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OK, so I have a mini-stem problem. Now what?

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
What is the best way (ways?) to cure a mini-stem short of hiring a pro for lessons?
post #2 of 33
Well - theres nothing "wrong" really with a stem. All athletic skiers have it as part of their unconcious repetoire and use it when needed. Racers sometimes call it "converging parallel" because it sounds more studly or something - but its really the same thing! <g> And to get even more to the point, a stem (as I believe you are using the word, correct me if I'm misunderstanding), no matter how subtle it is, is really a small wedge. As stem and a wedge are both movements on opposing edges, rather than corrosponding edges.

And again, while there is nothing "wrong" with it, its often more powerful and satisfying to have a much more simultanious change of edges.

Its very understandable why we often use opposing edges - or even cling to the movement. If you have a truly simultainous edge change - it means for just a moment, between turns - you have no edges engaged at all. And edges mean security to our concious or sometimes just unconcious mind. Our edges are our claws in the ice, to give them up, even just momentarily requires a kind of total trust in yourself and the forces you are immersed in. When you stem a ski, or wedge for a moment - you are able to move from one set of corrosponding edges to another without ever giving up having at least one edge in the snow.

Some reasons it is often helpful to be more simultainous is: for an advanced skier, which is what you sound like, the speed you carry and the terrain you might be in - can be unforgiving of having your skis be on different trajectories for even a second. Making catching tips, crossing skis and etc more likely.

Also - since both legs are connected in the pelvis, the movements of one leg compliment and enhance the movments of the other leg. If the legs are in opposition, even for a moment - this sets up a confict of interests if you will, inside your pelvis . . . it inhibits the smooth flow you see in the skiing of really accomplished athletes.

There are other reasons - but to get back to the real question, what do you do about it?

There are lots of excercises, and I'm sure you'll get a dearth of them from the knowledgable members of this forum. So I'll just give two. An easy but long road, and a hard but shorter road.

The easier but longer road is to really just *think* about it - and practice it a lot. Think about going beyond just simultainous movements, think about actually starting to moving your inside ski into the new turn first. Some people find it helpful to imagine strings attached to their knees, as you get ready to turn left - somebody down the hill and too your left starts to pull on the string to your left knee, pulling it into the turn. You're likely to also hear the words "diverging" talked about when discussing exaggerations of this movement or "phantom foot". (Off the subject, since the "Phantom Foot Syndrome" is possibly the leading cause of ACL tears in the knee - just the words "Phantom Foot" scare me <g>).

The hard but fast road. Simplify things, get rid of a ski. You can't help but be simultanious when you are on only one ski, it also is a tremendous helper for learning to commit your center of mass into each new turn - this lack of commitment is also a leading cause of needing to stem. Needless to say it also helps with your balance!

Ok - that was long winded enough, hope at least some of it was useful!

"Quod me nutrit me destruit" - What nourishes me also destroys me.
post #3 of 33

well said. and, maybe connected to your
string-to-the-knee visual, i find helpful
the initial tipping and rolling-over of
the little toe of the inside foot. this
initial movement gets the ski "unweighted"
and pulls the rest of me - sorry; awkward
and non-PSIA syntax - "into" the turn,
almost automatically engaging fully
the "turning" ski.
i hope that makes sense and that i haven't
mangled that too badly.

<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by ryan (edited October 26, 2000).]</FONT>
post #4 of 33
>>well said. and, maybe connected to your
string-to-the-knee visual, i find helpful
the initial tipping and rolling-over of
the little toe of the inside foot.<<

That one has always worked well for me too.

>> sorry; awkward and non-PSIA syntax -"into" the turn, almost automatically engaging fully the "turning" ski.<<

Ah PSIA, CSIA, USSCA, PMTS, PMS (? <g>), Perfect Turn - whatever, the lingo is irrelevant, you express yourself well, words are just words!

>>i hope that makes sense and that i haven't
mangled that too badly.<<

Pefect sense, and the fact that you ask good questions is the marker of the kind of person who progresses rapidly as a skier. Hope you have a great season, and let us know how its going!

"Quod me nutrit me destruit" - What nourishes me also destroys me.
post #5 of 33
post #6 of 33

Have you ever had your alignment checked ? If not, find a good boot fitter and do so.

This could help a great deal... and lead you to more.......

Happy Skiing !
post #7 of 33
Another analogy to add to ryan's input, would be to imagine what your feet are doing. Just concentrate on how your feet are pivoting, your skis will naturally follow. Also just for the info how wide is your stance?
post #8 of 33
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input. I will report on progress.

