|with my board nose smearing out at speed. It catches edge fine initially, then smears/slips then catches again briefly, etc.
I'm not quite sure how to interpret this. He's saying the nose of the board. At first thought I this could be classic board chatter but I'm not convinced. He mentions nothing of the board jumping, bucking, or noisey. Might be semantics. I don't think equipment is the issue either but if someone takes the time to put that in a post I'll comment on it. Rusty adds some very astute suggestions/comments. Personally, I need to see the task in action-I'm not getting a good visual from this description.
If board chatter is the issue, locked up lower body would be an area of interest. This would include ankles, knees, and hips. The article below is the angle I'm approaching this from. I don't think the author will mind the repost. It's good material for thought anyway. He brings it up on the new AASI "Focus on Riding" DVD too. Apologies if you've seen or thought about this before.
(to the article author in case he see's this: I was not the one who got spray paint on your garage floor the other week
Bend Your Knees! Bend your Knees?
by Earl Saline
Bend Your Knees! Bend your knees! Bend your knees! Bend your knees! How many times have you heard this phrase? How many times have you used this phrase? And how many times has it achieved the desired effect? "Bend your knees" is one of the most over used phrases I have ever heard. Except for "Dude!", of course. Every day that I am out on the hill, riding around or teaching, I can count on hearing that magical phrase. It doesn't matter what people are sliding on, "Bend Your Knees" seems to carry a certain mystical potency. At least, the person saying it seems to think so. The words possess an all-encompassing power to set everything right. Regardless of the problem, "Bend Your Knees" will fix it. If your student is having trouble balancing as they slide, tell them to "Bend Your Knees". Maybe the person can't make a toe side turn to save their life. "Bend Your Knees" will make them all better. Or, will it?
I believe that this phrase does have a time and place. However, many times we should look a little deeper. I've noticed that when balance is being challenged the first joint in the body to stiffen is the ankle. This is evident at all stages of a snowboarding. This includes the first-timer to the expert. Even when walking ankle flexibility is crucial. When a body starts to move forward, as if to walk, the first joint to bend is the ankle. Without this flexing action it is nearly impossible to walk comfortably. To try this at home, stand up and try walking with rigid ankles. When your ankles lock up, the knees follow suit. And this makes for very awkward walking. Just imagine trying to ride like this.
One of the first points you discuss with students is stance. This is important regardless of equipment. You, no doubt, mention standing in a relaxed, balanced position with the legs bent. The balanced, athletic stance comes from letting the ankles flex, then the knees, and finally the hips. If just the ankles flexed we would fall forward on our faces. The knees flex to compensate for the forward flexion at the ankle. This is to help keep our equilibrium and prevent the face plant from happening. The hips may not show an obvious flex but looseness needs to be present to allow for additional balancing motions as necessary. With the lower body flexible the rider will enjoy numerous options for turning and have an easier time maintaining and regaining their balance.
A person that needs to use their arms and shoulders to turn the board is probably tensing the muscles in their lower body to the point that the upper body must compensate. By flexing at the ankle from the very beginning and maintaining that flexibility the turning forces can be directed to the feet and legs. Since the feet are what are directly attached to the snowboard, this is the most effective way to get the tool to do what you want. Direct action at the point of contact will cause an immediate reaction. Flexion at the front ankle is what allows the front knee to cross over to make a toe side turn. The knee also carries the hip with it to allow the person's center of mass to move in the direction of the new turn. Ankle flexion and hip flexibility allow the front leg to rotate from the toe side towards the heel side and start the heel side turn. Again, the hip is moved by this action into the new turn. These movements are more subtle and efficient than moving big body parts with big movements to create a turn.
