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Creating and detecting counter on the snow

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I got out on the snow for the first time last weekend. My skiing felt so good, I was excited about all the things I had planned to change over summer and I was definitely doing. I took some video. I watched the video. My skiing didn't change so much as I thought.

I was sure I was skiing much more forward (I was, yay).
I was sure my stance was much more functional (it was, but I still have work to do especially at transition).
I was sure I was counter-balancing enormously (it's barely detectable, but there).
I was sure I was counter-rotating some, which would have been a huge shift (I wasn't at all, oops).

If it helps, the video is here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=z1qhW7IyUWU

So here is the root of my question: How do I develop counter rotation when I'm on the snow? The other items I was working on I can feel to a greater or lesser degree, and I think I can continue to progress there over the course of the season. On the counter rotation, I tend to have static hips and rotate at the shoulders to face down hill, or not at all, depending. Does anyone have some exercise suggestions for developing this conter on the snow? In particular I'm looking for an exercise that gives immediate feedback when I'm NOT countering. Something I can see or feel that will cause me to stop drilling on bad habits that I don't see until I review the video later.

I was in Bud's shop working on my boots, and brought this up. He said, "That's not counter, THIS is counter," and grabbed my hips, twisting them while I stood in my simulated ski position. Wow, talk about feeling all wrong. Being able to balance in that position is going to take work.

Thanks for any suggestions,

post #2 of 21
Adam, can you help understand the results that you hope to get from counter-rotation? What is your motivation for developing it?
post #3 of 21
First, understand that counter and counter-rotation are not the same thing. I think that what you are lookig for here is counter. Second, understand that the degree of counter that is appropriate varies with turn size. In short turns more, in long turns less. It would be god to have more counter than you do have in this video for the size turn you are making.

One exercise that will give the feeling Bud gave you (if you are doing it) is a Pivot Slip. Somewhere on this site, there is an animatio of Ric Reiter doing a pivot slip. If you look at it, you will see that his hips are always facing down the hill as his skis turn underneath him. This is an exercise that will hopefully unlock that for you. If you want extra feedback on wether you are developing counter or not, you can hold your poles on your hips so that they are pointing forward and letting you know where your hips are pointed. Once you have unlocked the pivot slip, you can start to add edging and work it into a short radius turn.

Here's a link on how to Pivot Slip - http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=8290
A lot easier than reinventing the wheel.
post #4 of 21
Here's the classic pivot slip exercise:

You are correct, Adam, that you currently show almost no sign of creating this kind of counter in your video.

First note the relationship of Ric's feet to his hips and shoulders. One way to begin feeling the way he looks in the animation (one of Bob Barnes's many contributions) is to do vertical sideslips while working on holding those relationships relatively steady.
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
I started to work on the pivot slips some last weekend, and I know that my hips are turning with the skis. I will try to secure the poles to the hips to try and give immediate feedback as to how much, if any, counter I'm creating. That's really what I'm looking for; metrics that will let me know whether my practice is being done properly.

I can see what a proper pivot slip looks like in the example, but it's hard to see how closely I'm able to approximate that when on the hill. It's not until I get off the hill to review video that I see that I'm not doing it at all.

post #6 of 21
Think about viewing the video on your ride up to get a flavor of changes you are (or aren't!) making.

Note that Ric's hips move almost not at all. Instead, his legs rotate within the sockets of his hips. This is a very important distinction. If you want to feel this a bit more, play with these movements on dry land. You can use paper on a carpeted floor or (dry!) socks on a hard floor. Put your hands on your hips and pivot your feet without moving your hips. Practice this!

Then, try it on-snow without skis. Make bow ties with your boots (out of your skis) with your hands on your hips. Again, no hip movement. All movement of your femurs in your hip sockets causing your feet to turn.

I have done this with a class near the top of a trail, then taken it right onto our skis in pivot slips and/or turns. Play with it!
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ssh View Post
Adam, can you help understand the results that you hope to get from counter-rotation? What is your motivation for developing it?
I have to admit a large part of the motivation is being told it is the right thing to be doing.

I have started this season trying to make a turn that engages in the high-C part of the turn, but is not a carved turn. The hope is to create a complete and round turn for speed control that I can use in tighter spaces and over variable terrain. In reviewing the video I'm still seeing more tails sliding down rather than tips steering up than I am aiming for in the turns. My belief is that developing counter will help eliminate the hip movement patterns that are contributing to this issue.

post #8 of 21
Certainly, developing an ability to rotate your legs (and thus your feet) will help with your goal.

