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Help improve my Skiing

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I am an Intermediate skiier looking to improve my skills. I ski all over the mountain but i struggle on steeper slopes and bumps. I can ski them, but not with comfort and ease, i get too defensive. I am trying to go back to easier slopes to correct my technique. I am concentrating on my body position - a work in progress. can the experts on this forum take a look and critique my skiing? thank you.

 

Other things I am trying to work on:

- Shin/Cuff Pressure - started to make slight contact with the boot by flexing the ankle to make sure i always feel shin against cuff of boot
- working hard to maintain stacked position, but this gets undone on steep slopes.
- trying to use the inside ski or engage it as a phantom edge  so that the outside ski can edge better.
- initiate turn early in the process
- inside ski should lead the turn?
- trying to keep upper body still, lower body turns...keep head facing down...use poles to time turns. unable to do this on steep slopes.
- trying to move forward to keep balance on ball of the foot.
- keep both ski together, shud be solid platform.

post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiier2009 View Post
 

I am an Intermediate skiier looking to improve my skills. I ski all over the mountain but i struggle on steeper slopes and bumps. I can ski them, but not with comfort and ease, i get too defensive. I am trying to go back to easier slopes to correct my technique. I am concentrating on my body position - a work in progress. can the experts on this forum take a look and critique my skiing? thank you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-843mfaYT8Y

 

Other things I am trying to work on:

- Shin/Cuff Pressure - started to make slight contact with the boot by flexing the ankle to make sure i always feel shin against cuff of boot
- working hard to maintain stacked position, but this gets undone on steep slopes.
- trying to use the inside ski or engage it as a phantom edge  so that the outside ski can edge better.
- initiate turn early in the process
- inside ski should lead the turn?
- trying to keep upper body still, lower body turns...keep head facing down...use poles to time turns. unable to do this on steep slopes.
- trying to move forward to keep balance on ball of the foot.
- keep both ski together, shud be solid platform.

 

The things that I see that are good: 

 

  • In the last 2 turns, you turn your skis gradually rather than abruptly. 
  • Your skis are tipping on edges.
  • You're creating some counter-rotation at the end of the turn: keeping your hips from coming around with your skis. 
  • You have the intention of keeping the upper body balanced on the outside ski at the end of the turn, which I can see by the way your head moves. 

 

Regarding problems on steeps and speed control: The top of your turn is where you should be controlling the speed. The bottom of the turn is for maintaining speed. Most skiers have this premise backwards - they try to carve the top (or skip it by pushing away from the ski and twisting), then try to brake at the end, which leads to skidded, braking z-turns down the hill. They also lose the ability to redirect all those forces (gravity, momentum, centrifugal force) across the mountain from one arc to the next in order to aid the turning effort; instead, they're fighting gravity, rather than using gravity to help them. 

 

Presently the top of your turn isn't shaped. When you start your turn you're pushing away from the outside ski, moving hard to the inside of the turn with your hips/upper body, then turning the feet while there's no/minimal pressure. It appears you're doing so intentionally, because you say you focus on "initiate turn early in the process". The problem here is that you lose your ability to bleed speed at the top of the turn, and instead you have gravity pulling you down the hill until your skis come around and you brake at the end of the turn. You're fighting the forces rather than using them. 

 

If you can start balancing early on the outside ski, you'll be able to bleed speed at the top of the turn by drifting, accept a bit of speed buildup as your skis point down the hill, and steer them through the turn so you can redirect your mass across the hill into the next turn. But to do so, you must balance early. 

 

Here is one PSIA progression that can help create early balance on the outside ski: 

 

Another approach is to use the "thousand steps" exercise to ensure you're balancing early before starting the turn: 

 

Another great way to prevent yourself from moving your chest to the inside is to lightly hop with both feet off the snow through the entire transition and even at the top of your new turn. It is impossible to hop effectively if you've tipped yourself into the turn (your inside ski won't come off the snow). Once you're hopping effectively throughout the transition, you can drop the hopping but keep the timing. 

