Thursday, January 31, 2013

What does, Hold your counter", really mean?

Hirscher's chest is facing his outside ski, some people call that facing downhill.

(below) His skis are released and flat, his previous outside or downhill ski is lifted "a la" Phantom Move. He leads into the new turn with tipping toward the little toe edge of the new inside ski. This is all spelled out in PMTS and in the Essentials of skiing. And his upper body has not changed position, "That is holding your counter acting".

Here his inside hand begins to move forward for the next arc, no pressure on either ski yet. His retraction release has made his skis light to make the transition easier.
Holding your counter at the release and through the beginning of the tipping for the new turn is a crucial element of modern day World Cup slalom skiing.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Marcel Hirscher, The best slalom skier's little secrets.

Many coaches during the nineties and 2000s were hot on getting their racers to widen their (get a wider stance) stance. There are many still some out there telling their kids exactly that today. Becoming a better racer, never has been about making your stance wider, in fact, the World cup skiers "in slalom" ski with a very narrow stance. To those whom it looks wide, it's vertical distance, not horizontal, that you are after. 

In this upper photo, Hirscher has his feet almost locked. And he has great angles, but not good enough for Hirscher.

(Above) Now he has passed the gate and has increased his angles, how did he get it done? Again here, there is much misunderstanding by coaches. He didn't push harder, he didn't reach for the snow, he didn't steer his leg or ski, he simply used one of the "Essentials of Skiing". One that we teach to skiers in our camps with the PMTS system, all the time. He flexed or bent his inside leg further, that is the only thing that changed. 

His inside hand came forward yes, but that is counter acting, not increasing angles.  
His hip was able to drop inside further because the flexing of the inside leg takes the weight off the ski and allows the hip to drop. You have to be relaxed in your hip and leg and "let yourself" go to achieve this. And you have to be Counter Balanced, another thing Hirscher increased in the second frame. 

Hirscher uses all the "Essentials of Skiing", which I spelled out in my third book. More to come!
Want to know more about how Hirscher skis and the "Essentials of Skiing", click here:

Funny skiing skit on Conan.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mikaela Shiffrin, Technical analysis.

Does Mikaela have what it takes to become a dominant slalom skier, like Maries Schild?
Here we see a strong finish to a fall-away turn. Strong flexed inside leg, the ski tipped to a high angle. Upper body counter balanced and very strong, inside hand leading. All good discipline.

This is  a great release, similar to what you see with Hirscher. She holds her CA (counter acting) while flexing the legs, to transition to the new edges. This is critical, holding the upper body in place and sucking up the legs, to get to the new edges. This holds the energy in the body until the last second, before it's released and pops or explodes her to the new edges. Without this energy and perfectly timed release skiers have to push themselves into the next turn, that's just too slow.

This photo although in the other direction, is just after the transition, where the energy is released. Notice how she kept her upper body still Counter acted  from the previous turn,  she holds her CA until the skis are on their new edges. She is still unweighted, yet tipping into the new edges here. Her next move is to begin leading with the inside hand and increasing the tipping angles.

This is where there is still progress to be made. At times she gets her feet too far apart and almost gets stuck. Mikaela has such good upper body discipline that even when she gets off balance, and her feet are too separated, like here, she almost loses the outside ski, but she still pulls off a turn.

Below is an example of where her feet, get too separated and her new inside ski will be 
a problem to get set up for the turn.


Her strengths are her strong upper body discipline, which means, strong counter acting and counter balance. She also has amazing touch for how much pressure she applies and when she applies it. She has a great inside leg pull back and flexing, but often it's at the last second. She absorbs and uses pressure extremely well, almost snaking between turns especially on the flats, which makes her transitions really smooth and gives her early angles.

So where are the areas of improvement or concern? Her technique is not as refined as Schild. She still makes mistakes, but recovers, very well. What are the mistakes? At the gate as she nears the bottom of her turns, her inside ski moves forward and separates too early, in many cases this splits her pressure and energy. On her right turn, left leg, she often sets up and pressures late, causing her to step out of the turn late, rather than releasing out, by flexing and retracting. (example of what happens in the above photo)

Where is the discipline lacking, it's the inside foot. It wanders around and sometimes shows not enough tipping or after the pull back, it's not held back under her body to finish the arc.

