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old dog learning new trick...

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
"stop throwing the ski's tail sideways!"

OK, no one actually scream at me. But a few instructors had said something along that line. And I've been screaming at myself in the head for sometime now...

Basically, this is an old, bad habit carried over from the "good old days" of straight skis. I'm only back on the snow and on shaped skis for 2 seasons. I'm begining to get the joy of carving... that is, when I remember NOT to toss the tail of the ski sideways when they cross the fallline. I've been doing these "windshield wiper" moves so happily for too long that I can't stop myself from doing it!

So I know what I SHOULD do (or actually, what I SHOULDN'T do), but I can't seem to stop myself from doing that sideway tail toss automatically, especially when terrain gets a bit steep or tight (when there's a tree 1/2 mile away, for example). "Waiting for the ski to hook up" doesn't seem to work as easily as said.

As mentioned by one instructor (while working on something else) "focusing on what NOT to do is futal" I need to have something else TO DO, or to focus on, as the edge change.

So, is there any drills that I can work on to get rid of this ingrained movement of "change edge, toss ski sideways"? In other words, a new (hopefully better) habitual movement during (and following) edge change?
post #2 of 16
An old drill (for an old dog's old trick) is "tip-center-tail" with the idea of getting the ski tips to pull the center and tail of the ski along the same line. Focus on the pulling action of the tips to make the pushing action of the tails go away.
post #3 of 16
At,

Here's another drill. Find the widest easy blue trail you can (e.g. Kennedy Drive at Hunter). Practice doing one carved turn to a stop (e.g. start out in a shallow traverse and only tip both skis onto the uphill edge). When you can do this and only leave parallel pencil thin tracks in the snow, start doing progressively steeper starting traverses until you are finishing your turn by going back uphill at least 30-50 feet higher than the low point of your traverse. The next step is to take one of those traverses/one turns, but instead of coming to a stop going uphill, start another turn while still going uphill (say about 10-20 feet higher than the low point instead of going all the way to 30-50 feet to a stop). Start your other turn only by rolling your skis from the "uphill" edges onto the "downhill" edges. Only in this case, because you are mostly going uphill, it will be like rolling from your left edges to your right edges (or vice versa). Going uphill, you will feel less of a need to wash the tails out. If you do wash your tails out at any point, you will lose the pencil thin tracks and lose speed (i.e. your ability to finish a turn going uphill). Remember that as you change edges, you are moving your body forward and to the inside of the new turn.

Once you can make turns like this, you will be more comfortable traveling at carving speeds and you will be more able to trust getting speed control from turn shape later in the turn instead of getting speed control immediately at the fall line from pushing the tails out. There will always be a trail out there that is steep enough or tight enough to force you to toss your skis sideways, but this drill can expand your comfort zone.
post #4 of 16
Nice post Rusty! Another great drill is to face your fear in small but progressively more challenging steps. A progression that works well for this starts with railroad track turns on very shallow terrain (so there is less intrinsic fear). As you get comfortable working the skis in and around the fall line expand that movement pattern into medium radius carved turns. Once you're comfortable allowing the skis to arc nice round turns move to steeper terrain and repeat the process.
Building patience and confidence are the key to all of the drills mentioned. My focus for these drills would be to allow the turns to develop, instead of forcing the skis to come around so quickly.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks Rusty, for the drill. I'll try them when the snow flake starting flying again.

I don't really have a "fear" of the fall line. At least not in the head. What I have, is the unconcious automatic movement from the past of pushing the tail of the ski out. It's not really terrain dependent. It's mostly turn shape dependent. So I can do it at large radius when I focus on it, but have trouble controlling that tail pushing at shorter radius turns. After all, that's how I used to make short (and even medium) radius turns before shaped skis.

So, Rusty's drill might just "do the trick". I can probably start to vary the turn shape as I get better at holding those pencil lines and get the new movement ingrain in my muscles.
post #6 of 16

Fear is not an option

Quote:
I don't really have a "fear" of the fall line.
If you don't, then you should.

I see many students every year who have no conscious fear of pitch, but make defensive movements to manage speed. Instructors may call this fear, but as AT has noticed, it's not a conscious decision in the skier. There are many good reasons for instructors to use the F word among themselves and many times when it's helpful to use the F word with openness and even pride (separate topic) with students. But IMHO not for this problem, at least directly.

