Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Counter acting and counter balance can be practiced with flexing.

The exercise is on youtube. This is one clip that shows how the poles can tell you if you are counterbalanced "poles are level, and counteracting poles are diagonal relative to the skis.

Shiny side down!

Maybe I should have said shiny side down, rather than black side uphill, for perople to undertand early tipping.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Classic slightly over cuffed and over canted alignment!

Notice the space between the knees and the right knee outside the forceline.

Very good effort to increase angles and tipping, however, no leg tipping occurred.  The hip dropped in further and CB increased. All of this is excellent management, however not the ideal result was achieved.
 In the frame above the right boot is further outside than the shin, this is classic cuff too strong against the lag. The boot sole could probably use 1/2 to 1 degree of inward tipping.

In the frame above notice the lifting of the outside hand, compare that to my right hand and arm.

 My transition shows upside down angles in the  High C. Our skis are pointed at in the same direction, however, the ski and body angles are not similar.

Compare the outside leg flex, knee bend, and fore/aft position, I am achieving my more forward balance because of the early upside down angles I created in transition.

Compare the extension movement from the first photo to the lower one.
You can really see it if you focus on the arm and pole lift you create in this phase. This is where the ski tails do go uphill and stay flat. The extension, although not huge interrupts and delays the new angles from developing. PMTS golden rule, "You can't tip your skis if you are extending"!

The last two photos I included to demonstrate the inside leg flexing and tipping needed to create bigger angles. The outside ski, foot, and ankle are also creating matching tipping movements to the inside ski.

A post that will help regular skiers relate to World Cup movements!

I often point out in my analysis of world cup skiers that some hold their hip counteracting, to release, better than others. Marcel Hirscher for example and Stefano Gross are two of the best at this.

The skier below is about to transition, however, there is no release of the stance foot or ski yet. The transfer of balance should be toward the LTE of the uphill ski in this photo. The reason this is difficult for this skier is that the hips have squared up and therefore there can not be a balance transfer to the uphill ski's LTE (little toe edge). You can't hold your balance well on the LTE if you have squared up the hips and are in a rotating hip phase near the end of the turn.

Here in the next photo, we see the outcome. The uphill ski is pushed away to get the turn started. The old stance ski has yet to move toward the LTE.
The formula for correction is easy and straightforward, we teach it to thousands of skiers, and I've written about it in numerous previous posts in this Blog site. In my previous posts, I describe how the world cup skiers do this. Which is, increase the hip counteracting before the releases and hold it while the feet, boots, skis and legs tip to the new direction.

      In both photos Hirscher holds his CA so he can transfer to the LTE of the uphill ski. Notice the torso is turned facing toward the next gate, not to the ski tips or side of the slope.

Here we see Stefano Gross performing the perfect PMTS "Super Phantom". After he established his balance on the new ski, and released his old stance ski, he is already starting his CA for the next arc early. The new inside hand and arm are already moving forward to create the CA for the next arc. I don't recommend this CA movement be done this early for recreational skiers. Gross is doing 30mph, and changing angles with high energy and at high speeds, he knows he has to prepare immediately. For regular recreational turns wait until the new inside ski is tipping toward it's LTE to start CA.
Gross balance transfer by retraction and tip lift.

To acheive a dynamic transition create counteracting through the arc and hold it as you let the legs release under your hips. Transfer to the uphill LTE and tip the old stance ski to flat and further to the LTE at the high C point of the arc. Any disturbance of this, like extending the leg or rotating the hip will reduce or eliminate the effiency of the transition.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Boot and stance comparison and fore/aft movements of World Cup Skiers!

The photo selections for this article are not one off to prove a point. They are consistent with the skiing methods and stance of the racers shown.

I have written and shown many aspects of Marcel Hirscher's great skiing on this Blog.  He defies analyst belief's about skiing. Two year's ago I did an article about Hirscher's reentering ability. In a fore/aft sense, Hirscher dominates all other racers except possibly Micheal Matt. This involves numerous movements and techniques he employs. In this article I'll point some of them out.

(below) No one is better at keeping fore/aft balance to pressure the tip of the ski at precisely the right time and moment then Hirscher.

Notice in the above photo, not only is Hirscher's inside hip more forward which constitutes counter-acting., but his inside boot is back under his hips relative to almost all others at this point in the arc. 

(Below) Sebastian Foss Solevag, Conpare his shin angles to Hirscher. His inside boot is much farther forward and his hips are more square and further back. This isn't trivial it's a huge disadvantage.

Compare the next two photos below, Hirscher flexes rather than extending out of the arc. Solevag stands and loses ground to the next gate.

Hirscher keeps his feet more together in both lateral distance and in a fore/aft relationship. This ability and his movements that make it happen, give him a cleaner carve and a shorter radius.

Kristofferson (below) splits his feet to get more forward pressure on the front of the outside ski. This brings his balance toward the inside ski reducing pressure and creating a bigger arc.

Here we see Kristofferson at the gate (above photo) and after the gate (below photo). He has big separations front to back and side to side of his skis and boots. Hirscher holds a much narrower stance throughout. He does this with strong inside foot pullback,  inside leg flexing/bending and tipping.

