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How to avoid being a backseat skier?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi,
I hope this is the right forum to ask...

I notice that I stuck in the backseat of the ski (feeling my calves pushing against the boots) too often. I do notice that & would immediately tell myself to correct and get back to the front.

I suspect my boot may have something to do - will seek advice of a bootfitter once I can get to a location that has one

But, in the meantime, is there a trick/exercise/drill that can help get rid of this bad habit?

thanks!
post #2 of 19
Hobieboy, nothing wrong with posting in the beginner zone, but I'd like to give the pros a shot at this.

Thanks.
post #3 of 19
Hi Hobieboy!

A suggestion that I like to give to a student in the backseat is to ski like they're holding a quarter between their butt cheeks. It might sound crude, but it usually helps to get their hips a little more forward.

A drill that works well with this is to go to the beginner slope and have them ski down the hill backwards. You have to really stay forward on your skis to do this, and they can usually transfer that forward sensation when you turn them back facing down the hill.

Hope this helps!
post #4 of 19
Hi Hobieboy--

From your description, it's impossible to tell what's going on. Your "backseat" thing could be anything from a boot setup issue to...not a problem at all! (Those boot backs are there for a reason, and contacting them, or even pushing against them at times, is not necessarily a problem.)

Ironically, it's even possible that your attempts to be "in the front seat" could be causing the problem. Whenever you press against the fronts of the boot cuffs, remember that they push you back. Many skiers find themselves thrown into the back seat regularly because they "live" pressed up against their boot tongues.

But without more information, I'm afraid I can't be more specific.

When, specifically, do you feel pressed against the backs of your boots? Which part of the turn? What sort of terrain or conditions?

What happens when you feel the "backseat" pressure (besides attempting to "correct" it)?

What are you trying to get your skis to do in the first place?

Any information might help. But again, simply feeling the backs of your boots now and then is not, in itself, a problem!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #5 of 19
Going a step further (although it may not be relevant to your situation), I will say that it is an unfortunate and highly misleading myth that skiers should always be forward on our skis. The myth comes in many forms: "balance on the balls of your feet," "press constantly against your boot tongues," "drive your knees forward," "don't let your hips go behind your feet," "keep your femurs vertical," and many more--all are things you will hear as "advice" being thrown around on the slopes (and in skiing forums).

Here's an image--one of many that I've posted here previously--that clearly shows an outstanding skier violating the "conventional wisdom" of always staying forward:



Please draw your own conclusions!

Best regards,
Bob
post #6 of 19
Hobieboy, I can add to this one.

Bob is right that it is difficult to tell you exactly what is wrong without skiing with you but, I can add a different perspective.

I can verify that those myths about always being forward and going onto the balls of the feet to start a turn are not necessary. I am also a telemark skier as well as an alpine skier and I can get forward and rip alpine turns on telemark gear.

While poor boot fit and in particular poor heal retention does affect overall skiing and control, poor fit in and of itself does not prevent a skier from getting forward. In telemark, you heal is not hooked down at all yet this does not prevent one from getting forward. Telemark skiing busts all the myths about getting forward.

There is a movment pattern that is unique to skiing, that can be learned and when learned, will guarantee that you will be in the correct fore/aft position every time.

In walking and every other endeavor in life, when humans extend the legs all joints open. That would include the ankle, knee and hip joint. This natual motion puts skiers in the back seat. What you need to learn is how to keep the ankle closed (flexed) and open the knee and hip joint. In other words the angle between the ski and your lower leg bone stays the same yet you get taller by opening the knee and hips (a forward movement). If done right the weight actually shift towards the heel as you get taller and move forward.

I have never found anyone who naturally has the muscle memory to do this without practice although, I have encountered a few people who had mastered martial arts who could.

The best way to learn this movement pattern is at home with the boots off and in front of a mirror. If the ankle joint opens at all, even a movement of an inch at the knee the exercise is a bust. Many people need the assistance of another person to stabilize the lower leg so they can feel what the movement pattern feels like. Others need a table to assist in learning. Anyway you go about it this movement pattern usually takes some time to learn and then more time to apply.

In skiing, this movement pattern is done in the last third of the turn in conjunction with tipping the skis towards the direction of the new turn. It matters little whether the turn is cross under or over, the only difference is timing. This movement pattern pressures the heal to finish a turn while providing forward movement.

Learn this movement pattern and you have a powerful tool. Your quads will never bother you again, poor boots or good fit.
post #7 of 19
Hobieboy, this is a great question because balance is such an important skill in skiing. Without an awareness of how we are balanced as we ski, and an ability to manage our state of balance as we choose, we are destined to mediocre skiing at best.

