or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

To fall or not to fall

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Last Sunday after the race a good friend of mine confessed: “I know about putting my skis outside to make a better turn and I can feel it free skiing but I just do not have the confidence to do that in the race course…. I think I need to crash a couple of times just to know where my limits are…..”

So, while the subject of falling was brought up before in different context, I thought I refuel the discussion with some fundamental thoughts, inspired by this confession.

I would not be far off defining balance as ability to counteract the external forces when maintaining the desired posture. (I use term forces loosely here, since we are not talking about mechanics where we would need to consider force as well as momentum. So when I said external force, I meant any type of action on our body that we need to counteract in order to stay in balance). Even if someone decides to suggest better definition, I doubt it can significantly change the suggested ideas and their logic.
When the forces are greater than our ability to counteract them we fall. One most probably would not fall when being bumped into by a little kid, but is destined to being knocked down (if not out) when tackled by a linebacker. For everyone there will be a borderline case of a force that still allows to recover balance. If we say that every person has a certain recovery envelope that is defined by his/her ability to counteract external forces then any action within such envelope would result in this person regaining his balance and any action outside such envelope – in losing balance and falling. The balance point would expectedly be in the center of such envelope.

Every action that requires us to maintain balance has a certain set of expected or foreseeable forces associated with it. Lets call the demand a certain activity puts on person’s ability to maintain balance activity envelope. Then one’s chances of falling (losing balance) while performing certain activity would be proportional to the difference between recovery envelope and activity envelope. For example, consider three common activities: standing, walking and running; it is easiest to throw running person off balance and hardest – standing. As a person learns an activity his activity envelope decreases. Consider two activities that are similar in demands on one’s balance skill: roller-blading on pavement and skiing groomed greens. While being able to do one is certainly beneficial in learning the other, good skier does not match good roller-blader the first time he gets on roller-blades and vise-versa.

Thus its not just the balance that explains why one falls and another one does not. To fall or not to fall is a choice that everyone makes by restricting the activity envelope within recovery envelope. That is why racers rarely fall when free-skiing but it is not an uncommon occurrence on the race course – the closer you get your activity envelope to your recovery envelope – the higher performance you can expect but higher are your chances of overstepping the boundary and falling. Instructors do not fall when they chose to ski safe (limit their activity envelope far inside their recovery envelope). When a person gets first on skis his activity envelope exceeds (or gets pretty close to) his recovery envelope and you expect a few falls on that first day.

While your recovery envelope will expand and your activity envelope will shrink as you keep training, knowing where your boundaries are makes it easier to expand them. If you never reached you recovery envelope, you will always be anxious expanding your activity envelope, because you do not really know where you limits are.

post #2 of 16
That was very good, but I would think that the momentum of a running man would make it more difficult to knock him down. If you throw a medicine ball at a standing man, if he does not have the strength to sufficiently brace himself, he will fall. Throw it at a running man and he merely needs to redirect his momentum to stay upright.
post #3 of 16
VK, I don't know if you factored this in, but the balancing act at the edge of the recovery envelope is not the only thing, the skier still has to have enough play room left to direct and pressure his skis. Recovery while missing a gate should not be enough.

So that friend of yours should push it until he either falls or misses a gate and then back up a step.

Us non-racers can stay in the safety zone and still enjoy it.

post #4 of 16
I would hold that "falling" is the result of reaching anticipated "forces" in excess of ones strength, or more to my experience, being acted upon by forces unexpected while performing other actions.

"Caught an edge" unexpected
" the bump set me back" unexpected
" the tips dove in" unexpected.

The magnitude of the unexpected forces is not the significant aspect.

If I choose to "power through" some crud, What I really mean is I am setting my mental and physical attitude to prepare myself for a series of fore and aft adjustments associated with variable conditions. I "get aggressive". I still have the same balance skills, I am just getting ready for the expected. Now if I hit a rock hidden in that crud, it's still head over tea kettle, because the magnitude of the anticipated "force" is greater than my capacity to accomodate.

We can train our bodies to deal with a greater range of expected and to some degree unexpected "forces". But it's always the things you don't expect that throw you.


post #5 of 16
Just as we ski into a countered position, we must also "ski" our hips inside. If we force the hips inside we get there before there are sufficient forces to balance against. The end result is usually falling or the inability to get into the next turn (out of the old turn.

Remember, being in balance is the ability to affect a positive, selective change on any skiing skill - ie, if you are in balance you can do whatever it takes to remain upright regardless of what you encounter!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 28, 2002 04:38 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Blizzard ]</font>
post #6 of 16
I think the recovery/activity envelope is a good concept.

