Rotary redux (what it isn't!). . . well, then—back to the relevant discussion! Let’s hope some of the new changes around here will solve some of the issues that have plagued EpicSki of late. I have a few new illustrations and animations to add to the mix, but before I go on, I first want to comment on some of the horrendous misinformation that’s been recently spewed around here.
First of all, and perhaps most importantly, the concept of the “rotary skill” and “steering” has been discussed at EpicSki ad nauseum since before I can remember, yet there remain those who continue to insist on misrepresenting it in order to “argue” against its relevance. Unless it’s due to pure ignorance, this is no more than a disingenuous attempt to discredit those who (rightly) advocate this essential skill of skiing (look up “strawman fallacy” in your Funk & Wagnalls). I’m tired of it, and I regret the need to attempt to set the record straight, yet again.
One more time, folks, for the record: rotary is a skill, not a directive. The Rotary Skill comprises muscular movements about any long axis of the body—legs, spine, etc.—used to actively control the direction the skis point and to manage rotational (“angular”) momentum. Having, developing, or teaching rotary skills DOES NOT imply or mandate twisting the skis, pushing the tails, or any other such skid-inducing activity—although it does enable the skier to do these things when needed. Furthermore, despite the tired refrains of those who think that misquoting or misrepresenting me constitutes “argument,” I have NEVER, EVER said or suggested that we “must” twist or actively (meaning muscularly, with no necessary implication of conscious thought) redirect our skis in turn transitions. I, and many other knowledgeable instructors and skiers here, have often said that we must NOT redirect the skis in pure-carved arc-to-arc turn transitions—which should be obvious. Yet I maintain that developing the ability to redirect as needed (and to recognize when it is needed) remains an essential skill of good skiing.
Second, and related, it is important to recognize that “rotary” comes in several forms, only one of which is properly called “rotation.” Indeed, the reason most instructors emphasize the idea of “leg rotation” so strongly is to avoid the need for the often clumsy and imprecise upper body exertions known as “rotation.” “Rotation” means throwing your upper body (or some part of it) around, then yanking your skis around afterward, in a distinct “1-2” motion. It is a powerful and intuitive way to muscle your skis around. But modern skiing rarely (I did not say “never”) requires such forceful efforts, and modern instruction generally seeks to eliminate rotation as a habit. That is why we teach “leg rotation,” which provides a far more precise and subtle tool for guiding the skis accurately, as needed. With leg rotation (AKA “leg steering”), each leg turns independently in its hip socket, against the pelvis, stabilized by the resistance of the other leg. “Rotation” is a bad habit. “Leg steering” is how to avoid it. It’s the difference between holding the steering wheel of your car to guide its wheels (which, of course, we do even when not turning—I hope!) and trying to throw the whole car around with violent efforts of your upper body. Even if you were big and dumb enough to do that, it would hardly result in a nice, smooth turn! Skiers who fail to develop—or refuse to apply—the skill of leg rotation have only two options—pure carved turns (“railroad tracks”) or grossly twisted, braking skids.
Finally, consider that “rotary” is the skill of developing and managing “torque.” Skillfully applied torque is just as important in preventing unwanted twisting and skidding as in actively steering or twisting the skis into a skid when it is wanted. Again, that’s why it’s usually wise to hold your steering wheel even on the straightaways, and to “countersteer” to stop a skid on ice.
And back to the earlier discussion in this thread, there can be no intelligent debate on the changing effects of rotating about an axis when the angle of that axis changes. That’s why the rotors on helicopters spin on a roughly vertical axis, while the propellers of an airplane spin about a fore-aft horizontal axis. (Duh!) Rotating the legs about their long axes when deeply inclined into a turn clearly produces different effects than rotating them when the skis are flat on the snow. The rotary skill, developed from the very beginning, prepares skiers for the subtle and complex demands of advanced skiing.
To summarize this little rant, I repeat that rotary skill is just that—skill. Turning the skis is one of the only things we can do with them (along with tipping them and influencing the pressure on them), so it is preposterous to suggest that a skier could possibly be “better” by not developing the skill of managing rotary effectively. An essential component of “rotary skill” is knowing when not to apply rotary force. Modern turns generally require minimizing active rotary input to as little as needed to get the job done. In many turns, that may mean none at all. But judiciously and appropriately applying no torque is a rotary skill!
Of course, I could be wrong. Let’s check—here’s a call to ALL instructors out there: do any of you teach that we must twist our skis forcefully into a skid to start a turn, or anywhere else in a turn (unless we’re intentionally braking)? Do any of you advocate pushing the tails out as a fundamental movement for starting basic turns? Come on now, please, speak up! Are there ANY legitimate instructor organizations, anywhere in the world, that teach this anymore? (Only instructors active and current in those associations are qualified to answer this question.) Certainly in the USA, since the mid-1980’s, habitual or intentional pushing of the tails to initiate basic turns would fail a certification exam. Such movements would, at best, fall into the category of “lateral learning”—special movements for special situations.
OK, got that out of my system. If anyone knowingly continues to promote the fabricated lies about what good instructors advocate regarding rotary, I will have very little respect for you indeed. And you will do a disservice to any skier naive and unfortunate enough to pay attention to you. Remember—when you make a fool of yourself on the Internet, you make a fool of yourself before the whole world!