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Now don’t just pass over this article because the thought of Yoga terrifies you. Perhaps you think it’s just a trend. Is yoga one of those weird cults where they chant? Maybe you have considered trying a class at the gym, but the thought of all those young girls in spandex is slightly intimidating. Perhaps because you have overly tight quadriceps from skiing your whole life, you feel there is no hope. Or maybe you just feel like you’re just too old to try something new like yoga.
Well you are wrong. Yoga is for everyone. Yoga is an amazing tool that has many benefits. It can help your slope riding in so many ways such as improvement in alignment, sharpens your mindfulness and increases your range of motion. Yoga is for all ages, sizes and levels. Through yoga, you may be able to draw awareness to your limitations and move beyond. So, come join me in a little moment of bliss. I began my Yoga journey twelve years ago. Since then, I have discovered its benefits. It keeps me in shape, increases my flexibility, bolsters my strength and improves my balance. Yoga to me is the fountain of youth.
Maybe by now I’ve caught your attention and you might wonder, “How does this relate to skiing or riding?” Alignment, flexibility, balance and strength of the mind and of the body is how. Alignment is defined as the positioning of the skeletal structure to its fullest potential while maintaining muscular balance and distribution of energy. Anatomically speaking, proper skeletal alignment is something that we should all strive for. Proper alignment results in efficient movement. As instructors, we are constantly trying to achieve proper alignment with our own skiing and riding. We’re also constantly trying to improve our student’s alignment. As in skiing, proper alignment in yoga is key to efficient movement and success. In both skiing and yoga, participants continually trying to push their limitations while maintaining alignment and balance. Skiing is a sport where we tend to develop tight areas of the body. We can develop tight hip flexors due to improper alignment. To minimize knee injury it is important to maintain flexibility in the hip flexors and quadricep muscles. By keeping balance in the leg muscle strength, we increase our joint strength. By having over developed quads or hamstrings, we put ourselves at increase risk. Through the yoga poses discussed below, I hope to show you how to maintain and improve this muscular balance, thus reducing the risk of injury. Now there is a lot more to Yoga than just stretching. It also has a component of mindfulness. Mindfulness you say? What is that? Well, it’s like that perfect day, when you get to the mountain, the sun is shining and it has dumped two feet overnight. It is 20 degrees and you are not there to work. You get to the top and you hit your favorite run. You begin to feel light, happy, and aware of all your surroundings. Nothing else matters. The lists, thoughts, emotions and responsibilities all fade to nothing. You are doing what you love in that moment and that is pure joy. Yoga seeks to find that in all that we do. Allowing those thoughts to melt away and taking the time to connect to your true self.
One way we do this is through breath work. The power of the breath is amazing. It is a lot like the wind. It is always there, but maybe not seen or recognized. Taking a few moments to focus your intentions on your breath at the start of each day, or at the beginning of your yoga, can center you. We tend to create busy minds. By bringing awareness to the present moment, just like that perfect ski day, we are able to quiet the monkey mind and feel bliss or joy. Breath work can be great in an exam or tryout situation. Perhaps you are tense or feeling a lot of pressure to perform. You may be lacking focus or confidence. Try taking several deep breaths to calm your nerves and focus all your attention on your breath for several seconds. See how this helps you relax and be in the moment. This may change your tension to intention. With all your intention being focused you will be able to perform your best. Here are a few yoga stretches that any and all snow sports enthusiasts can do at home. Some of these poses are to help release tightness while others are geared towards increasing proprioceptor awareness or balance. Still, others are for strength. These can be done on a yoga mat or your carpet at home. There should never be any pain in any poses. If you experience pain, please stop and modify or move on to the next pose.
Upavishta Konasana (wide leg forward stretch – photo top)
Sit up tall on your mat and open your legs into a V. Deep breath in and exhale forward fold. You can prop your torso up using your hands or elbows. To make it harder, grab you feet on the outside edges or the big toes. This stretch helps out the hamstrings muscle group, the adductors and the low back. The low back can become very tight in skiing. Especially if our skeletal alignment is off. Hold this 3 to 4 minutes.
Malasana (wide leg squat – photo above)
Try keeping your feet facing as forward as possible. You can use a blanket under the heals of the feet to modify. This helps relieve compression of the ankle joint. Draw the pelvis towards the floor and the spine towards the sky. Lift up through the crown of your head, while grounding with gravity through into the pelvis. Squats are great for men and woman. They open up the deep hip rotators and strengthen the spinal muscles. Squats can be held between 3-5 minutes.