 

An even simpler way to prevent yourself from moving your chest to the inside of the turn is to keep the baskets of your poles digging into the snow throughout every turn. Your poles are presently too long (you hold them high and they're still encouraging you to pop up), so you will need to shorten them to make this effective and to generally improve your stance. 

 

In order to create the turning effort, think about shortening the inside leg and suspending the inside half of your body as if there are strings pulling the inside half upwards (rather than in or down). (Some people think about crunching towards the outside, but doing so creates tension and blocks your movement.) Combine with a steering of the skis to feather the turn at the top. 

 

There's room to improve other aspects of your skiing and other instructors will surely have different things to say, but in my opinion developing the top of your turn should lead to the greatest speed control and flow for you, which will help you on steeper pitches and give you better performance on easier terrain. 

 

Good luck!

post #3 of 17

"i struggle on steeper slopes"  Keep in mind the skier's paradox--you need to be very aggressive in your movements to have the control to go as slowly as you want.  Defensive skiing gets you hurt.  You need to get your skis way behind you by strongly pulling both feet back at the beginning of every turn and strongly pulling the inside foot back all the way through every turn.  This gets your head & shoulders way down hill, gets your skis on angle, and offers you control.  Very important--speed control is established at the top 1/3rd of the turn where you set the turn radius, not by skidding sideways in the bottom half of the turn.  Don't whip your skis around then skid--Z turns.  Make tight smooth C turns.

 

- Shin/Cuff Pressure - started to make slight contact with the boot by flexing the ankle to make sure i always feel shin against cuff of boot

Doesn't work well, does it.  Instead, pull your feet behind you.  Stand on the balls of your feet all the time.
- working hard to maintain stacked position, but this gets undone on steep slopes.

I've head this for years, and it never made any sense to me, either.  The people who say stacked shows us flex in the ankles, knees, waist, back curved.  You do what support from the skeletal structure, not just muscles holding your position.
- trying to use the inside ski or engage it as a phantom edge  so that the outside ski can edge better.

Start easy and build to a single 4 axis movement--lighten the inside ski, pull it in, tip it so the big toe is in the air, pull it back
- initiate turn early in the process

Yes, don't swing your skis around; pull them behind you and put them on edge, and  let the shovels of the skis engage in the snow and pull you around.
- inside ski should lead the turn?

What does "lead" mean?  Shoved forward--no.  Keep both tips as side-by-side as possible.  Start the turn by tipping?  Yes.
- trying to keep upper body still, lower body turns...keep head facing down...use poles to time turns. unable to do this on steep slopes.

Your body from the hips upward needs to turn toward the outside of the turn, all the way, the earlier the better, without shoving the inside foot forward.  We call this counter.  Don't pole plant.  Pole tap.  Just a twitch of the wrist so the pole tip touches the snow straight down the fall line from your outside heel.  No arm swing to upset your body position.  You can do it on steep slopes if you reach way down the slope, keep your pole tip just a couple of inches above the snow surface, medium-firm grip on the pole (very important, it pulls your whole body into a great position), head & shoulders way down the hill.
- trying to move forward to keep balance on ball of the foot.

Great, except we have very few, small muscles to move forward.  We have strong hamstring muscles to pull our feet back.  The relationship between our body's center of mass and the skis' sweet spots works out the same, except pulling the feet back is both stronger and quicker.
- keep both ski together, should be solid platform.

Both together, but the inside ski is lightened so it just skims the snow.  Here's a drill--Slide along an easy slope, raise just the tail of the uphill ski an inch off the snow (no more, and just the tail), tip the ski so your big toe is in the air, and curve uphill to a stop.  Again.  Again.  Both directions.  Now try it with the downhill ski and curve around in an easy turn.  With your body, just balance.  Nothing more at this point.  When you can reliably do one turn at a time, both directions, do this linking turns.  It's a great drill.

post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post
 

"i struggle on steeper slopes"  Keep in mind the skier's paradox--you need to be very aggressive in your movements to have the control to go as slowly as you want.  

