Focuses/takeaways from training in New Zealand

Discussion in 'Ski School' started by mike_m, Sep 9, 2018.

  1. mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    As some of you know, I've gone down to New Zealand in August for the past three years to do the Advanced Course offered by the Rookie Academy instructor training program. What has always attracted me is the first-rate quality of the coaches who are there (e.g., Jonathan Ballou, Reilly McGlashan, JF Beaulieu, Tom Gellie, and others). What struck me this summer is how, despite their backgrounds and growing up/coaching in different parts of the world, their technique focuses are now basically the same and totally compatible with those of all the other coaches there. Jonathan noted the same thing. He recounted how, when he first started attending the Interski conference over 12 years ago (ski instructors from around the world meet every four years to share information on technique and teaching methodology), there were distinct differences in understanding and teaching ski technique. At the last conference, these differences had largely disappeared. Although images and exercises differ from coach to coach, the underlying philosophy is now fundamentally identical.

    Some of my main takeaways from this August:

    · Balance, edging skills, and pressure management have become the primary areas of emphasis.

    · Rotary skills are explored, but are not of primary importance.

    · Flex to release is the default go-to in transition.

    · Effective counterbalancing/angulating over the outside ski is vital.

    Last year, I posted a diary of my three weeks there which I'll repost below (some nice photos!). For those who have not read it, it may be a good introduction to this year's takeaways that follow.


    https://www.pugski.com/threads/instructor-training-in-new-zealand.5607/


    Now for this year...

    The fundamental focuses were the same, with some clarification and expansion. I'd never skied with Tom Gellie before and found his background in kinesiology very helpful. Every movement and activity was grounded in an accurate understanding of how the body actually works. Every progression built on the previous one until all parts of the body were contributing to an efficient and harmonious whole. Very exciting feeling when it all came together in varied terrain!

    The notes that follow are the focuses that resonated the strongest with me personally. When I incorporated them into my skiing, I could feel a noticeable difference and improvement. You may well have questions or need clarification about some of them. If so, please ask!


    · Everything starts down low, in active, supple ankles. To optimize balance and joint functionality, minimize tip lead. Keep pulling the inside foot back throughout the turn so it's right under you and right next to the old outside foot at transition.

    · Make the transition with lifted, flexed feet (or, just try relaxing/tipping the old outside foot; see what works best for you). Before starting downhill, immediately reverse angulation (tip the feet, point the boots and knees downhill; reverse the angulation of the hip). Connect the pelvis to the new inside femur as one unit and open the pelvis to point downhill first. (That was a new one for me. It worked.) Femurs and knees will follow (very effective in bumps, by the way).

    · Simultaneously, and before the skis start downhill, create a new platform early using subtle ankle movements. Move with the skis and allow them to travel for a time in the direction they were pointed at transition, then roll over and press the inside edge of the new outside ski into the snow and immediately engage it. This need not be harsh, and speed can be scrubbed by letting a lightly engaged ski drift out, start downhill by itself, then sharply engaging the edge when direction change is desired (think World Cup drift, then edge engagement to direct the skis around a gate).

    · As the skis start downhill, immediately focus on the inside half of the body. Start by sliding the new inside foot back (you can add a lift of the inside tail to help tip you forward). This inside-foot slide back continues up the body into lifting the inside thigh/hip and the entire inside half of the body pulling diagonally ahead (the outside half of the body is down and back; the outside pole tip can even glide along the snow toward the back of the outside binding to ensure functional angulation).

    · "Elbows are connected to hips." Maintaining a consistent space between them, tip both together in diagonal alignment to the slope of the hill. Feel the inside rib cage lifted and stretched ahead (JF's "suspension") to increase angulation out over the outside ski, allowing the centripetal force of the hill to push back against the rolled-over outside ski. (Tom had us do a "tipping-airplane-wing" exercise during the shaping phase wherein the inside arm is straight, lifted, and stretched out ahead, while the outside arm is tipped down and back. The activity of both arms is mirrored by the hips.) To take this into skiing, the inside half of the body continually lifts up and ahead while the outside half goes down and back.

