Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pre Season - Winter 2015

The good news is that we will be starting the season this year with SNOW ! ... and there is more on the way.

Just up on the glacier at Tignes to check out the snow conditions. In sheltered areas there is about half a metre of powder where you don't hit rocks beneath. The more exposed skied-out windpack is predominant on the upper slopes around 3500m. Lower down at 2000m - coming into Val Claret - the piste was in perfect condition - unusual for this time of year. Temperatures are low now and snow making is underway. The station opens fully tomorrow 28th November. Both Tignes and Val are still empty so the skiing will be great.

Looking over to Val d'isère from the top of Tignes Glacier...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Calcium Paradox

This is a one page overview of the book “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox” by Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue

I highly advise purchasing a copy – it is well written and the detailed background information is truly fascinating.


Calcium Paradox (Inappropriate calcium metabolism caused by vitamin K2 deficiency)

  • Vitamin K2 Mk7 (menaquinone)
  • Vitamin K2 Mk4 (menatetrenone)
  • Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone)
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
  • Vitamin A  (Retinol) (Beta-Carotene is not vitamin A)
  • Osteocalcin (BGP, Bone Gla Protein, BGLAP, Bone Gamma-carboxyglutamate Protein)
  • MGP (Matrix Gla Protein)

The paradox: Osteoporosis or arterial calcium plaques? Calcium supplements for osteoporosis increase the risk of heart attack (to the rate of one fracture prevention to two heart attacks). Including a vitamin D supplementation can even worsen this.

The Calcium paradox is just a typical case of failure to separate cause and effect. Minerals are not just lost from bones – they are accumulating in the wrong places instead – which is the main issue. This is due to a deficiency of dietary fat soluble vitamins – K2, D3 and A – not due to a lack of calcium. Adding calcium to the diet under such conditions only adds to the problems.

This apparent paradox is at the centre of several other chronic health problems, including : Diabetes, Varicose veins, Wrinkles (mineralisation in the skin), Kidney disease, Chron’s Disease, Narrow - crowded dental arch, Cancer, Alzheimer’s (Diabetes 3), Infertility, Tooth decay, Joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis.

In women declining estrogen levels after menopause impact bone density in three distinct ways  - each counteracted  by K2. Estrogen converts vitamin D into its bone building form. Also, declining estrogen levels increases interleukin-6 which stimulates production of osteoclasts (which break down the bones). K2 in the form of Mk7 (menaquinone) counteracts this.

Alzheimer’s is correlated very closely to both heart disease and osteoporosis. (and K2 deficiency and insulin insensitivity in the brain).

Wrinkles – due to decreased kidney filtration -  due to increased inactive MGP – due to K2 deficiency. (skin elasticity equates to artery elasticity)

Dietary advice for heart disease prevention has been centred on the “lipid hypothesis” – which stopped people from eating saturated fats and most of the sources of the fat soluble vitamins that actually protect against heart disease (and osteoporosis). Hence today 30% of people die from heart attacks. The so called “French Paradox” of the “Mediterranean diet” is the same “paradox” – the answer is not in the wine! Fatty foods like Foie Gras and fatty cheeses, creamy, buttery sauces and egg yokes are the best sources of K2.

Children who develop in the womb with a K2 deficiency end up with narrow nostrils, crowded dental arch, overlapping teeth – and end up mouth breathing. This is due to the nasal cartilage area being a key site for K2 accumulation in the foetus. The lower 1/3rd of the face is compromised due to premature calcification from the lack of K2. Tooth enamel is also not properly formed – especially for the adult teeth.


Vitamin Interdependence

The vitamins work together as an interdependent system. Their jobs mainly relate to moving minerals around. In particular vitamins K2, D3 and A work together – influencing each other. (Vitamin E appears to only function as an antioxidant related to polyunsaturated fats)

D3 governs calcium absorption from the intestines. K2 directs the calcium appropriately.

D3 allows for proper parathyroid hormone function to maintain blood calcium levels.

D3 boosts immunity – production of cathelicidins – antimicrobial agents that destroy bacteria, fungi and viruses. Because it is suspected that atherosclerosis is also caused by one of the “cold” bugs – C-pneumoniae – this makes D3 an important line of defence. Restricted D3 limits MGP production for K2 activation and simultaneously limits protection against the bacteria.