Keep in mind, though, that engaging at the top of the turn without carving is probably not what you mean... "engaging" usually means to begin to ride an edge. If you do that at the beginning of the turn, and try to also drift the skis, you'll be in trouble: your skis will want to drift downhill, but that's the edge that's engaged at the top of the turn!

So, think more about riding a flatter skis around the top part of the turn into the fall line and being patient as they drift into gravity. You can continue those movements until you begin to finish the turn and begin the next one.
post #9 of 21
Look at Ric's feet. The heel of the downhill boot is about at the outside width of that leg's shoulder while the tip of the uphill boot lines up with that leg's shoulder. Note also that the hips do rotate slightly. If you try to hold the pelvis completely ridgid, you'll be too stiff to allow the leg/foot turning.

You can get kind of a feel for the movements if you put two pieces of paper on the floor and twist your legs/feet simultaneously while standing on them.

If you watch the snow coming off Ric's skis, you'll see it's from both skis as the pivot completes. They're pretty close to equally weighted.

These all are things to keep in mind while practicing.
post #10 of 21
Effective counter requires separation between the upper body and the lower body. What is being separated is mobility from stability. The mobility we want in our legs, and the stability we want from our pelvis core and trunk. So next time out try really tensioning the core muscle by sucking in your belly button towards your spine. Then add to this a little rounding of the back as you might get from a slight abdominal crunch. Let the arms reach wide and froward as you ski. really exaggerating this upper body tension may go along way towards allowing more mobility to happen in the legs and feet. Consciously create the stability that will allow the mobility to happen. Separateness in harmony. Don't forget to breath.

As it starts to work and your turns feel more natural allow the tension to ease into a functional tension that feels alive and in control but still gives you the ability to move and function effectively with flow.

Sometimes it helps to come at a problem from the opposite side of the equation. So try working on the stability as well as the mobility.
post #11 of 21
It might be helpful to revisit what a countered stance is and how we develop it in a turn.
It is the result of turning the legs. To get a feel for this stand on a pole or use the top of your toe piece. Place your foot on the pole so the pole is under your arch. Pivot the leg so the toe goes in as the heel goes out. Allow the whole leg to rotate along it's long axis. If you do this with both legs simultaneously you will notice some lead will develop. Since no one said turn the torso the result of the movement is the torso and the knees do not face the same direction. On skis we ski into this position, we do not force it by turning the torso one way and the feet another. Detecting it is just a matter of conciously feeling the tension created within the body as the legs turn beneath the body.
post #12 of 21

As someone mentioned above we should make sure first that you understand the difference between a "countered position" and "counter rotation". One is a position arrived at by turning the feet under the torso, the other is a turning power that involves simultaneously turning the shoulders one direction while turning the feet the other. Imagine sitting on a bar stool. Now, simultaneously turning your shoulders to the right and your feet to the left you will have counter rotated. Conversely, to feel the counter we are talking about here, you would stand with each foot on it's own bar stool and turn your feet to the left or right and notice the torso remaining stationary while the feet and legs turn under the hips. This is a more powerful and versatile way to turn the skis. This is what pivot slips require to work and when done correctly create counter. (see Ric's pivot slips) This turning one leg against the other is called "fulcrum" turning and is a key to developing efficient skiing.

You mentioned in my shop that these were very difficult and awkward for you to do. BINGO. That's the point. Practice these until you can do them effortlessly and you will have no more issues with the lack of appropriate counter in your turns. Don't give up on them and don't worry about feeling or looking awkward, they will come and you will get it!

We will have to meet in a bar sometime and dance on bar stools!
post #13 of 21
Originally Posted by abertsch View Post
I started to work on the pivot slips some last weekend, and I know that my hips are turning with the skis. I will try to secure the poles to the hips to try and give immediate feedback as to how much, if any, counter I'm creating. That's really what I'm looking for; metrics that will let me know whether my practice is being done properly.

I can see what a proper pivot slip looks like in the example, but it's hard to see how closely I'm able to approximate that when on the hill. It's not until I get off the hill to review video that I see that I'm not doing it at all.


You have developed a number of skiing's fundamentals well!