Angle Comparisons
From the frames below we can see that the shin angles vary tremendously from skier to skier.  Because Hirscher gets more foot pullback in transitions he's able to drop his hips into the falline earlier and further. The amazing thing about Hirscher is he doesn't back off by allowing his inside foot to move forward. He keeps the pullback tension with his hamstring, on the that leg to keep the foot back. 

In summary, what are the key observations and movements that create the amazingly quick transitions, recoveries and angles of a skier like Marcel Hirscher? He uses and creates most of his balancing activities with the inside foot. He has the handle on ultimate inside foot management.

He also stays more compact, with his inside foot moving first and creating angles so the outside foot can match, and his upper body and his outside hip stays closer and more over the outside ski, his hip angles are closer,  relative to his outside foot. He almost always has the ability to bring his inclination back to traditional angulation, always after the gate leading to transition and even before he comes under the gate. This can be achieved only if the inside ski stays close to the outside ski, without scissoring or spreading. Vertical separation due to slope is fine. Below photos, we see Hirscher coming back to classic angulation and counter acting to release.

All the below photo frames demonstrate how Hirscher comes back to Counter acting and Counter balance like no one else. This is very difficult if your feet are spread and the outside ski is running away from you. Very few can close the radius under the gate as Hirscher does it. He never stops increasing his flexing, tipping and CB, until the release. He rarely if ever has to step out of his arc.

This frame demonstrates his upper body coming back toward his outside ski, he never stops creating and increasing angles. If the ski is running in an arc, it's bending, therefore it's never slow.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

When is ski coaching not effective?

Every season many of the well known ski clubs and ski teams come to Colorado to get early season training. If you are out skiing you can't miss it, the kids or athletes are huddled around a coach and often skiing one at a time, doing a series of weird looking exercises. 

One thing I have learned over the years of watching, lessons, coaching, and "You Tube videos" is that most exercises shown or used are not very well presented. They are rarely integrated back into the skiing for the student or athlete after the exercise practice has been completed. 

For exercise training blocks to be worthwhile and successful there has to be a beginning, middle and an integration phase.

First, the beginning, this is where the coach has to give "each student" the reason why, the motivation, for the exercise, and why it is worth doing and relevant for "them". A shot gun approach, same exercise for everyone, just to get the job done, is not very effective if you want a true learning focus for each athlete individually, to develop. 

The Middle: The coach then describes where in the arc and for what purpose the exercise is introduced. This should relate to a deficiency in a skier's technique, the exercise is to create a new awareness and experience in the student's skiing. I rarely see this being done properly, in USSA coaching programs or in regular lessons. I see lots of random exercises being done with no real outcome designed or appreciable results achieved.

For an Exercise training block to be successful, there has to be a strong relationship to the "quality of performance", feedback, and refinement, conveyed to the student, so the results from the exercise can be evaluated. I see exercises everywhere being done incorrectly without any coaching to mend the issues.

 There is no point in doing exercises if the same mistakes are created during the exercise as in regular skiing or gate training. The coach has to be able to spot, correct and refine the essence of the movement components for each exercise.

Once this is done, the most important part is the "integration phase", which is conveyed and reenforced after the exercise phase, which is; how does the student integrate the movements learned or applied from the exercise, back into your actual skiing movements. 

At exactly what point in the movement sequence for a series of arcs, is the movement from the exercise highlighted or emphasized?  And at what point in the arc should it brought into action? 

This is especially important when using a traverse or garland type exercise, because you really are not making connected turns. The student needs to know where in their turns do they use the exercise movement they learned? The coach has to carry this over for the student to regular skiing turns. A precise and accurate evaluation of movement of the specific body part that was the focus, most be accurately presented for each student.

For example, people are often confused "after the releasing begins", about when to start their counteracting movement for the new turn. There has to be a timing cue that they can recognize and use. (a good cue is when the new inside ski is tipped or touches the snow) This is what a highly skilled coach does, they create the understanding, the movement and the experience. I rarely see this being done outside PMTS coaching!

Another example is in the "angry mother" exercise. (below) Sure you can sense where your hips are with your hands holding the top of the pelvis, however you aren't holding your poles in the exercise.  After you go back to holding the poles the student needs to know what to do, relative to the "Angry Mother" exercise with their poles in hand.  

Knowing and using the torso and arms properly and guiding them through connected arcs, isn't a trivial skill or accomplishment.  Holding your poles doesn't give you the same response or feedback as hands on your hips. So you have to create other movements to support the exercise. And these movements or directives must be relatable to the exercise. 

Many very good skiers (some of us work on this in our own skiing) don't have very good pole use capability. So the coach isn't done after the exercise phase is over, that is the easy part. The exercise is only the beginning of the process of coaching and change, and will only be successful, if the coach knows exactly what he is or she is after for the skier!!! If the poles and arms are not supportive of the "angry mother" movements and awareness, then the exercise is defeated or not as effective. 

(above photo) This is a counter balancing focused exercise.