A lack of flexion at the ankle on the toe side is usually evident when the rider bends severely at the waist. Consistently railing the board or falling to the inside are other symptoms of ankle lock up. The upper body will try and compensate for lack of lower body flexibility by swinging arms or other gross upper body movements. On the heel side, the ankles still need to be flexible. This allows the rider to adjust edge angle when side slipping, skidding and carving. Breaking at the waist, arm waving, straight legs, falling to the inside are all signs of ankle lock on the heel side. A rider with good ankle flexion will be able to feather the edge when side slipping or adjust edge angle during a turn to cause a skid or increase the edging for a carved turn.
Symptoms and signs of a stiff ankle and lower body can be evident at all levels of riding. In the bumps, a rider that braces on the heel side will most likely get tossed around as their board comes in contact with the down hill mogul. This may show up as a jerky turn from the heel to toe. On the toe side you might notice the rider reaching for the snow a lot. Or, the rider might accelerate through a turn and traverse to slow down and regain their balance. To help this rider take them back a step. If they can already make the short radius turn necessary for bumps try using traverses to reinforce the necessary flexibility. As you ride across the bumps allow your legs to absorb the oncoming mogul and extend the legs as you pass over the top. Foot to foot stability will be key also to allow first the front leg to come up under the body, then the rear leg. As you crest the bump extend the front leg then the back leg. The sensation would be one of pressing the board into the snow. This should be done with a disciplined upper body. The upper body may move but it shouldn't be doing the balancing for you. Once the rider can ride back and forth across the bump field, in balance, have them make medium radius turns in the bumps and gradually funnel the turns down to the desired size. With good ankle and, consequently, lower body flexibility the rider can absorb the terrain and use the feet and legs to turn the board. Riding "Kiddy" trails can be an excellent training ground for bumps also. Allowing your ankles to flex and matching your board to the snow through the trail will not only keep you from being bounced around it will also build that lower body flexibility necessary for good bump and all terrain riding.
An aggressive, all mountain rider will show a lack of ankle flexion by using the upper body to try and force the board to turn. In deep snow sharp, sudden turns and tipping over are good indicators. Soft snow requires a conscious effort to not edge the board too much. The rider may also lose control on steeper slopes because of stiff legs. Reinforce adequate lower body flexibility and turning from the lower extremities. High and Low drills, retraction/ extension exercises, and hop turn drills can help these riders. In the Hop turn focus on landing in a flexed position to enable the rider to absorb the forces and maintain control and their balance. For soft snow play with keeping the upper body on top of the board in longer turns and feeling pressure on the whole foot rather than concentrated pressure on toes or heels. Short turns in soft snow require extension/retraction movements and let the snow and amount of extension dictate how much the board tips. Don't roll into a turn expecting to rail the board as if you were on hardpack. A flatter board floats much better than an edged board.
If the person is a freestyle or pipe rider the most obvious signs are a loss of balance in the air and poor landing success. In either case, reinforcement of board control coming from the feet and adequate flexion at the landing can help these riders. Of course, this is just one element of the total freestyle/pipe riding realm. What I've found is that good fundamental riding skills directly transfer from general free riding to the freestyle realm. Good riding is good riding. The ability to hold an edge (Carving) from one side of the pipe to the other is crucial to get as many hits out of the pipe as possible. Proper body position (Stance) will allow the rider to direct the spin in any direction instead of always spinning front side because they end up facing the nose of the board with the shoulders. Upper body discipline helps a rider maintain balance while flying through the air. A rider "rolling down the windows" is not in balance. They are struggling to get their balance back before they trash themselves. Ankle flexion is key when riding the pipe and jumping so that the rider can leave the ground from a flat board, toe side or heel side depending on the situation. And land appropriately and successfully also.
So, what it all boils down to is this: Keep your (and your students) ankles flexed, let the balancing movements come from the lower body as much as possible, and keep the turning forces in the lower extremities as well. Sound simple? It may, but to bring these elements into your every day riding will take concentration and effort, The reward will be much more efficient and effective riding. Your students will appreciate the effectiveness and you will enjoy the efficiency of smooth, balanced riding. Smile and have fun!