Sunday 12 January 2020

Beginner Skiers and The Snowplow

Taken From the Manual

About the Snowplow

One of the first things that you will be taught at a ski school is how to snowplow down a small hill. This is an excellent place to start if it is used properly. It uses all the primary skills; 
  • Pressure control, 
  • Edge control, 
  • Pivoting or Counter Rotation,  
  • Blending, 
  • Stance and Balance. 

The snowplow allows you to move slowly down the hill. It can be used to stop and turn. It can be used as a way of skiing. Also, by keeping your legs wide you keep your balance bending slightly forward you prevent falling. There is a but. It can be habit-forming if overused and becomes a way of skiing.

Pressure Control
A snowplow is a powerful tool for learning the primary skills
required to ski. You start by forming a wedge or V shape with your skis. Leaning forward at the waist so you free pressure on the ball of your foot and if your feet are wide enough, you will feel pressure concentrated just at the base of your big toe.  This is an important pressure point because this is the pressure required to make skis turn. If you lean to the right, your right ski will tilt and bend. When moving your ski will turn left. This pressure can be enhanced by tilting the knee to the left.

Primary Edge Control

When you start moving down-hill the first time, you should form a small wedge. If you increase the V angle really wide, then you will stop. Or you can keep going making small and large wedges to speed up or slow down.  This is accomplished more by applying pressure to your heels, heel pressure control.  Also what enhances the effect of slowing and speeding up is that the angle of your ski changes.  The wider your heels move the greater the angle and the greater the ski edges grip the snow with the result to slow your motion forward. Performing this simple exercise you are teaching both legs pressure and edge control plus pivoting or counter-rotation.

Pivoting/ Counter-rotation

Counter-rotation is turning your leg in the direction you wish to go.  In a snowplow position, both your skis are pointing in opposite directions, so unless you enhance one or the other you will move in a straight line down the hill. Enhancing toe pressure on the right ski, you will turn left.
The above is all you need to know to ski down beginner and intermediate hills. It is also a very tiring way to ski. Your legs are under stress continuously.  This is one reason beginners lose energy quickly.

Enhancement of the Skills

To make skiing easier and less stressful is to enhance these skills with 2 more exercises.  One is the one-foot stop exercise and the other is initiating small turns. These are lessons 3 and 4 in my manual.
Primary Pivoting / Counter-rotation, Heel Pressure

In lesson 3 you start down the hill skis side by side, then make a wedge and then push one foot out in front so that it lies across your line of motion. Kids find this is an easy body move, often using this to stop automatically. You use pressure on your heel to make this happen.  As you get older it becomes more difficult. This is a tough one for me to demo, as I am really old now.

Primary Pressure Control, Balance forward, Turn Initiation

Lesson 4. this is where we first started with pressure on the ball of the foot and a slight tilting of the knee in the direction you want to go. With pressure applied to the front inside edge of one ski, the ski will turn.  Again the motion is down-hill in a straight line turning left and right in small turns. These are not real turns, they are just the beginning of turns.

Blending, Transition to Parallel Skiing

In lesson 5, you use a modified snowplow. It is called a stem christy turn, a mini turn and a one-foot stop without the stop combination. This is the start of the transition from snowplow skiing to parallel skiing.  If you have practiced the previous lessons diligently you will be able to combine lessons 3 and 4 and add parallel skiing.  It works like this. You start across a gentle hill at about walking speed with your skis side-by-side, spread about shoulder width, and at a 45-degree angle to the right of straight down the hill. Move about 5 meters (about 17') then lean forward and push out your right ski in a snowplow and turn 90 degrees. Bring your skis parallel and repeat.  It is best to see the video for this movement.  This is a progression where you gradually increase your speed and applying more pressure to the outside ski making the turn. You will find that eventually most of your weight will be on the outside or turning ski and the other ski can stay beside the turning ski.  Magic.

Fine-tune the process by reducing the straight length, and you just shift your weight left to right making a series of turns. There you are effortlessly parallel skiing. Maybe 2-4 hours. Maybe a faster run (steeper hill) to feel a little speed.  Maybe a better hill with a bit of a challenge. Maybe adding a little more pressure on the turns at the start and finish, for speed control. Maybe work the skis a little harder. 

The point here is that there is no reason that a person can’t be parallel skiing in a few hours. The last 3 parts make the difference. Nobody should be stuck in a snowplow skiing position. To Improve start at the top and repeat the process often.

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