In other words, complete the circle for whatever movement you are teaching or trying to create for the student.

What I have outlined here is the mark of a highly skilled teacher. But it's not rocket science, it's just completing or closing the loop, to get results and movement changes that are measurable.

Knowing the quality of PMTS instruction and what goes into it always makes me hold back a laugh when a traditional ski instructor or coach tells me, "Oh yes, I use some of your stuff." This usually comes from the old bag of tricks approach. Traditional ski instructors love, "some of our stuff", because we have so many movement development exercises in our system, these exercises can add more tricks to their bag. Ski teaching should never be about pulling another trick out of your bag, ski teaching should be more like a puzzle, where you as the coach, have to select the right piece that fits into the right slot for each individual athlete.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Why is Marcel Hirscher so dominant?

Marcel Hirscher has been the number one skier on the World Cup for over 7 years. He has 53 overall victories and has won the last 5 slalom races, and also has 3 GS wins this season. He is skiing with total relaxation,  fluidity and confidence. The mistakes and recoveries he makes, he takes in stride, as if they were just minor interruptions.  He skis the most difficult turns with short arcs that wrap around the pole and releases with amazing energy, rarely losing ground. Below are a series of photos demonstrating how Hirscher masters a slalom arc. He does this while all his rivals are at a loss, splitting their feet, skidding low and traveling more distance. 

The frames are from the Wengen Slalom 2018 on the same turn. This is a small sample of what is happening in 95% of the arcs on the course. 
Although these frames may look the same,  they demonstrate the basic characteristics of Hirscher's technique and what that technique allows him to do. Look closely at the position of his ski tips, his inside ski boot and his leg angles, to recognize the changes he makes to create a decreasing radius turn, that is better than any other racers.
 The frame above, shows some slight inclination as he prepares to block. Notice the groove or rut from the 29 previous skiers, it is about 1 foot below his right ski. He is inside and closer to the gate than the others, as he is on most arcs in this race. Because this is relatively flatter terrain he can use some slight inclination while still tipping his feet and lower body, but he stays well within his counter-balanced state.

Frame above: Just before the block of the pole he tips his feet and legs and begins to shorten the arc.

Frame above: He has made contact with the pole or gate, he has increased the tipping action, which loads the outside ski, bends it while reducing pressure on the inside ski.

 Frame above: notice how the pressure on the outside or stance ski has moved from the tip of the ski to under the foot. You can see this by where the snow comes off the ski. The slalom gate is now on the snow, yet the arc is still tightening.

Frame above: Standing totally on the outside ski, Hirscher moves to release for the next turn.

What can we take away from this skiing Hirscher shows and how is it different from his competitors?

A list of things Hirscher does better than the rest, might be a place to start.

  1. He never stops tipping his skis to a greater angle through the arc. He never stiffens his outside leg or pushes with extension down on the ski.
  2. He's more compact, keeping his legs and feet closer together and his inside foot more pulled back then the rest.
  3. He starts every turn further forward on his skis, his hips move into the falline ahead of his boots. This is done with his amazing ability to pull his feet back under his hips at the release, and in the transition. His inside foot management is second to none.
  4. This all adds up to a shorter radius, shorter line, a slicing arc, a ski that moves forward in the arc relative to his CG,  rather than a breaking, dragging, and grinding.
  5. Hirscher rarely gets his feet so wide that he has to make a big move to the new outside ski.

Nothing that Hirscher is doing is revolutionary, but adding it all up and performing this way separates Hirscher from the rest of the field.

                     Now for a photographic comparison with Hirscher's main rivals.

Kristofferson above, shows a wider stance and his outside ski is a foot, to almost 2 feet further below the pole than Hirscher. This results in a wider line and a longer path,  with less outside ski pressure. Less pressure and less bend, means less rebound from the ski: therefore a slower transition and rounder longer line. Also, he's split his weight between both skis, and shows more inclination, limiting his ability to increase angles.  Hirscher on the other hand, this season, has become almost Gross like, keeping the inside boot very close, to the outside boot. Although Hirscher may at times use inclination above the slalom pole, he brings his upper body back over his outside ski, when the ski edge needs to hold and increase tipping angles.

Myhrer above: shows very similar movements and positions as Kristofferson. Both are less compact than Hirscher, have more body lean and extension. Both travel a wider line than Hirscher, they are both in the rut that Hirscher was able to stay above. Hirscher in almost every situation brings his upper body closer to and over the outside ski then other racers. Is this a function of body proportions and body length? To some degree sure, it's more difficult to control counter-balance and the core with a longer torso. However in other situations the longer limbs offer more leverage, if you can hold the forces.

All of these points are what may seem to many as minor issues, however they add up. The results are obvious Hirscher is quicker, makes a tighter arc, and has more time to set up for the next arc, even though he's traveling at a faster speed, .93 of a second faster, to be exact in this race.

Although Hirscher has won the last 6 overall World Cup titles, as well as numerous individual discipline Globes, this is the first year in 4 that his boot set up or alignment has been this good. The boots being almost perfect, make everything he does that much easier for him.