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pivot slips

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Jan 30, 2008

Hi Ski Gods/Goddess:

I have been hearing about pivot slips for the last 2-3 years. Strange after 20+ years of lessons, this is one "technique" which I have either not been introduced to or just clean forgot about and/or discarded as being unimportant.

Last weekend, during my periodic lesson at my home mountain, I was presented with this drill in preparation for future "advanced mogul" techniques. The coach said that Mermer Blakeslee maintains that the pivot slip is one of four moves which she wants skiers taking her PowerLearn Ski Clinic to master. I have also heard our own Bob Barnes state the importance of this move as well (he is the coach, as well as KevinF, I first "recall" mentioning it).

I can see that pivot slips helps develop balancing skills, correct upper body orientation (including the hips) as well as promoting a "deft" touch in one's skiing, however, (a) what is the importance of negotiating a narrow corridor of about one ski length? (b) beyond what I've already said about the pros of the pivot slip, what is the importance of this move in advance/expert skiing in general i.e. why does this move help skiers advance in their skiing skills? (c) To master this move, is this a "mileage" thing? It is not a "fun" drill, although, I now do 2-3 runs a ski day pivot slipping. Is this enough? I ski about 4 days a week. How would one make it more interesting? Should I do it on a steep or gentle slope? I've been doing it from top to bottom of the mountain, where the top is steep and it gradually flattens out at the end. How do I know when I've mastered or at least correctly performing this drill?


post #2 of 4

Slip Fast, Pivot Slow!

Hi Charlie--

Yes, I do think that pivot slips are a great drill, for many reasons. That doesn't mean just any version of slipping down the hill and twisting the skis will do, though. Good pivot slips are a very specific drill involving refined and distinct movement patterns through a wide range of motion, as well as a high level of what Weems would call "touch." Like many things, many people who think they do them well actually don't understand them at all! Ask any instructor who has tested for full certification in the Rocky Mountains how easy they are. Pivot Slips both reveal a skier's skill development and biases, and provide a great tool for refining many movements critical for high-performance modern skiing in everything from powder and bumps to railroad track pure-carves.

Pivot Slips, as I define them (click here), isolate rotary movements entirely from the legs turning in the hip sockets, with no involvement of the upper body (as in "rotation" or "counter-rotation"). There can be no pushoff from the snow--no "1-2" stepping or stemming, no edge sets or "platforms" to help initiate the pivot. The skis pivot underfoot--no pushing tails out. That pretty much rules out the ingrained movement patterns of many skiers!

Pivot Slips require highly refined edging skills, with the ability to balance on slipping (edge-released) skis throughout the maneuver (both pivot and sideslip phases). Sensitivity and fine muscle control in the feet and ankles are paramount--as is proper boot setup and canting.

Good fore-aft balance and refined "leverage" (adjusting pressure along the length of the ski) are vital to making the skis perform as needed for this maneuver. If you lever forward against your boot cuffs, you will not be able to do them. Indeed, for habitual forward levered tail pushers (many skiers), a good drill for learning to pivot the tips down the hill (start of the pivot) is the free-stylers' "tail butter" move--exaggerated leaning back and pressuring the tails of the skis allows the tips to smear down the hill easily. To do pivot slips well, you must be as familiar with and unbiased in your use of both ends of your skis as snowboarders are with the left and right ends of their boards!

Pivot Slips are not "a technique." They involve and demonstrate many of the skills and technical elements that are critical in good skiing. Many of the parameters--including the goal of confining the maneuver to a narrow corridor--are there simply to enhance the technical requirements and to increase the technical refinement needed to perform the maneuver. Consistently maintaining that corridor is not an easy task--made even more difficult when performed across the fall line or along a changing fall line. It easily separates the true virtuoso from the pretendors, and provides a clear target and self-test for personal improvement. Great skiers can do it; most cannot!

In my opinion, the greatest contribution pivot slips make to good skiing is their relevance to the transition phase of linked, offensive turns. Carved or brushed, from long turns with no active rotary to aggressively steered short-radius turns in moguls, the signature of modern turns is the edge release at initiation. And that is what pivot slips are all about! Comfort and balance on released edges, with the ability to both hold the skis in one direction (sideslip phase) and to guide them at any chosen rate (pivot phase) demand extreme precision, optimum, functional stance, and refined rotary, edging, and pressure management skills. The entire maneuver takes place in what I call "neutral"--a stance committed to nothing, but ready for anything, that is the essence of the moment of edge release in linked, offensive turns. Inherent in (properly done) pivot slips is the edge release, balance, tension, pressure distribution, and alignment (tip lead, with hips and upper body countered to the direction of the skis) of the initiation phase of modern turns. Mastering pivot slips and integrating the lessons learned will, better than any other exercise I know, bring to your turn transitions a new level of effortlessness, flow, accuracy, and versatility.

While pivot slips themselves most obviously resemble the edge release and active guiding of the tips downhill and into the new turn of tight, complete turns in moguls, the principles are the same in the transition even of long-radius railroad tracks. Even the most extreme high-edge-angle high-g-force pure carved turns must begin--and end--in "neutral" with an edge release. The range and muscular activity of leg rotation in the hip sockets is exaggerated in pivot slips, but like the front wheels of a car, the principles remain the same no matter how much or how little you turn the steering wheel in different situations.

The one thing I would emphasize to make pivot slips most relevant to "real" skiing is to practice turning the skis as slowly, deliberately, and consistently throughout the 180 degree pivot as possible. Don't just jerk them around. Use refined, sustained guiding movements. rather than harsh, ballistic movements. If you're really good, you should be able to stop the pivot, even reverse it and pivot the other way, at any point, at will, all while continuing the unimpeded sideslip down the corridor.

Practice variations--fast, slow, taller, shorter, narrower stance, wider stance. Try slipping diagonally backwards down the hill before initiating the pivot. Try exaggerating the activity of the "inside" leg (right leg when pivoting right) by keeping the tips constantly diverging (not easy). Explore different pressure/balance points--under the toes, the heels, and the middle of the foot--to find what works best. (I find that a point just forward of my heel is the ideal "neutral" balance point for pivot slips.)

Pivot Slips are not "skiing," but practicing them--and their many variations--will make you a better skier!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #3 of 4

Bob hinted at answer to your last question.
How do I know when I've mastered or at least correctly performing this drill?
One concept that works for most drills is that if they feel difficult to do, then you're not doing them right. Once a drill feels easy to do and the resulting moves are smooth and in balance, you're probably doing it correctly.
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Jan 30, 2008

Hi theRusty:

Thanks for you're response and tip. I did the pivot slip on Limelight, Fanciful and the green slope with the slow 4 person chairlift. Sometimes I did it smoothly, others, not so smooth. I see this as a long term thing maybe spanning 2-3 ski seasons.

Hi Bob:

Thanks for uour detail explanation as well as the manual for the PSIA Rocky Mountain exams. I still wonder why I've never heard of this pivot slip business after all the lessons and clinics I've been in the past 20 years. As I've stated above, this seems to be a long term project.

Again, thanks for your responses and help.

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