Our skis will perform differently, depending on how we pressure them along their fore/aft plane. To be able to exploit the full range of their performance capabilities we need to learn how to move to different states of fore/aft balance at will, and perform with competence when we get there.

Bob is so correct when he says that the mantra that says a skier should always be forward is on the surface a bit misguided. As I said above, a skier should learn to perform in all fore/aft states. That said, there's a reason that "get and stay forward" advice is so often used by ski instructors. Being aft balanced is a nemesis problem for a large percentage of recreational skiers. It's an innate human reaction to move and stay aft when the skis start to accelerate down the falline, and/or a bit of terrain intimidation sets in. Of course, it's the exact wrong thing to do, but it's a survival instinct we skiers are saddled with, and it takes some training to overcome. Often, telling them to "get and stay forward" can work to take them out of the back seat and least back to fore/aft centered.

Ok, so back to you, hobieboy. That you recognize when you are aft balanced, and then act to correct it, is an indication you have already started to develop your fore/aft awareness and your balance skill base. Terrific! Could your boot set up have something to do with being aft when you don't want to be there? You bet! Both cuff and ramp angle can have a major affect on your ability to get to the front of your foot in a strong and comfortable stance. I would suggest getting to a "GOOD" boot fitter and have him take a look.

Beyond boot setup, get a handle on what Pierre was saying about how joint articulations affect fore/aft balance. Ankles flexed forward move your weight fore, and when extended back move your entire body and your balance point aft.

Knees extended move your hips up and forward, and your balance point fore. This is why instructors will often tell their students to "stand up" when they're trying to get them out of the back seat. When knees are flexed, the hips drop and move behind the feet, and the balance point moves aft.

And finally, flexing forward at the waist moves balance fore, and straightening up at the waist move balance aft. It's the combination of what's happening at those 3 joints that determines our fore/aft state of balance.

Now,,,, how do you know if what you're doing is working? Direct you're attention to what you're feeling on the base of your foot, and in your shin and your calf. Where do you feel pressure on the base of your foot? Is it concentrated on your heels? On the balls of your feet? How about your boot cuff? Do you feel your shin mashing into the front of your boot, or your calf laying into the back of your boot? The combination of what your feel will tell you how you're balanced,,, and your knowledge of how joint articulations affect fore/aft balance will tell you what you need to do if you want to adjust it.

Here are some general landmark guides:

- If you feel only light pressure on your shin, and pressure concentrated on the balls of your feet, you're fore balanced.

- If you feel heavy pressure on your shin, and pressure concentrated on the balls of your feet, you're strongly fore balanced.

- If you feel heavy pressure on your shin, and also on the heels of your feet, you may be bending the front of the boot, but you may not be fore balanced, and may not be directing much pressure to the front of your ski. Fools gold.

- If you feel pressure concentrated on your heels, and light pressure on your calf, you are aft balanced.

- If you feel the back of your boot strongly indenting itself into your calf, regardless where you feel pressure along the base of your foot,,, YOU ARE OFFICIALLY IN THE BACK SEAT.

- If you feel pressure equally distributed across heel and ball, and only light contact of shin or calf to boot cuff, you are center balanced.

So why ski in what state of balance? Fore balanced directs more pressure to the front of the ski, and helps to initiate a fast and powerful direction change at the start of a turn. In the body of the turn, fore pressure can keep those tips digging and turning, and if done strongly enough, can even allow the tails to drift a tad to help tighten the turn even more.

Aft releases the tips from cranking a turn and holding you back, and allows the skis to squirt forward. It works well at the end of a turn, to release the skis and allow them to flow uninhibited out of the prior turn, and into the next.

Center balanced is probably the most relaxing, energy efficient fore/aft balance state to ski in. The foot is loaded across it's entire base, and can operate to it's max capacity as the magnificent balancing instrument it is. The muscles of body can relax and allow a strong and structurally aligned body to assume the responsibility of bearing the forces of a turn. Modern skis (how many more years will we be saying this) allow beautiful arc to arc skiing to happen while in this efficient state of balance. Center balancing loads them equally from tip to tail, which allows them to engage the snow consistently along the length of their edges, and flow smoothly and cleanly through a turn.
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks all for the comments... let me see if I can better describe the situation based on questions asked (sorry - didn't know how to work multi-quote well enough )

Based on Rick's fore/aft description, when I say "backseat", I'm more like his center balance (equal weight @ ball & heel) BUT with a strong push @ the calf. And this happens when I just release the skis and try to initiate a new edge. Hence, the feeling is the skis starts to run/accelerate as opposed to quickly engage in a new turn.

