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Cross Under & Serpentine what is the difference?

post #1 of 70
Thread Starter 
I am a little bit old school, and a little old; so that part is understandable.

Been following all kinds of threads that have applauded the virtues of cross under skiing, and it is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to ski.  It is a technique I have striven to ski with for many years. 

In the very early 70's skied a quite a bit with some guys who attended the French National Academy and they turned me on to the serpentine turn.  First time I saw these about fell off a t-bar.

Now the question.  What is the difference between these 2 turns?  The equipment would not let us carve nearly 40 years ago like today of course, but the retraction/extension, lateral displacement, edge transfer seem to be the same maneuver.  What am I missing here?

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post #2 of 70
Probably nothing. Although I think you may be one of the few uniquely qualified to actually compare and contrast the two since you have done both.
post #3 of 70
The difference was the edge set.  The serpent turn begins from an edge set.  I learned about it as an instructor in a ski school operated by a former French national team member.  The process begins as a down-motion turn with the  release from the edge set causing the skis to jet forward and downhill.  The upper body dive into the turn at edge release kept you in time with your skis rather than behind them as so many folks ended up doing.

Today's crossunder turn is done with an edge change but not the jet from the release of an edge-set.  The torso does not need to be encouraged downhill so dramatically to keep pace.
post #4 of 70
Kneale, your experience (as evidenced by that 40-year pin) is so valuable in helping us understand the evolution of ski technique. I'm grateful to learn from you!
post #5 of 70
Thanks, Steve.

Wish I was smart enough to understand everything I've seen over the years.
post #6 of 70
Kneale, would you say the skis had something to do with the edge set and forward release?
post #7 of 70
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your responses.

That sounds a lot like the old 'avalment' (forgive the spelling this computer does not speak French) and all of my ski library is locked up several hundred miles away, and my Jobert is locked up with it.

The Serpentine, as I was taught it, was a very smooth turn with very little dynamic edge setting.  Think of it as a very French short wing, smooth short radius linked turn; as apposed to the wedlen, with the hard edge set.  It was initiated with a minimal down or terrain unweighting in conjunction with the knees rolling into the turn to facilitate the edge change.  The legs were at maximum extension at the fall line, and maximum retraction at initiation of the turn. 

In small bumps this had to be the smoothest turn of it's day.  The upper body in an anticipated position, and the head remained on a level plain.  If that was not Serpentine, what the heck was it? 

I need to get a copy of Jobert.

post #8 of 70

As far as I understand the word "serpentine" refers to the serpentine like motion pattern created when you ski down the hill and your CoM and your skis track different paths. Since your CoM does not leave any tracks in the snow its only imaginary. Think of your skis snaking while your CoM is tracking in a near straight line down the hill. How the turn was thaught in France back in the 70s I dont know but an updated carving version is probably a modern frensh version of the cross under turn. Think JB Grange for a visual .

post #9 of 70
Yes, tdk6,

The COM and BOS do track differenet paths.  In serpentine, I think the keys were to show upper/lower body separation and strong edging, or strong pivotting, depending on the pitch
post #10 of 70
Dont we have any Frenchmen  here at epic that could enlighten us? I think strong edging and or strong pivotting has more to do with the equipment at had back then than anything else. Just like all other skiing at the time. And if it was a technique used in bumps then not much has changed. BTW, how does a serpentine turn differ from a jet turn?
post #11 of 70
So Stranger if you could be a little more desccriptive of the serpentine turns as you understand them this might bring the comparison to modern turns into focus better. did you push the feet forward? Did you allow them to squirt forward? It sounds similar but on straighter and stiffer skis and boots from that era there had to be some differences. Care to share? 
post #12 of 70
Thread Starter 
Learned this turn in the winter of 68-69 at Arctic Valley outside of Anchorage, AK.  This is how I remember learning it, forgive any technical miscues, I have not taught skiing professionally for 30 years, so read at your own risk.

Was taught the serpentine on the gentle blues, some things do not change much.  The boots were softer and lower, the skis a were a world apart in shape length and flex; so there ended up being a considerably more skidding in the turns, carving was a turn with a minimal skid.  Even the poles for most of us were longer, my 54" poles got cut down to 48" as I learned this turn, and keep me out of the back seat.  It is a short radius linked turn very similar in appearance to skiing a fall line flush on a slalom course.