    · During the shaping phase, feel the uphill edge of the inside ski pressing into the snow and matching the path of the outside ski. Gently press the uphill side of the inside boot along the sixth-toe area into the snow to increase the feeling of "two footedness." (Another new one for me.) The result is better balance on both feet and both skis feeling connected to the snow with responsive ankles. In addition, excess pressure is not imposed onto the outside ski (all extremities are relaxed and supple; the core should be engaged).

    · In medium- and longer-radius turns on groomed snow, don't be afraid to aggressively pull the hips diagonally uphill across the skis with a super-short inside thigh (inside ski tip in the snow; closed ankle, knee and hip) and a virtually straight (but not locked) outside leg. As the hips pull across the skis, they can actually tip down toward the snow on dynamic carves; it feels like your weight is actually uphill over the short inside thigh. Add upper-body angulation to counterbalance. ("Go outside to move inside.") Feel the pressure back from the hill against the tipped outside ski directing it.

    · A moment after the skis start downhill (or after starting down the front of a bump), pull the feet back (you can try this more with the inside foot and with that heel lifted) and pull the hips ahead. It's a feeling of slow-motion, effortless freefalling that keeps the ski boots and center of mass 90 degrees to the hill and plants the tips in the snow.

    · As you start downhill, displace the tails wide to actually face the sides of the trail in the shaping phase. Tails "tick tock" out wide from planted tips that travel very little. (Another new focus that sounds weird, but actually works brilliantly.)

    · Feel a definite "collision" back from the snow as the edged outside ski turns toward the fall line. Use that collision force back from the hill to create angulation as a result of the force of the snow pushing back, then allow the skis come back under you. Side note: Jonathan had us do an exercise in which we lifted the new inside foot completely off the snow at transition to start the turn, kept it off the snow as in a traditional one-footed-turn exercise, then we added a sharp, additional lift and aggressive inside-ski slide back halfway through the shaping phase. Very effective in reinforcing effective counterbalance and ending the turn with the tail of the outside ski engaged. It also helped us feel what it's like to use the entire ski and to tighten the radius at the end, which leads directly to...

    · Add more edging at the ends of turns toward the tail of the outside ski (tip boot cuffs and knees uphill) to tighten the radius. Use clean, brief, powerful edge in groomed-snow short turns; less edge and scrub the snow with a sliding outside tail in ungroomed snow and steeps. Be sure the outside ski is gripping the snow at all times and you're angulated out over it.

    · Use the whole of the outside ski through the turn: Engage "binding to tip" to start; "toepiece to heelpiece" in the fall line; "binding to tail" to end.

    · All movements are "dimmer switch" smooth and progressive. The outside leg is always supple and has some flex, never braced.

    Hope that was of interest!

    Best!
    Mike
     
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  2. 4ster

    4ster Now with more photos! Instructor

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    ogsmile Thanks for posting
     
  3. Paul S.

    Paul S. Keeping an old man young, one turn at a time. Skier

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    Thank you !!!!! Nicely done.
     
  4. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    Hey, @mike_m, thanks so much for posting this. It's the next best thing to being there. Your descriptions are very good. There are three parts that I am not clear on. If you have time, would you mind clarifying?

    1. "Make the transition with lifted, flexed feet (or, just try relaxing/tipping the old outside foot; see what works best for you)." [Does this mean have the ankles closed, or open, or actually have the feet in the air from rebound between turns, or something else?]

    2. "As you start downhill, displace the tails wide to actually face the sides of the trail in the shaping phase. Tails "tick tock" out wide from planted tips that travel very little. (Another new focus that sounds weird, but actually works brilliantly.)" [How is this different from rotating the tails outward at top of turn with the pivot point in the shovel? I feel pretty sure this is not what you mean.]

    3. "Side note: Jonathan had us do an exercise in which we lifted the new inside foot completely off the snow at transition to start the turn, kept it off the snow as in a traditional one-footed-turn exercise, then we added a sharp, additional lift and aggressive inside-ski slide back halfway through the shaping phase. Very effective in reinforcing effective counterbalance and ending the turn with the tail of the outside ski engaged." [This drill is quite new to me. Do you mean lift the lifted ski higher while pulling that airborne foot farther back?]

     
  5. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    1. All the coaches I've worked with for the past several years advocate a dorsiflexed foot at all times during skiing. By spreading and lifting the toes, and trying to feel that pull/lift all the way back to the ball of the foot (i.e., not just in the toes), you create a functional tension that plants you in the strongest part of the foot (back of the arch, front of the heel) and activates the ligaments of the front of the shin to automatically pull you ahead.