Taking Pierre's comments into consideration, perhaps I didn't know how to flex my ankle while keeping other joints more extended?

So perhaps my re-phrased question should be: how to avoid this somewhat-backseat stage when I was transitioning from release to engage new edge?

Snowmiser - not sure if I understand your drill. If I ski backwards down & stay forward, it means to "stick my behind" out?
post #9 of 19
If you are center balanced on a bent ski, when you release the ski, it will tend to shoot forward, putting the pressure on your calf as you describe.

If you are moving your hips toward the apex of the next turn as the skis are released, you will be keeping pace with the skis and the acceleration will not cause you to pressure the calves.

Snowmiser was saying that if you ski backwards, especially in a wedge, you normally move your hips forward toward the fronts of the skis. If you take the same stance and turn yourself around--you will be forward going downhill. Another way to feel the hips forward in relation to the feet is to skate and pay attention to where your hips go in relation to the foot you are pushing with. If you can skate across a flat and then enter a downhill grade keeping the same hips forward relationship, you will be getting where she suggested.
post #10 of 19
Hobieboy,

Snowmiser's backwards drill does make it easier to increase awareness of forward movements. It's not just sticking your butt towards the tails of the skis (which are now in the lead). The fact that it's so hard is what makes this exercise so informative. Trying without being told is much more effective than being told.

Here's a test for you. Can you traverse across the hill and tap the tip of your downhill ski on the snow surface (i.e. lifting the whole ski level off the snow, then tapping the tip down, then returning to the whole ski lifted level off the snow)? If you can't, can you tip the uphill ski tip? If you can't and can't get better with practice, then you probably have an equipment issue. To the extent that you can rapidly and repeatedly tap your tips without losing balance, you are ready for advanced front seat skiing tips (which some of us are still working on).
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post
Hobieboy,
Here's a test for you. Can you traverse across the hill and tap the tip of your downhill ski on the snow surface (i.e. lifting the whole ski level off the snow, then tapping the tip down, then returning to the whole ski lifted level off the snow)? If you can't, can you tip the uphill ski tip? If you can't and can't get better with practice, then you probably have an equipment issue. To the extent that you can rapidly and repeatedly tap your tips without losing balance, you are ready for advanced front seat skiing tips (which some of us are still working on).
Yes, I can lift my inside/uphill ski while traversing. Been one of the drills I made myself do. Haven't tried lifting the downhill ski though.
post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post
If you are moving your hips toward the apex of the next turn as the skis are released, you will be keeping pace with the skis and the acceleration will not cause you to pressure the calves.
sorry for being a little slow... are you suggesting moving the downhill or uphill hip towards the apex of the next turn?

Say, I'm transitioning from right to left hand turn (right ski will be the new downhill ski) where the right ski will be the new downhill ski and my body would be trying to rotate left in relation to the feet (still point to the right), which side of the hip should be move towards the new apex?

thanks!
post #13 of 19
Hobieboy, one I teach when appropriate is to move or direct your old inside hip towards the opposite ski tip as you start a turn. So if you are finishing a left turn, as you transition and move into a right turn, take you left hip and move it forwards and across your skis towards you right ski tip. This is a gentle slow movement if your are skiing slow but should be more dynamic if you are sking more dynamicly. I would suggest starting out slowly and then slowly amp it up as you get the feeling for this diagonal movement. Then when you really get comfortable with this focus you can play with altering the direction some by moving a little to either side of teh opposite ski tip. Play with your accuracy in different turn shapes/sizes. This focus will take you in the direction Kneale was speaking of, the apex of the next turn.

Also good to experiement with is how your pole swing direction and touch down helps you to move in this diagonal direction, or hinders your ability to move in this direction.
post #14 of 19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson
If you are moving your hips toward the apex of the next turn as the skis are released, you will be keeping pace with the skis and the acceleration will not cause you to pressure the calves
.

sorry for being a little slow... are you suggesting moving the downhill or uphill hip towards the apex of the next turn?

Say, I'm transitioning from right to left hand turn (right ski will be the new downhill ski) where the right ski will be the new downhill ski and my body would be trying to rotate left in relation to the feet (still point to the right), which side of the hip should be move towards the new apex?

In your right turn, the right side of the pelvis would be ahead, so in your transition, the left side of the pelvis would be moving toward its general leadership role.