I put this a similar way relative to balancing on the edges with the center inside of the turn.

What I describe to students is that optimal balanced positioning in a performance turn requires that the hips be inside far enough so that there is virtually no margin of error for falling down on the inside, while there is a huge margin of error on the outside. In other words, I can allow my hips to go from optimal all the way out over the ski (losing the edges) and still not fall down. I will only fall when I finally catch the downhill edge.

But INSIDE is a different story. One more degree inward from perfect will cause a crash. This degree can be achieved by slowing down just a touch, tipping in more, losing just a hair of perfect angulation, or the snow breaking loose underneath the edge...all kinds of things.

My belief is that most people intuitively would like to keep an equal margin of error on either side--the activity and recovery envelope want to be equal. Taking the risk to lessen the margin is an amazing commitment.

So yeah, falling to the inside is a GOOD thing in learning performance skiing. It's big punishment for a very small mistake, but the error has been much outweighed by the courage to test the edge of perfect.

However, you can extend your awareness of how far to go inside without falling down by what you do with your inside pole. I've really been delighted with the benefits of dragging the pole tip. In more performance versions, where the hips are close to the snow, I'll turn my wrist so the pole is at a more or less perpendicular attitude to the skis. As it touches the snow to the inside of the turn, it gives me a huge awareness of just how far I can go inward.

This allows us to finally dump the excessive angulation/waist pinch move that we've all done so assiduously over the years and that causes such a loss of power to the skis.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 28, 2002 05:32 AM: Message edited 1 time, by weems ]</font>
post #7 of 16
By the way, what I said above applies to beginners as well. I don't do the pole move with them so much, because the inside ski serves to stabilize.

It drives me nuts to see beginners start learning to tip their torsos to the outside of the turn. The farthest I want them to tip outside is to remain vertical in the torso. If they tip inward some, I don't worry. I just try to nudge the tipping so that they do it more with the legs than the torso.

Do they get on their inside ski some with this? Yes. Do I care? No. Because as speed develops the centrifugal force will take them back out.

Do they sometimes lean in and rotate in order to turn? Of course. Do I correct that? You bet. But the rotation is the bigger problem. Leaning in without rotation is a non-problem. In fact, it can be made into a good thing.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 28, 2002 05:38 AM: Message edited 1 time, by weems ]</font>
post #8 of 16
Sometimes the recovery envelope really gets pushed beyond what even that person considerered possible. Take Bode Miller when he recovered in that fall in the Olympics. Maier often made incredible recoveries and also had incredible crashes. I think that making a recovery instead of crashin is often appying mental will and focus at the time. If you're tired and not all "there" then you probablly will crash.

Weems, are you making a case for banking? I 'm not sure what you mean by the excessive pinch we've all done comment.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 29, 2002 08:56 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Tog ]</font>
post #9 of 16
Gotcha Tog. I fish for this a lot.

If you mean banking as having the axis of the torso and the axis of the legs aligned, or worse, the axis of the torso tipped inward further than the axis of the legs, then no, I'm not making a case for banking.

However, I see very few instances (perhaps reaching for a pole in steeps) where edging is critical, in which the torso should EVER lean further to the outside than the vertical. I would recommend that most students to stay in the vertical toso mode, but I wouldn't correct it if they leaned inward a bit from that IF there is no or little rotation, or dangerous railing of the ski. This would just correct itself as the speed built in the turns, and in the meantime, the student is learning to work both edges. I would never correct it by teaching the outward lean--waist pinch.

The skiers I aspire to be do not lean to the outside with their torsos in high speed turns. To do so would be excessive and the forces moving to the outside from that outward leaning body would not pass through the edge of the ski. Therefore, those forces would not contribute to the bend of the ski.

At max load position in a turn you will note that the legs tip inward AND the torso tips inward. The torso just doesn't tip inward more than the legs, therfore you still have angulation, but it is appropriate rather than artificial. One clue is to look at the plane of the shoulders. It is NOT level--except during the transition when the skier is switching sides.

How many skiers do we see who do the waist pinch boogie to the outside before they even start the egding!!?? The angulation at the waist, hip, knees, ankles works when it is in coordination with the tipping of the ski onto the edge, and is used to balance the forces on the edge. This is why I don't like the phantom foot or ski or whatever in Harb's technique. Everyone I see that does it, tips to the outside too far.

I don't think this is particularly new either with the new skis. It's just more obvious. Many years ago--like 1980--Billy Shaw (former National Champ) told me in Taos that the main reason for the heavy leaning to the outside that we taught and saw so often was just to duck the bamboo gates. Once the breakaways came about, the hot guys started tipping further inward BECAUSE THEY COULD.

