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Help for a Terminal Sperm Turner

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I am heading skiing in two weeks and I have a little problem that I hope y'all can help me a bit.

First the two disclaimers: [img]smile.gif[/img] (in my best Michael Feldman voice)
1. Yes, I am aware of the Academy. I am hoping to attend but cannot commit at this time.
2. Yes, I plan to take at least a lesson while I am there. I like to ski a day to get my legs under me before starting in on lesson(s). If I can have something to work on that first day and make it to day 2 a little further ahead I think I would be doing myself a favor.

My background. I have been skiing a few years and have accumulated about 15 days of skiing in that time. I stay almost exclusively on intermediate terrain and feel comfortable on most of it. I ski the easy terrain some also just to relax/ rest a bit. I have only deliberately gone down one black slope, I still haven't figured out why it was rated that way. I'm still not sure what that was I went down last year at Vail when I got lost somewhere under Avanti.

So, every time I go to make a turn I end up pushing the tails of the skis out. I try so hard, telling myself that I am just going to let the skis turn and then I end up pushing the tails out. What are some things that I can do to start leaving more "S"'s in the snow and fewer "Z"'s?

A few rambling thoughts. I know part of the problem is I have a fear of speed. At times I have let myself go faster when I felt comfortable and found that turning came easier. OTOH I also seem to do the same sperm turns on the easiest green runs. I remember last year my calves were sore after the first day but that cleared up after I took a lesson and we worked a bit on stance and balance. Another thing from that lesson... The second lesson I ever took, the instructor had us really driving all the way out with the big toe during turns and getting the arms way out in front during turns. The last instructor cleared up that some, mostly the weight balance over the feet. She taught more of a balanced stance over the whole foot. After the lesson I played around with that some and found that with subtle adjustments in where over the feet I balanced my weight I could sometimes get that feeling of riding rails. I assume that was carving. I'd call it a drug, personally. But I never could keep it going for more that fleeting moments. I think I keep my skis mostly parallel during turns.

What advice or things to try can you give me? If you have some further questions I'll try and answer them to the best of my ability.

post #2 of 13
For a guy who has only skied 15 days, it sounds to me like you are doing well. The reason people get stuck at the point where they can skid Z shaped turns all the time is that it works and it's fun! All the skidding provides some braking that allows you to handle steeper terrain. Carved turns have little braking and are MORE FUN, but it takes a LOT of mileage on easy terrain to be comfortable with letting your skis run without putting on the brakes.

Get some coaching, ski as much as you can, learn to ice skate if you have the opportunity (I never met an ice skater who couldn't ski blue runs the first day)and enjoy yourself.

Years ago, I was at a race camp but I wasn't as competitive as I wanted to be. When I asked a coach what I needed to do to ski the way he did, he told me "Quit your job."

So I did.

post #3 of 13
Hi Brandon--

Great question! I would love to ski with you--your "problem" is not actually difficult to solve. But it may be impossible to solve it with a keyboard!

There are probably several root causes of your "tail-pushing." First, and probably foremost, the clue probably lies in your statement "I have a fear of speed." The turns you seek are very much OFFENSIVE in nature--they are "GO" things! Every time you start a new carved turn, diving your tips down the hill without pushing the tails into a braking skid, you will GAIN SPEED. So you have to WANT to gain speed, or you'll never make them!

If you are like most skiers, you "turn" to slow down, or to "control speed." And that is your big mistake. To make carved turns, you must want to GAIN speed, not lose it! You must think "go that way," not "stop going this way." Offensive turns are virtually impossible to make if you are in a defensive state of mind!

Intent dictates technique. Absolutely! To make offensive carved turns, you must do whatever it takes to develop an offensive "GO" intent. Surprisingly, the solution is NOT to go faster! The key is to WANT to gain speed, and the only time anyone wants that is when you're going "too slow"! Right?

So, the first thing you need to do is SLOW DOWN! Slow down BEFORE you make a turn, preferably by steering the LAST turn a little farther around the arc--even perhaps back uphill if necessary. Slow down first, THEN turn. Slow down until you are literally going "too slow." THEN dive down the hill.

Don't worry--as you make better (cleaner) turns, you will quickly gain confidence. Carving skis are far more stable, predictable, and confidence-inspiring than skidding skis, so you will quickly become comfortable with more and more speed. "Too slow" is a state of mind. At first, go WAY "too slow." But soon, your "too slow" will still have you gliding past most of the other skiers on the mountain who are, ironically, going "too fast." (Why else would they be "turning to slow down"? The only time you want to slow down is when you're going too fast. The only time you want to speed up is when you're going too slow. Great skiers--including downhill racers at 90 mph--ALWAYS go "too slow"; they are always looking for better glide, more speed....)

