Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Complete Skier's Guide.

The complete skier's Guide from Skiing Techniques to boot set up, fitting and alignment.

This is a sample below. Click on the link directly above to go to the page. On this page you will see an over view to how you can structure your skiing education, improvement and knowledge. Everything you need to become a better skier no matter what level.

Below is an example of the middle structure of this graphic for the "Essentials of Skiing" approach. For this approach you can use the book, DVDs or downloadable videos.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Edge change before direction change.

If you want to carve from turn to turn, change your edges before you turn. Notice the tracks left behind they are purely carved. Here I am about to start the next pure carve. I retracted or bend my legs, changes edges with my lower body. Now I'm ready to get the skis into the snow and create more angles.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The fundamentals are lacking, because Skills Quest by USSA is a failure.

USSA Development

Skills Quest could be a good idea, if they had the right people dsigning the skills. The US coaching staff has no idea what the world cup skiers are doing differently.
The skier above is doing the best she can. However it's not the way to ski. It's not the way the World Cup skiers ski, it's American coaching. The upper body is leaning inside. All the weight is on the inside of the body, the hips are square. Nobody winning on the world cup is skiing with hips square like this. No one on the world cup who is winning has the feet seperated as is the case here. This is not reversable. Once a young skier adapts this posture and position they are doomed.
       World cup overall champion twice, Anna Fenninger Veith, and she is still a world cup contender.
Does anyone in USSA development know why there is a huge difference between the way these two skiers use balance and technique? I'm sure they don't, because in the first photo, the skier is an example of USSA development skiing. This skiing will never acheive the highest levels of World Cup skiing.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Flexing and ski angle changes during arcs.

On slalom skis, the body reaction to ski angle changes and leg angles have to be immediate.  Personally, I add the upper body changes also like new CA for the next arc, after the new edges are established. 

By this, I mean lower body "flexed leg tipping",  this occurs first then, you can see that CA is applied as the outside leg lengthens. There is so much happening right in the transition that any mis-timing or delay in either flexing/tipping or CA, loses the optimal arc. 

This is why when I hear USSA and US Ski Team development coaches constantly telling kids to move thier hips up and forward I have to cringe. No one in the top seed in the world does what the US Development coaches are telling our kids.

You can see this on the world cup. You also have to take into account the boot set up. For example, as your boot set-up gets softer, you need more counteracting to keep the lower leg straighter through the apex. As I you notice in my own videos, if my set up is softer I have to counteract further.  This is due to the adjustments with the cuff. Moving the cuffs away from my leg reduces weird ankle and leg angles, but can soften the edge development feel. 

At this point, when I see this set up on video, I made the sole canting "stronger" to compensate for the cuff movement. We have figured this out from years of testing with at least 50 ski racers. I definitely realize when watching video during filming sessions that when the setup is softer than what I want, you are at the point where the last bit of control is done with sole canting.

What you are pointing out here is the mystery of what brings skiing to the next or highest level.

When a ski racers is at the apex, especially the best skiers on their best runs, soften the outside leg by bending and while the pressure is reduced increase the tipping angles. This can be done without loss of speed or carving angles. In fact, doing this increases carving angles and tightens the radius under the gate. To many observers, this movement looks like it is done by adding femur rotation. Not so!

Few observers are even aware that this is happening, because few skiers can create this timing consistently. The softening or bending of the leg outside leg (during the arc) allows a controlled momentary pressure reduction. For that instant, it gives you access to further tipping ability, giving you higher angles.

The skis, therefore, react to the angle change and tighten the radius. If you look at my skiing over the years, you can see I do this in short turns where I'm arcing tight radius turns. If the skier doesn't apply this technique, they have to wait for the ski sidecut to create the bottom "C" of the arc, which doesn't create as energetic or as precise a line to the next gate. You can see that in my article on my Blog, where I compare Hirscher to the other his two other competitors. 

Keeping the outside leg long or stretched through the bottom "C" of the arc is slow. So now I can get to answering your question directly. Your CA doesn't need to increase at this point if you have the right amount established and have a you ski tails carving and holding.

However, you do have to hold your countered hip strongly at the release or your hips will tend to square up and drag the upper body with it. This is really obvious in GS turns. When you apply this approach, keep a long leg you will have to Immediately, flex and then push off to start flexing again to begin the release. In effect a double release. Making the tansition very weak, and very slow.

These are a highly integrated and coordinated movement patterns, very hard to teach, it's  intuitive to some.

There are skiers that have this ability without realizing they use it. Reilly MacGlasin has it and he didn't know how he did it. When I began coaching him,  I brought this to light for him. I have written about this movement sparingly because it's a really high-end movement understanding, and everything else needs to be right before you can have someone even attempt it. This is so difficult to isolate for someone because it all happens in such a short time frame and there is so much high energy, high angles, and high forces needed to accomplish it. It's very difficult to duplicate slowly in exercises. The closest exercise I've been able to use to re-create the experience is the 'Power Release', from the "Essentials of Skiing" book. 