From the fall line the knees were driven forward and into the turn, this caused a leg retraction, this in effect became the unweighting.  At the maximum point of divergence to the fall line your COM was compressed over the skis.  The knees were pushed down the hill changing edges and initiating new turn, the legs extended laterally  keeping the head at a constant level from the snow.  At the fall line  your COM was inside the line of the skis, and you begin  leg retraction (this is the first turn that I remember the idea of tightening of the abs in a ski turn) continue edging and steering; repeat upon completion. 

Things that were critical in a pair of leather boots: maintain pressure in the front of the boot (if your ankles straightened there was no edging or steering), keep your navel pointed at the lift shack (quiet upper body was actually a fairly easy concept after learning the old wedlen), keep constant pressure on the snow (up unweighting was a tenant of the American Ski Technique at the time, was told I needed to display more up unweighting in free skiing while getting my associates (L2) pin that year), steer and edge positively with both skis simultaneously (very radical concept for a young  60's PSIA trained type).  

As more challenging terrain was introduced the terrain absorption, edging, lateral projection, rebounding obviously became a bigger factor and the skiing became more dynamic( this unfortunately is where the jet-stick came from, that is a whole different misguided tale).

Still consider this a mother turn of modern skiing.  Once you get past the leverage factor on the front of the boots, it seems that much of the fall line and bump skiing  discussed here share some very common threads with this turn. 

Thanks for putting up with the ramble down memory lane.
post #13 of 70
I've watched my good friend Luke use that Serpentine Turn to marvelous effect through the tightest terrain for years.  It literally looks like his skis are slithering through bumpy, gnarly tree lines, etc-I've asked him again and again to explain what the hell he's doing (and how to do it)-and he can't--he doesn't even remember when he learned it!  he told me when he worked at taos as an instructor (about 8 years ago) they tried to get him to ditch his snakey style at first-but a number came around to appreciating it's off-piste versatility.  He also spent some time after that working in Trois Valle-where he said a lot of the instructors 9and yes, the older ones) use this turn style a lot.

Stranger's description is the first time I've read a good account of the turn my old buddy has been using for years.  Love it.
post #14 of 70
Wow! What a blast from the past.
Joubert covers it on pages 160 to 173 in his 1967 book "How to Ski the New French Way".
It involves retraction and "relaxing" forward onto the tips.
Under the heading "The Serpent technique in racing" it says: "Performed while riding a flat ski or in making carved turns, the Serpent at present is the most effective technique known for most slalom and giant slalom turns."
The next heading says: "Be careful! The Serpent technique should not make you forget to edge-set when necessary."  "If you use the Serpent technique a lot, you may allow yourself to get stale or rusty in the use of some of the very quick reactions needed in skiing: brief checks, rebounds for freeing the skis, recoveries, acceleration in slalom. This is due to the fact that you are too far forward all the time and do not have the ability to act vertically over your skis. The result is that you are not in good balance between turns. The remedy is simple. Go back occasionally to check-wedeling on very steep slopes at a very rapid rhythm, setting your edges vigorously with both feet."
He talks about a three step routine 1. pole plant with anticipation 2. bending the knees (retraction) 3. relaxing the back muscles to bend the upper body forward between the pole and the ski tips, feeling the pressure move onto the tips. Or at least my summery of what he takes a couple of pages to describe. 
Kind of neat to go back and read that old stuff.
post #15 of 70
I just went & looked for my copy of teach yourself to ski, but couldn't find it.  I am afraid it is in a far away location.  From what I remember from Joubert's description & rudimentary drawings in the book, Stranger's description here is pretty close to what I remember:

Quote:
The Serpentine, as I was taught it, was a very smooth turn with very little dynamic edge setting.  Think of it as a very French short wing, smooth short radius linked turn; as apposed to the wedlen, with the hard edge set.  It was initiated with a minimal down or terrain unweighting in conjunction with the knees rolling into the turn to facilitate the edge change.  The legs were at maximum extension at the fall line, and maximum retraction at initiation of the turn.

