New Zealand Advanced Training takeaways, 2019

Discussion in 'Ski School' started by mike_m, Sep 11, 2019.

  1. mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    As some of you know, I travel to New Zealand every August to participate in the Rookie Academy Advanced Ski Training program. In existence since the 1990s, the Rookies were formed to help aspiring instructors from around the world gain the skills to attain certification. It later expanded to offer high-level all-terrain coaching to experienced instructors. Their reputation is such that they attract many of the top coaches and trainers from around the world. You train with a different coach each week and what is remarkable is the level of consistency and the amount of individual feedback you receive (groups average six participants). If your schedule and finances allow (the US/NZ exchange rate is very favorable and fees are charged in NZ dollars), I highly recommend it. Their website is rookieacademy.com.


    In any case, I just returned home and thought it might interest you to share some of my key takeaways.



    Week 1: Tim Cafe

    (Olympic skier, World Cup coach; primarily focus was carving and efficiency in all terrain)

    Before starting your run: Engage your core (both front and back, abdomen and glutes) so your limbs can be supple and responsive; dorsiflex both feet to engage the tibialis anterior muscle at the front of the shins and plant you in the "sweet spot" at the front of your heels; be in a functional stance width to facilitate angulation. Feel like your skis are an extension of your feet. Start everything low to the snow with tipping ankles.

    In most turns, imagine the bottoms of your skis are continually planted against the bankings of an imaginary horizontal figure 8 bobsled run. As you come off one banking (in the shaping phase) into the point of the figure 8, give in to the force from the hill by softening the outside leg and transition with the skis right under you (this is an expansion of Bob Barnes' "Infinity Move" explained at the beginning of this Ski Instruction forum), then allow the skis to roll over and climb the next banking. JF Beaulieu describes this sensation as "climb the inside of the bowl/climb the wall" in this YouTube video:





    After the transition to the new foot, keep the tips of the skis pointing straight across the hill as they climb the next "banking" and roll them over to a high edge angle. ("Show the bottoms of the skis to the side.") Resist letting the tips turn as the skis start downhill. This will engage the subtalar joint of the ankles, facilitate tipping and allow you to look and topple inside without stemming or skidding the outside ski. in most instances, be sure the outside ski is gripping the snow before starting downhill.

    Starting downhill, lift the new inside foot (think of pulling it up from the second buckle back from the toes), slide it back and let that action flow right into lifting the new inside thigh. Try to feel the outside ski simultaneously slicing ahead. Pressure is directed to the outside ski, but also feel the inside edge of the new inside ski in the snow (especially useful in crud and ungroomed snow). At higher speeds, your body can be tall and topple inside at the start (inclination), leading to hip and/or knee angulation as needed at the end of the shaping phase, depending on terrain and speed.

    Even though the angles of your body should match the slope of the hill in the shaping phase ("inside half higher and ahead; outside half lower and behind"), drive the outside hand and forearm low and ahead to help stabilize you and help direct pressure to the outside ski.


    Week 2: Tom Gellie

    (Australian demo team; kinesiologist specializing in functional body alignment and use; carving and all-terrain focuses)

    Again, focus on the bottoms of the feet. You want to create a strong interface between you and your skis. Keep functional tension in the feet (never loose or floppy). Imagine a raised, round ridge running fore and aft along the soles. Your goal is to roll across it continually, never settling. This helps create continuity from turn to turn with no pauses.

    Tipping the skis is most effective if the angle of the tipping in the foot is diagonal and toward the back, not straight across or ahead. (Imagine your foot is a triangle with the toes as the wide top and the heel as the narrowest point. Tip along the line running from front to back.)

    In ungroomed snow, crud and bumps, ski a bit lower than usual with a very strong core. Keep your knees flexed and over your toes. That keeps the skis in constant contact with the snow, as opposed to extending to start the turn, which creates a loss of snow contact. As the skis turn, the knees should follow the tips. Note: Many high-level skiers prefer to use a relatively flexed position at all times, in all conditions, as their default choice. In short turns, it will be pretty much mandatory. Experiment and find what works for you.