 

I'd say the opposite is true. In order to have control, you need to be very progressive in your movements and allow pressure to build. Aggressive, lurchy movements create inconsistent abrupt pressure against the skis, which can cause the ski to wash out or leads to lessened ability to work with the ski design and bend the ski. I suppose in part it depends whether you want to fight the forces, or work with the forces to create turning. 

 

 You need to get your skis way behind you by strongly pulling both feet back at the beginning of every turn and strongly pulling the inside foot back all the way through every turn.  

 

If you keep pulling your inside ski back, you're going to spin yourself along the rotational plane and close your separation. If you're doing it because you're falling to the inside which causes the outside leg to fall behind, fix the balance rather than the symptom. If you're doing it because your outside leg is falling behind due to the increased friction against it, keep the outside leg moving forward instead. (I recognize there's a fixation with pulling the inside ski back. Many instructors have likely noticed the focus is different in Canada, and the outcomes are pretty good.) 

 

If you pull both feet back behind you at the beginning of the turn, you're screwing with your pressure and putting yourself over the cuffs--which will lead to rotation. 

 

Stand on the balls of your feet all the time. 

If you are always on the balls of your feet, you are not engaging your posterior chain in your leg, and you have no power. Moreover, you're so far forward that you're going to be rotating into every turn. It's pretty much impossible to have the femurs move through the hip socket in an arc if you're on the balls of your foot. The power point is at the rear of the arch. Expert skiers use a range of movement, but they're definitely not standing on the ball of the foot. 

 

Can I ask what your background is as an instructor?  I'm always curious when I hear such a divergent perspective.

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post
 

Presently the top of your turn isn't shaped. When you start your turn you're pushing away from the outside ski, moving hard to the inside of the turn with your hips/upper body, then turning the feet while there's no/minimal pressure. It appears you're doing so intentionally, because you say you focus on "initiate turn early in the process". The problem here is that you lose your ability to bleed speed at the top of the turn, and instead you have gravity pulling you down the hill until your skis come around and you brake at the end of the turn. You're fighting the forces rather than using them. 

 

If you can start balancing early on the outside ski, you'll be able to bleed speed at the top of the turn by drifting, accept a bit of speed buildup as your skis point down the hill, and steer them through the turn so you can redirect your mass across the hill into the next turn. But to do so, you must balance early. 

 

 

 

Thanks. I am reviewing your comments and trying to visualize them. It takes time to go from words to actions to muscle memory.

 

it appears that the take away is that my turns need to be more rounded - and for that i need to balance on my outside ski and be patient with the turn as i go across the fall line. but on steeper slopes riding the fall line will lead to speed buildup, so you are suggesting to steer at the last part of the turn to take away some of the speed?

post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiier2009 View Post
 

 

Thanks. I am reviewing your comments and trying to visualize them. It takes time to go from words to actions to muscle memory.

 

it appears that the take away is that my turns need to be more rounded - and for that i need to balance on my outside ski and be patient with the turn as i go across the fall line. but on steeper slopes riding the fall line will lead to speed buildup, so you are suggesting to steer at the last part of the turn to take away some of the speed?

 

At some point, your skis must be in the fall line and you will pick up speed. The choice is whether your bleed speed before the fall line, or after.

 

Good skiers bleed speed at the top of the turn when necessary with steering/surfing/feathering, and then carve the bottom half. The top of the turn has to be entered with balance in order to steer/feather/surf it. Often skiers tip the upper body in early, which moves them away from the ski and makes them lose the ability to steer. The other issue among higher level skiers is they'll crank the skis on edge early, which causes them to start ripping and build too much pressure to manage.

 

Skiers who carve the top and skid the bottom have braking, unlinked z-shaped turns that feel like hell (which is an intermediate skier move). Surfing the top of the turn and carving the bottoms will give you a smooth ride.