D3 protects against all major forms of cancer.

D3 has an inverse relationship with hypertension – combined with K2 the arteries are being cleared.

D3 is required to make MGP (The protein activated by K2 for clearing calcium from blood vessels)

D3 + A are required to make Osteocalcin (The protein activated by K2 for building and strengthening bones) by activating osteoblasts.

K2 Deficiency : D3 + calcium supplementation alone will increase bone density but also can increase arterial plaque due to a relative imbalance (deficiency) of K2. Increased D3 increases the demand for K2. Vitamin A plays a governing role in the relationship and so also needs to be present – but in no specific ratio.

D3 Deficiency : Even with K2 present, if there is not enough D3 then the K2 cannot work – so arterial plaque increases.

D3 has a biphasic effect on vascular calcification – calcification increases if there is effectively too much or too little D3. Excess D3 (for K2 levels) causes uncarboxylated MPG to become excessive and so calcification increases. Insufficient D3 increases the effect of K2 deficiency and so calcification increases.

Calcium supplementation alone does not cause arterial plaque build up. Calcium ratio in plaque is around 20% regardless of calcium intake.

To sum up – deficiency of either D3 or K2 increases arterial plaque. Excess D3 is harmful also because it can induce a relative deficiency of K2.

D3 toxicity is defined as the slow build up of plaque in the soft tissues.

K2 activated MGP reverses atherosclerosis. (37% in 6 weeks in animal studies  - 50% in people – totally due to K2)

A therapeutic dose of K2 alone is considered to be 120 mcg of Mk7. Double that during and after menopause. (There is no toxicity with K2 at high levels)

Balancing D3 and K2 for a minimal therapeutic dosage requires supplementation in the order of 1000 iu D3 to 100 to 200 mcg of K2 Mk7(most potent and long lasting version) 8000 iu of D3 is a good therapeutic dose level.

Calcium supplementation may not be necessary when sufficient K2 is available – though for those with osteoporosis it may still be needed.

K2 deficiency can develop in less that 7 days as it is not recycled in the body.Humans also depend on the food chain for supplies as we don’t readily convert K1 to K2 by ourselves.

K2 partners with D3 to inhibit the production of osteoclast cells that break down bone – and causes existing osteoclasts to die. This helps to tilt the bones towards building instead of breaking down.

Vitamin A regulates (lowers) the production of MGP.

Vitamins A and D regulate the activity of genes that cause cells to produce the proteins to which minerals and water soluble vitamins will bind.This is why the fat-soluble vitamins are the true foundation of health – they are required to make use of all other nutrients. A and D are the base – K2 is added for optimum health.

Vitamin A is necessary for night vision – it boosts the immune system and is considered the “anti-infective vitamin”. It increases the number of osteoclast cells (breaking down bone) necessary for bone remodelling. This removes old weak bone to be replaced with new, stronger tissue and is necessary in fracture repair. A also stimulates osteobalsts (producing osteaocalcin). In women A is necessary for estrogen, progesterone and other hormone  production and in men for sperm production. A ensures cell differentiation – which protects against cancer by inhibiting tumour development. Lack of A causes dry skin and dry eyes, thinning hair, brittle nails, anemia and susceptibility to colds and flu. A is required for protein utilisation. It’s takes a lot of overdosing to make A toxic – however several symptoms are shared with A deficiency – because they are actually caused  by induced D and K2 deficiency and vice versa. When you take more of one fat-soluble vitamin you create a greater need for the others. If those others are lacking then toxicity symptoms result. However…

When D3 and A are supplemented together you never see toxicity symptoms of either vitamin – no matter how high the intake of either vitamin.

D3 stimulates production of K2 dependent Gla proteins – increasing demand for K2. This enhances all bone/artery repair and building functions. Isolated – on it’s own A inhibits MGP production – minimizing demand for K2. A allows the body to get by when K2 is scarce – temporarily. Calcium excretion from the body is highest in summer (plaque cleansing) due to blood levels of retinol – vitamin A – which peaks in August – despite no increase in intake. During winter calcium loss is minimal as it goes into the arterial plaque. In summer the A vitamin causes excretion of calcium in the urine – after it is removed by K2 from the arteries. Summer grass fed food has higher levels of both A and K2.