Virasana (heros posture – photo above)
This pose is easy for many. Those with tight quads will find it challenging, yet rewarding. If your hips do not reach the ground, use a block or a blanket to put under the pelvis. Keep core muscles engaged! Try not to round the low back. If this is an easy pose for you, lay back in-between your feet, and rest your spine on your mat. This pose is restorative, and can be held for 5 minutes or more. Repeat 3-5 times.
Baddha Konasana (butterfly pose – above)
Gently place the soles of your feet together and let gravity pull your knees towards the floor. You may modify by placing a block under the tailbone to lift the rear pelvis off your mat a bit. To challenge yourself, take a deep breath in and exhale into a forward fold. Be sure to go only as far as you can with a straight back. This helps to release the adductor muscle group. We use the adductors in lateral movements on the snow. This pose can be held 5- 8 minutes if there is no pain in the knees.
Navasana (boat pose – photo above)
Balancing on your SITS bones, begin to raise up both or one legs to eye level. Your knees can be bent to modify or you can hold behind your knees with your hands to modify. For the full poses, simply create a V with body and hold for 5 breaths. Release and repeat 5 times. This pose targets your core strength. Core strength is necessary in many tasks like short radius turns, hop turns, jump entry turns and skating.
Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana (photo above)
This can be done with a block or blanket under the hip with the outstretched leg. By lifting the pelvis on that side you will level it out and feel more even. Use a mat or a blanket so the foot that is turned under does not hurt by digging into the floor. The out stretched leg is lengthening the hamstrings, while the leg that is bent back get a quad stretch. Forward fold over the out stretched legs make this harder. You can reach for the forward foot to bind. The back foot should be facing straight back. Make sure to hold 3 to 4 minutes then switch sides.
Crescent Lunge (photo above)
From standing, step one foot back into a lunge position. Begin by lowering your pelvis towards the ground. To increase your balance and strength, reach the arms and shoulders toward the sky. This helps to open the hip flexors of the back leg. It also helps strengthen the lumbar muscles and the front leg muscles as well.
Urdva Mukha Svanasana (up dog/cobra – photo above )
Come to laying flat on your belly. Begin by pressing all 10 toes into the floor. Bring the hands directly under the shoulders. Roll the shoulders up and back, and gently press your torso up. You may be able to lift off the floor completely. Or, just the chest and belly might come off. Wherever you are, breath five breathes while in the pose. Release down to your belly and repeat two more times. This pose opens the front side of the body and strengthens the lower back.
Ustrasana (camel pose – photo above)
Begin by standing on your knees. Knees are hip distance apart. You can add extra padding under them. Begin by grounding the shins into the floor. Lift up through the heart area, and place your hands on your hips. Next, press the hips forward. Then, if you want more, reach back and grab your heels with your hands. This is a back opener. It lengthens out the core muscles in the belly and those tight hip flexors. Hold for five breaths,
repeat three times.
Natrajasana (dancer – photo above)
For those individuals challenged by balance, this pose can be conducted facing a wall. Stand several feet back from the wall. Find your balance on the standing leg. Root down into the standing foot and toes, as you reach back with the opposite hand and grab the opposite foot or ankle. Begin to lean forward, pushing the foot into the hand, creating a bow shape. This is a back opener and a strong balancing pose. It will help open up the quadriceps. For those using the wall, place your fingertips on the wall to aid in balance as you lean forward.
Utkatasana (chair pose – photo above)
Come to standing at the front of your mat. Inhale. Reach your arms straight up toward the sky. Begin to pull shoulder blades down the spine while keeping arms up. Begin to sink low like you are about to sit in a chair. Tuck the tail bone under and engage your core by pulling the belly button back towards your spine. This is a difficult pose and can be repeated three times. It strengthens the lower spine and core muscle group. This pose assists in proper skiing alignment because the hips have to be over the ankles. This pose can be done at the wall, then gradually wean yourself off of it as you become stronger. Balance and stance are key components of this posture.
After you have completed the poses that feel good for you and your body, take a moment and rest on your back in total relaxation. A few minutes is enough; ten is ideal. Take this quiet time to scan your body and feel any changes. Try to let go of any tension you may be holding onto. Check in with places like your jaw and your neck. Gently begin to melt into your mat and let the thoughts that come into your mind be whisked away like the clouds in the sky. Try to be present in the moment. This is ideal for skiing because it can help calm the mind and focus the thoughts. Yoga helps to teach us to live each moment to the fullest. Yoga aids in alignment, balance, flexibility and strength. With dedication and commitment, snow sports riders of all levels can improve their abilities through yoga. All of the simple poses listed above can be performed safely at home. It is my belief that Yoga and Snowsports have a lot of lateral learning. My goal is to help educate through more body awareness. This can be a great way to start. Enjoy these poses and there may be more to come. Photography and modeling by Angeline Rhett and Tara Seymour. Photos taken at Life Love Yoga in Sisters, Oregon.
by Rick Lyons photos & illustration by Tyler Barnes
In 2007 the PSIA-NW Technical Team crafted the feedback model to help with the organization of information while assessing skiing/riding performance and to provide clearer, concise feedback. We introduced the model on a coaster, if you recall. That was a big hit, as people remember “the coaster” for some strange reason. Funny how that works. Maybe we should put my wedding anniversary or my wife’s birthday on a coaster, too!
