One turn for All turns – Applying the simplicity of skiing to a Pedagogy.

Skiing is made up of a series of simple movements performed in repeated succession. That just means we move parts of our bodies in certain ways and we do it over and over again. More importantly, almost all the movements in a snowplough turn are fundamentally the same to the movements performed in the moguls, powder or carving. The only elements that change as we go up in the levels of skiing are the intensity and accuracy of these movements. Therefore, we only ever need to learn one set of movements and improve on them. Keep in mind that the two factors that demand a higher level of skiing is an increase in speed (steepness) or terrain variation (powder, crud, moguls, ice).

The movements in low level skiing, with increased variations in accuracy and intensity, produce high level skiing.  

The measure of your balance is how much you are standing on your whole boot through the turn. Under the assumption that you are constantly looking ahead, this balance is controlled by two movements; your ankles and the fold at your hips. At slower speeds, if you don’t bend your ankles and are slightly on your heels in the boot, you’ll get away with being slightly ‘back’. It is more crucial to be completely centred on your whole boot at all times (accuracy) at higher speeds. To maintain this balance at higher speeds, the ankles and hips have to move further (intensity) than previously required at slower speeds. If you’re not completely balanced at higher speeds, you don’t have complete control of the skis. You’ll then get a poor turn shape and your speed spirals out of control.

Both are balanced positions at different speeds. The faster you go,
the more you have to bend your ankles and fold at your hips in the turn to maintain balance. 

The ability to turn our skis is a torque-like force originating from our thighs rotating in the hip joint (medial and lateral rotation of the femur). In a slower turn, a passive torque from the thighs is sometimes all that is needed to get the desired turn shape. In fact, with increased side-cuts and smaller turn radii on skis, one can get away with applying no torque and simply edge to turn when going at slower speeds. However at higher speeds, thighs have to actively twist (accuracy) to achieve a higher torque (intensity). At higher speeds, you require a higher edge to maintain a grip on the snow. Therefore a ski on a higher edge is more difficult to twist and requires more torque.

Both thighs are twisting for every turn (one medially, the other laterally)
Your range of motion may not change but the amount of torque you apply will. 

We engage and increase our edge by actively and continuously rolling our ankles from little toe to big toe (ankle inversion and eversion). At slower speeds, we don’t need that much edge grip on the snow and even if the skis skid a little it won’t throw you too much out of control. In a high speed turn, you’ll need to get an edge earlier on so you can achieve a much higher edge later in the turn. You’ll therefore need to roll quicker from little toe to big toe and in a more synchronised fashion (accuracy) for the earlier edge. Continuously rolling the toes in further (intensity) through the turn then creates the higher edge angle.

The edging achieved in the high speed turn (photo below) is even higher
than the snowplough turn (photo above) even though it’s at an earlier stage.   



We deal with the external pressures applied on us in skiing by bringing our thighs up (flexion of the hip joint). At slow speeds, there are minimal forces being thrown at you so the absorption is passive. By maintaining balance through bending the ankle, it results in a sufficient movement of the thigh towards the chest to count as pressure control. However, in a zipper line of moguls, a combination of high speed and undulating terrain will inflict an incredible amount of external pressure on the skier. The range of movement a skier has to move his thighs towards his chest is increased (intensity) and the timing of those movements have to be right (accuracy).


Turn shape
This isn’t a movement per se. It’s a concept and a very important one that applies in the model of ‘One Turn for All Turns’. It’s a scalable concept that changes in accuracy and intensity as the level of skiing increases. Speed management by turn shape is the more efficient means for a skier to control speed. (The other method of speed management, which is less efficient, is friction by skidding. Both have its individual merits but for argument’s sake, I’m opting for efficient since speed management by turn shape gives me more control with less effort). The turn shapes of a snowplough turn and a carved turn are the same. What changes is the scale of it. The shape extends both vertically and horizontally due to the increase in speed. We are actually skiing the same turn shape, just bigger (intensity).

These are the turn shapes for a snowplough and a carved turn given the same terrain.

When skiing in powder, there is increased resistance from the volume of snow we are skiing through. The terrain is slowing us down so we adjust for it by vertically extending the turn shape. Since deeper sections of powder will slow us down more, we have to feel how much the terrain slows us down each turn and adjust our shape accordingly (accuracy)  In a field of variable moguls, we take it a step further and constantly adjust the size, length and sometimes breadth of the turn shape (accuracy + intensity). Yet the core fundamentals of turn shape still apply; you have to finish each turn.

Turn shapes for different snow conditions on the same slope.

The beauty of every turn in skiing being based on the same basics is that once we learn all the movements, we only have to improve on them to produce higher level skiing. However, it is important to have the correct mechanics (which joints actually move and when in the turn to move them) before we can work on the range, quickness and fluidity of the movements. That’s the difficult bit. These movements are fairly precise in terms of joint articulation and timing. You have to actually move the joint in a certain prescribed way rather than just look like you are doing it. Incorrect timing of the movements is just as bad as not performing them correctly. It’s probably a good thing then that we have the option of learning the movements while stationary or at a slow speed.  

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Note: click on the movement links to go to articles describing those movements.


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