A and D do not operate together in a ratio – instead they operate in a “switch model” whereby a minimum amount of one switches off the toxic effects of the other.


K2 Function

K2 activates a protein called osteocalcin (bone gla protein or BGP – created from osteblasts in bone) – which attracts calcium to the bones and teeth. K2 also activates another protein called MGP (matrix gla protein) which removes calcium from soft tissues.When K2 levels are inadequate those proteins are useless – calcium then just embeds itself in soft tissues instead. Vitamins A and D together cause bone osteoblasts to create osteocalcin. Vitamin D also stimulates MGP production.

Osteocalcin acts as a hormone causing insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas to release more insulin. At the same time it directs fat cells to release the hormone adiponectin, which increased sensitivity to  insulin. (Hence the connection to diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance health issues) This demonstrates that the skeleton is an endocrine gland – with K2 being a critical nutrient.

Osteocalcin (K2 activated) also affects male fertility by enhancing the synthesis of testosterone.

K2 – through an enzyme called vitamin K-dependent carboxylase alters the structure of the osteocalcin and MGP proteins – hence activating them to bind calcium. When there is a K2 deficiency the proteins are “under-carboxylated".

Men’s bones – via ostecalcin production regulates testosterone production. Osteocalcin is mainly confined to the bones.

K2 activates proteins responsible for the deposition of calcium and phosphorous salts in the bones and teeth.

MGP is found throughout the body, in bones, blood vessels, heart, lungs, kidneys and cartilage. Uncarboxylated K2 deficient MGP is associated with disease in each of these areas. Many types of malignant tumours produce MGP – K2 deficiency fosters cancer growth.

K2 plays a role in infant growth by preventing premature calcification of the cartilaginous growth zones of the bones.

K2  increases mineral content and decreases bacterial count in saliva.

K2 increases learning capacity – the brain contains one of the highest concentrations of K2 where it is involved in the synthesis of the myelin sheath of the nerve.

K2 supplementation prevents and repairs dental caries.

K2 (menaquinone) supplementation reverses atherosclerosis.

Other K2 dependent proteins also protect against atherosclerosis. Growth arrest-specific gene 6 (Gas6) promotes rapid clearance of dead smooth muscle cells that can act as an anchor for circulating fats. K2 dependent protein S encourages the immune system to take out gently arterial garbage rather than launch an inflammatory attack – which would encourage plaque formation.

K2 completely blocks free radical accumulation and brain cell death. It also protects the brain cells from depletion of glutathione, a key antioxidant in the body.


Calcium Cycle osteoporosis – atherosclerosis connection

Interplay between fat soluble vitamins, calcium metabolism and the seasons.

Arterial plaque builds up in winter and diminishes in summer. Bone density lowers only in the winter – stays constant in summer but doesn’t regain density.

K2 content and vitamin A (retinol) content of dairy increases in the warm months during periods of rapid grass growth and plummet in the winter. During rapid grass growth vitamin K1 is abundant in the membrane of the chloroplast – where photosynthesis takes place. When cows, chickens or pigs consume green chlorophyll containing plants they ingest phylloquinone (K1), which is then converted to K2 in direct proportion to the amount of K1 in their diet. This doesn’t happen in grain fed animals. K1 rich food is also rich in beta-carotene. This imparts the yellow colour associated with subsequent K2 rich food.

Rates of death from heart attacks decreases in the summer and increases in the winter (Northern Hemisphere). Blood vessel calcification increases in the winter and deceases in the summer – with a 3% seasonal variation in calcification which mirrors mortality rates. This cardiac mortality pattern is not determined by only vitamin D levels – which it follows roughly – but by K2 levels, which it follows precisely.


Triage Theory of Ageing

Long term degeneration takes place at minimum nutritional levels – the body being designed to privilege immediate requirements for survival at the expense of long term function – including DNA repair and decay of mitochondria (cell’s energy production). Chronic illness associated with K2 deficiency falls into this category. With the K vitamins the body privileges blood clotting function before bone protein activation. This is why RDA nutrient levels are usually dramatically low – as they relate to immediate survival mode only.


