Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Skiing April's light powder, Arapahoe Basin


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Skiing traditions: Debunked and Explained! 1st in a Series, by Harald Harb

Just a short history: 

The transition in skiing has been misrepresented or not described correctly in ski literature since the beginning of time. In fact, in Warren Witherell's two books, it is never addressed at all. George Joubert, the French coach, in the late 60s and early 70s,  wrote two books. In them he does address the transition, however his descriptions are incorrectly focused.  I can make that statements because skiing at the highest levels has evolved differently from the way Joubert described it. Many so called ski technicians even today reference these books as the "gospel" never looking to evolve or properly analyze skiing after Joubert. Therefore ski teaching has stagnated since. 

In this series I will explain and break down how 21st Century skiing works at the highest levels and how recreational, intermediate and advanced skiers can add significant improvements to their skiing enjoyment and performance. With these methods and approaches you will ski with more efficiency, control and ease, rather than fighting gravity. You will learn to enjoy relaxation and the ease of acquiring ski performance with less effort. Let's get into it!

The Transition

The Transition is the most complex part of ski turns and requires the biggest change in the body. In the transition, your lower body, from below the hips, moves downhill, and the upper body stays the same until the lower body engages the skis to the new edge angles. Once this is done, the upper body needs to move from one side to the other over you skis. Ideally, this is accomplished without a pivot or and effort to create direction change. Once in the arc or a turn, the movements are relatively simple and consistent with how you stand on the ski. The transition is the point at which, everything happens, all this
changes and you move from one ski to the other and from one turn to the other. The best free skiers and racers can get this done before they reach the fallen. Let's have a look at the basics. 

     For the first session of body movements in this series; I focus on lower the body.       

To achieve a good transition, you have to have the skis engaged, not slipping, and the inside leg bent more than the outside leg. This happens with inside flex bending and tipping. Also, the upper body needs to counter-act the turning forces, called counter-acting. More on that later.

Through the bottom of the turn continue building your angles to load the outside ski. Many skiers give up the turn too early and therefore are rushed, therefore never getting the lower body released.

The actions of the release have begin already in this photo. The outside leg has shortened through bending  and lightening the pressure. How do you lighten pressure? You physically retract or pull the ski and knee up. Photo below.

The red arrow is the movement to retract. The blue arrow is getting that ski released.         The black arrow is where your balance and pressure goes when you create these     movements.

Now the tip of the ski is lifted, both knees are equally bent and the angles from the previous turn are gone.

The skis are flat, and half way through the transition. Notice nothing else has moved, only the lower leg flexing and bending up toward my chest,  has created the transition. Now both legs have the same amount of bend.

The lower body transition is complete, now you build the actions for the arc. The inside leg keeps bending and tipping,toward its outside little toe edge of the ski, until it is shorter than the outside leg.

The red arrow is for continued action of bending and flexing. The yellow arrows are
to indicate increased tipping.   Never push against the outside leg, common
error tau
ght to skiers.

In the turn, all is good.

Keep a look out for the second article in the series where I address the upper body responsibilities in transition.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Air turns are fun!

Powder days, small bumps for turns, or edge changes, in the air.

(Above Photo) Anticipate the lift from the lip of a drop-off. 

 (Above Photo) Quickly retract or suck up your knees and tip your legs toward a new turn

                            (Above) In the air change the angles of the skis to land on the new edges.

Land softly by absorbing with the legs and continue tipping to finish the turn.

Upon landing prepare to increase edge angles and add your counteracting to your hips and upper body.

                                          All set up in perfect position for the next turn.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Tip lift and Retraction begin the transition, next is "Pullback!"

Connect the "Retraction Tip Lift" to the transition with a new inside ski "Pull Back" movement.

In a previous post I described the release with retraction; describing the movements to release with a lifting of the stance ski tip. This series of frames describes what happens right after the the tip lift retraction technique.

This first photo shows a world cup top 5 slalom skier using the tip lift, using retraction and transfer of balance to the new ski, (Super Phantom Move) the little toe edge balancing act. This lifted ski, needs to be transitioned toward new edge angles. The movement toward the new edge angles begins with the lifted ski, tipping it toward the new little toe side of the foot or little toe edge side, creating this action.

(In this first photo) This World Cup skier has started the transition to the new turn with a lifted ski tip. This is the classic retraction and lifting of the ski move. 

(2nd Photo below) Shows a very Minor change, however the commitment to the uphill little toe edge ski is complete, and the lower lifted ski has released further, and is beginning its tipping toward the new little toe edge side of the foot.

(below) The tip is still lifted and the lifted ski and boot are pulled back and toward the stance boot.

In this last frame you see the transition completed. The skis are on the new edges and the angles are created high and early for the turn. The inside ski once pulled back and tipped must continue to be pulled back through the turn. These frames happen in less than a 10th of a second by World Cup skiers. Learning and practicing them may require more time at slower speeds. 

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.



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.