Originally Posted by LiquidFeet
Pierre, you have GOT to tell us what you figured out. You can teach it on snow because it turned out to be way simpler than you imagined. I want to know what you figured out.
How we balance is a combination of vision, middle ear mechanics and proprioception/extroception. We need all three working to achieve great skiing however, deficiencies to not exclude us from learning to ski and enjoy the sport.
People are use to balancing with substantial friction under their feet and when faced with a lack of friction in any one dimension, will recruit the core muscles surrounding the center of mass in an effort to substitute stability in place of balance. The result of seeking stability in skiing, in lieu of balance, is what we refer to as a lack of upper and lower body separation. In skiing, dynamic balance is referring to balancing around a stable center of mass by adjustments of an unstable or unreliable base of support. True dynamic balance is what we must learn or teach in skiing.
If we look at PSIA’s circle diagram of the four skills balance is represented by a huge circle with rotary, edging and pressure represented by the inner smaller intersecting circles. If we draw a fifth circle around the most inner intersecting points of the three inner circles, that circle would represent dynamic balance. The area outside this fifth circle and the large outer circle represents blends of stability and balance. True integration of skills is only possible with dynamic balance. (Core Concept: The skier is in balance when he or she can have a positive, selective effect on any of the skills with either leg at any time.)
With skiing you are basically volunteering to stand on a banana peel so to speak. You will never make your skis feel like solid ground so get beyond it. You often hear said that we ski from the feet up. While that is true, we don’t generally move the center of mass forward using propulsion from our feet like we do walking and instead, use the force of gravity. Balancing dynamically around a stable center of mass and using adjustments from the feet up to keep the moving unreliable base of support under us makes more sense than balancing from the feet up to stabilize the center of mass. Balancing from the feet up to achieving a stable center of mass manifests itself as the classic robotic look in skiing. If you ski and teach nothing but feet up a robot is what you will get. Without establishing good dynamic balance through upper and lower body separation skiers are doomed to dead end plateaus. It makes sense to establish upper and lower body separation very early in your skiing career and upper and lower body separation is not natural. Most of what I teach is balance.
How does all of this relate to this thread? In the words of the great Weem’s, “Every turn begins with an edge change so learn to do it perfectly”. Doing a perfect edge change requires a skier go through a true neutral when the skis go flat between turns. We perform a mirror image of reversing muscle groups to oppose forces from the opposite direction. Neutral can only be achieved under conditions of true dynamic balance. Core Concept: (During turn transitions the lower body releases and realigns with the upper body,) Note: this is entirely achievable In a countered position.
So, what is important?
Core concept: (The position of the hips over the feet (fore/aft) will play a major role in the parallel relationship of the skis and promote the ability to use corresponding edge angle. Understand that you may adjust this relationship as you encounter changes in terrain and snow conditions)
1.) Good fore/aft alignment in your stance through the boot/binding/ski system allows your muscles to relax at the neutral point between turns and allows the brain through proprioception to reverse muscle groups in a mirror image. Miss alignment fore/aft in equipment is far more critical to dynamic balance and a good edge change than is lateral alignment and largely ignored or misunderstood by boot fitting specialists. I would hazard a guess that 85% of all instructors and 90% of the general public is not fore/aft aligned in the best stance position for muscle relaxation. Here is one of the places where you can buy a better turn so, get it fixed if you want to improve.
2.) Functional Alignment; The geometrical relationship between the upper body and the lower body. Why? Core Concept: (The relationship between the upper and lower body is a key factor in maintaining balance against the outside ski throughout the turn.
Core Concept: (Ski into and out of counter rather than making strong counter movement.)
Most skiers hunt all over for the right functional alignment. If you have reasonable stance alignment with your equipment finding functional alignment is a piece of cake. A key to understanding is the classic diagram of the path of the skis and the path of the center of mass (upper body). In the classic diagram the center of mass takes a shorter curved line inside the path of the skis and the two paths cross at the neutral point at the edge change.
The ideal functional alignment is to keep the hips (upper body) square (facing) the direction or path that the center of mass takes. Basically make constant adjustments to face the hips where you are going now, not where you intend to go. Let the legs turn on the hips sockets to allow your feet to point with the path of the skis. Simple to keep track of visually and takes care of all countering and force handling functional alignment. Everyone is slightly different and varies from ideal but the concept of square hips to the cm path will get you close enough to sense the upper and lower body relationship and maintain it throughout the turn.
Keep in mind, once learned, all kinds of variations are possible as balance from the center of mass (dynamic balance) becomes natural allowing what appears to observers as big exceptions to the rule. An example would be racers seeming to be in the back seat at turn transition. These are not exception but rather possibilities.
