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Starting turns

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I've taken two advanced-intermediate group lessons recently in an attempt to figure out carving rather than old-style turns (poor grad students, couldn't afford private) and have gotten more confused from seemingly conflicted instructions.

The first instructor argued we should start turns with the outside ski slightly forward than the inside ski, and then tip (didn't clarify how) and we'd end up doing the turn.

The second instructor started with balance (skiing on alternating leg in a gentle hill), then using body angulations to start turns, and eventually telling us to start a turn (supposedly carved) by "closing the ankle" so the leg presses against the front of the ski boot, and that's somehow supposed to start the turn in combination with the angulation. He told us to use the inside ski to steer (that's why the balance) even though these are supposed to be carved turns, and also that we shouldn't start with the outside ski further out.

In the summer, when I read one of Harb's carving books, the focus was on all kind of exercises to tip both skis at the same time by lateral motion of the leg even on the flats or when perpendicular to the fall line, something that I just don't manage to do on snow without slipping when going through the flats. My impression was that turning means edging both skis at the same time from the flat, or in a transition from the other edges, all with lateral motion.

So, how do I really start turns? My feeling is that there's probably a tiny wedge before my turns start. I haven't been on good groomed snow, but I don't think I make those razor-thin tracks in the snow when I turn.l
post #2 of 8
Not having seen you ski I'm going to make some assumptions, that you are in a relaxed athletic stance, that you are not sliding your uphill ski/center of mass up the hill at the start of the turn, and that you are not trying new moves on terrain that you are not totally comfortable on and will put in the time to own the move once you feel it. Because you want to change your skiing be aware if it feels scary/weird/different the first time you try it you're probably doing it right.

First, think about how you walk. walking in a straight line turn left and notice how you do it. If you are like most people you will plant your right foot then twist the left foot to the left. Notice the first thing to actually turn is the new inside (left) foot. Notice further that as you are doing this you are shifting your weight to stand on the new inside (left) side of both feet.

So how to do this on skis? Let's work the steering first. Do a traverse while holding up your uphill ski. Then try a traverse twisting your uphill ski uphill. If you are like most people it will be next to impossible to not turn uphill. As you feel what muscles you need to use to turn your leg, try turning your downhill ski downhill on a slope you find comfortable. Making that change should eliminate the wedge you feel, as well as shorten up your turn radius enough to help control your speed on steeper terrain keeping you out of a defensive stem.

The next half of the question is how to tip the skis. Find a long shallow catwalk. Standing pointing straight down the catwalk flex your ankles. If you visualize the top of your boot as the face of the clock and the tips of your skis are 12:00 you should now be pushing your shins towards noon (or midnight, if you prefer) roll your shins to the right till they are pushing towards 2:00, roll back to 12:00, roll your shins to the left till they are pointing towards 10:00 then back to 12:00. I don't care if you are pushing your knees, thrusting your hips, moving your bellybutton, moving your shoulders diagonally, You can stick your tongue in the indicated directions and if it's heavy enough to move your balance point such that your shins roll across the tongues of the boots they all work. I personally find it less complicated to just think "Flex my ankle to push the cuff of the boot". Once you figure out your key to rolling your shin across the tongue of the boot start sliding along the shallow cat walk while slowly rolling your shins from 2:00 to 10:00 and back. Congratulations! If you picked a shallow enough catwalk that you can resist the temptation to twist your feet, you just made carved turns.

Lets put it together. On a totally unintimidating slope we're going to turn as if we're walking. Going across the hill shift your weight onto your uphill foot. As your weight shifts to the uphill ski start to turn your downhill ski tip down the hill. As soon as your downhill ski starts turning roll both your shins down the hill. If you have chosen your hill well you should have just made a pretty decent turn. Keep practicing until you can preform all three moves (weight shift, twist, and roll) at the same time. As it feels more natural start eliminating the weight shift, or the twist, or the roll, and I'll bet you'll still make fun turns. Your homework is to try it and figure out how to use the resulting changes in the shape and type of turn to your advantage in varying pitch and snow conditions.
post #3 of 8

There is no spoon and there is no turn


When there are a lot of different ways to get from here to there, you are bound to run into advice that is in apparent or actual conflict.

So, how do I really start turns?
There is one approach that says there are no movements required to start turns. All you need to do is continue the movements that were used to complete the previous turn. This is not 100% true, but it works a lot better than most advice to start your turn by doing "x". This approach is especially true about tipping the skis. Many intermediate skiers increase their amount of edge angle after passing through the fall line. Expert skiers start decreasing their edge angle so that the start of the new turn is a smooth continuation of the finish of the old turn. Although this does not resolve your dilemma, it hopefully adds some perspective.

With respect to your impression about lateral movement, it may be more helpful to use the made up term "fore-agonal". We need to get the body from the inside of the old turn to the inside of the new turn. This is the lateral part that you're thinking of. But we also want to get weight forward to add extra pressure to the ski tips to get them to "engage" better on the new edge. This forward movement also helps us to get ahead of the skis so that when they accelerate in the fall line we don't get forced into the back seat. When you combine the forward and the lateral movements, you get a diagonally forward move - aka "fore-agonal". This results in the 2:00 or 10:00 boot cuff pressure that Dave refers to.

