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Arms/hands - Page 3

post #61 of 79
I think the biggest obstacle people run into when trying to improve their arm position is that, in their concentration to keep the arms up, they get very stiff and lose both dynamics and balance in the process.

If my arms tend to get funky, I try to get them back within the periphery of my field of vision (up and forward, but not locked, still moving to keep balance going, like a GS/SG/DH racer). But then I just relax and go with it. Granted, I worked for years to get my arms into good position - Olle Larsson even had me wear rudimentary arm braces to get me accustomed to keeping my arms out and in front.

Looking at the video, the skiing is good and relaxed, natural but very passive. That the arms drop (especially the inside arm toward the end of the turn) is indicative of this. The arm drop isn't compensating for a sudden ridge in the snow or something to that effect, and the whole turn motion, while mostly centered, is just that: not really looking moving downhill.

Another thing to consider is the pole plant/pole touch. In the latter half of the video, the plating hand crosses over the middle of the body, relative to the fall line.



This causes excess rotation, especially when combined with the inside hand dropping. From there, the tails wash out, and the CG moves a bit far back. It's not difficult to get forward from here, but the outside arm's cross-over acts as a block, impeding the motion down the hill.

The other thing I notice - especially in the latter part of the video, which looks like it's on steeper terrain - is that the whole body is turning as a unit. The shoulders, hips and feet are all turning together, resulting in a stiff position that causes low edge angles and more washed-out turns. This isn't as much the case in the early part of the video, where the terrain is a bit flatter.

This is probably just a "comfort zone" thing, Nolo: you like to keep balanced, and you don't yet trust letting your extremities (feet and hands) get too far away from your core. Part of the whole retraction move is that it assumes that you'll get your feet out to the side, away from the center of your turn radius. Witness the following photo montage by Olle (he's a superb photographer, as well as a great coach):



While this is an older montage (1999-2000 season) and the techinque has changed a bit since then, the basic concepts are still similar: the feet are well outside the CG/CM, and the hips are tracking a more-or-less level line above the snow, with the transition between turns happening with retraction of the legs.

But I want you to look at the angles in the last few frames of the above montage and compare them to this video capture from your film:



I've made a basic line drawing of the leg, hip, torso and shoulder angles. Everything is leaning in and following together. It's not the worst case in the world, by far: you have angulation at the hips and knees, so you aren't leaning in too much. But the angles aren't dynamic enough to create a good, solid platform for carving or making a dynamic edge change.

The thing is: you have the basic position down at the beginning of the turn:



The angulation is there, you're looking ahead, and you have some good edging starting up (though the stance is a little bit narrow). If you loosen up a bit, let your arms and hips drive you down the mountain, you'll achieve some bettter angles and increased confidence on the steeps.

You're definitely getting there - just some more polish, a bit more relaxation, and you'll see even more improvement!
post #62 of 79
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the detailed feedback, songfta. I take it you are with the majority in advising that I could turn it up a notch, or as Weems might have said, more Power to ya. I like Atomicman's ideal of being "powerful and graceful at the same time." Thanks, all.
post #63 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo
Thank you for the detailed feedback, songfta. I take it you are with the majority in advising that I could turn it up a notch, or as Weems might have said, more Power to ya. I like Atomicman's ideal of being "powerful and graceful at the same time."
Bingo - I'm definitely in the "more power to 'ya" crowd. And it is possible to be powerful and graceful at the same time. Some skiers that exemplified (and still exemplify) this are:
  • Ingemar Stenmark
  • Pirmin Zurbriggen
  • Stefan Eberharter
  • Janica Kostelic
  • Daron Rahlves
  • Jeremy Nobis
It just takes work: time on the hill, working on the basics, getting relaxed with the technique. It's a matter of building trust with your ability, your equipment and the terrain.

Good luck!
post #64 of 79
Hey Nolo, I'm a couple days late to this discussion but in the chance you haven't abandoned it I'll throw in my 17 cents.

Hand positioning is a tool used to enhance our hands and arms ability to fine tune our balance. By holding our hands apart we've distributed our mass over a wider lateral area and thereby increase our potential to make lateral balance corrections through small lateral hand movements. Archimedes explained this principle long ago when he stated, "give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I'll move the world."