    (Good exercise: Hold a ski pole horizontal just above your knees. As you turn, keep the pole still and feel your knees slide back and forth along it This exercise is well illustrated in this video starting at 3:50:






    Week 3: Sebastien Michel

    (Captain, Canadian Interski team; Canadian national ski team coach. Carving and all-terrain focuses, primarily in the areas of edging and pressure management)

    As a general rule, the Center of Mass (CM) should be aligned against the forces acting against you to ensure efficiency and strength. This is not a static "position" as these forces may come from different directions (bumps, heavy snow, etc.). An effective reference for the skier to confirm the CM is aligned with the Base of Support (BOS) is to feel continual light contact between the ski boot and the shin. This will ensure the CM is neither too far forward nor too far back when resisting the forces. A strong core engagement will help maintain alignment in demanding situations.

    As a rule of thumb, the goal is to achieve 100% balance on the outside ski. In most situations, active turning starts only after this balance is achieved. From there, and depending on the situation, a combination of steering and edging will be used.

    In longer carved turns at higher speed, keep your body aligned and avoid excessive angulation/flexion. To achieve optimum edge angle, resist the forces on the new outside leg and let the Center of Mass move inside the arc and away from the Base of Support keeping 100% balance on the outside ski. Tipping the edges to maximum angle needs to happen relatively quickly to ensure the turn shape does not become too long or allow speed to get out of control. If the skier does not yet have the appropriate skills, or the terrain is too steep, some steering action should replace carving at the beginning of the turn.

    (Good exercise to explore inclination in dynamic carved turns: This exercise requires at least moderate speed on a groomed blue slope. As your skis start towards the fall line, balance on the outside ski, remain tall, and start inclining your whole body, bringing your CM and shoulders inside the turn. Stretch out your inside hand toward the snow with the outside arm lifted. Your ultimate goal is for the inside hand to touch the snow as far away from your feet (BOS) and as early as possible in the arc. This is challenging, because you must strive to keep pressure directed to the outside ski at the same time. To increase your chances of success, use a narrow stance, allow the inside leg to lift towards your chest, and resist opening your hip towards the outside of the turn.

    Every situation, every turn, is different, but the tools we use to increase edge angle on the snow remain the same. Tipping ankles, hip and knee angulation, or body inclination all have an effect. Body separation will have an effect on range of angulation at the hip joint. In general, at higher speeds on hard snow, inclination plus hip angulation (your strongest tools to manage edge angle) can be very efficient at resisting forces while still allowing the skier to maintain balance on the outside ski. On the other hand, turns made at slower-speeds or on softer, less-supportive snow, may well require more knee angulation and less inclination.

    (Good hip-angulation exercise to develop skill at moving the hip inside the arc while maintaining balance on the outside ski: On a moderate groomed slope, as the skis enter the shaping phase, rest the inside pole on your shoulder and stretch the outside pole long, with a straight arm, and drag the tip in the snow as far away as you can. )

    Maximum pressure is generated during the shaping phase as your strong (but not braced) outside leg resists the forces back from the snow.

    As you decrease edge angle and release the old turn, your objective most of the time is to keep in contact with the snow and manage forces in such a way that your CM can balance on the new BOS at the beginning of the next turn. Softening the old outside leg to allow the CM to move toward the next turn is one way, and will usually be needed if the forces in question are quite high (high speeds, bumps).

    After the transition to start the next turn, project the hips and center of mass forward. (Some people pull their feet back to help achieve this.) Deb Armstrong calls this commitment forward "hips to tips" before the new outside ski begins to grip and the skis start downhill. You can see this illustrated very clearly in this video of Richie Berger at 1:41.





    If, like many skiers, you have a tendency to settle back at the ends of turns and let your hips drop, think of pulling your center of mass forward between the front of the binding and the tips, keeping shin pressure moving ahead into the inside diagonal "corners" of the boot cuffs.

    Finally, as a general rule, most skiers tend to be quite static and lack a sufficient range of motion to maximize efficiency. Until you feel the extremes of how much you can move, particularly in the vertical plane, you likely are nowhere near optimum range.