 

While all the balance stuff I identified above will certainly help your skiing, there's a second pink elephant in the room: steering and separation. Learning to steer the ski and create separation is required to steer the top of the turn.  Exercises like power plow, javelin turns, and pivot slips can help you develop your steering and separation. 

post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiier2009 View Post
 

 

Thanks. I am reviewing your comments and trying to visualize them. It takes time to go from words to actions to muscle memory.

 

it appears that the take away is that my turns need to be more rounded - and for that i need to balance on my outside ski and be patient with the turn as i go across the fall line. but on steeper slopes riding the fall line will lead to speed buildup, so you are suggesting to steer at the last part of the turn to take away some of the speed?

 

At some point, your skis must be in the fall line and you will pick up speed. The choice is whether your bleed speed before the fall line, or after.

 

Good skiers bleed speed at the top of the turn when necessary with steering/surfing/feathering, and then carve the bottom half. The top of the turn has to be entered with balance in order to steer/feather/surf it. Often skiers tip the upper body in early, which moves them away from the ski and makes them lose the ability to steer. The other issue among higher level skiers is they'll crank the skis on edge early, which causes them to start ripping and build too much pressure to manage.

 

Skiers who carve the top and skid the bottom have braking, unlinked z-shaped turns that feel like hell (which is an intermediate skier move). Surfing the top of the turn and carving the bottoms will give you a smooth ride.

 

While all the balance stuff I identified above will certainly help your skiing, there's a second pink elephant in the room: steering and separation. Learning to steer the ski and create separation is required to steer the top of the turn.  Exercises like power plow, javelin turns, and pivot slips can help you develop your steering and separation. 

Are you sure about that "carve the top" part in z-shaped turns?

post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post
 

Are you sure about that "carve the top" part in z-shaped turns?

 

We all have a point at which the pitch is too steep for us to carve. Let's say you've exceeded that threshold and you're on your too-steep-to-carve terrain, but you decided to carve the top of the turn anyway. Major pressure has built up underfoot, beyond what you can manage, and you are now rocketing down the fall line. The run is only so wide. There are potentially skiers coming down behind you, so a 30m traverse isn't safe. (This is a typical standard scenario at, say, Mont-Sainte-Anne on a double-black groomer.) 

 

What will you do now to bleed speed? What is the outcome, and what does it do to your turn shape? 

post #9 of 17

I was thinking about all the usual z-shaped turn people who cut off the top of the turn because they don't know how to do anything else.  

I can imagine the scenario you just described, but it's not something that happens regularly around here.

post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post
 

 

We all have a point at which the pitch is too steep for us to carve. Let's say you've exceeded that threshold and you're on your too-steep-to-carve terrain, but you decided to carve the top of the turn anyway. Major pressure has built up underfoot, beyond what you can manage, and you are now rocketing down the fall line. The run is only so wide. There are potentially skiers coming down behind you, so a 30m traverse isn't safe. (This is a typical standard scenario at, say, Mont-Sainte-Anne on a double-black groomer.) 

 

What will you do now to bleed speed? What is the outcome, and what does it do to your turn shape? 


One can easily make carving movements without locking the edges into the snow.  This brushed carve scrubs speed off.

 

 

Your comments to my posting above seems like you've never tried the movements, but you're just sure they won't work.  I never said that aggressive movements were lurchy.  I'm using aggressive as the opposite of defensive and tentative--just getting their weight properly forward on a steep slope seems aggressive to the skier who's never done it.  "spin yourself along the rotational plane and close your separation"  Can you restate this in English?  "engaging your posterior chain in your leg, and you have no power. Moreover, you're so far forward that you're going to be rotating into every turn"  Is a posterior chain the one some guys use to keep their wallet from falling out of their hip pocket?  Anyway, I won't start a feud.  Anyone who tries my suggestions is welcome to post their results.  These work well for everyone I've worked with on a ski hill.

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post
 


One can easily make carving movements without locking the edges into the snow.  This brushed carve scrubs speed off.

 

I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with here. My premise is that experts steer the top of the turn on steeps, then carve the bottom half. Are you saying you recommend the same or the opposite?