I hope she is able to work on these refinements, so she can get her technique as clean and consistent as Schild's technique. If she can clean up these errors, she could have a run of races like Schild, 5 or 6 slalom wins  in a row.

World Cup Overall Leader.

If your inside hand isn't moving forward in the arc, you are rotating. 

The amount of short, quick direction change around the gate, in slalom, would cause the upper body to rotate, if the skier didn't counter act the upper body. So if you are rotating, and not  controling that rotation; the upper body ends up facing the ski tips, which steals your energy for a good release.

Hirscher keeps pushing his inside hand forward to keep his upper body Counter Acted for the release.

Ted while you were stemming and rotating Hirscher was doing this.

 (click on title above for the whole story)

Very simple comparison of what works and what does not.

                                                 (Ouch, leading the world cup and winning races?)

 Ted's upper body rotated, in the wrong direction, and uphill ski stemmed! Leading with the wrong hand.
Ted's chest is facing the same direction he stemmed his uphill tip toward. Completely opposite what the best skiers are doing.

                  Hirscher inside ski tipped and close to the outside ski, leading with the inside (correct) hand. notice how his chest is facing the outside of the arc.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Amazing Hirscher

This is going to result in an error, there is a hump there and he will become airborne, which means his skis will lose contact and he'll go straight for a bit and have to turn late.
He is slightly rotated, (more than he normally gets) but his inside hand is still pushing forward. His inside half and his inside ski tipping is what saves him most of the time when he gets in trouble. That might be something for everyone to adhere to as well.

Remember, if your inside hand is not moving forward in the arc, "You are rotating".

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Neureuther modifies or refines his technique and wins.

Felix Neureuther (GER) scored his second win of the season, after winning the City Event, by .23 seconds; he ranks second in Slalom.
Felix used to reach down to the snow to get his body over to higher angles. That wasn't working for him too well, as he was very inconsistent and DNF'd frequently. This approach causes leaning and losing your outside ski. The Swedes still do it.

Now he has modified his approach and I'm sure it has something to do with everyone studying and learning from Hirscher's technique. It's amazing how fast Felix has adapted. He now gets his angles in the same way Hirscher does, he tips his inside ski earlier and further, then he puts his hand down just in case he goes too far. This is a change in priority and a good one. Start with tipping the feet and letting your hips drop by removing pressure from the inside ski. This is done by, very quick retraction and flexing of the inside leg. 
Felix also now holds his inside ski tipped to a greater angle than anyone, except Hirscher. I wonder where he learned that?
Congratulations Felix, well done. Now you are a contender in slalom. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mario Matt also, has great inside foot preparation and control.

       In my three books on ski technique the inside foot is always a major focus. 

My first book we self published n 1997. No one had ever heard of tipping the inside foot at the time, many coaches still don't.

Here in slalom, Mario Matt 34 years old, converted to a narrow stance, since his earlier days on the world cup and tips and holds the inside foot back. As soon as the inside foot slides forward you lose speed and edge carving. Pushing the inside foot forward is a braking movement. It often shows that the skier has fear of his speed and is desperate to stay in control.

Marcel Hirscher is the "King" of controlling and using his inside foot. He holds it back the longest in the turn, even below the arc or the gate.
 Marcel has an amazing ability to stay on his outside ski when the load is the greatest. He never flinches with his upper body or leans away from the pressure. He can do this because he's so prepared using and setting up his Counter balancing and Counter acting at the top of his arcs.
His inside leg flexing and tipping, happens so fast that he rarely loads or pressures the inside ski. This keeps his hips dropping to the inside, so he can develop bigger angles. Ted does this extremely well in GS, as I've stated before, but he has yet to figure it out for slalom. Marcel's CB and CA also keep him very compact, without arms and limbs flying all over. He's in balance when he loads the ski, and he therefore can hold the forces.

World Cup skiing when "The Essentials of Skiing", break down?

In this article and the one before it, on Hirscher's technique, I explain how my, "Essentials of Skiing", are easy to identify and where the lack of them breaks down skiing technique. Without all of my "Essentials" in place, racers lose time and struggle with the course. 