As a side note, you can't do this if you are trying to go too straight at the gates. The reason is this method has to begin as a round, high C arc, so that the finish can be set up properly. I've known about this technique for decades because I realized I used it. People who analyzed my skiing couldn't explain how I got so much energy and a tightening arc out of the bottom of my turns. They also always remarked that I don't look rushed or didn't ever have to hit my edges hard at the bottom, yet my race times were always fast.

It's a technique worth learning.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Why are coaches so ineffective?

Why are some coaches so ineffective?

This Letter is in response to Irwin's e-mail.

Some will say they are idiots. 

Hi Irwin,

Interesting topic, here are some thoughts.

I look at the situation and challenges of learning how skiing works from this point of view. What I find lacking when people can't figure out movement or order of movements that create skiing, it is based in the lack of the following understandings:

Self awareness of movement
Lacking visual interpretation of movements (basic movement analysis)
Lack of ability to recognition forces acting on the body, from the slope
No understanding or a misunderstanding of forces acting through the body
Missing the simple mechanics of skis
Never including or relating to how the feel and understanding of balance occurs and when it should happen.
Lack of body movement knowledge: isolating one movement, while creating with another

Finding these things lacking, I don't feel is caused by being an idiot. I'd rather say, it's just not part of the gifts inherently possessed by humans. However, there are exceptions, and those exceptions are reserved for gifted humans in these disciplines. Some are born with and have an inherently complete knowledge of every category I listed above. Obviously helped by some basic education, but after that, it comes to them easily and develops through further investigation and experimentation. 

Most skiers and ski educators don't have these gift, or have not been trained to recognize them; even those high on the instruction food chain in our national organizations such as USSA and PSIA don't get it.

The rest of us have to learn, either by rote memory, repetition, or step by step duplication. However to study and learn these skills there has to be proper instruction and the coriculum has to be well structred and delivered. I have yet to see this kind of education at any level in skiing. 

Most people don't immediately translate even correct, effective movement information, into their bodies. And even if they do, restructuring and delivering these movements for others to learn is a elusive skill that requires a high level of teaching. 

This becomes obvious when you watch hundreds of instructors trying to produce highly effective movement lessons for the masses, that they can't interpret. It's just not happening! Only 1 out of 10 instructors naturally and inherently grasp "to us that have observed" a logical progression. We all know how difficult it is to produce logical, easy to achieve step by step, movement progressions that achieve an effective ski turn. 

If this were not the case, you wouldn't have convoluted ski systems all over the alpine skiing world that actually harm human movement learning, rather then helping. 

The examples I draw on to be able to express these comments come from observation of traditional ski instruction. We know this by observing results from thousands of instructors in the world, that buy into totally ineffective movements for skiers. Irwin, if the theories you describe about idiots were the case, it would mean idiots dominate the ski teaching landscape. Is it legit to call almost 99% of ski instructors idiots, or would it be preferable to categorize them as less gifted or uninterested?

From a survival, practical and physiological point of view, if you don't have the observation skills or you are limited in the rest of the abilities I listed above; you have to invent other methods by which you can interpret the sport, based on limitations you possess. 

An analogy might be, if you didn't understand how to make rubber for bike tires, you might end up with wooden rims. Sure they work and you can ride on wooden tires, but is it the best way? Yes, it's the best way, "for you", if you don't know rubber. Your solution for a wheel to work with materials at hand is solely based on your understanding of what is available to you.

One conclusion could be, sure idiots all, except for a few gifted and interested. However, I would rather take the road that tells me; everyone can learn from the gifted if they are motivated to learn. Then you would be able to say, idiots are the ones that don't want to investigate and learn from the best performers. That is, if those performers have figured out how to convey movements, to achieve the best performances.

Fun topic,


Saturday, May 12, 2018

US Racer Development by USSA on the wrong track again.

USSA and PSIA junior development

The most recent efforts by the US Ski Team, PSIA and USSA were demonstrated in a video I received following a Spring US Development camp. Many different approaches were used with exercises and maneuvers demonstrated and explained by the coaches.  Again management at USSA and the US Ski Team have failed to realize that doing the same thing over and over without results has a definition. 

I reviewed most of the video clips from the latest USSA Develop program.  Here is the take away from what I saw, and some of my beginning thoughts. There are so many glaring errors in this system of technical skiing training, it is difficult to point them out in one post. 

The individuals involved 

The newly appointed US Ski Team Development Director is Sasha Rearick. Rearick was men's head coach for approximately 10 years? Four years ago Rearick, stated that he and his team were going to focus on creating and developing the best slalom in the world,  in other words, a total focus on the slalom team. Now we have no slalom skiers in the top 30 in the world. My take on this is if he wasn't successful with our top racers in the US, why would you put that person in charge of the next generation of possible US skiers? I don't understand what Executive Director, Tiger Shaw is doing, nothing he has done makes sense.

 From the technical perspective watching the videos is very frustrating, this Development Program Camp is like a clown show on snow.  One of the worst pieces of coaching I've seen in years.

Just one example, in the video, they are still coaching juniors to move up and forward to achieve and understand dynamic fore-aft balance. This is a ski instructor method of skiing derived form ski school and also used by PSIA, They are still using this 35-year old mistake in ski coaching; the "moving up and forward" approach, to getting the hips ahead of the feet. 