    (Good exercise to explore the extremes of range of motion: As you start downhill on a groomed green or moderate-pitch blue run, extend tall with no bend or angles in your body. In the middle of the shaping phase, reach both hands down and touch both boot cuffs. As you transition to the next turn, extend again.) Get a sense of how much further you really can flex and extend!

    I hope these summations stimulate a desire to explore these focuses both intellectually, and in your own skiing and teaching. Tom Gellie has an excellent series of podcasts available on iTunes called Global Skiing. In each episode, he interviews a leader in the snowsports industry. Guests have included Ron LeMaster, Richie Berger, Harald Harb, Jonathan Ballou, JF Beaulieu, and Jurij Franko (one of the creators of the shaped ski). Highly informative and entertaining! Tom also has a series of instructional videos and information on improving your body strength and alignment available on his website: (https://www.functionalbody.com.au).

    I'm sure many of you have questions about some of these takeaways. If I have been less than clear, or you disagree with any of the focuses, let's discuss!

    One final thought from Sebastien Michel:

    "Skiing is not rocket science. Keep the technical aspect simple and focus on the real challenge, which is to adapt to all the environments out there. Success will come in part from technical skills, but also from the ability to make appropriate choices as we move down the hill."

    Best!
    Mike
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
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  2. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    Great write-up as always, @mike_m. As you know, I pay close attention to what you write. Rookie Academy's teaching is of great interest to me. I have three questions for you. Bolded parts are mine.

    1. In your week 2 write-up, you say "Tipping the skis is most effective if the angle of the tipping in the foot is diagonal and toward the back, not straight across or ahead. (Imagine your foot is a triangle with the toes as the wide top and the heel as the narrowest point. Tip along the line running from front to back.)" Can you explain this bolded part in different words? I don't know what you mean by diagonal. Are you talking about both feet, or just the outside foot?

    2. In your week 3 write-up, you describe a drill for exploring how much vertical range of motion can be enacted. You wrote: "As you start downhill on a groomed green or moderate-pitch blue run, extend tall with no bend or angles in your body. In the middle of the shaping phase, reach both hands down and touch both boot cuffs. As you transition to the next turn, extend again.) Get a sense of how much further you really can flex and extend!" I'm curious about this drill, since it is an extension to start a turn, while almost eerything else you are reporting seems to imply skiers are taught to stay low as they start a turn. Was a drill given for exploring vertical range of motion that avoided extending between turns?

    3. In the week 2 section, you write "Note: Many high-level skiers prefer to use a relatively flexed position at all times, in all conditions, as their default choice. In short turns, it will be pretty much mandatory. Experiment and find what works for you." Well. To what extent did the instructors push clients to learn to use a relatively flexed position at all times, in all conditions, so that it could become a default option in their skiing? It sounds like they would have done so, but were holding back for some reason? Am I reading this into what you wrote?
     
  3. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    I am eager to try each of the drills you described. Thank you for going to the trouble of doing all this explaining.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  4. Jilly

    Jilly Lead Cougar Skier

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    You got to ski with Sebastien Michel!! I'm going to go through this in more detail Saturday morning while it's raining....looking forward to it.
     
  5. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    Hi, Liquidfeet! I knew you'd ask good questions, as always! I'll try to answer.

    "1. In your week 2 write-up, you say "Tipping the skis is most effective if the angle of the tipping in the foot is diagonal and toward the back, not straight across or ahead. (Imagine your foot is a triangle with the toes as the wide top and the heel as the narrowest point. Tip along the line running from front to back.)" Can you explain this bolded part in different words? I don't know what you mean by diagonal. Are you talking about both feet, or just the outside foot?"

