Making the Most of the Pistes

Except for the hard-core ski tourers, most skiers spend a lot of the time on the pistes. To make the most of your time on the pistes you need equipment in first rate order. Then allow the skis to do what they are designed to do. With rockered skis, fat waists and twin tips, it is easy to forget that carving skis revolutionized skiing and piste skiing is where that happens best.

Can your tools handle the power?
Some of the best feelings in skiing are found on the pistes. The power of a carve turn can be incredible, and generates up to 4G in force. Any ski can carve a turn, but to maximise the experience you need a ski which can handle the power. Dynastar’s WC Master series have serious pedigree, coming from their race factory and the Speedzone series make the carve turn easier to achieve.

Are your skis sharp?
The key to carving is tilting the skis over and balancing against the forces generated by the turn. The more you can tilt (and stay in balance) the greater the forces will be. In order for the skis to grip when tilted over on firm pistes the skis need to be in good condition. Sharp edges and a smooth base is essential to build confidence in your ability to tilt over. Get your skis serviced before heading to the alps and at the minimum take a diamond edge tool to keep the skis in great condition whilst you are out there.

Just tilt
If you want to turn tighter in a carve, tilt over more and allow the skis to move further away from the body. Balance through the outside ski and tilt both skis the same amount. High speeds are the result of carve turns so only practice when and where it is safe to do so. You’ll definitely need goggles (not glasses) to stop your eyes from watering and a helmet completes the racer ready look.

As with everything in skiing, deliberate practice in a suitable environment will see you improve your performance, and carving is still one of the great unused techniques in skiing. For more help book yourself some lessons on your next trip.

Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isère Tignes and the Three Valleys, France. He is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.

www.tdcski.com #tdcski #basi #valdisere #dynastar #lange

Jan 27th 2017 Snow Conditions Val d’Isere Tignes

This week Clare is telling us all about the current snow conditions in Val d’Isere and Tignes…

Conditions On Piste Are Fantastic…Again

TDCski Coach Clare
Clare’s Report

Dustings of snow, Off Piste is good, can be wind effected, some good snow in the gullys.

Things are looking good for February.

Watch a honest and open summary of the current snow conditions.

If you are keen to see this seasons reports then be sure to watch out for them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo.

Keep Watching!!!

TDCski The Development CentreSki Lessons Val d’IsereSki Lessons Tignes

Surviving Winter

OK, “surviving” might be a bit strong, but keeping warm on the slopes in the middle of winter can be a challenge. As well as the main clothing like jackets and trousers, there are other things that can make a big difference for people who struggle to stay warm:

Wear Thermals

Extremities get cold first. It is what the body does to protect itself from cold. So, if your hands or feet get cold, it might not be down to the gloves or boots, but because you haven’t got enough layers on. Wear good thermals, and if your hands and feet are still cold, wear another jumper.

Wear Thermals TDCski
Wear Good Thermals

Helmet and Hat

Helmets can expose the neck to cold mountain air. Neck warmers, thin balaclavas or multipurpose tubes keep you toasty warm. Like scarves, but better.

Get your feet out

Particularly for skiers: if your feet have been cold and numb for more than an hour, you need to warm them up. Get inside, take off the boots and get the feet warm again. This will allow you to ski again afterwards, rather than developing serious cold injuries.

Lange Boots
Get Your Feet Out

Dry your boots

Damp or wet boots are bad news. You need to dry your boots overnight, so if the hotel or apartment doesn’t have specific boot heaters, you need to make your own arrangements. Portable boot dryers work really well and are easier than balancing boots on radiators.

Giles Lewis Dynastar
Dynastar Skis

Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isere Tignes and the Three Valleys, FranceHe is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.

 

www.tdcski.com

#tdcski #basi #valdisere #dynastar #lange

The Development Centre coaches tell us what they love about skiing.

Autumn arrives in the northern hemisphere and this means one thing: it’s nearly time to go sliding around on the snow! The anticipation is really exciting, but nothing beats those moments when you’re doing it, enjoying the mountains in the best way we know how. Here at the development centre we’ve been sharing our passion for skiing since 2002 and we’re pumped up for the coming season. These are some of the things that we’re looking forwards to the most –

The Corduroy

cordorouy
Heading down a freshly groomed piste allows you to feel how smoothly and precisely you are skiing. Less interference from the snow, it’s about enjoying your best turns.

