Skiing is more like Taichi than Kungfu – Learning patience and fluidity.

To the untrained eye, skiing appears as a fast and sudden moving sport. That’s a big part of the appeal and attraction of the sport for most people. Unfortunately, skiers also usually attempt to imitate what they see. Good skiers often make what seem like quick, jerky movements and those learning the sport try to emulate these movements in their own skiing. Snow spray has a lot to do with the optical illusion that skiing is made up of abrupt movements. Yet the reality couldn’t be further from that. 


Ted Ligety achieves and remains in this position 
only for microseconds during a single turn.

 

The other reason for a static style of skiing seems to be the entrenched perception of what is good skiing based on sports photography. Almost every skier has at some stage oohed and aahed at images of racers in a strongly angulated positions (see above image of Ted Ligety). Too many skiers then seek only to get their hips as close to the ground as possible to mimic what they have seen. Their continued and persistent attempts to do so then results in them being in a fairly static position for the majority of the turn.

“Skiing is made up of fluid, measured and continuous movements”.

In short, you’re moving constantly and smoothly, like Taichi. If at any time you are static OR are making a sudden movement, the turn usually becomes less than efficient. The difference at higher levels of skiing is that the overall speed of movements increases dramatically but they are still made in a smooth and continuous manner. Think Taichi on steroids.

The general approach to achieving fluidity is to learn each movement separately and then gradually combining them into one general fluid movement at a slower skiing pace. From experience and observation, rushed attempts at combining movements at higher speeds only seem to create a shorter pause between the two movements; a less than ideal result over true fluidity.

Yet to be able to practise these movements to achieving fluidity, one needs the proper framework. I am of the opinion that many skiers lack the proper framework that enables them the space and time to be more fluid. That framework is a round turn shape. Most skiers spent almost all of their turn having their skis go across the hill. They forget or aren’t aware that an equal amount of time and space has to be spent with their skis going down the hill. Therefore, to give skiers more space/ time, I often use the “patience turn” drill to extend a skier’s first half of the turn.

The “Patience Turn”

Prerequisites: Ankle flexion and extension and speed management by turn shape. Thigh rotary is recommended but not essential for this drill.

On intermediate terrain: Stand across a hill with parallel skis. Now straighten the ankles. The skis will flatten and start sliding. Be patient and let the tips slide downhill. Only when the skis point down the fall line, THEN start twisting the skis. Finish the turn to a stop. Repeat to the other side. Then link patience turns.


Now that there is a rounder turn shape, there is a higher chance of achieving fluidity. Patience turns also educate skiers to flatten their skis (by straightening their ankles) to initiate their turn. Most skiers who don’t flatten their skis by some method, risk a turn initiation from the shoulders or hips to get the skis off their old edges and onto their new ones. In some cases, teaching a skier to flatten their skis to initiate their turn can remove the issue of shoulder and hip rotation.

A patience turn also introduces skiers to pointing their skis down the hill. Most skiers don’t really like having their skis point down the hill. The sport of skiing is about going down the hill. Unless a skier gets comfortable having their skis point down the hill for the majority of the turn, they will always approach skiing defensively.

A patience turn isn’t quite a complete turn by itself. The next progression from a rounder turn shape is to introduce rolling onto the big toe AS the ankle straightens. This is an example of two movements combining (into active inclination) and fluidity is required. These two movements then provides that elusive early edge grip at the start of the turn and all the other good stuff that comes with it.

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Note: I’m almost quite certain that the art of Kung Fu is itself a fluid moving discipline so the analogy is not entirely accurate but for oh for perception’s sake, it fits.

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