The weight of the poles we hold in our spread hands also contributes to that balancing potential, as small movements of our hands provide greater influence on balance when they carry to weight of poles. The reduction of pole weight by manufactures seemed like a great idea to the public, and it has sold well, but from a balancing enhancement standpoint it was a step backwards.

Same principle holds true from a fore/aft perspective. Reaching forward with the hands moves body mass forward which requires an equal movement of mass back to maintain fore/aft equilibrium (balance). By doing this we have again spread out the body's mass across a broader plane, which in this case enhances fore/aft balance stability. Driving forward with the shoulders, and correspondingly further back with the hips, further expands this fore/aft distribution of mass.

These tactics come with a price though. While they enhance stability they require the recruitment of greater muscle involvement, and in the fore/aft plane sacrifice skeletal alignment. The theoretical ideal would be to ski with hands lazily at our sides or in our pockets, such as we do when we stand in one place. This would allow for perfect alignment and no supplementary muscular involvement. Few, however, possess the balance skills to adequately react to the sudden changes in exterior forces encountered while skiing and still maintain efficient balance while in this position, so most compromise by moderately widening the elbows and holding the hands forward.

The bottom line really is one should use a position that feels comfortable and affords proper and consistent balance and alignment, while requiring as little extra curricular muscular activity as possible. If a skier is in good balance and alignment through all phases of the turn, both laterally and fore/aft, and no gross movements of the arms and hands are observed, then the position they're using is just fine, regardless of what that position is.

While improper positioning can on occasion create technical problems, the biggest hand deficiencies I see are not in placement but in usage. Used most efficiently hands and arms are employ only minor movements to fine tune balance. Used improperly, hands and arms engage in aggressive movements meant to assist in initiating or finishing turns, or compensate for foundational technical flaws in one's skiing.

Good instructors look at the basic technique and balance platform of the student first, then, if problems in those areas are observed, consider whether observed hand movement abnormalities are the cause or a symptom of those problems.

Nolo, as to your skiing personally: I couldn't load your video link, but I've seen your skiing in the past and from what I recall about your hands (via old man memory) the only issue I noticed was a wind up with the shoulders and outside hand at turn completion. Your balance and alignment was great through all phases of the turn, and hand movement at all other times was very minor. Keep skiing like that and for all I care you can use your hands to do your make-up while your coming down the mountain, just don't pause the application process through the transitions.

And as to your state of apparent aggression,,, well,,, I might address it a little differently than others here have. I love the way you ski, you flow like water down a mountain side. You remind me of Tamara McKinney. Tamara flowed through a race course much the same way, melding with the whim of gravity and subtly directing it to suit her means. Where other racers look like they were in a fight to the death with the mountain, Tamara appeared to be making love with it. Your grace and relaxed manner on skis reminds me of her.

When one is so in tune to body and mountain as you the introduction of expanded aggression often adds nothing to the final product but wasted energy. The only way I would suggest introducing more aggression into your skiing would be by expanding the range of edge angles you are have at your disposal. And please, accept that critique knowing that I've only seen limited excerpts of your skiing and therefor don't know for sure an expanded range is not already in your repertoire.
post #65 of 79
Rick, great post, and welcome back. Your take on Nolo's skiing is spot on I think. Later, RicB.
post #66 of 79
Thread Starter 
Thank you, Rick. I am concerned about over-skiing to fit an ideal, but I would like to control the windup movement of my shoulders at the end of the turn. Awareness is the greatest ingredient in change, I believe, and I think focusing on shoulder discipline will promote discipline of the hands.

Physicians have a saying: The enemy of good is better!
post #67 of 79
Rick: I appreciate your comparison's of Nolo's skiing to that of Tamara McKinney. Other skiers with similarly effortless-looking skiing were Ingemar Stenmark and Alberto Tomba.

But there's a key difference between McKinney/Stenmark skiing and the skiing I see in the two video segments: McKinney and Stenmark were not passive in their skiing, whereas the Nolo examples - especially the second half of the clip - look passive.

In the first clip, where the terrain is more gentle and the snow a bit softer, the skiing isn't very passive, with a lot of control. However, the inside arm drops back at the end of the turn, taking the shoulders and hips along with it. On gentler terrain with soft snow, this isn't a liability, and Nolo stays in good balance with excellent flow down the hill.