Here is a position you see too often with Ted Ligety in slalom. It's easy to explain why Ted doesn't break into the top 10 in slalom. I'm not saying it's easy to do, but there are explanations for it. Ted's fundamental, "Essentials", are missing. Feet too wide here, he's leaning and rotating to the inside with his torso, showing lack of counterbalance and counter acting. Compare this to Hirscher in the article I posed about World Cup skiers using "Essentials", on this Blog, just before this article. 

 Here is Manny Moelgg, he's already rotated before he's even close to the gate. (compare this to the article with Hirscher below) His feet are too spread and he's already on his big toe or stemmed ski before the top of the arc. This shows he has not released his stance ski properly , he stepped out of the arc. You never see Hirscher doing this unless he has really screwed up the turn. This is a consistent pattern with skiers in Fisher boots. I'll post other skiers doing the same in another article on skiers who use Fisher boots.

Here again we see Ted with his upper body and torso rotated. This takes the pressure away from his outside or stance ski. These are not one time photos or occurances, these are consistent technical breakdowns I see in every race. He's dragging his inside arm and pole, and leading with his left, that's backwards. Notice how this causes no angles to develop with the inside ski. His balance is moving away from the outside ski, that's where it should be focused! . OK, so there are at least three "Essentials" of skiing missing in this one turn. 

Many observes often comment that all the top skiers ski alike. Well I disagree, these are not small differences between the top skiers, they are huge technical differences. 

Here is Andre MYHRER he is often fast, but inconsistent. His inside ski is scissored or pushed forward; therefore no angles develop on the outside ski. His upper body, also like Ligety, is leaning toward the gate, most of his weight and pressure are on the inside ski. You can't concentrate the pressure to the outside ski with this skeletal alignment. Also, if you weight the inside ski, you can no longer tip it to a higher angle. His hips and torso are square to the skis, this is a huge biomechanical disadvantage.

Compare to Hirscher!
The difference between these three top skiers are enormous when compared to Hirscher. They have breakdowns in technique in almost every turn. The question is why? Is it lack of discipline in training? Are their coaches aware of the breakdowns? Do they train with the "Essentials of skiing" as a focus? I would love to be able to sit down with them and show them the differences in their skiing compared to Hirscher's, (Marcel may no like it)  that are costing them the race wins.

World Cup skiing technique, what separates the top 10??

Marcel Hirscher uses all the Essentials of skiing, and he does them better than everyone else on the World Cup. The Essentials are, Tipping the boots, feet and legs, (especially the inside boot) Counter balancing the upper body, Counter-acting the torso and hips, Flexing one leg while lengthening the other, and using Fore/aft balance.
 In this first clip from video we see his classic upper body counter balancing and counter acting.
 In the second slide he increases counter balancing and counter acting to prepare for the flexing and releasing of the outside leg. His pressure and weight shifts to the little toe edge of the uphill  ski.
Notice how there is no extension of either leg.  He has shifted his weight to the up hill ski and has retracted the outside leg to prepare for transition. He holds his Counter acting while tipping his legs off the edges of the ski.

Marcel uses all the Essentials and he creates them more cleanly while holding them and using them with perfect timing. No other skier, tips the inside ski as far and keeps it as close to the outside ski as Hirscher. This is only one of his huge advantages he uses over the competition.

Here is an example of his inside ski tipped to a high degree, his inside leg flexed and the long outside leg. Again here you see his strong counter balance of the torso. His torso is vertical, legs and skis are at high angles. Many coaches think this is old school, I think it's an Essential every skier must have. He rarely  rotates his body when blocking, or steps his inside ski out of the turn. He keeps both skis and feet close and finishes by transferring to the little toe edge.

If you spread or step your inside ski, it takes much long to transition and you lose speed and pressure.

 Notice the hands and poles are high and the pole bottoms are forward. Hirscher holds strong counteracting to keep the torso supporting his engaged tipping skis.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

7 year old, with correct coaching, can ski world cup technique

Zack, was 7 at last summer's P.I.G. and Harb Ski Camp. He had a stem wedge in every turn,  no counter balance and no inside ski tipping. He's obviously a quick study, everything where it needs to be now.

Monday, January 14, 2013

If you are talking World Cup skiing, you are talking Marcel Hirscher!

There are so many things about Hirscher's technique that makes him great, hard to explain in one article. I'll produce and expalin the differences in a number of articles coming up here on my Blog. 

