The sun was shining, the air was cold and the snow was fresh so today was Off Piste day – not a technical session. This would be the opportunity to take advantage of all the hard technical work.
Leonie was physically tired from yesterday and so was stiff and tentative on her first off piste run but soon loosened up and recovered her confidence. Both Luke and Leonie had a re-calibrated set of goals now and so were actively self-correcting and letting me know each time they became aware of something new.
Luke figured out that he was weak on his right foot (due to past foot pain) and that contributed to his frequent failure to stand on that foot at the start of the turn. However he appeared to suffer much less metatarsal pain now since avoiding the collapse of the ankle and this was allowing him to experiment. Luke also gradually managed to relax his outside leg more instead of locking it at the hip – however all the flexion appears to be at the hip and almost none at the knee. This development however did allow him to control his turn radius and speed better. The first off-piste video clip shows how the rigid leg caused an uncontrolled acceleration – and the second clip shows far improved dynamics, range of motion and control of rotation. This still didn’t prevent a brief lapse of concentration from ending up with crossed skis (weight back) and a proper face plant. Luke skied hard and was completely wiped out by the end – despite eating an extra pain au chocolat.
Leonie made amazing progress and once she had loosened up manage to bring rhythm and dynamics into her skiing on steeper off-piste. Her range of motion with the legs changed dramatically – with a good reduction of her (until now) chronic passive rotation (tractor turns). This is exactly what we had been aiming for.
Even more impressively Leonie coped emotionally with steep sections and didn’t once freeze up. She explained that clearly understanding the pivot had made a great difference to her confidence.
I’d explained that the pivot is for braking – always staying on the uphill edges of the skis and using the pole to hold back and control acceleration from gravity. This way of skiing is directly in the fall line and can involve jumping when the snow is not good or it is too steep or narrow. Serious steepness still requires some dynamics even for pivoting because the angle of the slope will prevent a change of edge anyway. In addition on the steep it’s best to retract the feet beneath the body in jump turns – to buy more time to swing the skis around – and to avoid excessive bouncing. We used jump turning today in tricky steep snow and Leonie negotiated it well. (Full dynamics – passing through the perpendicular and changing edges before starting the new turn develops more acceleration and is used in racing or off piste in snow where pivoting is impossible. The speed would be exclusively controlled through the line/direction of the turn.)
It would have been better if Leonie had managed a closer stance for a two footed pivot - but the stance did generally narrow down naturally by itself as the legs softened and rotation came under control.
Back on the piste everyone was tired and Ella, who joined us after lunch, was recovering from a very late night out. Slightly sloppy skiing from everyone was acceptable with the general level of tiredness so there is nothing to criticise in the following video. Ella’s knee felt better when she remembered to pull everything “inwards”.
Both Leonie and Luke had better control over the downhill hip position on this tricky descent than in the previous couloir…
Spindrift due to wind at high altitude….
When waiting for Luke and Leonie to catch me up after a short stretch of hiking I was taking photographs of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley when there was a rumble and roar – obviously an avalanche somewhere – purely by chance my camera was pointing directly towards it…
Conclusion: A successful day!
(All music in the videos - Afro Celt Sound System – naturally.)