The second cause of your tail-pushing is purely technical, even though I'm sure it results from 15 days of practicing "defensive turns." Once you adopt a new offensive mindset, you will need to practice some new movements. Specifically, the key to carving is not just to push the tails LESS. You need to do something ELSE, MORE! Instead of pushing the outside tail out, focus on "pulling" the inside tip IN. Actively turn your right tip to the right to start a right turn, and continue that activity all the way through the turn. That will allow the left ski to carve, the way it is designed. The moment you cease to ACTIVELY pull that inside tip into the turn, it will get in the way of the outside ski's carving path, and you will have no choice but to push the outside tail into a skid again to finish the turn.

So focus on the inside ski, exclusively. Right tip right to go right, left tip left to go left (key word: GO). The outside ski will take care of itself. As you guide that inside tip into the turn, note that you can't help but also TIP it, toward its outside "little toe" edge. Both the turning, and the tipping, of the inside ski lead similar movement of the outside ski. Do not worry, at least at first, about CARVING with the inside ski. That will come with time.

Allow the weight to transfer to the left ski as you turn and tip the right tip right and go right. Do not FORCE the weight to transfer--i.e. do not transfer the weight first, then turn the inside ski (as some will advise you). That preturn weight transfer will entail a movement in the wrong direction, putting your body right over the ski, and requiring you to then push the ski out to the side to turn. Allow the weight to transfer naturally to the left foot in a right turn, just as it shifts left when you turn a car right. Your only focus should remain "right tip right to GO right...."

Well, good luck with these thoughts. Don't hesitate to ask for clarification. I'd love to hear how it goes....

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ December 02, 2002, 08:53 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #4 of 13
Allow the weight to transfer to the left ski as you turn and tip the right tip right and go right. Do not FORCE the weight to transfer--i.e. do not transfer the weight first, then turn the inside ski (as some will advise you).
excuse me...dont mean to cut in or hijack this thread...but I have a question about this, if you dont mind...

having skied for the first time in over a year, I found i really needed to concentrate on the fundamentals of the turn, and found myself conciously telling myself to turn and tip the inside ski, just as you've advised.

but shouldnt the weight transfer occur, if not before, than at least simultaneously with the turn and tip? I cant turn and tip the inside ski when Im standing on it, this was my biggest problem with the injured leg. I kept having to tell myself to get off the darned thing if I wanted to turn it...?

post #5 of 13
Linda Back in the day when we skied straight skis it was usually necessary to weight the new outside ski before or simultaneously with the edge change. With the new shape skis, weight transfer can be more progressive. You can release the edges by just by relaxing the outside leg (the stance ski in PMTS terms), which will begin the transfer of weight to the new outside ski. On modern technique, the weight transfer is gradual and reaches it's maximum somewhere at or near the fall line, and then begins to reverse to the other direction. This kind of two footed skiing produces well controlled, secure turns in all conditions, is especially effetive in crud and variable conditions.
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

First thanks for the complement. Second, I think you hit one of the keys for why I want to get better at this in your response to Linda. Bob also touched on this. While I do not expect to ever become an expert skier, I just simply will never be able to put the hours in unless I make a major lifestyle change, I do want to expand my set of tools. Specifically I want to be able to handle changing terrain and conditions better and with more confidence. And I just feel like I cannot do that when my main technique is to go skidding around the slopes all the time. A more "controlled, secure turn" is what I am looking for. There is also the competitive side that wants to do everything at the highest level that I am capable of. I always want to be improving. Also, I hadn't thought of ice skating. I think there is rink around here somewhere. Roller blading had crossed my mind, however.


Thanks for the hints. I think I will spend time on some appropriate terrain trying to become more offensive. "Ski the slow line fast." I have been able to pick up some on tipping and steering the inside ski in the past. I'll spend a lot of time working on your ideas, see how much progress I can make, and then seek out professional help. I'll let you how things went when I get back.
post #7 of 13
but shouldnt the weight transfer occur, if not before, than at least simultaneously with the turn and tip?
Hi Linda--

"Weight transfer" is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts of skiing. Contrary to still popular opinion, transferring weight is certainly NOT essential to making turns--ask any snowboarder or monoskier! So why does the myth that we must transfer weight persist?

There are some reasons why balancing primarily on the outside ski of turns helps.