What you may, or may not recall, is the article published in October 2007 in the Early Winter Issue of the NW Snowsports Instructor describing the feedback model and how you could use it.
We have now been working with and using the feedback model going into our 4th season. Let’s “reload” that article and update it with lessons learned and how the adoption of the model has progressed thus far.
Throughout the rest of the article I will add comments and notes to the originally published 2007 article. Here we go.
The model does not tell you how to conduct movement analysis in the sense of a method of observation (i.e. top down, bottom to top, whole to parts, or parts to whole, etc.). Its design is to help with what to do with the information after you have gathered it. Much of the information will sound familiar or something you already do; the goal of utilizing the model is consistency in your organization of information regarding and surrounding the areas of tool performance, movement patterns and desired outcomes and the delivery of that information.
At first glance the model (or feedback tool as many on the team also refer to it) may seem rather simple and you may ask yourself “How do I use it?” To answer this question let’s look at the components that make up the tool. Like the skills concept diagram, there is no prescribed way to start, no single concept is more important than another and you cannot rely solely on one concept to be successful in your analysis and subsequent teaching or coaching. The model is cyclical and you may begin the process at any of the bubbles. For this discussion let’s follow the order of Communication-> Desired Outcome –> Tool/Snow Interaction-> Movements. We’ve found this to be a nice introduction to the process and one you may be able to utilize more quickly.
Reloaded: I have found that sharing the concept of the model with my students, early in the lesson, can really help establish the lines of communication. I may not use the language described in the model directly but definitely the ideas. I find myself drawing the model in the snow on a regular basis with my students, this way we both know the areas the feedback will touch.
Without good communication the model breaks down. If we are not connecting, even the most accurate feedback will have little or no effect. The challenge with this bubble is “Leverage the Positive.” If you have been teaching for years you may be familiar with other language like, “error detection, fault correction or ineffective cues.” We have been trained for years to look for issues and give information like “stop that”, “don’t do this” or “you are still doing that thing.”
For some, pointing out what is wrong is the preferred feedback. For most of our clients this is likely not the case and if the feedback has a negative tone, especially at the beginning, we may be shutting down the lines of communication and in fact may cause them to stop doing what is working well. The concept of “leverage the positive” is to look for what is working well and enhancing it such that it helps reduce the issues. If you do in fact prefer to be told what you are doing wrong, communicating that to your coach would be considered leveraging a positive relationship.
Reloaded: Don’t forget communication is not just verbal. We receive information from Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic means. I have found that touch can not only give my student feedback but I too get feedback that they understand. Ever ask you student to press their shins into the tongues of their boots? Ever stick your fingers in their boots to have them squish? You can even touch that muscle on the outside of the shin and ask them to “fire it” and “relax it” as the movement you are asking them to make facilitating the contact. Now you both know the muscle is firing. That’s communication!
Have you ever been working on a specific movement and have someone give you feedback, out of the blue, about something completely different? If we don’t know the student’s intent, then giving feedback may have little or no meaning. If the student’s goal is to work on steering the feet and legs under the body and he receives feedback about hands, carving or edging, if that feedback is not tied back to the goal then it is ineffective. This falls right in line with good teaching; we always try to determine/establish goals with our students and often need to adjust those goals or create sub goals as a path to achieving the larger goal. Likewise, when providing feedback, if we tie it back to the desired outcome then the receiver will be more willing to accept and understand the feedback we provide.
Reloaded: If you are working to develop movements/skills, having clearly defined outcomes is paramount. As my use of the model has grown I have found myself getting more and more specific at defining the desired outcome. When presenting the drill or task, if I describe and show the outcome to the student, then have the student describe the desired outcome with me demonstrating it, this can really help anchor the concept. Then I help them with their demonstration of the desired outcome until they can perform it by themselves.