As I recall, minimal edging was a big component, (just enough, but not too much).  This was not a high edge angle arcing turn, but rather a gliding turn with very even pressure through the skis & no braking.  The idea was to maximize the glide, or glisse & minimize friction.  The turns were linked seamlessly with no distinct beginning or end.  The contraction of the abdominal muscles & active retraction (Avalement) were used to help keep this even pressure on the snow. Joubert & Vaurnet coined this ability as glissement, or an innate ability to feel the snow through ones feet & skis.  It is an essential ingredient that many of the good gliders in DH possess.  Racers like Jean Vaurnet, Ingemar Stenmark, Bill Johnson, Tamara Mckinney & Picabo Street were thought to have this feel better than many.
At least that's my interpretation of what I recall.
Thanks,
JF
post #16 of 70
Thread Starter 
Now this takes me back to my original question. 

If you take that turn using today's skis and boots, enabling you to tip the skis on edge at a higher angle, is this Cross Under skiing?   you will  need to vary your balance front to back more due to the equipment and increased carving.  But from what I have been able to follow here are these mechanically the same turn?
post #17 of 70
Quote:
But from what I have been able to follow here are these mechanically the same turn?
 

My knee jerk answer is that they are essentially the same, but more refined with modern equipment.  Just because we have stiff boots does not mean we have to be harsh on our edges.

Quote:
you will  need to vary your balance front to back more due to the equipment and increased carving. 


If we are talking about fore/aft leverage here, I don't think it is that much different, again just more refined with modern equipment.  Leverage is still part of the equation to be able to regulate pressure on the skis.  Too much to the wrong part of the ski, at the wrong time, creates bogging or unwanted friction.

Skiing hasn't changed all that much, equipment has.  The basic components are still the same IMO.

JF
post #18 of 70

It seems the serpentin turn consisted of the following elements:
- minimal edge set
- skidding and smearing all the turns
- body always forward forward forward pressuring the tips
- lowering of CoM into transition
- leg extention into apex
- consistant pressure under skis
- braking at the waist at transition

Maybe it has an element of cross under but it has little to do with todays carving cross under type of turn.

post #19 of 70
I'd have to agree with TDK that modern cross under may include elements of the serprntine turn but overall the reaching slalom turn doesn't include the forward pressure on the tongues. Cuff neutral is a concept that gets debated here but in my experience and what I've read of those actually teaching this too much tongue pressure is just like too much edging. At the end of the control phase we have flexed the boot but from that point through the end of the turn the feet are squirting forward and the legs are bending so the femurs end up parallel to the snow. Don't get me wrong here though, levering off the spine of the boots isn't really an element. So the phrase "just enough but not too much" really captures the essence of the balancing that occurs during these turns quite well.
It is also not written in stone that the turns be carved, or skidded in that both are options on today's skis and boots. I suspect the torsional stiffness of today's skis when combined with the more equal flex and generally softer logitudinal stiffness mean the mechanics are different. Not to mention the flex patterns of the boot and how CAD has helped us create stiffness in specific directions whil allowing flex in others. Which leads me to say that even though the look may be quite similar, the mechanics have to be different if for no other reason we are not on the old equipment.
post #20 of 70

Good posting jasp. One thing that the serpentine and the modern sl retraction cross under turn have in common is that at transition in both cases the feet are flexed. Ive heared a million times the phrase "pull the feet back underneath you at transition" and "hips forware ALL the time" but this is simply impossible. As long as we are strapped in our boots with skis on there is no way we can pull the feet back as far as necessary without being in the back seat at transition neurtal with shins parallel to snow. Therefore in the serpentine turn they chose to brake at the waist in order to compensate for butt getting offsetted backwards. In the modern sl turn we take advantage of a strong edge set and or angle, be it carving or skidding, and we create a float where we can offset our butt backwards without falling backwards because we use momentum and energy from the previous turn to help us stay in balance for that short time period before gravity takes over and pulls us back again. Note, we also brake at the waist but not to the same extent. I think BB "backpedalling" consept fits the cross under transition technique perfectly. This momentum is also what we call the virtual bump. There is a connection. As in all skiing we do.

post #21 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post

It is also not written in stone that the turns be carved, or skidded in that both are options on today's skis and boots. 

