Saturday, January 16, 2021

Without Hirscher, why are Austrian Slalom skiers so consistent this season?

                       Autrian Slalom Sucess 2020-21

 Someone really smart in the Austrian organization picked new coaches. It has been stated that the slalom team has Hirscher's former coach. I would not doubt this given the improvement is dramatic. The consistency of runs and better technique is also obvious. Let's look at some of the changes and improvements anyone can benefit from doing this in their skiing.

In addition to Manny Feller and Marco Schwartz, Matt, Gstrein, and Pertl have knocked on the door of the top 10. 

      


Manny Feller has just won his first race and has been consistently on the podium.



Marco Schwartz has been consistently in the top 3 and won a race.

                       

The red arrows demonstrate Manny's strong use of Counteracting, which blocks his outside shoulder and hip rotation. This is giving him stronger edge hold, better rebound energy, and a higher entry point to the next gate.

Manny often used to dive into the turn (leaning) with his upper body and head first. Here this season, notice his head has reclaimed a position over the outside ski, indicated by the yellow arrow. His torso and chest, therefore, are more verticle and counterbalanced shown by the blue arrows.


                                   
In this photo I am counterbalanced, notice even we mere mortals can keep our head over the outside ski indicated by my helmet being to the right side of my jacket hood.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

One of the 5 "Essentials of Skiing" Counteracting!

If "Carving" is one of the things you want to achieve in your skiing, then "Counteracting is a big contributor to that skill. In this post, I define some of the key ways to learn how to achieve and develop CA.




 The Yellow line curve is the arc of the turn. The two blue arcs are movements you make while in the arc, starting at the top of the arc and moving the arm and hand forward toward the tip of the ski until the end of the turn. 


Notice the ski pole tip is also moving downhill and in a circle as much or in advance of the skis coming through the arc. 


When you begin to learn how to use counteracting it may not work its way down to your hips where you see the red arrows, at first. (photo above)




This is difficult for many skiers to create hip CA due to either lack of awareness or flexibility. With practice, you can increase your hip support for your turns.


The forces in a carved turn want to rotate your torso, which decreases ski angles and edge hold. This is the reason to develop CA movements. Just trying to hold a countered hip isn't enough. Counteracting, or CA is a movement, not a position. 


Begin by using the pole tip, arm, and hand on the inside of the arc, to develop your CA movements through turns. Slow down, and pick a relatively flat slope to practice this. Make the movements from the top of the arc all the way to the end. This requires effort and patience, it won't happen immediately but it will pay off with great skiing if you stick with it.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Counter-Acting is not the same as Counter-balancing.

Let's look at the three photos I attached here. 


They are all slightly different based on the amount of Counteracting being demonstrated and used. I use these examples to demonstrate the mechanics that change for the amount, the time or point in the arc, and the ranges that are being used, and how all three affect the outcome of the turn. Sometimes one is preferable to the others and sometimes one of these examples isn't as efficient.

 

Photo:

This turn in the blue pants, yellow jacket, I have extreme CA, and its limitation is the ability to make or add tipping adjustments. That becomes more difficult with this much counteracting, plus it requires a full commitment to the angle by letting your body drop inisde.



 




The photo with the red pants is on the verge at least for me of coming too square. (not enough counteracting?)  This is a delicate point, if all the other "Essentials" aren't perfect; referring to inside hand, shoulder and outside arm, CB, and pole preparation, I could easily lose CA and therefore lose the tail of the ski to a skid rather than holding.


However, this position in the turn; if the ability is there it allows me to add more counter if needed, but only if I'm properly balanced over the outside ski. 

 





Ideally, the turn in the red suit gives me the most versatility, I have enough Counter Acting,  but haven't limited my tipping ability or haven't rotated enough to lose tail pressure. 


Of course, these comments are based on the skier's flexibility and femur in pelvis range of motion. It goes without saying that the skier must have edge holding or carving ability. So I am answering this question based on the highest level of skiing. Everything changes with intermediate or advanced skiers. I say this because their movements aren't as refined so they may use stronger, faster movements too early to CA that actually skid the tail early in the turn. Or they pivot without tipping.

 

So to identify too much CA and how it is fed into a turn can go from one extreme being hip dumping with straight legs and no lower body tipping, which limits the skier to only using the sidecut of the ski to finish the arc. 