Dietary K2 Sources

Animal fats give K2 Mk4 which has a half life of only 2 hours. Fermented foods give K2 Mk7 from bacteria – which lasts for days in the body and is far more effective in general with far smaller supplements (1/10th dosage required). In cheese and yoghurt it’s mainly K2 Mk7 that’s present from fermentation.

Wild game – duck, pheasant, rabbit, venison, elk, boar etc. (naturally thrive on green vegetation)

Goose liver (foie gras)

Butterfat of mammalian milk, eggs of fish, organs and fats of animals.

Synthesized in animal tissue and mammary glands from Vitamin K1 in rapidly growing green grass. Vitamin K1 is found in association with the chlorophyll of green plants in proportion to their photosynthetic activity. The content of this vitamin in butterfat is proportional to the richness of its yellow of orange colour, directly associated with beta-carotene.

Natto (fermented soya beans), Goose liver, Certain cheeses, Animal fat such as egg yoke, butter and lard of grass fed animals.


Dietary Fat Soluble Nutrient Dense Foods

Fish, Seafood, Cod Liver Oil (careful with pollution!) – Grass fed milk and dairy products. Veal liver is very high in vitamin A.

Cooked vegetables (not raw).


Minerals and other key nutrients

Magnesium, zinc, boron and B vitamins all cooperate to enhance bone density. Green leafy vegetables.

To work to improving the strength of blood vessel walls – flavonoids. Those are plant based compounds especially cherries, blackberries, onions,garlic and the white membrane in citrus fruits.


Food to Avoid

Trans Fats – they contain a mutant version of the K vitamin (DHP). There is even less conversion of K1 to K2 – and higher atherosclerosis and osteoporosis.

Vitamin D is damaged by the antinutrient phytic acid – found in whole grains, bran, raw seeds and raw nuts. The trick is in the detailed preparation where soaking and cooking disable the phytic acid.



Supplement dosage information is from a Mercola article:

"While the ideal or optimal ratios between vitamin D and vitamin K2 have yet to be elucidated, Rheume-Bleue suggests that for every 1,000 IU’s of vitamin D you take, you may benefit from about 100 micrograms of K2, and perhaps as much as 150-200 micrograms (mcg).

The latest vitamin D dosing recommendations, which call for about 8,000 IU’s of vitamin D3 per day if you’re an adult, means you’d need in the neighborhood of 800 to 1,000 micrograms (0.8 to 1 milligram/mg) of vitamin K2."


Researchers are also looking into other health benefits. For example, one recent study published in the journal Modern Rheumatology1 found that vitamin K2 has the potential to improve disease activity besides osteoporosis in those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Another, published in the journal Science2, found that vitamin K2 serves as a mitochondrial electron carrier, thereby helping maintain normal ATP production in mitochondrial dysfunction, such as that found in Parkinson’s Disease.

According to the authors:

“We identified Drosophila UBIAD1/Heix as a modifier of pink1, a gene mutated in Parkinson’s disease that affects mitochondrial function. We found that vitamin K(2) was necessary and sufficient to transfer electrons in Drosophila mitochondria. Heix mutants showed severe mitochondrial defects that were rescued by vitamin K(2), and, similar to ubiquinone, vitamin K(2) transferred electrons in Drosophila mitochondria, resulting in more efficient adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. Thus, mitochondrial dysfunction was rescued by vitamin K(2) that serves as a mitochondrial electron carrier, helping to maintain normal ATP production.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Cold Thermogenesis 2.8°C

10 minutes at 2.8°C today – near 2000m altitude close to the Cormet d’Areche – close to home. It would be a good stream for whisky making as there is a lot of vegetation in the sediment with the water being brownish instead of the usual sparkling clean glacial clay at this altitude. (Either that or it’s cow poop)

Not managing to get into the cold very frequently just now but the adaption seems to be improving all the same. Even after 10 minutes in cold running water it only took minutes to warm up again – without shivering. That’s what’s meant by “cold thermogenesis” – it’s all about generating heat from brown fat and not from mechanical actions. There’s two ways to build brown fat – cold exposure and endurance exercise. Brown fat burns white fat – so being ketogenic probably helps. The nervous system also adapts so that there is a major reduction in pain sensitivity – at least in the skin. It’s supposed to create an epigenetic effect – rewiring the hypothalamus – which is where control over body temperature resides.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Dark Side of La Grande Motte (More Cold Thermogenesis)

This (The first photo) is the North side of the Motte – which skiers seldom see. I’m standing on the south side of the mountain from La Plagne – namely “Champagny”.

