So I ran into Jeff Bergeron today and he was kind enough to point out a flaw in my skiing and help me correct it. In the process he may well have added the final piece to the puzzle that will hopefully enable me to become a truly ripping skier. I was certainly killing it after he gave me his lesson.
A month or so ago, I had a lesson and learned about fore-aft balance (along with the fact that I was never using the front of the ski because I never moved forward of center). I learned how to pull my skis back in transition and get forward to start the turn. This made a huge difference in my skiing because it allowed me to start using the top of the turn for speed control.
Today Jeff looked at my skiing and said, "your timing is off". What he taught me to do was to let my skis run away from me through transition (diverge from my cm) instead of trying to pull them back right away. Effectively, the turn would finish well on the tails, but because it was combined with a retraction release I was essentially weightless in that position and not using any effort. Anyway, as the skis diverge, the released forces from the previous turn pull you into the next (this is conventional retraction), but because the old stance leg is cleared out of the way, the hip can drop fully into the turn. As in a more conventional retraction turn, you tip your skis off edge, through neutral and into the new turn. There are a lot of moving parts here, but essentially what happens is that right about the time the legs are fully extended, the tip of the ski hooks up and starts to engage, at which point you pull back slightly and you end up forward balanced, fully engaged (assuming you intentionally tipped enough to make that happen), with maximum angles--all at the top of the turn. Basically your CM cut the corner on the path your skis took so it could "catch up". One thing that is interesting is that you actually rotate just a hair. This is because you are working the back of the ski the whole time you are tipping and the rotation is what allows this to work.
Bob Barnes has talked about this move a lot, and prior to today, I would have thought I was doing it. Wrong! This is not your father's retraction turn. This is the turn you see the U.S. Ski Team athletes doing (and the reason for all of the "Ligety is in the backseat" threads).
The effect that this change had on my skiing was incredible. The amount of float that you get at transition when you do this right is amazing. Suddenly, you no longer worry about charging things because you know you'll have time to deal with whatever comes up. I went flying over a rollover into unexpected bumps (well Ok, they should have been expected, but hey I was having to much fun to pay attention). Normally, this would have been a gut check for me, but not now. I just absorbed the first two bumps, set up for a turn and figured out my line while I hung there. For high level skiers, this movement is so huge. It's literally like hitting the pause button on a video game. You get to play with time.
So the moral of this story is, the next time Bob starts talking about convergence/divergence PAY ATTENTION!!! I seem to remember a few folks "pooh poohing" this idea when I was trying to explain it (when I thought I was doing it). Well look out, I'm on my way to owning this move and I can tell you that it is very real and it can make your skiing great.
Edited by geoffda - 5/8/2009 at 09:10 pm GMT