Spyder, my stance has never been ankle to ankle I'm told (and some who pointed it out said that it should be ankle to ankle). I hear that I should have an athletic stance, whatever that means. And Lito writes that the stance should be narrow, if not lock knee into knee. What to do?

The alignment thing is all new to me and I will follow up on that.

Thanks again.

post #9 of 33
I don't recall Lito ever saying locked knees. He does mention somewhat of a narrow stance however the book came out long before shaped skis were evaluated as much. I used to ski ankles and legs locked. Fixed that. Until last year all my instructors kept telling me I needed to get away from that. Last year the instructor I took lessons from didn't even mention it. I had to ask and he said I had it just about right. maybe 1/2 inch more space. This puts me about shoulder width. Of course this depends a lot on your body type so an evaluation by a good instructor will make a big difference and start you off in the right direction. Ankles locked or knees locked will lead to less freedom of movement.
post #10 of 33
Drink a beer before skiing!
post #11 of 33
Thread Starter 
Regarding Lito, I think he said to keep the legs close but not locked together. I am going to take a private lesson this December and I'm interested in the whole stance thing.

And, of course I will drink the beer before the skiing (and after).
post #12 of 33

I prefer a nice glass of wine but same affect

Full bodied Cab or Zin.

only problem is that gets expensive.
post #13 of 33
for the majority of my skiing yrs proper form has been to keep your skis together as close as you can. but now the "proper" way is to have as you said an "athletic" stance, basically give your skis about a shoulders width apart, usually about 3-5 inches, depending on conditions and terrain. this will give you a much more stable platform and it will allow you to carve the turns by allowing the ski edge to bite more into the snow. An example of this: stand with your normal stance (if it is fairly narrow) have a buddy give you a shove from one side, then widen your stance a bit and repeat. see what happens.
post #14 of 33
Spyder - I think you are right on in your assessment, the word "proper" is decieving - because it implies that a wider stance is there now because of "fashion", when its really a function of . . . well, *function*. Anyway, you demonstrate that you know why we now use a wider stance - thats not why I'm responding. Nope - wanted to share a joke from a local masters racer in Colorado, real cowboy type (real cowboy actually). Who said one time to a kid who was asking him for some advice on his skiiing . . . "boy, if ah' saw you sashayin' down the street with your legs that close together I'd either expect to see you wearin' makeup . . . or you could expect seeing mah' fist comin'". <g>

"Quod me nutrit me destruit" - What nourishes me also destroys me.
post #15 of 33
Hi Rob,

A comfortable balanced stance is key, because this is your reference point for balance recovery. If skiing is a sport of continual balance adjustments, then you have to have a point where you are in fact balanced. That's what alignment is suppose to do.

As to more information regarding the importance of proper alignment, there is Warren Witherell's book, "the Athletic Skier," and "Anyone can be an Expert Skier" by Harald Harb, who also has a web site: harbskisystems.com.

Harb's book is available at Amazon.com, Warren's might be.

I hope all this will help make you a much ...

Happier Skier
post #16 of 33

First thing to do: Re-read Gravity's first post so you feel better.

Second: If you haven't already developed your ability to put weight entirely on one ski and hold it for a few seconds without too much drama then do develop it. I won't go into this because you may already be able and if you aren't sure hw to go about it you can always come back and ask.

Then, start turn initiation with almost all or all weight off the inside ski. I say off the inside ski rather than putting it all on the outside ski because with that intent you will get it right, you won't cross tips and you hopefully won't make the mistake of trying to ski with legs bound together. But mostly, as someone said before, you can't stem with onely one ski. But if you attempt to put the weight onto the outside ski as opposed to taking the weight off the inside ski, you can still have an initial period where your edges are opposed and the opportunity to stem is still there.

Andin the words of the immortal guru Bob Barnes (suck, crawl. Post the check to my account please Bob) you will be moving from defensive skiing to offensive skiing - a far more satisfying sound to that.

Happy trails.
post #17 of 33
You know what? Two days ago, I posted a reply to this, and it's not here!!! It was a typically long winded response, which I'm not going to try to totally re-create, but basically said the exact opposite of what Colin said (no disrespect Colin, I've enjoyed your posts for years).

But the 2 most common reasons for a stem are 1)Not crossing over the skis, and ending up on opposing edges, and 2)Using a "check" as a speed control maneuver, by not finishing the turn with a stong inside ski. If you finish the turn with all of your weight on the outside ski, and start to direct the new turning ski into the new turn, you get a stem. Try slowing down more than you are used to by finishing the turn with both skis, and finishing the very end of the turn on the INSIDE (will feel like the wrong) foot. This keeps the tail of the outside ski from washing out into a stem, and leads to a smoother transition from the end of one turn into the next, eliminating dead spots (the tme between the truns when the skier is static and traversing the hill).
post #18 of 33

I tried to respond a few days ago but somehow it hasn't got to the thread. Anyway, first no offense taken - coming from you I sit up and listen.