At the small village of Champagny Le Haut (in the valley) we found a small stream from a waterfall above, with a nice deep hole for plunging into the glacier runoff water. The site was marked out by a row of Celtic standing stones and a nearby Buddhist cairn covered with Tibetan flags, pus a Christian temple of some sort. We were sheltered by the trees and the place was just amazing. The water was at 0.2°C but I had no trouble staying in it for 6 minutes – not even shivering either during or after. The pain dies away rapidly – after about 3 minutes due to the skin becoming completely anaesthetised. The water was quite fast running and about chest deep and although the sun was down I wore only swimming trunks and just splashed water over my shoulders, upper back and head.

After a lot of searching on Physics forums regarding the issue of how cold running water can actually get to – I eventually found the answer! All the physicists ramble on about their theories – but only one person I found actually went out and measured it – in mountain streams in the winter when camping. He found that it would drop to minus 2 °C. When he took a cup full so that it stopped moving it would freeze solid in the cup. I’m looking forward to plunging into some to this stuff later in the winter – it should be interesting!

The trick with cold adaptation is that it’s the skin that must be exposed – it’s not about core temperature. I could have stayed in the water much longer after the initial pain (not too severe) had died away – but it was getting late and I had to be sure to be able to drive and feel my toes for that! During the week I’d managed one 2 hour bike ride in a t-shirt and shorts – feeling fine in he chilled air at altitude. The only other cyclists I saw were wrapped up as if it was already mid winter. I didn’t even feel cold – once again no shivering at all.

It’s worth noting here that the last bug of any kind I caught was a 2 day mild cold last Xmas from people on holiday. Since then there hasn’t even been a runny nose to deal with.


La Grande Casse…


Champagn le Haut (can be skied to from both Tignes and La Plagne…

Looking through the tall grass to the summer slopes of Courchevel….


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alex & Mike Day 5–Autumn Race Training–Tignes Glacier


Today was unfortunately Alex’s last day training for this period. His progress has been clear and consistent and I know that he would desperately now want this to continue – but it’s good to bear in mind that this is an endless process – it never stops – there is no rush. People only stop learning when the stop being curious.

Leg retraction was the theme yesterday in Giant Slalom so today it the goal was to cultivate leg retraction in Special Slalom – which would be tricky as it generates higher speed and so fast reactions are required. Alex did manage to retract and did go faster. We used a course in two sections – one with a mix of stubbies and full (World Cup weight) poles and another with lighter full (ski club weight) poles. Alex did manage a great wipe-out but the main reason for this was simply due to being caught out by the higher speed by not being used to it.

Here’s a good still image of Alex using leg retraction to get out of his turn (around the blue pole). The speed has caught him out though as he hasn’t managed to get over the skis yet and change edges but is almost already at the next pole. This is what led to his eventual fall.

For future reference…. This timing could have been improved by A: not allowing the clearing of the pole to push the upper body back a little and to remain more centred over the skis. B: More skating forward of the new upper ski and active leg extension – driving the centre of mass down and into the new turn. C: Looking for the edge of the upper ski earlier in the turn and actively generating the turn from increased dynamics instead of pivoting. D: Exaggerating the activity of the legs more to generate more angulation. E: More suppleness of the legs – including particularly the hip joints. Note the right hip is consistently less flexed than the left – so he turns more securely on the left leg. F: Sensing how to work with the rhythm (resonance) to generate even more speed (like bouncing on a trampoline)

Bear in mind that Alex is doing extremely well in being able to work on very complex skills with a minimum of actual time and practice.



Mike is getting enough control through the turn transitions now to start to look nimble in the course – whereas initially just staying in the course was a problem. The next stage is to increase dynamics more and take a line closer to the poles – so that the body begins to cross over to the inside of the poles. This isn’t just a “slalom” issue it’s about how the motion of the centre of mass is the key to edge control. Mike is generally vague about edge control and it’s a “chicken and egg” scenario – where not having much edge control to begin with discourages motion of the centre of mass.