It's in the second half where being passive hinders progress. The same arm drop causes two interrelated problems:
  1. The inside hand drops back, taking the shoulder and hips with it, causing the tails to wash out. This is exaggerated with the long reach of the pole plant by the outside arm.
  2. The drop of the hand, shoulder and hips causes Nolo to fall into the back seat, getting rid of the balance that's so evident in the early part of the clip.
Now McKinney also dropped her inside hand, without a doubt, and had (especially in GS) a driving outside hand. But even though her inside hand did drop, her shoulder didn't fall back, and neither did her hip. This was in the days before shaped skis, so carving was even more difficult, and she knew that she couldn't let her arms lead her core into bad habits. As she got older and evolved into a slalom specialist, she started to drive both arms forward through the turn, evolving with the (then) new outside-arm gate clearing technique.

Other top skiers have gotten away with letting both the inside hand/arm drop back and the shoulder rotate (the best example being Vreni Schneider, the Swiss SL and GS champion of the early-1990s), but they compensated for this with brute force skiing. Schneider's skiing was often likened to that of a bull muscling its way down the course, forcing carves to happen where they technically shouldn't. This is far from the elegant skiing of McKinney - very far.

Nolo: I'm not saying that you need to over-ski to fit an ideal. As you say, you simply want to correct your rotation problems, and the best drills to get you into this habit often over-exaggerate the needed positions to help you discover a happy median.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is try to touch your pole more to the side than to the front. You are closer to this ideal on the gentler terrain, and that's the best place to start. Even going out 5 to 10 degrees away from the linear axis of your skis will help in this regard, especially on the steeps.

One drill that a lot of young racers do is work on a double pole touch: touching both the outside and inside poles to instigate a turn. This way, your inside hand has to come forward for a pole touch, which will bring your shoulders and hips forward. This drill is done largely to help combat the tendency for kids to rotate while reaching to cross-block slalom gates, as well as to get them forward for the beginning of the next turn. The result is a skiing position that flows with the hill and down the fall line. For recreational skiing it's overkill, but as a learning drill, it can work wonders.

Any thoughts from the other bears on this one?
post #68 of 79
good assessment songfa,

another thought may be the reason nolo did this arm drop and rotation could be to create a turning power (though not ideal) to overcome a turning problem on that particular side. Should her turning power be deprived and no other turning power given to replace it how would she manage a turn? Her symptoms I believe reveal a problem in technique that has a cause related to one of two things.
1) she has turning power inefficiencies needing to replace the upper body rotation with some more efficient lower body stuff or...
2) there may be an alignment issue that is causing the problem?

Certainly taking away her turning power (hands, shoulders, hips rotating) by keeping her hands in front via exercises to the like, and not replacing that turning power with something else could cause havoc for her.

I would first rule out alignment issues then proceed to work on tasks that elicit stronger turning action from the lower legs and pressuring the tips more.
post #69 of 79
Thread Starter 
The terrain is the upper section of Moonlight off the Challenger chair at Big Sky. The pitch is steep, the snow was firm sugar with a few exposed rocks. Here's the entire clip: http://esa.epicski.com/video/joanmoonlight.mpg
post #70 of 79
Songfta,

Great suggestion, it also produces leveling shoulders.
post #71 of 79
Thread Starter 
Haha! For all that may be wrong with this picture, if you turn up the sound, you will hear that I was sure enjoying the run. (I'll have to remember to lock the soundtrack next time I post a video.) Bud, you shaved my left boot that evening, as I recollect. Perhaps the problem isn't so pronounced now, but I confess that I failed Level III my first time for ROTATION!!!!! I went to the Snowbird Race Camp and drew Jens Husted as my coach. The next year I passed Level III at the top of the pack with the comment: Good control of rotation over last year!!! (That was written in 1984.)

I began skiing as a toddler under the wing of my Dad, who traveled once a year to Sun Valley to take lessons. He even took a lesson from Stein once, which earned him some local fame in the ski club. I'm sure shoulder rotation is part of the technical bedrock on which my skiing was built, long ago, back before Songfta was born.

I would do just about anything to overcome this glitch in my skiing. I'll try touching the pole more to the side and double planting, and keep you apprised of my progress.
post #72 of 79
Well, dang it, something happened in the move to my computer and it's behaving rather persnickety, so I still can't view the video clip. But even without I think I can still contribute something here.