3.) Seek equal tension between the corresponding muscle groups in each leg and level the hips (visually). Why? Symmetry promotes proprioception in balance and enhances alignment of the center of mass laterally to the outside leg and resultant force. Equal tension is easy to keep track of and takes care of short leg/long leg, angulation between the upper and lower body and gross edge angles. Do not confuse equal tension with forces and pressure distribution. While you sense equal tension between each leg, the straight outside leg will carry significantly more pressure than the flexed inside leg. Much of the tension on the inside leg is providing enough muscle force to keep the inside foot back where it belongs under the hips. Failure to provide enough muscle power to hold the inside foot back under high pressure and angulation conditions will result in the hips rolling out of square relationship to the path of the center of mass and countering excessively. Excessive counter makes releasing the old turn nearly impossible until to late in the turn.
4.)Fire up the kinetic chain. How? By tipping the ankles inside the boots until the ankles stop against the inside of the boots. Why? Firing up the kinetic chain serves to take up the slop in the foot/boot/binding system and provide very fine edge control. Removing that slop greatly enhances proprioception and extroception to your brain allowing you exquisite feel and fine control of balance. The kinetic chain allows for continuous active guidance of the skis along their intended arc.
5.)Engage and let go of your turn efficiently. How? Engage the edges through momentum from the center of mass before the fall line through converging paths of the center of mass and the skis by timing the release in the previous turn to aim the center of mass path higher in the new turn. Releasing the old turn soon after the turn apex sets the new turn transition up with more counter and therefore a higher bigger reach of the skis into the new turn. To release the old turn, release the center of mass, not the skis.
Releasing the old turn by releasing the center of mass greatly enhances dynamic balance. Release the center of mass by relaxing and allowing some dorsiflexion of the ankles, begin releasing core tension and leg tension. Do not let go of the inside tension holding the inside foot back all at once or power down the kinetic chain. Letting go of either will cause the skis to break for the new turn and not finish the arc of the old turn, a traverse will result between turns.
Keep the kinetic chain fired up until neutral where the muscle relax and the reverse the kinetic chain. The kinetic chain is more important for precision low angle less dynamic turns. Do not transfer weight, maintain the equal tension and bleed it down progressively to zero at neutral.
When learning to release and time the release a deep breath through to nose will usually trigger the correct response and set off the release. This holds true even in steeper terrain.
Note: Once release is perfected movements that appear to violate efficient release can be observed by the uninformed casual observer. Intent may dictate some rather bizarre aggressive turn transitions. Nothing is violated here just perfection of dynamic balance and real possibilities within that fifth circle talked about above.
6.)Carry your counter from the previous turn right through neutral and the edge change. Maximum counter is reached in turns when the skis are furthest across the fall line. In most skiing situations that will be at turn transition and edge change. Minimum counter will occur where the center of mass path and the path of the skis are parallel to one another. In most cases that will occur near the apex or fall line. We ski into counter from the fall line to the turn transition and out of counter from the turn transition to the fall line. Ski into and out of counter.
Note: Tip lead is independent of counter and is a function of apparent slope and terrain. Tip lead is often confused with counter. The reference points for counter are contained within the skiers upper and lower body and not in reference to the position in a turn as observed by another person. This is easily forgotten when analyzing photos and video footage. What looks like counter to the casual observer may or may not be counter to the skier in question. Tip lead usually develops on the inside ski very early in a turn even though counter remains from the old turn until the turn apex of the new turn. On the other hand this casual observer may not see much of any tip lead at the neutral between turns when compared to the turn apex even though substantial counter exists at the turn transition and practically none at the apex. Be careful what you are evaluating based on where the reference points are. In the case of counter the reference points are in the skier’s body but an observer must evaluate from a different perspective or set of reference points.
7.) Pole use can enhance balance or upset balance. The pole touch for many skiers is often a trigger for a whole series of inefficient movement blends to release and transition. If this is you, the only way you may be able to shut that down may be to ditch the poles or take a deep breath through your nose before the pole swing to trigger the release of the old turn. Recognize and remove bad triggers.
That is about all that is important from my perspective. 90% of the verbiage written here is totally unnecessary on the slopes but in the Epic Ski forum you guys will eventually drag it out of me over the next 100 posts. Maybe I can reduce that to a dozen or so.
I am certainly open to critical peer review here. Just about the time you think you know it all something will surely upset your apple cart sending you back for another look. I am certain the wording could be improved. All I can say is “I know what I think I wrote!”