This could be termed the “Effect” bubble. What did the ski or board actually do in the snow? Was the turn round? What do the tracks look like? At what part of the turn do the edge(s) engage? Is the turn skidded, slipping or carved? Looking for the effects can lead us towards more accurately assessing achievement of the desired outcome. For example, if the desired outcome is a carved turn in which the edge(s) are engaged immediately, then we should be looking at the top of the turn as well as the fall-line and finish. Do the tips lead the tails? Is the turn “C” shaped where the top matches the bottom? Is the track generally the same width top to bottom? If so, great! If not, where was it good and when did the good begin and end? Armed with this information we can now move into determining the cause.
Reloaded: Overlooked? For sure! Ask yourself – “Did I relate that to tool/snow interaction?” After integrating the model into my feedback process I have an increased awareness of tool/snow interaction feedback usage. I have observed it being used less in intermediate and advanced zone lessons, whereas the beginner zone tends to discuss this interaction much more frequently. “Tip your ski to step sideways up the hill.” “Step you skis across the hill.” “Can you make your skis into the shape of a slice of pizza?”
This bubble is where a large number of tools exist we are familiar with: The Skills Concept, Functional Movement Patterns, Skiing/Riding Concepts, Fundamental Movements and more. In our previous example, the carved turn, we can start looking for movements associated with the effects we noted. Let’s say the track was not quite “C” shaped and the top width was wider than the bottom. This would indicate the top part of the turn was being twisted of steered off. Knowing this we could start looking for movements that would cause the twisting/steered top. Or to “leverage the positive” look for the movements when the track is achieving the goal, then keying on those “good” movements change the Duration, Rate, Timing or Intensity to help achieve the goal throughout the turn.
Reloaded: Most instructors and students want feedback in the “Movements” bubble, this is the how part of the puzzle, so spending time in this area is required. Don’t forget the other “bubbles,” in fact leveraging them will strengthen your feedback.
It is important to understand the model is a balance and blend of the three concepts: Desired Outcome, Tool/Snow Interaction and Movements and that they are always changing depending on the student and the situation presented to you as an instructor. It is your understanding of that information which makes this model work. From the new instructor to the seasoned pro, the Feedback Model allows each to apply the information received and use it successfully. As your knowledge base and experience grows so too will the level you are able to use and apply the model.
We’re not trying to recreate the wheel, in fact these concepts have been around for many years and have been brought together and organized in such a way so they can be used effectively while consistently giving well rounded feedback to those you are working with.
Reloaded: The Feedback Model has helped me grow into a much more effective instructor and coach. It may be more appropriately named “The Feedback Tool” because it is something in my toolkit that I utilize on a daily basis.[connections_list id=11 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]
by Kate Morrell photos by Ron LeMaster
This article is essentially about turn transitions, and specifically how they relate to making carved turns on groomed terrain. As you may know, the turn transition is that portion of skiing that is from the exit of one turn, to the beginning of the next (see Fig 1). I like to think of turn transitions as the main course when it comes to cooking up a well carved turn and want to share a few important ingredients that all of us as ski professionals need to be able to apply and comprehend when cooking up a good transition.
These ingredients are early pressure, moving through a balanced athletic position, and maintaining cuff pressure to both cuffs. This is not something new, or exciting, or a fad concept that will go away over time but is something that makes up the most critical part of the turn. Skiing well in the transition makes the rest of the turn pretty easy which is why the best ski racers in the world fight to be good at it and spend the better part of their careers working on it.
The transition is where a skier establishes early pressure to the new turning ski. The earlier that pressure can be established, the higher up in the turn we can begin to carve the ski to the fall line. Yes, for sure, 100%, believe me that establishing early pressure is what we want to do when carving turns. The more pressure we can take care of before the fall line, the less pressure we have to deal with after the fall line. We want to minimize pressure as much as possible after the fall line because that is where the pressure is the greatest.
Excessive pressure after the fall line is one of the major reasons turns break down and flow from turn to turn is disrupted. By “turns breaking down” I mean skidding, losing the downhill edge, bracing against the outside ski, holding onto the turn too long for speed control, traversing, ski chatter, etc. – the list goes on. In effect, excessive pressure after the fall line hinders the ability to flow smoothly into the next turn.
To establish early pressure, we first need to be “thinking” early pressure as we are exiting the turn. (Fig. 2: Slalom (SL), frame 5 and Fig. 3: Giant Slalom (GS), frame 11). With the knees and ankles flexed, feel for the uphill edge of the new turning ski and begin to transfer weight to it (Fig. 2: SL, frame 6 and Fig. 3: GS, frame 12). Continue pressuring the new uphill edge as the center of mass moves forward along the path of the ski.