I've got a friend here in Aspen who loves to say, "We bank because we can!"

Nowadays, instructors teach beginners to lean the torso to the outside, I believe, in order to get them over the outside ski and away from the lean toward the hill. This becomes one of those exercises built around exaggeration of one move to correct its opposite.

As a teacher, I refuse to do those exaggeration corrections because the exaggeration becomes the technique, and we've just created another problem for later. I allow my students to be smart and just correct without overcorrecting.

I haven't taught a lean to the outside in about twenty years. The closest I get to it is a reach for the pole plant in moguls to help bring the commitment to the turn.

By the way, I recognize that I am in the minority on this--even in our own school!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 30, 2002 06:26 AM: Message edited 1 time, by weems ]</font>
post #10 of 16
Nice Weems!!!!! Here here! Now if you would just hang a copy of your post on the locker room door for all to see as we walk out every morning. ------------Wigs :
post #11 of 16
Wigs. I actually did hang a bunch of pictures on my office door of racers, bikers, motorbikers, etc. in the perfect angulation/bank mix at Buttermilk for a few years. It took awhile to sink in but quite a few widened their package.

I compromised. I don't mind if people use an exaggeration occasionally, but they've got to differentiate between that and fundamental technique.

I knew you were on board.
post #12 of 16
Weems, I'm a little confused. If I'm traversing a steep slope and pick up my inside ski and I'm banking a bit too much I would probably fall toward the inside (uphill) or have the downhill ski start to slip off the edge. So if I pick up the inside ski on a traverse (steep slope) and my edge holds and I don't fall to the inside then can I assume that this is probably enough angulation and anything more is excess?
post #13 of 16

>>So if I pick up the inside ski on a traverse (steep slope) and my edge holds and I don't fall to the inside then can I assume that this is probably enough angulation and anything more is excess? <<

I think so. [img]smile.gif[/img] What do you think, Weems?---Wigs :
post #14 of 16

Here in the east, on mostly icy, rough snow, where the sound of scaping skis drives some of us to drink, we DO need a lot of edge angle. In Aspen, probably not so much. Banking on an icy trail is a recipe for disaster.

One of the drills I do is to have people try to get their feet as far away from their body as they can WHILE keeping their torso vertical. The visual cue I give is for the zipper of the parka to be vertical. I'll do this in a "line-ski" (some call it a "circle-ski) with a class with each person giving verbal feedback as to how vertical the zipper is.

| versus /
/ /


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 02, 2002 10:00 AM: Message edited 1 time, by WVSkier ]</font>
post #15 of 16
As to the traverse drill--
The need to pick up the inside ski (to be completely balanced on one foot) in a traverse is a false need. Remember there is no centrifugal force there--no turn. What need is there in that sort of environment, to pick up the uphill ski? It's a nice balance drill, but I question whether the excessive angulation that this trains is useful.

In a turn however, continually lightening (and sometimes, though by no means always) the inside ski, helps load pressure to the outside ski.

I'm close to believing that, in most circumstances, if you are traversing (and not turning) and can pick up the inside ski, you may already be overly angulated. But that would make no difference because you're not turning. You're just doing a balance drill.

I also agree with the vertical zipper. If the zipper tips to the outside, I would say it was excessive. The FURTHEST I want my zipper to go to the outside would be vertical.

Again, going back to banking: at speed, the zipper can tip a bit inward--even on ice. (Yes we have ice in the west!) But if the line of zipper is exactly the same, or tipped more inward than the line of the legs, then that banking is going to kill you--it becomes way excessive.

I agree that on ice the torso will tend more towards the vertical (unless the skis are truly perfect)--but again, not like the old days where the plane of the shoulders was parallel to the plane of the slope. In this case, the problem is the margin of error. On ice the margin is thinner so it is natural and normal to be less committed to the inside. The balance is more delicate, but it is still the same principle.

Remember the old outside pole drag drill? I haven't done it since about 1980.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 02, 2002 08:59 PM: Message edited 2 times, by weems ]</font>
post #16 of 16
WV Skier. As I reread your post. I think that maybe you are equating angulation with the amount of edge angle. If so, you are correct--you need whatever edge angle you need to hold.

I was trained to look at angulation as the balancing compensation for edging that takes place in the joints higher up and generally involves tipping outward to balance the boots' tipping inward. The definition would be "the creation of an angle between to axes of the body".

Make sense?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Instruction & Coaching