In Mike’s case the problem has been created from two sources. First of all there is the instinctive defensive pattern of movement that all people initially adopt on skis but more significantly Mike has had those negative issues reinforced through his early coaching  - and then practiced over many years. In contrast Alex was trained directly away from those issues right from his first day ever on skis – with his coach, Philippe, using the MetaSki system.

Working on dynamics through the turn transitions during this week has clearly improved Mike’s edge control and reduced the defensive actions such as the rotation of the upper body into the turn, the stepping uphill to transfer weight to the uphill ski between turns, the turning of the skis (torque) and pushing out of the heels. The thing is that those issues vanish by themselves when better options are cultivated. They don’t have to be corrected (though we have to be aware of them – through coaching feedback). At the start of the week Alex was static on his skis, pushing his heels out and a actually moving his centre of mass in the wrong direction. We briefly mentioned this to explain that it was wrong and very undesirable (necessary due to his tendency to believe and be strongly influenced by peers and inappropriate adults) but after that all we did was focus on the correct and appropriate actions. Alex quickly recovered his previous skiing level and then moved further forward. The process is the same for Mike – but slower due to a stack of unlearning being required. My only actual criticisms of Alex were directed at the fact that he was aware of absolutely nothing that he had learned over the years and could not explain the first thing about a turn on skis and his use of  diametrically wrong explanations with phrases such as “turning your skis”! He admitted to thinking about nothing at all when skiing poles – which meant that there was no skill development process being engaged and no thinking. This simply encourages the infiltration of defensive and reactive mechanisms – the likes of which Mike is dealing with. When that process is allowed to develop too far then it just multiplies the amount of work required to sort it out again. Alex understood the messages on all levels and experienced a dramatic improvement in his skiing during the week – with the acid test being his increase in speed in the slalom. He must be encouraged to read this report – not once but regularly – to reinforce his awareness and limit the chance of being misled again by his peers and the adults who would assume authority in those subjects.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Alex & Mike day 4 – Autumn Race Training – Day 4


Today Alex had what he wanted all along – the chance to run a proper giant slalom course. In reality he needed the experience, especially for reading the course correctly (initially there were a few typical errors – when negotiating a ‘banane’). What was good to see was that Alex’s technical level made the GS look easy. This is why the hard technical skill is learned in slalom at lower overall speed. Alex loves speed so GS – at this level – is no problem to him at all. Steeper terrain and faster courses would however show immediately up technical limitations – which is normal. Progressing from here requires working on special slalom. However, with more time between turns and greater forces to deal with it was an ideal opportunity to introduce some more advanced aspects of technical skiing for the first time – namely to do with “leg retraction”. In the video from today Alex is using a small amount of leg retraction successfully and it helps him to keep a good line in the course. Later – free skiing on the piste he was working on the same movement pattern – though was a little inhibited by the poor light and visibility.

For the first few days we had worked at getting the body down and into the next turn – facilitated by coming out over the lower ski by the mid point between turns. This was aided by skating out the uphill leg through the start of the new turn. Today we were now working a different way to exit the turn – by retracting the lower leg and bringing the centre of mass downhill over the the ski without it popping up so much. When you cross over the skis the legs are both flexed so it enhances the skating out of the uphill leg at the start of the new turn.

Alex was struggling with this and found it difficult – but this is advanced technique – very powerful – and children are seldom taught at this level. I reassured Alex that he was doing fine and to expect this to be difficult to master but very much worth the effort. Part of the reason it is difficult is that the forces in the turn tend to make the leg engage all the muscles strongly due to reflex. It takes awareness and discipline to be able to suddenly relax all those muscles under such conditions. Like most worthwhile skills it’s not easy to learn. Alex had to realise that the retraction was to let the body fall out of the turn – but that this was not yet the start of the next turn. Patience is required here! The next turn starts automatically with the centre of mass falling downhill – after it crosses over the skis. Those movements need to be separate and distinct, respecting the appropriate phases of the turn. Alex was rushing the retraction directly into a turn – confusing the loss of pressure with retraction (still in the turn – but coming out of it) with the start of the next turn. We worked on this and made solid progress – helped by the skating out of the leg at the start of the next turn. At first Alex thought this sounded like “pushing out the leg” – which he had been told not to do. Skating is about projecting the centre of mass away from the foot – the opposite of pushing the foot out sideways.


