Yes Weems--and Harvey--you can certainly identify "fluidity" by observing that edge release. But fluid edge release is an "outcome"--literally part of the flow--so we can't FIX a non-fluid skier by "fixing" his/her edge release! That's why Stephen Hienzsch's image was so appropriate--that edge release results from movement that starts way back in the previous turn. Throughout the turn, the fluid skier moves in such a way as to END the turn with the release--flat skis, and everything ALREADY moving (or perhaps STILL moving) into the next turn.
I see the same thing you described, Weems. Most skiers appear to think of their turns one at a time--start it, get it over with, rest and reaffirm your safety, THEN start thinking about how to make the next one. This thought pattern cannot possibly lead to fluidly linked turns! It's common to think of turns as having three phases--initiation, control, and completion. And there are also movements and mental activities that we do to PREPARE for the turn, prior to initiation. PSIA has long identified that, when turns are linked, that completion phase coincides with the next turn's preparation phase. These days, I'd take it even farther--the ENTIRE previous turn must prepare you for the next turn!
I prefer the term "neutral" to describe the start/transition of the turn, rather than "release," because it involves the entire body, rather than just the ski, all the skills, beyond just edging. All the way through the turn, the skier must strive to FINISH in neutral. When that happens, there is absolutely NOTHING ELSE that the skier must do to start the next turn--the "release" becomes a foregone conclusion and fluidity is inevitable!
Stephen Hienzsch was the director of the Mahre Training Center for its first 15 years or so, as well as the head coach of the US Disabled Ski Team, before his role in product development and marketing for Volant Skis finally took all of his time. He's an extraordinary skier, but he really did exemplify the clear, simple, no-nonsense view of ski technique so typical of racers. The Mahre brothers--and Stephen--were very big on up/down motion in skiing (flexion-extension), and we often exaggerated it to explore its importance. Tall and relaxed to release edge angles and float into the turn...sinking, sinking, sinking, to increase edge angles and deal with the pressures of the turn...THEN UP to finish the turn!
This last point--the return to "tall" at the turn's finish--was the crux! Too many skiers think of starting a turn tall, with flat skis, and finishing the turn low, skis on edge. And their turns are never linked, by definition! If you finish a turn one way and start it another, you HAVE to do something AFTER the finish to get back to the "starting position"--precluding linkage and fluidity. Only when the turn finishes where it starts (in body position and movement, as well as attitude), can it FLOW smoothly into the next turn.
Here are a few related thoughts, common "advice" that will devastate "fluidity," well-intended conventional wisdom that is more wives' tale mythology than truth:
- "Extend/Rise/etc. to initiate the turn." (NO!--if you like to think in terms of rising and sinking, you should think "extend/rise to FINISH the turn"--that way you're already there!)</font>
- "Start tall, finish small." (Instead, think "start AND finish in NEUTRAL"--and you won't even have to think about "start"!)</font>
- "Start the turn by releasing the edge, and progressively increase the edge angle all the way through the turn." (Same thing--start and finish in neutral)</font>
- "Start the turn with a 'lead change'--pushing the new inside ski forward...." (Lead change results from both skis turning separately, like the front wheels of a car, to steer the turn. Like a car, at the END of the turn, the wheels/skis point straight ahead. If you wait until you start the next turn, it's too late!)</font>
- Finally, as Weems suggested, simply thinking of your turns as ways to CHECK SPEED (like almost everyone does) will absolutely prevent you from ever making the fluid, linked turns of experts! Fluid turns are OFFENSIVE--they result ONLY from the intent to GO THAT WAY, never from the intent to STOP GOING THIS WAY! We've discussed this point at length here at EpicSki, but it's always worth bringing up again. Intent dictates technique, absolutely. There's nothing "flowing" about "stop"!</font>
I'll never forget the image of Stephen Hienzsch illustrating these points to an eager group at the Mahre Training Center. "Rise OUT of the turn--that way you can traverse across the hill if you want to, or start the next turn immediately, your choice! If I asked everyone here to traverse across to the other side of the trail, how many people would crouch down low and stay that way all the way across?" He then demonstrated how silly this would look, squatted down, pushing with his poles, an evil, determined grin on his face.... "Exit your turn in that tall, neutral, relaxed stance, ready to do whatever you want!"
From neutral, holding the traverse simply requires a little ankle tension; releasing the edge involves only relaxing that tension. Of course, your whole body must already be moving in the appropriate direction too, for balance, as it comes out of the last turn....(another discussion!)
Just think--you could try this NOW--Silverton, Colorado's newest and highest resort actually opened for skiing this morning with several feet of fresh powder, making big news after our year of drought!
Bob Barnes[ October 02, 2002, 09:52 AM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]