Originally Posted by Bob Barnes
The contentious issue, and the area where misunderstanding runs rampant, is...how did she get there? It is a big mistake to think that the key is to throw your weight forward, flex your ankles, press forward on your boot cuffs, etc. in the transition--especially while stepping uphill to balance early on the new outside ski. That movement is nearly guaranteed to get you into the back seat, on low edge angles, with a skidded, low-performance entry and fall-line phase of the turn. But that's what so many skiers do, and so many instructors and coaches advocate.
If you want to be "forward" (downhill of your feet) like Mikaela in the middle of the turn, you must move your body downhill in the transition--not uphill to the new outside ski. If you want high edge angles and deep inclination, with your skis well outside from underneath you in the middle of the turn, like Mikaela, you have to let your skis move toward the outside of the new turn in the transition--not try to pull them back beneath or behind you.
Interesting discussion. I'm don't think I'm in disagreement with what Bob is saying, but I also don't think we have the full picture yet.
Just to be clear, establishing early balance on the new stance ski is a common and useful thing to do. Bob calls out the wrong way to do it, but doesn't mention the correct way which involves simply transferring your balance to the already tracking ski. No gross movements are necessary to accomplish this; it is as subtle as breathing. Typically, the balance transfer is followed by a relaxation of the old stance foot to trigger a release. In some circumstances this may involve actually lifting the ski to be released, in or the ski may remain on the snow. Either way, you go into the new turn already firmly established on the outside ski, which among other things, is very reassuring on ice.
Achieving the level of extreme forward that you see in montages of elite racers--where the feet are well behind the hips--is not simple to do. The idea that the skis must track outward while the body moves into the new turn is a key component, but that alone is not sufficient for most skiers. Going from an extremely forward position to an extremely flexed position (and I'm talking extremes here--well beyond the range of motion that most skiers are familiar with) will cause the skis to want to rocket out of the turn (at least if you haven't done something to bleed away energy prematurely). If this is allowed to happen, you will not end up forward at the right time in the arc. You may be able to recover, but you will never have tip pressure at the right time in the turn to tighten the turn radius as you could have if you were in the right place on the ski to begin with.. So some movement has to be included when flexing to slow the skis down enough to give your body time to move into the arc and come out ahead of the skis. That movement is pulling the feet back.
The thing about the idea of being forward is that there are very different ideas out there about what constitutes being sufficiently forward. For many skiers, it is sufficient to have the feet underneath or slightly behind the hips. Indeed, the PSIA RM has published a bunch of videos on the internet demonstrating Level 3 skiing in short and medium radius turns and you can easily see that the instructors in those videos are not getting kind of hips in front of the feet separation that Mikaela is demonstrating in the montage. Most of them are inclining into the top of the turn as Bob suggests above, but they are not ending up in that extreme position of forward leverage. That is fine, but for skiers like myself who pretty much live in the realm of the kind of forward you see Mikaela demonstrating, it is a bit hard to see the idea of foot-pullback being disparaged when we know for a fact that you can't get Mikaela's kind of forward without it. We also know for a fact that at some point when we are dialing up our skiing, failure to pull our feet back correctly will lead to bad consequences up to and including violent separation of our skis from the snow!
The idea of pulling the feet back is admittedly a bit strange, but it is a very real concept. Part of the issue is that is that it only becomes do-or die necessary at energy levels that most skiers are never going to see. But ironically, skiers that don't learn about this movement early-on won't likely ever be able to generate the kind of energy that would absolutely require it. Moreover, the range of motion that you have for sliding your feet forwards and backwards when extremely flexed is fairly limited so the pullback movements under extreme flexion actually are fairly subtle. I tend to think about it more as holding the feet back then pulling them back (which is a specific thought for my morphology), but however you think of it, there has to be an active resistance to letting your feet pop forward that gets combined into your flexing and tipping movements if you want to keep a heavily loaded ski under control during release. In extremely flexed, high energy carved turns, this movement doesn't manifest itself as the tail of the ski moving backward. Moreover, if this movement isn't executed aggressively enough for the current release, the ski can overpower legs and the feet can move forward a bit. A little bit of forward is easily managed, but too much and the next turn will be a problem. Like any movement, some skiers are better than others, but there are definite (if personal) tolerances to how much slop can be allowed before you get into trouble.
The other thing about foot pullback in the drill form, which are sometimes referred to as "flappers" is that it teaches you what it feels like to actually be forward. As I mentioned, getting forward like Mikaela is very hard because it requires the arc to be formed in a very specific way. You must be able to make the skis carve in the top of the turn, but do so in a way that they don't get out ahead of you. Mere mortals can do this with sufficient attention to balance and specific movements. The gifted can accomplish it through incredible balance and raw athleticism. Either way, it is a very difficult thing to accomplish (let alone teach). However, (it least in my experience) practicing "way forward" drills and getting accustomed to what it feels like to be extremely forward makes it possible to recognize how to take your skiing to that level once you have sufficient control over the skis and the arc to make it a possibility.
Lastly, I want to point out that aggressively pulling the feet back is a life-saving move for extracting yourself out of the back-seat if you ever find yourself getting dumped there or as a quick way to circumvent going to the back seat if you find yourself heading there and can react quickly enough. It is also dead useful on the bumps and steeps In both cases, aggressive pullback movements will keep you well-centered over your skis and out of trouble. When people on this forum talk about "back-pedaling", that can be accomplished by simply pulling your feet back.
Edited by geoffda - 3/12/14 at 11:47am