However your posting, abbreviated as it was to get through our moderator, didn't give me any idea of what the opposites were.

You mention that stemming may arise "by not finishing the turn with a stong inside ski". I think of the inside ski as light and so wouldn't think to apply a term like "strong inside ski". Could you expand a little?

Also I would appreciate it if you could maybe post your original posting to me directly to xensen@iinet.net.au. I reckon there's a better than even chance that I should read it.

post #19 of 33

By strong inside ski (actually, PSIA calls it a "strong inside half" because it refers to the leg, pressure, and ski) I mean that yes, you add a bit more pressure to the inside ski, and be sure to steer it through to turn completion, just as much as the outside ski. Remember, that the inside ski is about to become the new turning (outside) ski. By doing this, you will smooth out the transition of pressure from one ski to the other, and the old outside (downhill) ski will not break out from under you into a stem (wedge). The difficult part of doing this, is making sure you maintain the body's angles. When people put pressure on their inside ski, they have a tendency to "bank", or lean the upper body and shoulders into the turn, too much. Banking makes it much more difficult and time consuming to move into the new turn. Try just making some turns, and noticing when you naturaly transfer your weight. Then try starting to transfer the weight about 1/2 second sooner, but more slowly, so that the full transfer of pressure is completed at the same point that it normally is.
post #20 of 33
Rob, I have not posted in this thread because I don't know where wnd when you stem. Most of the folks here have addressed the involuntary stem which comes from losing the downhill ski's tail edge. In my opinion this comes from either turning the hips to "help" the skis coming around and having too much weight on the front or the back of the skis. Also as Bob Barnes mentioned, hip rotation in the beginning of a turn will flatten the skis enough to cause a stem.

Too much weight on the front will make the shovel bite harder and the tail less making it easier for the tail to slip out. Backseat tail push can happen when the skis are fairly flat on the snow.

Now if the stem is intentional to initiate a turn it is either pushing a ski out into the turn and weighting it before changing edges of the other ski (as in stem turn) OR, if you stem at the beginning of a turn with corresponding edges (as in parallel skiing), which is quite common, it means that you have a one-ski check, in common laguage the downhill ski is pushed out and edged more to build a platform under it from which the skier takes off into the new turn by either an up movement or using the rebound of the downill, hard edged ski.

My two cents worth.... ...ott
post #21 of 33

I didn't want to restate it. To me, it feels like I'm being argumentative when I restate stuff. However, if someone else agrees, it's good to have that person post something to state the agreement. It sort of validates the statement to others, that don't know whether the statement is valid. In other words, if I say "hold the uphill ski back" and you come back and say "I agree", then it reinforces it. But if I state it 3 times and no one comes out in agreement, then people who are debating the issue in their head, will not know if I'm trying to push an agenda and people like yourself don't agree, but don't want to get into an argument, so they don't past anything. If you don't agree, I would hope you would state that. Otherwise, I don't debate the issue for its merits. So now, I'll state it again, hopefully using some different words to see if it makes more or less sense, or whether you get the same feelings from it.

At the point that you are ready to be done with a turn and start the new turn, when you are facing as far across the fall line as you want to go, the uphill ski should be back far enough that you have firm contact between the shin and the tongue of the boot. That way, as you start to pressure the new turning ski, you will be properly balanced on it. If you were to transfer your weight to that ski when it has a fair amount of lead, you will be transferring the weight (pressure) to your heel, and to the back of the cuff of the boot. this would then require you to catch up to the ski as it enters the fall line and is accelerating. That would mean, that to catch up to the ski to be properly balanced, your CM will need to accellerate faster than the ski. This is a really tough proposition, and would result in your weight rocking dramatically fore and aft throughout every turn, as well as making it very difficult to carve the top of the turn since your mass is behind your feet.

The easiest was to accomplish keeping contact between the shin and tongue (of the boot ), is to gradually pull the ski back as you move from the fall line to the end of the turn. This is more of a feeling than a movement that you would see, because it would look like consistant, constant contact between the shin and the tongue of the boot. But it will feel (to most people) like you are actively pulling the ski back. Do it gradually, not in a quick, forceful motion. If you try to make a move to pull the CM forward, rather than pulling the ski back, there is a good chance you will transfer too much weight to the inside ski before the end of the turn, and will sometimes find the outside ski starts running away from you. And even if not, it requires a lot more effort to move the enire body, rather than just the leg, making it more tiring and less efficient.