First, he skis exactly like PMTS Direct Parallel is described in my "Essentials of Skiing" book and DVDs. 
He is also the most "athletically" gifted of all technical skiers in the history of skiing. The combination of  perfect technique and great athletic gifts has never happened before, not at this level, we are watching a phenom. 

Technical Analysis
 Taking on the technical anaylsis of Marcel Hirscher would entail writing a book. So I'll point out two things he does, not only better than anyone, but almost exclusively. One rule I use in ski coaching is very simple: if you are not moving your inisde half of the body, hip, shoulder, arm and hand forward during the arc, you are rotating. Rotating steals pressure and edge hold.

In World Cup skiing,  and in any high level skiing, or even when learning skiing, you can't just hold a position, you have to be moving parts of the boody as the turn develops. This is critical in this analysis because the natural forces want to rotate your body out of balance. The skiers job is to not let this happen.

Here you see Hirscher moving the inside half into a stronger relationship to his skis as the arc develops. his inside hand keeps pace with his  downward movement on the slope and his arcing skis. Since the inside hand is connected to his arm, shoulder and torso, (the inside half) this always leads where his ski tips are headed. This is a counter acting movement and it strengthens the skeletal alignment as forces build; therefore Hirscher can hold more forces than other skiers. (comparisons to others coming in next article)

The second most obvious part of Hirscher's skiing that most of the other skiers have not come close to acheiving is the way he moves, holds and tips his inside ski and moves his inside ski boot. His inside foot is always closer to the outside boot and knee than any other skier. He holds his inside ski boot back under his hips and pulls his inside ski back while tipping it to a higher angle than all the other skiers, on a consistent basis. This gives him better balance and it allows the outside ski to run a closer line to the gates and higher angles to the snow surface. He then shifts his weight or balance to the inside ski. To exit or release the outside ski he retracts the long leg, never pushing or stepping off or away from the outside ski or off the outside ski. Acheiving this action isn't easy and it's not natural. He has to get extreme flex or bend with the inside leg. This inside foot relationship adds to his perfect skeletal alignment in the crucial part of the arc. 

This is just the beginning of my descrpitions of Marcel Hirscher, he makes so many highly technical movements and executes them so well, he makes skiing, at this most extreme level, look easy.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

David Chodounsky passes Ted Ligety as US's best slalom skier.

Mario Matt can still bring it. At Adelboden,  Hirscher's  fantastic second run puts him in 1st, Mario Matt 2nd. Matt modernized his skiing over the last ten years and is still a contender for a medal at the World Championships. He has narrowed his stance, brought his hips forward over his boots and focused on flexing his inside leg, not both legs in the arc. The rest is all there as well, inside hand and half of the body strong.

What is unfortunate is that USSA coaching won't get you to this technique. David shows strong inside half, inside arm and pole lead, all weight on the outside ski. This is the way it's done.
Notice what is always omitted or overlooked, and what is so critical for a strong inside half. The ski pole is held with fist forward and the pole at 90 degrees to the skis.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Skiers: Carve on Ice!

Read this to get a good start

This is a good start, I wrote this a few years ago and there are a few observations and insights that can be added. I don't think it needs amending, as I just read it critically and it still stands up. However, I have added in a few critical sections, a few sentences or paragraphs to enhance the understanding of carving on ice.

 Carving on hard snow or encountering a patch of slick stuff, can be challenging even for the best skiers. Everything has to be perfect and you can't over react or panic. 

Carving on ice is a process of setting up the new arc, by starting with the correct releasing actions from the previous arc. The releasing movements are all lateral movements of the lower body and they get the skis off their edges, through flat, to their new edges.

How to move the boots and skis to angles. 

To get the boots and skis engaged, you have to have lateral pressure with the ankle against the medial/inside, and lateral/outside, sidewalls of the boots. The beginning edge angles which are small, require lateral side pressure on the  releasing boot and medial pressure on the outside boot. This is the real essence of the edge hold on really slick polished snow. The foot and ankle pressure  exerted toward the sides of the boots create tipping movements and ski angles. So awareness, sensitivity and movement capability inside the boot to the side of the boot wall are Essential. Not every skier has developed these patterns, so there is a training and learning phase involved before you can carve on  slick ice. 

