Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Derin 2016 Day 9

Derin has consolidated her skiing skills amazingly well in the past week. This provides a strong foundation for development of more complicated motor skills and coordination. Each day has been a progressive stretching of her boundaries - but in a way that allowed her to become confident and believe in herself. This requires a stubborn application of good overall mechanics of movement - which primarily means correct movement of the centre of mass. 

If you look carefully you will see that most skiers actually do not control their turning with the centre of mass - they push their feet outwards instead. Derin moves her centre of mass in the direction she wants to go - and pulls her feet and skis inwards. She also falls downwards into each turn at the start - the opposite of those who learn to go "up". This is why she already looks particularly stable. This can be seen clearly in Derin's pivoting exercises; What isn't so obvious to the onlooker is that the jumping she is working on represents the end of a turn (or traverse) and preparation for a turn - using the energy of an existing turn and it is not an "up" movement into a turn. (It's a bounce out of a turn!). We have been using the bumps on the slopes to jump with so that Derin picks up a natural feel for the pressure cycles involved.

Today for the first time I was able to begin to introduce upper/lower body separation (she uses it in her pivot exercise in the video.) 

One thing that has really impressed me is how Derin controls and shapes her turns. She finishes her turns properly and has a sense of purpose and function in her movements. She should do well in slalom when the time is right - because that's what racing is all about. I know that this has developed due to being taught dynamics (and never anything to contradict it) - but it also comes from her excellent ability to follow my line and feel what is happening to her. Most recreational skiers do not have any idea of how to develop and exploit "line" for control of speed and direction.

Derin demonstrating how to carry skis…

Derin climbing again. Last time this year so it had to be done….

Derin after skiing an unpisted black run – with no difficulty…

Monday, February 1, 2016

Derin The Leader

Today Derin had the opportunity to ski with her sister Beren and a slightly larger Derin. For filming I decided it was best to let Derin set her own pace rather than risk having the others try it and perhaps go too fast or choose an inappropriate line. I already have great confidence in Derin’s speed management. She’s a natural little leader and amazingly competent. It’s not so obvious in the video but there are quite large bumps which is why I’m struggling with the camera at the back!

We had another session of video with Bruno (perhaps I’ll try to get a copy to edit some for here) and most of the time Derin’s instruction when skiing behind me was to focus on pivoting. I use the bumps to get the ski tips in the air and then call behind for her to do the same and pull both ski tips with her into the new turn. She doesn’t know how to create angulation (upper/lower body separation) or use dynamics at the end of a turn (two different options for turn transitions) – so she sometimes uses a wider stance. That’s a good natural solution at this stage and gets her legs working independently. For now on she will have to start to learn more sophisticated coordination.

Later in the afternoon we sideslipped down some steep ice and she managed extremely well. Considering just over a week ago she couldn't sideslip at all this is an enormous step forwards. Many people would be scared to death when confronted with steep ice like that but Derin stayed in control and came down the slope competently.

Derin the  mountaineer…

Derin beside the Grande Motte glacier…

Natural colours (refraction) in the clouds…

Views of the Bellevarde (and Tignes 1800) when driving up to Tignes at midday…

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Derin The Brave

While her big sisters were safely sheltering at home Derin the intrepid adventurer was out exploring new ski runs where she had never ventured before – braving howling winds, poor visibility and bumpy, chopped up snow on the pistes – without any sign of a complaint.

Photograph of our skis during a hot chocolate stop.

Today my job was about motivation and Derin’s task was about experience. She skied close behind me all the time and I only knew she was there because I couldn’t see her – tucked in so closely. The conditions were too severe to slow down for exercises or anything like that. The teaching just becomes one of extending boundaries and perception. Derin is amazingly resilient and adaptable. One thing that is very commendable is that she now wants to attempt everything by herself – putting on skis in the snow and skating by herself instead of being pulled over the flats. It’s good to see this sort of independence. This also means that when she asks for help you know she needs it.

I forgot to mention yesterday – when taking a photograph of Derin with her hot chocolate – I asked her to smile. She said she didn’t know how to smile. I replied that neither did I. We both burst out laughing and of course Derin had her mouth full of chocolate so predictably it went all over the place. I have to say that for a seven year old she has a well developed sense of humour.

