The Curious Case of Angulation – a Reversal of Conception.

In skiing there is talk of a ‘Basic Position’. It is essentially a basic athletic stance + angulation  and is referred to as a strong desirable position. The basic athletic stance is flexed ankles, knees and hips. Angulation is creating angles with our body by moving our knees and hips. When you’re traversing, you’re pretty much in a basic position.

 

As unexciting as this looks, every skier is (pretty much) in a basic position.  



So really, the only difference between standing on the flat and a slope is angulation. Angulation usually comes under the umbrella of edging skills. I’d like to discuss angulation and propose that skiers shouldn’t consider it a skill in the strictest sense. Rather it is an outcome of other movements. You don’t have to consciously perform angulation. It passively occurs if other movements are performed. Hence the phrase, if you’ve ever heard it, “Skiing into the Basic Position”.  Let’s establish some groundwork first to determine why this can happen.

Femoral rotation – Our thighs rotating in our hip joint. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint that allows this. The femur is the thigh bone.

Two ways for a skier to control turn shape – By twisting or bending* our skis. Femoral rotation occurs both when we twist or bend our skis.

Knee angulation – Creating an edge angle with our skis by ‘rolling in’ our knee. The knee is a hinge joint. Knee angulation actually occurs from a combination of us flexing the knee and femoral rotation. 

So this is what I’m suggesting; if we are in the basic athletic stance and we are twisting/bending our skis to determine our turn shape, knee angulation occurs naturally since it actually happens from femoral rotation.

Even in a snowplough, femoral rotation results in knee angulation automatically.


Hip angulation
– Increasing our edge angle beyond what knee angulation solely allows. Often described as a counter** of the hips and a fold of the upper body forwards. 

Now in a static position, an instructor will often illustrate hip angulation by twisting their hips back a little then folding forward. Students then assume that is the movement required. Thing is, when we’re skiing, we’re not static. Our legs are moving beneath us and femoral rotation is being performed. We’re suppose to move our legs, not our hips, to create a countered, hip angulated position. The only difference between that and the image of every racer and his/ her butt almost touching the snow comes from active inclination, not passive hip angulation.

An image many skiers attempt to mimic, often to adverse effect. 



So if we focus on maintaining our balance and continuously twist/ bend our skis, progressive edging happens naturally. We would only need to consciously focus on two skills to have the third happen as a result. The less I have to focus on the better it is for me. I don’t know about the rest of you but my mind can only think of so much at one time, especially when I’m going down a slope. 

 

There is a key issue here that must be recognised though. The thighs must rotate. A lot of skiers don’t really know how to twist or bend their skis. They often choose to focus on edging as an alternative. So they assume the positions of hip angulation through other means. It is after all a visually distinctive and seemingly attractive looking position. Most skiers twist their hips backwards and then dump them into the turn to get the ‘look’. They also sometimes focus so much on staying angulated for so long in a turn that they actually lose the ability to rotate their thighs any further. 


Artificially induced hip angulation by active twisting of the hip backwards.  



Another common symptom is if a skier uses their hips to turn. They would be angulating from the spine instead the hips. A hip turner cannot be in a properly countered** position. Their hips would be pointing the same way as their toes. They then have to awkwardly bend their spine rather than fold at the hips. 

Spinal angulation resulting from hip rotation.



I’ve had to use more jargon in this one post than I have in all my other posts put together. All to describe a movement that really should occur passively anyway. It is a prime example of the over complication in the teaching and terminology of skiing. Just like I don’t tell a student to balance on their outside ski, I don’t tell a student to angulate more. I sometimes make them aware of its existence but I don’t tell them to actively perform it. It happens if other, simpler movements are correct. 




* Bending the ski – How we (pure) carve on shaped skis. 
** Counter – If you stood with your hips facing the same direction as your toes, you’re square. If you hips and toes are pointing in different directions, you’re countered.


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