 

This to me is not functional, in my first photo in the yellow jacket this is close to a full hip countering commitment. If you know how to bend the outside leg after the apex, you can still manage the bottom of the turn with tipping increases to tighten the arc, but this is a really high skill level. 

So as far as using this much CA for a student who gets locked like this to the point of release; I would try to get them to use more tipping before adding more counteracting. 

 

The other approach or even the opposite approach is to use the example of  (Skiing into CA). This is the opposite of the example I just described. 


In this approach, you hold your counteracting to release until your skis release and tip to the new angles, you wait until the skis have enough angle to point down the falline to line up square to the hips. (basically, you create the top 1/3 of the arc).


 As the skis are tipping and you are at the Apex, you add some hip counter with this method, but just enough to create the muscle tension controlling the hips to defeat hip any rotational forces acting on the body. 


This is very hard to achieve in aggressive skiing because the rotational energy of the skis and legs may defeat the ability to hold the hip in counteracting, resulting in squaring up or almost square. It is my experience if you don't make some kind of muscular effort to create a CA movement ( appropriate to the forces) before or at the Apex, especially if not supported by CB, you will rotate the hips.

 

My response is to the question then is not black or white.  There are degrees of functionality associated with CA depending on the skier's skill level and body awareness. 


What I call or determine as functional in a skier is the way they use and combine movements. By that I mean are all the "Essentials" balanced. Tipping, (overall balance), CA, CB, flexing and Fore/aft. We are talking about a highly complex combination of elements, forces, and reactions, happening in a highly dynamic and short time frame.

 

Here is my list of Functional Movements associated with appropriate CA:

-continuous ability to add lower body angles (tipping) through the whole radius, basically never stop tipping. 

-Is the inside ski light enough to move, pull back, flex, and increase tipping to the end of the arc. (That's balance) Also, do you have an appropriate amount of Counterbalance?

-Is there sufficient CA for (leg length) to flex or bend the outside leg to release?

 

Unfuctional CA is rather obvious.

-stopping or demonstrating no lower body tipping after the release

-Skidding tails

-Locked hip or hip dump

-Squaring up at the point of release

-If you either rotate twist, steer or use too much counteracting to start a turn, you can't tip through the whole arc. 


You can see with Hirscher the best skier we have ever seen, here in the falline or just after the Apex his shoulders are up, the chest is verticle, and his counteracting is obvious but not extreme.

Although this is GS, you can see he brings or adds more counteracting through the turn, his chest is now forward and clearly over the outside ski and his knees have bent quickly to "retract" his skis. He is noted for his ability to add CA and CB at the end of every arc.

Even his pole tap is a perfect example of the no swing approach we use in PMTS at our Ski Camps. Want to ski like Hirscher, Harb Ski Camps teach this exact technique.






Friday, November 27, 2020

Petra Vlhova and World Cup Skiing Analysis 2020

              Welcome to the introduction page for "2020 World Cup Skiing" analysis. 

Of course, the natural thing to do is pick the latest winner and start there. Yet my blog has been building an understanding of World Cup Skiing for skiers for at least a decade. in that vein let's start with the two-time winner at Levi.
 


                              Getting better or getting it "Right"!

Overall picture:


All of the "Rossi" women (Rossignol boot and ski brand) have a ski boot set up on the softer side. Meaning the alignment is less aggressive which allows the legs to move further to one side or the other. 

Every boot setup has pros and cons. The Rossie set up of late shows more fluid skiing with angles that make the skis work more progressively to develop pressure.  In my view, this is a more forgiving feeling. Although at times they also show a too cuff strong position toward the lower leg. 

That cuff angle is what accentuates the "A-frame or knockkneed look. Petra has always had a big "A-frame" (way worst 2 years ago) but, she always made the great move of pulling her old stance foot/boot/ski closer, after she releases it, moving it immediately toward the new outside ski boot, high in the arc. (Photos inserted below demonstrate this) 

Not one of the other women does this as well. Not even Shiffrin. In my analysis, Liensberg has the cleanest technique of the 3 top women.  For Petra, the free foot movements help her with foot pull back and establishes a great new platform, and angle high in the arc higher on the hill to the next gate. This is important as it allows you to stay in the falline longer without having to fight against it at the bottom of the arc. . . This has saved her from getting into over knock-kneed situations, which can result in lack of edge hold, and even slipping at times. 