Fear of heights is a healthy reflex/survival instinct. If one does not have some amount of fear in dangerous situations, one is not healthy. With skill and experience come a different assessment of how dangerous a situation is. Skiers who don't occasionally test their limits not only miss out on the exhilaration of conquering their fears but also grow complacent about their regular skiing. Testing limits works two ways. Many skiers find it easier to give up defensive movements after experiencing limit testing terrain because the definition of "comfortable" terrain has been expanded. Yet having that memory of fear refreshed can also sharpen ones focus. The value of control is much higher when one remembers what the dangers really are.

Especially in ATs case, where tail pushing is a learned movement from straight ski skiing, solving a "fear problem" is not going to help a lot. On the contrary, I'd suggest creating a fear problem. An essential part of efficient performance in short radius turns is getting the skis to bend. Having more force in turns makes it easier to bend the ski. Having more pitch to the slope makes it easier to generate force in the turns. Finding a slope with enough pitch to make us stop and think twice is the key for the next drill - for AT, but not in general.

The drill is called "hop to shape". In the finish phase of a turn, hop into the air with the upper body crossing over the skis and launching down the slope. Change edges in mid air and land with contact on the ski tips first. Finish the turn only by driving the tips of the skis across the hill. On flatter slopes, the ski shape and the edge angle will help to steer the ski. On steeper slopes, the ski tip will bend significantly more and add to the turning effect. On really steep slopes, the tip bending effect will overwhelm the sensation of the ski shape effect. Please note that this drill is normally introduced on comfortable terrain. The keys to this drill are a soft landing and rounding out the bottom of the turn.

So AT, look for a really steep slope that is smooth (no moguls) and has relatively soft snow. It does not have to be a whole trail, it can be the back side of a snowmaking whale. When you do the drill, take notice of the bend in the ski and the side to side acceleration of the feet relative to the upper body. This is what needs to happen in short radius turns even on "sane" terrain. with so much turning power happening at the front of the ski, if you add tail wagging you will immediately wash out of the turns. You should find that you automatically won't tail wag any more. The goal is to be able to do this without the hopping and getting that tip bend to occur in the part of the turn above the fall line. You may need some different drills to get that to happen, but you'll be ready for them and you will understand:

Fear is not an option - but it should be.
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
The drill is called "hop to shape". In the finish phase of a turn, hop into the air with the upper body crossing over the skis and launching down the slope. Change edges in mid air and land with contact on the ski tips first. Finish the turn only by driving the tips of the skis across the hill. On flatter slopes, the ski shape and the edge angle will help to steer the ski. On steeper slopes, the ski tip will bend significantly more and add to the turning effect. On really steep slopes, the tip bending effect will overwhelm the sensation of the ski shape effect. Please note that this drill is normally introduced on comfortable terrain. The keys to this drill are a soft landing and rounding out the bottom of the turn.
This sounds intrigging, Rusty. But I'm not sure I understand it fully...

Where should I take off for my "hop"? How much twisting of the skis in mid-air? In other words, should my skis pointing downhill, across the hill or somewhere in between when I land from my "hop?

Quote:
look for a really steep slope that is smooth (no moguls) and has relatively soft snow. It does not have to be a whole trail, it can be the back side of a snowmaking whale. When you do the drill, take notice of the bend in the ski and the side to side acceleration of the feet relative to the upper body. This is what needs to happen in short radius turns even on "sane" terrain. with so much turning power happening at the front of the ski, if you add tail wagging you will immediately wash out of the turns. You should find that you automatically won't tail wag any more.
Finding steep trail that's not mogul is going to be hard enough, having soft snow on it (in my "home" of the icy northeast) is goingt to be tough. I'll look for those snowmaking whale tails.

The tail washing out I experience a lot! Especially on hard pack. Not having the rigth "trick up my sleeve", I often end up with a bigger radius turn than I had in mind: going faster or wider to keep the tails from washing out. That's exacty the technique I need to learn to replace the tail-tossing move so I can keep the same tight turn shape without washing out the tail.
post #8 of 16
At,

As you are finishing a turn to your left and you are still on your left edges (i.e. the point where you would normally start to change edges for the next turn), hop into the air, turn your skis to the right and land on your right edges and start turning to the right. You don't have to have your skis pointing to the right when you land (that's an advanced version of the drill), but it's easier if you land with your ski tips pointing either directly down the hill or just slightly to the right. It's kind of like tail wagging in the air! But in this case you want to load up pressure on the ski tips and new edges to get the skis to turn and you won't lose any speed from tail wagging so you will have to lose speed from turn shape.

You should be able to find corduroy first run after a night of snowmaking even in the East.
post #9 of 16
The key to eliminating the tail skid of windshield washer turns is to learn patience in turn initiation.

