the skis out to the side. If you look closely, you will see in each of these sequences the accompanying windup and rotation of the upper body that helps twist the skis out in the initiation (most obvious in the French and Swiss, most subtle in the Canadian demonstrator). It's worth noting, too, that forward leverage (pressure on the tips of the skis and tails lightened) is actually helpful when your need is to twist the tails of the skis out. The fact that, in these turn initiations, being a little more "forward" actually helps, may well contribute to the perpetuation of the mythology of "forward."
Finally, I'll link again to the video and animation I built a few years ago to help demonstrate the principle of the X Move--based on the similarity between how our skis guide and throw our body around in turns much like two people tossing a medicine ball back and forth (an image originally suggested by CGeib when we were out working on short-radius turns).
A similarly relevant analogy--bouncing between two trampolines--clearly demonstrates the need to let the feet get "ahead of" the body in the float phase/transition, creating inclination with the feet to the outside--critical for both balance and for directing the force from the trampoline (or skis) in the right trajectory for the next turn (and, on skis, for creating edge angle).
...and a new one, superimposing TrampMan on my own skiing:
In these turns, my intent was to generate a lot of "lateral acceleration" out of the turn to carry me well across the hill in the "float phase"/transition. I wanted to emphasize the "float phase," and generate all the g-forces in the shaping phase that I could muster.
It is worth noting that the more complete and across
the hill the turn takes us, the more obvious the principles of the X Move that I've described here become. Less complete turns do not take us as far "out of the fall line," so in the transition, "down the hill" and "forward along the skis" align more in the same direction. Less complete turns--as well as slower, or longer radius turns (at the same speed)--do not require as much inclination, so the paths of the feet and the body remain much closer, and the feet do not need to "reach" as far out to the side in the turn. For anyone wishing to experiment and explore these concepts, I recommend trying to make turns that bring you well across, or even back up, the hill. The differences are greatest there, and the myths most exposed.
Dogma and mythology are rarely "all wrong." Skiers do need--very much--to move forward. But it's not necessarily quite as it may seem.
As always, Question Everything!