    If you watch video of skiers like Richie Berger...

    (),

    you'll see that his skis do, at times, actually pop off the snow after transition. That is carrying it to an extreme, but you'll notice he relaxes and tips his ankles to transition. This connects to what I referred to above as "immediately reverse angulation (tip the feet, point the boots and knees downhill; reverse the angulation of the hip)." All this is done in transition with the feet right under you and before starting downhill. Richie's video shows this quite clearly, I think.

    2. That sounds about right. So long as the outside ski had been tipped on edge and engaged early, no tail skid results and the outside ski is locked in the snow. As mentioned above, "sounds weird, but actually works brilliantly."

    3. Yes. Add extra lift and pull-back toward the end of the shaping phase. Very cool result!

    Best!
    Mike
     


  6. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    @mike_m, Fun video of Richie Berger. And Thanks for getting back to me so fast. I'm clear on #1 and #3. I look forward to trying that drill. One more time, on #2... (words words words)

    I now think "displace the tails wide" means:
    --enable the edged and engaged skis to turn cleanly to point downhill,
    --while allowing the feet to move outward to the side of the body,
    --maxing out the feet's outward displacement to when the skis point down the fall line.

    Have I got that right now?
     
  7. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    Not quite. You may need to try it on snow. Your first description, in Post #4, sounded closer.

    As you enter the shaping phase, focus on the tail of the outside ski, not so much the feet. Be sure you have tipped it and engaged it early, before starting downhill. At that point, smoothly, but actively, displace the tail of that ski out to face the side of the trail. It sounds odd because all of us have been taught to steer from the front, and tail displacement is synonymous with dysfunctional skidding and windshield wiper turns, but those negative results do not occur because the ski is tipped and engaged.

    Once you get on snow, let me know how it feels!

    Best!
    Mike
     
  8. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    @mike_m,
    My guess (because of my resistance to pivoting the ski's tail out with a pivot point in front of the bindings) is that, because a flexion release puts one aft on the skis (in a good way), that means the tail of that outside ski will be loaded at the top of the turn as the skier topples over the skis and downhill.

    So I'm thinking that the focus you are talking about is not to push that tail out, scraping it across the snow disengaged, but to feel the pressure building at first on the tail. And maybe to extend that outside leg so that the tail pressure is strong, building a solid platform for the engagement.

    Or do you really mean rotate the ski to scrape its tail outward across the surface of the snow until it decides to engage? Like in a stivot?
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
  9. Skisailor

    Skisailor Laziest Skier on the Mountain Team Gathermeister

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    I think I just saw this in another thread and it seemed apropos. The first slide from Ron LeMaster's presentation at a USSA symposium in 2015.

    "The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
    Fredrich Nietzsche

    The idea that the whole international world of skiing has coalesced around one best way to ski is incredibly depressing to me.

    And in regards to the particulars, anyone who knows their skiing history - especially in Europe - knows we've been here before with emphasis on edging and pressure management and away from rotary.

    What goes around comes around I guess.
     
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  10. Uke

    Uke Who am I now Skier

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    Mike and LF,

    I'm lost in the words here. Sounds to me like what is being asked to establish an strongly engaged ski and then attempt to push (how else do you displace the tail to the outside) the tail to the outside.

    A tail push produces a ski rotating about the tip. I'm trying to come up with a move that would rotate the ski about the tip without it being a tail push. I'm also trying to imagine what would be the outcome of a tail push on a ski that is strongly engaged, in my mind none of the outcomes are positive.

    On another point, as someone who has been advocating a more centered stance on the foot for over twenty seasons its nice to see the rest of the ski world is finally beginning to come around.

    uke
     
  11. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    Liquidfeet and Uke: Yep, this is a tricky one to wrap one's head around. When Tom first suggested it, I really resisted the very idea; it was so alien to anything I thought I understood.

    There is no pressure on the tail at the start and no tail scrape. The edge must be engaged early. In my original post, this was how I put it: "Use the whole of the outside ski through the turn: Engage "binding to tip" to start; "toepiece to heelpiece" in the fall line; "binding to tail" to end."

