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The Ballerina Move

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'm writing to "check for understanding" of a new move I learned about at the end of last season. Didn't get a whole lot of chance to use it, but want to play with it this year and thought I'd try to test my recollection of it before I hit the snow. If there are any threads already on this, please let me know.

Last spring I was lucky enough to take a lesson with Marie Russell Shaw of The Big Mountain, MT, whom some of you may know. In response to my asking her how to establish better sense of ski "traction" at turn initiation in frozen crud on a steep pitch (I was pretty darn scared as I recall!) she suggested using the "Ballerina Move" - something which I don't remember having heard about before.

Marie described the move by saying something to the effect of, "Point your toe like a ballerina", at turn initiation. I understand this to mean: open or extend the ankle joint (aka plantarflex). This is similar (identical?) to what you do on the back side of a mogul, but I never thought of doing it out of the bumps.

I think the effect of this move is to help maintain contact between the front half of the ski and the snow early in the turn, thereby providing that lovely, reassuring feeling of traction.

Making a small "opening" move of the ankle joint seems to "lever" (not sure if that's the right word) the ski tips downhill to meet the snow as the pitch drops away from you. Also, it has the benefit of allowing you to gradually close the ankle joint (and reopen) as needed throughout the turn.

Up until hearing about this move, my basic method for trying to keep the tips in/on the snow had been to pull the skis back underneath me. Does anyone agree with my thought that as the pitch increases, a little extra "oomph" (as provided by the ballerina move) might be required to optimize ski/snow contact ?

I have always gotten feedback that I tend to hang on the front of my boots and have had a heck of a time figuring out why. Maybe one possible explanation for this "hangup" is that I never learned how to open my ankles up at turn initiation?

OK, so if the above makes some sense, please bear with me while I broaden this line of questioning to include some boot issues. We've all heard a whole lot of reiterations of "keep the front your shin in firm contact with the boot cuff." What I would like to put on the table for discussion is that maybe it's boot fit that should do that particular job and the skier's attention should be more on keeping efficient proper ski/snow contact along the whole ski. In other words, don't be afaid to "get tall" in the boot itself: If your boot fits well, the boot should do most of the work in providing "shin contact", thereby allowing the ankle the full range of motion that is needed for the most precise control of the ski.

I hope I'm not going in too many directions here. Am trying to be as clear as I can, and it all seems just so darn interrelated/interdependent! Would really appreciate any comments you have that might help me sort this out.
post #2 of 16

Dolphin turns require pushing tips down at initiation..... is this the same thing?
post #3 of 16
Not sure I understand correctly, so I'll fire a couple of questions
Which toe are you performing the move with? To the effect of this discussion I think we could talk of four..You've got two big toes and the two little toes, let's ignore the middle six...the external big toe (uphill) at turn initiation or the internal one (downhill)?
The external little toe (pinky?) or the internal?
Using that move with the wrong one would, imho, lead to completely different outcomes...possibly "disater" (tips crossing maybe?)
Also, what is the other foot/leg supposed to do, while performing this move?
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hi, disski. Don't know about the "dolphin turns". Can you give me some into on them?

Buonjourno, Nobody. "Point" (ha, ha) well taken! The best way I can answer your question as to which toes - is, all the toes, like a ballerina "en pointe". (Of course that is an extreme degree of what I'm talking about and we know a ski boot is not a ballet shoe, although it would be interesting to compare the aches and pains caused by both sports, sometime.)

In other words, I am not talking about "twisting the foot" or any lateral foot tipping (inversion/eversion, big toe "up", little toe "up") here although those things are going on simultaneously with the ballerina move.

I am singling out extension and flexion of the ankle joint, the moves you make to depress and release a gas pedal. (Some use the terms plantar- and dorsi-flexion, but I don't think they're very pretty. I like to think of opening and closing the ankle joint. I may be stealing this preference from some wise person at epic. Thank you whoever you are.)

Regarding which foot, I think the new outside foot is probably more active in this move, although the inside ski will need to to it's own version too, probably just on a smaller scale, since it will be "shorter" through the turn.

Thanks for your replies.
post #5 of 16
Thank you!
It's clearer now, you see, I was thinking of rotating the foot on two axis "simultaneously", thus was also thinking in big toe-little toe instead of on one axis (gas pedal).
Obviously I'm not a ballerina (not even a dancer, I feel like a dressed bear when obliged to dance)!!!!
post #6 of 16
If you maintain shin-cuff contact while opening the ankle joints, you move forward. If you do this with the skis flat on whatever slope, you move yourself perpendicular to the slope and forward. This should promote turn initiation. Thinking about such a ballerina move probably reduces the fright factor of getting perpendicular on steeper terrain. I think you'll find it's possible to open the ankle joints and lose shin contact with the boot cuffs, so you'll have to incorporate the thought of maintaining that contact for this move to be the most successful.
post #7 of 16
Regardless of boot fit, the "ballerina move" will lower or eliminate pressure on the boot tongue, unless you actively bring your body forward, in which case, there isn't much of a "balerina move" to start with. In moguls this move makes sense since it is quick and the next mogul will ensure that body comes back over the skis. But in a steep pitch, the only way to get back over the skis is to pull them back or move the CM forward.