As John suggests, there was a time when it took all the pressure you could muster to make a ski bend into a carving arc and hold a turn, so transferring weight to one ski was especially important. Any pressure on the other ski was NOT on the one, so it wasn't helping. Those were the days when "racing turn" meant "step turn"--stepping 100% of the weight from the downhill ski to the uphill (new outside) ski to initiate a turn.

But today's skis don't require nearly as much pressure to perform. That leaves open at least the OPTION of skiing with weight on both skis.

Another reason why transferring weight is desirable lies in the biomechanics and anatomy of the feet and legs. The outside leg is simply in a better position to deal with the forces of ski turns, while maintaining optimal control of edge angle.

Third, balancing primarily on the outside leg leaves the inside leg as a "backup," ready to prevent a fall if the outside ski slips away.

And weight transfer is also a natural, almost inevitable phenomenon. It happens in a car--turn right and the car leans to the left, and vice-versa. It takes a surprising amount of effort and skill to AVOID a weight transfer in a high performance turn. (Not so much in a skidded turn, where the skid tends to cause the skier to fall to the inside.)

But weight transfer is still not NECESSARY, and "transferring weight" can cause its own problems. In general, it is best to think of weight transfer as a RESULT of turns--not as a CAUSE, and not a requirement. Like I said, it happens in a car, but you certainly don't have to tell all the passengers to "lean left now so we can turn right."

What is the problem? An active weight transfer can disrupt the smooth flow of the center of mass from turn to turn, and can actually cause you to need to start the turn with a skid! Try this experiment: Stand up, and assume a natural, athletic, skiing stance, feet comfortably separated. Now, to simulate a turn, make a quick lateral step to your right. What happened? Everything you moved went right, right? You moved your right foot to the right, and your whole body moved right with it. And your weight shifted almost instantly to the left foot--there was clearly a weight transfer as you initiated your "right turn."

Now assume your natural stance again, and "make a weight transfer" to balance on the left foot. What happened this time? Your body moved LEFT--the OPPOSITE DIRECTION from the way it moved the first time! This is what I call a "negative movement"--a movement in the direction opposite the intended turn. Clearly such a movement would cause a major "glitch" in the transition of ski turns. It is neither natural nor efficient. When you want to go right, EVERYTHING should move right, as it did in the previous paragraph.

Not only did you move the wrong direction when you made that weight transfer, but now you are balanced directly over the foot of the "new outside ski." You know you can't turn with your foot directly beneath you--just as a bicycle can't turn without a lean. So you've got to get that foot out to the side. How do you do that? You push it out there, of course! And that starts your new turn with a defensive, braking skid.

So "moving right" caused a weight transfer to the left ski. But transferring weight to the left ski caused you to move LEFT. Ironic, eh?

The same thing happens in ski turns, of course. If you allow the weight transfer to happen naturally, as a result of the forces of the turn, just as it does in a car, everything works great. But the actual weight transfer may be somewhat delayed, as John suggests. Why? Gravity! When you stand naturally on the floor, your weight is about equal on both feet. But tip that floor to the side, like going across a slope on skis, and some weight will shift to the downhill side. (It does in a car too, but we don't often drive ACROSS a slope in a car.) So we actually start a turn with a little more weight on the DOWHNILL (inside) ski. As we turn down the hill, centrifugal force builds, pulling us to the outside. And the slope of the hill becomes less sideways to us as we approach the fall line (straight downhill). So weight shifts to the outside, but NOT immediately. More speed, tighter turns, and flatter slopes all cause the weight transfer to happen earlier. Less speed, larger turns, and steeper slopes all delay it.

So all this brings us full circle back to my original advice: "Allow the weight to transfer to the left ski as you turn and tip the right tip right and go right. Do not FORCE the weight to transfer--i.e. do not transfer the weight first, then turn the inside ski (as some will advise you)."

And the short answer to your queston is "NO"! The weight transfer should NOT necessarily occur before, or simultaneously with, the turning and tipping of the inside ski. It will often occur nearly simultaneously, especially on the gentle slopes where you are likely to experiment with new movements and ideas, but it doesn't have to. You do not need to "lift" the downhill ski to release its edge so you can steer it into the turn--you merely need to flatten it enough for it to release its grip.

Does this help?

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

PS--remember that all this assumes that you are trying to make modern, high performance "offensive" turns. If your intent in turning is more defensive, to check speed, then that "negative movement" of your CM is just what you want, as is the skidding of the tails that results. And controlling speed IS what most skiers are after when they turn! If transferring your weight before initiating a new turn "feels right" to you, I suggest that your intent in turning is more defensive than you may have realized!