    I knew this would elicit interest! I'd never heard this before, but when I tried it, wonderful things happened. As instructors, we are often told there are only three things we can do to a ski: tip it, turn it, or react to pressure back from the snow. The problem is, few coaches can really explain how to do these things! As a kinesiologist, Tom understands how all the parts of the body actually function and interact, and can relate this to specific actions we can do to have our skis respond effectively. In this instance, he is referring to tipping both feet along this diagonally rearward angle. Most of your weight is on the outside foot, of course, but if you move your Center of Mass across the skis enough to allow the inside edge of the inside ski to also have contact with the snow, you will allow that inside ski to leave the track you want. As you know, well-executed railroad track turns leave two clean tracks in the snow. Without some weight on the inside foot, that's rather hard to do. (Having both ankles tipping the same and having some weight on the inside edge of the inside ski is also very effective in ungroomed snow.) In addition, Tom's emphasis on resisting letting the tips follow the direction of travel creates functional tension in the subtalar joints of the ankles, which is necessary to tip effectively in all conditions. To feel what this is like, on flat ground, have another skier stand with both of his/her skis on the topskins of your skis between the bindings and the tips. Try to tip your ankles. You're going to feel resistance. That is the feeling you want when you tip! Try it. I think you'll like it!

    2. In your week 3 write-up, you describe a drill for exploring how much vertical range of motion can be enacted. You wrote: "As you start downhill on a groomed green or moderate-pitch blue run, extend tall with no bend or angles in your body. In the middle of the shaping phase, reach both hands down and touch both boot cuffs. As you transition to the next turn, extend again.) Get a sense of how much further you really can flex and extend!" I'm curious about this drill, since it is an extension to start a turn, while almost everything else you are reporting seems to imply skiers are taught to stay low as they start a turn. Was a drill given for exploring vertical range of motion that avoided extending between turns?

    Yes, this was simply a drill to feel the extremes of vertical motion your body can achieve. Few skiers use all their range of motion effectively (think about the range of motion needed to ski large bumps well, for instance!) Extension to start a turn in steep terrain or heavy snow can also be an effective choice. Because we may choose to use a relatively flexed position as our default does not mean we should have no other tactics in our quivers! Also, extension can be diagonal, as well as up and down. Although we may choose to ski primarily in a flexed position, that does not mean we must restrict our movement along all vertical planes. One of the criticisms of PMTS skiers, for instance, is that they often look constricted. Harald, however, does not. I suggest this is due to a misinterpretation of the concept of flexing to start a turn and remaining relatively flexed throughout.

    3. In the week 2 section, you write "Note: Many high-level skiers prefer to use a relatively flexed position at all times, in all conditions, as their default choice. In short turns, it will be pretty much mandatory. Experiment and find what works for you." Well. To what extent did the instructors push clients to learn to use a relatively flexed position at all times, in all conditions, so that it could become a default option in their skiing? It sounds like they would have done so, but were holding back for some reason? Am I reading this into what you wrote?

    See answer above. All-terrain versatility was the goal. We explored the extremes of remaining flexed in all conditions, and also how extension could be valuable in appropriate circumstances. Sebastien, in particular, emphasized expanding our skills to be able to ski all terrain effectively. "Keep the technical aspect simple and focus on the real challenge, which is to adapt to all the environments out there. Success will come in part from technical skills, but also from the ability to make appropriate choices as we move down the hill."

    After all, isn't versatility our goal?

    Thanks for the questions!

    Best!
    Mike
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2019


  6. mdf

    mdf entering the Big Couloir Skier

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    Still not entirely clear. Do you mean around the line between the ball and heel of the foot? Vs around the centerline of the foot?
     
  7. dbostedo

    dbostedo Asst. Gathermeister-- Jackson Hole 2020 Moderator

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    I read it as tipping around both. I.e. if the X axis is crossing your foot from left to right, and the Y axis is crossing through your foot from front to back, you want to tip toward the lower left quadrant to go left, and lower right quadrant to go right. Not sure if that's correct, but it's how it reads to me.
     
  8. Chris V.

    Chris V. Getting off the lift Skier

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    Mike, I'm still not understanding your description of directional tipping. You have asked us to imaging a triangle with one point at the heel, and the others behind the big toe and the little toe. If I'm beginning a right turn, which line should I make the axis of tipping?
     
