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Stance and Alignment of little kids.

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I'd like to know what you guys think about stance and alignment in little kids. Let's say 4-6 years of age. I'd like to look at two problems, and am interested to know how you would attempt to resolve them, or if you even would. Some people I have talked to think we should just let them get older, but I wonder....

First situation - I have seen this in a number of level one classes. We are talking two hour groups here, so there is only so much I can do, but on a number of occasions I have had kids that I could tell were trying to do what I was asking them for and simply couldn't due to a very knock-kneed stance that became worse as they opened the stance trying to make a gliding wedge. If they opened their feet enough to make a wedge, they were so edged that they couldn't move. When they went to "french fires", they were stuck with their feet together and would go out of control until they tipped over. One of the boys was pretty athletic and I could tell that he got what I was saying and demonstrating. I equated his stance to shooting a free-throw in basketball, or his tennis serve. He could do it on the flat, but on the hill, his skis had a mind of his own. I think cants would have really helped, but there are no canted rental skis. I'm not gonna load up a kids bindings with duct tape either (or anyone else's either). Investing in canted boots for a level 1 skier? Seems unlikely that the parents will shell out, and even so, how would you know how much to do without some experimentation. I think the kid would eventually have been able to ski, but he must have been pretty frustrated seeing unathletic blobs that had started from the same skill level as him leave the lesson ready to ride the lift when he could still barely turn or stop. What can I do here? I wonder about a direct to parallel approach for kids. I never hear about it for kids. Even though I wonder about it, I think our beginner hill is too steep to consider it, even for adults, but still, I wonder if that approach would suit a knock-kneed skier. Thoughts?

Second situation is the very backseat level three or four skier. This one seems like it would be easier to solve. These are kids that have strong wedge turns, and matching of skis. They have a decent stance on green and easy blue trails, but sit farther and farther back as terrain gets steeper. They also stop turning and straightline the hill as it gets steeper. They will reach a point where their skis are chattering as they do a breaking wedge straight down the fall line. Then as it gets a little bit steeper, their skis get out from under them and they are sitting on their buts sliding down the hill with their skis in front of them. I've tried demonstrating a better stance for them and tried getting them to get into a better position. Sometimes I think the kids don't see any point in changing their style of skiing, and refuse to work on their stance. After all, it is mostly getting them where they want to go. Sometimes though, I wonder if it too could be an alignment issue. Especially since not all of the kids do this. I was riding the lift today with one of the kids and he said "why are you looking at the ground?" I said, "I'm not, I'm looking at your boots"> Are they too big? Too little forward lean? As he skis, he has his calf jammed against the spoiler and his legs locked straight at the knees a little bend at the waist, but certainly not enough to move his CM anywhere near his feet. I think if there was something that could be done for him alignment-wise, his parents would go for it, but is there? Does he just need to get older? Try harder? Any suggestions? He may be hard to work with tomorrow as he told me that he "hates" me for breaking up his food fight today. Anyhow, if anyone has some suggestions, I'd love to try them.

Or is alignment and stance in young kids the lost cause some say it is.
post #2 of 8

While I can't say that I've ever tried it, I know others that have taught small children direct to parallel by using thousand steps. I think it's doable, but risky (see my next paragraph).

The problem of having the weight so far back at that age, is that when kids are that young, most of them are not able to overcome the hard-wired response to lean back on a hill, and move their weight back when they want to slow down or stop. Let's face it, it's just not natural to lean down a hill. Until kids reach about 8-10 years old, the hard-wired response to sliding down a hill will overrule your demands to get them to move their CM forward. This is also what makes direct to parallel seem somewhat risky for kids (my opinion). It seems that if they get in a panic, and don't know how to use a wedge, they will straight run until they fall backwards or hit something. If they have learned a wedge for any reason, then they will probably start to use it all the time as their brain starts to realize that the bigger wedge they use, the more it seems to slow them down. Then they are back to the point where all the other kids are, that learned the wedge. I'd rather see a 6 year old use a massive power wedge and sit their butt down between their skis, then to straight-run completely out of control. At least they are going to stop and not slam their head into anything. And usually, the shallow hills that they are on will allow them to stop while still standing, facing straight down the hill in a power wedge.

