Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How to advance your Skiing!

From a biomechanics perspective, national ski instruction systems have never embraced the shaped or carving ski. From the beginning the skis offered the opportunity to change skiing for the public and make skiing much more engaging! The dark deep secret is, teaching systems don't get how the skis work. This is why they didn't change their approaches to teaching. If you try to slap old school thinking, to shaped skis, there is an immediate conflict.

If you focus on the old way, which is turning and driving the outside ski onto it's edge; you will never realize the full benefits of shaped skis. 

 What is the secret? The secret is to use the inside foot, ski and leg to achieve true biomechanics efficiency. Using the inside half of the body, to set up turns means, you will develop skeletal alignment. Using the outside leg breaks down efficiency and strength. Now don't confuse movement with balance, as many do. Use the inside half of the body for movement and the outside ski for balance to stand on. 
This video demonstrated by my partner Diana Rogers, will provide the doorway to the new way to ski. This is a big step, but only the first! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Creating the Expert Ski Turn! And What Goes Wrong!

Sometimes we can relate better to what isn't working, than to what generates a good movement series for turns. In an effort to show differences in PMTS Direct Parallel technique approaches and other forms of teaching and skiing, here is a breakdown of a ski turn.

Here is an example of what should be an "Expert Turn", and how it looks when it is not working. This is a high level skier on the National Demonstration Team at Interski. Interski is an international gathering of the best instructors and skiers from all the nations that ski. At Interski the nations demonstrate their product, what they teach and how they ski in their countries.

Let's get into what happens with this skier. Because of a missed opportunity or misunderstanding of technique this skier will have trouble. At this point in the arc or transition, the turn could still be saved. However the "Essential Movements", are not going to happen. I will describe what is happening and what movement we use in PMTS D.P.,  to avoid this kind of skiing result.
(above) Notice the skier has not transferred balance. He is standing on both feet. This creates a dead zone between turns. A dead zone is when there is no energy helping from the previous turn to set up balance for a new turn. He should be already balancing on the new outside foot, (right foot) and actively tipping the inside foot. (Next photo below)

(above) Here you see the result; basically this a wedge turn. There is no inside foot tipping action. The feet are separating and the upper body is rotating to get some kind of turn action started. This will put the skier totally out of balance.

(Photo above) Because balance was never transferred to the new outside ski, the weight is still on the inside ski, and the outside ski is pushed and stemmed.

This sequence shows an obvious inability to increase angulation, balance and parallel skiing. This type of skiing results from two failures, one is movement based, the other is from poor alignment.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Petra Vlhova wins a slalom on the world cup.

My contention is that women's slalom skiing is at the weakest point in decades. The skiing of  the winners is definitely not up to the standards shown by Shiffrin last year, or of late, before her injury. Shiffrin won the last slaloms she raced by 2 and 3 seconds. Even the skiers now retired from a  few years ago, like Schild, Zettel or Reich were still skiing at a higher level than the present field. . Now that Shiffrin, Maze and Schild are not in the mix,  the field is wide open.  
 The clean skiing we are used to seeing with Shiffrin and Schild are not present in this young skier. Here is an example: Petra Vlhova who won the last slalom, after Shiffrin was out. This isn't to say she won't learn and improve. Of course she has potential. But she also shows some serious technical errors.
 Most of her technical mistakes are due to her upper body rotation, outside leg, knee drive dominance. She skis with power and strength, not with finesse. She, as a result, over turns and is hard on the edges, over holding and gripping.

(below) What she does very well, is she pulls her outside ski back, to bring the skis together and that sets up the new turn with great inside ski tipping and pull back.

(below) In this photo her main issues are demonstrated. She powers her turns with upper body rotation, which is in conflict with her lower body trying to hold a countered hip.
 Vlhova often squares up her hips to her skis, too early in the turn, therefore loses the hold on her outside ski. This causes her skis to separate and forces her to make big moves to the next turn and also forces the rounder longer turn. This adds up to a turn release, with diminished rebound. Or less than a quick strong, crisp, rebound she could achieve with more counter and less rotation.
 (below) At times she shows her potential, here she is showing great counteracting, however this is one of the few turns in the whole course where she used counter acting and counter balance, to save a turn.
 Although not her fault, her boot set up is also a handicap. she shows this extreme position in a hairpin that almost put her out of the course.
She has potential yes, but there is work to do if she wants to make up the difference between her skiing and that of Mikaela Shiffrin, who is sure to be back even stronger than before her injury.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Extension or extending is ruining your skiing.

In many of my videos and instruction, I present how the tipping movements create "Essential", lower leg angles and solid balanced skiing on any terrain or in a race course. Watching skiers and young racers on all slopes; you will find what I do. Almost everyone extends and pushes off their skis to get out of turns or to start new turns.
By watching this short video you can immediately improve your skiing.

Extending, specifically at the point of transitioning from one turn to the other,  is highly detrimental to your skiing development, for numerous reasons.

1. While extending you are making your legs stiffen to the surface.
2. You are eliminating lower body angles.
3. You are creating pressure and getting stiff.
4. You are pushing yourself out of balance.
5. You are eliminating the short turn ability.
6. You are making skiing more complex and less balanced.