Mike was a bit distracted due to work requirements and so found it difficult to get into the day’s activities. Despite that Mike understood and executed leg retraction more effectively than Alex. This clearly helped to improve every aspect of Mike’s skiing. Despite this success Mike is still not connecting properly with edge grip. There is still a strong residual element of defensive actions going on to undermine his skiing overall – however bit by bit, with persistence and improved understanding this is changing.

A typical autumn day on the Tignes glacier…













Monday, October 26, 2015

Alex & Mike Day 3–Autumn Race Training–Tignes Glacier


Today we used a combination of stubby and long poles together in one slalom course – to encourage Alex to ski the same way in both. The course changed into a giant slalom towards the end. There were two verticales with long poles so that Alex could learn how to ski them properly and avoid over-turning. After face-planting and losing both skis on the first attempt at going straighter in the verticale Alex got it right – using the same hand to defend for all the poles.

We did static and free skiing exercises on skating the start of the turn – that is – skating the uphill leg forwards as the body goes over the downhill ski. Skating this leg forwards (but out to the side relative the the actual body) allows the body to sink down into the new turn without turning the upper body away from the fall line. Eventually this will give the sensation of skating straight down the hill and allow improved timing due to early pressure in the turn.

The body needs to be out of the existing turn by at least half way between the poles – so the exit of the turn has to start practically at the pole. Any body rotation (in defending against the poles or for any other reason) will make good timing impossible. Alex made significant progress and although still a bit late with his timing and losing speed his body started to be naturally placed for clearing the slalom poles – instead of reaching. There is still a lot more movement required.


Mike actually stayed in the course – so something must be improving! Outside of the gates he did the skating exercise more visibly than Alex – but the actual gates make it hard for him to hold that together and the stepping uphill returns. Still the same deal here – got to get over that lower ski!

Alex’s favourite video still image from yesterday… on his inside ski – but rock solid!

Good body positioning for clearing the slalom pole…

Some gymnastics!…

… and the reason why. But he kept it together.

First GS training – looking good but too late coming out of the turns over the lower ski. Perhaps we need to introduce leg retraction.

The mountains in the distance – seen from the summit of the Grand Motte (where we were free skiing – working on dynamics away from the race gates)


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Alex & Mike Day 2–Autumn Race Training–Tignes Glacier



Today’s slalom was still a struggle for Alex due to his unconscious habit of reaching across his body with this hand to hit the slalom pole. We worked by using the stubby poles, with the ski poles held in front of the body and with a lot of focus on the need for a mindful approach – so that gradually Alex could become aware of his habit and  combat it by training more appropriate movements of the centre of mass. Part of the problem is just realising there is an unconscious program already at work – and part of it is learning the alternatives and being able to focus on them. Mental discipline is needed because the unconscious process always tries to dominate when emotions (anxiety) are involved. Alex also has a technical issue at the start of each turn – not being proactive enough in moving his centre of mass rapidly down and into the turn. The consequence is that it makes his timing late in the gates and then he has a whole repertoire of compensations to try to cope – which we won’t go into. We worked on this later by using a wide stance to get Alex to find the inside edge of his new outside ski right at the start of the turn. This creates a strong and early sensation of pressure and encourages more proactive dynamics. Alex was told to exaggerate the width of his stance – as if riding a horse. This type of exaggeration is needed to overcome the strength of the unconscious programming and just to achieve an appropriately wide stance. In the video during his wide turns Alex is sure his skis are ridiculously wide apart – but they are just right – and he did manage to grip from the start of the turn.


Mike’s skiing is characterised by a reluctance to complete the exit of his turns on his downhill ski – which makes flowing from one turn to another impossible. This generates compensatory movements such as upper body rotation into the turn – which in turn generates a stack of other problems. There’s no point trying to eliminate those other problems because they will all vanish when he can accept moving over that lower ski at the end of the turn. The visible lifting of the lower ski however was visibly diminished as Mike worked on those turn transitions. In the photographs below the outcome of the problem is very visible when comparing with Alex – who was getting it right with a good turn transition and grip from the start of the turn.