  9. Henry

    Henry Putting on skis Skier

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    Try this...feel the notch just above the kneecap. Hold the poles horizontally across the knees and seated in the notches on both knees. Keep the poles in the notches of both knees the whole time while skiing this drill. It's natural to lift the poles out of one or both notches, but don't! The knees don't actually slide along the poles. It's more of a slight pivot as the angle of the poles against the legs changes as the skier reacts to the slope of the hill and the direction skied. It's a great drill to get the skier loosened and reacting to the pitch of the slope.
     
  10. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    Debostedo is correct.

    The tipping action occurs equally in each foot (with weight is primarily on the outside foot). Draw a long triangle. That's your foot: base of the triangle (toes) at the top, point (heel) at the bottom. The force follows along the line on the side from base to point; i.e., diagonally back along the foot. Certainly a new concept to most folks!

    Henry: Good alternate description. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2019
  11. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    What @mike_m said:
    "Tipping the skis is most effective if the angle of the tipping in the foot is diagonal and toward the back, not straight across or ahead."

    A triangle has three corners.
    My guess is that your coach was telling your group to tip each foot this way:
    ..... tip the INSIDE foot along a line that connects the little toe corner of the base to the corner at the heel.
    ..... tip the OUTSIDE foot along a line that connects the big toe corner of the base to the corner at the heel.

    The part about the angle of the tipping being "toward the back" seems to work with this description ... sorta.

    Mike, have I got this right?
    I too have never run into this description.
    It's new to me. New stuff is inherently interesting.
     
  12. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    Liquidfeet: Yep.
     
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  13. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    @mike_m, Thanks for that clarification. I'm still curious about this part, though.

    Assume a skier starts a ski's tipping action with the foot, tipping it at the ankle to start and enhance the tipping of the ski. Also assume the skier knows that the subtalar joint inside the ankle hinges along a diagonal axis, irrespective of whatever visualization is in the skier's head.

    What is the supposed advantage of visualizing tipping the foot along a diagonal line defined by one of its edges, instead of visualizing tipping the foot along an imaginary line down its middle? The way the ski tips matches the latter, not the former.
     
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  14. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    I'm after another clarification, if you're game. This one is far more interesting to me than the foot tipping visualization.

    In week two, Gellie said "Many high-level skiers prefer to use a relatively flexed position at all times, in all conditions, as their default choice." Given that all-terrain versatility was the goal of the week, could you discuss what terrain and conditions these three coaches indicated would be the appropriate circumstances for extension?

    I'm not talking about the slight up-down movement that might accompany flexing the new inside leg for initiation after a hip-to-snow turn, nor that certain je nais se quoi that infuses HH's skiing with grace and that his students often lack, but an actual extension of the new outside leg to start a turn. What are the "appropriate circumstances" for that, according to your three coaches?


     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2019
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    LF: In regards the tipping image...perhaps you should try it first? Analysis only goes so far. Perhaps a bit more feeling/doing might help?

    In regards terrain when extension to start might be a good choice? Different strokes for different folks, but many good skiers like it in steeps (and some don't!). Some use it in heavy snow to help minimize the time the skis are in the molasses. Those are two that come to mind. I'm sure there are others.

    Best!
    Mike
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2019
  16. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    Thanks, Mike.
    One last question... Did you get your hip to snow with that drill you described?
    .... or boot out?
    ... or knuckles on snow?
     
  17. Thread Starter
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    mike_m

    mike_m Instructor Skier

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    LF: I was able to touch my inside hand down and touch the snow sometimes! Not easy! (And kind of disconcerting!) No hip to the snow, no boot out!

    Best!
    Mike
     
  18. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    Congrats!
     
  19. SkiMore

    SkiMore Booting up Skier

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    In case this picture is helpful regarding the triangle on the bottom of the foot.

    upload_2019-9-15_22-46-41.png
     
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  20. Rod9301

    Rod9301 Out on the slopes Skier

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    Interesting, i flex to release in all my turns, but on very steep, narrow stuff, i do a jump turn, pedal saute, which is an extension of the uphill leg, morphing in a retraction if both feet.
    If it's powder, even steep and narrow, flex to release, pulling feet back very strongly and tipping a lot.
     

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