PS, I fully agree with Ott about rotating the hips to create a stem. VERY common in intermediate skiers.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JohnH (edited November 08, 2000).]</FONT>
post #22 of 33
>>> the uphill ski should be back far enough that you have firm contact between the shin and the tongue of the boot.<<<

Well, why didn't you say so, John, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I would never have a lead far enough on my uphill ski to lose firm contact with the tongue of my boot. That is a no-no at anytime and I don't even remember what it feels like to lean against the back of the boot or even if my boots let me do this.

You mention to re-establish contact with the tongue of the uphill boot, why do you lose that contact in the first place? Or is this something that is new again?

I still ski on the balls of my feet and probably more forward than one would with the super sidecut skis, but I ski on Atomic Beta -carves 200 cm and there isn't a whole lot more sidecut on those than on my 207 Blizzard straight skis.

I am also hooked on the rebound from the skis at the end of a turn, and althoug I can ski, and often do, by staying down and do a simple cross-over (letting the body cross over the skis at the end of a turn which changes the edges, in simple language) I find it more dynamic to have some vertical movement, mostly dictated by the terrain.

post #23 of 33
John H, Great explanation, not only did you explain the move clearly but, also what would happen if you don't move the ski back.
Is there a progression for this move such as working on moving the uphill ski back just to experience the feeling (amount of tongue pressure) or is it better just to do the complete turn in one continuous move? Is the shin pressure fairly constant or does it build from light at the beginning of the move and increase somewhat at the moment of edge change? I know I make this move to some extent but, never gave it much thought.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lucky (edited November 08, 2000).]</FONT>
post #24 of 33
Just my 2 cents worth ($4.86 CDN).

The width of the stance leads indirectly to more edge angle. The wider the legs are apart, the more angulation you can get before the legs lock against each other. By getting more angulation at the hip, you end up with more edge angle.

Try this little test. Stand beside a wall about an arm's length away. Put your feet 6 inches apart and while keeping your feet in place, flex at the hips to bring your erect torso closer to the wall. Use your arm as support. Now try this with your feet 12 inches apart, and notice how much more closer your torso gets. There is a limit of how far apart the feet can get. ** Note, the outside leg should remain sort of straight, while the inside leg will start to bend at the knee as the angle increase. **

Hips for angulation, knees for absorbsion, feet for steering. Any questions? Oh, flat back, hands in front, poles parallel to the snow while tucking.
post #25 of 33
Let's see if I can keep all this straight...

Ott - As you know, you shouldn't lose contact with the tongue of the boot. However, people who let the uphill ski lead too much will lose that contact. It's more of an "if/Then" scenario. Also, Ott, I DON'T ski on the balls of my feet. This visual is one of the major factors that held my skiing back (literally - I was in the back seat) for eons. I was constantly pushing on the balls of my feet, thinking I needed to put weight on them. What this did, was force me to open my ankle, which pushes you back. The frame of reference I use is to relax the ankle (someone else just said that relaxing the ankle makes them move back - so it's all frame of reference and internal feelings), and let my knees fall forward into the boots. The pressure is evenly distributed on the bottom of my foot. This gives me a bigger platform to balance on, and therefore, improves my balance tremendously. The sad part about the process was that I was the one who had to figure out another way of stating HOW to keep my weight forward. Too many instructors will go on and on about what to do (keep your weight forward), but are not willing or able to offer insight about HOW to do it. Granted, here, with typed words, we (I) put off the HOW as long as possible, because it becomes too cumbersome, but on the hill, I always give not only the HOW, but also the WHY. So remember, while "putting the weight on the ballso of your feet" may work for you, it does NOT work for me, and lots of other people.

Pierre - Thanks.

Lucky, I'll post a progression in Pierre's new thread.
post #26 of 33
>>> I was constantly pushing on the balls of my feet, thinking I needed to put weight on them<<<

Well, here we go again, even we instructors are misunderstanding simple statments.

Contrary to your statement of PUSHING on the balls of your feet, I am ALLOWING my weight to rest on the balls of my feet, like Pete Sampras waiting for a serve. Though his whole foot sole is in contact with the court, were you to measure where the mass of his weight is pushing down, it would be on the balls of his feet, it is a ready position.

In the same way, though my whole foot is in contacts with the ski/snow I have "collapsed" so to speak (though not literally) my weight over the balls of my feet, to me that is an agressive ready position, and BTW, it has been many many years since I have ever found myself in the back seat, even for a moment, I just don't ski that way.

