Sunday 31 January 2016

Leaning to Ski is not Rocket Science

 Basically, skiing is about turning and stopping.  When I learned to ski the first time, there were only wooden skis and the way you turned was either a semi snowplow or a telemark turn. No such thing as steel edges or parabolic shapes. The first big improvement was the addition of steel edges which greatly increased the number of days you could ski. The skill of edging became important and skiing became easier. Over the years our skiing techniques changed mostly as a result of ski equipment improvement. It has always been a challenge to explore and adapt to these changes.  The most significant change recently for recreational skiing has been the parabolic shaped ski. All of a sudden this invention changed the time it takes to learning how to ski from weeks and year to a few hour and days.  Unfortunately, some of the teaching methods are still catching up.

My frustration as a ski instructor was that we are still teaching skiing the way we did 30 years ago. But I couldn't find a better way out until I finally discovered, that the transition from one turn to the next is the most important part of skiing.  It is the end of one turn and the start of the next, and this is where I started.  
My first attempt at a manual was really a collection of notes, about 150 pages. Much too long and disjointed.  I knew that I had all the information and parts but I needed to find the basics of moves and skills.  Mike McPeek  first showed me a rough sketch of the diagram above which I believe is a snapshot of the important first skills to learn and their relationship. If you examine my lessons closely you will see a trend. If you examine even further the lessons mirror the transition between turns. 
There is a progression. The first lesson starts from the outside ring and move directly into very rudimentary core of control skills and blending.   The subsequent lessons then concentrate on embellishing and finessing these skill and are arranged in a sequence of increasing difficulty.  
I'm continuously testing my method to find ways of improving or vindicating that my process is valid.
 Last week I saw a beginner give a most spectacular display of athletics, arms and legs all moving in different directions. What I  really saw was great balance and determination.  I couldn't resist and offered my services. Within 2 hours he was parallel skiing.  When that happens I think I am the most spectacular instructor but in reality it is the student that makes the difference.  In this case the student was a boarder, an quick learner and as I said has great balance and determination.   It is not rocket science.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Balance is the primary skill in skiing.

Pressure scale
Balancing on your toes and heels
Balance is the primary skill in skiing.

I took these sketches from my manual , as this is a good place to start the season. 
When on the hill, an instructor will tell you to have a good centered stance. Translated, this is shown as Neutral in the above left diagram with your weight spread equally on all 4 pressure points on your feet.
The purpose of the exercise here is to feel your weight change concentrated on these pressure points. 
You can practice the following on a hard surface in your bare feet or anywhere else with your shoes on. 
  • It is best to first spread your feet apart until you feel pressure only on the pressure points of both feet shown in the diagram. 
  • Then move your weight front to back, left to right on both feet, balancing on your toe and heels to feel the pressure change on 2 pressure points at a time.  
  • Finally, apply full weight on each of the 4 pressure points. Note how you have to shape your body to make this happen.
  • Experiment a bit with your arms out, at your sides and forward; they make a big difference.
You will only be applying pressure one foot at a time; the other foot is used for balance. Balancing is finessing where you shift your body, arms and legs, to apply pressure to your feet.  

Later, when on the snow in your skis and boots, repeat the above with the tops of your boots loose, both standing still and moving.  Boots are different from bare feet and shoes because it is possible to push on the tongue when putting pressure on the toe and on the boot back when applying pressure on the heel.  For a centered stance there should be almost  no pressing on the tongue or boot back. Your body position should be bent at the waist, both forward and to the sides.

When skiing, this exercise is equivalent to what you  feel when tilting your knees in the direction you wish to go. In order to turn quickly and efficiently, you start the turn on your toe pad and finish the turn on your heel. This is a much better method than trying to rotate your skis with your leg. It is called steering and takes a little practice. Maybe a season?  
Balance is the primary skill in skiing. This is just the start.