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Long, rambling, rookie question

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Slowly but surely, I think I'm getting the hang of this skiing game. As I've mentioned before, last winter was the first time I ever had skis on; now, I'm skiing down what seems to me to be some pretty gnarly black diamond runs at Sunshine while making even, linked turns, keeping my speed mostly under control, and only stopping two or three times on a run to regroup (I still struggle to ski an entire run in one smooth series of linked turns). Not great skiing, but I'm getting around the mountain pretty well, and, so far, skiing anywhere there's an open trail.

I've also mentioned before that I don't have very good technique. A big part of the reason for that is that I'm not sure what I should be doing, and when I should be doing it. There's a lot going on when you're hurtling down a steep mountain at breakneck speed, and sometimes it's not clear exactly what the proper technique is for doing this inherently unsafe act in a safe and controlled manner.

I think I've pieced together a pretty good understanding of a technique that will work, and I would appreciate it if some of the more experienced skiers in the forum would point out any glaring mistakes in my analysis.

Imagine a series of three perfectly round turns, starting at the top left of the display. One turn results in the skier reversing direction 180 degrees. The skier skis in from the top left of your screen, turns three times, and skis off the bottom left of your screen. As he skis from left to right, he is on the inside edge of his right foot. His shoulders are sqare with the hill, facing down hill (to the right). Basically, he's traversing.

Here is where it starts to get dicey. Now, he's got transfer his center of mass across the skis and switch edges. This is where I start to have questions of what I'm supposed to do, and when.

To begin with, his legs are compressed: he has just finished a turn, which puts him at the "down" part of the down-up-down unloading technique discussed in here in a different threads. To begin the new turn, he launches into the "up" part of the down-up-down. He accomplishes this by pole planting. He moves his chest and shoulders across the skis by reaching 90 degrees downhill to plant the pole.

The purpose of the "up" motion is to unweight the skis and change edges. As the CM crosses the skis, the edges release, and they go flat. At this point, a lot has to happen. The extended downhill leg becomes the uphill leg, and has to contract, while the contracted uphill legbecomes the downhill leg and has to extend. The position of the feet changes: the uphill (left) foot becomes the downhill foot, and moves from being ahead of the right foot to behind it. You've got to do something complicated with your feet, to keep them parallel (if you read the PMTS books, they you do the Phantom, which means raising a heel and tipping an ankle; but no matter how you do it, there are some complicated little foot and ankle motions going on the skis from either running over each other or going off in completely different directions, but not travelling in a nice parallel track, as they're meant to).

Assuming the CM change and edge change goes smoothly, both skis end up going down the hill in the same direction, and your CM of doesn't end up buried up to its behind in the snow, you're now back into the "down" part of the load/unload action. The legs compress, you accelerate around the turn, and you begin getting ready for the next turn.

To summarize: the pole plant is a technique to initiate shifting the CM across the skis by unweighting. As the skis unweight, they go flat. When they're flat, the skier utilizes whatever technique he has to reposition the feet and set the new edge. The pole plant/CM shift has moved his shoulders forward so that they're in a position to be balanced over the new edge as the skier accelerates into the turn and weights the downhill edge.

Sorry about babbling on so long. Hopefull, somewhere in there is a cogent explanation of my understanding of the mechanics of turning. Please set me straight if I have it wrong.
post #2 of 19
Ummmm - so what would your theoretical skier do without poles????
Can he not initiate a turn without a pole plant?
post #3 of 19
Colossus178: For the most part, you have many of the motions correct. I get the feeling that part of your description and undestanding comes from a feeling point of view as much as analytical.

What you are describing is fine but you are also describing a skier who becomes static in the last third of their turns. That is, they stay down and hang onto the turn to long. In the last third of the turn, the skier should start to shorten the outside leg and lengthening the inside leg all while allowing the body to move diagonally towards the new turn. This puts the skier in neutral at the end of the turn without the need for the un weighting or pole reaching maneuver.

Just as an additional thought. This early movement in the last third of the turn is very difficult for non aggressive skiers to do if their bindings are mounted to far to the rear. Additionally,if the bindings are mounted rearward, the short leg long leg diagonal movement requires sucking the feet back under the skier. Pulling both feet back is not easy for non aggressive skiers. Most non aggressive skiers instead hold onto the turn to long and up unweight to release the turn. This encourages rotary heel thrust in the top on the new turn. I find that most ski bindings are mounted to far to the rear of non aggressive skiers.
post #4 of 19
128, think of the pole swing as a way to set the tempo and focus the upper body in the direction you want it to go next, and not as a way to actually move the shoulders and upper body directly. Use it like a conductors baton.

Then think of moving the hips and pelvis across the skis as you move from one turn to the next instead of the shoulders. Lifting the new inside hip can really facilitate this move. The sholders will come along for the ride if you first move the hips and pelvis.

during flexion, think of the butt moving SLOWLY towards the heels, and during extentions think of the butt moving away from the heels, with the idea of the hips opening up and moving forward in the direction of and inside the next turn.

as you move your hips across your skis, tighten your glutes or butt muscles and at the same time pull your belly button in towards your spine. Try these things, it might surprise you. later, RicB.
post #5 of 19
The pole plant is not at 90 degrees. It's at the apex of an equilateral triangle, with base stretching from tip of ski to binding toepiece. That will help keep you more forward.