In addition, she uses and has a strong counteracting of the hips,  knocked-kneed or "A-Frame legs become a liability as the hip rotates with the turn, or comes or moves more square as the squaring up hip releases angles, and the tails of the skis, She has totally tamed this, so far, and she even looks stronger this season. She shows almost parallel shins to the very end of the turn.

There have been some improvements in her boot set up, possibly less cuff toward the shin. Without measuring her shin and leg curves, it's hard to tell for sure how much her leg curve is influencing her "A-frame" now. The lower leg curve can have a huge influence on her stance which is obviously noticeable. Yet she holds well, gets great rebound, and changes edges quickly. If you watch Gisin you see a more pronounced "A-Frame and she loses edge hold often, again it's a Rossi setup, which tends to be on the softer side than other boot companies. It seems to work on Levi snow.

If you look at equipment, besides Mikaela Shiffrin there is only one other skier in the top 10 (and only the first day) in two days of racing at Levi on Atomic. To me, it suggests there are some setup problems with Atomic at the moment.  They have plenty of skiers on the product. It is also an indication to me why Shiffrin is not in total form. Fisher and Head seem to have some things figured out better. 





Petra at mid-turn blocks the gate, and shows inside leg well-bent, her weight and pressure are on the middle to the tail of the ski. The equally tipped angles of the skis and long outside leg assure that she has great control of her A-frame. 



This next frame shows the key moment and movement that creates a transition. Petra rides the inside ski on it's tipped little toe edge. This is how she controls her timing for the next turn. No rush to redirect the new outside ski. The only movement is to gather her skis together by retracting and pulling the old stance ski, outside ski, closer to the new outside ski. Most juniors and especially "A-Framed skiers don't have this skill.





In mid-transition, she is still pulling the old stance ski closer and continues this movement which helps flatten the old inside ski and prepares it for the new turn. The old outside ski will next narrow up even further to begin creating angles for the new turn.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The skiing topic everyone wants to avoid. Why?

The topic I'll present is how and where to stand correctly with a fore/aft balance sense on your skis.

First, let's define fore/aft balance. 

In the photo below notice, my hips are forward of the boots or looking at it more precisely, my feet are behind my hips. You don't hold this for very long because you can make a super short radius arc from the tip engagement in this stance, but the difficult part is getting there.


Harald Harb

Yes, this slope is as steep as it looks here, yet I can still get my feet behind my hips at this crucial part of the arc. I do this with a specific set of movements I  practice. These movements happen during the transition, they do not magically appear at the moment you need them. Therefore part of learning how to get to this point shown in the photo is knowing how and where the movements should happen.

Harald Harb


There is one thing you will notice about everyone for these examples, there is no or little collapse at the hips, meaning the upper body is not folded forward at the waist. Also, keep your attention in the inside foot, in every situation the inside foot is back not scissored or leading. 

Richie Berger


Here is the best skier in the world for the last 10 years. Again the angle forward and foot back creating the inside shin angle, it is amazing. How does this affect fore/aft balance? It keeps the hips ahead of the boots. If that inside foot were to move forward the hips would immediately move back and the skis would shot forward, out of control. 

                                                              Marcel Hirscher

 

How is this achieved and when is it right to keep it and when do you let it go? These are the questions you should be asking because ideally, your fore/aft balance point on the ski changes as the turn develops, moving that balance point relative to where you are in the arc or your place in space. 


How do you achieve fore/aft balance in the first place? This is a conundrum for all ski coaches. The standard advice given is to move your hips forward. Logical but rarely effective advice or for many skiers this is not the advice translatable into the right movements. There is no "moving the hips forward" muscle in the body. In most cases when this is unsuccessful the next piece of advice is standup more and extend your hips forward. This involves pushing against the ski and against the ground with your outside leg. Probably the worst thing you can do in transitions or on a steep slope. This totally disconnects you from the snow and it delays the new turn. In steep or off-piste conditions you end up gaining speed and losing control. Our students always ask us,"I have speed control on blue slopes but when I get on black terrain I pick up too much speed and lose control. Sure, it's logical when you use an extension system in your skiing on black terrain making it very challenging. In our courses and in my Harb Ski Systems videos, "Essentials of Skiing" we explain how Fore/aft movements are created properly so you can keep your balance, control, and speed in check. Visit us at www.harbskisystems.com

As a follow up to this presentation, I'll demonstrate for you how the balance point on our skis is achieved and where fore/aft balance changes during the arc happen with video animation, so come back soon to see it. In the meantime have a look at the latest way to control your speed in this video.

https://harbskisystems.com/collections/books-videos/products/tighten-the-radius-of-your-turns-evideo

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Stefano Gross, great technical skier.