[ December 04, 2002, 10:38 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #8 of 13
thank you, yes, it does help...and it seems like it was a good thing I have an opportunity to "get back to basics"

I had an opportunity to discuss this concept, at length, (with someone that perhaps you know, Bob, his name is John, i think, dont remember his last name, but he teaches at Copper, and part of the season teaches at Okemo in Vermont,as his wife likes to spend the holidays in New England...the only other thing I can tell you about him is that he has been skiing WITHOUT an ACL for years and years)

anyway, he was very knowelegable and helpful but he was telling me to stop standing on the inside ski to initiate a turn...perhaps i was mistaken thinking that he meant weight transfer???

Turning was so much easier when I didn't have to think about it!!

thanks for the info, it really helps and I cant wait to get out and give it a try,

post #9 of 13
Glad to help, Linda. One thought occurs to me about John's suggestion to you not to stand on your inside foot when starting a turn. It's quite possible he was trying to get you to change something in particular with this thought. Perhaps he was trying to get you to let go and release the edge of the downhill ski, rather than pushing off from it. Perhaps he was concerned about TOO MUCH pressure on the inside ski, due to "banking" (leaning the shoulders into the turn).

It's impossible to say, without knowing more. Remember that much advice is meant simply as a mental cue to trigger certain changes--not as "the right way to ski." And once those changes become natural and ingrained, the advice has done its job, and it's time to forget it!


Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #10 of 13
Brandon, I would highly recommend you take a look at Harb Ski Systems Onliine Lessons. Much of the advice you might get in a post on this thread is covered very well there, together with some animated pictures which are extremely helpful. Harb's simple and straightforward approach and terminology has worked extremely well for me in trying to help friends and acquaintances at your level. It has also helped me a great deal at a reasonably advanced level.
post #11 of 13
Hi Brandon,

Bob has given you some really good advice. He has really nailed some of the reasons why you are having trouble with your turns. Although he did mention that you should get over your skis more, I think that this might be the major reason why you are making the turns that you are.

From what you said in your original post, there were many clues in what you said that would lead me to believe that you are sitting back or in the back seat as we say sometimes. Having all this weight in the back or on your heels, the only way to turn the skis is to push the heels out to the side. There are other names given to this move, “window wiper turns, heel thrust, etc” IMHO, I think that you should spend more time first on stance and balance. Try to get more comfortable standing on your skis WHILE THEY ARE MOVING. This is where the problem lies, I believe. Do you feel most of your weight on your heels while you are skiing? Do you seem to kind of hop up just before you push the heels out? Actually, this is the only way one can turn the skis when all their weight in on the heels. Your instructors in the past were on the right track trying to get you forward. Your last instructor, the lady, was right on with trying to get you to feel the whole foot touching the bed of the boot. The first one may have been exaggerating with what he wanted you to do. Maybe go out and try to feel the middle-inside of the boot while you are making a turn and not let yourself fall backwards to the heel when the skis start down the hill. Once that happens you are pretty much locked into that position for the whole turn. Feel or rest, but don’t push your shins into the front of the boot. Try this and get back to us and let us know if that helps.--------Wigs [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Wigs:
Although he did mention that you should get over your skis more, I think that this might be the major reason why you are making the turns that you are ... From what you said in your original post, there were many clues in what you said that would lead me to believe that you are sitting back or in the back seat as we say sometimes. ... Do you feel most of your weight on your heels while you are skiing? Do you seem to kind of hop up just before you push the heels out?
Being in the backseat is a possibility. I do try and keep forward with light pressure on the front of the boots and I try to keep everything stacked above that but it doesn't mean that's actually what I am doing. Unfortunately it has just been to long since I have been on skis to answer the questions well. I will keep the questions in mind. Having said that, I do not remember having to make a hop or similar move during a turn. I do think that I can remember the feeling of being back on my heels sometimes, especially the steeper the hill. I will see if I can catch myself showing signs of being back but I have a feeling it will take help to identify and correct that if it is the case.
post #13 of 13
Originally posted by Brandon:
I do not remember having to make a hop or similar move during a turn.[/QB]
The hop I'm referring to is very subtle. Just enough to get your weight off the heels so that you can push them out. You can push the heels out without an upward movement, but this requires a lot of movement with the entire body and you wouldn’t like the way that it feels and file the move. So when you go skiing again, check to see if there’s not a little lift or hop upwards just before the heel push.--------Wigs
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