This time has been a real eye opener as Dean and Garrett have brought in some new trainers to provide a fresh insight into the mechanics of skiing. In my first week I had Reilly, an expert boot fitter and a former member of the Australian ski demo team. He taught us a lot about positioning our stance and bodies for maintaining a stable ski edge and to execute a basic short turn in all terrain. By the end of the week I was doing javelin turns down terrain I never would have thought possible five days previously! And I was pretty happy with my short turns, something I had comprehensively failed to demonstrate accurately during my Level 2 ski exams last year.
My second week got better. Tom Gellie, another Aussie demo team member, has taken his interest in anatomy and biomechanics to quite another level and has pulled apart the movements required to ski well into functional body movements that show you how to get edge angle, or flatten your skis, or angulation and separation at the absolute extreme of your functional movements. And about 3 or 4 ways to get yourself forward and leaning down that hill!! Having a highly tuned awareness of body positioning, and then moving body parts so they align your centre of mass into the correct position, allows the body to ski efficiently. Knowing how to get the body into those positions is something few ski schools ever teach students, or rather they teach generalisations rather than very specific biomechanics. A knowledge of anatomy definitely helps, but a good kinaesthetic awareness is crucial. The brilliance of his teaching is you not only can feel when you get it right (or wrong!) but you know exactly what movement you need to do to get yourself back in the right position when all goes pear shaped. The latter being a not uncommon occurrence!
At the start of the week I had woken a bit too early so decided to work on another aspect of my skiing: the psychological component. I've come a long way since my days of complete paralysing terror, through the use of a tool called EFT. Also known as "Tapping", this technique frees negative emotions that restrict personal growth. In my case I am still feeling apprehension and low grade fear when attempting to ski steep bumpy terrain, and it's much worse when the visibility is limited. Although this is understandable, dealing with the fear helps me to tackle the slope without an involuntary holding back. This holding back leads to physically leaning back in my skis, directly affecting my ability to face down a mountain and tackle bumps with the relaxed athletic approach required. So for a few minutes before getting up I recalled the emotions I'd felt a week or so ago when heading over the roller into the top section of Cloud Nine and tapped my way to a point where that emotion had dissolved. Then yesterday during training we went over that roller and I absolutely smashed a fast awesome run down that face to my beaming trainer below. I had completely forgotten that Monday session, but I knew when I got to the bottom of that slope that the EFT had worked. Zero fear, I just threw myself forward down that hill and smashed turn after turn. Oh what a feeling!!
The week with Tom has been a real eye opener, because I now feel, through his approach, that I understand much more clearly the physical blocks I have to becoming a very good skier. Through video analysis, I can now see where in my turns there are weaknesses, and what parts of my body and movements need to occur to correct them. Part of my physical limitations are due to a lack of flexibility in my hip joints and lower back, but whether I can correct this through stretching and off snow exercises only time will tell. But there is nothing like a challenge to get me motivated....
The third week I had Jonathan Ballou as my coach. Jonathan has over 20 years of experience teaching in both NZ and the USA, where he heads up ski development at Aspen. He was able to really tap in to the problem I had getting my weight onto my left leg when turning to the right, through making a very conscious movement with my hip, to essentially unweight my right leg. Simple, but totally effective. It took all week, but on the final day we nailed the problem and solution, and I was able to take that away and work on it.
My biggest problem with my skiing is having a very weak right turn. My left turn is actually very good, but if one side works badly it just sets you up wrongly for the next turn. Fixing this problem has been my focus this year, and Jonathon's guidance has allowed me to at last shift my weight effectively so I am not being thrown off kilter continuously. Almost everyone has a good and bad turn, but my legs were poles apart. Prefect vs reform school!
After my three weeks of training I spent the next 2 weeks very consciously working on the new movements. I know they are cementing in to my skiing because I feel so much more centred and controlled, and when I ski off piste I can feel the discomfort of skiing differently. Off piste terrain that I used to be able to ski easily has now become more difficult, simply because I am learning to ski it anew. The old way was wrong, the new way is right, but it's yet to feel "normal". This may be a weird concept for people to understand, as the vast majority of skiers think if they just keep skiing a lot they will eventually get better. Not true if your technique is wrong, you just get more comfortable at getting down the mountain, but you can't progress because your technique limits you.
Last week my ski buddy Kathy, whom I met first in Japan, turned up to do 3 weeks of training with the Rookie Academy as well. She's loving it.
I have continued to be involved with the volunteer adaptive program at Cardrona 1-2 days a week, and then last Sunday I had an accident and everything went pear shaped.
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