I spotted this sign at the Tichot chairlift. I wonder what’s going on here?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Derin 2016 Day 6

Derin skied hard today. After three complete runs down the Grande Motte I managed to trick her into stopping for a hot chocolate - by pretending it was just a toilet stop at the bottom. The reason for this is that with skiing much harder now she needs to make sure not to get low on energy or dehydrated. I dimply told her I was buying a chocolate for her and she agreed.

Here are photos of Derin drinking chocolate today, Age 7 and also at age 4. Her technique has definitely improved.

Derin didn’t want to go up the Lanches chair because it worried her going so high up the mountain. However she agreed and felt that she wanted to try the slope now. This came entirely from her – not my suggestion. However her basic body mechanics are so efficient that she was able to ski the entire Grande Motte from the Panoramics at 3000m altitude without stopping several times. I didn’t want to stop this to work on technique so just worked on giving her a good line to control her speed and shape her turns appropriately – trying all the time to show good mechanics of movement myself to set her an example to copy.

The video was the only time Derin did some actual exercises – starting out the video skating into her turns and then after a few turns changing to pivoting with the skis close together. She coped with new terrain – leading the way – with not problems and good awareness of speed and control.  All afternoon she skied behind me at a good speed and had no incidents. By the way – she can jump now! I keep on meaning to video that because she is so pleased that she can do it.

Emir - Short Turns

Working on short turns again today for Emir. His struggles in this department just mean that he was work to do there. He made a good effort on all counts regarding a very difficult set of exercises…

Independent Leg Action

Proper and efficient control of short turns requires a lot of coordination, awareness and skill. It’s as fine a skill and as complex as playing a musical instrument – so it takes practice. First of all you have to be practising the right things! The work on independent leg action was to help reduce Emir’s body rotation – by isolating each leg and trying to get only the legs to rotate in the hip joints – and not have the pelvis rotate. This requires good pivoting skills already because each ski is pivoting separately. The static exercise standing on the heels with the feet swinging from side to side gives a chance to feel correctly what should be going on inside the body.

Emir needed to tilt the upper body forward much more at the hips to allow the rotation to take place. He has a tendency to block the hips and bend sideways instead. I explained that he needs to tilt forwards first then let the upper body rotate on top of the hip joint – when creating angulation.

The same mechanics also apply to carving – so the skills and awareness being developed here are universal.

One Leg Skiing (Pivoting)

The main goal of pivoting on one leg is to be able to understand how to control the motion of the centre of mass relative to the edges of the skis – using the foot in the process. Emir persisted and made good progress – using the ski pole for support and clearly improving each aspect of the skill.


Controlling Rotation

One of the key issues here is the use of the ski poles for support in short, pivoting turns. Emir has a tendency to be waving his poles around in the air instead of making constructive use of them. This indicates tension in the hips and lack of control of rotation – exactly what we had been working on. He managed good progress in the slow exercise in the video – but later when skiing (not just exercises) – he lost the angulation, rotation control and use of his poles. This caused a delay getting from turn to turn – and a subsequent tiredness. He also tended to revert to pushing out the tails of the skis a bit – not fully pulling everything inwards into the turn – although his dynamics and timing are good and strong in general.

The Chi- Hips need to be integrated into all of this too – for protecting the back. In fact pulling the outside hip back makes it easier to get into position for control of rotation and good angulation – with a clean pole plant.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Derin 2016 Day 5

Derin was showing much improved control yesterday afternoon by the end of the session – so today we started going onto more challenging runs and using the terrain more – and it proved to be a good choice. Most of our time was spent skiing and very little time was used on exercises. In reality she was being trained by just succeeding to stay accurately in my line behind me. On steep terrain I’d turn quickly and tightly so she wouldn’t pick up speed. She saw it as a fun game and was often giggling in the background. This is how things should progress – no pressure! In fact I’m having to hold her back a little to make sure she knows the boundaries of safety. We were off piste much of the time – to avoid people (there are many fast – out of control skiers – on the pistes!) She is developing far greater confidence – which was my main goal for her this year. However – technically she is also improving very quickly now. She must think about things after she hears about them and she seems to process the information in her own time and suddenly she can do what she appeared to not understand. A few days ago she was stuck in a wide snowplough and was leaning way back in her ski boots – now with only a short time working on exercises look at today’s video…