Time out! It’s already too hot in Kate’s kitchen. I can feel the resistance and panic from some of you already regarding the term “balanced athletic position.” Let me get this out of the way so you all can read freely. Yes, of course we want to be balanced and athletic through the entire turn, and no, this is not suggesting any sort of static skiing. This balanced athletic position is a “checkpoint” in the transition to look for in other’s skiing and strive for in our own. OK, now you may continue reading about a balanced athletic position as it relates to turn transition.
As our skis flatten out and we change edges, we must be able to move through a balanced athletic position (Fig.2: SL, frame 1 and between frames 6 & 7 and Fig.3: GS, frame 6 and between Frames 13 & 14). How we change edges is for another time but we should all agree to some degree that the knees and ankles are rolled and the center of mass moves forward along the path of the skis crossing over in the direction of the new turn.
This balanced athletic position has the center of mass over the feet with the ankles flexed. The angle of the spine matches the shin angles as we strive to keep the hands out front helping to maintain balance. It is only from this balanced athletic position that we can react well to the next turn. I can carve, steer, pivot, whatever. A balanced athletic stance is best seen in Fig.2: SL, frame 1 and in Fig. 3, GS, frame 6.
This is another critical ingredient and you need to pay close attention. Maintain cuff pressure on both cuffs while changing edges and extending into the new turn (Fig.2: SL frame 7 and Fig.3: GS, frame 14). As we change edges, having both cuffs pressured does not mean that the feet are weighted equally. With our center of mass continuing forward along the length of the ski, the new turning ski (uphill ski) becomes weighted and cuff pressure to that ski is due to that weight transfer. Cuff pressure to the new inside foot is created mostly by actively flexing the ankle and resisting early ski lead (Fig.2: SL, frame 7).
If you stand on one foot, bend the ankle of the lifted foot and pull it back an inch or so you’re in the ball park of getting the feeling. This is very important because if we transfer weight to the new turning ski and relax our inside ankle without bending it and keeping it back, the inside foot moves forward causing the inside half of our body to slide forward much too early in the turn. When the inside half of the body moves forward too early, the result is skiing in the back seat and being too far inside. Back and inside is a difficult position to recover from and keeps us from being able to move smoothly into the next transition.
Said another way, when we cross over our feet we must actively bend our new inside ankle. To accomplish this, it helps to actively pull back the inside foot and lift the inside hip thus helping to maintain proper alignment and a strong inside half (Fig.2: SL, frames 7 & 8 and Fig.3: GS, frames 14 & 15).
Those are the only ingredients you get today but there are more I am excited to share later. What I’ve done here is give some tips that will aid in a strong transition and with the photo montages we have some checkpoints to look for when clinicing, teaching, watching video, etc. This all happens incredibly fast in real time and these checkpoint body positions should not hinder fluid movements in our skiing. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t want you skiing across the hill frozen on your uphill edge waiting to turn or frozen in the athletic position in the transition. I do want you to start familiarizing yourselves with these concepts and to start incorporating them into your own skiing, clinic, and lesson scenarios.
One more thing and then we can chill. As I mentioned, the transition happens incredibly fast and you will not always be able to identify these key components even in the best skiers so don’t get overly critical if you don’t see it happening in every turn in your skiing or the groups you are working with. Pressuring the uphill edge before the skis flatten will not always happen. Especially in slalom and giant slalom. Things are happening too fast and there isn’t always time.
Benjamin Raich of Austria (photo montage skier) has Olympic gold medals in the giant slalom and slalom, has won 35 World Cup races and has been on the podium 85 times. He is truly one of the best and he is able to demonstrate these transitions nicely for us in GS and slalom. He is truly the man.
The point is that having the ability to focus on these ingredients in longer, slower turns gives us an awareness of what is ideally happening between turns and position checkpoints to look for and move through in our own skiing.
I look forward to cooking this up on the hill with you and adding more ingredients in the future. I encourage you to shoot me an email for further discussion or questions this might raise. Thanks for your time in reading this. I hope you liked it![connections_list id=13 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]
Editor’s Note: Special thanks goes to Ron LeMaster for use of the photo montages. Ron has spent more than 30 years as a ski instructor and race coach. He is a technical advisor to the US Ski Team and the Vail Ski School and has contributed to PSIA educational materials. His latest book Ultimate Skiing is a “must have” for your skiing library. See more montage images at www.ronlemaster.com.
To purchase a copy of Ultimate Skiing contact the PSIA-NW office. For this and additional titles just call the office or log onto the website and download a Bookstore Order form and fax it in. Your PSIA-NW bookstore purchase directly supports your Northwest Division.