Mike had to back off on his skating as it was contributing to his problem due to always skating his body back up the hill. You can still use this skate but when combined with gravity the direction can be up and out of the existing turn instead of pushing the centre of mass back uphill towards the upper ski.

Changing weather…

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Alex & Mike day 1–Autumn Race Training–Tignes


Day one – a return to snow for Alex after a successful first season on plastic with his school. First time in the gates for Mike who is keen to use them help to bring his own skiing on. The reality is that this is what all skiers should be encouraged to do. Simply having to conform to physical constraints brings an entire meaning to skiing that is otherwise totally missing. Just like for racing cars and motorbikes the track defines the setup, tactics and a whole host of parameters – a few slalom poles brings the same dimension into skiing. Once you leave the poles this new awareness tends to stick.



Unfortunately Alex has been following some extremely bad advice – to push the skis out and tilt the upper body outwards. This combination of actions is utterly wrong and is totally NOT how to create angulation – which it is aimed at achieving. The reason it’s wrong is simply because it sends the centre of mass completely in the wrong direction – towards the outside of the turn instead of towards the inside. Alex also admitted to not thinking about anything at all when he skis in the poles and was unable to answer any basic technical questions on skiing at all. It was like everything I taught him before had been wiped from his memory banks. We put it down to excessive sugar consumption. Fortunately the body does remember so the aim would be to once again make Alex aware of what he is doing and access the correct movement pattern – which his body  already knows.

We focused of getting Alex to move his centre of mass into the turn – instead of pushing his skis out. The idea was to drop down into the new turn as fast as possible – by being relaxed at the hips – seen in the video with the exercise on the bench. In the stills from his video we can see he was doing this quite well with the stubby poles – but lost it totally in the long poles by reaching for the pole and causing body rotation. The problem here is that the stiff, inclined body will not be able to get across the skis quickly enough into the next turn.








Alex tends to still push his skis outwards to some degree – skidding and losing a lot of speed and control. Also he wasn’t looing ahead to read the course and misjudged the verticalé completely being far too wide from the poles when entering it. We will have to discuss tactics.

Holding the ski poles across the front of his body to deflect the slalom poles seemed to significantly help him to both stop rotating and to move more effectively down and into his turn.


Mike has struggled with skiing but clearly is clearly determined to convert that struggle into something positive. Interestingly enough I think that slalom is the ideal way to go about that. The physical constraints provided by the gates turns this into something very real – instead of just a set of exercises or ideas. We are forced to adapt – beyond the normal boundaries that our imagination permits. The physical constraints give us clear feedback – which the skier and coach can both work with.

Mike was working to try to move over his lower ski to exit each turn – to allow the centre of mass to move unobstructed from one turn to the next. What’s clear to me in the video is that he was barely managing that – hence was lifting the ski in the turn transition instead of the body moving down into the next turn. This was exacerbated due to body rotation – turning around the poles instead of skating straight downhill through them. It was a positive start though and I think we will see some real progress quickly.

The entrance to Val d’Isère today…


Friday, October 23, 2015

Tignes Skiing–then Cycling in the Tarentaise valley.

Today was just an exercise in getting the slalom poles up the mountain and checking out the terrain and options for the forthcoming race training. The sun was out and the temperature rising – but the snow remained cold and in perfect condition. Photo at 3500m T-bar.

View just beside La Grande Casse – from the Tignes Glacier…

This image is interesting with the contrasting shadows…

Went cycling around the valley later in the afternoon. This is looking up the Nancroix valley – where the water comes down from the Mont Pourri glacier up high on the left. It’s where we go to soak in cold, clear and clean water – for Cold Thermogenesis.

Mont Pourri closer up…

Even closer…

Looking along the valley towards Moutiers – the sun showing up the cold mist in the air…

Same again but slightly to the north east side of the valley… (Mont Pourri is North West)

This time down to the valley floor  - looking North across to the Nancroix valley – the cycling loop running east/west – returning home later through the village bottom lest of screen…