So if you do use this technique, be prepared to do some catch up as well. I would much rather bring the skis under me - especially the inside ski.

That is my 2 cents.
post #8 of 16
When I remember to extend, or open up the ankle at turn initiation there is a feeling of "softness" in the ankle joint.This softness seems to make the whole cluster of movements (pivoting, tipping, crossing over) flow and yes, the edges seem to engage efficiently, providing "that lovely traction" feeling. I don`t know how it works, but if it feels good, do it!
post #9 of 16
if you can move/point your foot/ankle like that your boot is too loose.
also,if you do that move on a steep you better make sure you get your upper body weight forward over your edges inna double quick hurry,or youll be in the backseat so fast etc etc....
a better thought,imo,is to keep your knees bent and weight strong out over your shovels,youll be naturally weighted forward.an atheletic ready to move position.in that position you really cant point your tips downhill withiout your body following quickly and giving you the grip your psyche needs to set for the next turn.the previous posters shin/boot contact advice was very valid,most pple lose that contact because they lean back esp on the steeps where you MUST LEAN EVEN MORE FORWARD TO MAINTAIN SKI SHOVEL EDGE GRIP!,proper body position(knees bent,weight forward) at all time will prevent the backseat manuver.
post #10 of 16
When you do that, does it make you really cut, Cheese?
post #11 of 16
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
When you do that, does it make you really cut, Cheese?
Good one Bob.
post #12 of 16
DM- Never heard it described like that but it sounds like you are on the right track. I really think that regardless of most snow conditions I am trying to allow my new outside ski ankle to be opening as I am closing my new inside ski ankle. I feel it does help keep you moving thru your turn and early edge purchase and building of pressure to the outside ski as you move thru the inside ski keeping the ankle flexing keeps the ski under your hips developing the long outside leg and short inside leg accomidating the terrain and dictating radius. Keep playing with the activity in all turn shapes and speed. Let us know how it goes. Good luck Todo
post #13 of 16
Originally Posted by Downwardly Mobile
Hi, disski. Don't know about the "dolphin turns". Can you give me some into on them?

Ummmm - not really..... they are trying hard to NOT tell me too much these days - to make me use my FEEL of the movements & skis..... & "play" with it a bit more...

The "picture" I have is from bumps - it is easiest to see how it works there.... but it is pretty much always described to me as the skis "porpoise" up and down - like a DOLPHIN playing in waves....
In bumps you can see the need - tips press down over the bump(tails almost jump up towards butt - but they don't need to lift that much - they just show me like that)..... then back again ready to repeat....

Then they tell me to carry the "feel" into non-bump turns.... the movements will be less.....

I am as yet not good enough at the movement to use them other than "training"..... so i can't even remember what conditions they said they are good for.... I've only done them twice from memory....

The staatliche does them and his skis almost "skip" - they really seem to be a dolphin playing in the snow.....
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks, disski. The "dolphin" does sound related to the "ballerina". I like the image you used of the skis "playing" in the snow.

Maybe the ballerina move is one possible means to the end of making your skis move like a dolphin?

(Aside: Did you ever see that old tv series about a dophin called "Flipper"? If you go to this link, you can hear the theme song: http://www.scubatampa.com/flipper.html I can't remember "important" stuff, but goofy tv shows I watched as a kid will be with me forever!)

Let me know if you have any revelations about other means to this same end. A couple respondants to this thread have reiterated the usefulness of pulling the feet back underneath you and I certainly am not arguing against that move. I'm just wondering if there may not be a little more to the story, because that move doesn't work for me in certain conditions, especially - steep frozen spring crud. How's your snow been lately?
post #15 of 16
DM, closing the ankle and pulling the foot back can be two ways of describing the same activity. I sometimes think about closing the new inside ankle as part of turn initiation and opening the new outside ankle, which might be similar to your ballerina move, especially if the inside foot activity helps you move the center of mass into the turn ahead of the outside foot.
post #16 of 16
DM, Marie was a ballerina in a former life. For those who don't know her, Marie wrote the Children's Instruction Manual for PSIA and recently won the coveted Educational Excellence award...and she is one of The Big Mountain's finest instructors.
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