In the video Derin was actually trying to “pivot” and I’d been assisting her through the pivots one by one until now. Today I only had to say “pull both your skis into the new turn” – and she was pivoting! Using the steep sided gully for skiing for fun helped her to feel this and lots of short steep sections of sideslipping have also helped. Her skating and jumping (which she can do well now) have both helped her to get off the backs of the ski boots .

Derin was rewarded with a short period of play time in the snow. She did the the very first year I taught her and it’s great to see she hasn’t changed at all!

Emir - Pivoting

I started by asking Emir if he had any questions about skiing or any specific issues that concerned him. He told me that he had trouble with short turns, so we began by filming his short turns. You can see on the video that they aren’t very short or efficient. The main reasons for this is that he is trying to turn on the inside edge of the turning ski and also is pushing the tails of the skis outwards. 


The lesson started immediately with pivoting. There is a fixed page with the pivoting exercises explained in detail here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/pivot.html 

Emir carried out the pivoting exercises well, adapting relatively quickly to pivoting on the lower ski through good control of his centre of mass with pole use. I explained that it was the motion of the centre of mass that was the key. Prior to this he had learned to differentiate between the edges of his feet and the edges of the skis. You always use the inside edge of the foot regardless of which ski edge you need to use.

In practice on steep terrain he still tried to stem the upper ski outwards at the turn initiation. He eventually understood that the skis need to be pulled into the turn not pushed outward. He also appreciated that the feet need to be kept below the body on the mountain so that only uphill edges are being used and the ski remains a “brake” at all times.

We did some wide stance pivots – feet across the hill from each other and legs turning independently. I explained to Emir how this was more rapid than with the feet together because with the feet close together one had to end up below the other during each turn.


Emir didn’t have much awareness of how to manage his pelvis or upper body so I decided to start to work with him of using the Chi-Hips. There is a fixed page on chi-skiing here: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/chiskiing.html

The coordination for this is difficult but well worth mastering because it protects the lower back. Emir confirmed for me that he was getting it right when he declared that it made the turns easier. I won’t go into the technical side here because it is all written on the fixed page.

Correcting the use of the core of the body is more easily managed with longer turns - but becomes critical for protecting the back in short turns. It's best to start learning this as soon as possible.

I also explained to Emir that the focus needed to develop this coordination was useful because by focusing internally with the body it stills the mind much in the same way as meditation does. All movements needs to begin at the core/centre and focus needs to be centered there. The overall motion of the centre of mass is also part of this. Fixed page on Core Principles: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/core-principles.html

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Derin 2016 Day 4

A few days ago I was worried about Derin’s progress as she was stuck in the back of her ski boots and very defensive. I thought it might be linked to difficulty in language and communication. However today it became very clear that there is no problem – she just needed time to get her feet back and continue with the process she has always been on since she began skiing  -  of building natural skills.

I just focused on her desire to keep skiing and kept her on moderate slopes so she could build confidence and did short sessions on technique where she didn’t have to struggle too much. This combination has paid off because it is all working. She is now more or less off the backs of the boots and is developing new skills rapidly – her confidence growing fast on the skis.

We worked mainly on adding skating to the turns – which helps to get the legs active and get off the backs of the boots. This also develops edge control and awareness of moving the body. The stepping and sideslipping exercises and skating across the flats (feet rolled on inside edge) has all helped to get this far. I was impressed at how quickly Derin was able to bring this into her skiing. There’s no worry now about communication.

Yesterday was had used jumping to get her off the boots but the big shift happened in the small border cross course where she had to bend and duck under hoops. This got her interested and moving. Today I felt that patience was really starting to pay off as she started to become incredibly responsive.