This is the tentative or uncertainty phase at the very early part of the arc, called the “High C”.  You have not yet started gipping/holding,  but you are not skidding. In transition, you have to keep your hips centered laterally, moving only the skis, boots and legs, not the hips, and do so without pushing, extending  or creating pressure. The legs have to be flexed and bending from the release of last arc, into the top of the new arc.

Here Julien Lizeroux, French world cup skier, in transition, shows tipping, lower body movements, just before engaging. 

Once you have increased the ski angles and lower body tipping, and established balance, you can come inside the arc with the hips (below photo). The upper body remains tilted toward the outside ski (vertical zipper on the jacket/ counter balanced) and this must be established early during the edge change, this move is called counter balancing. If you can use your ankles and feet (proper footbed with right amount of flexibility for foot eversion is critical) do not try to grip in the upper third of the turn. This is a very delicate point. Ride on the skis edges and increase the edge angles delicately and progressively until the falline. If you move too quickly or use even a slight twist or steering action, you are lost. Friction or grip is hard to come by during this phase of the turn, so skiers have a tendency to want to over grip. Over gripping comes out in many ways, knee drive, leg extension, steering, none of these methods will result in a carved turn. Once you are at the falline allow the outside leg to lengthen, or extend, by tipping and flexing the inside leg, and let the inside hip drop by relaxing, to the inside of the arc. The inside ski must be tipping aggressively through the whole turn, but should be lightly weighted or pressured. 

Marcel Hirscher  moves inside the arc, feet pulled back and counter balanced.

Role of Fore/aft balance.
Keeping the hips up over the boot (fore/aft) is an often forgotten golden rule of ice carving. Once you establish the ankle and hip angles to the inside of the arc,  the leg (shin) can lever, rather aggressively toward the inside and front corner of the cuff. If you want to shorten the arc or keep a carve on steep ice keeping the hips forward and the feet and boots pulled back under your hips, is mandatory. Reminder,  ankle and foot side pressure on the boot and hip angle have to be in place before you use the shin to pressure the boot. If you use the shin first, you will definitely lose the tail and possibly the whole ski. Hip countering movements occur after the skis are tipped and engaged enough so they can no longer pivot.  This requires a high level of edge sensitivity. Counter acting movements are an important component of this successful approach to skiing slick, steep ice. However they have to be initiated with a certain finesse, or they will disrupt the tenuous edge hold.

Deville, Once you are at the falline allow the outside leg to lengthen, or extend, by tipping and flexing the inside leg, and let the inside hip drop by relaxing, to the inside of the arc.

Obviously any upper body rotation, or dropping of the inside hand during this turn phase is a sure way to lose the ski. Many skiers can hold and carve on good snow with some rotation of the upper body and leaning, but as soon as the snow gets really slick they are lost. 

The other important part of ice skiing is using the proper transition movements. If you are using an up or vertical push from the ski edge, you will never carve on ice. You might bite at the end of the turn, but carving will be lost. You can learn to make turns like this with a solid program of balancing and ski use exercises. What we could add here is that in the High C part of the arc, where you are in a flexed/bend knee relationship and coming out of transition, both knees should have the same amount of bend for a moment. Tipping the previous stance ski onto the little toe edge is the key, it has to be done gingerly without a big body parts moving, like hips or torso. This is the tenuous or uncertainty phase of the arc. This is why we advocate holding the previous counter through transition. If you make a movement toward the new arc with either extension or hip reversing, you will skid the tails. First you have to be able to get firm enough engagement of the ski and boot angle to the snow.

 The transition is also described as the skis coming from a highly tipped angle, in the previous arc, to the next arc, highly tipping and engaged. This has to be a continuous movement, once releasing begins, from one side to the other. The non interrupted, continuous lateral movements of the skis, boots and legs following the skis, is the key to a progressive engagement of the new arc. 

What can go wrong?
The goal of craving on ice is attainable. The goal of speed control in carved arcs is also attainable on moderate terrain. The goal of speed control and carving on steep ice is still a major milestone, and very difficult.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Clean technique any recreational skier can model themselves after.

A clean skiing model
Click on the text title above:

The only thing I would encourage is a stronger inside half with the inside hand and shoulder more forward. It is fine here with what she is doing, but on steeper and more icy conditions that inside hand dropping and slightly back will catch up with her.

Notice the clean exchanges, edge to edge in transition. No pivoting and a narrow stance for better line and balance.