Try skidding a Volkl Racetiger SL, let me know how that works for you.
post #22 of 70
Huh? Not sure where your going here E. Are you suggesting all you can do with a Volkl is carve?
post #23 of 70
 I am suggesting that the Volkl is such a strong carving ski that skidded turns are best avoided.  All it wants to do is get on edge and bite.  It's pointless, and rather painful,  to force that ski to skid.
post #24 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigE View Post

 I am suggesting that the Volkl is such a strong carving ski that skidded turns are best avoided.  All it wants to do is get on edge and bite.  It's pointless, and rather painful,  to force that ski to skid.
 

I have a pair of Volkl WC SL's.  They are not my choice for skidding or smearing turns.  Their comfort zone is on high edge angles & carving in hard snow.  Like any ski, they will skid but it's not a very comfortable feeling.
JF
post #25 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigE View Post


 I am suggesting that the Volkl is such a strong carving ski that skidded turns are best avoided.  All it wants to do is get on edge and bite.  It's pointless, and rather painful,  to force that ski to skid.
 
There was a top level jr FIS skier that was selling a pair of the new Fischers with the see through tip last fall at a fair. He was skiing for Atomic and had bought a pair of the Fischers himself to be sure he was not missing out on anything. I asked why he was now selling and he said that the skis were good for carving only. Not suitable for him. They got up on edge and carved beautifully but on a race track they were too much.
post #26 of 70
I teach on my Volkl slaloms almost all the time. So mine at least don't seem to be adverse to smearing a turn when I ask them to do so. In fact, right after lunch you are likely to find me doing 360 spins as a warm up balancing and near flat edging activity. I save the big edge stuff for when I'm warmed up again. Haven't had a bad reaction from any of my volkls though.

Anyway, this thread isn't about Volkls or any other brand of skis, it's about serpentine turns and the question at hand is if serpentine turns are the same as the SL turns we see today. Rocca always impressed me with his snakey SL turns, Ligety seems to be capable of that but in general he's not as snakey as Rocca was a few seasons back. As I am learning even more about this turning style, I keep walking away from practice with a deep respect for how well the top skiers make that maneuver look so easy.

For my money I would say the equipment of each era has a lot to do with how we move to make the skis respond a specific way. Similar looking outcomes may be occuring but I doubt the mechanics are the same...
post #27 of 70
 JASP,

I never said you cannot skid a turn,  just that it's just a lousy ski to skid turns with.  In the East, the "snow" is very loud;  the bite of the ski is intense.
post #28 of 70
Quote:

Anyway, this thread isn't about Volkls or any other brand of skis, it's about serpentine turns and the question at hand is if serpentine turns are the same as the SL turns we see today.

 

You are right JASP, this thread is not about skis.  I am sure that any qualified skier could smear or skid just about any ski, even easier depending on the tune.

You mention Rocca & Ligety, I will add Bode into the mix.  You could really see it early in his career when he was winning a lot of slaloms by large margins.  His ability to just let the skis run especially in the flushes & straighter, flat sections.


Quote:

"Be careful! The Serpent technique should not make you forget to edge-set when necessary."
 


His downfall was not believing he could still win by setting up & changing his tactics in the tough sections.
 

Serpentine, slithery, snakey, whatever it is, it is fast.  Maybe I am not as familiar with turn mechanics as I should be, but from what I remember of Jouberts description, the mechanics & description seem at least similar to what is happening today.  The edge angles & grip may be higher & better today, but the transition seems very much the same.  I think it sometimes gets labeled by some, as something new & different.

Thanks,
JF

post #29 of 70
 This thread would be better with pics/video.
post #30 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigE View Post

 This thread would be better with pics/video.

Aren't they all.  I think it would be difficult to find some of the old stuff of guys like Killy & Patrick Russell.  Even early stuff of Bode, that I have on VHS is hard to find on youtube.  Since I am obviously not busy today, I will see what I can find.
JF
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