Originally Posted by Phaethon
1. Why and when "A-Frame is bad?" ("hmmm-ok?") Please do not get philosophical and deep, we need some simple stuff to explain to the student.
2. How top of a priority should it be when trying to help the student improve?
3. What exercises are most effective in fixing this?
A frames are not good when they restrict what a skier wants to do or is putting body joints at risk of injury or is creating muscular strain with fatigue.
The priority of fixing depends on what the cause and effect of the A frame is. A framing is a symptom that can manifest itself from many different causes. A framing can be caused by equipment (boots/ skis clothing) or anatomical issues such as bad knees, rotated femurs or tibia, bad backs, leg length differences and range of motion issues from old injuries. Fitness level is another cause of A framing as weak core muscles can make stabilizing the upper body difficult given the circumstances on the day in question. A framing can also be caused by what the student thinks is "the way to ski" or as a reaction to fear.
To fix an A frame you have to be a bit of a detective to figure out what is really going on. A framing rarely exists without other problems that can help pinpoint the causes.
I can pretty much look at how a skier is moving and narrow down the possible causes very quickly. You can avoid a lot of problems and establish a repertoire with the student by asking concern type questions about known issues such as , old injuries, recent or chronic illness and their fear levels and their perceptions about their skiing. I would then look at their equipment, especially how the boots fit. Loose boots, loose heels or poor support practically guarantee an A frame look. If on rental equipment, will the edges hold on the skis and do the skis slide easily on the snow. Is your student overly cold or uncomfortable. Start at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Once those issues are out of the way I would work with your student to get them to explore different stances (up down fore aft) to find their right place. Poor stance/balance is the number one technique cause of A framing. How is your student holding and using their poles? Pole use can have a big effect on stance issues. I have students hold their poles where they feel that balance is most enhanced them.
The second issue I would work on is how the student thinks the skis should move across the snow and how they think the rest of the body should behave riding on the skis. You can bypass a lot of the learning curve to upper level skiing by giving students simple mental tools to aid in improving stance and balance. Here are some tools that work well on easier terrain.
- Set your student up for success. Have your student assume their best athletic stance and bounce a bit foot to foot when first starting a run.
- Don't look to far ahead when correcting stance. Looking closer makes the slope/snow look flatter than it is and your student will subconsciously level to the slope better both fore/aft and laterally. (Caution should be noted as students should be made aware of the dangers of being hit while using this tool. Always clear and avoid starting with early potential conflicts.)
- Have your student mentally pick the path over the snow that you want their head and body to flow through, not the path for the skis to arc on. Picking the path for the head subconsciously promotes balance on the outside ski, upper and lower body separation, angulation and parallel skis. The easiest way that I have found to start having students pick a path is by looking at the point you want for your next turn apex. When your student feels the new edges after edge change look to the next apex. Picking this path usually defaults an early release and early edge engagement. Essentially your student is looking through straight lines between arcs around the turn apex. The turn apex refers to the belly of the turn when the skis are more or less pointed straight downhill.
- Have your student push back against the big guy by laterally letting the hips/core move level until the muscle tensions between the right and left side of the hips/core balance. The big guy is a term I use for any turn forces. Pushing back level subconsciously promotes progressive equal edge angles. Equal tension promotes dynamic balance.
- If a pole touch is used by your student, eliminate the pole touch or have them touch the snow when the skis go flat at edge change. Avoid touching the pole to time any release before the skis go flat.
- Adjust as needed.
Again these are just tools that I use so I will emphasis again that what I have suggested is not necessarily "The way to Ski". Tools are used to make it easier for students to find balance with flow and discover how their bodies work with gravity and ski design. What I have found is that before and after video is extremely helpful with these tools as they easily perceived as being to simple to work by many students.