Feel of the carve

carve
Make like a racer, feel the forces driving the turn and appreciate what modern skis can do on the piste. The deeper you go, the bigger the rush.

Air Time

jumpIt’s not the size that counts.

Jumps of any size are exhilarating, whether in the park or in the backcountry, jumping is one of those things some people (us) never quite grow out of.

The Quiet of the Powder

Sometimes, after some deep powder turns,the only noise is your own breathing

pow

 

Sharing it

share (2) share3

Wshare the lovee love skiing for ourselves , but we also love it when we can share our passion, knowledge and enthusiasm with others. We love making a real difference to people’s
holidays.

The Development Centre run ski schools in Val d’Isere, Tignes and the Three Valleys. Our team of highly qualified, experienced and motivated instructors are there to help you to achieve your goals, whatever they might be.

www.tdcski.com

How to Find Spring Snow – Off Piste in Val d’Isere

After a bonkers couple of weeks of winter weather, the cold fluffy powder is restricted to the high north faces.  But don’t fret.  We have warm settled conditions now and my 2nd favourite type of snow – Spring Snow.  It can be hard to find and get it good, so here is Coach Kieran explaining:

Terry James Walker TDCski

What is it?
When the sun thoroughly heats the snow pack from the surface down to the earth, the prevalent moisture spreads uniformly across it’s depth.  Given the right temperatures, this freezes solid in the evening and over night.  The next day the sun can heat up the top inch or so, creating a ‘corn’ feel, on a firm base.  It’s great to ski and potentially quite safe.

Problems?
To early = smooth, slick, solid ice.  Both dangerous and uncomfortable.
To late = slushy to the base of snow pack.  Serious avalanche territory.
Too few cycles = bumpy, other skiers tracks, variable depths, variable thaw rates.

So what do you consider when finding Spring snow?

  • Timing:  at 09:00 most of the East faces (Belvarde, Borsat, Charvet, etc) have been in the sun for a few hours, and given time to absorb those rays and soften.  South faces late morning and lunch time.  West faces are best in the afternoon.
  • Temperatures:  The previous afternoon needs to be hot enough to melt out the other tracks and uneven nature of the slope.  This will hopefully be +5 ish with direct sunlight.  Overnight, the colder the better -5, brilliant.  Especially with a deeper snow pack.  As soon as the temperatures approach 0, or go above, combined with direct sunlight the snow will soften.  It may be a short window of 1 hour to hit the slope at the right time.
  • Cycles:  The more melt freeze cycles, the more compact the snow will be, and the fewer skiers tracks from previous days.  This makes the snow and slope as a whole more predictable, and safer as it’s glued together at the bottom.
  • Aspects:  The sun rises due East on the 21st March, and sets due West.  After that date, it rises gradually more North East, but still takes a trajectory around the south of the sky. So North faces will remain mostly in the shade for the season.  Southerly facing slopes at this time of year take a beating from the high sun.  Take for instance the Fontaine Froid; probably the first slope to run out of snow at the end of April.
  • Angles: A slope will absorb more sun if it directly faces it.  A very flat slope will be softened less than a 40 degree slope.  Especially early East faces, and late West faces.
  • Slope base (anchors, rocks, grass, smooth slabs): This is a safety point more than anything.  Rocks in the snow pack create pockets of air, and they heat up in the sun.  A slope dotted with rocks is probably more unstable at this time of year than a big open white slope.  A shrubby, or large scree based slope will have better anchors to hold the snow from avalanching than a smooth rock slope or fine grassy slope.
  • Altitude:  This will usually relate inversely with the temperature, unless there is a pressure/temperature inversion in which the valley is colder than the high mountains.  Generally the higher you go, the longer it takes for the Spring snow to transform from hard icy snow.
  • Wind: The same conditions as the day before mean very little if the wind is 5mph stronger.  Slightly more wind can slow the transformation by more than an hour, and can stop it all together.
  • Cirrus Cloud: That very hazy, high level cloud that slightly dims your shadow.  This can have a massive effect by absorbing the suns rays and stopping the transformation.

There are countless other factors to consider, especially when managing a group in this kind of terrain, but these are the main contributors to good snow.