Learning to transition with bending legs, rather than extending, makes life so much easier. The bending action is a relaxation of the leg muscles; extending is pushing against gravity, which is tiring  and hard on the quads. It also puts more pressure on your knees and disconnects you from the surface. And this goes for skiing in all conditions. Learn to relax when skiing by giving in not pushing off, and you will find a whole new level of enjoyment.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Women's World Cup Slalom, lowest overall level in years.

The present era of women's slalom skiers is really weak. Almost the worst I've seen in 40 years of coaching and watching the world cup. 

Here are some of Mikaela Shiffrin's top competitors in action.
 Hansdottter, has never really been a clean skier, and her boot set up is really hurting her performance. She does far too much stepping as a result; her feet get really wide and she gets stuck between, and then can't move out of the back seat. This happens on almost every real rounded turn on the Aspen course.
 Here is Sarka, (above and below)  probably the second best technical skier to Mikaela, yet she also has huge errors trying to hold an edge and stepping off the outside ski.

                                       (Below) One of the Swedes in the same situation.

Again Hansdotter, arms flying every which way, stepping out of  turns and sitting back.

Now compare this (above) to the class of the slalom field (below), she is in a different league technically, Mikaela Shiffrin. She never seems to get into these weird difficult situations.
The days when you would have had a quality field to give Shiffrin some competition, with the likes of  Schild, Zettle and Reisch are gone!

Mikaela's upper body is quiet, which means her feet are working and organized. She uses the free foot to tip and pulls the light inside boot, and ski back in transition, classic centered and angled skiing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mikaela Shiffrin is skiing great, but not yet ideal!

Mikaela is a great athlete. Maybe the best athlete we have seen in skiing. I know this because she can ski amazingly well even without an ideal boot set-up. Last season she had new Atomic boots. They didn't work. Mikaela didn't finish in the top 5 in slalom at the beginning of the season. She trained on those boots all fall, yet the US ski team coaches and Atomic boot reps didn't see the problem. I made some contacts and had them put her back on her old boots. She won the next slalom by a net difference of 3 seconds from the slalom before, and it was totally due to her boot change. Was I surprised? Of course not. I could see her struggling a mile away (actually I was 3000 miles away).

Now in 2015, the boot set up is better, far better, but not ideal. Many will say 'Harb is crazy, gone wacky, she just won a slalom by 3 seconds.' You know what? I don't care, because I know if she is set up correctly, she can win by 3.5 or even 4 seconds. Is it necessary? Of course it is! If she is set up right, she won't have to work as hard, and she will be in better balance and more relaxed. Scary thought for her competitors.

Will the changes she could use to her benefit happen? Of course not. The US Ski Team is close-minded and the ski boot reps know even less. They can't recognize a bow-legged set up from a knock-kneed skier. Just look at the rest of the world cup women's slalom field: their boot set ups are horrendous. After this article, I will put up examples.

Here is what Mikaela is dealing with:  The first photo clip, *(below)* the right ski is almost flat, but look at her leg: The boot is flat on the ski, but her leg is curved in. It's at a bad angle. Her knees are almost touching. Most would immediately say, "she is canted wrong," or "canted knock-kneed." Wrong. She is fighting her cuff. The cuff is too strong against her leg. We do thousands of alignments, and have found the Atomic boot to be notorious for this. Many coaches have told me they will not put their skiers on Atomic boots because they can't figure out how to get their athletes skiing well in them.

If the Cuff is fixed and put correctly on Mikaela's right boot, her left turn will be much improved. Scary thought. Will they do it? Of course not. No one wants to take the risk of screwing her up, that's why they don't do anything. They don't know. And to them, it's better to do nothing than take the risk of making it worse. After all, she is winning by 2 plus seconds.--

Here in the clip (below) the results of the cuff is too strong on her leg. She has to push the top of the boot away to get the ski angles she wants, to make the ski hold and carve. That is why it looks knocked kneed, but she isn't.

This photo below shows how much she has to do to make this work.  The right ski will always be late to the party. By that I mean,  it will take longer to get to the correct angle. Why, because it has to come back from being so far inside, from the previous turn.  Look at the previous photo, look at how far her knee is behind the other leg.

*(below clip)*Another example of her pushing the boot to the inside, she is fighting the cuff. The knee and lower leg has to push it over and therefore at the end of the arc, has to travel too far, to get the ski finally at the angle she needs to hold. Lots of wasted effort and movements. Sometimes it causes her to make adaptive recoveries.

What saves Mikaela while others would not even place with this set up, is her amazing balance and preparation. Her inside ski and foot management is amazing to watch. If you know what movements she is using to do what she is doing, it makes watching her, an even greater thing of beauty. It would be like watching Mario Andretti win at The Indy 500, with really bald tires, his driving talent overcomes the poor equipment. However, there is no reason to make Mikaela fight this much to win, even if it is by 3 seconds.

My next article will be a comparison between Mikaela and her competitors, and what she is doing and what they are not.