A very good friend of mine (another instructor) has a 5 year old daughter. At 4 years old, she could ski just about any trail on any mountain, bumps included (but not powder and crud). She could even make it to the top of the walls on every turn in Stratton's super pipe (no fear). She was able to ski forward enough that she could turn even on the steepest hills without sitting between her skis, but as hard as we tried, we could not get her to the point where her shins were in contact with the boot cuffs, and the inside ski would skid.

As far as the knock-kneed stuff goes, try exercises like hopping or bouncing as they slide down a very gentile pitch. This tends to get them more upright and keeps them from pulling their knees together. As they get to the point where they can make wedge turns, it also helps keep them from sitting too far back, because you can't hop from the back seat. Once they get there, try asking them to hop just the tails of the skis. That will get them even more forward. We call them pop-corn turns. Every time you (or one of them) yells "POP", they have to hop.
post #3 of 8
epic, I think for young kids the D2P is more likely to work than for adults. Most of the kids I've seen just learning how to ski in a wedge (level 1-2 skiers) tend to be in a horribly awkward stance, matching their feet with their hands and overstressing their knees and quads.

The thousand steps is a great exercise, as well as popcorn. I think by using these, you can teach them to ski on french fries and only use pizza for stops.

I wouldn't worry too much about the shin pressure for this age. Just teach them to keep their hands forward and don't take them to more challenging runs until they learn that skill: each hand weighs about 10% of the body. BTW, popcorn will help that too: imagine hopping up on skis while keeping your hands behind your back! Popcorn is also a great up-unweighting exercise.
post #4 of 8
Kids this age have a higher center of mass than adults because there heads are bigger compared to ther body size. You can work on stance but they tend to ski with there butts behind them. I think a better approach is to impress on them that turns or line works a lot better than wedging till they fall over backwards. Try to teach offensive gliding moves and turns as opposed to defensive skidded power wedges. Did the kid with his knees together walk this way? If he did then its an alinment issue,if not some kids this age are wired to think that pizza shape means knees together or mimic it with there hands. Tell them to pretend they have a big ball between their knees and place them in the proper position holding their ski tips and moving their knees out. Remember to Demo the wedge facing the same way as they are because at a young age they cannot reverse the move in their heads. Hope this helps.

post #5 of 8
I've wondered about this with my son and his boots. He is carving beautiful turns on anything groomed, but he still is a little too far back/too straight up and down. Once he gets into bumps, he REALLY gets back.

He just turned 8, and he's very tall for his age, and his feet are enormous. Size 5.5 already. Would the boot cuffs come up relatively high on him? He's about 4'8" I think. He seems to have a LOT of trouble keeping his weight forward, but he is very capable and comfortable on his skis. I don't feel that he's having balance or fear issues as much as he just physiologically can't do it right now.
post #6 of 8
Originally posted by AlexG:
...I think by using these, you can teach them to ski on french fries and only use pizza for stops...
Forget about teaching them to use "pizza for stops". Rather, teach them to "turn back up the hill to stop" (whether parallel or wedged), and from there go to hockey stops. Don't worry - they will pick up the braking wedge (power pizza pie) on their own for specialized slow speed maneuvering like lift lines.

The standard braking wedge that most kids envision only works at extremely low speeds / low angle trails and will fail them as they progress. I don't know how many times I have heard, "My pizza pie doesn't / didn't stop me" from kids who think skiing is screaming straight down the fall line in a power wedge.

Tom / PM
post #7 of 8
Originally posted by PhysicsMan:
Forget about teaching them to use "pizza for stops". Rather, teach them to "turn back up the hill to stop" (whether parallel or wedged), and from there go to hockey stops.
Tom / PM
post #8 of 8
I agree with the later posts: high CM means they get leverage by leaning back.
I don't agonise about this, but I do play games while we're sliding along, being animals etc with hand movements, noises, and sometimes one foot in the air or jumping.
While they do this, they have to adjust their balance a bit, and they are watching me to get the next movement, and being kids, they start to mimic me, including standing up more (especially if we are being trees or giraffes!).

I like to give each kid a go at being the leader (depending on class size and length of lesson), and it's great to see how many try to indclude quite ambitious movements, like jumps.

Getting them to trust turning uphill to slow down is very important too. They'll still do taht thing where they go straight down the hill, they are convinced they are doing turns! So I might turn that into a competition with the other kids as judges, but we do concentrate on the turning uphill thing. It advances their skiing faster...the skis will start to come parallel naturally.

I reckon getting kids to do good stuff without it being a difficult chore is the way to go.
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