My favorite drill is turning to one side or the other from a straight run down the fall line by just rolling from flat skis to edged skis. No steering of the feet/skis. You want to see in your tracks that you were going down the fall line and then veered toward the intended direction on two edge lines with no sign of the tails washing opposite of the turn direction. If you can, have someone who knows what you're working on watch your feet to see that you roll and don't twist. You won't believe how much it feels like you're simply rolling, but you're actually including some of that windshield wiper twist.

This ain't easy.

So you start on very shallow terrain, slide downhill, turn, say, left, with the tracks showing just left edge engagements from the straight run. You will want to do this over and over to one side until you experience success repeatedly and then begin on the other direction. Then you want to do it all over again on slightly steepening terrain.
post #10 of 16
Nice varation on RRX maneuvers Neal.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
You won't believe how much it feels like you're simply rolling, but you're actually including some of that windshield wiper twist
!
post #12 of 16
Here's a philosophical drill, just to mix it up a bit. The context is edged traverse. Try to leave two lines in the snow, first by the tails pushing the skis forward, then by the tips pulling the skis forward. Now do the traverse and try to shave a little bit of snow off the slope with the shovels of the skis. Practice until you can leave two lines and do a close shave. How do you accomplish the task, by pulling or by pushing?

I find I have to be a lot more active more subtle to pull the skis vs. to push the skis. I had a coach (Yoda) who called this difference Drive and Coast. Learn to drive and you and your skis can go anywhere with just the right power on the train to keep the caboose on track.
post #13 of 16
From at_nyc:

Quoting me:
You won't believe how much it feels like you're simply rolling, but you're actually including some of that windshield wiper twist




That twist will occur at the very earliest moment of your deciding it's time to start the turning. It's ingrained into your present system. The "harder" you try to avoid it, the more tense you become and the more likely the twist will remain. Think of rolling onto the edges as a relaxation, followed by just enough tension to keep the edges engaged. Also, the more outside-ski-focused you are at initiation, the more difficult avoiding twist will be.
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post
From at_nyc:

Quoting me:
You won't believe how much it feels like you're simply rolling, but you're actually including some of that windshield wiper twist




That twist will occur at the very earliest moment of your deciding it's time to start the turning. It's ingrained into your present system. The "harder" you try to avoid it, the more tense you become and the more likely the twist will remain. Think of rolling onto the edges as a relaxation, followed by just enough tension to keep the edges engaged. Also, the more outside-ski-focused you are at initiation, the more difficult avoiding twist will be.
Well, this may explain why I'm having so much difficulty "getting rid of" the twist.

So, if I think about it, I become tense and twist unconciously? But if I don't think about it, I most automatically WILL twist because that was the learned move. It's kind of a "damn if you do and damn if you don't" situation, isn't it?

I've come to the conclusion replacing "do something" habit with "do nothing" simply isn't working, not for me anyway. Because as much as I think I'm doing nothing, I'm actually just doing the same old twist! Hence, randomly "pratice" doing nothing is just fooling myself.

I need a mental picture of the "roll" that doesn't involve the "twist". Plus a few drills to commit it to muscle memory. I need to shift my focus from "not twisting", which had proved NOT working, to focus on something else that are more productive, e.g. a clean "roll" to get the ski to engage on the new edge.
post #15 of 16
Fanning uphill turns from shallow traverses to more and more down the fall line, as Rusty suggested in post #3, where you already have the edges engaged might be a place to start. I'd do it on greens instead of blues, though, and I'd try to get the same edge engagement by rolling off a flat ski out of the fall line after doing a bunch of the fans. Think fronts of skis going into the turn, like Nolo suggested, rather than tails going out of the turn.

Play with edge uses. Ride edges across a hill and see how the tracks want to curve. Try to make the pencil lines while keeping the skis pointed all the time at some fixed object on the other side of the slope, so that you make straight lines instead of curved ones. Step uphill and back downhill while traversing with the object target maintained.

Spend some time on shallow terrain in a tuck moving your hips gradually to a side to create edge engagement and then gradually back across to the other side to feel changes of edges without the twist of the legs. Now go back to turning out of the fall line on almost flat slopes to see if you can get the pencil lines with no tail wash.
post #16 of 16
I like to find a part of the mountain that allows for moving from an almost-flat green to a fairly shallow blue. I help my students make very clean RR tracks on that flat green terrain. We do it enough that they are really laying down clean arcs with no twist. Then, we allow the speed to build and drop onto that slightly steeper blue, simply expanding the movements to allow for the greater tipping necessary at the higher speeds and forces. Taking a gentle movement into steeper terrain helps you to feel when the movements change and that twist comes back in.
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