Always carry at least a Transceiver, Shovel and Probe with you.  We hand these out for use during our Spring Clinics, where you will be guided to cool spots, educated in finding good safe snow, and improve your technique!

Be safe, and try to get out for some high altitude resort fun in Val d’Isere over the next few weeks… We have spaces on our group clinics.  The snow is amazing, the lifts will be dead quiet, and the sun is out!

 

VAK Learning styles – Very Awkward Knowledge

Visual/Audio/Kinaesthetic (VAK) gets banded around loads, even at the top levels of Ski Teaching. I’ve often kept quiet, not to rock the boat, as somebody talks ‘knowledgeably’ about it. A paper from 2008: click here illustrates the dearth of worthwhile experiments that have been carried out in this area of psychology, and references papers that have contradicted this learning theory all together.

VAK Myth in Ski Teaching

Please stay open minded reading the paper and this blog. Remember that opinions are great, but science doesn’t really care about your opinion or anecdotes, unless they involve double blind randomised testing with high numbers of trials/participants 🙂

The Pashler et al. paper states that the VAK thing has gained much influence in the world of education, and I’ve seen that it definitely exists in the realm of ski instruction. The paper finds that both children and adults do have learning preferences, but these usually don’t match up to their most effective method of learning a particular subject. Also, of the huge amount of academic literature on the subject of learning styles, very few experiments were capable of testing the VAK hypothesis with validity and those that did contradict it.

You may be thinking “a lack of evidence doesn’t disprove the hypothesis”, but disproving things is tough and sometimes impossible. For instance; we have a lack of evidence for unicorns being able to ski, as we’ve not witnessed it… it’s not disproved. But white-horned-horses carving turns, is as unlikely as Echinacea preventing bruising. Ice prevents bruising, you can test it (punch yourself in both eyes, and apply echinacea to one and ice to the other – monitor results). Why don’t all ski teachers try where possible to use evidence to improve the performance and enjoyment of their clients?

Well, we do (and not to the detriment of fun, enjoyment and happiness). Time would be wasted trying to figure out if my clients have Visual, Audio of Kinaesthetic preferences; if they do, they’re probably wrong, or I’m wrong in assessing it, and it more than likely has no relation on how they’re going to learn best anyway! Crazy eh.

Do we teach using VAK analogies, descriptions and explanations. Yes. It’s a diverse and interesting way to mix up a lesson. Those who’ve been in my coaching sessions may have heard me describe momentum/kinetic energy transferral causing snow displacement thus creating sound waves that we can hear! Everyone can understand my squiggles in the snow, followed by the sound of the turn, and the feeling of the ski under their foot. Boom, there’s VAK all in a one-er. Maybe it is more valuable to utilise a teaching method according to the clients weakest/least preffered aspect of VAK learning. Who knows?

It is definitely far more appropriate to to use a visual lesson when describing how to take a high line in the gates. By drawing lines in the snow, or getting people to watch an example. Whereas it’s more important to be auditory in explaining that someone can’t get their foot in the binding because the heel piece is in an upward position. Attempting to get one’s weight centred across the sole of one’s foot is impossible to listen for!

It may take a while for ski instructing examining bodies to get on board with not talking about this, so if you have an assessment coming up, be nice to the trainer and point them in the direction of http://scholar.google.com Because telling people that their theory is debunked doesn’t always go down well. Trust me.

Terry – these are my own words and not necessarily the views of the development centre as such… though the team whole-heartedly agree with my adoption of evidence based practise, where possible, in teaching skiing.

Banishing some half-truths about ski technique

When learning anything, it’s good to keep things simple.  But if we make things too simple, then we can be wrong as often as we are right.  Here are a few commonly held views on ski technique which are too simple to be right all the time.