Songfta, I'm assuming your comments are quite good in regard to the technical elements of what you're observing, but I would be careful with is classifying it as a passivity problem. When it comes to skiing, aggression is really a state of mind more than a physical expression. Typically, the more aggressive the physical exertion the less efficient the physical application. The pinnacle of efficient skiing is the complete elimination of all unnecessary movements and muscular drains. In other words, less work to produce greater results.

Clearly, Nolo does display a non productive movement pattern through the turn completion and transition. When I observed this in her skiing in the past I did not attribute the existence of this extra curricular activity to passivity. If that were the case her motivation for executing this transitional shoulder swing would be to intentionally throw in a speed check so as to keep velocity at a comfortable level.

Watching all other aspects of her skiing does not lead me to that conclusion. The grace, balance on comfort she displays on her skis conveys absolutely no indication of intimidation to me. I've been coaching a long time, I know the face of fear and intimidation, I can spot it 30 gates away. I can assure you Nolo wears no such face, her skiing beams of confidence. The conclusion I immediately arrived at in her case was that this was merely a technical glitch that has probably been ingrained into her skiing for a long time, and has a very deep home in her muscle memory. Her last post seems to confirm that conclusion.

These early ingrained movement patterns can be real buggers to evict from our technical foundations. Just ask any of us old farts who grew up on straight skis how strange it felt at first to toss out the Stenmark variety knee angulation we'd worked so hard to perfect and replace it with pure hip angulation and parallel shins. As such, I'm not surprised that this transitional glitch has been a rather pesky challenge for Nolo.

Nolo, Songfta suggested a good drill to aid in eliminating the shoulder swing. Another I've found helpful for this is a very simple drill, yet quite effective. I'm sure you know it but I'll throw it out there anyway.

With elbows pushed out laterally away from your body, and hands directly in front of elbows, grasp poles and hold them out in front of you parallel to the ground. Poles should be together with one hand holding both poles close to the baskets, and the other hand holding both poles close the grips.

Now, while keeping your poles always parallel to the ground and perpendicular to the falline (always facing downhill), link a series clean arc to arc GS turns on groomed, moderate terrain. Later, intensify terrain and add balance platform variations.

I've found that skiers who don't have turn transition shoulder swing issues usually get comfortable with this drill very quickly, and those who do supplement transitions with shoulder swings can find this drill infuriatingly difficult and frustrating. I've seen very good racers have their skiing fall completely apart when trying to do this drill because it restricted them from doing the shoulder swing they'd come to rely on so. Guess what drill they spent the next week doing?

Good luck working through this little glitch. I know you're a driven perfectionist (I can relate) and I'm sure you'll get there. Just keep the journey an enjoyable one, no need to over sweat it, your skiing as it stands now is the envy of most on the hill.
post #73 of 79
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Rick. I appreciate you putting my glitch in perspective. Putting oneself in the position of subject for movement analysis is always a bit scarifying, but one thing I've learned in my years of coaching is you will open yourself to advancement when you defy ego and put your skiing out there for criticism. (This applies to any endeavor in which you want to improve.) So thanks to all who contributed to this year's review, which I will worry about all summer and will be anxious to check on snow when winter returns.
post #74 of 79
Thanks All! I've learned a lot from this thread.
post #75 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
Nolo, Songfta suggested a good drill to aid in eliminating the shoulder swing. Another I've found helpful for this is a very simple drill, yet quite effective. I'm sure you know it but I'll throw it out there anyway.

With elbows pushed out laterally away from your body, and hands directly in front of elbows, grasp poles and hold them out in front of you parallel to the ground. Poles should be together with one hand holding both poles close to the baskets, and the other hand holding both poles close the grips.

Now, while keeping your poles always parallel to the ground and perpendicular to the falline (always facing downhill), link a series clean arc to arc GS turns on groomed, moderate terrain. Later, intensify terrain and add balance platform variations.
Nice suggestion, Rick. I'd go even further with it, having Nolo balance the poles on her wrists, like so (overhead rendering):

I'd try this after the drill that Rick proposes. The increased benefit of this drill is that it has very little margin for error.

And you'll see in my rendering that I have the hands more forward. This is a personal preference thing, but I'm more of the school of having straigher arms, with less bend in the elbow. It goes back to the whole "fighter's stance" approach: keep a sold platform, arms out and at the ready.