We deviated on the way home – going properly off piste on steep terrain and rough snow and she managed it perfectly! Later I took her down a big section of an icy black bumps run and although I was a bit worried about the state of it all I could here from behind me was giggling. She amuses herself in a child like way but has excellent and mature judgement for safety and controlling her own speed – which is why I can let her ski in front of me when filming.

The way Derin has been taught makes it possible for her to ski off piste with no alterations to what she is doing. It was a little bit of a test of this today and it worked so well it even surprised me!

The first photograph below is of the off piste slope she skied down…


Sophie arrived early as planned for the start of her lesson – but we went indoors first of all to deal with a few important issues. Good skiing development depends strongly on awareness of the feet and that’s far more easily communicated with the boots off!



I had a lot to try to cover in a short lesson but knew that 20 minutes working on the understanding of the feet would make the whole lesson function far more efficiently. I took a boot off and explained the use of the foot and how it interacts with the ski boot.

First of all you need to centre your weight over the front of the heel – just below the ankle joint. This permits a strong ankle – we do NOT want the ankle to bend freely in skiing. Bending should be at the knees and hips. Standing on the front of the heel the foot can be rolled onto its inside edge easily – activating the upper leg muscles (inside) called the adductor muscles. The joint used for this is the “subtaler” joint – between the ankle and the heel. Standing on any other part of the foot generally disable this joint and only the knee moves around instead with the foot unable to go onto its edge. Standing on the mid foot causes the ankle to literally collapse under load and then makes you lean on the ski boot – not a great idea. We only need to touch the shin against the front of the ski boot at this stage in skiing and being on the heel is a solid anchor for achieving this.

When the foot is rolled onto its inside edge the toes lift up and the forefoot turns slightly outwards. This is a “skating” attitude and this is what should happen inside the ski boot. Snowplough forces people to do the exact opposite – to turn the foot inward – collapse onto the outside of the foot and curl the toes down in tension.

The shaft of the boot gives lateral support – preventing the base from going flat and so preventing the ski from flattening. This makes it easier to hold the foot on its inside edge. Both feet generally need to be held on their inside edges at the same time. This will become the basis of skating.


Arriving at the top of Solaise I could immediately see that Sophie couldn’t skate. This tied in with the problems she was having in skiing in general. She had been taught all the standard stuff and had actually learned it very well – being able to tell me far more about it than most people can manage. I confirmed that she is very sporty and competent – which made it even more obvious to me that her anxiety in skiing had nothing to do with her personally but it was simply the nonsense she had been previously taught that was behind all to the trouble. (That can take work to undo though!). To introduce the skating – on the flat – I asked her to diverge the ski tips and to fall forward – just lifting/recovering one of the legs from behind and landing on it then sliding along its edge while repeating the process while standing up on it again. She had to use her feet and adductor muscles to get the ski edges to grip so that her centre of mass could move. She could feel how just falling (gravity) with the grip of the ski edge, provided all the forward momentum. If she was not good at coordinating and good a sports she would not have been able to do this. It’s for this reason I have to read between the lines when people describe to me their anxieties.

When we got up to the Madeleine slope I asked both Sophie and Olivier to ski so i could film to record their current skiing. This allowed me to see clearly the best direction to work with Sophie. It was clear that she was a stronger skier than she though – but her dynamics were totally incorrect and so making life impossible for her. I would have to tackle dynamics immediately.

(Moon above Val in the morning as I arrived in the resort.)


The approach to dynamics I used was just the standard one found on the following fixed page: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/dynamics.html

Sophie was a classic victim of standard incorrect ski instruction. I asked her how to make a turn and she said “transfer weight to the outside ski”. She demonstrated moving her body left over the left ski to turn right. Later she also accurately confirmed that she had been taught to come up to start a turn. Combine this with being told to push out the same leg to start a turn in a plough and just about every single important piece of mechanics (including the feet) was totally back to front from what really works. This is why Sophie was struggling so badly – her instruction had been fundamentally incompetent – but that’s what instructors are trained to do. They are NOT trained to think.