World Cup skiers are the best skiers in the world, why? They have to be the most efficient, most refined, and the fastest through a turn. The weeding out process involves thousands from every skiing nation. It takes years and only the very best reach the top ranks. This isn't a beauty contest but the movements are beautiful.

Stefano Gross show that by flexing and bending his legs to retract his skis from the snow is the most efficient way to change from one turn to the next.
 Stefano Gross shows that by flexing and bending his legs to retract his skis from the snow results in the most efficient way to change from one turn to the next. This is called the edge change or a transition.



Once the retraction begins the feet can be pulled back and held back. This allows the CG (center of gravity) to move forward and down to take a shorter line to the next arc.




Using this technique creates the best method of re-centering. Old school ski instruction and coaching still applies the idea of moving the hips forward by leg extension. That method is obsolete, slow, and will never advance your skiing. 




In this photo, you see the path of the skis and the shorter distance the hip takes to the gate. This technique allows the hips to catch up and to re-center over the skis, without any extension.  The yellow arrow is the key to the success story all top world cup racers use, it's the "Foot pullback". Pulling the feet back lets the hips move down and slightly forward until the skis are directly pointing downhill. At the falline or Apex of the turn, his hips will be forward and his boots under and behind his hips. Without this relationship, the tips of the skis will not carve properly or be able to cut sharply under the gate.





Saturday, July 4, 2020

Harb Carvers are the best ski simulators ever designed and the closest to ski movements.

                           A long stretch of road from Government Camp to the highway.

The skills and movements are the closest to skiing using a carving technique. Leaning rotating steering will not work. This tool proves that steering is a fallacy, made up by ski instructors, not by expert skiers. 

On Harb Carvers you can learn to tip your feet. Leaning and rotating will not work.

             Always begin with tipping your inside foot first and more than the outside foot, just as on snow.

                   Everything you do on Harb Carvers is exactly like movements in Expert Skiing. 

Why do Harb Carvers work? This is not a skate or rollerblade that have the thin blade or wheels down the center under the foot. Skis don't have a center blade, skis have edges on either side which makes for a different dynamic. The biomechanics involved in tipping Harb Carvers is different from skates, skates fall over on their own. Harb Carvers and skis (if you want to carve turns) need to be tipped or lifted on one side and ridden on the other edge through a turn. This requires different skills. Also, you cannot twist, steer, or rotate your legs to make Harb Carvers work. The engagement action required for Carvers to arc and make a turn has to begin with the feet. The feeling is just like carving a clean arc on hard snow. Movements have to begin with the feet and ankles. We did years of testing with all types of skiers from World Cup racers, ski instructors to intermediates. The limitations of each individual's technique became immediately obvious on Harb Carvers. Some instructors were so frustrated they said the Carvers didn't work. I just had to sit back and watch as their frustration took them over. Carvers prove one thing, you either have carving ability or you twist/steer on snow, but you can't do the later on Carvers. If you are looking to take the real test about your skiing, try some Carvers. If you master them at some level you will surely improve your on-snow skiing capabilities. Skiing and ski instruction have many myths and false understandings, many are perpetrated by misconceptions in National teaching systems. One outing on Harb Carvers and you will discover if you are engaging a ski or twisting a ski. Even the slightest twisting action will bring tears to your eyes. There is no hiding from your movements on this tool they expose everything.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

At the beginning of his career Svindal was a top GS skier.


Svindal was one of the first racers to use a flexing retraction release in his GS skiing, demonstrated here. 



A bending or flexing release is a much more direct route to new angles and edge change.



Anna Fenninger Veith in her prime couldn't be touched in GS with a flexing GS release.

This release has no push or step. She unweights her skis by relaxing and bending the legs to change edges. 






This is a turn from the 1980 Olympics, stepping up was still part of the old school.