Going back to the mental vs. physical approaches to being aggressive: I agree that aggression is primarily a mental thing. But the body often reflects what the mind thinks (though there are some "poker face" exceptions, to be sure). In reading Nolo's body language, she seems more sure of herself on the gentler slopes than on the steeps. On the steeps, the tendency to rotate and get back hinders some confidence, in my estimation. Granted, it's just my $0.02, but I believe that conquiring the rotation will help increase inner confidence, in turn making the steeps even more fun.

Additionally, getting and keeping better angles will help Nolo get a lot more performance out of her skis. On soft snow, which is quite forgiving, you can get away with a lot of little technical mistakes and still keep your line, general balance, and so forth. But get on a good hardpack or ice, and the little mistakes are magnified quite a bit. This is where effective balance, good angles and good body movements pay dividends. And confidence plays a big role.

Right now, there is a lot of tail wash at the end of the turns on the steeps, largely caused by rotation that causes the hip to pull away from the hill. Again, on the softer snow in the Rockies, it's not much of an issue. But go east, or on the race hill at Park City, Aspen, Copper Mountain or Lake Louise, or at Timberline early on a summer morning, and the tail washing can result in a sketchy run that does anything but build inner confidence.

There are other things that bother me (and much like you, Rick and Nolo, I'm a bit of a perfectionist), such as the narrow stance that could prevent good edge angles. (And I think that, once the rotation is brought under control, the stance will widen on its own.) But the skiing is relaxed and fluid, which is something that many skiers can't profess to being able to accomplish. Many years of enjoying skiing has certainly built a very fluid style to your skiing, Nolo, and that's something that you shouldn't abandon. But with a little sounder technique and balance, you'll gain even more. I look forward to reading about your progress!

Cheers!
post #76 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
I've found that skiers who don't have turn transition shoulder swing issues usually get comfortable with this drill very quickly, and those who do supplement transitions with shoulder swings can find this drill infuriatingly difficult and frustrating. I've seen very good racers have their skiing fall completely apart when trying to do this drill because it restricted them from doing the shoulder swing they'd come to rely on so. Guess what drill they spent the next week doing?
This was kinda my point too. Until the skier figures out how to replace the old turning power it will be difficult to do the exercise because it takes away the only turning power they know. Treating the symptom rather than the cause. For what it's worth..
post #77 of 79
Thread Starter 
I would demur about "tail wash" and suggest it arises from strongly steering the inside ski to "go there." Remember the terrain was bumped and rocky (thin snow cover).
post #78 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo
I would demur about "tail wash" and suggest it arises from strongly steering the inside ski to "go there." Remember the terrain was bumped and rocky (thin snow cover).
Fair enough, and a good point - I forgot that the northern Rockies were in the thin snow areas this winter. And being able to aim your skis is a crucial skill, so I shouldn't be too critical.
post #79 of 79

My two cents,

Well I figure I might as well wade into this debate as well. No doubt it is as old as skiing itself. The reason the question is hard to answer is becuase of this:

"THERE IS NO CORRECT ARM POSITION!"

Skiing is dynamic, so is our position on the skis and the forces acting on us. As a result our had position is changing as well. What might be right now, may not be a split second later. Atomicman alluded to this by saying the goal is to seek and an athletic stance. I sorta agree, and at the risk of sounding pedantic, I would say the goal is to "maintain an athletic position". Having said that, how does this relate to hand position? Here goes:

Arms/hands in conjunction with your ski poles perform two functions they, help stabilise the upper body rotationally and laterally as well as act as fine tuners to our overall balance. Hence to purely provide lateral and rotational balnce they would work best when as far out to the sides as possible. Think tight rope walker (lateral balance) or figure skater doing spins (wide arms=slow spin, arms tight to chest=quick spin, we dont want spin on skis). However, having said that, we never see top skiers skiing with arms right out to their sides, why not? Well there becomes a trade off.

As mentioned above hands/arms also act as fine tuners to our over all balance. With your arms right out to the sides, any movment up or especially back will cause them to throw your body off balance. Hence they would hinder you. Thus you need to bring them forward somewhat to account for any backward movment that maybe needed. Conversly you need to lower them to account for any upward movment that may be needed.

The final goal is to have your arms and hands in a positon that aids balance, and does not hinder it...keeps you in that elusive but oh so desirable athletic position....hence as wide as possible, but forward and low enough to handle the variability.

Cheers!
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