The best world cup skiers have not been using this method for the last 20 years. It's slow, it makes you late for the next gate and it fails to build the correct angles and balance. That's just not what the best skiers on the world cup are doing. So the consequences of this coaching are actually a detriment to US Development skiers. Yet USSA, PSIA and the coaches surrounding US development are still coaching it. This is highly frustrating and confusing for anyone with the knowledge of world-class skiing techniques.

Another area of total misunderstanding by US coaching is the "Transition" changing the body from one turn to the next. After observing the videos it is astounding that there is little or no movement information or examples given to the athletes about how to release using the lower body. Good lower body releasing and engagement is totally dependent on counter-acting the hip and is in proper balance at the point of releasing pressure and angles. World class releasing is dependant on the relationship of the hips to the skis at the end of the arc, especially with slow speed exercise training. There is no reference to this movement in this coaching. In fact, the coaching that is given eliminates the ability for a skier to perform movements that are being used by the best racers in the world.

What is being taught, extending and moving the hips forward is in conflict biomechanically with lower body releasing and tipping to engage. You can not angle the skis for a new arc while pushing your hip up and forward. Releasing is a combination of integrated movements with leg bending and ski unweighting. There is no connection offered by this group of coaches regarding these essential movements. There is no given structured logical way for these "Essential" movements to be developed, based on what I saw in these videos. Basically, these approaches used in this session are a bunch of random, unconnected, antiquated exercises done incorrectly. Unfortunately, this is what I've come to expect from USSA and US Ski Coaches Ass.

 In these sessions, there was some emphasis given to hip dumping. The reference to "Hip Dumping" discussed is correct and true. It's an epidemic in US skiing development racers. One major reason for this problem is that young kids, (8 to12)  in our programs ski on 9-meter slalom skis, which turn no matter how incorrectly you ski or how poor your technique is or how you move. Therefore the kids can get away with poor technique and failed approaches, while the skis still make it around the corner. however, this stops once they grow and need to use longer skis with less sidecut. The kids aren't prepared for this eventuality from the technical movement development offered in USSA or PSIA.

So when the kids get to the levels and age demonstrated in this video they have never learned how to use the lower body and tipping movements to create angles. Instead, they lean, drop the hip and rotate. These are all poor movements and deadly if you are competing against Europeans.  In my view. These coaches have not figured out the connections relating to movements and technique used by world-class skiers; especially not for slow speed exercises and learning. Relating slow speed exercises to world cup skiing requires a complete understanding of the vital sequences between releasing turns and ski engaging movements, which these coaches do not demonstrate in these video clips. 

Other comments:

1. The explanations for what is to be done are extremely poor and confusing and no reasons are given for them, or for why the exercise is important. This is a motivation killer.

2. The coaches use or give mostly negative advice. Example: They yell out, "No up movement". instead of advising the skiers to stay flexed or increase flexing and tipping movements. Another motivation killer. 

3. The biomechanical approaches offered in the videos are mostly incorrect and poorly demonstrated. Poor relationships are given between what the roles are between upper and lower body.

4. The level of "motivational coaching" is extremely poor, no enthusiasm for the movement efforts. The exercises have to make sense to the athletes, this was never approached, from what I observed.

5. I don't see any athlete here walking away from these sessions with anything they will use in practice or race training.

There are so many flaws in this coaching approach it's again a wasted effort, while in many ways also detrimental, in my view. 

There are so many better opportunities for a more professional approach to coaching.
In the programs of coaching and teaching my company runs, none of these USSA and PSIA coaches is qualified to teach.

Every one of my coaches is trained to have the skills to point out better exercises and give much higher level feedback with motivational responses than what is demonstrated in the USSA video. These coaches need to get some "real" coaching training. The USSA coaches can benefit tremendously from training in "Motivational Coaching" and biomechanical understanding of skiing movements, and how skiing movements integrate and connect from one phase of a turn to the next. None of this was in their coaching repertoire demonstrated in the video.

I'll watch more of this and will offer more detailed in-depth strategies for what can be done correctly. I will point out what can be done instead of what I'm seeing here. I am not surprised that our development kids go nowhere beyond the junior ranks and USSA levels, this only continues to confirm what a pitiful effort USSA puts out. It's not a surprise therefore that we are not competitive as a team in any discipline at the international level.

Many are trying to point out that the failure of the US Ski Team is due to the lack of funding for the athletes. I disagree, it is primarily due to the lack of coaches education, training, and certification. Sure we have huge and great facilities in Park City that have cost members an arm and leg, yet these structures don't produce world-class skiing. Good coaching and a solid development programs do.  Is it therefore surprising that there is a proliferation of independent and individual coaching outside of the USSA umbrella in the US?

Sorry about the negativity of this evaluation, I'd was hoping for better. On a positive note, in my next Blog Post, I'll write up a program that is more accurate and much more directed to the needs of US skiing and development.
Below is a link to the topic of this article.

Thursday, April 5, 2018