There are different ways to get fore-agonal movement, but the most common way for carved turns is an extension of the new outside leg and ankle combined with a bending of the new inside leg and ankle. These moves shift the hips to the inside of the new turn while keeping them the same height off the snow (instead of popping up and down or tilting to the inside of the new turn). From the first instructors perspective, if your hips are aligned with the line between your (separated) ski tips (i.e. focusing on the outside tip ahead may naturally get you to position your hips in a "countered" position - or turned in a direction different from the direction of travel) and you try to tip the new inside ski then you will get the fore-agonal movement. From the second instructors perspective, pressure on the inside ski tip will engage the inside ski and get it turning so that is leads or draws the outside ski into the turn as well. Body angulation helps to get the body to the inside of the new turn more effectively. Both instructors are trying to get you to the same end result via different paths.

Did you see the movie "The Matrix"? In it the Oracle character says "exactly what I needed to hear". On his second visit to the Oracle, Neo asks why she had not told him something vitally important and her reply was "you weren't ready". In lessons, especially group lessons, instructors often need to simplify "the truth" into only what the students "need and are ready to hear". This can enable short term progress at the expense of long term confusion, unless there are subsequent visits to the Oracle when one is ready. Like Neo, when you get confused, you need to ask the Oracle why questions to get cleared up, but it's only your experience since the first visit that gives you the ability to ask those questions.
post #4 of 8
A lot of halfs here adding up to a misunderstanding.

If you use leg steering to work an engaged ski the result will be a countered position and some tip lead through the end of the turn. If you are starting a new turn at that point guess what, the new outside ski will be ahead until the body uncoils from the countering that has occured. Releasing the old turn means getting the outside ski flat, then moving past flat (and tipping that ski into the new turn) engages the new edges. No skid is necessary. If at that point you use leg steering to guide the skis in the new direction you will again start creating a countered position in the other direction. Shufling the feet interferes with this naturally occuring phenomenon.
post #5 of 8
Some people find the concept of leg steering difficult to implement as a conscious movement. You may find it easier to think about letting the skis finish the turn while not having the upper body stay turning with the skis. As the skis/legs turn more than the upper body, a countered position is created. It does not matter whether you think about turning the legs more or the upper body less. What does matter is not turning your feet relative to your legs. That kind of steering causes the wedge.
post #6 of 8
Usually turning the legs involves a descriptive phrase that will trigger the proper movements. Steer the horse with your knees, point your kneecaps to the trees on the side of the hill, then the other side. It really doesn't matter what phase you use as long as they get the idea of the legs working underneath a stable (yet not static) torso. In my experience when I mention counter rotation and what that involves I get a lot of the torso turning in opposition to a little movement in the legs. Which is why skiing into a countered stance is such a hard concept. I find the focus on turning the legs simpler and easier to grasp for most of my students.
post #7 of 8

The question is are you starting your turns by turning your skis to an edge, or flatting your skis, lifting your skis to a new edge and then turning on your edges?? Many skiers do the first one, which is why the skis don't really engage until the fall line or after. Good diagional movement (lateral), releases the old turn and then reengages the downhill edges of the skis, so the skis are carving at the beginning of the turn (and all of the way through it).

post #8 of 8
Try a different approach.
--Make some traverses on your ski edges. Check your tracks that you are not slipping at all, just two sharp tracks.
--during the traverse, using only effort in the ankle of your uphill foot (inside the curve) tip that ski to the little toe edge. Tip it continuously more and more. Do nothing with the rest of your body except balance. Tip lead is not a virtue. If your tips are about even across, that's good. Your two sharp tracks will curve uphill more.
--If your weight is back on your heels, stop it! Keep your feet under you, which feels like they're behind you. Pull your inside foot back strongly continually through every turn and traverse.
--During a traverse, practice riding on one ski as long as possible, then switch to the next as long as possible.
--Traverse, slightly lift the downhill foot, ride on the little toe edge of the uphill foot for a very short time, then, keeping the old downhill foot very light on the snow, tip that foot way over to its little toe edge. Tip it more and more as the turn progresses. Keep it very light on the snow and keep it pulled back. Just balance with your upper body.

If you've done this on a gentle slope on soft snow, you'll have only sharp carved tracks in the snow except for a very short space at the transition. Feel for that locked-in feeling of your edge. Let the turn come to you. Don't try to make it happen. Don't steer the ski the way you want to go. Let the sidecut of the ski turn you.

When you've got this working, increase things gradually. You want to increase the angle of the skis on the snow as the turn progresses so they can handle the added force of gravity plus centrifugal force pulling against you. Keep tipping the inside foot to more and more of an angle. Don't use knee angulation unless you've got a grudge against your knees. Keep the outside leg near-straight.

To end one turn and begin the next, simple relax that outside leg that's holding 90% of your weight. That leg is still nearly straight, right? Just let it relax. Your weight will be carried on the little toe edge of your old inside ski. Tip the old outside/new inside ski to its little toe edge, flex and retract it to keep it very light on the snow, and allow the new outside leg to lengthen. Do not force the big toe into the snow. Do not force the new outside leg out. Do not drive the knees into the turn. Your momentum will pull your body across your skis and put them on their other edges with no effort from you except relaxing that old outside leg and tipping that foot. Counter with your hips very early in the turn--twist the inside hip forward and hold it forward for the full duration of the turn--while pulling the inside foot back. You want your zipper to face your outside ski from the very beginning of the turn to the very end, then switch sides at the next transition. Angulate (counterbalance) with your upper body, don't incline into the turn. Bend at the waist and in the spine so your position is balanced over your outside ski.

I'm trying to describe the fundamentals used here and here.
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