ALWAYS FACE YOUR SHOULDERS DOWN THE HILL

Twisted and uncomfortable

This can be pretty uncomfortable, but some people strive to do this all the time.  I find facing the same way as my skis more comfortable, and therefore make it my default position.

relaxed and square
Relaxed and square

When to do it (face shoulders down-hill):

twist down the hill to help you initiate a turn, especially short turns on the steep
Twisting down the hill – helping to initiate a turn.  (especially short turns on the steep)
  • To help initiate turns, especially on steep terrain, but it’s not necessary to hold the position
  • When skiing linked short turns
  • When skiing really tight and steep couloirs
  • If skiing a straight/direct/inside line in the bumps

When you don’t need to:

  • Most of the time…

 GOING UP AND DOWN

When you would do it:

  • On Piste:  We all go up and down a little bit, it can help take us from one ski to another (see point 4 – ‘spreading the weight’), but critically, it facilitates lateral body movements inside the curve and across the skis.  We don’t just do it for its own sake.
  • Powder snow:  It often looks like short turns in the powder snow involve more up and down, but this effect is really just the re-bound of the skis (pushing the attached skier upwards) as the skis work in and out of the lovely bouncy fresh pow!
rebound on a steeper slope
Rebound on a steeper slope

BEND THE KNEES

Yes, we need to flex our knees in order to ski, and can’t ski well with stiff, locked legs.

How much to do it:

  • A bit. We also need to bend at the ankle joint inside our boots and at the hip too – a bit.
  • Remember that skiing is not a static sport, so static positions and prescribed shapes are not terribly useful except as a base position to move from.

When to do it more:

flex the legs in the bumps to absorb pressure, if you're going fast enough
Bumps: flex the legs to absorb pressure, if you’re going fast enough
  • When absorbing bumps
  • When creating big angles – flex the inside leg whilst keeping the outside leg strong enough to resist the forces.

 

carving, straighter loaded leg and flexed inside leg
Carving: a straighter loaded leg and flexed inside leg

MODERN SKIS REQUIRE WEIGHT TO BE SPREAD OVER BOTH FEET

Well, no.  For recreational skiers the outside ski is the one to put more weight on, especially at the end of the turn when it is the downhill ski.  We do need to steer the inside ski, but don’t stand on it too much.

Any exceptions?

  • When going straight
  • Standing still on the flat.
  • In soft snow, but only a bit. The outside ski is still dominant.
whatever the conditions, stand on the outside ski
Whatever the conditions, stand on the outside ski

At the development centre, we share a coaching philosophy which tries not to set hard, fast and simple rules.

We work by linking any actions we make, to the results that we desire.  This allows us to be adaptable and progressive.  We do try to keep things simple, but not so simple that we are trapped by unhelpful and dogmatic “technique” for its own sake.  In our coaching sessions; (as part of a group, or privately) we take beginners through to advanced skiers, both on or off piste, and justify our teachings with reason.  We embrace some grey areas, and steer away from doctrine; that’s what makes being a ski instructor so interesting.

Remember though, technique is only part of it.  We work hard with tactical and psychological subjects to improve overall skiing performance and enjoyment.

Coach Giles, is a ski teacher, a director of The Development Centre, and assessor of British ski instructors to the highest level.  High amongst his most proud moments,is Fraser Hopewell passing his L4 technical exam [ed].

Photos by Ben Langridge : benlangridge.com

Henry Meredith Hardy: www.skiingsomewhere.com

Would you… risk learning?

What level of risk are you prepared to take when you’re skiing?  Are you a risk averse, fair weather slider or driven by the adrenaline of skiing fast and steep?  It takes all sorts and at TDC we ski with a huge range of performers and that is part of the attraction of this wonderful job. One of the great fascinations is observing, and sometimes influencing, how people approach learning and seeing how learning and risk interact.  In order to learn one has to risk attempting something new.  It may be a small step and a small risk but it needs to be there nevertheless.  Without it the dreaded plateau beckons, and at worst – decline.

Terry James Walker TDCski
Skiing hard with rocks hiding under the surface

For some the very mention of risk is enough to set knees trembling yet most people want to get better at skiing.  Fortunately it is not the level of actual risk but the level of perceived risk that is central to learning.  For a nervous intermediate who feels frightened of pointing the ski downhill on a blue run, the perceived risk of doing so is potentially greater than that experienced by an expert skier who descends a steep, rock-filled couloir.  The actual risk of failure is indeed greater in the couloir but because the performer is within their comfort zone and perceives minimal risk there is likely to be minimal learning.  By overcoming a greater likelihood of failure we access a more significant learning episode.  So who is in fact the risk taker in this example; the extreme skier or the nervous intermediate?