I prefer to think of the whole pelvis both squaring up with the skis, moving forward and moving diagonally toward the new turn, all a part of the same releasing movement from the previous turn, with the inside side of the pelvis leading as the turn develops.
post #15 of 19
Hobieboy, Kneale's post reminded me of a drill that Chris Fellows had everyone doing at Fall Festival some time ago. It was kinda like a Schlopy drill except there was a very deliberate push of the new outside hip diagoanly into the turn. It does require you to leave your poles behind though. You start a turn with you outside hand behind on your butt cheek and as you start to move across your skis you simply push your new outside hip forward and across the skis, with the pressure you exert being maintained through most of the turn. Maintaining the pressure helps to keep you forward through the turn. The other hand and arm is pointing forward in the direction the skis are moving, helping to draw the inside hip and shoulder forward through the turn, keeping the inside leading, or strong as we like to say. Which as Kneale rightly pointed out, needs to happen as well.

Both of the drills I speak of will help get the hips moving forward and across the skis in pretty much the same direction. Even though the emphasis and cue is one the outside hip, this in no way should be interpreted as saying that the inside hip movement, up and forward through the turn is not important. It is just that when it comes to diagonal movement with a strong forward component to it the direction the outside stance hip takes is more linear and less complex than the inside hip movements, and lends itself to cues and tasks well.

The positive side of the push from behind is that it can help the body do what it might at first want to resist doing, or maybe is only patially doing. Though there is no accurate specific direction to focus on with hip push, like we have when we move a hip towards the opposite ski tip as we start a turn. Combining the two may the best of both worlds, and a good place to start for a drill to get forward and into the turn.

Pay particular attention to how it feels down at the level of your feet, how the skis are acting in the snow, and your balance feels internaly, because it should be a very positve feeling on all counts. Once these feelings are really registered and owned, you can then have a baseline feel to assess the effectiveness of all your directional movements into your turns in the furture.
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RicB View Post
Hobieboy, one I teach when appropriate is to move or direct your old inside hip towards the opposite ski tip as you start a turn. So if you are finishing a left turn, as you transition and move into a right turn, take you left hip and move it forwards and across your skis towards you right ski tip.
Tried it today and yes, it makes me feel that the transition is a lot more solid & better yet, I eliminate more of the transition from wedge then parallel syndrome

Quote:
Originally Posted by RicB View Post
Also good to experiement with is how your pole swing direction and touch down helps you to move in this diagonal direction, or hinders your ability to move in this direction.
This the saddest part of my skiing unfortunately... pole swing & timing my turn is still not natural yet
post #17 of 19
Hi Hobieboy,

There’s a lot of good advice out there but it might be a bit overwhelming. I think you are on the right track when you say that when you feel your calves on the back of the boot and you try to move forward. So my advice is stand up. Keep the hips aligned with the ankle or middle of the foot. Feel shin pressure on the tongue of the boot most all the time. Shoulders slightly forward and hands forward of that. Sweet and simple.----Wigs
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by hobieboy View Post
Tried it today and yes, it makes me feel that the transition is a lot more solid & better yet, I eliminate more of the transition from wedge then parallel syndrome



This the saddest part of my skiing unfortunately... pole swing & timing my turn is still not natural yet
If that is the case Hobieboy, then don't worry about your poles at this time. In fact, leave them behind for runs at a time.

Now if you want to build on your success of moving into the turn with better direction and flow from the previous drill try this next focus. Again, we'll start as we are finishing a left turn. When it is time to start your right turn and before you move the left hip towards your right ski tip simply flatten your right ski on the snow by pushing your little down towards the snow and your big toe moves away from the snow. Focus this movement at the foot and ankle level. It is not a big move, but the effect will be to release the old right outside ski edge and let the lower body start and lead the movement across the skis. This will help eliminate your stem and help you build early edge platform to balance on. The forward diagonal movement from the previous drill will recenter you and keep the entire ski edge engaged as you move into your new turn.

Of course, the whole process reverses when making a turn in the other direction. For a left turn flatten the left ski and tip the foot and ankle in the direction of a left turn as you move your hips diagonally with the previous drill. Have fun.
post #19 of 19
Another way to think of Ric's push-the-little-toe-down movement is to roll up the arch of that foot. When you've finished the left turn and are ready to begin the right, roll the right arch up off the snow.

Same movement that results in starting the turn with the inside ski, just a different focus. I find "pushing down" makes muscles tight while "rolling up" helps them be more loose.
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