One of those is a stable upper body.
Another is moving upper body parts in the direction of the next turn.

It is time to move (IMO) one of these strengths into you lower body: moving lower body parts in the direction of the next turn.

You are on the right track because I can see that between the two video segments, the second one shows these movements toward the next turn being present in/beginning with your hips as well as torso/shoulders/arms (which is where they are most present in the first segment).

Try getting them (movements toward the next turn) into your knees & ankles as well. It's far easier to experience this on flatter terrain first.

When a skier gets the sequencing of movements to start lower, closer to the snow, the skis begin to do more of the work and it will feel more natural to let the upper body stay directed instead of getting involved in turning the skis.

One thing that is working against you right now is that your skis are not flat before you seek to begin turning them toward the next turn, that is why your body wants to use upper/body hips to begin these movements toward the next turn, because it can sense the resistance and employs larger body mass/parts to overpower the resistance of the skis.

Getting those movements (toward the next turn) will decrease the resistance your body senses and it will be able to adjust.

You can work on this stuff by using pivot slips. IMO, focusing on creating counter with your upper body, though it could work over time, would not get you to your goal so directly.

Hope this makes some sense.

Good luck.
post #14 of 21
You have gotten some good feedback above.

I am going to support the direction Roto is guiding you. I always look for the 'biggie', that one thing that if you change it, all others will more easily change as well.

The biggie I see for you is your 'order of movement'.

You try to start your next turn with movements of the new outside foot/leg (first) before releasing your previous turn (second).
This then promots a domino effect of resorting to less efficient and less effictive compensating movments go get the turn done.

Where you will gain the most benifit is by focusing on learning to roll the new inside foot over to release the edge of the downhill ski first (ending the previous turn). Your habits are working against you on this so I advise that you seek some direct instruction to get guidance so you can be sucessful in aquiring this major movement change. Just trying to move that lead foot sooner will only result in a 'sooner second' but no true change in your order of movement, and ultimately limit your potential.

Order of movement is becoming recognised as a fundamental cornerstone of contemporary technique to take full advantage of modern shape skis.
Until you adopt this fundamental change, you could be limited to skiing with compensating movements of limited potential.
post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 
By virtue of taking a part time job instructing beginners I'll have access to a much higher quantity of high quality ski instruction this season. It's really a win-win. Hopefully I can make some of the above improvements before the bad habits are too set in stone.

Arcmeister, you're obviously on to something here. When I try to accelerate the movments in order to make a quick and snappy turn it becomes clear that the new inside foot is lagging the new outside foot. I was really noticing this last weekend. I'll be getting coaching, but they may or may not choose this as a focus. If I want to continue to work on this in my free skiing is the best approach just to slow everything down and focus on initiating the turn by releasing the old outside ski (now downhill) and even making a slight 'O' shape with the legs and let this new inside ski/foot pull me in to the turn?

I'll ask for some exercises in this area on-snow this weekend as well. Thanks,

post #16 of 21
The best thing you can do is spend a bunch of your free ski time skiing gentle terrain and developing a feel for standing on both feet at the point you're beginning to change edges and then focusing on engaging the outside edge of the new inside ski in the snow. The other foot already knows what to do and will follow.
post #17 of 21
Right in with Kneales advice, actively release the extension tension of the downhill leg (shorten it) to release CM sooner to flow thru transition, and enable that foot to roll first. This is the opposite of keeping the downhill leg long and lengthening the uphill leg to match it in transition (huck over).

Have fun exploring.... arc
post #18 of 21
I'd also suggest playing with how your hips move to see if you can release that old outside ski primarily through those movements. Just a bit of an experiment...
post #19 of 21
I'd be careful about focus on hip movements. I think it's fine to--in Arc's wonderful description--allow--the hips to move in response to what you're doing with your feet, but I don't think it's a good idea to make the hips move and have that affect the feet or any other part of the system.

So, to me, the focus on the hips should be that you loosen up enough to let the pelvis move as part of flowing with turns.
post #20 of 21
I think Steve is refering to an awareness of where the hips are and how they move into a turn caused by relaxing the extension tension or any other means?
post #21 of 21
It seems to me that awareness of the core is vital, and the hips are an important reference point, as well. I'm very much aligned with the concept of "allowing" much of a turn to occur, but also am aware that the "allowing" implies a number of things happening so that those changes can result.
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