    Suggestion: Let's let this point rest for now. Try it on snow, then let's chat!

    Best!
    Mike

    PS: Skisailor. I feel your pain. Perhaps a more reassuring way to think about it is if one sees ski instruction as guiding folks to maximize efficiency. If finding the best way to let the forces of gravity and the design of the equipment work in the most harmonious way possible is our goal, there likely will be a consistency of approach to achieving this if those factors are accurately understood. (Which I believe is underpinning the consistency of approach that seems to be happening.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
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  12. John Nedzel

    John Nedzel At the base lodge Skier

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    Thanks for the info Mike. Relative to the following statement, was anything said about how the inside ski should be used?

    · Use the whole of the outside ski through the turn: Engage "binding to tip" to start; "toepiece to heelpiece" in the fall line; "binding to tail" to end.

    Thanks again for sharing.
     
  13. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    @mike_m, I would love to try it on snow. But honestly, your description is not clear to me so I don't know what to try. Thanks, though, for attempting to re-word it for my benefit.

    The rest of what you say is very clear. Works for me!
     
  14. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    Hi, John,

    JF had a very cool description. "The outside ski is the rider; the inside ski is the decider."

    While we are supported by the tipped outside ski and centripetal force is pushing back against it as it glides ahead, the inside helps us effectively match the slope of the hill as we lift that thigh, effectively "shortening" that leg. It helps keep our joints functionally aligned if that leg, and the inside half of our body, is diagonally uphill and ahead, while the outside half of our body is lower and behind. It also is the initiator of the new turn in transition, as the old outside foot is relaxed and tipped (ideally, right under us and next to the old outside foot), and becomes the new inside foot.

    If I may, let me copy a bit of my initial post:

    "As the skis start downhill, immediately focus on the inside half of the body. Start by sliding the new inside foot back (you can add a lift of the inside tail to help tip you forward). This inside-foot slide back continues up the body into lifting the inside thigh/hip and the entire inside half of the body pulling diagonally ahead (the outside half of the body is down and back; the outside pole tip can even glide along the snow toward the back of the outside binding to ensure functional angulation).

    · During the shaping phase, feel the uphill edge of the inside ski pressing into the snow and matching the path of the outside ski. Gently press the uphill side of the inside boot along the sixth-toe area into the snow to increase the feeling of "two footedness." (Another new one for me.) The result is better balance on both feet and both skis feeling connected to the snow with responsive ankles. In addition, excess pressure is not imposed onto the outside ski (all extremities are relaxed and supple; the core should be engaged)."

    Hope that helped.

    Best!
    Mike
     
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  15. Monster

    Monster Monstrous for some time now. . . Skier

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    Ice skating. . .
     
  16. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    Indeed. If you can ice skate, you can probably ski. Very similar movements.
     
  17. Steve

    Steve Ankler Skier

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    Yes but the opposite is not true. I never ice skated and took it up 5 years ago. So hard at first. Haven't skated since then, and went to the rink again this morning. Man I was bad. Actually a good thing for an instructor to help with understanding how students feel. I wanted to quit. Go home. Never skate again. I hated being so bad at something. But I stuck to it for an hour plus. Got better. I'll be doing it regularly until skiing starts. I certainly understood how beginning skiers take one lesson and never go back again though.
     
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  18. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    Hi, Steve,

    Yep, very true. I had the same experience. Very humbling!
     
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  19. Skisailor

    Skisailor Laziest Skier on the Mountain Team Gathermeister

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    As an instructor who places an extremely high priority on efficiency and making skiing less effortful for the average recreational skier (a higher priority, I would venture to say, than most of my ski school colleagues) I'm going to have to disagree with your sentiment on this skiing approach.

    More generally, the loss of skiing versatility - the very idea that there is one best way - strikes me as an obvious fallacy.

    That said - thank you Mike for responding to my post. I mean that very sincerely.

    If I live long enough, and when the next generation inevitably feels the need to put their own "new" stamp on ski technique, (even though there really isn't anything new under the sun) maybe I'll get to wear a smile as things move back in my direction. :)
     
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  20. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    Skisailor, what in particular do you not like about how Jonathan Ballou, Reilly McGlashan, JF Beaulieu, and Tom Gellie ski?
     

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