 

Quote:
  "If you keep pulling your inside ski back, you're going to spin yourself along the rotational plane and close your separation"  Can you restate this in English? 

 

Sorry, I'm not sure whether the confusing part was the rotational plane, separation, "spinning", or all the aforementioned words... I'll try to describe it a bit better. 

 

Some lead change produces separation. Separation is when the legs turn more than the hip and upper body. Separation enables angulation and edging. If you're constantly pulling your inside ski back, you may be decreasing your separation and making yourself square with the ski. When you're square with the ski, you're more likely to turn by rotation (or getting spun around underfoot) and your mobility decreases. 

 

I'm not saying to force lead change. But your skiing improves when you have enough separation to maintain steering and edging, to create coiling, and to set up your next turn.

 

If you find your outside ski is falling back, either there's a balance issue or your outside ski is getting more bogged down by friction than the lighter inside ski. If it's because of friction on the outside ski, I'd recommend keeping the outside ski moving forward rather than pulling back the inside and compromising your stance. (There are two opposing schools of thought on this, both of which are held by high level guys in my ski organization. I'm a fan of keeping the outside leg in motion.) 

 

Quote:
I never said that aggressive movements were lurchy.  I'm using aggressive as the opposite of defensive and tentative--just getting their weight properly forward on a steep slope seems aggressive to the skier who's never done it.  

 

Fair enough. Perhaps there's a better word than "aggressive" to indicate what you want? Perhaps mobile and balanced? 

 

Quote:
  "engaging your posterior chain in your leg, and you have no power. Moreover, you're so far forward that you're going to be rotating into every turn"  Is a posterior chain the one some guys use to keep their wallet from falling out of their hip pocket?  

The posterior chain is known as the muscles in your legs. If you're in front of your leg muscles, there's no way they can assist you. 

 

Here's an excellent mini-lesson on centered from Josh Foster: 

 

And here's another mini-lesson from Josh Foster on stance/balance through the foot and ankle: 

 

Quote:
 Your comments to my posting above seems like you've never tried the movements, but you're just sure they won't work.  

At one time I did ski aggressively, always on the ball of the foot, and weight forward. I was a perfectly adequate intermediate skier. I've also done the "pull the inside ski back" thing. It gets me square to the ski. Again, adequate for intermediate skiing and for the skier who's perhaps creating too much separation or lacks muscle memory around the inside ski. And it's possible pulling the inside ski back doesn't interfere with the mechanics for some people. 

 

I certainly won't claim to be the best skier on the mountain by any means, nor am I the best instructor on the mountain. But I have been fortunate enough to spend weeks with the best in the industry and it's certainly improved my understanding of balance in motion. That's what I'm trying to share here - it's all about balance in motion, rather than overloading the tips, hammering on the edges, or fighting with pullback. 


Edited by Metaphor_ - 3/18/16 at 3:53pm
post #12 of 17

The "Pull the feet back" tip does work if the timing is right. It does not matter if the feet move backward relative to the core or if the core moves forward relative to the feet. It's all relative. Whatever mental tip works for the skier is fine by me. But getting into the back seat then fixing it by pulling the feet back is fixing the symptom.

post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post


Some lead change produces separation. Separation is when the legs turn more than the hip and upper body. Separation enables angulation and edging. If you're constantly pulling your inside ski back, you may be decreasing your separation and making yourself square with the ski. When you're square with the ski, you're more likely to turn by rotation (or getting spun around underfoot) and your mobility decreases. 

Using lead change is what I would consider to be a lower level way to create "separation". With practice (learning how to isolate the pelvis) one can easily pull back the inside ski such that the tips of the skis are even while countering (including the pelvis) so that one is not square with the skis. If one finds that "separation" is reduced when pulling back the inside foot, then spending time on a slant board practicing certain*** movements would be the prescription for success.
Edited by Pacmantwoskis - 3/20/16 at 9:34am
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pacmantwoskis View Post


Using lead change is what I would consider to be a lower level way to create "separation". With practice (learning how to isolate the pelvis) one can easily pull back the inside ski such that the tips of the skis are even while countering (including the pelvis) so that one is not square with the skis. If one finds that "separation" is reduced when pulling back the inside foot, then spending time on a slant board practicing certain*** movements would be the prescription for success.

