Sometimes seeing the detail hidden within the big picture of expert ski technique, as demonstrated by World Cup racers, can be a tough nut to crack. Things happen so quickly, and are performed so precisely and effortlessly, it can trick the eye, to the point of even becoming virtually invisible.
It's for that reason, when I created this montage:
Photo courtesy of www.YourSkiCoach.com
I also created the following one, from the same turn, not only to show a great display of the classic retraction transition, but also to better show the pivoting of the skis that was somewhat lost in the full montage. As I've said before, retractions and pivots are common bed partners. When you see a retraction like this, watch for an accompanying pivot. 9 times out of 10 it's going to be there.
By removing the final image from the full montage, suddenly the rapid downhill redirection of the skis between images 3 and 4 jumps out into view. Probably in the vicinity of a 45 degree pivot happens there in the blink of an eye, all while the skis were still unweighted. Hello Waldo!
Well, it's come to my attention that some people are still not able to see the pivot in this montage, even with this isolated version. They still think what they're seeing above is arc to arc carving, with no pivot involved. I know, it can be hard to pick out, even with a frame by frame presentation like this.
Keep in mind, this was taken with a camera that has a 6.5 frames per second burst rate, so what you're seeing in this montage all took place in less than 1/2 a second. It's no wonder that it's so hard for people to take in the fine detail of what's happening. In yet another attempt to help people see it, I'm providing a video clip of the same turn. I've put it in slow motion, and isolated just the pivot portion. Hopefully this will help those who couldn't see the pivot happen before, come to see it now.
A couple things will help you see the pivot. One is how quickly the skis change directions. In that regard, pivoting does for the racer what carving wont.
Second, notice that this rapid redirection happens during the transition, while the ski's edges are disengaged from the snow. This is evidenced by the lack of snow flying while the skis are being redirected downhill. Skis won't carve when their edges are not engaged.
Third, you can see the skis being actively twisted. The tails project sideways, and cease following the path of the tips.
What you're seeing here is a very skillfully executed pivot. It's only what is needed to maintain a tight line, but still engage the edges above the gate and carve the majority of the turn. This allows him to feather from pivot to carve almost instantly, with virtually no skid or loss of speed. All gain, no sacrifice.
For those instructors, coaches and technicians among us, it's important to develop an eye to see pivots happen, even small ones, so you can guide your students towards eliminating them, when arc to arc is desired. It's also important to be able to differentiate between high quality pivots, and not so great ones, when they are actually the goal.
And, It's important for students who want to self coach themselves, to be able to know when they're pivoting, and when they're not. Many people who think they're carving arc to arc actually have a bit of pivot in the mix. Knowing how to identify it is the first step towards learning to eliminate it.