Also, it's really just a timing trigger, not a critical piece of the puzzle.
post #6 of 19
One thing that helped me get out of a sequence of events and into more of a continuum of events was using the poles for tempo. The simple trick that helped me was focusing on getting the pole out in front earlier. As one pole is flicking back, the other should be moving forward for its next touch. This ups the tempo and, I think, helps get that early movement in the last third that Pierre was talking about. Experts and instuctors probably should chime in on this piece of advice, but it really helps me to think about this when things get a little steep. There is a lot going on, but you don't necessarily need to analyze the parts that work (being an analytical type, you will probably continue to analyze, but I'm sure you recognize that you can't use all of that analysis while skiing since you can't focus on that many things). You just need to find some techniques to help take it to the next level.
post #7 of 19

It sounds like your off to a great start with your skiing, stay at it and it'll come around as you're in good hands with the instructors that post here.

I'm a relatively new skier myself and the only reason I'm posting here is I just past through the phase of the game your trying to conquer. Certainly Pierre, RicB and the others here have forgotten more than I know.

Here are some of the things that helped smooth out my turns. First don't hold on to your turns too long. In fact, experiement with trying to initiate as you approach the fall line rather than as you progress into a traverse. For me anyway, the first turn is always the hardest and after that they just flow. If I carry too far into a traverse, each turn is like a new "first" turn. I also will start a run with my tips down the fallline so as my first turn is really a quarter turn.

Next, don't get to hung up on up and down movements or focusing on your COM. I try to keep my upper body quiet, use a timing pole touch, initiate with my feet and legs and trust my skis to come around and do their thing. In smooth linked turns I try to initiate typically by a combination of relaxing the old outside leg (new inside), and extending my old inside (new outside) progressively as the pressure builds. Pretty much like the same feeling you get when pedaling a bike. When I'm doing this, I focus on keeping my hips forward over my feet, with my ankles slightly flexed. As to my COM, I just let it go where it wants to. I know there's a place for strong up/down movements and forcing your COM, but I don't think it's necessary for smooth linked turns.

I hope this makes sense.
post #8 of 19
Down-up-down including unweighting is not as necessary, at least on groomed conditions, with today's equipment, as it was in days of yore. Folks today generally stand taller over the sweet spot on the skis and change edges/weight-emphasis in more gradual and energy-efficient movements. As Pierre noted, you should be passing through a moment of neutral stance where your skis are flat on the snow and equally weighted between turns. You should be allowing your skeleton to bear more of the weight than your thighs and knees by getting your angulation and edging from movement of the hips inside turns. So the knee that gets flexed is the inside knee, while the outside leg remains more straight. So your picture would be entering the screen at top left with the left leg flexed, the right leg extended, the hips cranked somewhat to the left, followed by a gradual relaxation of the right leg to allow the center of mass to begin moving toward the next turn, the skis flattening on the snow and the left leg gradually extending. Once through neutral, the pressure increases gradually on the left ski and reduces gradually on the right as the left leg gets longer and the right leg gets shorter.
post #9 of 19
I'll toss out three tidbits.

1. "finish the turn in the same position you started the turn"- the Mahres

If you are moving down as the turn is finishing you will have to move up to start. It isn't realy needed very often.

2. Think........tall, touch, tip

Extend to a relaxed athletic stance, swing your pole and touch the snow, tip your old outside ski to release the skis into a new turn.

3. Take a lesson from a CSIA level III or IV cert!
post #10 of 19
I cut out of an article from SKi Magazine a few years ago that had illustrated ski tips from the Mahres that is really simple stuff but great instruction. Sometimes in the complexity of things its easy not to see the forest for the trees. The Mahres advocate never be static in your skiing movements i.e.you're constantly moving on your skis , compressing and extending and moving your CM down the fall line.

I think if you keep the above in mind your skiing has a better chance of being more fluid as you link turn to turn. I also lik the explanations Lito provides regarding dynamic anticipation and the ability to link turns together in difficult conditions and terrain. The Mahre and Lito instruction seems to be pretty timeless year after year.
post #11 of 19

Next two weekends have deep discounts on lessons

If you've got a Sunshine card or pass Colussus the next two weekends have half price lessons using a coupon from the bonus booklet. $71 isn't a bad deal for going in the blue or black runner improvement classes and that would give you an experienced professional critique of what you're doing right and what you might want to improve.

I've been working on my mcl sprain for the past two weeks so I can take advantage of it this weekend. I figure until I'm ready to do Delerium Dive, I've still got a need for the periodic lesson.
post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the comments, folks. I've been trying to digest all the advice, but I won't get a chance to put it to use for a few more days (I'll be hitting Whistler/Blackcomb for 5 days next week).