 

When you're on a slope, and your belly button points towards the downhill ski tip, you'll get some natural lead change - I tend to see half a boot length in my own skiing, which varies based on the pitch of the slope. This is not huge lead. If you pull that uphill foot back, you're closing your separation, and reducing your ability to angulate, which reduces your ability to edge. Everything in skiing is connected!

 

While you could contort your body to remove your lead change, there are consequences. Why not just allow some natural lead change to develop, and keep that outside ski moving forward? Why work against your body when you can work with it? 

 

Here's John Gillies' take on it. John is in charge of development for Eastern Canada in the CSIA: 

 

 

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pacmantwoskis View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post


Some lead change produces separation. Separation is when the legs turn more than the hip and upper body. Separation enables angulation and edging. If you're constantly pulling your inside ski back, you may be decreasing your separation and making yourself square with the ski. When you're square with the ski, you're more likely to turn by rotation (or getting spun around underfoot) and your mobility decreases. 

This description is what I would consider to be a lower level way to create "separation". With practice (learning how to isolate the pelvis) one can easily pull back the inside ski such that the tips of the skis are even while countering (including the pelvis) so that one is not square with the skis. If one finds that "separation" is reduced when pulling back the inside foot, then spending time on a slant board practicing certain*** movements would be the prescription for success.

(bolded part) - Ahhhhh - it's going to be hard to get the femur to turn inside the hip socket if the pelvis is turning with the skis. Is this what you meant?

post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

When you're on a slope, and your belly button points towards the downhill ski tip, you'll get some natural lead change - I tend to see half a boot length in my own skiing. This is not huge lead. If you pull that uphill foot back, you're closing your separation, and reducing your ability to angulate, which reduces your ability to edge. Everything in skiing is connected!

I'm on a slope, belly button pointed at outside ski, and my ski tips are even.
Quote:
While you could contort your body to remove your lead change, there are consequences. Why not just allow some natural lead change to develop, and keep that outside ski moving forward? Why work against your body when you can work with it? 

Yes, I agree that we should work with the body: our joints allow the pelvis to not be square to the skis while the inside foot is pulled back. This requires practice and awareness, not contortion. If this is difficult or feels like contortion, then the slant board is a great place to practice.

While pulling the inside foot back so that ski tips are even, we can easily point the pelvis(taking the belly button along for the ride) well outside of the outside ski tip. Is this enough separation for you?
Quote:
Here's John Gillies' take on it. John is in charge of development for Eastern Canada in the CSIA: 


 

Clearly, I disagree with the gentleman in the video. His is skiing to which I do not aspire. I think it's a bit humorous that the video is titled "Natural Balance in Skiing" when the demonstration does not show skiing in balance.
Edited by Pacmantwoskis - 3/20/16 at 4:44pm
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRusty View Post

(bolded part) - Ahhhhh - it's going to be hard to get the femur to turn inside the hip socket if the pelvis is turning with the skis. Is this what you meant?
Pelvis is independent of the skis. It's position varies relative to the skis throughout the turn. The pelvis is definitely not turning with the skis.

At the top of a new turn, I am holding my counter from the previous turn, so my pelvis is facing downhill, outside of the old arc, and already technically facing inside of the next turn. When I enter the lower half of the turn, the pelvis progressively increases counteracting.
All of this while pulling back the inside foot.

I apologize if I was unclear in a previous post. I am not using the pelvis to pull back the inside foot. I am using the hamstrings to pull back the lower leg and subsequently, the inside foot. As I approach the bottom of a turn to my right (my left ski is on the outside), my left iliac crest is pulled back (pelvis counteracting to the left) while my right foot is pulled back.
Edited by Pacmantwoskis - 3/20/16 at 5:36pm
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