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!

Ski Club Seasons Start Up – Day 1

Ski Club of Great Britain under tdc guidance

I spend every autumn looking forward to the Ski Club week, it’s a bit like an official start to the season for me, I get to spend six days with some old friends and get royally spoilt by the Mark Warner staff in the ‘Perce Neige’ in Tignes le Lac. Full English breakfast, tea and cake, evening dinner, jacuzzi and the opportunity to ski with two groups of Ski Club members 6 hours a day for 3 days each.

The lesson format is great from a coaching point of view because we have plenty of time to make changes to people’s performance, so I took my time today warming the guys up. I could tell they were all itching to get going as they all beat me on the walk from the hotel to the lifts, but after a warmer to make sure we all knew each others names and a quick physical warm up we headed towards the Gratalu Chair into the sun to sample some of the awesome piste skiing on offer in Tignes. The snow was cold and grippy and perfectly groomed and the team soon found their ski legs.

We started with some balance drills to get everyone over their outside ski and then I filmed the team to use as a benchmark to compare their progress over the three days. We quickly outlined some common threads to iron out, starting with the vertical ‘pop’ to reduce the amount of wasted muscular effort while at the same time improve the skis’ grip at the start of the turn. The session progressed by focussing on active leg stretching and rotating with some free practice before finishing off with another filmed run to assess the changes the guys had made over the course of the day.

I’ve decided to follow the advice of Louise Alison of Bonne Sante Physio and start incorporating a warm down when time permits – after the warm down we returned to the hotel for some video feedback where a few technical hitches caused me a touch of stress as I couldn’t get the t.v. to work. Fortunately for me the Perce Neige bar manager- ‘lovely Lily’ saved my bacon by dropping everything to fix the problem, and we spent probably too long analysing the days skiing, without a doubt this improved everyone’s understanding of the movements we’re making and the changes we need to make.

Tommorrow’s another day and I can’t wait to show off the awesome skiing in Val d’Isere, in the mean time, I must dash, the Jacuzzi is calling before a three course dinner with wine – I feel like I’m on holiday!

Ben L

Fresh powder and blue skies

The second day of the VIP ski host training saw the groups run by tdc‘s Phil, Paul and Josh ripping up the powder all over the Espace Killy. a special mention goes to 63 year old Roger who was on fire in the off piste over in Tignes and has a few tricks to show the youngsters. For some these were their first turns in the deep stuff, so there were plenty of face plants…not a bad way to clear the head after a few beers the night before! The sky was a perfect blue and everyone made great progress. For the 3 tdc coaches it has been a pleasure to ski with such a personable group of people, we look forward to seeing some of you back again next year. Have a great season, cheers Paul, Phil and Josh.

tdc early season clinics

Once again in December 2009 tdc will be running the very sucessful and popular early season clinics.

tdc‘s early season ski clinics are a great way to get yourself up and running for the season.

tdc early season clinic - Fri 12th Dec 2008

Val d’Isere and Tignes early season snow has been amazing the last few years, and this is the perfect opportunity for keen skiers of all levels to take a week out at low peak time and get the best tuition, in a fun and friendly enviroment.
The early season clinics have been very popular and are at discounted prices.

Get the best ski improvement courses early in the season, improve your ski technique so that the rest of the season you are at your best.

For December 2009 the early season clinics in Val d’Isere and Tignes are;

Mon Nov 30th – Fri Dec 4th 2009
Mon Dec 7th – Fri Dec 11th 2009

The early season clinics are 5 half days – Monday – Friday 9am – 12noon or 1pm -4pm
Cost – 250€ – 280 €

If you are looking to improve your skiing technique, in a fun, friendly and challanging way then tdc‘s early season clinics are ideal

The early season ski improvement clinics run at the same levels as our normal coaching clinics

discovery – discover your talent, ski with confidence …for strong blue run skiers…

development – develop your performance, feel your skiing flow …for strong red run skiers…

development Plus – take on steeper and varied slopes …for strong red run /ok black run skiers

challenges – take on new goals, challenge yourself …for strong black run skiers…

At 250€ – 280€ for 5 days of high quality coaching these clinics are very popular and excellent value.

Email us now to book your place, for you and your friends.

or call +33 6 15 55 31 56 or book online