At TDC we frequently reflect as a group on the way we coach and upon how we build relationships with our clients.  A common point of discussion is how to manage the expert skier who books lessons with the intention of improving.  It is difficult for adult learners to relinquish old habits and accept the risk of failing at something new.  More often than not a change in performance necessitates unfamiliar sensations, and a certain vulnerability as motor programmes adjust, proprioception recalibrates and expectations are reframed. Here progress depends on two factors;

  • A willingness to embrace perceptions of risk
  • The relationship forged between coach and learner.
TDcski Coaching
TDCski Coaching Sharing their Knowledge

Most people when asked “what do you wish to achieve during this lesson” will focus on success, however, it is openness to failure that sets the really successful learners apart.

This memoir has been forged by Coach Paul, from a reflective foundation of many years teaching people ‘how to learn’.  He is a director of TDC, an inspirational ski teacher and lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire in Sports Coaching.

Professional Ski Instructors: 5 Pet (Mega) Hates!

TDC ski coaches are on the hill practically every day of the season; it’s fair to say that we see our fair share of nonsense, please enjoy these 5 of Kieran’s pet hates!

Childrens Ski Lessons
“I know you don’t want to go down in the bubble Daddy, but I think La Face is a bad idea”
      1. Parents of small children, taking them down a steep red/black run when they are clearly too small and inexperienced to cope!  Small children have big heads, add a big helmet to that, and I think that’s why most little ones ski in the ‘back seat’.  There is no rush to get a 4 or 5 year old to ski steep slopes, let alone when they still have a big pizza!  Keep them safe, make it fun, and they will learn, trust us, we know!

      2. If I have just spent the morning with a nervous skier, I will have been working hard to build confidence; confidence in themselves, and confidence in their ability to control their speed and direction.  Skiing therefore becomes enjoyable, rather than a stressful experience where they fear they will hurt themselves.  It’s a Holiday!  Having just had a hugely successful breakthrough in a morning session.  What happens after lunch?  The other half (usually the boyfriend/husband!) says “come ski with me, you will be fine!”  By 4pm the same person is now in bits, confidence ruined, and has un-learned the whole morning.  Very frustrating when you have to start again the next morning.  (Not to mention the arguments it can cause!)

      3. Skiers who ski at a speed way beyond there capability – this is probably my biggest pet hate of them all!  It never ceases to amaze me how many skiers hurtle down the hill, with no awareness, consideration for others, or just general safety common sense.  You can probably picture the type – usually male, 15-40 years old, off balance, jacket undone, goggles all squinty, in a racing snow plough with no turns, doing about 50 mph!! When these people get close to us ski instructors and our lessons (especially little ones) we get infuriated!  And boy, if we catch them on the lift, we sure let them know, politely and professionally of course, which is rather difficult!  FIS ski code/rules

        Off Piste Ski Lessons
        Off Piste with all the Gear….
      4. Skiers or snowboarders off piste with no safety equipment – Transceiver, shovel, probe is the minimum.  When I am coaching my groups in off piste private lessons or off piste clinics, I often see others near us with absolutely no safety equipment.  They are usually thrashing around all over the place, all on the same slope at the same time, charging over convexities and showing absolutely zero off piste safety knowledge or etiquette.  It infuriates instructors and mountain guides when we see these people!  The main reason for this is that they may start something (ie an avalanche) above you, and put your group in danger.  As coaches we are very aware of this, we always try to ensure we are never placed in this position.

      5. Massive ski school groups snaking across the piste!!  We have all seen it, an instructor, with about 10-15 people snaking down behind them (sometimes even more!) taking up the entire piste. There is nothing wrong with skiers following an instructor down a run, as they may be working on line, or turn shape, or speed control, but 15 people!  How can anyone in a group this size receive any individual attention or feedback, it is practically impossible for the instructor to develop peoples performance in groups this big.  At TDC, we never take more than 6 people in a group, maximum feedback, development, safety and enjoyment per person!

Kieran is normally an entirely positive guy and absolutely loves: Really big dogs, Savoyade Food, Good Whisky, Powder Snow and Working lots of hours. [ed]

Great Powder skiing in Val d’Isere

Sometimes you get good conditions and have to make the most of them.This is the recipe to follow:

First you have to have the good snow; then you have to have the good visibility to see it;then you have to be skiing with poeple who are prepared for a challenge and just love it. Mix together with some local knowledge of where to go and when to go there and then see what happens!