To give you an example from the olden days: when I first came to America the Austrian "wedeln" was the ultimate in skiing. It later was renamed "shortswing" in the American Technique.

Skiers and even teachers over here translated the wedeln literally which means tail wagging and that is what it looked like on green terrain. Consequently the conclusion was to lean back and push the tails from side to side, which was totally wrong.

It was actually the forward pressure on the boot and ski which lightened the tail of the ski and allowed it slide from side to side while the upper body stayed still and the lower body swung from side to side. The Austrians called it the "comma" position, referring to the punctuation look-alike.

On steeper terrain where the edge set increased, wedeln/shortswing did not have as much of a tail slide but the upper body still was kept quiet, it looked much like the present "cross-under" movement.

My buddy Franz and I laughed as we saw these skiers coming down the hill, sitting back and wagging their behind, trying to make the tails of the skis slide from side to side, with great difficulty, no wonder, they had all the weight on the tails.

So, in skiing, sitting back is never an option, hanging over the tips is not an option either, and neither is flat footedness. I feel that a relaxed ready position which allows me to react as I would in any every day situation from climbing stairs to walking or jumping over a ditch, even in simply changing directions while walking and surely in playing any sports.

So let me rephrase my statement: I >balance< on the balls of my feet.

post #27 of 33

I'm sure that you ARE in perfect balance when you ski. All I was referring to, is that some people need different verbal clues. For most people, the normal statement of "putting the weight on the ball of the foot", works just fine. For others (like me) it doesn't. The only caveat that I'll throw in is that when I am able to have the pressure (on the bottom of my foot) even, along the length. I can even have the majority of the weight on my heel. but because my ankle is relaxed, I am in the front of the boot, and the lever created by the boot will transmit the pressure to the front of the ski, even from my heels.

try this experiment; Stand in a skiers "ready" position with the weight on the ball of your foot, or exaggerate it by ifting your heel slightly. Have someone put their hand about an inch in front of your shin. Now try to push on their hand without falling on your face. Now stand flat footed, but with your knees and ankles bent in the same "ready" stance, and push your shins against their hand. Because you have started from a more neutral position, you have a greater range of motion, and you can move in any direction much more quickly because your CM doesn't need to move quite as far when you start the move (eg. trying to lunge forward, if you start flat footed, you can lift the front of your foot, and your CM will instantly be in front of your heels, and you can actually push forward from your heels. To lunge forward from a balanced position on the balls of your feet, you need to rock your CM forward of your toes). I find that this position allows me to react to terrain changes more quickly.
post #28 of 33
Well, John, I was going to drink to that except the way my boots are raked, intentionally, there is no way I can press against the tongue of my boot and be on my heels or even very flat footed.

But I'll drink to that anyhow because it may be just a matter of perception. If we ski and are ready to react to terrain changes and stay in balance, we may have the same stance only perceive it differently.

post #29 of 33
Ott - I agree. I'll buy the first round. BTW, I have never heard of boots being "raked". What does that mean?
post #30 of 33
>>>BTW, I have never heard of boots being "raked". What does that mean?<<<

Oh yeas, that is a sailor's term and refers to the lean of the mast from the vertical.

When I got my Solomon boots a couple of years ago I imediatly set out to modify them to my specs. I chose the Solomons after trying on about a dozen brands. They have a button at each ankle over which a hole in the upper cuff snaps. I elongated that whole in the upper cuff about three quarter of an inch so that now I have that much travel with increasing resistance as I move forward. Next, I felt too upright in the boot so I took some molded rubber boot wedges from previous boots, about a half inch thick at the top of the back of the boot and they taper down over four inches to nothing. These wedges go between the outer and inner boot and do not take away from the added travel of the boot cuff from the modified, elongted hole.

The "rake" is the forward lean in degrees of your shin when you stand flat on the floor with just a slight contact with the boot tongue. So when I say I have more rake than the average skier it means that I have modified the boots to suit my style of skiing. When I look down, standing relaxed in my boots I can't see my toes. ( my wife says it's my belly blocking the view, but I don't think so )...

I modify all my equipment to suit me, my skis and bindings (I mount them myself and have just a litte discrepancy from the store mounted ones) and though I have had about four sets of poles since the seventies, I imidiatly take off the grips and straps and put on the ones I've used for nearly 30 years, they come off of head steel poles.

I do this because with those grips I know exactly where my pole tips are without looking a them. Unlike tennis racket grips, ski pole grips come in so many forms that one has to relearn each one...

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