You're right that I'm over-analyzing things, but I'm at the point in my skiing that I'm able to go fast enough and steep enough to get myself into trouble. Sometimes I ski well, and get down gnarly stuff quickly and well; other times, doing seemingly the same things, I go ass over tea kettle for no apparent reason. I'm on the cusp of being a pretty good recreational skier; if I can understand the mechanics of the game, I think I will be able to improve quickly.

Another thread asked the question, "Why do you ski?" One of the reasons I ski is because of the challenge and reward. Skiing is a technical, physical, difficult sport, and it's very satisfying to make measurable progress. On the flip side, it's also very frustrating to get stuck in a rut, to feel on the edge of progress, but unable to move past whatever stumbling block it is that's holding me back. The better I understand the mechanics of the sport, the better I will be able to understand what I need to do to improve.
post #13 of 19
If you get a chance grab a lesson with Stephen Brooks at whistler....
post #14 of 19

We all learn in different ways and it's great that you know what kinds of information you need for this whole skiing thing to make sense. In your search for answers I hope that one thing remains crystal clear: skiing is dynamic and in every nanosecond we are going to make tiny (or major if we're way off-kilter) adjustments to control our speed and direction.

This said - there is no way to memorize "proper technique". As skiers we develop a toolbox of skills and the knowledge of when and how to use them all (separately or blended).

Therefore, I hope that in your search to understand the mechanics of the sport you also learn the practical applications of each skill and develop the "feel" (or instinct) for the micro adjustments that need to occur as you ski.

Stu Campbell told me: all skiers make errors - great skiers just fix them the second after they occur. (I am paraphrasing here, BTW)

Have a great time at WB - it's one of my favorite places on this earth!!
post #15 of 19

out not up

I'm an old fart who learned the "up" motion as a prelude to the twist.
Nowadays I preach and teach not an "up" motion but an extend away from the snow surface motion. Trees do NOT stand up straight (90 degrees perpendicular to the snow surface) they are leaning back uphill. If you maintain the same general perpendicularity to the snow surface as when you were standing on the flat in front of the lodge, when you are standing on your skiis on a steeply pitched hill you should never find yourself in the "backseat".

When you extend "up" and your skiis move forward, BINGO your butt is behind your boots!!!
post #16 of 19
To begin with, his legs are compressed: he has just finished a turn, which puts him at the "down" part of the down-up-down unloading technique discussed in here in a different threads. To begin the new turn, he launches into the "up" part of the down-up-down. <snip>
The purpose of the "up" motion is to unweight the skis and change edges.
You ought to get a copy of Bob Barnes' encyclopedia - you'd enjoy it

It'll give you a lot of detail on lots of areas of terminology, rotation, edging, turn types etc. Whilst my body can't do most of the stuf yet - I find it really helps my mind think about it and gives me a decent overview of the skiing development road that practice should get me down.

eg I just got to Unweighting last night and read this:
Up and down movements affect weighting and unweighting. However, weighting and unweighting have nothing (I repeat nothing) to do with which direction (up or down) the skier is moving
He then goes on to talk about how it's the acceleration that counts - ie as you go up, you spend half your time 'starting' to go up and half your time 'stopping' going up. It's the 'stopping' going up that unweights you. As you start to go up you're pushing harder on your feet; as you begin stopping going up you actually reduce the weight on your feet.

So if you are compressing and extending, weighting happens whilst you're comressed below the halfway mark, unweighting happens whilst you're extended above it. The maximum weighting in the period before - and after - you're at maximum compression.

From that point of view, when you say 'The purpose of the "up" motion is to unweight the skis' - it strikes me that you may have your timing wrong?

Corrections anyone?
post #17 of 19
The PURPOSE of a rapid upward movement IS to unweight the skis at the point the up movement ends. It's true that the action of beginning to move upward increases the pressure on the feet. But that's not the goal.
post #18 of 19
Fair comment - although (by my understanding) I'm not sure if you're exactly right either.
It doesn't unweight when the up movement ends.
It starts to unweight when the up movement starts to slow down and reaches maximum unweightedness (?) when the up movement ends?

Given that it's a matter of rhythm and timing then if one doesn't appreciate that

  • move up-peak-move down-trough-move up-peak-move down
is not
  • weighted-netutral-unweight-neutral-weighted-neutral-unweight
but more
  • netutral-unweight-neutral-weighted-neutral-unweight-neutral
You end up syncopated - which whilst excellent in jazz might not be wanted here

So I'd agree that the purpose of an up/down cycle is to introduce weighting/unweighting - better?

I'm bothering to debate/clarify simply because I hadn't put the intellectual effort into this when I've been told (or read about) the up/down. After I did I realised that I had taken the explanation literally and it actually warranted more thought about what was happening and when.
Yes, It's simple physics - but that doesn't matter a jot if you don't actually *think* about it!
post #19 of 19
I remember an old "how to ski" book from the fifties or early sixties that described unweighting by either the up motion, or a rapid down motion. They said to test it on a bathroom sale. While the body weight is dropping the sale turns back towards zero, at the bottom of the move more than the original body weight (pressure) is brought onto the feet.
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