It takes a while to overcome all the trained inappropriate movements so we patiently carried out the exercises and slowly Sophie could feel the dynamics taking some of the strain off her legs. This is an are that is developed and extended (dynamic range) gradually. I didn’t have much time for feedback and correction and this session had to be more about “educating” and changing ideas so Sophie could go away and work on them.

Dynamics and Skating

We did some skated turns on flatter ground – stepping inwards with the skis diverging so as to get used to directing the centre of mass and feeling the feet and adductors correctly.
I demonstrated how skating and dynamics fit together for timing – in a “down/up” cycle – like a motorbike going into and then out of a turn. Skating downhill then letting more dynamics incline the body the skating turns seamlessly into skiing – timing and use of the legs remaining constant as the inclined ski starts to add an arc to each skate. I explained how this timing is the opposite from that taught in ski schools and how it is essential for building a resonance with the forces being developed and exploited. Olivier managed to feel this very clearly at one point. In the video he was still a bit static and blocked at the hips but he did get it very well on the first attempt.

End of Turn Dynamics

We also slightly explored the dynamics at the end of the turn – where the ski lifts you up out of the turn. Until this point everything has to be pulled inwards – towards the turn centre  - moving the centre of mass that way, pulling in with the adductor muscles, rolling the foot inwards. I explained the basic physics and how centrifugal force is an illusion. We have to be pulling inwards towards the centre with everything! This is where Olivier properly understood what I meant when I criticised him for pushing his skis/heels outwards! However – at the end of the turn we have to stop pulling inwards and anticipate getting our body out of the turn instead. We try to use the forces built up by the ski directing us and resisting gravity and let it lift us up out of the turn centre – sometimes adding the strength of that lower leg into the equation to push up. If we use the lifting power of the ski then we fall into the next turn more easily and the turns flow together. “Your job is to fall over – the ski’s job is to lift you up!”


We completed the session with some introduction to pivoting. I assisted Sophie through the pivot. Olivier was a bit resistant to being helped through the right sensations because he didn’t want to consume time in Sophie’s lesson – but he was not getting it right and was resorting to heel pushing instead. All the work we did was my standard approach – found here on a fixed page: http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/pivot.html

Sophie was just starting to get it and I encouraged her to persist with this as an exercise and to come back to it – because although it is initially tricky it will come with practice and is extremely effective. This will also encourage he to move away from the snowplough. At the start of the session we saw that the plough was even preventing her from doing a simple sideslip and it’s the sideslip that develops into a pivot – so practicing all of those things will help dramatically.


There was a huge amount to cover in one short lesson – but the advantage of doing it this way is that it imparts a new global perception of the subject – and that’s the best way to jump into it. Sophie did well and the only reason I could proceed so far was because she could physically relate to it all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Derin 2016 Day 3

Derin found another gear today and started skiing much better. Once again she skied throughout the whole session – not wanting a break.

Fronts of Boots

Before setting off this afternoon I had one of her sisters translate a few things for me – explaining how she has been leaning on the backs of her boots and should be at least touching if not pressing against the front of the boots instead. The leaning back so much just locks up all the leg muscles and so she can’t control very much that way and it is very tiring.

On the snow Derin responded very well and seemed to speed up almost immediately as a result while having even better control. She was able to stay accurately behind me while turning at about twice yesterday’s speed. 


Derin’s sideslipping is improving every day and she often now does it herself while playing.


Derin’s edge control has improved enormously and she can now side-step uphill without difficulty.

Skating – Herringbone step

Derin now has good coordination for stepping uphill in a skating stance and for some skating on the flats. The leg coordination is now there and she can identify the grip from her ski edges. I had to explain what the edges (of the skis) were – because I realise that she didn’t know. Most of the time she doesn’t let on when she doesn’t understand.

Invisible Wall

We revised the “Invisible Wall” and she had forgotten how it works. However once pushing her shoulder hard against me she remembered how to move her body again. Today was a positive step forwards. It’s taken the previous two days really just getting back up to her previous speed and then starting to learn new skills and awareness. Much of the things she heard a few years ago will have been mostly forgotten so now she is learning what they really mean.

Lenticular Wave Cloud forming above the Grande Sassière